Novice cinema fans can say the dumbest things. Once a plucky film school student informed me that foreign films were superior to American movies. He mentioned a few really good foreign film titles. But I had to remind him that those are the cream. Foreign countries make plenty of films that don’t make it across the US border. Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIV presents four films that weren’t Oscar winners for Best Foreign Language Film. Although they did become “winners” by being selected for the honor of being roasted by Joel Robinson, Mike Nelson, Crow and Tom Servo.
Fugitive Alien (Season Three) is another Sandy Frank creation. He didn’t actually produce he movie. He bought a Japanese sci-fi TV series called Starwolf and spliced together a few episodes to include in his movie package that aired on low budget UHF channels. This was easier than Frank pushing the uncut series. Joel (Joel Hodgson) and the Bots make fun of the slice and dice when they compare the “movie” against Syd Fields’ script structure. The movie is a tangled mess. The plot of Fugitive Alien starts out right for the first act. Ken is a Starwolf going around the universe as a mercenary. When he screws up royally, he must escape on an Earth spacecraft. He’s hunted by his girlfriend that’s also his best friend’s sister. Things just get messed up as episodes chop into the running time. The most important element of this episode is the introduction of Jack Perkins (Mike Nelson). Perkins would go on to host MST Hour that split the shows in half for easier consumption. Oddly enough even though this boxset has an interview with Sandy Frank, there’s no chat with Jack Perkins about how the former A&E Host and journalist felt about being turned into an MST3K character like Torgo. Perkins is still alive. The Bots wish they were dead when the film ends with a “To Be Continued” warning.
Star Force: Fugitive Alien II brings more butchered episodes into a Sandy Frank “movie” formula. Joel and the Bots are even more fearful. Ken and his earthling crew must destroy a giant space gun that can blow up a planet. Hmmmm. What movie could that be referencing? Later they up the ante with a weapon that can destroy the universe. The episode opens with Crow and Tom Servo arguing over what makes something a puppet. Joel gets brought into the definition. This also marks the return of The Big Head prop. When this ends, there are no “to be continued” threat. This also marks the end of the nine “movies” from Sandy Frank that ran during season three.
The Sword and the Dragon (Season Six) is rather large budget affair from the Soviet Union. How did it end up on the screen at the Satellite of Love? Blame Roger Corman. He bought the US rights to the film, edited it for American audiences and got rid of any Soviet influences in the new dub track. Now it’s just big goofy fun about the only man in the kingdom willing to slaughter a dragon and challenge a mythical evil. Paul Frees voices the evil and Mike Wallace (60 Minutes) narrates the action. Dr. Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) and TV’s Frank have their comicbook sorting night interrupted when two women knock on the door. They’re new in the complex. The Mad Scientists quickly deduce they’re on a date and need Mike Nelson’s advice. The Bots pay tribute to Ingmar Bergman’s comic wit.
Samson Vs. The Vampire Women (Season Six) isn’t a Sword and Sandals epic. This is a semi-misnamed Mexican masked wrestler flick. The star is El Santo, a legend of the ring. Why is he called Samson? Something go lost in translation when it came to marketing. El Santo has to rescue a woman that’s been target by vampire women to be married to their evil master. The episode is bittersweet since this is the end of TV’s Frank tenure at Deep 13. Torgo has returned to take him to a better place for sidekicks. It’s such an emotional moment. All that needs to be said is thank you, TV’s Frank for letting us laugh at love again.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIV contains a quadruple feature of foreign films that won’t be part of an International Cinema class. Here are works from USSR, Japan and Mexico that won’t make you think foreign films always superior to Hollywood blockbusters. None of the films are in their original language so you don’t have to worry about the heads of Joel, Mike and the Bots blocking subtitles.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The video masters of the show look clean on the screen. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo even though the movies themselves are mono mixes. You can hear the quips in both speakers.
Lucha Gringo: K. Gordon Murray Meets Santo (11:17) explores how a producer got involved in making films starring a masked Mexican Wrestler. The MST3K crew and experts (including one guy in a mask) discuss the genre that’s ignored at Oscar season.
TV Spot (0:59) promotes Samson Vs. the Vampire Women to kids of yesteryear.
Life After MST3K: Frank Conniff (11:31) lays out the journey of TV’s Frank after Deep 13. He ended up working with Nick Bakay on Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
Snow Thrills (9:25) is a short about winter sports that was part of It Conquered The World.
A Date With Your Family (9:56) is an educational film about kids eating with their folks. This opened Invasion U.S.A.
You Asked For It: Sandy Frank Speaks! (25:29) is the special MST3K fans have been demanding. Who is Sandy Frank and why did he do those things to Japanese movies? The special includes the time Sandy Frank was featured on 60 Minutes.
Introduction by August Ragone (6:19) gives way too much detail about Fugitive Alien. Did you know it was originally called Star Wolf? It was adapted from a comic book after producers thought they could cash in on Star Wars.
MST Hour Wraps (5:04) are the openings and endings to when Fugitive Alien was presented in two parts. Mike Nelson does his best Jack Perkins. Did you know Jack Perkins is more remembered as being played by Mike than as being played by himself?
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIV completes what was thought to be impossible. All the Sandy Frank titles are now on DVD and even Sandy Frank appears in the boxset. The next impossible feat will be putting the AIP titles on disc. The four films here are an international delights of weirdness that get a sprinkling of smarm from the Satellite of Love.
Shout! Factory presents Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIV Starring: Joel Hodgson, Michael Nelson, Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff. Boxset Contents: 4 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: July 31, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.