Brad Cook reviews Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXIII…
In this era of Twitter feuds, it’s tempting to view Mystery Science Theater 3000 as a show wherein the host and his bots mercilessly mocked bad movies, but as some of the cast members have noted in the past, their approach was a gentler one. They simply wanted to give a ribbing to poorly made films while always acknowledging their overall love of cinema.
That attitude usually comes through in the bonus features found in Shout! Factory’s latest MST3K release, Volume XXXIII. Like others in the series, this one features four episodes, along with a smattering of extras and four nice mini posters. Here’s what you get in this set:
• Daddy-O: This third season episode features Joel and the bots giving their commentary on a this 1959 movie with a bunch of supposed tough guys who are really just silly. Here’s a fun bit of trivia: The score was by John Williams. (Yes, that John Williams.) “John Williams, before he heard Stravinsky,” quips Tom Servo. “I kid Stravinsky.” The film is preceded by the educational short “Alphabet Antics,” which is as much fun as it sounds.
“Beatnik Blues: Investigating Daddy-O” is a brief look at how the film fits into the tough guy movies that were in vogue during the 1950s, with comments from the usual film historians who pop up in Shout!’s MST3K bonus features. Also included are the “MST Hour Wraps,” the introductions used when the episode was split in half for syndication.
• Agent For H.A.R.M.: A goofy 60s spy film that was featured during the eighth season, the first one for the show on the Sci-Fi Channel. Mike, who’s now the host, is put on trial for crimes committed during earlier episodes – It was the series’ attempt at putting storylines in the intro and interstitial segments, at the behest of network executives. While the storylines were of course always fun and full of great sci-fi references, they’re confusing when you watch the episodes out of order on home video.
This disc also features an interview with star Peter Mark Richman, who was a poor man’s James Bond. He did the best he could with a silly script.
• Teen-Age Crime Wave: Another goofy 50s film about young toughs who were supposed to appeal to anyone who liked Rebel Without a Cause. This was from the series’ fifth season, in which Joel left the show about halfway through and Mike took over; this was one of the last episodes of the season. They continued the invention exchange with Mike for a while, but it wasn’t really his thing, and eventually the series found its way with its new host. I always liked both hosts, especially when the show played to each guy’s strengths.
You’ll find two bonus features on this disc. One of them profiles producer Sam Katzman, who may not be remembered today but whose career rivaled many of the most successful producers in Hollywood history. He had a knack for knowing where trends were headed and could deliver low-budget movies that nearly always turned a profit. The other bonus feature has an interview with star Tommy Cook, who began his career as a child actor and had a long career in TV and film. Like Katzman, Cook may not be a household name, but his body of work was nothing to be ashamed of.
• Earth vs. the Spider: Another third season episode, this time featuring another 50s staple: Giant creatures that threaten mankind. It’s preceded by a short about public speaking. MST3K relied on short films to pad out episodes in the early seasons, but they were just about gone during the Sci-Fi Channel run.
There’s a nice bonus feature that looks back at the making of the film, along with another set of those aforementioned “MST Hour Wraps.”
And that’s it for another MST3K set from Shout! Factory. I’d say this one is a notch above Volume XXXII when it comes to bonus features: It has more of the historical stuff that gives a wider perspective to the movies lampooned by Mike, Joel, and the bots. I enjoy those materials almost as much as I enjoy the episodes.