During the ‘70s, the trivia nerd argument was around who was the better Bond: Roger Moore or Sean Connery. In the ‘90s the geek debate switched to who was the better host of Mystery Science Theater 3000: Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson) or Mike Nelson (Michael J. Nelson).
It wasn’t the only feuding topic on the series, since they could orally scuffle over Crow and Tom Servo’s voices. There are so many battle lines drawn over MST3K‘s decade long run, but all can agree that both hosts were more entertaining than the movies they chatted through.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XVIII splits the episodes between the hosts, so there’s no favoritism, and the four films in this collection are cannon fodder for either host and his robot friends.
Lost Continent (Season Two) dares to give us the super tagteam of Cesar Romero (Joker on Batman) and Hugh Beaumont (Leave It to Beaver). They crash an airplane on a South Pacific island that’s a dinosaur sanctuary. Jungle temptress Acquanetta roams freely amongst the prehistoric beasts. No matter what effects dazzle your eyes, all that will remain imprinted on your brain is rock climbing.
It looks like the producers rented the mountain set from Tarzan, the Ape Man. They figured out every angle to shoot their cast going upward. Turn the volume off to experience the excruciating visual pain of their ascent. The segments with Joel and the Bots include Hugh Beaumont (Michael J. Nelson) exposing himself as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The group also debuts their own action show called “The Explorers: A Quinn Martin Production.”
Crash of the Moons (Season Four) is really three episodes from the Rocky Jones, Space Ranger TV series. Rocky must warn a planet that one of their two moons is about to smash into them. Nobody believes him including John Banner (Sgt. Schultz on Hogan’s Heroes). The mad scientists come up with a cavity causing toothpaste that uses cake frosting. There’s a visit from John Banner in the hexfield viewscreen. The short before the movie is a clip from General Hospital. There’s plenty of dumb moments for Joel and the Bots to tear apart.
The Beast of Yucca Flats (Season Six) opens as Mike Nelson and the Bots put up wallpaper with the expertise of the Three Stooges. The mad scientists campaign for Proposition Deep 13 which will make them send the bad movie up to the satellite of Love. Since Beast is a quickie film, there’s two short films. “Money Talks” has a high schooler haunted by the ghost of Ben Franklin. “Progress Island, U.S.A.” lets us know all the advantages of setting up a factory in Puerto Rico. No mention of hiring former Menudo members as janitors. They are in their prime as they rag on island life.
Beast of Yucca Flats would be a completely forgotten film if not for the effort of Tor Johnson (Plan 9 From Outer Space). He’s a Soviet scientist that gets exposed to an atomic blast. There’s no real sense to the film except to see the mutated Tor on the loose. Crow promotes his new charity dedicated to letting the films of Beast‘s director Coleman Francis deteriorate. Film’s Anti-Preservation Society is a great idea for movies that ought to be removed from the system. Do we really need the remake of Rollerball? Although if it happened, what would MST3K do for their last few season?
Jack Frost (Season Eight) is a winter fairy tale from the former Soviet Union. Ivan becomes a bear thanks to a mushroom pixie. Nastenka’s mom and sister want her braided hair. Jack Frost takes his time to arrive. The film is beautifully shot although it makes no sense. A segment has a faux-Yakov Smirnoff attempt to explain the USSR context of the film. It doesn’t go over well. Later they bring out sausage wholesaler to do Yakov’s work. Like so many of the films on MST3K, it’s tough slog to watch these movies without the enhancement provided by silhouettes at the bottom of the screen mocking the action.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The show was created on video so there’s a slight glitch now and then, but nothing too serious. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0. The mix is right so you can hear the chatter from the peanut gallery and the awful movie dialogue.
New Introduction from Frank Conniff (5:35) on Lost Continent. Frank reflects on why this movie made perfect fodder for MST3K. They enjoyed making all the Leave It to Beaver jokes.
Original Theatrical Trailer for Lost Continent (1:49) promises a “Rocket Back 180 Million Years.” There’s temptation with the primitive beauties on the island.
Mystery Science Theater Hour Wraps for Crash of the Moons (5:00) has Mike Nelson hosting as Jack Perkins. At one point Comedy Central split 39 of the shows in half. These were the intros to each hour long version. Perkins fixates on John Banner.
New Introduction by Kevin Murphy (8:57) for Jack Frost. He discusses how the folks at the SciFi channel changed the “only science fiction films” policy. This was part of their series of Soviet films they ribbed.
No Dialogue Necessary: Making an “Off Camera Masterpiece” (27:33) is a documentary about The Beast of Yucca Flats. Bob Burns (Tracy the Gorilla from Ghostbusters) discusses the 1950s B-movie world that brought forth Yucca. Frank Conniff contributes to why this film is so special. Cinematographer Lee Strosnider gives us the inside stories from his time in the desert with Tor Johnson and director Coleman Francis. Lee would have a long career in Hollywood as a sound mixer.
Coleman Francis: The Cinematic Poet of Parking (8:25) is more talk from Lee Strosnider. Lee had done three years of shooting industrial films when he got a call from Coleman for Yucca. Lee also shot Coleman’s Skydivers.
Original Theatrical Trailer for Beast of Yucca Flats (1:16) jazzes up the action with a bongo fury soundtrack.
Stills Gallery for Beast of Yucca Flats has 8 photos worked on the lobby card.
Mini-Posters is ideal artwork for your office veal pen wall.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XVIII captures another four movies that need plenty of help to be bearable for viewing. Joel, Mike and the Bots have a fine time giving us Leave It to Beaver and Tor Johnson jokes. The documentary about The Beast of Yucca Flats really illuminates the filmmaking process that went into the no budget legend. Another worthy installment in this long running series.
Shout! Factory presents Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XVIII. Starring: Joel Hodgson, Michael J. Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy and Frank Conniff. Boxset Contents: 4 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released on DVD: July 13, 2010.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.
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