Blu-ray Review: Mystery Science Theater 3000 (The Gauntlet – Season 12)

The MYSTies willed their favorite show back to reality when they funded the 11th season back in 2015. Fans had no idea how Joel Hodgeson was going to bring back their series that elevated riffing on top of bad movie. But they gave enough money to fund 14 new episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 including a Christmas special. While several cable channels were rumored to be interested, the series arrived on Netflix. This presented a strange issue for fans who didn’t have to wait 14 weeks to see all the goodness. They could binge the entire season in one weekend. When Netflix announced a 12th season was coming, Mystery Science Theater 3000 took advantage of the streaming site’s “all at once” release method to create The Gauntlet. Jonah Heston (The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail‘s Jonah Ray) and the Bots are going to be forced to survive a marathon of six movies sent by Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day) and Max aka TV’s Son of TV’s Frank (Patton Oswalt). Now all six movies are out on Blu-ray so you see if you can endure the badness too with Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gauntlet – Season 12.

Mac and Me is an E.T. rip-off that is rumored to have been funded by McDonalds and Coco-Cola. How could such a rumor have started? Well after the aliens gets stuck on Earth thanks to a NASA probe spaceship, the only thing that keeps them alive is the sweet sugary goodness of Coke. There’s a major scene that not only takes place in the middle of a birthday party at McDonalds, but the real Ronald McDonald is doing tricks for the kids. We’re not talking the Ronald who showed up in your town for a grand opening, but Squire Fridell who did the TV ads at the time. Even though Jade Calegory gives a well meaning performance as a kid in a wheel chair coming to grips with this alien in his house, Mac and Me is so painfully bad. You think it would merely be lame seeing how Coca-Cola and McDonalds got hooked up in the production. But this is bad at the core. The ending will have you asking why the alien family is being sworn in as US citizens and how the barely communicative father has been given a driver’s license. This is a movie that I can’t imagine wanting to watch without Jonah, Crow T Robot (Hampton Yount) and Tom Servo (Baron Vaughn) mocking it full blast. Atlantic Rim is a choice piece of rip-off theater as the people who brought you Sharknado bring you a film that isn’t quite Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim. The Bots have extreme fun with the low budget effects that try to duplicate the blockbuster about humans using giant robots to battle monsters that rise up from the Pacific Ocean. But in this version, the monsters are coming from the Atlantic Ocean so that’s a big difference. The production value of this film looks like they borrowed sets from an adult video. The big plus is having Oscar nominated Graham Greene (Dances With Wolves) as Admiral Hadley. He gets to walk around a hotel conference room made up to look like a Navy crisis center. This is the kind of movie you could make on a cellphone and laptop. Although the Bots do point out there’s a few elements that reminds them of Pacific Rim: Uprising. Can a blockbuster franchise rip-off the rip-off? You definitely saw all the budget for Atlantic Rim on the screen and perhaps a few people related to the producers.

You can’t talk about no budget cinema without mentioning Roger Corman and he’s here with Lords of the Deep. Not only did he produce this underwater science fiction piece, but Corman does a small role as a corporate executive. Deep below the waves is a research station that encounters strange beings that Priscilla Barnes (Three’s Company) investigates. In a strange twist, the film had Oscar winner Robert Skotak doing some of the special effects. He had just wrapped on working on James Cameron’s The Abyss. Hard to say if he just let Roger buy the creature designs that Cameron rejected. The film is messed up with a strange ESP weirdness that hits Jonah like Priscilla.

Pushing even deeper in the cheap movie universe, Jonah gets inflicted with The Day Time Ended from Charles Band (Puppet Master franchise). The film cast Jim Davis (Jock Ewing on Dallas) as a man who has built a solar house in the desert so he can live off the grid with his family. But things go weird fast when a granddaughter finds a glowing green pyramid next to the horse stable. Later an alien pops up in the house. Things just keep getting weird with a time travel element. Tom Servo explains it all away in a sketch where in a tribute to The Music Man, they sing of just overloading the script with concepts. The big surprise is at the end when Dr. Laurence Erhardt flies by in a special rocketship and one last mission. He hasn’t been around since the first season. Killer Fish is what happens when an Italian crew makes a movie in Brazil with a Love Boat worthy cast and a bunch of hungry piranhas. In between making The Six Million Dollar Man and The Fall Guy, Lee Majors tried his luck at being a movie star. But he didn’t do it alone. He put together a top notch team for this diamond heist flick. His main backer of the plan is James Franciscus (Beneath the Planet of the Apes). James’ girlfriend is Karen Black (Five Easy Pieces). She seems to be up for double crossing James to hook up with the Bionic wonder and recovering the diamonds that have been dumped in a lake. What she didn’t count on were two things. First James had spent the last month dropping a school of piranha in the water. A few of the thieves learn this the hard way when they dive in to retrieve the loot. Secondly Margaux Hemingway (My Name Is Bruce) arrives ready to do a modeling gig with Marisa Berenson (Barry Lyndon) and Gary Collins (The Sixth Sense TV series). Lee Majors finds himself in the shower with Margaux in record time. This film is as goofy as you expect. Crow celebrates by converting himself into a piranha-bot. The sixth and final film in the Gauntlet is Ator, the Fighting Eagle. This is a Conan rip off with Miles O’Keeffe (Bo Derek’s Tarzan The Ape Man) as Ator. Does that sound familiar? Well MST3K ran the first film in the series Cave Dwellers during the Joel era. This first Ator is as “good” as the sequel when it comes to riff material. It’s nice to see this new generation of riffers get to visit an almost familiar film.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gauntlet – Season 12 works in the streaming world where camping out on your sofa and having to constantly press a button to let Netflix know you’re still watching is the new normal. You don’t have to answer that question when you’re watching on Blu-ray. The six films selected are perfect for MST3K. All of them are bad enough that you have no desire to see them without the Bots talking to the screen. Who could watch Lords of the Deep in church-like silence? This might have been a short season for MST3K, but the material is choice. They picked six films that would mentally punish an average movie fan.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The footage from the Satellite of Love looks great. The original movies might have an age issue, but nothing that makes them look too rough. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD MA to make you feel trapped in the movie theater by the Mads. There’s also a 2.0 DTS-HD MA mix. The movies are Closed Captioned.

No bonus features.

Shout! Factory presents Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gauntlet – Season 12. Directed by: Joel Hodgson & Rob Schrab. Starring: Jonah Ray, Hampton Yount, Baron Vaughn, Felicia Day, Patton Oswalt & Joel Hodgson. Boxset Contents: 6 movies on 3 Blu-ray discs. Released: November 26, 2019.

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