Well, it’s that time of year again. The good folks at Shout! Factory are blessing us with yet another volume of everybody’s favorite “cowtown puppet show” with Mystery Science Theater 3000 Vol. XXXV. (That’s Volume 35 for you non-Romans out there.) I’m normally joined in these reviews with my co-MSTie in crime Dan Wiencek, but unfortunately he didn’t get his review copy in time so I’m afraid you’re just stuck with me on this one. Let’s roll!
Our first episode is season 3’s Teenage Cave Man, the 1958 movie directed by Roger Corman and starring Robert Vaughn, a few years before he embarked on his Solo career. (Napoleon Solo, that is.) Vaughn plays a young cave dweller who dares to go where no (cave) man has gone before, a forbidden area that is said to contain mysteries of their existence. We then discover that (SPOILER ALERT) this is not a prehistoric story, but a post-apocalyptic one. While that trope has been done to death, I guess it was relatively fresh back when this movie was done. There’s some solid riffing here, but the highlight is the two shorts that precede the movie, Aquatic Wizards and Catching Trouble, particularly the latter’s story of a man hired to capture animals for a zoo (and the revenge that the bots take out on him in the host segment afterwards).
EXTRAS: The documentary I Was a Teenage Caveman.
Next is Being from Another Planet, an outing from season 4. This one concerns a mysterious mummy found in King Tut’s tomb that is awakened and goes on a killing spree. Why there would be such a thing as an alien mummy is beyond me. This movie was originally called Time Walker, but it was recut by a company called Film Ventures International, who did that with a number of films later riffed on MST3K. While the movie was OK and the riffing was fine, the highlight for me was Dr. Forrester’s and TV’s Frank’s hilarious version of the Precious Moment figurines, known as Tragic Moments.
EXTRAS: The original Time Walker, Richard Band Remembers, and the theatrical trailer.
12 to the Moon (from season 5) was a dull movie about a sort of United Nations of astronauts that travel to the moon, the aliens they (indirectly) meet, and how they reverse the aliens’ scheme to freeze the Earth. I think I may have dozed off a bit on this one, despite the game riffing from Mike and the bots. Much better was the short included on this episode, Design for Dreaming. In this mini-musical, a woman dreams that she is whisked away by a man wearing a tuxedo and a mask (but not Tuxedo Mask). There she learns about the wonderful cars of General Motors and a futuristic kitchen presented by Westinghouse. It’s delightfully silly, and gives Mike’s wife Bridget Jones a chance to shine in the host skits as Nuveena, the woman from this short, invades the Satellite of Love and magically turns the bots into kitchen appliances.
EXTRAS: The doc You Are There: Launching 12 to the Moon.
We round out the set with Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell from season 7. This was a fun, goofy sword and sorcery flick featuring a wizard, enchanted stones, an extremely smarmy hero and a super hammy villain. This movie was pretty entertaining on its own, but the extra layer of riffing just made it that much better.
EXTRAS: The doc Medieval Boogaloo: The Legend of Deathstalker II.
Once again, I can’t go without mentioning the animated menus, as well the mini-poster for each episode designed by Steve Vance. And the announcement has already been made as to the episodes that will be featured in Vol. XXXVI! Those episodes are Stranded in Space, City Limits, The Incredible Melting Man, and Riding with Death.
I’m happy that Shout! Factory is keeping the memory of MST3K alive, so much so that work is now being done on a new MST3K series, successfully supported through Kickstarter and supervised by original creator Joel Hodgson. Similarly, Rifftrax (a companion of sorts to MST3K featuring cast members Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett) is working on another Kickstarter of their own to help finance new episodes (one of which will reunite them with many of their other MST alumni), shown live via satellite to theaters across the country. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: It’s a great time to be a MSTie!