• Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXV



    Released on: December 4, 2012.

    Released by:
    Shout! Factory
    Director: Various

    Cast: Various

    Year: Various

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    The Movies:


    Picking up where Rhino left off, Shout! Factory unleashes another four titles from their ongoing Mystery Science Theater boxed set line. For the few out there unaware of who or what the Mystery Science Theater thing is all about, basically, it was a long running show in which a recurring cast of characters - a space castaway and his robot pals - were forced to watch bad movies while doing time on a satellite. This simple premise basically allowed Joel Hodgsen or Mike Nelson (depending on how early or recent the episode in question may be), Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett (who have recently teamed up to pick up where they left off with their Rifftrax project) to crack wise about ‘bad' movies. The series was on the air from 1988 through 1999 and it still has a loyal cult following to this day while it's various participants have gone on to other, similar projects like Cinematic Titanic and the aforementioned Rifftrax downloads.


    This time around, the gang takes on the following four films:

    ROBOT HOLOCAUST:


    Directed by Tim Kinkaid in 1986, Robot Holocaust is a fairly horrible film set in a post apocalyptic future. Here we meet Neo, a drifter type who winds up getting into trouble when he tries to help out the slaves being forced to work at a factory for The Dark One. Neo and his robot pal meet a foxy lady who talks them into helping her save her father, a scientist, who is a wanted man due to his invention, some device that will allow the slaves to overpower whatever sort of mind control it is that The Dark One is exerting over them. Together, they gather up a rag-tag group of survivalist types and head out to face The Dark One and save the day…


    For such an easy target, it’s a shame that this episode isn’t more successful. It’s occasionally funny and worth seeing but you never quite get the impression that the guys are into it the way they are during the best riff fests. A Radar Men From The Moon short opens the episode before they get to Robot Holocaust proper, and once they do the jokes are just a bit more obvious than they need to be. It’s not hard to make fun of the outfits and effects here, they’re obviously awful and you get the sense that they ran out of ideas or just didn’t have the enthusiasm this time around. Next!












    OPERATION KID BROTHER:

    A strange Italian spy film directed in 1967 by Alberto De Martino, Operation Kid Brother sets up its plot by filling us in on the exploits of an international terrorist organization called Thanatos who have got a magnetic wave generator that they intend to use to take over the world. See, the magnetic waves that this thing will generate will be able to stop all of the world’s machinery from working, so they’ve made a pretty good case for themselves. The British Secret Service would normally send in their top man, but since he’s busy, they opt for his kid brother, Neil Connery (played by, um, Neil Connery, Sean’s younger brother). He uses his skills in plastic surgery and lip reading to stop the bad guys. Seriously.


    This is a fairly horrible movie but it’s not without its own bizarre fun factor, especially when you notice the cameos from Bond regulars that pop up in the movie. The host segments are nothing to write home about here, playing around with a story in which Joel has his home movies brought on board the satellite and making for a fun tie in to the Manos: The Hands Of Fate episode. As far as the riffs on the feature go, a bit about Three Dog Night’s ‘Black And White’ is kind of funny and Knight Rider fans will get a kick out of some jokes made at the expense of William Daniels. There’s an obscure Get Christie Love! reference made and even some references to Kurt Vonnegut. This is a better than average episode for sure, the jokes are well paced and well timed and often times pretty clever.













    KITTEN WITH A WHIP:


    The smokin’ hot Ann-Margret plays Jody Dvorak in this Douglas Heyes film from 1964. She’s a delinquent who escapes from the juvenile hall she’s supposed to be in by stabbing her way through the matron in charge and trying to burn the place down! She hides out in a house owned by a politician named David Patton and though she tries to use her feminine whiles on him, he’s not having any part of it – there’s no way she’d be good for his political career, even if she is beautiful. She doesn’t take this well though, and before you know it she’s wrangled up a small army of thugs and descended upon his place again to take him hostage. When things go from bad to worse, they force David to act as a hostage and drive them to Mexico! This isn’t going to end well…


    You can skip the host segments this time around, they’re not so great but the riffing on the movie is pretty solid. The film hasn’t aged well and is very, very campy by modern standards even if Ann is pretty good in it (and incredibly easy on the eyes). The group makes a funny Russ Meyer reference early on and make digs referring to The Six Million Dollar Man, Barney and even Twisted Sister. The pacing is solid and the comedy works. Definitely one worth revisiting.












    REVENGE OF THE CREATURE:


    The third film in the Creature From The Black Lagoon series was made in 1955 by director Jack Arnold. The story begins when the creature is captured by a team of scientists who intend to ship him off to an aquarium in Florida for further study and evaluation. When the creature meets foxy female scientist Helen Dobson (Lori Nelson) he escapes and kidnaps her, as he is prone to doing, before making his escape – but top man Professor Clete Ferguson (John Agar) is not down with this at all and he and his team set out to stop the creature and save Helen before it’s too late.


    The best episode in the set, the riffs here are funny and appropriate. There’s an obvious affection for this movie, as hokey as it might be, and the team bring their A game this time around. They make some obscure Fawlty Towers references, cross reference To Kill A Mockingbird and pay homage to the Kingston Trio while poking fun at effects, wooden acting and quirky set design. The skits work better than they usually do here as well and this is one of those episodes that comes together very nicely, a nice way to finish the set.












    Video/Audio/Extras:


    The fullframe interlaced transfers that grace all four films in this set won't blow you away but they're watchable enough particularly when taken in the intended context. You will see the MST3K silhouettes in front of the screen so purists take note, and the transfers are taken from often times edited down old TV masters so those expecting the movies to appear here as they were originally intended will be disappointed. That said, they look as good here as they did on TV when they first aired and pristine video quality isn't really the point here. Are the transfers great? Nope, but they don't need to be.


    The commentary comes through nice and clear, there are no problems understanding the participants and they've balanced nicely against the audio from the movie itself. As far as the quality of that part is concerned, it's on par with the transfer. It's not great, in fact, there are times where it sounds quite shrill. It gets the job done, I suppose, but it's nothing impressive.


    Robot Holocaust includes an introduction to the feature from Joel Hodgson (5:13) that provides some background information on this episode, and a featurettes entitled Life After MST3K: J. Elvis Weinstein (18:21) that catches up with the commentator and lets us in on what he’s been up to since the show went off the air. This piece also provides some basic biographical information on Weinstein and provides a good ‘snapshot’ look at what he’s all about. The Operation Kid Brother disc contains only one extra, and that’s another introduction to the feature from Hodgson (3:11), again giving some welcome background information on this particular episode. The extras for Kitten With A Whip are also slim, this time limited to an introduction to the episode that comes not from Hodgson but from Mike Nelson (4:23). Revenge Of The Creature winds up getting the most love in the extras department, starting with an introduction from Nelson (7:07) that again gives some background information on the episode. Also included here is a featurettes entitled Jack Arnold At Universal (19:50) which gives us a very nice rundown of what exactly Arnold was responsible for at Universal during his time thereby providing some interesting biographical information on him as well as discussion of a few of his movies. There’s also a second featurette, Life After MST3K: Bill Corbett (12:10) that follows the same format as the featurettes on the Robot Holocaust disc, albeit this time it’s geared towards Corbett’s life and work.


    Each of the four discs contains a nifty animated menu and chapter selection. Inside the packaging along with the discs (packed in slimline cases) you’ll find some neat mini posters.


    The Final Word:


    Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXV isn’t the best collection in the line nor is it the most consistent but it’s decent enough that fans of the series are going to want to add it to their collection. If it’s not as extras laden as some of the other releases, there’s still some very solid supplemental material included here that should please the series’ cult.