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Monday, November 26, 2012

'Mystery Science Theater 3000' VXXV: The Fantastic Four

Shout has batted 1,000 regarding "Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXV"  (MST 3K), which is being released on December 4, 2012. This set pulls off the neat trick of simultaneously including some of MST 3K's best episodes and illustrating the wide range of B-movies that the long-running series skewered. 

Shout also maintained its great track record of rewarding fans with awesome special features and other treats. My favorite in V XXV is recently filmed segments in which the episode host shares memories of that offering. These five-minute offerings are great substitutes for episode commentary.

Shout provides the further gift of mini-posters that make the MST 3K characters the focus of movie posters for the B-movie of the week. I look forward to getting all of mine framed and displayed in my home office next to the collectible action figures, which I will never remove from their packaging, from my deluxe MST 3K sets.

Shout goes even further this time by giving folks who purchase MST 3K V XXV directly from Shout's store the bonus disc, which is not even available to dedicated Shout reviewers :-), that contains all nine chapters of "Radar Men From the Moon." MST 3K did an especially good job riffing on this steaming pile of celluloid, and the disc includes one chapter that has not been previously released in an MST 3K DVD set.

This set's release is additionally particularly timely on many levels. It Boy Seth MacFarlane's "The Cleveland Show" recently included a hilarious MST 3K parody. 

Also, V XXV includes the "Operation Double 007," a.k.a "Operation Kid Brother" episode. Including this blatant Bond rip-off in the annual December MST 3K release soon after "Skyfall" was released may not have been coincidental.

Those of use who Shout blesses with advance copies of these sets further got to recreate MST 3K's annual Turkey Day Marathon by watching this set on Thanksgiving. Some previously released MST 3K DVD sets include special Turkey Day material that was created especially for those marathons.

The premise behind this perfectly executed cult favorite is that human host Joel, and his successor Mike, is trapped on the Satellite of Love where a mad scientist, later replaced by his even more evil mother, forces him to sit through "cheesy movies" that are "the worst we can find." The host "keeps his sanity" by relentlessly riffing on the film with two robots that Joel built to keep him company during his exile.

The man and his 'bots also make the best of a bad situation by engaging in gleefully silly skits that primarily either depict their daily lives or are inspired by the horrible film du jour. Other segments include short films that range from segments from early episodes of "General Hospital," to hilariously bad educational films on topics such as cheating and asking girls for a date, and chapters from incredibly low-budget serials.

"Operation Kid Brother" is my favorite episode in V XXV because it has the dream cast of Joel, evil scientist Dr. Forrester and dim-witted Igoresque sidekick TV's Frank. Further, MST 3K inspired my thoughts of "the buck stops here," "stag party," and "The 'Home Alone' franchise has taken a really dark turn" while watching "Skyfall." (I will refrain from mentioning my Jamie Lee Curtis with a British accent remarks.)

This one stars actual Bond actors and Sean Connery's real-life brother Neil in a low-budget film in which a spy agency recruits Neil to foil a plot against the world's steel supply. A host segment in which Joel and the 'bots track the respective careers of les freres Connery is true must see TV.

The "The Creature From the Black Lagoon" sequel "Revenge of the Creature" gets the silver medal in this set. It opened the series' ninth season and resolved cliffhangers from the terrific end of the eighth season. The plot of "Revenge" is that said creature is captured and put on display at a Florida marine park. 

A riff on "Tributary to the Amazon" as one of the cheesy star-studded '70s specials is fall on the floor funny. References to the tight and skimpy swimwear of the male lead is equally amusing.

"Kitten With a Whip" gets the bronze but comes very close to scoring silver. This wonderfully horrible melodrama has a young "creamy" Ann-Margaret manipulating a senatorial candidate played by John Forsythe. This is one of the relatively few times that MST 3K veered away from low-budget sci-fi or horror flicks.

The riffs come particularly fast and furious, but the lack of references to "Charlie's Angels" or "Dynasty" is slightly disappointing. A plethora of nods to Ann-Marget's Elvis films helps make up for this.

This episode is noteworthy as well for being a very early one in which MST 3K's then-home the Comedy Channel was not widely available. I remember both calling the Washington DC cable company regularly to request that channel and driving to a friend's home in Arlington, VA to watch the series.

"Robot Holocaust" brings up the rear only because the film itself is the least watchable of the four. This incredibly poorly made "Mad Max" rip-off had very scantily clad young actors who look as if they escaped from the set of "Flashdance" on a quest across a wasteland to defeat the robots who conquered humanity. Not even the incredibly cheesy giant spider helps.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding MST 3K is encouraged to email me "in the not too distant future."