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.