MST3K: Mighty Jack (1991, original air date)
Starring: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu and Kevin Murphy

The Plot: Joel Robinson is trapped on the Satellite of Love with a group of robot friends who he has created. This crew of misfits are forced by the evil Dr. Forrester to endure many incredibly bad movies. The only thing that makes this process bearable is the fact that they riff and crack jokes during the entire ordeal. This week’s film is the Japanese spy flick Mighty Jack! In our story, Q is a nefarious and evil organization bent on world domination. To combat this, the president (prime minister) of Japan enlists the service of a special group of men and women in order to fight for justice. This group is called Mighty Jack, and they are Japan’s leaders in international espionage. When top agent Harold Hatari goes missing, it remains up to Mighty Jack to find him and discover just what Q is planning. Their inevitable goal is world domination using a new form of ice that doesn’t melt at room temperature.

The Review
Many critics who take their time out and review episodes of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 series will do so in a variety of fashions. Some will focus on multiple episodes in one sitting, some review the episodes instead of the movies, but sadly there are also many who are ridiculously condescending towards the original films being shown. I sometimes wonder if this isn’t because so many new viewers are not used to the magical world of b-cinema. Truly, if a film does show up on MST3K, it is most certainly because it is of questionable quality. However, if the viewer isn’t entirely familiar with the world of b-cinema, they may not recognize what type of b-movie they have just watched. You see, the world of bad movies packs quite the variety. Some films are just generally awful because the filmmakers didn’t know any better, such was the case with Manos: The Hands of Fate. Some are bad due to budgetary reasons and poor special FX, such as The Horrors of Spider Island. Then there are those which are bad only because of the poor treatment that the film received through North American distribution. Films such as The Magical Voyage of Sinbad and the Sandy Frank version of Gamera are prime examples of this. Mighty Jack, too, is a beast of the same variety.

I highly recommend picking up the Shout Factory box set, Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII, even if you do it only for the excellent special features. Amongst the two featurettes on the disc is an excellent introduction by Japanese film expert August Ragone. I’ve been familiar with the man for a while now, but before he started popping up on these Shout Factory! discs I had no idea he was such a charismatic speaker. He, yet again, fills the audience in on the background information surrounding Mighty Jack, and all of the history that went behind this series. You begin to wonder if there’s any aspect of Japanese culture that Ragone isn’t familiar with. Apparently Mighty Jack was another, like Time of the Apes, expansive series that Sandy Frank condensed into a quick ninety minute version. Originally thirteen one hour episodes, somehow Sandy Frank’s company was able to compile all of this footage into one small portion. Unlike Time of the Apes though, this movie severely suffers from the transition. Confusion is everywhere once Mighty Jack begins, and if it weren’t for the MST3K crew then this would be entirely too difficult to sit through.

Mighty Jack, if one were to come into it unprepared, would have to easily rank as one of the most decidedly infuriating spy movies ever made. Although Joel and the bots continually riff on the film for not making sense, I have a feeling that if you watched the movie without commentary, and took notes on every single character, then it could perhaps make some form of logical sense. In the format that it is now though, it is a boring and tedious film with very few good qualities. This is what happens when you take a very intricately plotted spy television series and cut it down from thirteen full hours into just one and a half. The plot becomes almost impossible to follow without creating flash cards in order to keep your memory constantly refreshed over just what is happening. In fact, the film is so confusing that it only takes the MST3K crew about five minutes into the movie to flatly admit “I’m lost.” On top of this poor editing, the film is packed with many wordy scenes that are filled to the brim with expositional information, but due to the poor audio mix on the original film it is more than likely that audience members will miss out on much of this vital information.
If the movie is completely and utterly a drag, at least the riffing done is of a high quality. Joel and the bots were, at this point, very well versed in the world of poorly treated Japanese dubs. This can be seen in how they incorporate numerous in-jokes from throughout the MST3K series at this point. Running gags are the norm here, including the resurrection of the famous “toy boat, toy boat, toy boat” line originated in the previous Gamera episode. This classic line also gets a twist when it transforms into “toy diver, toy diver, toy diver” when the filmmakers obviously try to use a miniature in place of an actor who is supposed to be diving underwater. Another inside joke from previous episodes is the classic “Sandy Frank Theme Song,” which made its debut during the Time of the Apes episode, but is only sung in small sections here and isn’t given the full backup vocals. Overall, the quality of riffing during the Mighty Jack episode is actually very well done. Considering the fact that this film feels like an endless series of individual short movies, with no connection to one another, the guys actually manage to create a much more humorous narrative than what Sandy Frank could have ever envisioned.

The Conclusion
Overall, when the movie is this puzzling it is hard for the episode to really raise too high above expectations. With what they were working with, the MST3K gang did a very good job. A solid, but not spectacular, episode, I give Mighty Jack my go-to rating of three out of five.