Brad Cook reviews Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXV…
Shout! Factory’s track record with MST3K sets has been pretty solid ever since they took over the license from Rhino. They’ve done a great job of including bonus features in every four-disc volume, along with four mini-posters based on the disc case covers. Some sets are more memorable than others, of course, such as the one where they included all the Gamera movies they skewered, or the volume that celebrated the show’s 25th anniversary, with an excellent retrospective documentary (both came in nice tin cases too).
Volume XXXV is a set that falls in the “good” category. If you’re a completist, there’s nothing stopping you from snapping it up. If not, you’ll want to read this review and decide for yourself. As always, of course, the episodes live up to the series’ typical standard of excellence.
Oh, and before I get to the discs in this collection, let’s give a round of applause to the MST3K Kickstarter, which raised almost $6 million for a series of 14 new episodes this year. Thankfully, Hollywood has produced plenty of crappy movies since the show went dark the first time.
This set includes:
Deathstalker and the Warriors From Hell: Missed the first two entries in Roger Corman’s series of four Deathstalker films? No worries: As the alternate name for Deathstalker III: The Warriors From Hell implies, you can jump right into this poor man’s Conan the Barbarian from 1988 and more or less make sense of what’s happening. And if you can’t, no problem, Mike and the bots will keep you entertained during this seventh season episode.
The bonus feature on this disc, Medieval Boogaloo: The Legend of Deathstalker III, serves up 11 minutes of actor Thom Christopher reminiscing about the making of the film, which he acknowledges wasn’t very good.
Being From Another Planet: Another film that also goes by an alternate name, this one was called Time Walker during its theatrical release. It’s a fourth season episode in which Joel and the bots mock yet another 80s era schlockfest. The theatrical trailer is included, along with a five-minute interview with composer Richard Band and the original version of Time Walker. Yes, the 85-minute non-riffed version of the movie is here in its entirety.
12 to the Moon: As filmmaker and historian Jeff Burr explains in the nine-minute You Are There: Launching 12 to the Moon bonus feature, this black-and-white Columbia film from 1960 about an international crew traveling to the moon was meant to be a plea for the nations of the world to work together. Unfortunately, Joel and the bots missed the memo and instead riffed on the movie’s many (many) inane moments.
However, first they must sit through the surrealistic Design For Dreaming, a 1956 short in which a woman dances her way through displays of General Motors’ latest cars and the newest Frigidaire appliances. It’s one of the most bizarre pieces of video I’ve ever seen, and it may be familiar to you, since snippets of it have shown up in David Fincher’s movie The Game, a video by the band Rush, and even a 1994 Power Macintosh commercial.
That aforementioned interview with Jeff Burr also digs into the careers of director David Bradley, cinematographer John Alton, and others who made the movie.
Teenage Cave Man: A second Corman production from 1958 wraps up this set. It’s a third season episode with Joel and the bots, and it features a teenager who’s a prehistoric rebel without a cause, chafing against his tribe’s rules and trying to figure out why the man is keeping him down. Before you cry, “Holy anachronisms, Batman!”, however, stick around for the ending, which puts it all in perspective. It’s still a lousy movie, but you don’t have to endure it for the entire episode, since a pair of shorts about waterskiing and animal trapping in the Florida Everglades precede it.
The bonus feature, I Was a Teenage Cave Man, features interviews with authors and film historians C. Courtney Joyner and Tom Weaver, Corman, and Stephanie Shane, daughter of Robert Shayne, who played a small role (she and her brother were extras). It runs about 13 minutes and covers the making of the film and its place in Corman’s oeuvre.
Fun fact: The monster suit in this film was also used in Corman’s Night of the Blood Beast, which received the MST3K treatment too. And Teenage Cave Man was distributed by American International Pictures (A.I.P.), whose history was recounted in one of the bonus features in the MST3K Volume XXXIV set, which has nothing but A.I.P. films in it.
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