There may be no finer (and certainly no funnier) meditation on monsters than this collection of episodes from the cult comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000. As food for thought, we are served subterranean slime people, a giant praying mantis, Soviet spies and, perhaps the most terrifying of all, enormous teenagers from the disturbing menu of Americaâ€™s twisted psyche. Battling these Goliaths for us with their slingshots of sass and silliness are Joel, Mike and their robot henchmen Tom Servo and Crow. The monsters are gruesome and the movies even more so, but the riffs are risible and retaliatory, proving definitively that revenge is actually a dish best served funny.
The Slime People
Rocket Attack U.S.A.
Village Of The Giants
The Deadly Mantis
Consider this 27th voyage with the Satellite of Love as a tour down Mystery Science Theater 3000
's memory lane, as it features some of the earliest episodes from the Peabody Award-winning satire series, as well as entries from its later incarnation on the Sci-Fi (now SyFy) Channel, all of which make their DVD debut with this four-disc set. The poverty-struck creature feature The Slime People
(1963) is culled from the show's debut season (1989-1990) on The Comedy Channel (prior to its merger with Ha!, which resulted in the formation of Comedy Central), and if the riffing and interstitial skits lack the rapid-fire, stream-of-consciousness quality on which MST3K
made its name, those elements have clearly jelled by the time series creator/original host Joel Hodgson and the talented writers/cast members tackled the deeply paranoid Cold War thriller Rocket Attack U.S.A.
(1961) in its second season. Season five's take on Village of the Giants
(1965), director Bert I. Gordon's rock-and-roll version of H.G. Wells's The Food of the Gods
, is a standout experiment thanks to a terrific string of host segments in which mad scientist Dr. Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) decides to replace his affable henchman, TV's Frank (Frank Conniff), with the hideous goatherd Torgo (played by head writer turned host Michael J. Nelson) from the infamous Manos: The Hands of Fate
(1966). And the inept big-bug goof The Deadly Mantis
(1958), from the show's eighth season and first on The Sci-Fi Channel, shows the durability of its formula in the face of numerous cast and format changes, including the departure of Beaulieu and arrival of Bill Corbett as the new voice of Crow T. Robot and Mary Jo Pehl's Pearl Forrester assuming the main villain role. The scope of the "experiments" makes Volume XXVII
a worthy addition to any MST3K
devotee's collection, while the supplemental features extend the deluxe treatment afforded to the show by Shout Factory's releases.
Chief among the extras is another installment of Life After MST3K, which focuses on Trace Beaulieu's multi-hyphenate experiences as actor (Freaks and Geeks), children's book author, comic book creator, and TV writer (America's Funniest Home Videos), as well as his reunion with fellow MST3K vets in Cinematic Titanic. The genre documentarians at Ballyhoo Motion Pictures do typically excellent work with Chasing Rosebud: The Cinematic Life of William Alland, which traces the Deadly Mantis producer's trajectory from membership in Orson Welles's Mercury Theater (he played the reporter in Citizen Kane) to overseeing It Came from Outer Space (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Tarantula (1955), and many other '50s science fiction favorites for Universal. Short interviews with Slime People star Judith Morton and Village of the Giants' Joy Harmon (Cool Hand Luke, 1967) underscore their good-natured dismay at being remembered for such absurd pictures, while trailers for Mantis, Slime People, and Giants round out the set. --Paul Gaita