DVD Review: Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Volume XXII)

The bad things happen in threes. Mostly this plays out when three famous people kick the bucket in succession. Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII presents three legendary names in the four films. Sandy Frank, Ed Wood and Rondo Hatton are men that made their mark on the Satellite of Love. They evoke immediate responses from the die hard fans. They are a cinematic Tinkers to Evers to Chance even though their paths never crossed.

Mighty Jack (Season 3) has nothing to do with creation of the dog food. Instead this is a Japanese TV series bought for distribution in America by Sandy Frank. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he was responsible for the dubbed Gamera movies that were in the previous MST3K boxset. Don’t try to make too much sense out of Mighty Jack. You’ll be completely lost if you take a bathroom break around the hour mark. Frank merely slapped together two episodes of the Japanese series. Mighty Jack is a high tech police unit aimed at smashing the evil Q organization. The first episode has Dr. Atari. Shame he didn’t have an assistant named Nintendo. The second half involves a freeze gun. One of the cast was part of Ultra Man‘s crew. Joel and the Bots have a field day with the poorly dubbed weirdness. They take the time for a spoof of Mighty Jack as a dog food. They explain how to make cheap underwater effects. The mad scientists almost steal the show with the Formal Flippers which gets creepy when TV’s Frank checks out Dr. Forrester’s gams. But Joel, Tom Servo and Crow up their game with “Slow the Plot Down.” A song that explains how to make sure an audience gets bored.

Time of the Apes (Season 3) is yet another Japanese TV series that Sandy Frank slapped two episodes together to create an alleged movie. A scientist gives a tour of his lab to his nephew and niece. During an earthquake, the trio take shelter cryogenic pods which activate. Oops. They trio wake up to discover the apes are now in control of the Earth. Where have we heard about a planet of the apes before? There’s a sketch involving the Scopes Monkey Trial that shouldn’t be used as a reference in a history exam. The big plus of this episode is when Joel and the Bots tear into “The Sandy Frank Song.” Reportedly Sandy Frank wasn’t pleased when Joel sings, “He’s the source of all our pain!”

The Violent Years (Season 6) features a script written by Ed Wood (Plan 9 From Outer Space). It’s hard to watch the film and not ponder how Ed would have directed the production. How could he have cheapened the production budget and made flubs work? Director William Morgan had better luck than Ed Wood in Hollywood although mostly as an editor. He cut Song of the South. The Violent Years is not a Disney picture. A rich socialite girl starts a gang with her high school pals. They terrorize the area living like the Daughters of Anarchy. How do the girls stay one step beyond the law? They have an inside source with a daddy at the newspaper. This has the best of bother worlds with Ed’s joyfully outrageous script and Morgan’s competent directing. Also included is the short “A Young Man’s Fancy” that swears young men enjoy cutting edge appliances to the attention of cute women. Mike and the Bots get to riff hard on this mechanical weirdness. The episode shocks at the start with Tom Servo’s astounding head transplant. He freaks out Mike and Crow. The Mad scientists perform their new theme songs that’s Vegas Lounge ready. Mike ends up performing a one man show as Keanu Reeves.

The Brute Man (Season 7) stars the unforgettable face of Rondo Hatton. He had a face that looked like a primitive mask with enormous features. He wasn’t always that way. Once he was a handsome young man, but after an accident, his looks went to hell. Now he’s going around killing all of those who screwed him up. He has a nice streak since he’s fallen for a blind girl. He’s using his criminal life to pay for her eye surgery. It’s an extreme roughie. There’s a little levity in the short “Chicken of Tomorrow.” It appears that Sandy Frank is the slick guy taking Pearl Forrester out on a date. Dr. Forrester isn’t happy at Sandy being his future Stepdad. The excitement on the Satellite of Love involves Tom Servo buying a duplex in Philadelphia. He’s going to make an amazing absentee landlord since he’s not even on Earth.

This is quite a satisfying collection of movies worth talking over. Sandy Frank, Rondo Hatton and Ed Wood make for an even battle of wits for Crow and Tom Servo with Joel or Mike. They offer up so many juicy moments that cry out for an entertaining snipe. Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII contains three icons that aren’t bad news for viewers.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are fine for a show that was created on videotape. The films being watched are a bit rough in spots, but that’s expected.

Special features include:

Introduction by August Ragone (7:04) reminds us what Mighty Jack was like before Sandy Frank got his fingers on the videotape. Mighty Jack was created by the folks that brought you Ultra Man.

The DVD Menus of MST3K (6:54) gives credit to the tow guys who the amazing 3-D menus for the discs. How did they create real stories that loop in the menus? I’m always excited to see what they’ve done with the menus for each episode.

Introduction by August Ragone (5:22) explains how the monkeys took over Tokyo. Dares to expose how Time of the Apes happened. Basically when Planet of the Apes ran in Japan, the ratings were astronomical. The network immediately ordered an Ape show. August geeks out, but never alienates those that aren’t hardcore into Japanese TV shows mangled by Sandy Frank.

MST Hour Wraps (5:12) are the intros and outros from the time Comedy Central split the show in half. Jack Perkins (Michael J. Nelson) has fun with a monkey puppet as his co-host.

Introduction by Mary Jo Pehl (4:22) points out how the movie was rather rough for the normal film they use on the series.

Trail of the Creeper: Making The Brute Man (30:01) delivers the astonishing story about Rondo Hatton. He’s a tragic figure who tried to make the best of a raw deal. Hatton was a good looking guy in Florida. What happened? He was exposed to mustard gas during World War I. It caused his face to grow weirdly. His unique face quickly got him bit part work in a variety of films including The Ox-Bow Incident. He became a sensation as The Creeper character. He died before the release of The Brute Man.

Making of MST3K (22:41) is a behind the scenes special from 1997. This was the Sci-Fi Channel’s introduction of the series to their viewers.

Interview with Delores Fuller (24:04) has her tell plenty about her time as Ed Wood’s girlfriend and leading actress. She was played by Sarah Jessica Parker in Ed Wood.

Interview with Kathy Wood (18:17) was recorded in 1994. He married her after dating Fuller. She met Ed when he was hanging out with Bela Lugosi. She was portrayed by Patricia Arquette in Ed Wood.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII packs three icons onto four episodes. Sandy Frank, Rondo Hatton and Ed Wood unite to give Joel, Mike and the Bots a battle royal of riffs. The musical moments are better than a year of X Factor. The documentary about Rondo Hatton elevates the presentation of The Brute Man. You come to understand how a once handsome man was mutated by mustard gas in the trenches of World War I.

Shout! Factory presents Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII Starring: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Mary Jo Pehl, Kevin Murphy and Michael J. Nelson. Boxset Contents: 4 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released on DVD: December 6, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.

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