TV on DVD Review: Mystery Science Theater 3000, Vol. XXV
By this time I assume you all know about the television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 (and if you don’t, you can see the concept explained in this Sally Forth comic strip. Yes, really). Anyway, Shout! Factory presents yet another great collection of four episodes of the show with Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXV
This set starts out with Season 1’s Robot Holocaust. Creator Joel Hodgson and the cast felt like the show’s first season was not as good as the later episodes. They had just come from doing the show at a local television station in Minneapolis where they had performed their comments on the fly and, now that they were part of the Comedy Channel’s lineup, they put more effort towards writing the riffs beforehand. They were still trying to get their bearings, but this is actually one of their better efforts that season. The movie can take a lot of the credit (or blame) here. With elements like a post-apocalyptic future, an annoying robot, and a villainess that sounds like she has marbles in her mouth when she talks, this one’s a treat for bad movie fans even without the fun riffing. There’s even a chapter and a half of Radar Men from the Moon as a warmup! Included with this disk are an introduction by Hodgson (where he also goes into the show’s transition to cable) and a Life After MST3K featurette about J. Elvis Weinstein, who played evil scientist Dr. Forrester’s assistant, Dr. Lawrence Ehrhardt, as well as being the original performer for Tom Servo. Weinstein tells of going back to stand-up after his stint on the show, working on shows like America’s Funniest Home Videos (with MST3K co-star Trace Beaulieu) and his current work with Cinematic Titanic . Weinstein left after the first season of the show (at the age of 18!), so it was nice that a show from the first season was found to accompany this.
Next is Operation: Kid Brother from Season 5. Fans of the show might not recognize this title, since in the episode the movie went by the title Operation Double 007. Apparently Shout! couldn’t release the show under this title, so they simply did it under its alternate title. (Another alternate title for the film was OK Connery.) Oddly enough, the movie stars Neil Connery (Sean’s brother) playing the brother of Britain’s top agent. (I wonder who?) There are also appearances by Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell (who played M and Miss Moneypenny in the original Bond films), as well as Thunderball villain Adolfo Celi. The names, of course, have been changed to protect the guilty. Neil’s no Sean (but who expected him to be?), but there is a family resemblance, and he does all right in this cut rate spy film. This is another case of starting out with a crazy movie that is enhanced by the riffing. Extras here are another introduction by Hodgson, talking a bit about this movie’s history and how much he enjoyed doing this episode. (He left the show four episodes later.)
The third movie is Kitten with a Whip from the following season. This features an incredibly overacting Ann-Margret as a manic-depressive juvenile delinquent who invades the home of a senator played by the incredibly bland John Forsythe. (Trust me, Forsythe was more exciting as the voice of Charlie on Charlie’s Angels.) MST3K’s movies didn’t usually have this kind of star power, unless the aforementioned star was on the downside of their career. This disc includes an introduction by MST performer Mike Nelson.
Finally we have Revenge of the Creature, MST3K’s first episode for the Sci-Fi Channel, and a a great movie to kick off the first show in their new digs. This is a sequel to the classic Creature from the Black Lagoon featuring sci-fi movie standby John Agar. It was thought that Universal’s movies were going to be unavailable for these sets, so it’s to Shout! Factory’s credit that they were able to release this. Hopefully it’ll bode well for other episodes that we thought we’d never get. This episode’s extras are another introduction by Nelson, a Life After MST3K featurette about Bill Corbett, and an informative documentary about the film’s director, Jack Arnold at Universal. This was the perfect episode to feature the profile on Corbett, since this was his first time to take over the robot Crow from originator Trace Beaulieu. He discusses his apprehension over taking over the well-loved and established character (and his substandard puppeting skills), as well as his current work with Rifftrax.
MST3K Vol. XXV is one of the better varieties of episodes that Shout! Factory has compiled, with a cheap post-apocalyptic science fiction film (and one of the best episodes of the show’s fledgling season), a fun Bond knockoff, a juvenile delinquent on the loose, and a sequel to a classic horror film. As with all of the collections that Shout! has released, each disk has entertaining animated menu screens as well as mini posters illustrated by Steve Vance for each of the shows. I have to admit though that I’m a bit disappointed that there aren’t more extras with these episodes. There’s only one documentary and no interviews with any of the movies’ stars. (At the very least, the Robot Holocaust disk could have included two later skits that were callbacks to the movie: one where they announced results of the “Name the Plant Guy” contest, and another where Nelson played villainess Valeria.) It’s not that the extras included are bad, it’s just that Shout! has set the bar so high with previous volumes that this one suffers by comparison. The episodes themselves are the big selling point here, and they’re all a lot of fun. And if you decide to buy the set directly from Shout! Factory they’ll include an additional DVD compiling all the chapters of Radar Men on the Moon that were done on the show. Either way, this comes recommended.