Brad Cook reviews Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Singles Collection…
Yes, MST3K Volume XXXIX was the final new volume of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes, but Shout! Factory has been rereleasing the old Rhino sets and will continue to do so. The Singles Collection has five episodes that were released singly on DVD, or in the case of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, paired with another episode, Manos The Hands of Fate. It also features The Shorts Vol. 3, which has seven shorts that were skewered before the main movies.
Shout! has also thrown in some new bonus features, which is always appreciated since the Rhino releases were typical bare bones sets.
Here’s what you’ll find in this one:
The Crawling Hand: This is a first season episode with Josh Weinstein voicing Tom Servo. In an earlier MST3K set, Kevin Murphy, who played Servo for the rest of the series, talked about how, not long after he took over the role, he received a banner that said, “I hate Tom Servo’s new voice.” He hung it up in his office. It was just a TV show, people.
The Crawling Hand is a black-and-white sci-fi movie from 1963 starring Alan Hale Jr. of Gilligan’s Island fame. It was directed by Herbert Strock, who’s the subject of a 12-minute biographical piece called Don’t Knock the Strock. He was known for making B-movies, but he approached his task with a workman-like attitude that enabled him to have a long career. C. Courtney Joyner, one of the interviewees, notes that he thinks The Crawling Hand isn’t such a bad movie. The film trailer is included too.
The Hellcats: Also known as Biker Babes, this is a 1968 film about a cop who’s killed by a drug dealer. His fiancée and brother join a biker gang run by women so they can get revenge for his death. The only bonus item is the film trailer.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians: This third season episode is often cited by fans as one of their favorites, simply because the movie being riffed is such a kooky classic. Released in 1964, it’s about a couple Martians who kidnap Santa so he can bring Christmas to their planet. (Couldn’t they have just as easily nabbed a department store Santa?) A young Pia Zadora is one of the Martian kids.
In addition to the film trailer, this disc has a nine-minute introduction by Joel, who talks about seeing the trailer for the movie as a kid and being captivated by it. He also discusses his personal feelings for the holiday and recalls how excited he was to get the chance to riff it on the show. “It was everything and more,” he says.
This disc also has five minutes of MST Hour wraps, which are the wrappers created when many of the episodes were sliced into one-hour installments for syndication. Mike Nelson plays TV host Jack Perkins in a parody of the Biography series.
Eegah: Featured during the fifth season, this movie is a 1962 production starring Richard Kiel, who was best known for playing the character Jaws in a couple James Bond movies. Kiel plays a caveman who wanders into modern civilization and kidnaps a girl and her father. In addition to the movie trailer, this disc has a seven-minute introduction by Hodgson, who talks about the assumptions he and other cast members made about stars Arch Hall Sr. and Arch Hall Jr. He later met the younger Arch Hall and found that he wasn’t the person they had assumed he was.
I Accuse My Parents: Also from the fifth season, this is a World War II era film about a young kid who falls in with a gang and blames his actions on his inattentive parents. It was actually made to warn parents about the possible fall-out from child neglect, as explained in the accompanying 23-minute bio piece, Man on Poverty Row: The Films of Sam Newfield. Born around the turn of the last century, director Newfield shot more than 250 movies in a career that began during the silent era and ended in the late 1950s.
This episode also features a 1954 short, The Truck Farmer, which is about exciting new technology that enabled farmers to get their produce to market faster. Progress!
The disc also has another batch of MST Hour wraps as well as an introduction by Hodgson.
Shorts Vol. 3: This disc serves up seven shorts, which were used quite a bit during the first six seasons to fill out episodes whose main movies weren’t long enough. They were dirt cheap to get the rights to, and their hokey nature lent themselves to plenty of hilarious riffing. The shorts run about 87 minutes total and include:
Speech: Using Your Voice: This 1950 short about public speaking accompanied the third season episode, Earth vs. The Spider.
Aquatic Wizards: This is one of two shorts included with the third season episode, Teenage Caveman. It’s a newsreel about waterskiing.
Is This Love?: Featured with the season five episode Teen-Age Strangler, this 1957 short contrasts two couples, one that rushes into marriage and another who take their sweet time figuring things out. Given when this was made, you can imagine the message being sent here.
Design for Dreaming: Also featured during a fifth season episode (12 to the Moon), this 1956 short has actually become a cult classic that has been excerpted for a couple music videos, a videogame commercial, and other things. It’s about a woman who gets to attend that year’s General Motors Motorama event and experience the “kitchen of the future.”
The Selling Wizard: Included in the sixth season episode The Dead Talk Back, this Anheuser-Busch short showcases large freezers that grocery stores could use to sell their products. A woman dressed as a wizard uses her wand to point out the freezers’ exciting features.
Out of This World: Also featured during a sixth season episode (High School Big Shot), this short was created by people who seemed to think that bread truck drivers needed to be kept on the straight and narrow.
Once Upon a Honeymoon: Featured with the seventh season episode Night of the Blood Beast, this 1956 short was financed by Bell Telephone. It’s about a couple who want to go on their honeymoon but are delayed by the husband’s struggles with writing a song. While he works, his new wife daydreams about having a new house that, unsurprisingly, would have plenty of Bell Telephone products in it. How convenient.