DVD Review: Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Volume XXVII)

Deadly commies, massive teenagers, huge insects and slimy critters are attacking the occupants of the Satellite of Love. Can an earthman and his robot pals survive the onslaught? It’s always amazing that no matter how diverse the subject matter, the Mad Scientists can always find the movies that bring just enough cinematic torture to Joel, Mike and the Bots. Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXVII brings together four more episodes that sample the major cast eras of the show. Nobody is missing from the roll call. While these four topics appear to have nothing in common, they ultimately have a theme of America under attack through

The Slime People (Season 1) is about an invasion of truly ugly creatures. The hero discovers only a professor and his two daughters (Judee Morton and Susan Hart of Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine) fight back these critters rising from the sewer system. This isn’t quite as exciting as described thus Joel (Joel Hodgson), Crow T Robot and Tom Servo must suffer the onslaught with their wit in full assault mode. They make a few Norton references when it comes to the monsters in the sewer system. A break is spent discussing how they could improve the film, but it’s too late. They also experiment with a smoke machine to get a big effect. The film is short enough that Chapter Six of Commander Cody’s Radar Men From the Moon gets played. Joel and the Bots put the serial on trial. But can they get real justice? Since this is from the first season, you get to thrill to Dr. Laurence “Larry” Erhardt (Josh Weinstein) with Dr. Forrester (Trace Beaulieu). They’re so evil, they figure out a way to make wicked cotton candy during the invention exchange.

Rocket Attack U.S.A.
(Season 2) is a pure fear baiter from the Cold War. After Americans do their best to spy on the Soviet Union, the commies drop the bomb on Manhattan. What will happen to Lena Dunham and her friends in Brooklyn? It’s a bleak future that reminds us all that there’s a reason to stay vigilant against the Ruskies. Joel has fun with bad history by explaining the Charlie McCarthy hearings at the height of atomic tensions. They robots are contestants on a Civil Defense Bowl where you don’t want to know the ultimate answer. In a strange twist, Joel and the Bots get to meet their Russian counterparts stuck in space. You’ll be shocked at who plays the human dealing with the Soviet robots. TV’s Frank (Frank Conniff) and Dr. Forrester break out a water polo variation of foosball. The second chapter of Bela Lugosi’s Phantom Creeps brings the pain to Tom Servo.

Village of the Giants (Season 5) is another attempt by Bert I. Gordon to make a movie based on H.G. Wells’ Food of the Gods. Ron Howard (Arrested Development) is a kid genius named Genius who comes up with a substance that makes animals grow huge. This substance turns a bunch of bratty teenagers led by Beau Bridges (The Fabulous Baker Boys) into giants that terrorize the village. Tommy Kirk (Pajama Party) must stop them. Mostly the film is known for having a lot of dancing. They even have the Beau Brummels jamming out at the local teen club. TV’s Frank is in for a major jolt when Dr. Forrester lays him off as part of cutbacks. He’s going to hire an unpaid intern. This turns out to be a bad move since the applicant is Torgo from Manos: Hands of Fate. He’s a little bit slow. Frank sticks around to watch his job slip away. Mike (Micheal J. Nelson) and the bots pay tribute to him with the song “The Greatest Frank of All.”

The Deadly Mantis (Season 8) begins with a bang. The end of Beneath the Planet of the Apes gets recreated with Bobo and Dr. Peanut doing their best to “fix” a device being worshiped by the last vestige of humanity. Amongst the devoted is Beth “Beez” McKeever so this episode is a keeper. When things go boom, Mike and the Bots are free to cruise the galaxy. They think Pearl Forrester is dead. But like any bad horror film, Pearl using a spaceship made from a VW Microbus. Bobo has smuggled himself in Pearl’s ride. But even with the change in dynamics, the bad movies keep coming. The Deadly Mantis is from a time when Universal was doing its best to make science fiction monster films without budgets as big as the scary creatures. There’s a lot of defense department footage of jet planes spliced into the action. They even borrowed frames from an Eskimo documentary which gets used during the scene where the mantis rises from the ice and attacks. This means plenty of mocking from the peanut gallery.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXVII is another fine entry in collection. The four movies cover the major mixtures of mad scientists and Satellite of Love crews. You even get the major bonus of a Torgo appearance. The interesting part is how the quartet of titles deal with America coming under attack from its worst nightmares: out of control youth, sewer creatures, commie atomic bombs and mutant insects. These are four movies that remind audiences that no matter what happens, America will survive even if Manhattan goes up in flames.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The series was shot on video. The resolution gets better with each subsequent series. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo for the quips, but most the movies are mono.

Interview with Judith (Morton) Fraser (6:53) gives her a chance to share her time working with The Slime People. This was her first film. She was pals with co-star Susan Hart before they got their roles. She remembers the low budget production forgot to bring film to the location.

Theatrical Trailer (1:05) promises he Slime People will “Kill! Kill! Kill!”

Life After MST3K: Trace Beaulieu (7:02) has kept busy after he stopped being Dr. Forrester and the original Crow T. Robot. He worked on Freaks & Geeks and America’s Funniest Home Video.

Introduction by Mary Jo Pehl
(4:38) lets her explain that The Deadly Mantis is a title that says everything about the film.

Chasing Rosebud: The Cinematic Life of William Alland (12:34) sheds light on the producer who rebuilt Universal as a Sci-Fi powerhouse in the ’50s. Alland worked with Jack Arnold on Creature From the Black Lagoon. Alland had worked with Orson Welles before collaborating with The Deadly Mantis.

Theatrical Trailer for Deadly Mantis (2:08) is all about the giant insect terrorizing the globe.

Interview with Joy Harmon (7:04) lets her be normal size. She explains how she ended up bring part of Bert I. Gordon’s Village of the Giants. She got to meet Groucho Marx at her play. He hit her up for her phone number so he could put her on You Bet Your Life. She ended up the hostess on Tell It to Groucho. This documentary gives him a chance to shine.

Trailer (2:23) promotes Village of the Giants as “The Wildest, Weirdest Adventure You’ve Ever Seen.” They focus on the kids dancing at all their sizes.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXVII touches all the finest elements of the show. The shows are split evenly with Joel and Mike episodes. You also get all the mad scientists torturing the SoL crews with bad movies. What more is needed after a guest appearance from Torgo? The perfect collection for fans eager for a proper sampler.

Shout! Factory presents Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXVII. Starring: Joel Hodgson, Michael J. Nelson, Trace Beaulieu and Beth “Beez” McKeever. Boxset Contents: 4 Episodes on 4 DVDs. Rated: Unrated. Released: July 23, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

Tags: , , , ,