Archives for February 2011 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for February, 2011

‘Mystery Science Theater 3000: Project Moonbase’ Review!

Posted by Josh Samford On February - 25 - 2011
Hey everybody, we’re back with the second review from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XX box set! This time Joel and the gang take on some horrid pieces of science fiction history! A worthy episode, though far from the best of the box. Give a read and see what I mean!

The Plot: Joel Hodgson is an employee at Gizmonic Institute when the evil Dr. Forrester shoots him into outer space on the Satellite of Love. Here he is forced to endure bad movies on a weekly basis. Thankfully Joel was able to build himself a few robotic friends to help him deal with these bad movies. Among these robots are Gypsy who runs the ship, cam-bot who watches their every action and of course the wise-cracking Crow and Tom Servo who help him riff on the movies as they watch them. In this episode, Joel and his robot friends take in some classic science fiction! First up we watch some shorts that deal primarily with rocket men flying around and displaying their wooden stage-style acting. Afterwards, we watch Project Moonbase which is a science fiction film dealing with a crew of astronauts heading to the moon in order to colonize it. However, not everyone on-board the station is everything that they appear to be!


CONTINUE READING HERE!

MST3K: Project Moonbase

Posted by Josh Samford On February - 25 - 2011

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Project Moonbase (1990)
Director: Kevin Murphy (???)
Writers: Joel Hodgson, Frank Conniff, Paul Chaplin, etc.
Starring: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu and J. Elvis Weinstein



The Plot: Joel Hodgson is an employee at Gizmonic Institute when the evil Dr. Forrester shoots him into outer space on the Satellite of Love. Here he is forced to endure bad movies on a weekly basis. Thankfully Joel was able to build himself a few robotic friends to help him deal with these bad movies. Among these robots are Gypsy who runs the ship, cam-bot who watches their every action and of course the wise-cracking Crow and Tom Servo who help him riff on the movies as they watch them. In this episode, Joel and his robot friends take in some classic science fiction! First up we watch some shorts that deal primarily with rocket men flying around and displaying their wooden stage-style acting. Afterwards, we watch Project Moonbase which is a science fiction film dealing with a crew of astronauts heading to the moon in order to colonize it. However, not everyone on-board the station is everything that they appear to be!

The Review
If there is one thing to be said, the Project Moonbase episode of Mystery Science Theater truly showcases many of the things that made the show such a special experience. They were known primarily for their episodes which featured “classic” pieces of science fiction from the 40’s-50’s and in that regard Project Moonbase makes for a episode that really personifies the entire show. Not only do we watch the bland scifi action yarn Project Moonbase, but we also enjoy a couple of shorts before-hand, something else the show was known to do from time to time. The shorts appear to be taken from the Commando Cody series, better known as Radar Men From the Moon. I actually have some familiarity with the Commando Cody series, from watching the unofficial sequel to Radar Men… called Zombies of the Stratosphere, but neither series appears to fit in the pantheon of great science fiction. Audiences who were alive during the 90’s might also have some vague familiarity with the serial as well, due to the familiar look of its superhero character who was later referenced heavily in the design of the 1991 superhero action yarn The Rocketeer. Radar Men… typifies everything that these serials were best known for, cheap stories with more cheap thrills and a ridiculously over the top cliffhanger ending at the conclusion to every episode. Joel and the bots have some great fun with these and keep their riffing on point as per their usual.
Project Moonbase itself isn’t so terribly far off from what a lot of films did during this time and era, but it appears that the budget or experience just wasn’t there in order to make a successful or believable science fiction flick. Although the acting is of a professional grade and some of the production values can be halfway decent, so much of Project Moonbase comes off as utterly cheesy. The flying effects within Radar Men From the Moon are better than almost anything you will see throughout Project Moonbase, which is pretty sad. There are numerous poor effects used throughout the movie, and not bad simply because of the time and era in which they were made… no, even in the 50’s you would have to admit that the special effects here are pretty awful. A favorite sequence of mine shows the astronauts being lowered down from their ships, but instead of being careful with their editing or doing a nifty in-camera special effect, they simply show a shot that features a very obviously clay figure being lifted down from the space ship only to be replaced by a human in the next shot. We aren’t talking Ray Harryheusen levels of detail either. The filmmakers were simply asking for it when trying to pass off this level of cheese.
As a general Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, Project Moonbase is full of hits and misses. From the four disc Volume XX box set, this would seem like the weakest entry for me. However, there are still a dozen jokes that work to perfection. Joel and the bots manage to reel off a number of classics while going through these very ordinary pieces of science fiction. The guys have fun making jokes about the apparent bathing caps and short-shorts that these astronauts are forced to wear, and another memorable moment features the guys pointing out the very MC Escher feel of the architecture used in the trippy space sequences, where we see characters on one side of a room quite literally walking on the wall while on the other side of the room another set of actors may be walking in a correct fashion. Jokes about “please don’t walk on the wall” signs being put up keeps things light hearted, and general laughs are had while the in-frame camera tricks become more incredibly obvious. Despite the lack of understanding for outer space gravity, the shots are all rather ordinary in their composition which is expected from such a bland film.


Host Segments and Special Features
Although the episode is generally standard, the host segments are at least fairly witty. There are some funny bits throughout though, including a funny bit involving water juggling with ping pong paddles. Sound strange? It is. A very odd bit of prop-comedy that really must be seen in order for it to make sense. After the guys notice how short some of the ties are on the male leads within Project Moonbase, they decide to show off some other futuristic ties, and of course there are disastrous results. As far as special features go with this disc, there is an interesting interview with Jeff Stonehouse, the director of photography for the show over several of the latter years. He discusses the things that changed when he came on board and his use of some different tools that really changed the look of Mystery Science Theater 3000 during the Scifi channel years.


The Conclusion
With such a poor feature film, the guys have a fun time. This isn’t one of the more wild or colorful features to ever grace MST3K, but the guys do their best to make the project as interesting as could be. Judging the original film, I have to go with a two out of five. Easily. However, as an episode of MST3K it fares better with a solid three out of five. Although, from the box set, it is a slight step down in quality from The Magic Voyage of Sinbad, it is still a funny episode!




‘Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Magic Voyage of Sinbad’ Review!

Posted by Josh Samford On February - 22 - 2011
Two posts in a row? Surely this can’t be happening! Sorry folks, I realize things have been kinda slack around here but it has been a tremendously busy season for Varied Celluloid. Don’t worry though, there is more to come! Including reviews for all four films in the Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XX boxset! Today we start things off with The Magic Voyage of Sinbad which is certainly one of the most memorable episodes from the set! Give the review a whirl and tell us what you think!

The Plot: Joel Hodgson is an employee at Gizmonic Institute when the evil Dr. Forrester shoots him into outer space on the Satellite of Love. Here he is forced to endure bad movies on a weekly basis. Thankfully Joel was able to build himself a few robotic friends to help him deal with these bad movies. Among these robots are Gypsy who runs the ship, cam-bot who watches their every action and of course the wise-cracking Crow and Tom Servo who help him riff on the movies as they watch them. In this episode, the Russian import The Magic Voyage of Sinbad is screened for Joel and the bots. The movie showcases Sinbad’s return home where he finds the rich have tremendously dominated the poor. After speaking with the gods and then winning a chance to lead a magical voyage (by betting the local bourgeois that he could find a golden fish just off the shore), Sinbad acquires his crew and sets off to find the Blue Bird of Happiness!


CONTINUE READING HERE!

MST3K: Magic Voyage of Sinbad, The

Posted by Josh Samford On February - 22 - 2011

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Magic Voyage of Sinbad (1993)
Director: Kevin Murphy
Writers: Joel Hodgson, Michael J. Nelson, etc.
Starring: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu and Kevin Murphy



The Plot: Joel Hodgson is an employee at Gizmonic Institute when the evil Dr. Forrester shoots him into outer space on the Satellite of Love. Here he is forced to endure bad movies on a weekly basis. Thankfully Joel was able to build himself a few robotic friends to help him deal with these bad movies. Among these robots are Gypsy who runs the ship, cam-bot who watches their every action and of course the wise-cracking Crow and Tom Servo who help him riff on the movies as they watch them. In this episode, the Russian import The Magic Voyage of Sinbad is screened for Joel and the bots. The movie showcases Sinbad’s return home where he finds the rich have tremendously dominated the poor. After speaking with the gods and then winning a chance to lead a magical voyage (by betting the local bourgeois that he could find a golden fish just off the shore), Sinbad acquires his crew and sets off to find the Blue Bird of Happiness!

The Review
The Mystery Science Theater 3000 volume 20 box set from Shout! Factory carries with it four episodes of everyone’s favorite show about riffing on b-movies. This box set grabs up several never-before-released episodes from the years that Joel managed hosting duties. From the box set I had only seen two of the episodes previously, but today I am going to tackle one that I unfortunately had not seen. The Magic Voyage of Sinbad could only have been slightly more perfect for the MST3K treatment if it were actually slightly more realistically “bad”, instead of being an exploited piece of foreign cinema. A Russian fantasy epic based around a well known medieval legend, the movie was imported into the United States by well known exploitation master Roger Corman under the guise of a Sinbad film. In America, I suppose the original titular character Sadko wouldn’t have seemed as important for modern audiences. So with a retitled lead character those responsible then attempted to try and incorporate various aspects of Roman mythology into the equation as well. The result was a bizarre piece of entertainment that was simply MADE for Joel and the bots to do their thing over.
That isn’t to say that the original Sadko looks like a bad movie. I would say that if you stripped away the awful dub and translation, this looks like a fairly solid adventure yarn with a sizable budget. There are some amazing set pieces throughout the movie, as well as multitudes of extras who run around vast and beautiful looking architecture that has a deep seated historical Russian significance. On top of being a film that looks fairly interesting, when compared to some brief outlines I have read of the original Sadko mythology, this looks to be a direct representation of the post-war Russian government’s party-line and it might have an even deeper cultural significance. All of this is completely lost within The Magic Voyage of Sinbad because Sinbad is supposed to be an Arab figure, so all references to Russia are ultimately lost despite the grand Russian architecture being ever apparent. Within the MST3K version of the story, this becomes one of the recurring jokes throughout the movie and certainly one of the funniest. This ultimately becomes a movie with no singular cultural identification and the audience, for those who have at least the most vague understanding of foreign culture, are left in the dark as what to expect.

Joel and the bots are definitely on-point within this episode as their riffing is witty and the guys really get across how ludicrous this entire production is. Their references are as glib and obscure as they have ever been, with name-drops for John Rhys Davies pre-Lord of the Rings, Michael Nesbith and there’s even a hilarious moment where the guys riff on Dan Haggerty. The scene revolves around one character wrestling with a bear, a bear that Joel and company assure us is trying to have an intervention with the famed Life and Times of Grizzly Adams star. Strange? Absolutely. Obscure? Without a doubt. Funny? You bet your bottom dollar. That’s part of the MST3K joy though. Even when the guys are too obscure to understand, they still find a way to make things somehow tie together and work on a general comedic basis. Normally I tend not to enjoy the episodes where the guys riff on movies that are actually better than average (Hamlet always comes to mind), but with the absolute disrespect shown towards the original Russian film, watching this became a real pleasure. I mean… Vikings in a Sinbad movie?


Host Segments and Special Features
Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as well known for its riffing on movies as it is the goofy host segments that come in between the movie breaks. There are a few really good bits from this episode, including an awards show spoof where Crow wins for “Best Performance by a Red Gumball Machine-Looking Robot” despite Tom Servo’s vocalized anger of the situation. At one point Crow also flies on a rocket ship outside the Satellite of Love in an attempt to go on a magical voyage similar to our her Sinbad… turns out, this is a pretty bad idea. The disc for Magic Voyage of Sinbad also packs a couple of special features. Included here is an introduction for the film from Trace Beaulieu (the voice of Crow T. Robot) as well as the Mystery Science Theater Hour wraps for the episode. This is essentially the bumper segments that were hosted by Mike Nelson whenever the show was split into segments for syndication by Comedy Central. Very neat!


The Conclusion
While it doesn’t jump to the top of my list for best Joel episodes, The Magic Voyage of Sinbad turns out to be one of the best features on this box set and was a real surprise to me. If I were to vote on the actual movie itself, I would probably give it a two out of five. There’s no way for me to know whether the original Sadko was a decent enough film or not, but as things are, the picture we have here lacks a lot of the originality that so many fantasy films of the time had but it does make up for that with the quality special effects (for their time) and the tremendous set design and cinematography. As an episode of MST3K however, I have to call this a solid four out of five. I really liked this episode, almost to the point of love, and I think I will return to it several times over the years. Definitely check it out if you’re given the time!




‘Penitentiary’ Review!

Posted by Josh Samford On February - 21 - 2011
Back again, this time with a blaxploitation classic! The intense and incredibly watchable Penitentiary! The first part in a trilogy of prison films directed by the incomparable Jamaa Fanaka. If you haven’t seen the film, read the review and see what you’ve been missing out on!

The Plot: Martel ‘Too Sweet’ Gordone (played by Leon Isaac Kennedy) is a tough young man who runs into some trouble with a couple of bikers who try their best to rough up a young prostitute. When ‘Too Sweet’ begins to batter the two goons, he is struck over the head with a bottle and knocked unconscious. When he awakens, he is in prison. A victim of the racist system, Too Sweet must now contend with life on the inside. The prison is ran by a group of individuals who are obsessed with breaking in the fresh meat, so that they can make them their sexual slaves. ‘Too Sweet’ however refuses to give in and displays his tremendous natural fighting ability. This gets him a shot in a boxing competition that offers many rewards, such as free time with a woman and even time taken off of a sentence! Will ‘Too Sweet’ make it through the tournament and what will happen with his new enemies within the penitentiary?


CONTINUE READING HERE!
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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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