Shout! Factory continues to re-release long out-of-print episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 originally released on DVD by Rhino. One of those titles is the Coleman Francis saga, Red Zone Cuba, from season six, only available from Shout! Factory’s online store. Is it worth upgrading to this new re-release?
US DVD Release Date: August 16, 2011
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 90 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 full screen
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Movie: 2.5 out of 5
Mystery 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.
With many of the Rhino-released episodes now out of print, Shout! Factory has begun releasing these episodes individually on DVD, available exclusively through their online store.
Experiment 619, Red Zone Cuba (also known as Night Train To Mundo Fine), was director Coleman Francis’ last film, the first in which he attempted the quadruple threat (actor/writer/director/producer), and plays the starring role as Griffin, who escapes from jail. While on the run, he meets Cook (Harold Saunders) and Landis (Anthony Cardoza), and wind up at a military training facility and are forced to invade Cuba.
Over the years, I have tried to enjoy this episode, but have almost always managed to fall asleep sometime after the educational short Speech: Platform Posture And Appearance, which, unfortunately, is the major highlight. Tom Servo gets in most of the good riffs in response to the narrator, and this short always has me in stitches. The main problem with the feature isn’t with the riffing, more with the plodding and meandering of Red Zone Cuba itself. The two best riffs are from Tom Servo (“Well, see! The movie has finally thrown up its hands and said, ‘I just don’t know!’”) and Crow (“I wanna hurt this movie, but I’ll never be able to hurt it the way it hurt me”).
The host segments are fun, especially the opening bit with Tom Servo shooting Lotto balls out the top of his head while Mike tries to catch and read them. Frank owes big time to the mob, and tricks Dr. Forrester into answering the door when they stop by to collect while Mike and the bots hit the casino to play Bingo. Mike thinks he’s Carol Channing. Finally, Mike and the bots sing The Bouncy, Upbeat Song to pull themselves out of the depression caused by the movie.
Video: 3.5 out of 5
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 this re-issue is a slight improvement over the prior Rhino release, with increased detail and well-defined colors.
Audio: 3 out of 5
As with the video, the audio quality is best judged by the host segments and the actual riffing during the movie. Dialogue is intelligible and overall the track has good fidelity. This is a slight improvement over the prior Rhino release, which sounded a tad muddier.
Special Features: 0 out of 5
The were no extras on the Rhino version, which have been carried over to this new Shout! Factory release. In other words, this disc has no features, and only a static menu. Missing are the creative and often hilarious animated menus we’ve grown accustomed to on Shout! Factory’s 4-disc sets.
Overall: 3 out of 5
Long-time fans of the series likely already own the previous Rhino release of this episode, and the slightly improved video and audio are not necessarily worth trading up to this new release. Still, kudos to Shout! Factory for making a long out of print episode available to fans who may have missed the opportunity to purchase this episode.