Mystery Science | Varied Celluloid

MST3K: Last of the Wild Horses

Posted by Josh Samford On April - 2 - 2012

MST3K: Last of the Wild Horses (1994)
Director: Kevin Murphy
Starring: Mike Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff and Jim Mallon

The Plot: In the not-too-distant future, Mike Nelson (Michael J. Nelson) is abducted by his boss at Gizmonic institute and shot into outer space. This boss of his, Dr. Forrester, then sends Mike the very worst movies that he can find in order to document his reactions. Mike, who has two robot friends named Crow and Tom Servo, does his best to improve this bad situation by having a good time and riffing on the movies. Our film today, Last of the Wild Horses, revolves around a wandering drifter named Duke. Although the plot is fairly meandering and hard to keep up with, essentially Duke finds himself involved with the life of a wealthy rancher. This wealthy rancher has developed a rivalry with some folks in town, and a conspiracy is soon at work to deprive this wealthy rancher of his assets. The rancher has a lovely granddaughter who immediately falls for Duke, but when her grandfather is killed it seems that the local townspeople are dead-set on blaming Duke. This instigates a battle between factions, but will justice be upheld? And will the crew of the Satellite of Love manage to sit through this stinker with their dignity intact?

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MST3K: King Dinosaur

Posted by Josh Samford On March - 19 - 2012

MST3K: King Dinosaur (1990)
Director: Jim Mallon
Writers: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Jim Mallon, etc.
Starring: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Jim Mallon, and Frank Conniff

The Plot: In the not-too-distant future, Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgeson) is abducted by his boss, Dr. Forrester, at Gizmonic institute and shot into outer space. Forrester then sends him the very worst movies that he can find in order to document his reactions. Joel, who has built two robot friends named Crow and Tom Servo, watches these movies and has a good time making fun of them in order to keep his sanity. In this episode, Dr. Forrester forces Joel to watch the 50s sci-fi title known as King Dinosaur. The story focuses on two couples, who are also scientists, that arrive on the distant planet called Nova. Nova is very similar to our earth, but as these scientists begin to investigate they find that it is slightly more primitive. Featuring giant tyrannosaurus-rex dinosaurs, who look a LOT like the household Iguana, and a lot of other really bad creature FX. This one looks like it is going to be a rough ride for Joel and his crew. Will they survive, or will their minds melt whilst watching?

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MST3K XXIII boxset details revealed!

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 9 - 2011
Hey all, taking a quick break away from the Kung Fu Christmas in order to post about a tidbit of information that floated into our inbox. The good folks over at Shout! Factory have released the latest information on the next Mystery Science Theater 3000 boxset! No doubts, this next MST boxset should prove to be as great as their previous compilations have been as well.

Well known at this point for delivering these sets with excellent special features and colorful menus, this next set is even more meaningful due to the fact that these episodes have never actually been released on DVD at any point. The boxset looks to include the following episodes: King Dinosaur, The Castle Of Fu Manchu , Code Name: Diamond Head, and Last Of The Wild Horses.

As with all of the releases so far, the boxset also includes a handful of special features on each disc. Those special features appear to be as follows:

  • Introduction By Frank Conniff
  • The Incredible Mr. Lippert
  • Vintage MST3K Promos
  • Life After MST3K: Kevin Murphy
  • Code Name: Quinn Martin
  • DARKSTAR: Robots Don’t Need SAG Cards
  • 4 Exclusive Mini-Posters By Artist Steve Vance
  • I am particularly interested in that Kevin Murphy (the voice of Tom Servo) interview, and the rest just sounds like icing on the cake! This set should be hitting DVD shelves on March 27th, so keep an eye out! We will of course try to cover the release right here on Varied Celluloid!

    MST3K: Time of the Apes

    Posted by Josh Samford On November - 7 - 2011

    MST3K: Time of the Apes (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 feature film that the crew must survive is the Japanese sci fi feature Time of the Apes. The basic story is as follows: Johnny and his sister Caroline are two adventurous young ones who are having a blast when they get to visit their uncle’s scientific laboratory. This laboratory has a specialty in animal health, but they have recently been moving into cryogenics. When a massive earthquake erupts mid-tour, Johnny, his sister, and their tour guide Catherine, all jump inside of separate cryogenic pods which are then activated. The three end up forgotten in time and when they finally awake they appear to be several hundred years in the future, and apes have taken over the world. Scared and frightened, the group initially escapes from a group of the apes and heads off into the jungle. Here they run into the only other known human, Goto. A wild man who actually strikes fear into the hearts of the outnumbering apes. Goto is actually quite gentle as it turns out, and is relatively misunderstood. He takes in his human confidants and the group struggles to stay together and survive while in the time of the apes!

    The Review
    Although they never had the cultural impact of Star Wars or Star Trek, the Planet of the Apes movies certainly developed a core audience that would help carry them through a near-endless series of sequels. During their heyday, the Planet movies were a fixture in the filmic lexicon, and a large part of American pop culture. As with anything that excels, it didn’t take long for opportunistic filmmakers to get on board and do their best to rip off this series. To blatantly rip off the Planet movies within the American film market would have lead to a film that was easily spotted, and likely would have lead to a big fat lawsuit. That didn’t stop foreign enterprises from doing their best to capitalize on the Apes movies, however, and it didn’t take Joel and the bots long to find Time of the Apes. A Japanese takeoff on the Planet movies, Time of the Apes is invariably cheaper in all regards and ultimately the much lesser film.

    August Ragone, known Kaiju (Japanese monster movie) expert, has an introduction for the movie in the special features section of the DVD that actually explains all of the background information regarding Time of the Apes. In it, he explains that Time of the Apes was originally a television series that had more than twenty episodes. Sandy Frank, known distributor of the Gamera movies, then tried to condense the entire series into a simple ninety minute feature. It seems understandable that the film would become slightly incoherent, but the movie is surprisingly linear in its narrative. One has to imagine that each episode was a direct continuation from its previous, because surprisingly the movie doesn’t come across as terribly episodic. That doesn’t mean that the actual content of the plot is all that engaging, heavens no. Although we have a general game of cat and mouse being played throughout the movie, with our heroes escaping the clutches of the apes at every turn, the audience could care less. The characters that we have are dubbed in such poor regard that they either come across as annoying, or completely uninteresting.

    The boredom that comes from the plot of Time of the Apes is only made slightly more tolerable by the ridiculousness of both the dubbing, and the characters that are created by the poor American adoption process. Sometimes it is the little things that make an unenjoyable movie like this a more tolerable experience. The characters all having English names is a part of this process, and leads to multiple laughs throughout. The odd reactions and dialogue choices from the English translation are a huge part of this film’s unintentional hilarity, and the MST3K crew regularly have fun with this throughout the duration of the movie. One of my favorite reoccurring jokes throughout comes when young Johnny is told by his mother that he should be careful at the laboratory that they plan to visit. Johnny’s very simple, and utterly bizarre, reply is “I don’t care!” Afterward, he simply runs off. Joel and the bots apparently loved this reply as well, because they hang onto it throughout the entire movie and continually use it as riffing material whenever little Johnny says almost anything.

    What would MST3K be without their running jokes? A whole lot less entertaining, I suppose. Thankfully, Time of the Apes solidifies itself as a memorable episode when Joel and company find several reoccurring gags to reference throughout the movie. The “I don’t care” line is but one of many that pops up throughout the movie. With walking and talking apes being a large part of the movie, it only seemed inevitable that there would be some “flinging poop” jokes made. The MST3K crew take this concept into warp speed though and deliver numerous fecal matter related jokes during the movie. Other running gags focus on the special FX, which are even worse than the original Planet of the Apes movies in regards to lacking chin movement when characters speak. The crew also have a good time generally poking fun at distributor Sandy Frank. In fact, the guys even come up with a Sandy Frank theme song, which would go well when compiled with their Gamera and Master Ninja theme songs. When the guys turn up writing music, you know you are in for a fairly entertaining episode.

    The Conclusion
    While not the best episode of the era, Time of the Apes is definitely a solid piece of entertainment. A funny and entirely memorable episode of MST3K that is built around a fairly tedious Japanese ape movie. Definitely give it a look. It is available on the Shout Factory! Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume 22 box set and is yet another fine inclusion into their vast MST3K library. I give the movie a solid 4 out of five. Had the movie been slightly more bizarre, this would have been a all-time classic.

    MST3K: Manos – The Hands of Fate

    Posted by Josh Samford On August - 30 - 2011

    MST3K: Manos: The Hands of Fate (1993)
    Starring: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu and Kevin Murphy.

    The Plot: Joel Robinson and his robotic friends Crow and Tom Servo are stuck in outer space aboard the Satellite of Love where they are forced, by the evil Dr. Forrester, to watch very bad movies. The crew try to make the most of the flicks that are presented to them by continually cracking jokes while the movies play on for the audience at home. This time it seems that Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank have chose a movie so bad that even THEY feel rotten about sending it! The movie is Manos: The Hands of Fate, an insufferable picture that details a “frightening” roadtrip through the midwest as we watch a young family who stop off at a spooky little hotel. When they arrive they meet Torgo, who watches over the establishment while the master is away and before long all three (father, mother and daughter) are fending off a satanic cult lead by “The Master” who has a strange obsession with hands.

    The Review
    Where does one start with Manos: The Hands of Fate? It could very well be the most well known discovery of Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s entire run, and it is a movie that almost defies all conventional description. Many films lay claim to the title of being the “worst movie” ever made and there is no clear consensus for what the definitive number one of all time will ever be, but if you were to ask an audience of b-movie fans who are “in the know”, I have no doubt that on almost every list you would see Manos: The Hands of Fate pop up. Cornering every possible facet that appropriately titles a movie as being “bad”, Manos is the sort of flick that the phrase “so bad, it’s good” was invented to describe. It has a lot of aspects to it that make for a good time amongst b-movie fans, but at the same time it is probably the most dreadfully slow piece of work you will likely ever stumble upon. A nightmarish piece of celluloid, Shout! Factory has re-released the movie in a special 2-Disc collection that gives a new look at an old classic and paints a fresh view at both what this episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 meant at the time that it was released and it also helps feed the need for more information on the original film itself.

    The claim to fame that Manos has is its title as the “worst movie ever made.” Yet, why do people feel this way about Manos? Is it really that bad? The short and sweet answer to that is: yes, yes indeed it is. Poor in every possible aesthetic value, Manos puts in overtime to assure that not one person possibly has fun or is entertained by its presence. From every possible angle you look at it, Manos is a poor movie. The cinematography is dreadful as the camera consistently zooms in and out of focus without any rhyme or reason. The framing is always off the mark and you’re never exactly sure where the focus should actually be. The colors used in the film are often nauseatingly contradictory and although the filmmakers did find certain sets that actually come across as halfway decent (I’ll get to the few positives a little later on), for the most part the movie just looks really bad. The acting is all of the amateur variety, which is forgivable in some circumstances but in this we aren’t even able to accurately judge the performances due to the poor dubbing. It seems that the film was either shot with no sound or with very poor microphones, because all of the audio looks to have been added after the fact. So, throughout the film the characters speak out of sync at all times or have audio added on top in scenes where they don’t actually open their mouths. Yep, Manos definitely pushes the limits when it comes to tremendously awful cinema.

    So, who do we blame in a situation like this? Well, apparently you blame fertilizer salesman Harold Warren. A small figure in the El Paso theater scene, from most sources it seems as if he financed Manos on a dare but the circumstances behind the situation aren’t readily apparent. However, from the interviews supplied on this disc, it does seem that he was a filmmaker with delusions of grandeur. In the tradition of Ed Wood, he seemed like a filmmaker who anticipated many great things from his small film but ultimately his own self assured positivity kept him in denial despite his very apparent lack of knowledge when it came to creating his own motion picture. Hearing horror stories about the debut of the film, which even saw the mayor of El Paso showing up at the screening, shows the kind of local notoriety the feature had taken on likely due to Warren’s self aggrandizing. Still, the feature kind of stands out as a “how not to” for any would-be filmmaker who sits down to watch it. From the atrocious editing, which segues into strange valleys that have nothing to do with the main plot (such as a police officer who continually breaks up a young couple who are making out on the side of the road), to the dreadful script, Manos definitely holds itself up high on any list of really bad movies.

    Still, for all of the horror, I won’t be that guy who stands on a podium to point my finger and laugh. These people did their best and that’s more than a lot of us do. Also, to be quite honest there are some things within Manos that almost work. The painting of “The Master” that is used throughout the film truly is legitimately creepy and had the filmmakers been a little more subtle, they could have built a creepy atmosphere off of that. The character of Torgo unfortunately kills any attempts at subtlety, but even he has some interesting traits. His wardrobe is great for this type of character and the guy looks and acts genuinely creepy. If he had been reigned in a bit and been a little less over the top… who knows? “The Master” too kind-of works. His robe, which he shows off to no end (as Joel and the bots say in unison after he displays it for the millionth time: “Seen it!”), is actually very well made. The hands in red on his black uniform is quite slick and the makeup on the actor really works. Yet, this for me basically marks the end of great things to talk about when it comes to Manos: The Hands of Fate. It is a title that suffers from one of the worst features any movie can, and that is “boredom”. Similar to the Hamlet episode, Joel and the bots have to fight hard to entertain but somehow they ultimately save this movie from itself, which is the polar opposite of what happened with Hamlet. When there is absolutely nothing left to riff on this time out, the guys ultimately make a joke out of the fact that there’s pretty much nothing left to riff on! Long stretches of boredom are expected during any viewing of Manos, but with the MST3K crew around thankfully they make everything work.

    The Conclusion
    It’s one of those episodes you really have to recommend to all MST3K fans. It’s a title that they introduced to the world and made movie history while doing so. The quality of the riffing and host segments are through-the-roof and this 2-Disc set from Shout! Factory is absolutely amazing. Features include Manos without commentary, an interview segment with the cast and crew reflecting on how the Manos episode came about, a intriguing documentary on the creation of Manos and much more. I think if you’re looking for a first step into the world of Mystery Science Theater 3000, you probably can’t go wrong here. I give it the highest rating we have: a 5 out of 5.





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