Shout! Factory is has a simple mission: make MSTies happy. Time and again they serve the fans of the cult classic by routinely putting out box sets and accenting them with special features. I’ve mentioned it before but it should be repeated that Mystery Science Theater 3000 is not like other shows, it’s more a show wrapped around a crappy movie. These movies are held by various estates and studios so it’s hardly a given they’ll be available for DVD release. Since my first review of a box set just two years ago I feel like the show has reentered the social sphere again and the fan interest has been on an uptick. A huge proponent of that is the Turkey Day Marathon, a live streaming event hosted by the show’s creator Joel Hodgson and facilitated by Shout! Even more, the show is on TV again on some channel called Retro and as of this month will be broadcast by at least one PBS station (in Minnesota, which is appropriate because the show first premiered on public access in that state). A box set like Volume XXXII proves the show could thrive in syndication. The episodes feel retro and yet still relevant, a quality stemming from great writing and smart, strong humor. Space Travelers, Hercules, Radar Secret Service and San Francisco International are a formidable grouping of episodes and all are seeing DVD release for the first time. Each disc has its own case and a mini poster by artist Steve Vance and the animated DVD menus are once again animated, this time with tiny Crow and Tom Servo puppets (the one on San Francisco International is a real treat). Sometimes the promotion around these sets have a theme, or the movie themselves have a common thread, not so much in this case. What is a little different about these episodes is their placement in the ten season run. Previous editions have tried to present the distinct eras of the show, but this one has four episodes spanning over Seasons Four, Five and Six. It makes for an interesting watch as it’s a neat sampling of the show in the midst of the run. The only real knock is that there are no episodes from the last three seasons and thus there’s no Bill Corbett as Crow. Still, it’s a good collection, and maybe there is a theme. TV’s Frank is in all the episodes and is featured in some of the special features. Space Travelers (1969 – Director: John Sturges) As Tom Servo says to open the film: So, let the carnage begin. The movie Space Travelers was an edited-for-syndication version of the 1969 film Marooned, which actually was moderate box office success starring some notable actors. The episode, the Season Four opener, is a pretty big departure for the show in that the subject movie actually has some cinematic quality: Marooned won an Oscar for best special effects and it’s the only MST3K movie with that distinction. As a whole it’s technically sound and you can tell there was a lot of concentration on accuracy. You can see how this might be an inspirational precursor to Apollo 13, Armageddon, Interstellar, and so on. Despite that, it’s stinking drab! This Joel-era episode does not forgive the sum for the failings of its parts. The movie moves sloooow but the jokes are zippy and constant. Some one-liners had me howling. The writing utilizes the name brand actors by reminding us that “Gene Hackman is good in everything”, and by brandishing Trace Beaulieu’s fabulous Gregory Peck impression. Joel and the Bots liven up the dry patches for sure, the scene where the astronauts say goodbye to their respective wives is especially great. The episode’s host segments are indicative of their typical quality, hit or miss, charming, clever and hokey. And yes, the gang does note that the “stranded in space” plotline is very similar to their own. The special features on this one are pretty standard quality for Shout!, that is, very good; however the introduction by Frank and “Marooned: A Forgotten Odyssey ” cover a lot of the same ground. Historian Jeff Burr details the history and legacy of Marooned, a movie that captured the intrigue of the American public right at the crux of the space race. He points to the craftsmanship of the John Sturges film and defends its fallacies. Frank Conniff unknowingly concurs, expressing that he feels like Space Travelers was a misfire due to its famous actors and director. I disagree with both of them on their assertion that the movie shouldn’t be heckled. Bad is bad is bad. This was a really joyful episode, comical throughout and often times more brainy than the film itself. High points for this one. Best line: Jim, throw us your Rolex! Best Peck: Well! Got to go. Got a date with a special widow. A Ms. Lee Grant. Lucky lady. Hercules: (1958 – Director: Pietro Francisci) Tom starts this one well too: “Heh, my mortal weakness is cheesecake. Let’s watch on.” This movie is proof positive that Herc has had a long, goofy history with the film industry. You don’t have to feel too bad, Rock. A early Season Five ep Hercules continues the sword-and-sandal tradition of MST3K with the original movie that spawned about twenty sequels. Like Marooned this movie actually succeeded pretty well in its day and has a lot of production value compared to the low-budget horror and sci-fi movies the show typically tackles. The Italian-made franchise produced films like Hercules Against the Moon Men and Hercules Unchained, previously riffed by Joel and the Bots in Season Four. As such, they’re familiar with the material, and it shows. This is a very slick, quippy episode. The voices and zingers are on point, a lot of small jokes with snark and bravado. It’s a pretty campy movie and that proves plenty of fodder. It boils down to a genetic mythology story that stays pretty truth to the traditional tales of Herc and Jason. However, it needs to noted that the Amazons are completely spayed and disrespected here, written as inverses of their traditional depiction (that is, weirdly and pathetically reliant on men to survive/procreate). Its apparent the movie itself was heavily edited by the MST3K team because the events jump around a lot, yet I don’t think it matters much because the comedy is built off of the dopey characters and bad voiceovers, not the plot. The host segments in Episode 502 are either pretty forgettable or extremely memorable. Of note is Crow’s one-man Match Game skit which spirals into madness at an indiscernible point, a frequent occurrence on MST3K. Final verdict: Hercules is pretty average. It’s got a good dose of chuckles, but it’s not a classic by any stretch. The special features are similar to the last disc. Frank gives an overview of the episode and source material but doesn’t provide anything profound. The “Baron of Baltimore: The Early Films of Joseph E. Levine” short spotlights the notable movie producer who built his career on business acumen and profiteering but also helped push out classics like Godzilla and The Graduate. Overall the extras are neat but inconsequential. Best line: “Looks like it’s a big, brawny, hairy, glistening, two-fisted, manly day!” Best Joel getting mad at the movie’s poor dubbing: …a fetus?! Radar Secret Service (and short “Last Clear Chance”) (1959 – Director: Sam Newfield) We jump forward from the beginning of Season Five to its latter stages. Mike has replaced Joel at this point and now has a handful of episodes under his belt as the human competent of the show. On the Joel-to-Mike scale I’ve always considered myself leaning heavily toward the Mike side. However, this episode did very little for me that’s because the movie is just so goddamn dull it’s hard to even derive jokes from it. Let me first note the short film is the jewel of the disc. Last Clear Chance is a PSA about driver safety, in particular the dangers of railroad crossings. It’s a fantastic example of the show’s greatness, quick snaps of sarcasm and the general hilarity of Mike and Bot’s indignation. The premise of the short is pretty ridiculous in and of itself: a local law officer stops by a family farm to drone on and on about traffic laws in what is most likely an abuse of police power. It’s pretty terrible but the show flips it around and makes it one of the best shorts I’ve seen. The host segments are actually pretty darn good too. Radar Secret Service on the other hand, just bad. This happens every so often with Mystery Science Theater, it takes on a movie so enormously boring that it just can’t overcome the maw of yawn. A group of cops who use radar (!!!) to solve crimes take down a gang with the help of a snitch girlfriend. The flick’s main problem is that every single dude in the movie dresses and sounds alike. It’s ridiculous. Even in the final act it’s impossible to tell who is who and who is fighting for what. The gang’s jokes do center on this but not enough. They really invest heavily on the radar jokes, some good, some mundane, and miss some chances on the whole. The black and white films are normally a treat but this didn’t exactly work — just not enough weirdness. The Frank intro sheds some light on the situation as he reminisces on how hard the episode was to write for. I think this shows that the movie choice can greatly influence the quality of jokes as Last Clear Chance was excellent and this was decidedly below average. The other special feature is “MST-UK with Trace and Frank”. The duo are whisked away to Europe for a sci-fi convention and film their journey. The material is a little off-the-cuff, lots of cell vids and the like, but for a longtime fan always looking for new material it’s worth the watch. Best line from the short: Stop the near insanity! Best line about radar Only radar knows what the hell is going on. The best line that was probably the truth: (A hotel maid comes across a corpse and butchers her one line) The director’s mistress, everyone, the director’s mistress. San Francisco International (1970 – Director: John Llewellyn Moxey) Wrapping up the set is a made-for-TV movie that soars to great highs to reach new lows. An episode from the middle of Season Six this one is pretty damn great throughout, and with the wide cast of characters the writing never gets stale. San Francisco International premiered in the early seventies (even spawning a short-lived TV show) and it’s about, you guessed it, an airport on the West Coast. Now, everyone loves the airport but whoever thought to set a show/movie there was a bit misguided. Even in the age of terror plots and TSA patdowns I don’t think something like this could even survive today. The story follows a pilot, the head of security, some crooks, a secretary, a newsman and his family, and others in what I guess is supposed to be a typical day at the plane station. Admittedly, the movie’s writing is not terrible, it just is not something you’d ever willfully watch. Mike and Bots do watch it and make it ridiculously enjoyable. Of note is the relentless fire of comedy aimed on the news reporter’s son, Davey, who is ultra sad that his dad is too busy to give him attention. Just about every single joke about the kid’s pathetic life is hysterical. Much of the other riffing follows suit, very specific to the characters, like the criminally ugly criminal, or the pilot who looks like an extra from a Monty Python sketch. Of the four episodes in this collection I actually think I might have laughed the hardest and longest to this one. I actually forgot how good the Mike/Kevin/Trace era was. The host segments are notable in that three of them are just Mike dressed as Urkel while the rest of the cast (including the likes of Santa and Jan in a Pan) laugh like Joker-gas victims. I feel like if you were off-planet for about a year and a half in the 90’s this skit (skits?) would make no sense to you. I do appreciate the commentary on the absurdity of Urkel’s existence, but then again Key and Peele will never be topped. The Frank introduction conspicuously absent from his disc a slight bummer, but “Sampo Speaks! A Brief History of Satellite News” is a good special feature. The main operator of www.mst3kinfo.com gives a rundown of the website’s origin and utility. Also known as Satellite News the site has long worked as a semi-official newsletter for fans and if you have any interest in the show or its history you need to check it out. I’ve used it as reference guide for all my DVD reviews and with the recent surge of MST3K love mentioned in my opener it is a wealth of news for current happenings in the realm. The feature is a little on the short side but it’s cool to get a peek behind the curtain. Best lines: “My shipment of face cream is on that jet!” OK! Enough with the significant looks! Best Davey-related lines: A making of a terrorist “Huff and Tuff, help me.” Crow’s sage advice for Davey: C’mon kid, just read Catcher in the Rye and deal with it! See larger image Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXXII (Space Travelers, Hercules, Radar Secret Service & San Francisco International New From: $36.88 USD In Stock Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXXIIJamil's Rating4.0Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXXIII - Psycho Drive-In July 27, 2015 […] riffing on his cardigan-wearing ways. The voice of Bill Corbett as Crow was sorely missed in the Volume XXXII set so I may have had a bit of extra love for this […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.