MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: VOLUME XVII (DVD)

4.5 Stars
Year Released: 2010
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 400 minutes
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At last the truth can be revealed: there is indeed a fan base for Zap Rowsdower, that lovable drunken drifter who assists hapless Troy McGreggor in his fight against an evil cult. (Are there any non-evil cults? I guess not.) That information comes straight from actor Bruce J. Mitchell, who brought Rowsdower to life and is interviewed in the bonus features found in this latest “Mystery Science Theater 3000″ collection.

The film in question is “The Final Sacrifice,” whose Canadian origin leads to many Canuck jokes from Mike and the robots. It’s one of the more memorable “MST3K” episodes: the series had built up plenty of creative juice by by the ninth season, so every show was guaranteed to be pretty funny, if not outright hysterical, like this one. It helps that “The Final Sacrifice” tries so hard to be an epic adventure story and falls on its face every step of the way.

“The Final Sacrifice” is counterbalanced by a memorable Joel episode: “The Beatniks,” which features an installment of “General Hospital” as a warm-up. It’s a fourth-season episode, so, as with “The Final Sacrifice,” that particular cast and writing crew had hit their groove by that point. In 1993, Comedy Central had the “MST3K” staff cut 30 episodes into one-hour installments that were called “The Mystery Science Theater Hour” and hosted by Mike Nelson doing his “Jack Perkins” spoof. The wrappers from that version of “The Beatniks” are included here too.

The “Beatniks” disc also includes something I hope Shout Factory does more of in the future: a “Crow vs. Crow” discussion from Dragon Con 2009. Running 35 minutes, the moderated panel features Trace Beaulieu and Bill Corbett, who both voiced Crow during the series’ run. While I’m in agreement with most fans that it’s jarring to hear anyone but Kevin Murphy voice Tom Servo, Beaulieu and Corbett are close enough in style that I don’t notice a major difference between the two. The panel covers everything from difficulties working with the Crow puppet, who was very top heavy, to what parts went into his creation. (You apparently need a specific brand of bowling pin for the mouth.) Frank “TV’s Frank” Coniff even pops up toward the end to field a question.

While “The Final Sacrifice” and “The Beatniks” display the series firing on all cylinders, however, “The Crawling Eye” shows its rough beginning. It was the first post-KTMA episode, and as Joel Hodgson explains in his introduction, all the elements hadn’t settled into place yet. They didn’t even have a button for movie sign, leaving Joel to slap the desk when it was time to head into the theater. J. Elvis Weinstein was the voice of Tom Servo and served as Dr. Forrester’s sidekick; Murphy as Servo and Frank Coniff didn’t arrive until season two.

That’s not to say “The Crawling Eye” is a bad episode, of course. The series was still searching for its creative center, which happens a lot on TV, where a show will often evolve as the cast and crew figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s certainly a valuable piece of “MST3K” history, one fans will want to revisit.

Finally, we have “Blood Waters of Dr. Z,” a tenth season episode that shows the series headed for an inevitable ride into the sunset. It’s a solid episode; the disc includes four promos, along with the original theatrical trailer and a photo gallery. Original theatrical trailers are included for all the other films too, except “The Final Sacrifice.”



Posted on March 16, 2010 in Reviews by
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