|Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Volume 9|
|Written by Dan Macintosh|
|Tuesday, 16 May 2006|
If you get off on the combination of bad movies and good comedy, “Mystery Science Theater 3000” is a concept that was created with you in mind. This ninth volume of the TV program is a four-DVD set, which includes a quartet of films that are so stupid they’re entertaining.
For those new to MST3K, this program was one where the hosts, made up of both humans and robots, are supposedly trapped in an experiment on a distant planet where they’re forced to watch terrible movies; they talk over the soundtracks and make jokes about them the way we once did with educational films back in school. Only in reality they got paid for it.
It’s bad enough when a movie is poorly designed, but it makes matters even worse when the title of a work has nothing at all to do with the film itself. Yet such is the case with “Women of the Prehistoric Planet.” This first kitschy disc of the set is actually a sci-fi story instead a prehistoric one. So if you’re hoping to see multiple scenes of cavewomen and Flintstone lookalikes, you’re out of luck here. It is the sort of B-movie sci-fi that makes the cheesy “Lost in Space” show actually look smart and compelling. It’s nearly impossible to follow the plot, although I believe it has something to do with a woman returning to her planet of origin. The Mystery Science Theater gang has great glee skewering this cinematic mess. The movie’s best visual moment is when a big, yellow bubble object appears on screen. Presumably, it is some kind of a communication device on a spaceship. But to the MST3K folks, it looks more like one of those ‘70s Joe Namath popcorn poppers. There’s also a leading character who mumbles almost everything he says, so each time he speaks, the sound of mumbling from our cruel commentators can also be heard over the soundtrack.
This release also contains a brief intro with actress Irene Tsu, who plays the Linda character who returns to her home planet in the film. Why she would want to say a few serious words about a role she might advisably deny ever having played, however, is anybody’s guess. Returning to speak about this film must have been more arduous than Linda making it back to her planet in the story.
MST3K was a popular program, but the films the show took on were not always science fiction stories, or even horror flicks. “Wild Rebels,” for instance, is a biker gang movie. These bikers in the story go by the name “Satan’s Angels,” because Hell’s Angels was, well, already taken. That and true Hell’s Angels are also actually scary dudes, which is something these bumbling idiots certainly are not. This gang hooks up with a frustrated car racer because they need a driver to assist with their various small-scale robberies. Apparently, if you can drive at high speeds around a racetrack, it somehow qualifies you to dart along city streets as the getaway man for crimes. A few of this film’s best moments are whenever the race car driver dude picks up his acoustic guitar and sings. Instead of just letting the man accompany himself on his six-string, these filmmakers decided to add background music to the soundtrack as well. The MST3K guys can’t help but wonder if nature’s little creatures are hiding and playing along at one point, in a scene where driver boy is out in the woods singing.
If you’ve seen Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood,” you’ll already know a little about the director of “Sinister Urge.” Wood directed this horrid film, which is presumably intended to be a warning against pornography. Porn is referred to as smut here, and if this film is indeed true to the way life was back then, they sure don’t make porn like they used to. That’s because whenever there are scenes where “smut” pictures are being taken, the women in them are almost fully clothed. So much so, in fact, today’s bikini sunbathers are XXX in comparison. The tone of the film is comparable to that unintentionally funny anti-drug film, “Reefer Madness,” as these so-called “smut” pictures are treated like the addictive drugs they surely are not. There are even scenes showing distributors pushing their pictures on helpless school kids. The thin plot of the film involves a serial killer who works “in the business,” and also kills “smut” models. To catch him, the police set up a sting operation with a male officer dressed as a female cop. Even though he/she is the ugliest woman in the world, our killer can’t help but go after him/her.
The film is introduced by Conrad Brooks, who plays the character Connie. But once again, why any actor would even admit to having appeared in such a dog is beyond logic.
“The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies” is such a convoluted title, you’d swear its creators were just having fun with the horror genre when they named it. But that’s not the case. This last film is set in a carnival atmosphere, where burlesque dancers entertain fairgoers and also turn some into zombies. In one hilarious moment, this all-white dance troupe dresses as African natives and performs tribal moves for the popcorn and cotton candy-eating throng. This incongruous choice of performers and repertoire doesn’t get past the MST3K folks, however. Our commentators wonder what this National Geographic moment has to do with anything. This bizarre scene has likely never happened at any carnival, anywhere, and should never have been added into a film. There’s another scene where a future zombie gets hypnotized by a dancer using one of those black and white spiral thingies. It is here that the crew adds in all their best “Twilight Zone” jokes while the spiral spins.
This may come sound like a stretch, but MST3K many times reminds me of “Beavis & Butthead.” Of course, B&B are animated dopes who sit around all day long and watch rock videos, at least when they’re not out and about getting into trouble. But if you listen closely between their jokes, you’ll pick up on some surprisingly astute music criticism. They may exemplify the lowest common denominator, comedy-wise, but when they say songs truly suck, for instance, they’re usually right. And when they exclaim something’s cool, it often is. Similarly, both the humans and the robots in this MST3K cast insightfully notice whenever actors are overacting or when the direction is just plain stupid and senseless. In other words, they know what they’re talking about when it comes to movie criticism.
You get the impression that behind all the jokes and pop culture references, the MST3K cast and writing staff are comprised of true movie fans. At the same time, there’s something particularly joyous about watching a film that is so bad it’s good. It’s as if you’re glad the director was taking a nap while directing it, or that the writer was scribbling nonsense when he created the dialogue. Such bad art is what leads to laugh-out-loud comedy, ya know.
All of these four movies are old, by the way. But wouldn’t it be fun to hear what these guys have to say about some contemporary films, too? I’d simply kill to hear their commentary on Mariah Carey’s “Glitter,” for example
Sadly, “Mystery Science Theater 3000” is in hiatus right now. Let’s hope somebody coaxes its makers back into action, because the film business is taken too seriously these days. It’s as if critics are afraid to bite the hand that feeds them. But even if MST3K never returns to action again, please still grab this four-DVD set and join in on the fun. You won’t regret it.