• Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXX



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: July 29th, 2014.
    Director: Various
    Cast: Various
    Year: Various
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    The Movies:

    Shout! Factory is back at it with yet another boxed set collection of classic MST3K episodes. Here’s what’s in this thirtieth volume for fans to dig into…

    The Black Scorpion:

    First up in the set is director Edward Ludwig’s monster movie, The Black Scorpion. When the movie begins in the deserts of Mexico, a volcano opens up and spews forth scores of prehistoric scorpions of the massive and deadly variety. While many of the monsters engage in combat against each other on giant one survives and proceeds to wreak chaos and destruction on the good people of Mexico City. Thankfully there’s a scientist named Richard Denning (Hank Scott), his sexy lady friend Teresa Alvarez (Mara Corday) and his assistant Artur Ramos (Carlos Riva) on hand to save the day.

    This is a pretty ho-hum episode. There are some good jokes here but this is one of those movies that, while dated, doesn’t really qualify as good riffing material. There’s actually some really inspired creativity here, a few scenes of decent effects work and some okay acting too. Having said that, the MST3K qualities of this one don’t find the guys at the top of their game but they do get some good quips in that play off of the dated, sometimes cornball dialogue that takes place between various characters. Humorous use of applause sound effects can be pretty funny too. There’s enough here to enjoy that this one doesn’t quite hit the bottom of the barrel but yeah, it’s not a classic.

    Black Scorpion though… the movie itself is pretty rad.

    Outlaw Of Gor:

    This second Gor film begins when Professor Tarl Cabot (Urbano Barberini) befriends Watney Smith (Russel Savadier) and soon enough, the two of them are transported to the planet Gor. Here, Cabot hopes to find his former flame, Talena (Rebecca Ferratti) and they do soon meet up where she tells him that her father, King Marlenus (Larry Taylor), has recently married a woman named Lara (Donna Denton). As the night goes on, Marlenus announces to everyone that he will be stepping down as king and that he wants Cabot to replace him on the throne. Lara, however, wants control and so she brings in an evil priest named Xenos (Jack Palance) to help murder Marlenus and make Cabot look like the killer. Lara also goes on to seduce Watney who sides with her, forcing Cabot into the desert with a midget where they run into a bounty hunter and a slave girl, all while poor Talena is forced by Lara to compete in combat against the Leather Women!

    Directed by John ‘Bud’ Cardos, the same man who gave us Kingdom Of The Spiders, Outlaw Of Gor is ridiculous stuff and therefore perfect MST3K material and the guys take full advantage of that. Yeah, there are some pretty obvious digs here, Fabio references and what not, but the riffing is fast paced and consistently on target. We get references to Pete Rose’s infamous baseball career, zingers that tie into old beer and deodorant commercials, a joke borrowed from Monty Python And The Holy Grail and references to annoying old seventies folk songs. The movie itself, even without the commentary, is funny to watch. It’s horribly acted, obviously made on the cheap and lacking what most would consider to be logic so even in those few times where they slow down, the movie remains just a ridiculously entertaining watch. Even the host segments are funny this time around.

    This is one of those episodes where everything comes together and it is absolutely the highlight of this collection.

    The Projected Man:

    Disc three contains the oddball 1966 sci-fi picture, The Projected Man, a film that introduces us to Doctor Paul Steiner (Bryant Haliday), a physicist who, along with his assistant Doctor Chris Mitchel (Ronald Allen), is on the verge of perfecting his new laser. This device will turn matter into fast moving energy and, just like in The Fly, allow people to teleport from one pod like device to another almost instantly. They’re under pressure from their boss, Doctor Blanchard (Norman Wooland), to finish things up pronto and he brings in Patricia Hill (Mary Peach) to help with their work. Blanchard isn’t on the up and up, however, and he sets Steiner up to fail during a demonstration. Blanchard responds by demonstrating the unit on himself, and quite predictably, things go wrong when he mutates into some sort of killer rat man.

    This episode is best described as consistently amusing, rather than genuinely hilarious. The riffs are pretty constant and there’s a consistency here but it never quite takes off the way that the best episodes in the series do. This, like most episodes, is worth seeing but not really so good that you’ll likely feel the need to revisit it that often.

    It Lives By Night:

    Last but not least and also known as The Bat People, It Lives By Night follows Doctor John Beck (Stewart Moss), a bat expert who decides, while honeymooning with his wife Cathy (Marianne McAndrew), to take her on a hike into a massive old cave. While in there, he’s bitten by a bat. Infected by something, he starts turning into a bat himself. When he infects Cathy, she kills a cop and then they flee back to the caves to hide.

    A ridiculous film in every way possible (John is clearly bitten by a small fruit bat but somehow turns into a giant vampire bat), this is another one that never quite lives up to its potential. Like The Projected Man, it’s amusing enough to watch once and there are fleeting moments of brilliance here and there, but it’s nowhere near as good or as consistent or as creative as, say, Gor. Not a terrible episode, not a great episode, It Lives By Night is merely adequate and another MST3K entry that doesn’t have the replay value of the better material.

    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, as it should, but it's nothing impressive.

    The extras are, not surprisingly, spread across the four discs in the set. On disc one we get a great thirteen minute featurette entitled Stinger Of Death: Making The Black Scorpion that features C. Courtney Joyner essentially guiding us through the history of the movie. Given that this cinematic oddity was put together by a major studio, in this case Warner Brothers, there’s a fair bit to talk about as many of the people involved had some serious credits under their belt before heading face first into monster movie/drive-in territory. This is treated with enough respect to keep it interesting but understandably is not without a proper sense of humor. It’s very well done and a nice addition to the set. A trailer for Black Scorpion is also included on the disc.

    The second disc contains a bit more, in terms of extras, starting with Writer of Gor: The Novels Of John Norman. This thirteen minute piece explores the history of the novels that inspired the two Gor movies and it’s quite a good extra feature. The seven minute Director Of Gor: On Set With John Bud Cardos allows the b-movie auteur to wax nostalgic how he came onboard to direct this, what it was like working with the cast, how the producers wanted him to recycle a lot of the sets and props from the first movie and more. The third and final featurette on the second disc is Producer Of Gor: Adventures With Harry Alan Towers, a seven minute piece where the film’s production manager Danny Lerner discusses his working relationship with the film’s producer. He also talks about shooting in Africa during difficult political times, Jack Palance’s time on set and more. All three of these are well worth watching.

    Disc three includes one featurette, a four minute piece Shock To The System: Creating The Projected Man in which film historian Tom Weaver talks about the origins of the film, the production crew and the influences that crop up in the movie. A trailer for the feature is also included.

    There aren’t any movie related on extras on disc four but we do get an extended trailer for 'The Frank' which is a short film/music video recently put together by some of those involved in MST3K. Each disc also includes those same cool animated style menus you’ve come to know and love over the years as well as chapter selection. Inside the boxed set alongside the four slim cases holding the DVDs are a quartet of four exclusive mini-posters by artist Steve Vance.

    The Final Word:

    This isn’t the strongest collection in the run so far but most fans already know they need this one for Outlaw Of Gor alone, as it really is one of the best MST3K episodes of that era. The other three… not essential, but if you haven’t seen them in a while they might be worth revisiting. As usual, Shout! Factory has done a decent job with the presentation and an even better job with the supplements. A solid release of three inconsistent episodes and one flat out classic.