Here we go with four more cruel experiments inflicted on Joel, Mike, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot on the Satellite of Love. The Mad Monster is a 1942 proverty row epic with George Zucco as a mad scientist giving future Frankenstein Monster Glenn Strange transfusions of wolf blood, with predictable results. Manhunt in Space is a Rocky Jones, Space Ranger adventure – multiple TV episodes pasted together into one dreadful piece of SF idiocy. Soultaker has the unfortunate Joe Estevez, under the orders from Angel of Death Robert Z’Dar, tracking down four teens who are supposed to have died in a car crash. Finally, Final Justice sees Joe Don Baker as a Texas Ranger confronting the mob in Malta. But of course.
Naturally, the real interest of these releases is not in the films themselves (which are, with the partial, nostalgic exception of The Mad Monster, utterly unwatchable), but in what Joel or Mike (depending on the episode) and the ‘bots do with the films. Two hits here, and two misses. The comments aimed at The Mad Monster and Final Justice are disappointingly unimaginative. The failure of the latter is a special sore point, since MST3K’s previous shot at Joe Don Baker, Mitchell, is one of the series’ masterpieces. This time around, the boys don’t have much to say other than to comment on the man’s eating and digestive habits. On the other hand, inspiration was at hand for both Soultaker and for a good chunk of Manhunt in Space (i.e. the first half, and with the accompanying episode of General Hospital).
There are two soundtracks to deal with here. The 2.0 stereo sound of the show itself is fine, with zero distortion and hiss. The sound of the films themselves is far more variable. There are times with the mix is so low as to be almost inaudible, and the distortion of the awful prints of The Mad Monster and General Hospital is such that one loses the context for the comments. Most of the time, the sound is good enough for the humour to come through. The most aurally satisfying experiences (though this isn’t necessarily relevant to the enjoyment of the release itself) comes when the film too is in stereo, as is the case with Soultaker, which provides us with some solid surround music and effects to go along with the verbal jousting.
Basically the same deal here, with the actual MST3K footage looking nice and sharp, with strong, engaging colours. The quality of the prints varies. They’re all showing their age (and their TV origins, with swears amusingly replaced with silence). They’re all decently watchable, with the exception of The Mad Monster. This print has all the earmarks of the worst public domain atrocities, with all tone bleached out of the black-and-white. All of these problems, of course, are those of the original broadcast, and are not the fault of the transfer.
Nothing very much here. There are mini-posters for all four movies. Final Justice director Greydon Clark and Soultaker’s Joe Estevez are interviewed, and come across as good sports, if rather delusional as to the quality of their movies. The Mad Monster’s original trailer is here, and Mike, Tom and Crow take on ESPN Classic’s Cheap Seats Without Ron Parker. I suppose the latter might be funny if you are familiar with the ESPN offering. I’m not, and was merely baffled.
A bit of a mixed blessing, this one, with half the offerings being weak comedy efforts. The good ones, though, are pretty damn funny indeed.