Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live: The Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour (B).  The principal creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Joel Hodgson, is on the road doing live shows in venues around the country.  I think I heard this is supposedly going to be Hodgson’s last road show.  Anyhoo, my sister and I caught the show last weekend in Dallas’s fancy opera house.  The show is basically a live recreation of an episode of the MST3K TV show, with Joel and his two robot sidekicks (Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo) riffing on a terrible movie and occasionally taking little breaks to do (allegedly) comical skits.  The terrible movie for our show was a cheesy 1986 Karate Kid rip-off called No Retreat, No Surrender (featuring a young and villainous Jean-Claude Van Damme, Timecop), and the riffing was very amusing.  I’d probably give the show a B+ or an A- based on the riffing, but the skits were unfortunately unentertaining (just like they usually were during MST3K’s TV run).  Note that Joel is the only person from the original show involved in this production; the robots are voiced by two new guys, and two new actresses participated in the skits.  I think it was a pretty clean show, too, if you’re thinking about taking the kids.  Definitely worth catching if they come to a town near you.  Looks like they’re about to do a bunch of shows in Florida if you’re down that way!

Mystery Science Theater: 25th Anniversary Edition

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

I have more time on my hands these days, so I’m digging into my large collection of unwatched Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVDs.  This collection, which would be Volume XXVIII but for the 25th Anniversary Edition tag, contains six episodes rather than the usual four.  I think the last two episodes described below had already been released on DVD as standalone episodes.  Anyway, let’s get to this solid but not spectacular collection….

Mystery Science Theater 3000: 25th Anniversary Edition (Volume XXXVIII).

Moon Zero Two  (B-).  This first-season offering features a 1969 production from Hammer, the famed low-budget British horror studio.  The movie is a cheesy “western in space” set on the moon in the early 21st century.  A charisma-free space jockey is recruited for two seemingly independent jobs—help a nefarious plutocrat crash a sapphire-laden asteroid into the far side of the moon and help a beautiful woman find out what happened to her missing brother, a mining prospector on . . . the far side of the moon.  Although the movie is generally terrible, the core ideas aren’t awful, some of the special effects seem pretty okay for the era, and female lead Catherine Schell really is gorgeous.  (She would go on to appear in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and TV’s Space: 1999, and she kept acting regularly into the 1990s.)  Anyway, the riffing started out pretty strong in this one, but it petered out as the movie went along.  Hence, the lukewarm grade.

The Day the Earth Froze (B).   This is a decent episode.  It starts with a short about a trip to the circus.  The main course is a weird old Finnish-Soviet movie based on a Finnish fairy tale.  A witch kidnaps a fair maiden to coerce her brother, a famed blacksmith, into building the witch a gadget called a “sampo” that can apparently make whatever you want it to.  Then the fair maiden’s boyfriend tries to steal the sampo, leading the witch to steal the sun, thereby threatening to freeze all the nice villagers.  Solid riffing, solid episode.  The real prize on the disc, though, is a short documentary featuring interviews with the original cast members about how MST3K first got started on a local cable channel in Minneapolis-St. Paul.  It really was interesting.

The Leech Woman  (C).  The riffing is only average on this weak 1960 horror movie about a woman who gets hooked on a potion that temporarily restores youth—but unfortunately requires an ingredient that can be obtained only by means of murder!  Extras on the disc include a decent documentary about many (or all?) of the people who acted or provided voice work on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and a short interview with Mary Jo Pehl about her life post MST3K.

Gorgo (B).  Next up is a cheesy 1961 Godzilla ripoff set in Ireland and London.  Decent riffing makes for an above-average episode.  One of the movie’s stars, William Sylvester, actually went on to have a major role in 2001: A Space Odyssey as Dr. Heywood Floyd. And Leonard Maltin makes a special guest appearance on MST!

Mitchell (B).  This was the last MST episode featuring Joel Hodgson as its host.  Joe Don Baker (Mud) stars as Mitchell, a disheveled slob of a cop who plays by his own rules, bucks the police chief, and makes it his mission to nail some sleazy guy for murdering another sleazy guy who was burglarizing the first sleazy guy’s house.  Pretty good riffing, plus Linda Evans (TV’s Dynasty) co-stars in the movie and has to endure a sex scene with the unappealing Baker.

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (B-).  This was the first MST episode to feature Mike Nelson, who had been a writer for the show for a while, as the host.  The film is a 1962 horror movie about a doctor who has been dabbling in unorthodox experiments.  His love for weird science pays off when his fiancée is decapitated in a car crash; he puts her head in a lasagna pan and keeps it alive in his laboratory while he creepily trolls various nightclubs for a suitable replacement body.  Amusingly, the final title card at the end of the movie changes its name to “The Head That Wouldn’t Die.”  The disc contains a short feature about Joel Hodgson’s leaving MST and a short interview with an actress who appeared (very briefly) in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.

MST3K: Volume XXV

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXV.

Robot Holocaust (B).  Even though it was an episode from the first season of MST, which was a bit spotty, I enjoyed this one.  Actually, I’m pretty sure I would have thought this movie was funny even without any riffing at all.  It’s an 80s-era sci-fi movie that’s sort of a mash-up of Star Wars and Mad Max, and it is hilariously bad.  The budget must have been nonexistent.  Some highlights are some monstrous “sewer worms” that are obviously nothing more than sock puppets, and the monstrous spider of which we are allowed to see only one leg.  Also fabulous is the female henchman of “the Dark One.”  She’s kind of pretty, but she can’t act to save her life, and she adopted (or actually had) a bizarre accent that sounded like a speech impediment.  Well worth watching.

Kitten with a Whip (B).  This is a pretty entertaining episode.  The movie being riffed is a 1964 flick starring Ann-Margret (Viva Las Vegas) as a troubled juvenile delinquent and John Forsythe (TV’s Dynasty) as the unlucky fellow whose house she decides to hide out in after escaping from juvie.  Ms. Margret overacts terribly, but she is nicely counterbalanced by Forsythe’s remarkably bland performance.  Definitely worth seeing.

Revenge of the Creature (B+).  This sequel to The Creature From the Black Lagoon isn’t all that terrible—it’s just kind of dull.  But the riffing is quite good, and occasionally hilarious.  Watch closely, and you’ll see a very young Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven) in an uncredited role.  (Actually, the MST guys point him out, so I guess you don’t have to watch all that closely.)  The disc contains a few extras, including a reasonably interesting documentary short about director Jack Arnold, who directed several other movies of greater note, including It Came From Outer Space, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, and The Incredible Shrinking Man.

Operation Double 007  (C+).  That’s right, this 1967 movie is called Operation Double 007 in the credits, but for some reason it’s labeled Operation Kid Brother on the DVD box.  It’s a shameless rip-off of James Bond movies, right down to starring Sean Connery’s younger brother Neal as a spy.  Well, he’s not really a spy; he’s a plastic surgeon and hypnotist who gets recruited into being a spy.  It also features some of the minor players from the Bond movies, including Miss Moneypenny herself, Lois Maxwell (Moonraker).  The riffing is decent, but this episode is the weak link in this collection.  An introduction by Joel Hodgson doesn’t really add anything either.

Cinematic Titanic (live)

Stage review from The Movie Snob

Cinematic Titanic. Okay, maybe you’re getting tired of reading DVD reviews of the long-defunct TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000. Well, bear with me a little longer, because many of the geniuses behind that show are at it again. To summarize, they take really bad movies and make them hilarious by making jokes about the movie during the movie. I gather that Joel Hodgson and several of the other people are now doing their old MST3K shtick on direct-to-DVD releases under the name “Cinematic Titanic.” And they even have this live show, which they did at Dallas’s Lakewood Theater on Friday and Saturday, June 5-6. I caught tonight’s show, in which they riffed on a terrible 1968 monster movie called “Danger on Tiki Island.” It was a really funny show. There were five people riffing on the movie, so there was a joke made almost every time there was a pause in the movie — and there were a lot of pauses. The house was pretty full and very excited, which added to the fun. But apparently there were a few folks there who weren’t familiar with the concept in advance. After the show, I heard someone behind me say to her companions, “Well, aren’t you glad I brought you out for the stupidest thing ever?” I got a big kick out of it myself, and I am inclined to order some of the Cinematic Titanic DVDs online to see if they are as good.