Included in this box set are four DVDs of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the show where a guy shot into space is forced to watch the worst movies ever made. Here are some brief comments on each disc:
ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES: This episode starts off with a short serial called "Undersea Kingdom", which is predictably goofy (the plot involves the discovery of the lost continent of Atlantis by the crew of a rocket-powered submarine) and the mocking is well up to par. The opening credits of the main feature will you everything you need to know about it. First of all is the title, "Attack of the Giant Leeches". Does anything scream stereotypically bad 1950's science fiction movie more than that? The other thing the credits reveal is the name of the producer: Roger Corman. Help.
A lot of the jokes come at the expense of the clichéd small-town hillbilly characters and also the well-meaning environmental protector who's overly cautious attitude ends up providing the monsters with a hell of a lot of food. And, of course, we have the requisite bad monster costumes, which are exactly as inept as the image that pops into your head when you hear the title of this movie. There's a really goofy love-triangle that provides much laughter. This is the type of episode where you laugh at the movie as hard as you laugh at the commentary.
GUNSLINGER: After a marshal in the old west is gunned down by a generic bad guy, his plucky widow decides to take matters into her own hands. She becomes the sheriff until a replacement can be found, and tries to maintain order in the town while seeking revenge for her murdered husband. I actually like the sound of that. Unfortunately, there's a problem. This is another Roger Corman film.
Camera shots aren't lined up properly. Actors stand in the background not knowing they're in the shot. Poor editing means that characters leap from inside to outside in the blink of an eye. This last flaw makes for one of the funniest host segments I've seen, where Tom Servo teleports himself all over the Satellite of Love to the amazement of his fellow crew. This quite a fun episode; the commentary is sharp and the movie is hilarious.
MR. B'S LOST SHORTS: A collection of shorts rather than a full-fledged episode. The show did a number of short films; usually educational films shown in classrooms to captive audiences. I've been a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan for a number of years now, but I'd never seen the "Mr. B. Natural" short which has a fearsome reputation in fan circles. Now I finally understand that reputation. There have been a lot of strange films and shorts shown on MST3k, but clearly this ranks up there with the oddest. A hyperactive, dancing, androgynous woman (Mr. B Natural) wearing blue tights and a suit covered in musical notes pops into the lives of troubled young men and attempts interesting them in music. The comments from the crew reflect the feelings of everyone who watches this film: utter bafflement and horror.
Also in this collection are MARKS THE SPOT (the highest traffic court in New Jersey is actually a lower court in heaven, where God's judges and lawyers deal out harsh justice to habitual bad drivers), HIRED! ("Well, that's something you didn't hear much of during the Bush administration."), DESIGN FOR DREAMING (a General Motors promotional film where a woman dreams about all the great things GM will be providing in the future), JOHNNY AT THE FAIR (a little munchkin runs away from his parents at a fair and becomes a proto-Forrest Gump, meeting bemused celebrities of the day), and ARE YOU READY FOR MARRIAGE? (according to this film, the answer is no). I love these little bite-sized morsels of MST3k. They're great when you need a small portion of hilarity, but when you're not sure you could survive another two hours of MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE.
TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE: An alien named Derek (yes, really) runs away from his fellow aliens. He tries to disguise himself as a teenage human, which ordinarily would be difficult given that he looks about 30. Fortunately for him, he's landed in a 1950's science fiction movie where all the regular teenage humans look about 30. He meets an impossibly gullible family who let him live with them and naturally he learns what it is we humans call "love". Oh, and there some giant special effect lobsters wandering around. I actually sort of liked this movie in a strange way. But the jokes are really sharp. Definitely a winner.
Overall, this is a great collection. I've been buying these MST3k box sets as they're released and I've been quite happy with them. If you're a fan, you simply have to pick these up. If you're not, then this is actually a great one to start with as the short films are easy to get into, and the long features are entertaining without being too painful.