Mystery Science Theater 3000 Vol. XXIV
Cast - Joel Hodgson, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff
Country of Origin - USA
Discs - 4
MSRP - $64.99
Distributor - Shout Factory
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Series (4/5)
**Warning Standard MST3K INTRO **
I have been a fan of MST3K from the moment I first saw it on Comedy Central in the mid-90's. My friends and I were used to watching bad movies on shows like USA Up All Night, but never before had we seen a show that built itself around cheesy/bad movies. On top of that they made fun of these films like we did, only they were actually funny.
For those that may be out of the loop Mystery Science Theater 3000 basically follows the antics of a man (Joel in the early years, Mike in the later ones) who are trapped on the Satellite of Love by a couple of Mad Scientist, who subject them to cinematic experiences. Every week Joel or Mike get sent a movie, and their reactions are observed. Accompanying them on the satellite are a few robots that Joel created as not to be lonely in the depths of space. These robots are Cambot, Gypsy (included as an action figure with this set), Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot. While in the theater Tom and Crow sit to Joel or Mike's side, and together they proceed to riff on the movie as it plays.
The MST3K guys did this for 10 years, and over the years the humor evolved from sort of funny, but slow burn humor during it's initial seasons on Minneapolis public access station KTMA, and on Comedy Central, to a much faster paced with a greater variety of topical humor in the later Comedy Central and Sci-Fi channel years. Interspersed throughout the episodes are host segments which feature Joel and Mike, the robots, and their captors, and are essentially short comedy sketches that allow the cast to shine outside of the theater, and even add some minor character development and plot to the whole proceedings.
We are not up to Mystery Science Theater 3000 Vol. 24, that does not include single disc releases. I believe that this is the 10th boxed set release of MST3K since Shout! Factory took over the MST-ified reigns from Rhino, and while I was happy with the work Rhino did in simply releasing the episodes Shout! has, and continues to go above and beyond in every conceivable way with these sets.
The disc kicks off with the only 2 Parter in MST3K's 10 season long run Fugitive Alien, and Star Force: Fugitive Alien 2. In the wake of Star Wars success in the late 70's, sci-fi , of course, became quite trendy again for a time, and it seems all around the world new shows and movies were appearing trying to get a piece of that Jedi Pie. In comes this Japanese oddity, which in actuality is a TV Series edited together into 2 feature films by bad movie wunderkind Sandy Frank.
I hope you don't watch these for the plot, because it doesn't exist. There is so little logic in these films, it makes the Castle of Fu Manchu look like a tightly plotted Hitchcockian thriller. And that is why it made great MST3K fodder. There is so little logic in this weird little ditty that Joel and the 'Bots have just a field day with the 2 of these. You actually sort of pity them when to be continued comes up at the end.
We then have the third and final Russo-Finish film the Sword and the Dragon. It was adapted from a Medieval epic poem. It involves a knight taking on an epic (see I used it again) faction of barbarians to prove that this is his Kingdom. The film is one of many Russian films King of the B's Roger Corman bought up in the 60's, and edited for English release. I missed the Russo-Finnish films on original broadcast, but these have been some of the highlights on recent MST3K releases for me, as they make great fodder for Mike and the 'Bots.
Finally, we have what could be considered a historic MST3K episode with Samson Vs. The Vampire Women. This is one of those wonderfully crazy Mexican Wrestling films that are fun to watch even without an MST3K soundtrack, however, with it is a total blast. It involves the wrestler Samson, well FIGHTING vampires! The film itself makes for great MST3K fodder, of course, the historic aspect comes from the host segments as this is the episode where TV's Frank (Frank Conniff) bites the big one, and goes to Second Banana Heaven.
Overall, Shout is continuing it's tradition of awesome MST3K releases with volume 24. In this set you get an awesome and hilarious Japanese 2-Parter, a Mexican Wrestling film (and FRANK DIES), and a Russian-Finnish fantasy epic! Basically, a trip around the Earth with the Satellite of Love!
Shout! Factory have presented Mystery Science Theater 3000 Vol. XXIV in it's original 1:33:1 aspect ratio. If you have been keeping up with the sets Shout! has been releasing the quality is consistent with the lot of them.
The movies vary in quality based on the prints that were supplied to Best Brains, and the shows look themselves look quite good with excellent color, detail, and flesh tones. The audio is presented with a 2.0 Stereo Mix that is complete good for what is presented here the dialogue for the riffing never seems to overlap the movie, and everything seems to be mixed well.
Shout! Factory have put together a nice slate of extras for their release of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Vol. XXIV. Fugitive Alien has MST3K Hour Wraps, and a introduction to the film by Japanese Film Scholar August Ragone who goes into detail about the history of the Fugitive Alien series. Starforce: Fugitive Alien 2 has what is probably the most significant extra in the entire set "You Asked for It: Sandy Frank Speaks" An interview with the infamous B-Movie producer Sandy Frank! The Sword and the Dragon features 2 unreleased at present MST3K shorts "A Date with your Family," and "It Conquered the World." Samson Vs. The Vampire Women kicks off with K. Gordon Murray meets Santo which discusses the Mexican Wrestler Santo, and K. Gordon Murray's dealings with the series, specifically this film. We then have "Life After MST3K: Frank Conniff" Which is essentially an interview with TV's Frank himself discussing his career after the show. We also get the films theatrical trailer.
Shout! Factory have produced another great set in their now long running series of Mystery Science Theater 3000 box sets. The A/V is comparable to the rest, which is very good, but you cats don't buy these for the A/V. So just to be clear all 4 episodes are fantastic, and the extras are a lot of fun. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.