DVD Review: Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXXIII



Haters view Mystery Science Theater 3000 as a destructive influence on cinema. They immediately think that all the show did was teach people that it’s perfectly fine to begin talking loudly in a movie theater as long as you think you can be more entertaining than the movie. But I daresay that MST3K gave me more of an understanding of real filmmakers than those snobby film appreciation pundits. Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXXIII pays tribute to legends of low budget and independent cinema with its four selections. American International Pictures, Bert I. Gordon and Sam Katzman are obscure to the snobs that need to relate all their viewing choices back to Akira Kurosawa. But MST3K fans have a sense of history along with their ability to mock the images.
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Earth Vs. The Spider (season 3) brings the huge magic of Bert I. Gordon to the screen. This was one of his classics he cranked out during his tenure at American International Pictures. A giant spider comes out of a massive cave to destroy a sweet town. Only the teenage kids believe it’s happening. The spider looks realistic since it’s played by a real tarantula. The spider destroys the same backlot as used in Tarantula so it’s more like Bert I. Gordon Vs. Jack Arnold. Joel and the Bots have a lot of fun with the eight-legged action. The prime bit is a reading of Crow T. Robot’s celebrated Earth Vs. Soup script. Why hasn’t this been made into an Adam Sandler flick? There’s even an educational segment about the cinema of Bert I. Gordon. The gang even figures out a way to talk about the forbidden sport of lawn darts. The episode kicks off with the short “Speech: Using Your Voice.”

Daddy-O (season three) brings back the original hipsters known as the Beatnicks. Although this film once more has little to do with On The Road. Dick Contino plays a trucker who has to go undercover at a nightclub to expose a drug ring. He becomes a singing sensation to get in cool with the kids and the mobsters. The bits include Tom Servo and Crow drag racing. There’s a session about the art of spit takes. There’s even a visit from one of the film’s characters courtesy of Michael J. Nelson. Once again, an episode that won’t make you pick Joel or Mike. This is another goofy semi-teenager epic from American International Pictures.
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Teen-Age Crime Wave (season five) packs more trouble in 90 minutes than an international soccer match on free fireworks night. Tommy Cook is part of a group of juvenile delinquents that are always looking for kicks without caring about consequences. They are robbing, kidnapping and maybe killing without a care. There’s not future for these punks. Like Rebel Without a Cause, the action doesn’t stop until everyone arrives at the Griffith Park Observatory. The bits include the Bots opening a Deli in space and a Mentos spoof. There’s even a exploration of doughy guys in cinema.

Agent for H.A.R.M. (season eight) brings another dose of spy action for the Bondian era of entertainment. A Soviet scientist defects to the West with a horrifying secret in his briefcase. The commie agents on his trail take out any opposition with the evil that is a flesh eating bacteria. The only hope for America is Mark Richman an Agent for H.A.R.M. (Human Aetiological Relations Machine). It’s like U.N.C.L.E. except more punishing. Richman’s boss is Wendell Corey looking like he took the gig after losing a bar bet. It’s pure cheesy super spy on a shoestring action which makes it perfect for Mike and the Bots to riff apart. The film was shot as a independent TV pilot that Universal just shipped out to theaters for a quick cash grab. The segments are about Mike going on trial for all his crimes. This is a Top 10 Mike episode.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXXIII is a tribute to indie film before Miramax ruined the concept. The four films here include the spirit of going it alone, the joy of keeping the budget low and how a studio can screw over your film. MST3K provided a better education for film lovers than wasting time at NYU. For those snobs, Godzilla director IshirĊ Honda directed many of the action scenes in Akira Kurosawa’s Ran.

For those who missed the original release of Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume One, Shout! Factory is re-issuing the boxset on Sept. 1. Now you can own Catalina Caper, The Creeping Terror, Bloodlust and The Skydivers without paying outrageous used OPP prices.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The show was shot on standard definition video. The transfers look fine. The audio is stereo is the mix allowing you to both hear the film and the quips easily.

Beatnick Blues: Investigating Daddy-O! (9:01) gets into the AIP output. This was when the greatest indie film studio decided to focus on teenagers on the screen to get them in the theaters. They dig up some great trailers of films that begged to be cool as the Beats. The film was made by a producer that worked out of Kansas City. The star of Daddy-O! had a bit of a troubled past. This was the first John Williams scored movie.

MST Hour Wraps (5:32) has Michael Nelson as Jack Perkins introducing the time they split the shows in half. Crazy to think there was a time a cable channel didn’t want to just run marathons of the same show all day long.

Peter Mark Richman in H.A.R.M.s Way (8:11) lets the star recount his career. He hasn’t a clue what H.A.R.M. means. He speaks of Wendell Corey and why was he in the movie with him.

Film It Again, Sam: The Katzman Chronicles (22:24) pays tribute to the producer who knew how to cranky out cheap films for expensive studios. Sam’s career gets a proper perspective.

Tommy Cook: From Jungle Boy to Teenage Jungle (14:10) starts with his career in radio to his getting the role opposite the former Tarzan.

Theatrical Trailer (1:38) sells the teenage terror of Teen-Age Crimewave.

This Movie Has Legs: Looking Back At Earth Vs. The Spider (10:52) brings Bert I. Gordon’s huge vision down to size. He was already known for making big monsters at small budgets.

MST Hour Wraps (5:17) lets Jack Perkins talk about Bert I. Gordon. What happened to Jack’s teeth after the show?

Theatrical Trailer (1:47) pushes the teenagers and their high school teacher knowing about the spiders.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXXIII gives more insight to the trouble with being a teenager in America and a superspy. The bonus features do a fine job at getting fans to have a deeper knowledge of the films and the filmmakers. It’s not just about making fun of bad cinema. It’s about appreciating the process and then riffing with love and compassion.

Shout! Factory presents Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXXIII. Starring: Joel Hodgson, Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Trace Beaulieu. Boxset Contents: 4 movies on 4 DVDs. Released: July 28, 2015.

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