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Mystery Science Theater 3000, Volume XXIX DVD ReviewDVD Shout Factory TV Reviews
- Studio: Shout! Factory
- Distributed By: N/A
- Video Resolution: 480I/MPEG-2
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Audio: English 2.0 DD
- Subtitles: None
- Rating: Not Rated
- Run Time: 6 Hr. 0 Min.
- Package Includes: DVD
- Case Type: THIN-PAK keepcases housed in cardboard sleeve
- Disc Type: DVD-5 (single layer), DVD-9 (dual layer)
- Region: 1
- Release Date: 03/25/2014
- MSRP: $59.97
The Production Rating: 4/5Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) was the brainchild of Joel Hodgson, a former prop comic and frequent guest on Saturday Night Live and Late Night With David Letterman. Basically an extension of the popular hosted movie format made famous by Vampira and Elvira, the original premise was that Joel (and later Mike Nelson), along with his robot companions Crow and Tom Servo, were sent into space, orbiting the planet and forced to watch bad movies by Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu). The show first aired on local Minneapolis-St. Paul UHF station KTMA in a very crude form in 1988, but was picked up by the Comedy Channel (now Comedy Central) as one of its first series a year later. The series survived for seven seasons, then moved to Sci-Fi for three additional seasons, finally falling out of first-run orbit in 1999.
Volume 29 is the seventeenth set of episodes to be released by Shout! Factory. The mix of episodes consists of two from the Comedy Central era with Joel and two from the Sci-Fi Channel era with Mike.
Experiment 112, Untamed Youth, is one of the few highlights from the series’ first season on The Comedy Channel. It was also the first film the crew of the Satellite of Love riffed that was not science fiction or horror (not including the pre-cable KTMA era). Mamie Van Doren and Jane Lowe are sisters who get arrested for stopping for a skinny dip at a small town lake on their way to California, and then get sentenced to a work relief program managed by a corrupt farmer who uses and abuses his labor to undercut his competitors. It’s a typical 1950s teenage exploitation film, but from a major studio (Warner Bros). Like most season one episodes, the host segments are really weak, but the riffing is some of the best of the season. The riffs include references to The Brady Bunch (thanks to one of the girls having an eerie similarity to Greg Brady), The Invisible Man, Green Acres, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
The other Joel episode is Experiment 412, Hercules and the Captive Women, with Reg Park taking over the role from Steve Reeves. The movie is a real mess storywise (although that may be from the dubbing and editing by its US distributor) but does have really high production values (according to the opening credits, it was filmed in 70mm). Essentially, Hercules saves a beautiful woman as she is about to be sacrificed to a monster, and then has to save her again from her mother, the Queen of Atlantis, as part of a plot to rule the world. And Hercules’ son comes along for the ride, too. What is notable about this episode is that Gypsy is invited to riff on the movie inside the theater for the first time, but gets bored and leaves after only five minutes. The host segments include an invention exchange (TV’s Frank shows off his lawn baby, while Joel demonstrates the womb-mate), Crow presents his own history of Hercules, while Crow and Tom Servo create their own Hercules action figure. The riffing is pretty good, mostly at the expense of the cheesy action and effects as well as the wooden dubbed line reading.
Experiment 805, The Thing That Couldn’t Die, is a grade-Z horror film made during a very dark period at Universal, and was only profitable because it was released on a double bill with Hammer Studios’ Horror of Dracula. The movie supposes that dowsing (the use if a divining rod to find water) can also be used to find buried treasure and human remains. Jessica, a water witch, uncovers the head of a 16th century devil worshiper, who quickly takes over the minds of the ranch hands and guests, and turns poor innocent Jessica into a sultry would-be killer. The movie, although briskly paced, is just too ludicrous to be scary, and the climax doesn’t really lead up to anything. This episode introduced us to The Observers, a race of beings that have evolved to the point that they no longer need to have their brains in their bodies (but must have their host bodies carry them around). Bill Corbett’s Observer would become another of Pearl’s sidekicks (like Kevin Murphy’s Professor Bobo) in later episodes. The majority of the host segments in this episode set up that premise (which are quite humorous), and Crow’s documentary on the Civil War is a doozy (and pokes fun at Ken Burns). The riffing is where this episode pays off in spades, with my favorites being in the opening credits, such as Tom Servo’s reaction to the movie’s title “The Strom Thurmond Story!” and Crow’s reaction to Joseph Gershenson’s Music Supervision credit “Joe dropped a needle and now he’s off eating a mallo cup” for the film’s raiding of Universal’s music library (particularly from This Island Earth). Pop reference riffs include The Big Valley, several callbacks to This Island Earth (which MST3K riffed in MST3K: The Movie), Gidget, Laverne and Shirley, Of Mice and Men, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, to name but a few.
Finally, there is Experiment 903, The Pumaman, a would-be superhero film that dares you to believe that a puma can fly. The film opens with Kobras (Donald Pleasence) taking possession of a sacred puma mask that has the power to hypnotize people (and wants to use it to rule the world, what else?). Vadinho (Miguel Angel Fuentes), an Aztec priest, goes in search of The Pumaman by testing men he suspects to be the mythical superhero by tossing them out of windows to see if the land on their feet. After several failed attempts, he finds Tony Farms (Walter George Alton) who luckily lands on his feet after being thrown out of his lab at the museum. Made on a miniscule budget in Italy, the movie is laughably bad with its cheesy superhero costume (he wears khaki slacks instead of tights), bad rear-projection flying sequences, stilted acting by its no-name cast, and over-acting by its lead villain. Season nine is where the series finally regained the momentum it had before the long hiatus when it switched networks, and would eventually hit a homerun the following week with Werewolf. Host segments are fairly solid, beginning with Tom Servo overcompensating for his shortness, Pearl dealing with throwing a ball and no one (not even Observer and his friends) attending except for Bobo, Mike getting another haircut from Shelli the Nanite, Mike is chosen to be Coatimundi Man, and Crow and Tom capture the mind of Roger Whitaker. Pop culture riffs include This Is Spinal Tap, Touched By An Angel, the Intel Inside ad campaign, Pat Benatar, 900 numbers, Subway sandwich shops, and the disco hit The Hustle.
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA
As I’ve stated in my previous reviews of these sets, judging the video quality of an episode of MST3K is difficult. The movies are usually in fairly bad shape, with sub-par transfers that the series’ producers had to contend with.
The only fair thing to do is to judge the host segments, and the quality improves as you get later into the series. Disc one has some minor softness to it, but colors are consistent. The remaining discs are excellent, with increased detail and well-defined colors. Throughout all four discs, however, there are some brief minor anomalies inherent in the broadcast masters, such as dropouts, but these are few and far between.
Audio Rating: 3/5As with the video, the audio quality is best judged by the host segments and the actual riffing during the movie. All four discs include a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, encoded at 192 kbps. Dialogue is intelligible and overall the tracks have good fidelity.
Special Features: 4/5As with Shout! Factory’s other MST3K boxed sets, the menu designs on each disc are themed with the episode, with decent CG animation, and are very funny. Also included in the set are a set of original comic book style mini-posters for each episode, identical to the DVD covers, created by Steve Vance. All five discs come housed in THIN-Pak keepcases within a paperboard sleeve.
Disc One (Untamed Youth):
Introduction by Joel Hodgson (1:43): Hodgson discusses season one and how this was their first film that wasn’t horror or sci-fi.
Interview with Mamie Van Doren (7:04): The actress discusses how she was discovered and her work on Untamed Youth.
About Joel Hodgson’s “Riffing Myself” (5:40): Hodgson talks about his limited-run one-man show.
Theatrical Trailer (1:55)
Disc Two (Hercules and the Captive Women):
Introduction by Joel Hodgson (3:09): Hodgson talks fondly of this episode, particularly why Gypsy was brought into the theater at the beginning of the movie, as well as the Hercules series of movies features on the show.
MST3K Artist in Residence: Steve Vance (10:33): DVD menu animator Dave Long interviews DVD cover artist Steve Vance, who discusses his approach to each cover and how the back covers began as a lark but Shout! Factory liked them so much they decided to use them.
The Posters of MST3K: A photo gallery of all of Steve Vance’s posters he created for Shout! Factory’s MST3K releases.
Disc Three (The Thing That Couldn’t Die):
The Movie That Couldn’t Die (9:13): Film historian Tom Weaver narrates this documentary on the making of The Thing That Couldn’t Die.
Theatrical Trailer (1:53)
Disc Four (The Pumaman):
Un-MST’d Pumaman (1:36:43): The original version of The Pumaman, and, unfortunately, is the same print and transfer used in the episode.
Interview with Star Walter G. Alton, Jr. (24:32): Alton talks about how his career as a lawyer got briefly sidetracked by an acting career, making The Pumaman in Italy, and how much he dislikes the MST3K version.
Much Ado About Nanites (3:46): Members of the cast and crew of MST3K discuss the evolution of the nanites.
- Mark Walker likes this