Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIX

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIX

Untamed Youth (B).  This delightful youth-exploitation film from 1957 stars blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren (Girls Town) as a would-be rock-and-roll singer.  Unfortunately she and her sister are arrested in some backwater burg, and the crooked judge sentences them to be slave labor on a farm run by the judge’s co-conspirator.  Entertaining episode, and the disc features a short interview with Mamie as a bonus feature.

Hercules and the Captive Women  (C).  This is a cheesy European Hercules flick from 1961.  The title is inapt because there are no captive women in evidence.  Sure, the evil queen of Atlantis is trying to sacrifice her daughter to the gods throughout the whole movie, but that’s just one woman.  (Apparently the movie was sometimes called Hercules Conquers Atlantis.)  Anyway, this is a pretty average outing for Joel and the robots, and the extras on the disc are also unremarkable.

The Thing That Couldn’t Die  (A-).  Now we’re getting somewhere!  Mike and the bots have a great time skewering this 1958 horror cheapie.  A cute-ish blond girl is doing a little water-witching around her aunt’s dude ranch when she discovers an old chest containing the 400-year-old head of some evil guy who got himself executed by Sir Frances Drake.  The head can hypnotize people into doing its evil bidding, and of course its top priority is getting the water witch to find his long-lost body!  The riffing is great, and even a couple of the host segments are funny as Mike encounters the supposedly super-intelligent Observers.

The Pumaman  (B+).  Another fan favorite, this is a super-cheesy 1980 superhero movie about a guy who supposedly has the powers of a puma and who must use them to fight evil forces led by the great Donald (Halloween) Pleasence (whose name is misspelled Pleasance in the credits).  The guy is more Greatest American Hero than Superman, and his Aztec mentor constantly has to bail him out of trouble.  The extras on the disc are a bit unusual.  One is a complete and unriffed version of The Pumaman; why anyone would want to watch it, I can’t imagine.  The other is a lengthy interview with the actor who played the Pumaman.  He was a New York City lawyer who tried acting for about ten years and then went back to lawyering.  He was a good sport to be interviewed for the disc because he really didn’t appreciate the MST3K guys making fun of this movie!

MST3K: Volume XVI

DVD review from The Movie Snob

MST3K Volume XVI. Another collection of four episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The Corpse Vanishes. (D) This episode was from MST3K’s first year on regular cable TV, and sadly it is just not very good. Kevin Murphy had not yet taken over as the voice of Tom Servo, so that was a big strike against it right there. The movie is a lame horror movie starring Bela Lugosi (Plan 9 From Outer Space) as a mad scientist who kidnaps young brides and uses their blood to keep his frightful hag of a wife alive. There’s also a short, an episode from an old-timey space opera called “Commander Cody and the Radar Men from the Moon.” Lame episode, best forgotten.

Warrior of the Lost World. (B) This is a much more solid effort from a few years later. The movie is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which a bearded nonentity rides around on an annoying talking motorcycle and begrudgingly helps some rebels against a fascist dictatorship led by the always-reliable Donald Pleasence (Pumaman). I was astonished to see Persis Khambatta in the credits—she played the totally bald navigator in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and I thought she had virtually no other film roles after that. Then I started thinking maybe this was a renamed version of a terrible movie I saw back in the 80’s called Megaforce, which she was in, but no, apparently that was a different terrible movie. Anyway, this was a pretty entertaining exercise for the guys on the Satellite of Love. As a special bonus, we get a short interview with the director of Warrior, and to his credit he doesn’t really try to defend his movie.

Santa Claus. (B-). Not a bad episode. This is a Mexican Christmas tale depicting Santa as a snoopy old guy who lives in a castle on a cloud with a doddering old Merlin and lots of children from all over the world. A junior devil named Pitch is sent to Earth on Christmas Eve night to tempt children to behave badly and try to impede St. Nick’s progress with diabolical pranks. Amid all the goofiness is a surprisingly touching story about a poor little girl named Lupita who just wants a dolly for Christmas. (Even Tom Servo has to concede that she is “aggressively cute.”)

Night of the Blood Beast (B-). Another decent but not spectacular episode. In this old black-and-white sci-fi movie, a rocket pilot returns to Earth–dead. And a hideous alien has somehow stowed away on his ship. The other five people who work at NASA try to figure out what is going on when the dead guy comes back to life and is revealed to have alien babies incubating inside of him. Some decently funny riffs from Mike and the robots.

Escape from New York

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Escape from New York (D+). I had never seen this 1981 John Carpenter classic, and all I can say is, wow. It is a low-budget cheeseball spectacular. It grabbed me from the first seconds, with the zero-frills opening credits and the soundtrack composed on somebody’s Casio keyboard. In the near future (1997, I think it said), Manhattan is a completely walled-off maximum-security prison in which the prisoners are dumped and left to fend for themselves. Air Force One is hijacked, and the president (Donald Pleasence, Halloween) unluckily bails out right into the middle of the prison. The government brass decide to enlist Manhattan’s newest prisoner, Snake Plisskin (Kurt Russell, Big Trouble in Little China), to try to rescue the prez in time for some big summit with Russia and China. Snake has lots of absurd adventures in the prison, whose inhabitants include Ernest Borgnine (From Here to Eternity), Harry Dean Stanton (Alien), Adrienne Barbeau (The Cannonball Run), and Isaac Hayes (I’m Gonna Git You Sucka). It’s kind of fun in a cheesy way, but I’m not going to hurry out and find Escape from L.A.

THX 1138; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

>From The Movie Snob, a movie review . . .

THX 1138 (director’s cut) (D). I had heard of this movie many times over the years as George Lucas’s first movie, but I never expected to get a chance to see it on the big screen. Lo and behold, here it is, “projected digitally with DLP Cinema technology.” Supposedly this remarkable technology allows the viewer to experience “a range of up to 35 trillion colors.” Well, in this movie, most of those colors are white. It is a futuristic movie, kind of a cross between 1984 and Brave New World. Although people seem to go about their business and do their jobs just like in the real world, they are apparently heavily sedated most of the time, sex is illegal, and love is apparently virtually unknown. One man, named THX 1138, stands up against the system and, not surprisingly, gets in trouble with the authorities in short order. I was surprised to see Robert Duvall starring in the title role, and Donald Pleasence in the cast as well. Anyhoo, the movie didn’t make much sense to me, and I didn’t really enjoy it. (Hence the grade.) Still, I guess if I had tried to make a futuristic thriller in 1970 that also commented on the dehumanizing effect of technology run amok, it probably wouldn’t have been even this good.

. . . and a stage review.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I like musicals, and this is one of my favorites, certainly among Andrew Lloyd Webber’s oeuvre. This touring production starred Jon Secada, whom I take to be a pop music star of some renown. I’m unfamiliar with his work, but he was a fine Joseph, and the gal who played the Narrator was excellent. The show is the biblical story of Joseph from the book of Genesis, and it’s told through a delightful melange of musical styles, including country, reggae, and Elvis-style rock and roll. The program said that the show started out as a 20-minute piece, and it does feel a little padded in places, but all in all it’s a fun entertainment.