DVD Review: Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXX



XXX normally designates the sort of entertainment that should never be shown to small children. The same can be said for several of the films that were shown as part of Mystery Science Theater 3000 although for a different reason. What child’s eyes won’t be eternally scarred by seeing Robot Holocaust. Yet somehow MST3K takes away the cinematic pain when Joel and the Bots mock the action. Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXX marks the 30th boxset release since the Fall of 2002. The XXX collection has a few episodes that contained major changes to the series.

The Black Scorpion was the final episode of the first season. MST3K had quickly gained a following on The Comedy Channel (eventually to become Comedy Central). This was a major reason why the channel was more desired than Ha! on a cable box. “The Black Scorpion” was a great topper for the 13 episodes that only hinted at what was to come for the rest of the ’90s. This was considered a fine giant monster film from the ’50s. Giant scorpions rise up and attack Mexico City. What makes the film extra special is the effects were created by Willis O’Brien. He’s legendary for having been the man that made King Kong a cinematic marvel. Since this was the pre-popular internet era, a majority of the viewers had no clue that the cast was about to be shaken up. A face and a voice would be changing. Josh Weinstein was splitting the show to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood. He was both mad scientist Dr. “Larry” Erhardt and the voice of bubblegum machine bot Tom Servo. The episode is not one big farewell to him. The opening segment has the Bots throwing a party for Joel (Joel Hodgson). Dr. Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) and Larry suffer the side effects of their cold fusion powered Walkman. It’s not pretty. They’re almost as ugly as Crow and Tom Servo’s distorted history of Mexico. In a meta moment, Crow and Tom give a presentation on puppets. Things get twisted when Gypsy gets turned into a scorpion. This was a fine finale for the freshman series and a fitting way for Weinstein to depart.

Outlaw (of Gor) was one of the few films that was released only a few years before it aired on MST3K. This was the sequel to Gor based on John Norman’s books of a planet where men are men and women are wearing Princess Leia slave girl outfits. A professor and his buddy are transported to this D&D world. They’re excited to meet all the ladies. The only familiar face is Jack Palance amongst the semi-exposed flesh. There’s a plot about royal killing that doesn’t quite come up to Game of Thrones standards. Mike Nelson (Michael Nelson) and the Bots are rather freaked out by the film which seems like a fantasy created by a teenager overdosing on polyhedral dice. They do learn the results of rough housing on the deck of the Satellite of Love. There is a musical moment with Tubular Boobular Joy.” A later segment has the crew reading from the fake book Palance on Palance. Each does their best Jack voice.

The Projected Man is the classic tale of a scientist doing the dumbest thing possible by being their own test subject. Like The Fly, the scientist thinks he’s figured out teleportation. He can’t wait to be a part of the future. Naturally things go bad when he flips the switch. Instead of turning into a half bug creature, he turns into a half melting man. Although it worse since his flesh is now toxic. Can he get better or will he have to go on disability? This start of the 9th season brought along a change of location. No longer was Pearl Forrester (Mary Jo Pehl) chasing the Satellite of Love across the universe. Her intergalactic VW Microbus is parked next to Castle Forrester. The Satellite of Love is once more circling the Earth. Somewhat order has been restored to the universe of badness. There’s a great joke when Crow and Tom create their own projector machine. They insist Mike send his most precious objects to the other side. There’s a fatal experiment which might end the new season fast.

It Lives By Night is the honeymoon movie ever. A newlywed couple heads to the caves in the desert so they can keep up the husband’s bat research. Why couldn’t the guy just take her to Disney or Hedonism? Before they can have real fun, he gets bit by a vampire bat. Instead of rushing him to a major hospital, he merely gets patched up. This leads to him turning into a semi-bat creature. He’s willing to kill nurses to get blood. He also wants to turn his wife into a bat. This movie will make you rethink your “alternative” honeymoon plans. He could have taken his wife to a cockfighting arena and done less damage. The big highlight is that Stan Winston did the special effects. Mike and Bots find themselves being mutated by Pearl’s latest scheme. There’s a sweet bit where Tom and Crow think Mike has rabies. There’s even a mustache growing contest.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXX does have a little dirtiness too it with Outlaw of Gor. The most exciting part of the package is having the final episode of the first season come out on DVD. There’s still dozens of episodes to come. There is a bit of rejoicing knowing that the Larry era is complete. What’s next? Mystery Science Theater 3000 – XXXI: The Turkey Day Collection featuring Jungle Goddess, Lassie in The Painted Hills, The Screaming Skull and Squirm.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are from standard definition video. Things look fine enough. The badness shines through. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You’ll hear all the quips thrown at the screen.

Stinger of Death: Making The Black Scorpion (12:32) allows historian C. Courtney Joyner explains how the insects rose up in Mexico. He gives details on how Willis O’Brien got into the film. He used some of his King Kong effects in the film.

Theatrical Trailer of Black Scorpion (2:08) sets up the excitement of the huge insect movie.

Shock to the System: Creating The Projected Man (3:52) gets explained by historian Tom Weaver. This movie was made in a package deal with Island of Terror. The production ran into a speed bump when the director was fired before the last week of filming.

Theatrical Trailer for The Projected Man (1:30) plays up the brilliant scientist doing the wrong thing.

Writer of Gor: The Novels of John Norman (12:44) features Richard Curtis, Norman’s current agent and publisher. Norman’s been rather controversial over the years with his book about Gor. Curtis discusses how he brought back Norman’s books after being hard to find for quite a few years.

Director of Gore: On the Set with John “Bud” Cardos (6:29) explains how this film was made right after Gor. He had very little time to prep his film because the first film’s shoot ran long. But luckily all the sets were already built. He enjoyed his Cannon Films experience even though he never quite got his production desire.

Producer of Gore: Adventures with Harry Alan Towers (6:51) has Danny Lerner the production manager discuss his oldboss. Towers made Christopher Lee’s Fu Manchu flicks. He made the movies in South Africa towards the end of Apartheid. Lerner insisted the black and white crew eat together which was something not allowed under South African laws at the time.

Trailer for “The Frank”
(1:14) reunites actors from MST3K in a Frankenstein riff.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXX brings the 30th collection of episodes. Amongst the goodies are the final Larry episode and the opening of Castle Forrester.

Shout! Factory presents Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXX. Starring: Joel Hodgson, Michael Nelson and Josh Weinstein. Boxset Contents: 4 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: July 29, 2014.

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