After MST3K the movie, which I attended gleefully with a group of friends, the show was dropped from Comedy Central’s lineup. At some point it moved on to the (properly named) Sci-Fi Channel, but by then, I’d moved on to other things. It had been a great run, one I remember fondly to this day, but all good things must come to an end.
So you can understand the surprise and delight I felt when I received MST3K Vol 25 on DVD to review! The 4-pack set, release date 12/4/12, includes such cinematic stinkers as Operation Kid Brother (aka Operation Double 007), Kitten with a Whip, Revenge of the Creature and Robot Holocaust. In addition to the 4 movies there are 4 mini-poster parodies by Steve Vance featuring the bots as characters from their respective films and handful of extra features.
The included episodes are picks from one end of MST history to the other. Two episodes date from the classic era when the show was at its best on Comedy Central. Operation Kid Brother is a classic from the end of the Joel Hodgson era. Kitten with a Whip is an early episode featuring Mike Nelson as the front man. The other two inclusions are episodes I never saw in their original runs. You have Revenge of the Creature the season 8 opener after the transfer to Sci-Fi Channel. Finally, here is Robot Holocaust, one of the original episodes featured on KTMA in Minneapolis before the series was picked up by Comedy Central.
Episode 508 – Operation Kid Brother
Easily the best of the bunch, Operation Kid Brother is so named because Sean Connery’s younger brother, Nick, plays the lead role of Dr. Nick Connery. I guess this is sort of akin to everyone calling Jackie Chan “Jackie” in most of his films. The inclusion of Nick Connery, who was offered to EON as a Bond option after Sean called it quits, is really the only reason this was ever made. If you’re a Bond fan (or a fan of parodies like the original Casino Royale) you’ll probably enjoy this farce on film.
Joel Hodgson, in the DVD introduction, describes this episode as part of his best season aboard the Satellite of Love, when everything went smoothly – the set, the cast, the jokes. This episode stands out among the other entries in this set. The film is perfect for riffing and everything is just as I remember from back in the day.
The best entries into the MST canon were always those rare films with just the right amount of “badness” – films so bad they’re good! It’s hard to strike the right balance between bad-bad and bad-good. This is one of those movies and therefore a great episode.
Episode 615 – Kitten with a Whip
My second favorite of the set is Kitten with a Whip, an over the top stinker starring Ann-Margret. A good bit of fun, the movie features a politician who gets stuck with a trouble teen bent on making his life Hell for no apparent reason. Most of the jokes run toward her ridiculous performance and co-star John Forsythe’s phoning-it-in hack job.
To me, this is the epitome of classic MST3K. Joel’s departure from the show mid-5th season was a bit abrupt, but Mike Nelson had been a regular crew member on the show for years, playing such memorable “guests” as Torgo and Gamera, so fans were welcoming of his presence and the change at the helm went off without a hitch. To this day when I think MST, I think primarily of the Mike years. The disc includes an introduction by Mike.
Episode 801 – Revenge of the Creature
The first episode of season 8 (first season on Sci-Fi Channel) is Revenge of the Creature, a pointless sequel to Universal’s horror classic Creature from the Black Lagoon. The entire affair is about as B-movie as you can get, with wooden performances and nothing really to say about anything. This is the ultimate cashing in for a quick buck flick.
The introduction and between commercial sketches here are all pretty good. It’s odd to see MST3K with no Dr. Forrester. I didn’t warm to Forrester’s mom as the show’s new force of evil, but the new setup featuring the Planet of the Apes future was good for a few laughs. Extras include an introduction by Mike Nelson. Then there’s “Jack Arnold at Universal, which seems to be an advertisement for Universal films. I tried scanning through it but the disc wouldn’t let me so I skipped it. Finally there’s a “Life after MST3K” segment about Bill Corbett (voice of Crow s8-10). His story after MST and moving on into Rifftraxx was somewhat interesting, but it’s not anything more than an 18 minute talking head piece.
Episode 110 – Robot Holocaust (with Commando Cody, part 9)
Wow, this was difficult to sit through. The movie itself is just horrendous. It’s akin to the classic Hardware Wars budget-wise, but someone somewhere decided this was a serious flick and not a farce. The acting (where you actually HAVE acting) is cringe-worthy. Some of the movie is shot against Manhattan’s skyline and while the city looks like it’s doing just fine it’s supposedly the apocalypse. Many of the sets appear to be some unfortunate school’s boiler room. And there are the “robots”. These aren’t Star Wars or even Black Hole-budget. We’re talking painted cardboard here. I wish you luck making it to the end of this one.
This episode from waaay back in MST history hails from the KTMA days. The sets were not yet what I recall from the show. The jokes aren’t as good. Joel’s persona seems a bit off. There’s not much to recommend here. The disc features an introduction by Joel Hodgson and a “Life After MST3K” segment following J. Elvis Weinstein. I don’t recall Weinstein’s character from the show and this 15 minute talking head feature about his future exploits and bitterness about his MST departure was uninteresting. If you recall his character fondly you might enjoy it.
In closing, this set was a fun throwback to my days as a MSTie. Two of the episodes are what many would call classics and make the set worth picking up. The current pre-order price is $49.99 not too bad at $12.50 per episode/film. If you’re a fan like me, who hasn’t seen the series in the last decade, pick this up. You’ll probably be as surprised as I was when I found I remembered most of the lyrics to the show’s opening theme!
Find out more on the Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXV collection here: