Despite being off the air for over a decade, Mystery Science Theater 3000 retains a rabid cult following. It is these fans that love this collection the most, but anyone with a sense of humor worth a damn can find something to laugh at as Crow T. Robot, Tom Servo, and either Joel Robinson or Mike Nelson sarcastically rip on otherwise non-entertaining movies.
Seeing as how this is the 17th Volume of the show to make it to DVD, you might think that this collection would be mostly made up of B-grade material, but you’d be wrong. The four cinematic masterpieces run through the wringer in this set are: The Crawling Eye, The Beatniks, The Final Sacrifice, and Blood Waters of Dr. Z. More after the jump:
The Crawling Eye is, unsurprisingly, about gigantic mutant eyes that crawl, thus making it the most literal title in the collection. I have to say, at first I was not really impressed with this episode. It doesn’t really get good until the second act when a group of isolated survivors discover that the giant, fog-covered, tentacled menace is responsible for a rash of mountain climber beheadings. Also, there’s a psychic girl involved who shares some kind of mystical connection with the victims of the crawling eyes. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, the eyes are aliens, but you probably guessed that by now. Like so many other movie monsters, the eyes are seemingly invincible. They can only be bested by the power of love and the human spirit. And fire. In the form of Molotov cocktails. The whole movie ends in a climactic battle in and around a mountaintop observatory turned bunker.
Miniature models are set on fire, a doll gets chokeslammed by a tentacle, all while Joel and the robots jam as many eye-related puns as they can into the last fifteen minutes of the movie.
The Beatniks was my least favorite of the episodes, but that’s not to say that it was bad. The Beatniks tells the harrowing story of a gang of 1950s rebels when the leader of their gang, Eddie Crane, is discovered by a big time Hollywood talent agent while singing in a malt shop. Eddie is thrust into the spotlight and soon finds himself torn between his allegiance to his friends and the superstar lifestyle. The characters involved act with no subtlety whatsoever, often having emotional breakdowns, just to recover moments later. Eddie’s also involved in a love triangle between fugly female gang member and fugly secretary of the talent agency. Eddie’s right hand man can’t handle being part of Eddie’s posse, so he murders a couple of people to vent. Joel and company get a few good jabs in, but some of the jokes just sound too forced and I feel like there were opportunities for jokes that were never made. Though the commentary was a little weak, I enjoy nothing more than seeing Tom Servo dressed in a funny outfit during one of MST3K‘s bumpers and this episode has a good one as we see the rise and fall of Tom Servo’s career in pop music.
The Final Sacrifice ranks right up there with Manos: The Hands of Fate as one of the greatest MST3K episodes that I’ve ever seen. Mike, Servo, and Crow are absolutely relentless in their skewering of the annoying young hero, Troy. They bash the legions of villainous, sleeveless, hooded minions and their way-too-deep-voiced cult leader. But the highlight of this episode is undoubtedly the character of Zap Rowsdower. No, seriously, that’s his name. Surely, no man could possibly live up to the amount of awesome that a name like Zap Rowsdower suggests, right? I’m not exaggerating when I say that Rowsdower is the greatest Canadian hero. If Canada ever gets off their primitive economic system of trading beaver pelts and hockey pucks and decides to print real money, Zap Rowsdower’s face should be on it.
Wearing more denim than should be allowed, Rowsdower single-handedly dismantles the evil cult that killed his young companion’s father. Adding another twist to the already convoluted plotline, we’re told that Rowsdower was once a member of the very cult that now seeks to kill him. It’s a classic Shakespearean tale of betrayal, redemption, mullets and rampant alcohol abuse. This is one of those select few movies that is hilariously bad on its own. Mike and the robots only supplement the comedy that’s already there. Like I mentioned before, seeing Tom Servo dressed up in a funny costume makes me laugh for an inordinate amount of time and in this episode, he dons a full Mountie uniform to defend Canada’s honor and wears a mullet as a result of a hockey hair outbreak. This is simply a fantastic episode.
Last but not least, Blood Waters of Dr. Z tells the incredibly stupid tale of one nerdy marine biologist’s attempt to take over the world with an army of land-walking catfish. Or maybe by transforming people into half-fish, half-human creations. His actual plan is never made clear, but the fact remains, he must be stopped! Step one in his poorly thought-out strategy is to turn himself into a fish monster which looks like a mix between an antique vacuum cleaner and the Swamp Thing. He attacks some fishermen, and a woman who camps alone. A counter-force of three dedicated police officers are trusted with the task of bringing down fish-man. The terrible special effects and blimp-like nature of the fish-man’s swimming are amazing to behold.
In between watching the horror unfold onscreen, Crow and Servo argue the merits of gratuitous nudity to Mike. It’s another great episode.
While the show itself is fairly accessible to anyone willing to watch, the majority of the special features in this collection are geared more to the hardcore fans of the series. The Final Sacrifice is the only disc that doesn’t have an original trailer for the featured movie. Though, it does have a somewhat depressing interview with Bruce J. Mitchell, aka Zap Rowsdower. The Beatniks has the most to offer fans with a featurette entitled “The Main Event: Crow vs. Crow” which is a public interview with the two men who played Crow during the show’s run. The event is moderated by Ken Plume and gives some interesting insight to the behind-the-scenes aspect of MST3K but non-fans will probably not care very much for it. The set also comes with 5×7 copies of the graphic novel-style cover art of all of the episodes.