The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Volume
12 (Rhino DVD)
C+ Sound: C+ Extras/Films:
The Rebel Set C+/C-
Super Agent, Super Dragon B+/D
The Starfighters B+/C+
Parts: The Clonus Horror B/B-
Note: Volume 10 has been reissued with
a change, but that has not changed the pattern of these releases yet.
the four movies that comprise Volume 12
of Mystery Science Theater 3000
brings to mind the more innocent time of the early 60's and the proliferation
Theater shows in major television markets throughout the country. Whether John Zacherle in New York, later to
become an FM DJ to 1st generation flower children, Chilly Billy Cardille in Pittsburgh,
immortalized in George Romero's Night of
the Living Dead, or any of a host of others, the concept that became MST3K is readily recognizable.
The MST3K FAQ traces the idea back
to Greek theatre via Shakespeare but, well, we'll leave the viewer to be the
judge of that.
formula for success is almost indefinable; the worse the movie, the better the
show seems logical but often is not the case. The opposite is also not an
absolute; better films often don't provide enough openings to launch the never
ending tirades necessary to keep scattershot laughter coming. It would seem
somewhere near the bottom of the barrel of bad cinema is ideal: just not bad
enough to take the entire show down with it.
there are the host segments. The arguments go on ad infinitum: Faulkner vs.
Hemingway, Zeppelin vs. Black Sabbath, Taco Bell vs. Jack-in-the-Box, Joel vs.
Mike. For Volume 12, hosting
duties are split down the middle, two for Mike and two for Joel, and, at least
in this cage match, Mike is the hands down winner.
you might ask? Each has one good bad film ("Secret Agent Super Dragon" and "Parts: The Clonus Horror") and one bad bad film ("The Rebel Set" and "The Starfighters"). It's a
draw there. The host segments are the tiebreakers and Joel just doesn't
hold up his end in either case.
"The Rebel Set" is a stinker that
originally aired in Season 4, December 1992. Filmed in 1959, this
movie is some sort of mutant hybrid of Beat, heist, and didactic expose that
just never seems to get around to any sort of plot. The 5 host segments
show moderate promise (particularly the two referencing the Merrit Stone School
of Acting), but Joel brings all the enthusiasm of a DMV worker on a sluggish
Friday afternoon. At times his shtick seems almost passive aggressive:
whatever. In any case, funny it ain't. The movie riffing gets a few
chuckles out of Get Smart references
at the expense of a decidedly uncomfortable Ed Platt (the Chief) and the fact
that the aforementioned plot is AWOL. John Lupton, of Broken Arrow fame, hurried back to TV
after this bomb, where he compiled a sizable resume of appearances on over a
hundred different shows and innumerable episodes. To heap more misery on
the pile, the film is prefaced with the short "Johnny at the Fair," which has a pseudo-documentary style
reminiscent of a lethal cross of The Red Balloon and a 50's era school film on
manners. Creepy as it is, it still has "The Rebel Set" beat with a capital B.
"Secret Agent Super Dragon" (1966 –
aired Season 5, August 1993) is a winner because, um, it's such a glorious
loser. Poisoned chewing gum, bad karate moves, mind altering
chemicals, Ming vases and a plot lost somewhere in mid-morass, SASD is super
bad and oh so super good. The intermittent segments are marginally better
than "The Rebel Set" but, I have to admit, I've got a Joel block.
The bots stir from their listlessness with a marginally funny rendition of the
movie's theme music but really the film manages to carry the show on its
own. A real classic by any standards.
coveted title of worst film of all times has been awarded around variously to
many an infamous piece of dreck; the only reason I can think of that "The Starfighters" (1946 – aired
Season 6, Oct. 1994) isn't in contention is that it fails to even marginally
approach any conventional idea of what a film might be. All the elements
are there: a camera, people (presumably) in front of and behind it, dialogue,
movement, lighting, editing etc. Yet, somehow, one can't really call this
a movie at all: it seems to be an Air Force training/recruitment film gone terribly,
terribly array. Fortunately, despite the above theoretical formula for a
successful episode, Mike and bot company rise very much to the occasion,
pulling this one out of the tank and somehow re-animating it. Their
riffing throughout the film is consistently, er, stellar, with the seemingly
endless Freudianesque footage of jets being refueled in mid-air providing
enough laughs to cause serious injury to even the most jaded armchair
Starfighters" contains the best host segment of all 4 discs: "The United Servo Academy Men's Choir"
musical tribute to flight that reignites any potential fading
buzzes. There is also a scene that serves as an unintentional time
capsule, capturing the dial-up era Net experience to a T (as in tech support).
disc in this set is "Parts: The
Clonus Horror." Sadly, the horror of the title resonates in so
many ways. First, this film perfectly captures the horrendous segue
between 70's and 80's culture: lots of tight fitting spandex, head bands,
obsessive work outs, bad music and male bonding of a rather suggestively natty
variety. All you really need to know is in the title: it never really
ventures far beyond that. Peter Graves as the point man for the
involuntary organ bank that is Clonus takes a workman like approach to his
role, thereby undermining any legitimate claim this film might have to true
cult status. Keenan Wynn, however, is Keenan Wynn. I say this with
great affection; if ever there was an actor whose schmaltz is ideal for the
small screen, he was it. Mike and the bots are up to their usual level of
shenanigans. The story that frames the segments is almost as lame as the
movie itself, which puts this episode firmly in the category of an average MST3K episode. All in all, a
decent way to pass the time until "The
Mist" comes up in your Netflix queue or the BBC releases the next
season of Dr. Who.
extras in a MST3K are always a barrel of laughs, if sometimes a half empty
barrel. “Rebel Set” has a hysterical interview with the apparently clueless
lead actor, Don Sullivan: clueless about how truly bad the movie is and, well,
about life. Someone will pay,
karma-wise, for this little bit of nastiness.
“Super Agent, Super Dragon”
aired the year when Comedy Central ill-advisedly forced the show into air one
hour segments (Mystery Science Theater
Hour); the extra consists of Mike’s newly filmed Marlin Perkins
introduction and commentary and this one’s just plan bad. The worst film, “The Starfighters,” has the best extra: MST3K’s Video Jukebox 3,
which proudly sachets 10 musical interludes provided by Mike and the bots. Though there are some clinkers, 3 standout as
winners: “Michael Feinstein’s Gamera,”
“Doughy Boys,” and “The Sir Thomas Neville Servo’s Quartet.” “Parts:
The Clonus Horror” contains an interview with director Robert Fiveson,
recounting a history of the project and the copyright lawsuit against the clone
(double double entrendre) movie, “The
Island.” In a rather winning moment,
he admits, after initial trepidation at the thought of the film airing on MST3K, that “The film sucks (which he
attributes to youth and lack of budget) … who am I not to be laughed at.”
Sullivan, listen up.
on the original release of Parts,
try this link:
- Don Wentworth