Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection Volume 6 (2004)
Blessed be the insane minds of Best Brains, Inc., the creators of "Mystery Science Theater 3000." Taking a relatively simple concept - making fun of bad movies - and turning it into a mass distributed (well, cable-televised) artform, these Midwestern madpeople have raised a rallying cry against ridiculous editing, cardboard monsters, and the forces of 1950s Roger Corman cinema.
Rhino Home Video has been steadily releasing episodes in four pack DVD sets. Volume 6 is an ode to Joel Hodgson, the creator and original host of the show. Hodgson and his two robot (read: puppet) compatriots, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, watch terrible movies beamed up to them by mad scientists bent on taking over the world. Three of the discs are full-fledged episodes and a fourth is a collection of shorts.
Special features are non-existent (Volume 1 featured uncut non-MST'd versions of the films, but this practice wasn't continued in future releases). The audio and video are about as good as you'd expect for a series that had a seasonal budget of less than what you paid for the television to watch it on.
Disc 1 - Attack of the Giant Leeches
Arguably the best of the full episodes in the set, Attack of the Giant Leeches is a Roger Corman-produced black & white venture set in the swamps of Your Average Southern Redneck Locality. Seems the good backwoods kin done run into a mite bit of a problem with the neighbors up and disappearin' into the swamp. Damndest thing, though - they turn right up again with sucker wounds the size of your Aunt Sadie's caboose. Now, don't that just take the spit?
It sure takes something. About as bad as a Corman film can get, Attack of the Giant Leeches is prime fodder for Joel and his partners-in-wisecrack (as is the Ray "Crash" Corrigan short that precedes it). A great deal of the heckles center on the outrageous Southern stereotypes, but there's a few good jabs at the ridiculous leech costumes and the ingenue's obsessive need to keep the coffee cups filled.
Disc 2 - Gunslinger
As if Corman-produced wasn't enough, Volume 6 also gives us the Corman-directed Gunslinger (reportedly the only one of his films to go over schedule). The town marshall has been gunned down, and now his widow (Beverly Garland) is strappin' on the badge and dealin' out the justice. She's up against the catty saloon owner (Allison Hayes) and a man in black (John Ireland) who could be on either side.
Unfortunately for Joel and the bon mot lovin' bots, the movie is competently made (except for an almost surreal sense of town planning that allows a person to walk right through the side of a building). The cracks mostly center on the ridiculously rugged Ireland and the eye-rolling co-dependent performance of Jonathan Haze. Not a bad episode, but certainly not a great one.
Disc 3 - "Mr. B's Lost Shorts"
A "bootleg" collection of shorts from the early days, this is the best disc in the set. The first one is the best (and my favorite "Mystery Science Theater 3000" segment ever), chronicles a manic Peter Pan-esque woman named "Mr. B Natural" as she guides/corrupts a young boy and his desire to be popular and musical (I don't know about you, but in my high school, those were mutually exclusive). It's one of those shorts that would be hilarious without the commentary, but with it? My sides hurt every single time.
The other shorts are all fine (although "X Marks the Spot" drags a bit and the included "Hired Part 1" isn't nearly as funny as the absent "Hired Part 2"). The zings rat-a-tat at the screen - MST3K's style lends itself to being somewhat hit and miss, but this is the most consistently on target of the four discs.
Disc 4 - Teenagers from Outer Space
The title and generally execution of the film brings to mind the image of a completely wooden alien drawling "You are tearing me apart," in monotone. Drone-like aliens want to breed their giant mutant crabs on planet Earth, but one badass, facially immobile rebel just wants to be an individual and learn to love. Maybe he'll get his chance if his compatriots (who are oh so fond of blasting the flesh off of... anything) don't get to him first...
It should be a lot funnier than it is, but this is just one of those off-nights for the gang. They're grasping for any joke they can find. It's a rare occasion that the host segments are funnier than the film itself, but this is one of those times. Still, not a terrible episode - they rarely are.
A good cross-section of the Joel Era, Mystery Science Theater 3000 Vol. 6 is a good buy for fans of the series and those just starting in on the scripted mockery experience. While the third disc alone is worth the price of admission, Volumes 1 and 2 provide a more well-rounded MST3K experience, but all of the sets are recommended.