Brad Cook reviews Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXVIII…
MST3K Volume XXXVII was what I would call, to use baseball lingo, a solid double into the gap, rather than a clean home run. The latest, MST3K Volume XXXVIII, is more of the same. That judgment doesn’t reflect the quality of the included episodes – it’s more about the bonus features. Sometimes they’re more in-depth and interesting, but sometimes they’re like this one and its predecessor, with bonus features that are cursory in nature.
This collection’s episodes are all hosted by Mike and offer a nice overview of the kinds of films the series featured over the years. They include:
Colossus and the Headhunters: This sixth season episode serves up an Italian swords-and-sandals flick featuring Maciste, a wannabe Hercules who saves a group of people from an island being destroyed by a volcanic eruption and tries to find them a new home. It’s notable for its lack of monsters, unlike many similar films.
The bonus feature, the 10-minute Mike, By Joel covers how Mike Nelson got involved in the show, as recalled by Joel Hodgson. Among other things, he talks about how before he became the new host, Mike was the go-to guest actor when they needed someone to play a new character. He also discusses the process involved in the transition from him to a new host – some of the ideas he mentions are interesting.
Invasion USA: Another sixth season Mike episode that’s a Cold War relic about the United States being invaded by an unnamed foreign army that’s obviously supposed to be the Soviet Union. The 1950 short A Date With Your Family is also included, and, yes, it’s as bizarrely creepy in a 1950s way as the title sounds.
Zugsmith Confidential, the bonus feature, is a 16-minute overview of the career of producer Albert Zugsmith, who first cut his teeth on Invasion USA and mostly made exploitive films during the 50s and 60s, although he also produced Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. Film historians C. Courtney Joyner and Michael Schlesinger narrate the proceedings.
High School Big Shot: The final sixth season Mike episode in this collection features a teen exploitation movie about a good kid who must deal with his alcoholic father and the machinations of a popular girl. He ends up breaking bad, but the story doesn’t quite have the same impact as that incredible TV series.
The theatrical trailer and the original version of the movie are the bonus features. I’m not sure why anyone would want to bother watching the un-MST3K-ed version of an unremarkable movie like this one.
Track of the Moon Beast: The final episode in this set is from the tenth season, the final one of the series. It’s a schlocky 1976 horror film that’s notable for having been co-written by Batman co-creator Bill Finger.
The 10-minute bonus item, Tracking a Moon Beast with Actress Leigh Drake, features Drake remembering her experiences, which culminated in a movie that she was deeply unhappy with. Unlike some actors and actresses who have been interviewed for these collections and who have been clearly annoyed by their work getting the MST3K treatment, Drake turned out to have been appreciative of it because it allowed her to come to terms with her feelings about the experience.