Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection Volume 5 review by Mike Long

Some of the greatest ideas are also the simplest. (This can often be infuriating to those who put a great deal of thought into an idea.) Think of the number of times that you've been in a movie theater and you've someone talk back to the screen. Or, maybe you were guilty of doing this yourself. The creative geniuses behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 were clearly aware of this almost primal behavior and crafted an entire TV show around it, and the rest is history. Now, Rhino Home Video brings us the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection Volume 5 which collects four episodes of this classic series.

(In the unlikely case that you are reading this, but aren't familiar with Mystery Science Theater 3000, here's a brief primer. (In the later episodes) Mike (Michael Nelson) is trapped aboard a spaceship called "The Satellite of Love", along with four robots; Crow T. Robot (voiced by Bill Corbett), Tom Servo (voiced by Kevin Murphy), Gypsy (Patrick Brantseg), and Cambot. Mike, along with Crow and Tom, is forced to watch bad movies by Pearl Forrester (Mary Jo Pehl), a power-hungry villain. When the Mike and the robots aren't watching movies, they are usually involved in making hare-brained inventions. Despite this "plot", the real point of the show is making fun of bad movies.)

The first entry is Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues (Original airate: 5/9/99). Having grown up in the south, I can remember when The Legend of Boggy Creek played at local drive-ins, but I didn't know there was a sequel. In this 1985 stinker, writer/director/actor Charles B. Pierce stars as a professor from the University of Arkansas who is called in to investigate a sighting of the Boggy Creek creature, or Bigfoot as we would call him. For some reason, he takes along his real-life son and two whiny women. The result is an exercise in tedium as the foursome "looks" for Bigfoot by sitting in a camper, while Pierce spins many nonsensical folk tales about the monster. Mike and the robots have a great time tearing apart this movie and are especially by Pierce's tight shorts and his son's habit of taking off his shirt. A great episode.

Next up is Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders (Original airdate: 9/12/99) MST3K has been known to show some weird movies, but this is a true oddity. Ernest Borgnine stars as a retired TV writer who decides to tell his grandson some scary stories during a thunderstorm. The stories are about Merlin the Wizard (George Milan), who travels to the present to open a curio shop in a Northern California town. (?) From there, we get two Twilight Zone-esque stories -- one in which a greedy man attempts to harness Merlin's magic, only to have it backfire, and the second, where a cymbal-clapping monkey spells doom for those who hear it. (Wasn't this in the Stephen King collection "Skeleton Crew"?) So, we have a movie with not one, but two wrap-around stories? The oddest thing about this movie is the sadistic tone of the stories which Borgnine's character is telling his grandson. This fact, along with the shoddy special effects gives our crew a lot of material to make fun of.

The third film is called Time Chasers (Original airdate: 11/22/97). The beauty of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is that they can make fun of anything. However, the movie has to have some kind of substance for Mike and the robots to work with. Time Chasers is one of those films that's so bad it's difficult to make fun of. Nick (Matthew Bruch) has invented a time machine, which he's installed on his crappy private plane. Thinking that he's invented something that can help mankind, he sells the idea to a big corporation, who, of course, turn around and use it for evil. So, Nick must now jaunt through time to save humanity. A lame hero, a lame heroine (check Tom's comments about her clothes), incredibly lame special effects, and lame acting result in a film which is too bad for our own good. When the future is represented by the foyer of an office building, you know you're in trouble. This episode does have some fun moments, but honestly, there's not much the guys can say about this movie that we aren't already thinking.

Our last entry is The Touch of Satan (Original airdate: 7/11/98). The Touch of Satan is one of those weird early '70s devil-themed horror movies. Jodie (Michael Berry) is cruising through the countryside when he decides to stop at a farmhouse. This is a mistake, as he soon learns that the young woman who lives in the house is a witch and that a murderous old woman inhabits the house as well. In the grand scheme of things, The Touch of Satan is just as bad a film as Time Chasers, but the movie is filled with such odd characters and occurrences that the MST3K crew have no trouble spoofing it. This is one of the better episodes from the last few years of the show and who can forget "That's where the fish live."?

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection Volume 5 comes to DVD courtesy of Rhino Home Video. The shows are all presented in their original 4:3 aspect ratio. The intro and commercial break segments all look fine, as they were shot on high-end video. These scenes show no defects, but there is some slight video noise at times. As for the movies themselves, they often show defects, but this is part of the charm of the show, as they make no efforts to clean up the movies. The episodes sport digital stereo audio tracks, but the bulk of the sound comes from the center channel. The only time that we get any true stereo sound is during the trip down the "movie tunnel". The set contains 4 DVDs and each episode is relegated to a single DVD.

The set contains a few extras. Michael J. Nelson provides brief introductions to each film, and explains how the MST3K approached the movie and shares his fondest memories from each film. Disc 2 contains a 29-minute interview with Nelson and Kevin Murphy. This will be a delight to hardcore fans, as the duo talks about the origins of the show and gives detailed info on how an episode is created. They also comment on how the films were chosen and the devotion of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans. The only other extra is the original trailer for The Touch of Satan. Unfortunately, the box for this set doesn't offer any special gimmicks, as with the boxes in the past.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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