Mystery Science Theater 3000, Vol. XIV (Mad Monster / Manhunt in Space / Soultaker / Final Justice)
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(Feb 03, 2009)
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From 1988 to 1999, the crew of The Satellite of Love skewered bad movies and in the process made them masterworks of comedy. Now comes their awe-inspiring 14th collection of the most hilarious episodes from Mystery Science Theater 3000. Join Joel, Mike, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot as they supply their own playful brand of commentaries on some of the most misunderstood masterpieces of cinema : Mad Monster, Manhunt in Space, Soultaker, and Final Justice.
* Brand new interview with Soultaker star and mst3k favorite Joe Estevez
* Brand new interiew with Final Justice star Greydon Clark
* Mike, Tom and Crow on the espn show Cheap Seats Without Ron Parker
* Original Mad Monster trailer
* 4 limited-edition mini-posters
Aside from reminding audiences just how unique and hilarious Mystery Science Theater 3000 was, the comedy series' 20th anniversary in 2008 also kicked off a new round of DVD releases, the latest of which is compiled in Volume XIV. Longtime fans of the Peabody Award-winning show should be pleased to see that the set's four episodes are split evenly between original host and creator Joel Hodgson and his replacement, head writer Mike Nelson. Joel rides herd on one of the earliest MST3K episodes, Season 1's B&W chiller The Mad Monster, which also features writer J. Elvis Weinstein as both the voice of Tom Servo and Dr. Lawrence Erlich, assistant to Trace Beaulieu's Dr. Forrester. It's an enjoyable episode for hardcore fans and collectors, but nowhere near as polished as the work done by the original core lineup--Hodgson, Beaulieu as Crow and Kevin Murphy as Servo--in Season 4's Manhunt in Space, a grisly mash-up of episodes from the '50s TV sci-fi series Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. It's by no means a classic from the Hodgson era, but definitely contains its shares of laughs and even some quirky host segments (the movie prompts an amusing debate on the use of the word "space" as a modifier). The Mike Nelson episodes, produced after the show shifted over to The Sci-Fi Channel, are equally solid efforts. Soultaker undergoes a punishing barrage of riffs from Mike and the 'bots, and even features brief cameos from Hodgson and Frank Coniff as the much-loved TV's Frank. Final Justice puts Joe Don Baker--star of the MST3K favorite Mitchell--in the line of fire again for a mostly funny show that focuses largely on the star's beefy physique. Though none of the shows are high water marks for the series, you're likely to find more laughs and creativity here than on most of the sitcoms plaguing the airwaves, and as such, are worthwhile investments for veteran MiSTies and first time viewers alike. The four DVD set includes all four complete episodes, as well as several extras – a slightly smaller batch than the 20th Anniversary Edition set, and less historically important, but entertaining all the same. Soultaker star Joe Estevez and Final Justice director Greydon Clark (Black Shampoo) show what good sports they are about being drubbed by the show in brief interviews, while Mike and the 'bots reunite for an all-too-brief session of zingers on a 2005 excerpt from ESPN's Cheap Seats Without Ron Parker. A trailer for Mad Monster rounds out the set. -- Paul Gaita
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Top customer reviews
Vivian Schilling was 22 when she wrote the screenplay for and starred in Soultaker. She's a better actress than Sandra Bullock and I'd rather watch an entertaining 'bad" movie like Soultaker than watch a supposedly "good' movie like James Cameron's Avatar. Vivian Schilling is now a novelist and has gone on to do some interesting film projects.
The bonus interview with Joe Estevez reveals him to be an unpretentious, likable guy with a sense of humor about his career in b-movies. He is the only person from his famous family I'd actually enjoy meeting.
Manhunt in Space is lots of fun. The spaceship sets are like something from a high school play. The Mads and their beanbag pants are hilarious. The old black and white General Hospital short before the movie is interesting to watch from a historical perspective.
Mad Monster is an early MST3K experiment. J. Elvis Weinstein was the obvious weak link in the early episodes, possibly because he was still a teenager at the time. His Dr. Larry "Curly Howard impersonation" makes me cringe and his Tom Servo is lifeless and dull. Watching these early episodes really highlights how much comedy firepower Kevin Murphy and Frank Conniff brought to the show when they replaced Weinstein. The Mad Monster disc also has some annoying extras from other shows Shout Factory was trying to promote. I'm glad they stopped doing that on the later sets.
Now if only Vivian Schilling and Joe Don Baker would make a film together...
As for the episodes featured, I think they're all excellent. Granted, I'm a huge fan of the series and even enjoy the weakest of episodes. It's one of those series that even with cast changes and changes in voice actors, it still maintained its high level of quality and excellence. If you've never purchased any of the MST3K sets, I'd highly suggest making this collection one of your first choices, if not the first. Not just because it's sure to become very expensive once Amazon runs out of stock, but because of the fantastic episodes included in this collection.
Mad Monster, Show 103, is the third MST3K played on the Comedy Channel, before it was renamed Comedy Central, and also has a episode of Commando Cody And The Radar Men From The Moon. It is one of those I missed. MST3K was brand new and it took a few weeks before people started to turn on the TV every week to watch. Like most of the first films, Mad Monster is in Black and White, a bad sci-fi film about a scientist who finds out how to turn men into monsters. Well, in this case a werewolf. But funny enough that wolf looks more like a coyote. But why nitpick on the small stuff?
Manhunt In Space, Show 413, was also one of the shows I, somehow, missed. It comes with a General Hospital episode. Both the movie and the short are in Black and White. The movie is in fact a television series in which some of the episodes were spliced together to make a full movie. There are everything from Space Ghost references to one reference to Daleks! They also talk about Cold Light, which I thought came from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and I learned to never open the hatch without peeking out a window first.
Soultaker, Show 1001, is a very famous episode within the cult that is MST3K. Not only does it have Joe Estevez, who also starred in Werewolf, and Robert Z'Dar, who was in Future War, in the film, but TV's Frank and Joel both come back to make a appearance on the show. Such love and warmth. Too bad the film is so bad. But that's good! Because bad films are Mike and the Bots' bread and butter.
They have a interview with Joe Estevez on the DVD.
The last episode in the set is Final Justice, Show 1008, starring Joe Don Baker. Mike and the Bots have a ton of fun with this film. "Hey, you going to finish that?" The movie is full of lovely ladies, gun fights, a chase with Joe Don Baker going after a Maltese mob member dressed up as a Monk. Or is it a member of the Italian Mafia? Lots of food jokes. In fact tons of jokes all about either Joe Don Baker or Maltese men. The writer, producer and director is Greydon Clark. They even have a interview with him on the DVD!
The set came with cool mini-posters - I got an extra Soultaker poster by accident! A must for any library of MST3K or any collection of bad movies.