Mystery Science Theatre 3000 – 20th Anniversary Ed

Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a cult hit during the late 80s and it enjoyed a successful run for over a decade clocking in an impressive 198 episodes on Comedy Central and the Sci Fi Channel as well as a feature film. The shows premise concerned itself with a man trapped on a satellite in space who is forced to watch “bad” B-Movies with his two robot companions. The trio are shown as silhouettes at the bottom of the screen and give a running commentary that takes the piss out of some of the more atrocious flicks to be committed to celluloid. Beyond Entertainment’s 4 disc 20th anniversary set brings us four episodes of the show First Spaceship On Venus, Laserblast, Werewolf, Future War and includes a documentary chronicling the history MST3K and it’s impact on popular culture.

The set opens with First Spaceship on Venus which was excruciatingly boring and the crew’s jokes weren’t much better. I was seriously wondering what I’d got myself in for signing on to review this set. I think they could’ve stopped their search for the worst movie ever right here. An awful start to the set which thankfully got better.

Next up in the set we have Laserblast a 1980 Charles Band produced (the very mention of his name will tell you how huge the budget was on this one) sci-fi film about a teenager called Billy (Kim Milford) who stumbles upon an alien weapon in the desert. The weapon’s radiation mutates the teen turning him into a violent maniac intent on taking revenge of those who have made his life difficult. The aliens who left the weapon behind are soon on the trail of Billy and his new toy. The MST3K crew’s humor improved on this disc and there’s some funny calls especially at the expense of the “Cracker Stoners” that make up the flick’s cast. Laserblast featured some pretty cool stop motion work (his debut I believe) from David Allen a protégé of Ray Harryhausen who went onto work on the effects in The Gate and Freaked. Mr geeky himself Eddie Deezen makes an appearance a long with Roddy McDowall and Dennis Burkley.

I dug this one a lot as I’m a big fan of Charles Band/Full Moon’s early features. They’re great mindless entertainment and despite their shortcomings a bunch of these films are really overlooked gems of 80s sci-fi and miles ahead of their shoddy horror output of 90s. Who hasn’t want to deal to the people who’ve pissed you off with a kickass laser cannon?! Great hilariously bad fun that was my favorite film of the set.

The werewolf subgenre has brought us some masterpieces of horror cinema notably The Wolfman, American Werewolf In London, Ginger Snaps and Silver Bullet. Werewolf however sits in the gutter with cinematic turds like Howling III and American Werewolf In Paris. An archaeological dig uncovers a werewolf skeleton which scratches one of the crew and he makes the change from man into wolf. The werewolf eventually returns to the archeologist’s camp but is killed by silver bullets. The foreman of the group Yuri (Jorge Rivero) uses the werewolf skeleton to hatch a evil plan of revenge on the group after he is fired for his heavy handed advances on Natalie (Adrianna Miles). The nonsensical plotline poor editing (wait for the car crash scene that will have you shaking your head) and average effects work really make this a stinker that the crew’s commentary shows no mercy to. Richard Lynch is always good value which was one of the films saving graces for me and the appearance of Joe Estevez (Charlie & Emilo’s uncle) was amusing especially when the crew really let him have it for being a washed up never will be “Can I still be in the movie?, Got a spare part anywhere?”.

Future War rounds off the set and is an epic of bad sets, fake looking robots, dinosaurs and showcases the exceptional acting prowess of kickboxer Daniel Bernhardt. I’ve become quite the fan of these sort of films over the last year or so and found it a pretty enjoyable Terminator knockoff. There’s some epic mullets on parade in this one and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many empty cardboard boxes used as props in my life. The fight scene involving Bernhardt throwing them at villains with sounds of broken glass as they strike is pure gold.

The set could’ve done with versions of the film without the MST3K crew’s take on them because they are just as enjoyable minus their presence if not more so when the jokes fall painfully flat. However there’s a good mix of episodes ranging from old school sci-fi to later era trashfests which shows the wide variety of films that the crew of the Satellite of Love ridiculed during their existence.

The humor in the set may not be to everyone’s taste but MST3K is an interesting enough distraction and is a great introduction for those uninitiated with the series or B-Movies in general not to mention trip down memory land for those who remember the series from it’s first run on television.

Extras

  • 20 Year History of MST3K (in 3 parts)
  • 2008 Comic-Con International Reunion Panel
  • Original Trailers

Mystery Science Theatre 3000 – 20th Anniversary Ed is available on DVD from Beyond Home Entertainment.

Evil Bong

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If you’re anything like me the sight of a chainsaw wielding Tommy Chong on the cover of a DVD about a killer bong just screams out WATCH ME! Shit sounds great right?

Evil Bong is Full Moon delving into the stoner/college kid comedy. It’s a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously just like the viewer shouldn’t.

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Isle of the Damned

IsleDamnedI’ve found the Horror/Comedy subgenre quite lacking over the past few years as most of the output has been cookie cutter Army of Darkness and Shaun of the Dead clones. In all honesty I wasn’t expecting much from Isle of the Damned, but another tired retread in the similar vein thankfully that wasn’t the case.

Isle of the Damned is a breath of fresh air to the subgenre and easily the best film of its type since Bad Taste and Body Melt. Mark Leake’s script is a well-crafted homage to the notorious Italian cannibal flicks of the early ‘80s that is a hilarious ride filled with twisted humour, splatter and un-PC imagery.

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The Definitive Document of the Dead

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Before the event of DVDs there were very few documentaries of the making of films especially when it came to cult and horror cinema. Occasionally there would be a promotional behind-the-scenes look for the major studio blockbusters screened on TV but nothing compared to the insight and analysis we have come to expect now. Document Of The Dead and Fangoria’s feature on Tom Savini Scream Greats Vol 1 have always held a special place for me as they were my first glimpse into what went on behind the scenes of some of my favourite horror flicks. I’ve always liked how they were shot in the thick of it all and are a great document of the time without the benefit of hindsight.

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Dolla Morte

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My mind is constantly in the gutter and I’m usually chuckling away at shit I probably shouldn’t be, so reading the description of Bill Zebub’s Dolla Morte I was immediately drawn to it. I’ve always enjoyed humour that a lot of people out there find deeply offensive or un-PC. Lowbrow gross out toilet humour just appeals to me. You can take your sophisticated comedy and fuck off for all I care. Gimme some Andrew Dice Clay or throw on Freddy Got Fingered and I’m happy. Dolla Morte has enough of this style of humour to give your average moral majority tight-ass a conniption fit. I’d love to see the look on their faces if they were to witness the scene in this film where Osama Bin Laden castrates The Pope. That forehead vein would no doubt be throbbing like crazy and they’d be off to the cupboard to pull out their trusty “Ban Everything” protest placard. Continue reading

Mark of the Devil

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Filmed in Austria and starring a young Udo Kier and an old Herbert Lom as the apprentice and master witch hunters, Christian and Lord Cumberland respectively, this trashy knock off of Witch Finder General kicks off with a wagonful of nuns being raped and slaughtered so you just know it’s going to be a classy historical epic from here on in. Continue reading

Night of the Tentacles

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Our story starts with Dave (Brandon Salkil) a lonely artist living in an apartment block he rarely leaves whose life seems to revolve around walking his dog, listening to his next apartment neighbours have sex and beating off to the sounds of his downstairs neighbour Esther jilling off. It all changes though when Dave has a heart attack while jacking off on his floor listening to Esther. He survives the heart attack but knows now that life is precarious so when the Devil shows up to offer him a new heart, well of course he takes the chance and signs on the dotted line. His new heart lives in a box and needs to be “cared for.” Dave soon finds out what that means – his heart needs food, live food and that’s where his neighbours come into the picture. Soon enough we get blood, spew, tentacles going in and out of orifices and Salkil channeling Jim Carrey even better than Carrey himself can do it these days. There’s also the burgeoning romance between Dave and Esther and some great dialogue ‘tween Dave and Belial who keeps checking in to remind Dave of his obligations. Continue reading

A Field in England

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It is the 17th century, and the English Civil War rages on with all the grime and viciousness peculiar to civil wars. The film opens with a cleric named Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith) hiding under a bush and praying to God to spare him. When his pursuer is killed, Whitehead takes the opportunity to flee from the battle and takes up with two other deserters – the simple Friend (Richard Glover) and the more pragmatic Jacob (Peter Ferdinando). Whitehead’s mission was to reclaim some stolen property belonging to his master, but this is rapidly forgotten as the three go looking for an alehouse. They are joined by another runaway soldier, Cutler (Ryan Pope) who claims to know the location of an alehouse, and offers them a meal of mushroom stew. All but Whitehead partake, and it becomes rapidly clear that the mushrooms were not of the ordinary sort. Cutler, it transpires, is working for an Irish alchemist and necromancer named O’Neill (Michael Smiley) who is an ex-fellow-student of Whitehead’s and intends to use the stupefied men as slave labour, uncovering a treasure he believes is buried in the titular field. Continue reading

Hatchet

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Ostensibly another in a ridiculously long line of slasher films Hatchet does however possesses a sharp sense of humour, great special fx and some genuine scares.

The gore-filled pre-credit sequence featuring Robert (“have-scenery-WILL-chew”) Englund sets the scene for the titular Hatchet and, like most slasher films, 5 minutes is all you need to discern his raison d’être. He exists to kill, nastily. Continue reading

Bloodsucking Nazi Zombies

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Bloodsucking Nazi Zombies aka The Treasure of the Living Dead is a lurid 1981 exercise in tedium from the demented zoom lens of schlockmeister Jess Franco. Utilizing a great title and typically deceptive ad campaign Franco spins his usual incompetent but, at times, fun fare.

The film opens with two actresses (fresh from the “Tracy Adams School of Acting and Hair Perms”) stumbling along through the desert (I have no idea why) and coming across various Nazi war artifacts and relics before being dispatched by the titular zombies. After this promising start it’s pretty much all downhill, with Franco’s foot planted well and truly on the accelerator. Continue reading