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Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXIV

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    Ian Jane
    Administrator

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXIV



    Released by:
    Shout! Factory
    Released on: July 31, 2012.

    Director: Various

    Cast: Various

    Year: Various

    Purchase From Amazon


    The Movies:


    The latest in Shout! Factory's excellent series of MST3K collections bundles together another four great entries in the fan favorite series and slaps'em all in a nice slipcase package and throws in some great extras too! This time around, the set has a lot of international flavor, as it starts with two Japanese imports before bombarding us with a bizarre Russian fantasy film and then one of the greatest Mexican wrestler movies ever made. What will you find this time around? Why, all of this…


    FUGITIVE ALIEN:


    Sandy Frank imported this late seventies TV series from Japan, originally called Star Wolf, and cut it into a feature length movie entitled Fugitive Alien. The story, such as it is, follows a Wolf Raider from the planet Valnastar with the ominous name of Ken who has to lead the life of a fugitive after stopping another unnamed Star Wolf from murdering some kid. Luckily for Ken, Captain Joe and his crew of the spaceship Bacchus III allow him to come on board. Though things are tense at first, they soon team up to stop other Wolf Raiders from attacking Earth.


    Dubbed on the cheap and recut to the point where it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, Fugitive Alien is fun in the same way that a lot of the MST3K Sandy Frank episodes have been fun. These were done fast and cheap and the dubbing handled so poorly that the crew of the satellite are rarely lacking for material. Given that this is the episode that contains the famous (at least in MSTies circles) 'kill him with a forklift' song you know you're in good hands here. The riffs are frequent, funny and concise and you can't help but have a good time laughing alongside the movie with this one.












    STAR FORCE: FUGITIVE ALIEN II:


    Fugitive Alien II more or less picks up where the first one left off, with yet more episodes of Star Wolf given the Sandy Frank makeover for mass US appeal. After successfully saving the Earth in the first movie, Ken and Captain Joe and the rest of the crewmembers from the Bacchus III now have to stop the evil ruler of Calnastar from using some sort of advanced alien weapon which, shockingly, he wants to use for a second attempt at destroying the Earth. Complicating matters further is the inclusion of Ken's ex-girlfriend, Rita. The aliens of Valnastar all have very common names for some reason.


    Some of the bits including the medley of songs that Joel and the bots come up with are amusing and there's plenty of ammunition to keep the riffs coming but this one isn't quite as funny as the first one. It's good, it's not great, though it frequently comes close. You definitely have to appreciate the sheer audacity of the scenes that completely rip off moments from Star Wars though… for the most part it's safe to say that if you enjoyed the first Space Fugitive episode then you'll enjoy this one too.












    THE SWORD AND THE DRAGON:


    This odd Russian fairy tale/fantasy film tells the story of a friendly giant warrior guy who is lauded for his brave victory over a pesky demon until some of the citizens of the town he's just saved decide to turn against him. Their trickery succeeds and before you know it he's been kicked out of the town, but woe to those who would kick out a friendly giant warrior guy, because shortly after his exodus a local bad guy decides to invade. Bet they wish they hadn't kicked him out of the village, huh?


    It's hard to say if this movie really deserved the riffing that it got here or not. Parts of it are awful, parts of it are actually quite well done. This seems to have had an effect on the quality of the jokes that pop up in the commentary and this episode, while certainly not bottom of the barrel material, is the weakest of the four contained in the set. There's still some good back and forth between the guys to keep things amusing though. Worth a watch for sure, but probably not one you'll go back to time and time again.












    SAMSON VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN:


    Last, but damn certainly not least, we get K. Gordon Murray's Americanized version of Santo Versus The Vampire Women. With our masked Mexican wrestler now redubbed Samson, the storyline follows our hero whose help is needed in saving the daughter of some friend of his who has been kidnapped by a cult of sexy vampire women. Lots of sports cars, video phones and masks are the name of the game here, as we see that there's nothing that can't be solved with a bit of good old fashioned wrestling!


    Ridiculously scripted with some of the most inane dialogue you're likely to hear, and goofy even by the admittedly already very goofy standards of the K. Gordon Murray collection of imported and redubbed films, this one is a kick. If Santo doesn't really have much to do with the movie for the first half hour or so, he makes up for it in the last two thirds where he… wrestles bad guys. If you've never seen a luchadore movie this'll all seem very strange but there's a lot to love here. The movie actually has some very cool atmosphere at times and the bad guys, or girls as the case may be, are about as cool as they come. Of course, none of this saves the movie from the riffing, and the three commentators do a great job of skewering pretty much everything that there is to skewer here which makes this the stand out episode of the four disc set.












    Video/Audio/Extras:


    The fullframe interlaced transfers that grace this DVD set won't blow you away but they're certainly watchable enough particularly when taken in the intended context. You will see the MST3K silhouettes in front of the screen (and occasionally interacting with the images!) so purists take note, and the transfers are taken from old TVs master so those expecting the movie to appear here as it was originally intended will be disappointed. That said, generally the picture looks as good here as it did on TV when it first aired and pristine video quality isn't really the point here. If you've seen MST3K before, you'll know what to expect. The first three films are in color and the last film in black and white, but the skits in between viewing sessions are in color throughout and understandably and look a fair bit better than the movies themselves do.

    The commentaries come through nice and clear for each of the five episodes and there are no problems understanding the participants as they're balanced nicely against the audio from the movies. As far as the quality of that aspect is concerned, the tracks are on par with the transfers. They're not great; in fact, there are times where it sounds a little shrill. Overall though the audio is perfectly serviceable.


    The Fugitive Alien disc is the lightest on extras, but it does feature a six minute intro from author and Kaiju film expert August Ragone that offers up some trivia and history for the film. Additionally we also get three Mystery Science Theater Hour Wraps that total just over five minutes. These are amusing and it's nice to see Shout! including as many of these as they have been on the recent sets.




    There's really only one extra on the Star Force disc but it's one that fans of the show and of screwy foreign exploitation movies imported for American audiences will appreciate. The twenty five minute long You Asked For It: Sandy Frank Speaks! is, as it sounds, an interview with the man who brought the Gamera movies and loads of other odd films (like the Fugitive Alien pictures, of course!) from around the world to American audiences. Here he speaks about his work, his career and his thoughts on some of the movies that have been given the MST3K treatment from his library.




    The Sword And The Dragon's menus reveal two amusing short films that get the MST3K treatment - Snow Thrills and A Date With Your Family. Both movies are horrible and ripe for lampooning, and that's exactly what happens to them here.




    Last but not least, the Samson Vs. The Vampire Women disc includes an eleven minute featurette entitled Lucha Gringo: K. Gordon Murray Meets Santo which explores the relationship between the films and the man who imported and dubbed them for an American children's audience. There's also an eleven minute featurette here called Life After MST3K: Frank Conniff which catches up with the actor to discuss his MST3K work and what he's been up to since leaving the show. A very cool television spot advertising the release of Samson Vs. The Vampire Women rounds out the fourth disc in the set nicely.




    All four of the discs include animated menus and chapter selection. Inside the slipcase packaging are four mini poster inserts replicated the cover art found on the thinpack DVD cases.


    The Final Word:


    This isn't the best MST3K set from Shout! Factory so far but it's definitely a good one, with the understandably beloved Samson Vs. The Vampire Women episode standing head and shoulders above the rest. The A/V quality won't wow you, but if you've read this far you probably don't care too much in this instance anyway, and some genuinely interesting extra features add quite a bit to the set as a whole.


    • Andrew Monroe
      #1
      Andrew Monroe
      Pallid Hands
      Andrew Monroe commented
      Editing a comment
      I thought the funniest thing on this set was A DATE WITH YOUR FAMILY. That had us in tears the other night. Opens the oven door Sylvia? Haha.

    • Randy G
      #2
      Randy G
      Senior Member
      Randy G commented
      Editing a comment
      A DATE WITH YOUR FAMILY is my favourite bit ever on MST3K.
    Posting comments is disabled.

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