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Featured DVD review: Mystery Science Theater 3000 - XVI

November 21st, 2009

Myster Science Theater 3000 - XVI - Buy from Amazon

The latest Mystery Science Theater 3000 release hits store shelves next week, but we were able to get an early review copy for our featured review this week. This four-disc set includes episodes from practically every era of the show, including two with Joel as the host and two with Mike. There's an episode from the first season on The Comedy Channel (later renamed Comedy Central) and an episode from the last season on that channel. There's even a couple of holiday-themed shows. With such a wide variety of episodes in Volume XVI, are there any classics? Do any fail to reach their potential? Are there more extras than in volumes past?

The four movies that are part of this collection are... in chronological order... (that's chronological order based on when they aired as part of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and not when they were originally released in theaters...)

  • The Corpse Vanishes (Season One - Episode Five)

    This film starts with a bride dying during her wedding and then having body stolen shortly afterward. We are told by a series of floating newspaper headlines that this is not the first time this has happened, so when there is another wedding, a newspaper reporter is there to cover it. Sure enough, there is another dead bride and another missing corpse. However, the newspaper reporter has a clue, one that leads to Dr. Lorenz, a botanist who has turned into a mad scientist. He's the one stealing the brides to use their fluids to keep his wife looking young. Ewwwww.

    Apparently the oldest movie every featured on MST3K, this also includes the third part of the Radar Men from the Moon serial. It's a rather generic "Mad scientist / scary house" horror film with a lot of actors practically sleep-walking their way through the movie, but there's plenty of opportunities for mocking here. The host bits are only average for the series, on the other hand. This is arguably the best movie on this set, if you were able to watch it without the gang from MST3K commenting on it.

    The only extra on the DVD is the original trailer for the movie.

  • Warrior of the Lost World (Season Five - Episode One)

    A lone rider on a motorcycle encounters the tyrannical forces of the evil Omega. (Or is that the evil forces of the tyrannical Omega?) Despite the warnings of his talking motorcycle, he promptly slams into a cliff face. However, he is revived by the forces of good called The Elders. These people send him on a mission to rescue The Professor, and along the way he will be aided by The Professor's daughter, Nastasia (Persis Khambatta from Star Trek: The Motion Picture). Unfortunately, the quest will be difficult, as the enemy forces are led by the diabolical Prosser, and our "hero" is a whiny loser. How will they succeed?

    A low-budget Mad Max / High Plains Drifter wannabe that fails on every level. Bad special effects, cheap props, bad dialogue, a plot that is clearly borrowed from a number of better movies, a lot of bad acting, etc. (On a side note, I don't blame anyone involved in the movie, as the film was made for $500,000 to $750,000... without a real script. The latter is clearly the real problem.) However, while making a movie without a real script is a dumb idea, it's a boon for the MST3K. This episode has some of the best jokes for the movie, while all of the host segments are funny, unlike the previous episode in this group.

    There are two extras on this DVD starting with an interview with David Worth, who was the writer / director of the movie. He doesn't exactly justify its existence, but he does a great job explaining why it is the way it is. If I got the timeline right, he went from having a 40-page treatment to filming the actual film in just three weeks. That's just not enough time to get a fully fleshed out movie. Additionally, to compound the problem of not have a script and shooting on a tiny budget, he was dealing with a crew that mostly didn't speak English. There was almost no chance this movie was going to succeed, but he seems to be a good sport about the final product. There is also an image gallery.

  • Santa Claus - (Season Five - Episode 21) -

    Huh? A Mexican movie about Santa Claus who is doing battle with a minor demon named Pitch for the "soul" of a little girl. The film starts at the North Pole in Santa's workshop where there are no elves, but the work is being done by little kids dressed up as stereotypes of various peoples of the Earth. (The African kids are particularly cringe-worthy.) Meanwhile in Hell (don't often see that written when talking about a Christmas movie), Pitch dances around and is sent by Satan to stop Santa and corrupt the kids. Will Pitch trap Santa and ruin Christmas? Will Santa be able to deliver all the toys? Will the boys and girls avoid temptation?

    This film was made in Mexico, which according to the special features on this disc did not have a long history with Santa Claus at the time this movie was made. Most kids growing up in Mexico at the time had no idea who he was. It certainly seems like the filmmakers had no clue. This is an episode of MST3K that will stun you with how bizarre it is. It is also stunningly funny; one of the best episodes in the show's eleven-year run. Host segments are also strong with a number of holiday-themed segments from Christmas caroling, gift giving, and a few songs. All are funny.

    Extras on the DVD include a 50-year retrospective on the movie, a featurette on the work of the K. Gordon Murray who produced it, original promotional material, and an image gallery. This is far above the extras on the average disc for most MST3K releases, and since this is one of the most popular episodes in the show's run, it makes real sense to make the extra effort.

  • Night of the Blood Beast (Season Seven - Episode One)

    After his space craft malfunctions, an astronaut crashes to Earth and dies in the impact. His body is brought back to the lab and is miraculously returned to life, but that's not the only mysterious event. It appears something has returned with the spacecraft, something not of this world. Dun, dun, dunnnnn!

    I watched all of these episodes last week, and then re-watched them while writing this review. This is the only one I couldn't remember and had to watch a second time. I think that says a lot about the quality of the episode. The movie itself is very bad, like almost all of the movies they mock; however, it's more dull than actively bad. The short that appears before the movie, Once Upon a Honeymoon, is more entertaining.

    Extras include two versions of the episode, the original one and the Thanksgiving Day marathon. The host segments on both versions are the highlights of the episode, but the latter is more entertaining, as it includes a number of fan favorite characters, including Jack Perkins, Mr. B Natural, and Pitch. There are also a 12-minute compilation of the Thanksgiving Day marathon intros, including a short introduction to the intros. Finally, there's the original trailer.

Also included on the DVD are four mini-posters for the movies skewered in this DVD collection, as well as a figure of Tom Servo. The former is just the cover art used for each slipcase, while the latter is of much more interest for fans of the show. It's about 10 cm tall, or about four inches for those living in prehistoric times. It has no moving parts (I would have loved it if the arms were actual springs) but there's good detail.

Of the four episodes on Mystery Science Theater 3000 XVI, three have high entertainment value... well... three and a half. (The Thanksgiving Day marathon host segments help boost Night of the Blood Beast's overall value.) I would love full season sets for this TV series, as that's the way I prefer to watch my TV on DVD releases, but that's never going to happen with this show. Because it is a collection and not a full season, the price per minute is a little high compared to most TV on DVD releases, but it is good compared to TV movies, for instance, and if you have been purchasing the previous releases, this one is certainly worth adding to your collection.

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