Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume 6
One of my favorite types of DVDs is those that capture cult favorites. Television series that may not have had a lot of commercial success but they wound up with a legion of fans; a cult classic. Near the apex of cult TV series has to be Mystery Science Theater 3000, best known to fans simply as MST3K. For those that have a problem with the suspension of belief you probably will not get the off beat humor here. While most rational television series hopefully try to avoid being cheesy, MST3K embraces it, even lavishes in it. Even its run on television seems like one of the Grade Z flick shown on it, the series that would no die. It started in a little station in the Twin Cities, KTMA ended there when it went to Comedy Central and after cancellation wound up on the Sci-Fi channel, picked up as a result of an internet based demand by the loyal fans. The format is so simple that most of us had may as well enact an episode with friends. The characters of the show sit and make jokes while viewing a really horrible film. Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) is a mad scientist that works for the Gizmonics Institute where he and his cohort Dr. Laurence Erhardt (Josh Weinstein) decide to experiment on a janitor, Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson). They shoot him off to outer space to reside in the Satellite of Love where Joel is forced to watch cheesy movies while they monitor his brain. The opening song notes he can’t control the film because he used the parts to create a bunch of robot pals; Crow T. Robot (voiced by Trace Beaulieu and Bill Corbett), Tom Servo (voiced by Kevin Murphy or J. Elvis Weinstein) and Gypsy (voiced by Patrick Brantseg or J. Elvis Weinstein). Later Joel, also the creator of the series, left to be replaced by another janitor, Mike Nelson played with a dry, mid-western brilliance by Michael J. Nelson. His tormentors also changed to Clayton’s sick and twisted sister Pearl (Mary Jo Pehl) and her sidekicks Professor Bobo (Kevin Murphy), a Planet of the Apes sort of scientist and the Observer (Bill Corbett) a man from the distant future who carries his brain (actually jell-o) in a bowl. This small group of friends plays alternate parts with little or no attempt to hide the fact that they are in multiple parts. They brought bad production qualities to the pinnacle and year after year fans would tune in to watch.
Instead of releasing season sets Shout Factory has been treating us to box sets with four or five episodes. While most would think of this as a mistake the advantage is they get to mix up the various incarnations of the cast spanning the entire run of the series. This collection contains an episode from season 2 (the first season on Comedy Central), and one each from seasons three, six and eight. This provides a nice look at both the Joel and Mike years.
The first flick presented is ‘Women of the Prehistoric Planet’. This space opera opens on a space ship that is able to travel at ‘optical speeds’ even though the crew is still using slide rules for computations. The younger men have even grease in their hairs to lubricate and army of Elvis impersonators. The women all sport pointy Maiden Form bras, careful, you might take out a eye if you get too close, and basically are there to handle communications and get hit on by the males. They also have on board several Centarians, a notably Asian seen as lower class but most of the crew. When one of the ships in the fleet crash lands on a planet the flag ship disobeys orders and rushes to rescue them. Eighteen relative years later they show up and the only remaining crew members are frozen while Tang, a very young Robert Ito, is left to get friendly with the beautiful young Centarian, Linda (Irene Tsu). The film also sports the B-flick regular John Agar. The production qualities of this film are nonexistent. The boulders are little more than Paper Mache and the dialogue as stunted as the acting. An extra provided on this disc is in the form of an introduction by Irene Tsu who is an incredible good sport about this part of her career.
From season three (or two if you only count Comedy Central on) is Wild Rebels. After a crash stock car racer Rod (Steve Alaimo) sells his racing gear, dances like an idiot on a bar and gets recruited into a biker gang called Satan’s Angles. If Satan was able to he would certainly make an open statement denying any affiliation with the group. There he falls in with a motley crew with the likes of Banjo (Willie Pastrano) who brings being stupid to an art form and Linda the gang’s moll who is passed around more than a joint at a Grateful Dead concert. The gang wants Rod to be the driver for their main source of amusement, armed robbery. Rob still has a hint of good in him and is used by the police in a sting to capture the gang.
The Sinister Urge, from season six is classic in how bad it is. First of all it was directed and written by the undisputed king of bad cinema, Edward D. Wood Jr. It has all the hallmarks of an Ed Wood flick, sex and violence with truly awful acting. In the quiet town that the story is set there is a heinous pornography ring at work. The full figured young women used in these films actually parade around in one piece bathing suits, how scandalous! In fact the images of this porno films is so intense that they have driven a man to become a serial killer. I really can’t go into more detail about the plot since there is very little plot at all in this film. This disc of the set also includes one of those public service films we had to see in health class, Keeping Clean and Neat. This short extols the virtues of hygiene in a fashion that only a one reel fifties film can.
Winding up this set is a film where the title pretty much states it all: ‘The Incredible Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies’. This is the kind of film that MST3K was meant for, it cries out to be made fun of and Mike and his robot pals do it up right. Basically Jerry (Ray Dennis Steckler, credited here as the more stud sounding Cash Flagg) falls in love with a girl working as a stripper in a carnival. She happens to be the sister of a gypsy fortune teller who Jerry ridiculed earlier. To get her revenge the gypsy turns Jerry into a Zombie who immediately sets out on a killing spree. There are dance numbers, blood shed and just about everything required for a truly badly made flick.
If you are one of the remaining few that have never experienced MST3K do yourself a favor and pick this up. Shout Factory has given more to the DVD production than many studios give main stream television series sets. The four singe sided discs don’t cram the material together. The video is as it should be; the films are grainy, flecks of dust apparent and just as bad as the content. The two channel audio gets the job done well. This is perfect for a rainy afternoon, just order a couple of pizza pies, pop open a couple of beers and enjoy!