This series from Comedy Central began as a low budget film hosting show in a small television station in Minnesota. It was the brainchild of Joel Hodgson. It ended up running for 11 years and a feature film version.
Mystery Science Theatre is an acquired taste. For me, I’ve really got to be in that certain mood to watch it. That’s the beauty of these DVD’s. You pop them in when you’re ready. The idea is pretty whacked. Depending on the season you’ve got, Joel or Mike is trapped in space on the “Satellite of Love”. Doomed to spend his life watching very bad films, our hero makes the best of a bad situation. He uses his resources to construct a couple of robot pals. There’s Crow T. Robot (Beaulieu), Tom Servo (Murphy), and Gypsy (Mallon). As part of an experiment together, they watch the films from the front row, constantly ranting throughout. If you’re like me, you’ve invited a few friends over to watch a schlock festival. The movies weren’t as important as the banter you created while watching. That’s exactly what you see here. The silhouettes of our host and his robots dominate the lower portion of the screen, where they provide alternative dialog and sometimes witty commentary on the action. The two evil station owners/mad scientists send them a new bad film each week to observe their reactions to the bombs. The films are broken up by off the wall skits and fake commercials to alleviate the tedium. This DVD collection is better than some because it includes films from four different seasons to give you a good sample of the overall series.
You get 4 discs, each with a different film:
Night Of The Blood Beast:
“In our country, it’s customary to throw gasoline on the new couple.” – Crow T. Robot
When an astronaut returns home from his mission, he finds that he has been implanted with an alien larva that is about to hatch and unleash a horrible creature on the world. Against his own will, he finds himself taking actions to protect the creature.
Director Bernard L. Kowalski is no stranger to the schlock genre. His notable films include the very amusing Ssss and The Attack Of The Giant Leeches. His bread and butter work was to be found in the television arena, where he directed episodes of shows ranging from Rawhide to Columbo. Night Of The Blood Beast was likely the lowest of the lows for the prolific director. The story had shades of an Outer Limits episode but none of the quality. The film was also released under the title Creature From Galaxy 27.
This was a Thanksgiving Day broadcast in 1995. I actually watched it Thanksgiving night 2009. There are actually 2 versions of the MST3K action. You can watch either the later syndicated version or the special Turkey Day Edition. In that one there is far more of the MST3K story. Dr. Forrester wants to take over the world before his mom shows up for Thanksgiving turkey. He’s interrupted by an unusual list of dinner guests which include Satan, a cat, and other annoying guests.
“Your movie today, Mark, is called Santa Claus. It’s a thoughtful, well-shot documentary about the Crimean War.” – Dr. Forrester
It’s fast approaching Christmas and Pitch, the Devil, wants to put a stop to Santa and his mission. With the help of Merlin, the magician, Santa takes on the Devil in an all out battle to save Christmas. He is particularly eager to help a little girl who desperately wants a doll for Christmas and ends up with a huge life-sized doll.
This is a Mexican film that was dubbed in English here. This particular aired on Christmas Eve in 1993. This might well be one of the worst films ever given the MST3K treatment. This English version of the film was presented by K. Gordon Murray. Need I say any more?
Warrior Of The Lost World:
“What’s that say, ‘the unclear war has been forgotten’?” – Tom Servo
“The nuclear war has been fought!!! The earth is in ruins!!! All governments have collapsed!!! An evil despot named Prosser has organized a deadly militia to rule, called The Omega. In the wastelands, survive a small group called The Outsiders. They struggle against the evil Omegas. Into this conflict rides one man on his supersonic speed cycle, he is destined to be the Warrior of The Lost World.”
The Rider (Ginty) comes upon a small band of people running from the Omegas. He crashes and is seriously injured, and his bike is badly damaged. The Outsiders use some magical healing power to heal him and ask for a favor in return. One of the group, Nastasia’s (Khambatta) father has been captured by Prosser (Pleasence). Some prophecy indicates that The Rider will be the one to rescue him and to stop the tyranny of Prosser. He reluctantly faces off against the forces of The Omega.
This film is pretty much a compilation of several other styles of film. There is plenty of Mad Max style dessert and pimped out vehicles. The Rider has a cycle whose brother must be Kitt from Knight Rider. It has a bevy of crazy weapons and a computer personality that spits out clichéd dialog like “Bad Mothers” or “Giddy up”. The above intro appears in a Star Wars crawl in the beginning of the film. The film also stars 70’s black exploitation action hero Fred Williamson as Prosser’s henchman. Persis Khambatta sports hair this time around, a fact the guys make tons of reference to here. She is, of course, best known for her role as Ilia, the bald headed Deltan in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. She would die young from a sudden heart attack in 1998. The big surprise here is Donald Pleasence as the bad guy here. I gotta believe this is one he kept away from his resume in later years. The film was shot in Italy, and it appears a lot of the participants did it for a quick check and a chance to hang out in Rome for a while.
Director David Worth has graciously accepted an invitation to be interviewed for a podcast here at Upcomingdiscs. Look for that to appear very soon.
The Corpse Vanishes:
“You’ve been injecting her with young and pretty, now he should start injecting her with smart and nice.” – Tom Servo
Dr. Lorenz (Lugosi) has been keeping his wife alive with a serum made from the fluids of young women. He scours the papers for news of a wedding and sends an odd plant to the bride. The flower knocks them out, apparently killing them. The good Doc then steals their bodies for the fluid to maintain his demanding wife. Young Lois Lane type reporter Patricia Hunter (Walters) is on to the Doc’s activities and sets herself up as a bride to catch him red handed. Will she become an ace reporter or another one of Dr. Loranz’s vanishing corpses?
This is easily the most watchable of the films featured in this release. It’s the only one of which I actually had a DVD of the film itself. It’s not one of Lugosi’s best parts, not by a long mile. Still, it’s an entertaining affair with Lugosi in top form as the evil scientist driven to kill by his even more evil wife. Luana Walters is incredibly amusing as the over eager reporter who really does remind us of the earlier versions of Lois Lane.
Each episode of MST3000 is presented in its original full frame format. It doesn’t really matter what the original film’s intent might have been. These prints are far better than they deserve to be. Mostly the low budget prints are surprisingly clean. Now that’s not to say they look good at all. Colors are always washed out. It’s just that these films really don’t warrant anything better than poor. Of course, colors and black levels are highly variable from episode to episode. The MST3000 stuff is pretty much nicely reproduced. We’re talking cardboard sets here, so they look pretty bad, but at least they look bad in nice color and definition. If you’re a fan of this show, you’re not here for the video specs.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is often terrible. Dialog on the films is often muted or unintelligible for a variety of other reasons. Musical scores are more often than not distorted. Dynamics is a word with no association at all to these productions. Still… that’s not what you’ll be buying them for. Fortunately every word of wit and wonder from our hosts is clearly audible. Don’t take this the wrong way, but bad is good here.
You get a really cool plastic replica of Servo with this set.
There are also 4 mock lobby cards that incorporate each film’s original artwork with some aspect of the show.
Once Upon A Honeymoon: This short appears before Night Of The Blood Beast and concerns a composer trying to write a song for an actress in a film. It features lyrics by then unknown Al Stewart.
Santa Claus Conquers The Devil – A 50 Year Retrospective: (20:55) Film historians look back at the movie and talk about the symbolism and cultural differences between Mexican and American ideas on Santa.
Interview With Director David Worth: (10:23) Worth talks about the film and his career. He’s pretty candid about these things and admits that he hadn’t set his sights on winning any awards with Warrior Of The Lost World. That was probably good thinking.
Anyone who has watched this series knows that it was all intended as just major fun. There are plenty of bad films out there that could have kept this thing running forever. At four episodes per set, it’s going to be a long time before any collector is going to be able to own the entire series. Season sets are likely too large and thus too costly. This isn’t going to be a show that would benefit from any of the high definition release opportunities that Blu-ray provides. The sets are pretty much cardboard. In fact, “You’d think that in the future they’d have better graphics than Pong”.