Mystery Science Theater 3000 didn’t merely show really bad scifi movies. Joel (Joel Hodgson), Mike (Michael J. Nelson), Crow (Trace Beaulieu/Bill Corbett) and Tom Servo (J. Elvis Weinstein/Kevin Murphy) sometimes spoke through melodrama, spy flicks and the extremely rare good film. Yet these movies were treated with the same sarcasm and mocking tone as a rubber monster turkey. Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXV presents Joel and Mike getting films from the mad scientists that weren’t the usual cinematic punishment. But even with the genre curveballs, their natural swings didn’t whiff.
Robot Holocaust (Season One) was a shock to the eyes of Joel and the Bots since the film was in color and less than five years old. The early seasons of MST3K were dominated by black and white films from the ’50s and ’60s. Just cause the movie is fresh doesn’t mean it won’t stink. Robot Holocaust ripped off Road Warrior with a vision of New York City after the robot holocaust. Humanity has been enslaved to provide power for their overlords with their only hope being a guy named Neo. This isn’t merely a rip off, it’s a vision of The Matrix. Shame Joel couldn’t see far enough in the future to make Neo jokes with Keanu Reeves’ voice. “Dude, you’re an avocado!” The invention exchange lets Dr. Forrester and Dr. Laurence Erhardt invent ski masks with articulating eyebrows for armed robbers wanting to get their emotions across. The big shocker is the Commander Cody’s Radar Men from the Moon serial ends abruptly when the film snaps. They would never get to finish off the adventure. If you buy the boxset through Shout! Factory’s website, they’ll include a DVD of all the serial episodes along with a never aired 10th chapter. Introduction by Joel Hodgson (5:11) reveals how things came together during this first season. He liked the dirty space element of the film. They were excited about it. He also admits to rushed aspect of the show when they were picked up by the Comedy Channel.
Operation Kid Brother (Season 5) was part of the wave of James Bond spoofs, but it had a secret weapon. They managed to hire Sean’s brother Neil Connery to play the lead. They loaded up the supporting cast that includes Bernard Lee (M), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny), Daniela Bianchi (From Russia with Love‘s Tatiana), Adolfo Celi (Thunderball‘s Largo) and Anthony Dawson (Thunderball‘s Blofeld). They even had the balls to call it Operation Double 007. The story has England’s best secret agent busy so they bring in his younger brother. Neil is not going to be mistaken for Sean. He makes Gallagher II look talented. Joel and the Bots have fun with the careers of Sean and Neil. Introduction by Joel Hodgson (3:10) lets him remember how excited they were to get a faux-Bond film. He’s proud of the episode because it was towards the end of his run on the SoL. This film belongs next to your James Bond Blu-ray collection as the strangest bonus feature. Having Joel and the Bots comment on the scenes spices up the blandness of the faux-Bond.
Kitten with a Whip (Season 6) is a more serious effort than the usual schlock film sent up to the SoL. It has all the markings of a great cult film. The title has a sizzle. The casting of a young Ann-Margaret as the troubled sex kitten is perfect. The upstanding John Forsythe (Dynasty) as the tempted husband earmarked greatness. They even brought in Richard Anderson (The Six Million Dollar Man‘s Oscar Goldman) to be a moral compass. What went wrong? The movie was made by a major studio in 1964. That means no kitten or whip was properly exploited. Having it given the MST3K effect doesn’t ruin the experience. The gang plays around with the Bionic noise and gives us a real kitten with a whip. Introduction by Mike Nelson (4:23) reflects his disappointment at the lack of whipping.
Revenge of the Creature (Season 8) is notable for two things. This was the first episode that aired on the SciFi Channel (now SyFy) and the film isn’t that bad. Revenge is the sequel to The Creature From the Black Lagoon. Director Jack Arnold is back in the helm as they capture the creature and bring him back to Florida to make him the centerpiece of a marine park. The creature isn’t happy with showbiz and yearns to go home. It’s a great ’50s monster film. The action on the show itself has Mike and the Bots materialize on the Satellite of Love nearly 500 years after the end of their run on Comedy Central. They discover the Earth is run by apes who have been told to show them bad movies. Some things stay the same. They also discover that their new nemesis is their old one when Pearl Forrester (Mary Jo Pehl) returns. The torture will never stop for the SoL. Introduction by Mike Nelson (7:07) reflects on being picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel. The executives wanted a story as part of the segments. This is why they created a running plotline for season eight involving them being chased by Pearl.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXV proves that Joel, Mike and the Bots didn’t have to be fed a steady diet of bad monster movies to do their magic. Robot Holocaust proved they could work with new films. Operation Kid Brother proved the siblings of stars were not immune. Kitten with a Whip cracked wise when a movie was so restrained. Revenge of the Creature let them poke fun of a film that was a major hit. No genre or era was beyond their mad mocking skills.
The video is 1.33:1. While the movies were shot on film, MST3K was captured on standard definition video thus it’s a little bit fuzzy. But that only helps you ignore the truth about the Bots. The audio is Dolby Digital stereo. The soundtrack mix allows you to hear the movie and the mocking without too much of a hassle.
Life After MST3K: J. Elvis Weinstein (18:21) features the first person to have a life after MST3K. He was 18 when he did the show. He left his role as Dr. Laurence Erhardt and the original voice of Tom Servo. He went off to do stand up, work on HA!, write jokes for Louie Anderson and finally get on staff at Later and Talk Soup. He admits to his Freaks and Geeks connection.
Life After MST3K: Bill Corbett (12:09) explores that man became Crow T. Robot after Trace left. He was also Observer. He’s part of the Riff Trax and Cinema Titanic group. He wrote the Eddie Murphy clunker Meet Dave, but bought a house with the paycheck.
Jack Arnold At Universal (19:50) is the bonus feature needs to be seen by any fans of the legendary SciFi director. He made The Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Incredible Shrinking Man and Tarantula.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXV brings an off beat quartet of titles onto DVD> Joel, Mike and the Bots get to endure a films that aren’t their usual cinema punishments. Neil Connery’s take on being a secret agent is worth the price. His performance reminds you how good Sean Connery was as James Bond.
Shout! Factory presents Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXV. Starring: Joel Hodgson, Mike Nelson, Frank Coniff and Trace Beaulieu. Boxset Contents: 4 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: December 11, 2012. Available at Amazon.com