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Why yes, my brain IS burning. Anyone's brain would after watching two of the most horrendous movies in the world -- yes, even worse than Ed Wood's. "The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection - The Essentials (Manos, the Hands of Fate / Santa Claus Conquers the Martians)" is a two-part bundle of hilarity that will leave you thanking God for good directors.

On the Satellite of Love, Joel experiments with a module that causes all the bots to worship him -- and of course, once he removes it, they go right back to normal. Then comes the invention exchange, which is about as surreal as you'd expect, and then some.

Then the guys go into the theater for "Manos, The Hands of Fate"... and yes, that comma SHOULD be a colon, but isn't. After being treated to a horrible short film about "prospects," they are launched into the worst movie in the world: after a few hours of "driving" footage and some cop-related red herrings, a very boring all-American family arrives at a weird out-of-the-way house, occupied only by the knobby-kneed Torgo.

Amazingly, Torgo's creepy tics and constant babbling about "the Master" doesn't tip the family off that something weird might be going on in this place. And of course, eventually the bots begin to go insane from the sheer ineptitude of it all -- "Hey look, there's a field! And another field! And another field!" "Oh yes, it's very scenic. It's just like a scene from... "Manos, the Hands of Fate!". Cue Tom's hysterical sobs.

Then: it's Christmastime on the Satellite of Love, and Joel and the bots are celebrating as best they can... only for Dr. Forrester to spoil it by sending up a terrifyingly awful, gruesomely sentimental movie called "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians"... which is a great title, but a baaaaaaad movie.

Basically it's about how the children on Mars have become depressed and materialistic, so the Martians go to Earth to kidnap Santa Claus. Not only do they abduct the creepily cheerful St. Nick, but two extremely wooden children called Billy and Betty. And you can probably see what's coming: Santa's influence causes all the Martians to become jolly and happy and all that. And there's some Martian who hates him, but he's so ineffectual that it's hard to notice him except for his walrus mustache.

I can see why these two episodes of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" were bundled together, because the movies they are snarking are THE WORST. They are just AWFUL -- "Manos" is abysmally cheap and poorly-made (giant kneecaps!) with the worst actors ever to wander in front of a camera, and "Santa Claus" is a grotesque mix of cheesy sentimentality, cheap sets/props/costumes, and kiddie sci-fi.

However, the snark aimed at these movies is SUBLIME. Joel and the bots have the right mix of craziness ("Oh, let's have a Patrick Swayze Christmas this year." "Or we'll tear your throat out and kick you in the ear!") and weirdness ("Could you hold that one card up? What's it say? Oh, yeah - woof"). Watching these guys is fun enough to make up for the wretchedness of the movies -- where else can you hear a guy and two robots read their essay/rants about Christmas, involving Santa and the reindeer being exposed to vacuum?

"The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection - The Essentials (Manos, the Hands of Fate / Santa Claus Conquers the Martians)" is a hilarious, torturous experience -- a necessity for fans of the series, and a good place to start for newbies.
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on July 14, 2004
It's about time that there was a release of one of the classic MST3K holiday experiments, just in time for the season. 'Manos' is the definitive example of an MST experiment - goofy, meandering movie with cutting riffs. The 'Poopie' outtake collection is a longer-than-normal selection of bloopers and alternate takes - a must have for any MSTie.
But the real treat of this dual set is "Santa Claus Conquers The Martians". If you're tired of normal holiday fare such as "Home Alone", "A Christmas Story", and "It's a Wonderful Life" place this disk in the player and watch your kids' squeal with delight. "Santa Claus" is a bizarre tale about pathos and depression - among Martians! It seems the only way to cure the holiday blues on Mars is to stage a spectacular kidnapping of the Earthling Santa Claus. Four children (two from Earth and two from Mars) join forces with Dropo, a renegade Martian to rescue Santa, save Christmas on Earth, and bring holiday joy to the Children of Mars. The plot makes sense with the electric performance of a young Miss Pia Zadora. Ok, well maybe not.
Sounds interesting, yes? No? Well, it's a truly awful film, a definite jaw-dropping example of bad cinema. Fortunately, the MST3K treatment is hilarious. Joel and the 'Bots even give us the classic Christmas standard, "A Patrick Swayze Christmas".
I'm chucking my "Charlie Brown Christmas" and "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" in favor of this twisted classic.
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on July 19, 2004
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is one of the all-time best MST3K episodes ever. Manos, while previously available, is too. But, of course, it's Santa Claus that's the true draw of this set b/c it's the first time it's available on DVD.
More! More! More! The Comedy Central era is MST3K's finest hour. I repeat: More! More! More!
By the way...words could not express how grateful I would be to see a "Master Ninja I and II" Essentials set...
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