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Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXVII DVD Review

Mystery Science Theater Volume XXVII DVD

MST3K fans get a nice variety of episodes in the latest XXVII volume.

For the past 5 years, the good folks at Shout! Factory have given Misties a summer treat by releasing a new MST3K boxed set in July (or August in the case of the “Gamera” set). Thankfully, the trend continues in 2013 as volume XXVII sees the light of day come July, 23, 2013. So, will this release brighten the day of Misties everywhere? The answer: Duh.

The first disc on the set contains the 60’s cheesy horror flick “The Slime People” (accompanied by a dull Commando Cody “Radar Men From The Moon” episode 6 short) from season 1. While season 1 episodes are often frequently awkward due to a lack of scripted jokes, Crow not quite being Crow (yet), quiet joke-free spots, and J. Elvis Weinstein (who is great on Cinematic Titanic) being not so hot in dual roles, there are still some good laughs here. The 30-40 minute mark in particular sees some really funny bits about Tom Waits, film critics, and even the Hi-C Ecto Cooler drink (I miss that drink!). Aside from that period of time, there are a few other sporadically funny moments involving everything from L.A.’s bad air and Droopy to goat man and characters needing to shut up. As hard as the gang of riffers try to crack jokes, however, I think the movie is simply bad material for the gang.  The horror flick, which involves a group of people on the run from spear carrying, fog covered sewer dwelling creatures, moves far too slow for an MST3K title. There is very little action here and when there is action, you can barely see what’s going on due to the massive amounts of fog clouding the screen! All in all, I’d say this is an episode that is more admirable than enjoyable.

The second disc contains the season two fan favorite “Rocket Attack U.S.A.” along with chapter 2 of “The Phantom Creeps” serial. While I find the shorts to generally be hit-and-miss (especially the serials), this Bela Lugosi infused adventure offered up some memorable bits involving a plane, colons, editing, and, of course, Bela Lugosi himself. As far as ‘Rocket’ goes, it’s a rather strange choice for an MST3K movie. It’s a dark and atypical MST3K movie about Cold War paranoia, spies, Sputnik, and even nuclear destruction. Thankfully, Joel and the bots (and TV’s Frank in the host segments) liven things up with some great jokes about wanting to order food, a pig, Bob Dylan, the weird “Hii” quote, the “audition,” and a random Tom Bodett joke thrown in for good measure.

The season 5 turkey “Village of the Giants” (which stars Beau Bridges, Tommy Kirk, and a very young Ron Howard) is my personal favorite from the set. Loosely based on H.G. Well’s book “The Food of the Gods,” ‘Village’ involves a growth potion falling into the hands of a group of teen party animals. As the teens grow to giant proportions, they take it upon themselves to try and rule the town the small town they drifted into. If there was ever a movie destined to be an MST3K episode, it was this one. You only need to see the duck dancing scene to realize that much. Aside from the goofyness, Mike and the bots provide plenty of gut busting jokes about Opie, “Willow” (I like the movie too Crow), Servo’s “mom,” and Tommy Kirk needing pants. Add in a great series of host segments involving Torgo replacing TV’s Frank and you’re in for a great 90 minutes.

Last, but not least, there’s the season 8 cult classic “The Deadly Mantis.” This is an episode that has long been wanted on DVD and fans will no doubt be pleased to see that it has finally arrived. The flick is a standard 50’s monster movie (this one features a giant prehistoric Mantis) filled with lifeless, mumbling characters and stock footage galore. The FX are actually pretty commendable for the time period, but the fact that the movie’s main character doesn’t show up until a half hour in tells you how clumsy the script is. Heck, the Mantis doesn’t actually show itself until the 41st minute mark either! Movie quality aside, Mike, Servo, and Crow bring out the guffaws often especially with scenes involving maps, the Old Professor, and the classic “I got a mantis in my pantis” bit. Keep an eye out for the charming radio host and space creature host segments as well.

Video/Audio:

As with every MST3K set, the video quality of each episode varies in quality. “The Deadly Mantis” is in the best shape here both in terms of the host segments and the actual film print. “Village of the Giants” looks a little murky on the color side, but the picture quality is decent enough. “Rocket Attack U.S.A.” and the ‘Phantom’ short are so-so while ‘Slime’ and the ‘Cody’ prints have issues like scratches and jumpy frames.

As is usually the case, the riffers always sound clear in the audio department, but the film’s audio tracks are hit-and-miss. ‘Mantis’ sounds a bit low in spots outside of the action heavy scenes which are thankfully much louder. ‘Slime’ and the ‘Cody’ short are also a bit on the low side, but they never sound bad by any means. Mike Nelson’s riff “What?” best sums up the audio on ‘Village’ as it can be really hard to hear the normal sized characters talking to the giants at times. As for ‘Rocket’ and ‘Phantom,’ the audio on these two is better than average when it comes to MST3K films and shorts.

Extras:
* Theatrical trailers for “The Slime People,” “The Deadly Mantis,” and “Village of the Giants.”
* 4 mini-posters.
* A nearly 7 minute interview with “The Slime People” actress Judith Fraser. She chats about her acting career, “The Slime People,” stories from the set of ‘Slime,’
* An interview with cheery “Village of the Giants” actress Joy Harmon in which she discusses her various jobs, Marilyn Monroe, Groucho Marx, “Village of the Giants,”  dancing, and her family.
* An intro to “The Deadly Mantis” by Mary Jo Pehl. She talks about the film’s lack of story, the stock footage, the special f/x, B&W 50’s movies, science, the Sci-Fi Channel,
* “Chasing Rosebud: The Cinematic Life Of William Alland”- A featurette about producer William Alland (who had worked with Orson Welles prior to his producing career) and the films he put out. An interesting piece that will appeal to film history buffs.
* “Life After MST3K: Trace Beaulieu”- Trace talks about auditioning for Jar Jar Binks, “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” “Freaks And Geeks,” “The West Wing,” comic and book projects, and Cinematic Titanic.

Summary: While this set may not have classics like ‘The Final Sacrifice” or “The Pod People,” the 4 episodes will still bring joy to any MST3K’s fan heart. Now, bring on the announcement for the next set!

July 17, 2013 - Posted by | DVD review | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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