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Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XVIII DVD Review

“Mystery Science Theater Volume XVIII” is one of the best MST3K sets to date.


Content: A-

Picture: C

Audo: C-

Extras: B

“Mystery Science Theater Volume XVIII” contains 4 episodes/films titled “Crash Of The Moons” (with a “General Hospital Part 3” short), “Jack Frost,” “Lost Continent” and “The Beast Of Yucca Flats” (with two shorts titled “Money Talks” and “Progress Island, U.S.A.” The stand-out episode here is the bizarre Russian-Finnish “Jack Frost.” To describe this film would be virtually impossible. All I can say is that it’s a fairytale love story that involves a hunchback fairy/witch, a pig slay, a man bear, a flying feather, a character named Father Mushroom, club throwing, and random lollipop licking. Naturally, with so much weird material, Mike and the bots have no problem in riffing this film and cracking jokes about everything from ricola and “Lord Of The Rings” to Tom Petty and “Star Trek.” Add in an amusing host segment involving Mike and “Lord Of The Dance” and you have yourself a truly hilarious 90 minutes.

“The Beast Of Yucca Flats” is another laugh-filled 90 minute Mike episode. This Coleman Francis stinker involves a Russian scientist (played by Tor Johnson) that transforms into a murderous savage after an A-Bomb explodes near him. The rest of the film involves a couple of cops trying to find the “beast.” Mostly, however, the movie consists of endless driving and walking scenes with the occasional death sequence. Crow puts it best by saying “This movie stops at nothing and stays there.” As per usual, Mike and the gang are on target with their riffs here especially when mocking the hilarious and often non-sensical narrator who drones on and on about random subjects such as a flag on the moon and feeding soda pop to pigs. As for the two shorts (“Money Talks” and “Progress Island, U.S.A.”) they are both amusing as well. ‘Money’ finds a teen getting financial advice from the ghost/shadow of Ben Franklin while ‘Progress’ is more or less a film travel brochure about Puerto Rico.

Like “Yucca,” “Lost Continent” is very short on plot. The main plot involves a mission to find a crashed rocket on a seemingly prehistoric planet, but essentially the movie is padded with two things- jungle walking and rock climbing. With so little action, Joel and the bots are forced to step up their game here to make the movie bearable. Thankfully, they do. Whether they’re mercilessly mocking the rock climbing sequences or cracking ongoing jokes such as “You ever (insert word here) one of these things?” and “I can see my/our (insert word here),”  there’s plenty of laughs to help ease the pain of the terrible stock footage, cheap stop-motion dinosaur effects, and yes, the rock climbing.

Last, but not least there is the sequel to “Manhunt In Space” titled “Crash Of The Moons” featuring the frightfully lifeless Rocky Jones Space Ranger and his obnoxious pals Winky, Bobby, Vena and the crazy old Professor. In this “adventure” Rocky must try and save an inhabited moon that is about to collide with two Gypsy moons. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the ‘Manhunt’ episode, I can honestly say ‘Crash’ is superior in every way. Any episode that contains jokes about “Young Frankenstein,” a crying baby, “Hogan’s Heroes,” Thomas Dolby, a guy who can’t sit down, and a toenail forehead is a winner in my book. Accompanying ‘Crash’ is a cheesy, monotone “General Hospital Part 3” time-filling short about a husband loving another woman.

Summary: All four episodes of Volume XVIII are ones I would (and have) re-watched often. If you are a fan of MST3K, I HIGHLY recommend buying this set.

As expected, the picture quality is hit-and-miss with these four films. The colors are faded on ‘Jack,’ ‘Moons’ and ‘Beast’ have dirt and scratches, and ‘Continent’ has a few jumpy tape issues (which Shout Factory mentions upfront on the disc).

Audio-wise, the riffing sounds superb on all 4 films, but the audio on the 4 films (and the short films) is so-so. “Crash Of The Moons,” “Jack Frost,”  and the short “Progress Island, U.S.A.” sound decent enough, but the sound quality on “The Beast Of Yucca Flats” and the shorts “General Hospital and “Money Talks” were scratchy and filled with nearly inaudible mumbles. “Lost Continent” sounded a bit distant in spots and required one to crank up the sound on the TV.

“Jack Frost” Extras:

* An enjoyable introduction by Kevin Murphy in which he talks about the characters in “Jack Frost,” the cinematography, the dubbing, Lord Of The Dance, and riffing a non sci-fi movie.

“Lost Continent” Extras:

* Original theatrical trailer.
* Introduction by Frank Conniff in which he describes the film, talks about the famous cast, rock climbing, etc.

“Crash Of The Moons” Extras:

* “MST Hour Wraps” by Jack Perkins (played by Mike Nelson) for “Crash Of The Moons.” 

“The Beast Of Yucca Flats” Extras:
* Stills gallery.
* Original theatrical trailer.
* “Coleman Francis: The Cinematic Poet Of Parking”- A fascinating interview with cameraman Lee Strosnider talking about his experiences in working with Coleman Francis on his films.
* “No Dialogue Necessary: Making An “Off Camera Masterpiece”- Larry Blamire (director), Bob Burns (film historian), Frank Conniff (MST3K actor) and Lee Strosnider (cinematographer) talk about B-Movies, “The Beast Of Yucca Flats,”  Coleman Francis, Tor Johnson, etc. Definitely the best extra on this set.

The DVD set also includes 4 posters of the 4 films in the set.

July 12, 2010 - Posted by | DVD review | , , ,

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