Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII

Actors: Joel Hodgson, Michael J. Nelson
Director: Kevin Murphy
Format: Box set, Color, DVD, Full Screen, NTSC
Language: English
Region: 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Number of discs: 4
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Shout! Factory
DVD Release Date: December 6, 2011
Run Time: 540 minutes





Another Christmas, another great Mystery Science Theater 3000 set!

Shout Factory has now officially reached the pace that Rhino did in their early sets of the beloved cult television show, and their new XXII box set contains very few surprises. As fans of the show know, that’s a really good thing.

As usual, the new set carries four movies: two from the Joel Hodgson era and two featuring Joel’s replacement Mike Nelson as host. The two Joel episodes are ostensibly the cream of the crop here: both repackaged Japanese TV shows foisted on American audiences by schlockmesiter (and beloved MST target) Sandy Frank.

The first, Time of the Apes, is a hastily redressed Planet of the Apes rip-off in which a pair of Japanese school children and their teacher are flung into a far future where intelligent apes rule. Bad English dubbing, shoddy make-up and a nonsensically assembled storyline sink what was hardly high art to begin with. The second film, Mighty Jack, follows much the same pattern: this time with a Thunderbirds-like spy organization as the subject. Frank’s jaw-dropping hatchet job means that characters wander in and out with no rhyme or reason, and the effects look like a Godzilla movie without any rubber monsters to distract us from The Suck.

Though they have their moments, as all MST episodes do, these actually fall a little short of their much-hyped expectations. Joel’s chiding works, but it lacks the spark of his best episodes, and while the films themselves are ridiculous, they also become a bit of a bore after awhile. (I should mention, however, that the stirring rendition of The Sandy Frank Song in Time of the Apes is not to be missed.)

The two Mike episodes actually prove far more entertaining: The Violent Years, a juvenile delinquents story penned by the fabulous Ed Wood; and The Brute Man, about a disfigured freak taking revenge on those responsible for his condition. Each film features a very funny short (including the immortal Chicken of Tomorrow in front of The Brute Man), and Mike’s sharp barbs strike home far more often than Joel’s do. The shorts also help keep the features from wearing out their welcome.

The sum total lands this particular set somewhere in the middle of the various MST collections. All four films work, and the show’s ineffable charm means that they hold up extremely well to repeat viewings. The retail price is a little steep, but purchasing it on Amazon or via a similar bargain makes it well worthwhile. Fans need no urging, of course, and while newcomers may want to dip their toes in an earlier set, everything here adheres to the standard we’ve come to expect. MST3K has become as reliable a product as one can hope for. The latest set continues that reliable (if slightly predictable) tradition.

THE DISCS: The special features here are mostly no-brainers, with introductions from noted B-movie expert August Ragone on the Japanese films, and cast member Mary Jo Pehl on The Brute Man. Time of the Apes also includes some funny MST Hour wraps featuring Mike as a perennially out-to-lunch PBS-style host. Beyond that, however, the set features a few real gems. The Brute Man includes a “Making of MST 3K” special – out of circulation for a long time and providing a lot of fascinating details on the show – while The Violent Years contains extended interviews from Ed Wood’s widow Kathy and his ex-girlfriend Delores Fuller. Their reminiscences are wistful and sad in equal measures, while lending uniquely personal views to the beloved bad director.

WORTH IT? MST fans will be happy with the results, as always, though newcomers might look for a more solid collection (or other of the individually packaged DVDs) to serve as an initiation.

RECOMMENDATION: It’s business as usual for the MST3K collections . . . which shouldn’t cause any complaints.

- Rob Vaux



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