MST3K Volume 8 contains two episodes from the Comedy Central years and two from the Sci-Fi Channel years. One stars Joel Hodgson and three star Mike Nelson as host. There is lots of sci-fi and horror fun in these four weird and wonderful episodes. Here's a synopsis of each of them:
Episode 421- MONSTER A-GO GO (with short: CIRCUS ON ICE)
The movie is a hilarious bit of b/w 1965 sci-fi made by Bill Rebane, the guy who later brought you The Giant Spider Invasion. The plot involves an astronaut returning to Earth as a radioactive "monster" and the efforts to catch him. The film has a surprise ending which I won't give away here in case there are any MST3K fans about to buy this set that haven't seen it. I will say that the surprise, if you can call it that, will make you groan, and Joel and the `Bots make some hilarious jokes at the film's expense when the so-called big surprise is revealed. The writers at MST3K were often at their best when the films were at their worst, and this episode is no exception. The low budget is readily apparent in everything about this film, like the poor sound quality, the acting, direction and props (or lack of them). For example, there's one especially funny scene wherein an actor is forced to make a ringing noise to simulate a telephone ringing instead of having an actual sound effect of a telephone ring! The short, Circus On Ice, is also a bit weird and takes a hilarious verbal pounding from the crew of the SOL. Wait till you see the skater playing a fawn getting shot! It's not your typical ice show or circus, that's for sure.
Episode 603- THE DEAD TALK BACK (with short: THE SELLING WIZARD).
This b/w feature was filmed in 1957, but never saw the light of day till it was released on video in 1993 and then appeared on Mystery Science Theater. An inventor is working on a machine that will allow him to speak to the dead. One of his fellow boarding house tenants is murdered, so they supposedly use his invention to have a séance and speak with the victim and reveal the murderer. There's lots of inaction in the middle before the climactic séance scene and (yes, another) surprise ending. Dull and dumb, but good for some laughs, especially with the crew of the SOL. The short, The Selling Wizard, is only slightly livelier, but is funny when the MST3K gang gives it the usual treatment. It's a classic bit of American advertising by the Anheuser-Busch Company that gets an amusing and merciless MST3K treatment.
Episode 902- PHANTOM PLANET
Any movie with Richard Kiel as a large grotesque monster can't be a total waste. An SF flick made in 1961 in black and white, it has everything you'd expect: stiff acting, rubber suit monsters, pretty girls in scanty attire, and cheesy special effects. The story involves an Earth astronaut finding his way onto a wandering "phantom planet" where the humanoid inhabitants are advanced and look just like earthlings, only extremely diminutive by comparison. The astronaut shrinks to their size when exposed to their atmosphere, after which love, jealousy, action and melodrama ensue. There's a really fruity optimistic speech made by one of the astronaut characters early in the picture, just before he dies a sudden death from a meteoroid strike; what message is the filmmaker trying to send with that? If you like old SF films, you will like this one a lot.
Episode 907- HOBGOBLINS
This 1987 rip-off of Gremlins directed by Rick Sloane is just about as bad as a movie can get. There is nothing amusing, entertaining, funny or scary about this movie and it fails to entertain on EVERY level. I've read that most of Mr. Sloane's movies are of a less reputable type (wink, wink) than bad SF, but no matter what your taste you won't want to see anything else by him after you've seen this garbage. If possible, it's less entertaining than Manos Hands of Fate! The seeming intentional humor in the film is about as funny as a train wreck, so it's not that easy for the MST3K writers to get humor out of it, however, it is goofy enough and poorly made enough to give them something to use and the end result is funny enough to be worth it for viewers. The MST3K writers must have really had to suppress their gag reflexes in order to make a funny episode out of this one, but we benefit from their sacrifice.
These four shows all represent a strong effort even if the films used in them do not. The variety of films used should prove interesting to most viewers and there's a little something for everyone. Everything in this set is still funnier and more original than nearly anything you'll find on TV before or since these aired, even if one or two of these are not on your favorites list. Monster A-Go Go is so hilarious that I'd recommend the set for that one alone. Now Rhino Video, how about Rocketship X-M, King Dinosaur, Lost Continent, Wild Rebels, Outlaw and Magic Voyage of Sinbad for the next few sets! Please publish more MST3K episodes soon!