Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXIII DVD Review
“King Dinosaur” and “Last Of The Wild Horses” save an otherwise so-so set.
Misties rejoice! The good folks at Shout! Factory have put out another “Mystery Science Theater 3000” box set (Volume XXIII to be precise) which contains the episodes “Code Name: Diamond Head,” “The Castle Of Fu Manchu,” “Last Of The Wild Horses,” and “King Dinosaur.” While the extras are impressive here, the episodes themselves are wildly inconsistent.
Let’s get “The Castle Of Fu Manchu” out of the way because it’s easily the weakest of the bunch in my opinion. In fact, the film is so bad that the bots are constantly spouting lines like “Let us out of here!” “I think this is the worst one they’ve ever made us do,” and “This movie sucks, Joel.” While the gang’s pain, breakdowns, and outrage over the movie is amusing, the movie itself is indeed a chore to sit through. The non-sensical plot and horrid pacing make the film feel like 4 hours which is no fun for viewers. The movie is just too serious and at times un-riffable. On the plus side, the bit at the end with Dr. Forrester and Frank attempting their own riffs and failing was a nice way to end an otherwise unpleasant episode.
Next up is “Code Name: Diamond Head” which is actually a TV pilot starring Ian McShane (pre-“Deadwood”). It’s not hard to see why this spy series never got picked up as it’s a fairly uneventful snooze fest. I think Crow’s line “Is it just me or did nothing happen?” pretty much sums up the entire movie. The movie isn’t a total waste, however, as there are some great riffs about “Lovejoy,” corn beef, Hawaii, AT&T, the music score, and even TV’s Frank. Note: The film is preceded by a lackluster short about a family visiting exhibitions and events at a fair in the aptly named “A Day At The Fair.”
After two forgettable episodes, the set improves with the second best episode on the set, “Last Of The Wild Horses.” In addition to boasting some great “Star Trek: Mirror Mirror” parody and Joey The Lemur host segments, this low budget rancher centric western offers up some hilarious bits about old geezers, Torgo, butt jokes, the double cranch, and the ooollldddd west. The real highlight here is seeing TV’s Frank and Dr. Forrester riffing the movie in the theater for a bit instead of Mike and the bots.
Last, but not least, we have the pride and joy of this set- “King Dinosaur.” This is one of the few episodes I hadn’t seen prior to a DVD release and I have to say I am ashasmed I never saw this one sooner. The plot of this 50’s sci-fi turkey involves 4 astronauts/explorers encounter giant monsters and a lemur on Planet Nova. Between the dressed up animals (an iguana is meant to resemble a dinosaur), the cheesy music, the goofy costumes and gadgets, the alligator wrestling, and Joey the Lemur, this film has so much perfect riffing material for Joel and the gang that they have no trouble making the film even more amusing than it already is. Note: A rather lengthy and dull driving safety short film (“X Marks The Spot”) appears before “King Dinosaur.” The only highlights here are the jokes about the goofball Guardian Angel.
Summary: MST3K completists will likely want to pick up this set asap, but compared to previous releases, this isn’t one to rush out and buy. Personally, I would suggest waiting for the next set which is rumored to have both “Fugitive Alien” films, “The Sword And The Dragon,” and “Samson Vs. The Vampire Women.” Can’t wait for that one.
The video quality is generally pretty good here. ‘Dinosaur’ looks better than most B&W riffed films, the shorts and ‘Castle’ look decent enough, and ‘Code Name’ has the best picture quality here by a mile. ‘Horses’ is the only film that looks a bit rough.
Audio wise, the dialogue on ‘Dinosaur’ is satisfactory while ‘Horses,’ the shorts, ‘Code Name,’ and ‘Castle’ all sound a bit low. You will definitely need to crank up the audio on those.
* 4 mini-posters.
* 14 minutes of vintage MST3K Comedy Central Promos and original theatrical trailers for “King Dinosaur” and “The Castle Of Fu Manchu.”
* “Life After MST3K: Kevin Murphy”- Murphy chats about his great book “A Year At The Movies,” his internet work, The Film Crew, RiffTrax, The Rifftones, and what he’d like to do in the future. This is my favorite extra on this set.
* “Code Name: Quinn Martin”- A dry featurette on TV producer Quinn Martin.
* “The Incredible Mr. Lippert”- A featurette on businessman/theater owner/movie maker/dsitributor Robert L. Lippert. A fascinating extra with loads of great commentators like Frank Conniff and Bob Burns.
* “Introduction By Frank Conniff”- He talks about Christopher Lee, MST3K, and the painful “The Castle Of Fu Manchu,”
* “Darkstar: Robots Don’t Need SAG Cards”- A piece about the interactive movie/video game that features a few MST3K cast members. Behind-the-scenes footage, bloopers, and interviews are included.
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