DVD Review: Mystery Science Theater 3000 (XXXIV)



American International Pictures remains legendary as the biggest indie studio in American history. You may argue Miramax, but they were owned by Disney. From the ’50s to the end of the ’70s, AIP created legendary films and set trends the major studios copied. They perfected the Beach movie, the biker flick and the teenage horror double feature. Naturally their legacy would find its way into the Satellite of Love for their low budget black and white work. Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXXIV has four AIP titles that go from huge men, Scandinavian females, amphibious folks and those that seek immortality.

The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (Season Three) is a film with a title that takes longer to say than Roger Corman produce it. Thus Joel and the Bots were ready to quip away. This episode is also known for being the time Joel went completely nuts about waffles. The Bots eventually lose self control over the breakfast pleasure. They all sing a great song about the joy of waffles. You’ll want to make sure your waffle iron is heating up during the theme song. Waffles rule. Did I mention the Viking women are looking for their men? The sea serpent isn’t cool as advertised so the Bots are in prime form for the letdown.

War of the Colossal Beast (Season Three) is the follow up to The Amazing Colossal Man. Director Bert I. Gordon returns to the saga of Glen Mannning who grew to 50 feet tall after being too close to an atomic blast. Sure he fell to his death at the end of the first movie. But now he’s found half dead in Mexico and eating the backs off trucks. The cheap special effects including the lack of Rotoscoping to sell the big man in Los Angeles provides plenty of chuckles for Joel and the Bots. The last few minutes switches over to color. Even with such an amazing movie, the real star of the night is Mr. B Natural in a short about why you should buy band equipment. Mr. B. Natural is one big gender bender moment. One of the classics uncovered by the Best Brains. The segments are great with Joel joking about how Madison Avenue fakes new names for Mexican food. Mike Nelson appears as Glen. He’s ticked off that he wasn’t in the sequel. They went with a different actor. There’s also a debate about Mr. B Natural’s real gender.

The Undead (Season Eight) is another delight from Roger Corman. The episode opens with Mike trying to catch up the audience on the narrative about being chased by Pearl across the universe. The Bots want him to start the story further back. The Observer Brain guys are testing Pearl and Bobo to see how they will be dissected. Ultimately they discover Tom Servo is the smartest one of all. The movie is another one of Corman’s fast shoots. He spent an epic six days filming. The movie features both Dick Miller and Billy Barty (Sigmund and the Sea Monsters). The movie deals with the evils of passed lives. A hooker gets hypnotized so she can discover her time being a witch about to get executed. The bits deal with the Observers trying to recruit Servo to their cause. Mike has a great routine with an album of covers from Digger Smolken. Tom Servo loses his cool when he discovers a certain critic gave The Undead a positive rating. Thanks to short running time of the film, the sketches aren’t so short. The episodes ends with Professor Bobo making midnight BLT.

The She-Creature (Season Eight) Crow and Tom Servo confuse the Thigh Master with the Thaw Master with disastrous results. This is season where Pearl keeps appearing on various planets. The Planet of the Observer Guys are going to investigate Bobo’s brain. Pearl needs Mike and the Bots help to escape. The movie is a classic tale of an hypnotist who can awaken the primitive state in his subject. He turns a women into an aquatic monster. Two of the segments involve the actors from the film. Crow’s Tickle-Me-Carlo-Lombardi doll is creepier than the Elmo version. Later they uncover Lance Fuller’s guide to not acting book. He’s full of great advice that James Franco would take. The finale involves how the Brain Guy joins forces with Pearl.

There’s still a few more American International Pictures titles that ran on MST3K. This is a fine set of their ’50s output of a studio that figured out how to survive and thrive in a business where so many independent studios and distributors crashed and burned. The low budget nature of the productions made them perfect for Joel, Mike and the Bots to poke fun at the screen.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The show was shot on standard definition video. The audio is Dolby Digital stereo. The mix is right so you can hear the movie and those watching the film.

Introductions by Frank Conniff lets TV’s Frank talk about their time riffing up Viking Women and War of the Colossal Beast. He’s not a fan of Mr. B.I.G.

It Was a colossal Teenage Movie Machine: The American International Pictures Story (92:13) is a feature length documentary about the studio. There’s plenty of interviews with Corman and other players. There’s quite a few historians that wrote books on AIP. One of the best bonus features produced for the MST3K sets.

Trailers for all four films.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXXIV pays tribute to American International Pictures with fine titles and an amazing original documentary.

Scream Factory presents Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXXIV. Starring: Joel Hodgson, Michael J. Nelson and Frank Conniff. Boxset Contents: 4 movies on 4 DVDs. Released: December 1, 2015.

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