Mystery Science Theater 3000 XVIII (Shout! Factory DVD)
B- Sound: B- Extras: B Episodes: A+
show that spanned eleven seasons and 198 episodes, it should not be shocking to
see the giant Roman numeral XVIII
emblazoned on the boxed set cover, but one still cannot help but be taken aback
by the sheer volume of material produced by the cast and crew of this
incredible series. For those late to the
game, MST3K enjoyed a long life in
the late 1980s through the 1990s, serving up a campy brand of bad-movie humor
while watching some of the worst movies in the history of cinema. The show aired on two networks (Comedy
Central and Sci-Fi), delighting fans (known as “Mysties”) the world over.
Factory has done a tremendous job with the series since taking over from Rhino,
and this release might be one of their strongest, as it contains a wonderful
mix of the show’s various eras, and some of the best/worst films that the show
ever tackled. These films include: Lost
Continent, Crash of the Moons, The Beast of Yucca Flats, and Jack Frost (1964).
Lost Continent represents the earliest episode
included in this box, and was in fact the 8th episode of season two. As such it
features the hilariously laconic Joel Hodgson in the feature role as the
good-natured guy forced to watch horrible movies by a pair of mad scientists. Lost
Continent itself is a tour de force of movie badness, featuring Cesar
Romero and Hugh Beaumont cashing a paycheck and making the best of a bad
situation. The extended scenes of silent
rock-climbing have taken their place in the show’s lore alongside the
soul-destroying “sandstorm” scenes from Hercules
against the Moon Men (from season four, and included in Volume VII of this series).
Crash of the Moons takes us to season four, and Joel
Hodgson and the cast have rounded into near perfect form by this time. This
“movie” is an awful pulp romp spliced together from the Rocky Jones, Space Ranger TV series. This episode features a hilarious, ongoing
riff on John Banner (of Hogan’s Heroes
fame) who happens to play a role in Crash
of the Moons. It’s punctuated by a
visit from “Banner” on the hex-field view screen.
The Beast of Yucca Flats features the talents of none
other than Tor Johnson, and from that point on, the jokes really must have
written themselves. Notable for his many
appearances in various Ed Wood films, here he is directed by the equally awful
Coleman Francis. This episode features
Mike Nelson in the feature role, and it is early on in his long tenure on the
show. Although the riffs on the main
movie are clever and funny, the two shorts that precede it almost steal the
show. The first is Money Talks, a 1950’s short that purports to teach kids the value
of money and setting a budget, and the second is a 1970’s promo called Progress Island USA,
which strives to lure investors to Puerto Rico.
Mike and the bots land more than a few
zingers during these two warm-ups.
other three discs in this set had been terrible, the inclusion of Jack Frost would make it a must-buy. This Russian-made, 1966, drug-induced fever
dream of a movie comes smack in the middle of season eight. By this time, Dr. Clayton Forester and TV’s
Frank have moved on, and the show has matured to the point where it is firmly
in the hands of Mike Nelson and Mary Joe Pehl (Pearl, Dr. Forester’s evil mother). This episode represents some of the best of
the show’s later era, and it shows in both the zingers thrown out while
watching the film, and the in-between antics. At one point, Crow brings in “Yakov Smirnov”
to comment on the deeper mythic and cultural implications of the film, and of
course, pays for his appearance using Mike’s credit card. The bizarre treatment of the Slavic mythology
and the sketchy dub of the dialogue into English create dozens of priceless
moments during the film, and the guys manage to hit most of those comedic
opportunities out of the park.
provides some solid extras in this box, including introductions by Frank Coniff
(TV’s Frank) and Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo, Bobo the Chimp), a short on The Beast of Yucca Flats, original
trailers, and four nifty MST3K
mini-posters from artist Steve Vance.
be tough assembling a new MST3K
boxed set. Any editor or producer would
be spoiled for choice among the dozens of episodes remaining to be included. Undaunted, the folks at Shout have put
together another winner with Volume
XVIII, and no self-described Mystie should be without it.
- Scott Pyle