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Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXIV
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The cult comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000 has always welcomed immigrant films with open arms. One can almost imagine a Satellite of Liberty greeting the waves of foreign films seeking a more prosperous life in America. Its inscription might well read, Give me your tired plots, your poor acting, your muddled directors yearning to be schlock-free. It is in this spirit that Volume XXIV presents four of cinemas transplants from Russia, Italy and two from Japan, that simply didnt take. Thankfully, Joel, Mike and their band of robot brothers (Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot) alleviate their (and our) suffering by watching these movies with a joyously irreverent stream of higher consciousness. You will have in your hands a collection of passports to laughter. Consider them riffed and stamped by those tormented souls aboard the Satellite of Love. Titles include Fugitive Alien, Star Force: Fugitive Alien II, The Sword And The Dragon & Samson Vs. The Vampire Women.
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310- FUGITIVE ALIEN
This 1987 TV "movie" is actually a 1978 Japanese TV series called Star Wolf imported and modified for the US by Sandy Frank, which tells you it's got to be good in that special way that Mighty Jack and Time Of The Apes are "good". Seriously, they don't get much funnier than this. A brutal alien "Wolf Raider" named Ken stops another "Star Wolf" from killing a human child also named Ken and becomes a fugitive from his own villainous comrades and their planet Valnastar. Ken is reluctantly taken in by the crew of the Earth ship Bacchus III commanded by the puffy-jowled Captain Joe and together they defend the Earth from further Wolf Raider attacks. There is much conflict amongst Ken and his new human companions while they learn to trust each other. Unintentional comedy ensues with the usual overwrought and breathy Sandy Frank cheap dubbing combined with the cheap production values of the original Japanese show. Wolf Raider's have superhuman abilities, but otherwise look just like humans except for the silly long-haired wigs they wear on their raids. And in one memorable scene "they tried to kill him with a forklift", which is used as a premise for one fantastically funny song and host segment with Joel and the 'Bots. There's also a fun host segment based around Syd Field's Screenplay writing guide. This is a much beloved MSTie must-have episode you'll want to watch over and over again. It's MST3K at its absolute best.
318- STAR FORCE - FUGITIVE ALIEN II
The further adventures of Captain Joe, fugitive Star Wolf Ken and the rest of the crew of the Bacchus III is also compiled from a couple episodes of the aforementioned 1978 Japanese TV series. This time they have to destroy an alien super weapon and Ken must deal with his ex-girlfriend Rita who has been sent by the dictator of Valnastar (from which I took my reviewer name years ago!) to kill him. It's about as goofy as the first Fugitive Alien and the episode is about the same level of funny. If you couldn't get enough of Fugitive Alien the first time around (and I never can!) then this episode is for you. Host segments include a Fugitive Alien medley and the Captain Joe action figure.
617- THE SWORD AND THE DRAGON
This is another fantastic Russo-Finnish production with thousands of extras in massive battle scenes as well as fairly well done fantasy elements including an impressive looking dragon. Nevertheless, the dubbing and folk-tale fantasy elements make it pretty good fodder for a humorous MST3K take and like the other Russo-Finnish films used on the show it's enjoyable both for the fantastically beautiful and expensive movie and the silly fun that Mike and the 'Bots have with it. Hero of the film Ilya Murametz visits on the hexfield viewscreen. An enjoyable episode all around.
624- SAMSON VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN
Sadly, this episode bids farewell to Frank Conniff, but not before we're treated to a pretty amusing episode based around a 1962 black-and-white Mexican wrestling horror film starring the most popular and famous Mexican wrestler of his time, El Santo. El Santo is an early example of a professional wrestler becoming so popular that he got a deal to star in a series of feature films. Renamed "Samson" for this badly dubbed US release, our hero must battle a cult of villainous vampire women all while being careful to keep his mask on. This silly film is fairly low-budget and it shows while the cheap dubbing makes it seem even sillier if that's possible. One highlight of the episode is a host segment featuring a visit to Deep 13 by "Torgo The White" who wants to take TV's Frank to "second banana heaven". Not a great episode, but solid fun nonetheless.
Extra Features Include:
- MST3K Shorts: Snow Thrills & A Date With Your Family
- Introductions by Japanese cinema historian August Ragone
- You Asked For It: Sandy Frank Speaks!
- MST Hour Wraps
- Life After MST3K: Frank Conniff
- Lucha Gringo: K. Gordon Murray Meets Santo
- And as usual, four exclusive Mini-Posters by artist Steve Vance.
Everything is perfect in this episode. The movie is fun to watch, the sketches are inspired, and the riffs are non-stop and hilarious. The Mads on their "date" with Bridget Jones Nelson and Mary Jo Pehl is great. The Ingmar Bergman parody is a prime example of why MST3K is the greatest sketch comedy TV program ever made. Everyone involved with the show was extremely talented and incredibly underrated and mostly ignored by mainstream Hollywood and the rest of the mainstream media (most likely because they operated outside the belly of the beast, pulled no punches, and skewered anyone and everyone including precious snowflake celebrities).
This is a fun set all around, and includes TV's Frank's farewell episode, "Samson vs. the Vampire Women", which is a masked Mexican wrestling (Lucha Libre) movie starring Santo and a bunch of hot vampire women. How can you go wrong?
Samson vs. The Vampire Women - actually, not that bad for a movie about a Mexican wrestler and terribad vampires. Frank's departure didn't stand out to me, surprisingly. I guess I expected more.
The Sword and the Dragon is a delightful movie - love those Russo-Finnish epics.
Special features are, typical of Shout! Factory, all very fun, including another introduction to the Japanese material from August Ragone, a surprising little documentary interview with none other than Sandy Frank himself, another documentary about El Santo and the Santo films' relationship with film importer K. Gordon Murray, some always-hilarious MST Hour wraps (though Mike sounded a little sick when playing Jack Perkins this time; maybe he had a cold?) and finally, apropos of nothing but much appreciated, two bonus MST3K shorts, including one riffed by Joel and one riffed by Mike. I believe at least one of them, "A Date with Your Family," was previously released on one of the early Rhino sets, but it's great to see it back in print via Shout! Factory.
All in all, this is a fantastic set, and I recommend it highly to any MSTie.
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