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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mystery Science Theater 3000 XVI Review by Jessica Friedman

Mystery Science Theater 3000 XVI Review

The newest Limited Edition DVD set from Shout Factory is a must-have for MST3K fans for one reason and one reason only: Tom Servo figurine! It’s the perfect thing for the home or the office that lets nerds proudly proclaim, “I LOVE TOM SERVO!” Also, it makes a fantastic last-minute holiday gift. Mine is sitting at my desk at work, and as you can see, it is SO cute next to my box of paper clips and mug of assorted pens!

Ahem…aside from the adorable mini Tom Servo that makes the entire purchase worthwhile, there are also four impressive DVDs and individual mini posters of the bots that feature, once again, excellent art from Steve Vance. The DVD set includes four titles: two Mike episodes (Santa Claus and Night of the Blood Beast that includes the original hysterical Turkey Day ’95 bumpers) and two Joel episodes (Warrior of the Lost World and the fifth episode of Season 1, The Corpse Vanishes). Even though Mike is my favorite of the two hosts, I will be discussing a Joel episode as well as a Mike one: the seasonal favorite Santa Claus and the futuristic Warrior of the Lost World.

Since it is the holiday season once again, it seems to be the perfect time to watch the perennial favorites: A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, and Die Hard (if you are my husband or our friend Derek). However, MST3K has offered many holiday classics, and Santa Claus is one of the most terrifying and hilarious Christmas-related movies I have ever seen in my life. It is difficult to put into words the surreal atmosphere that this movie encapsulates, but Mike and the Bots certainly rip Santa and Pitch, the effeminate evil demon that is Santa’s enemy in the film, a new one. Everything about Santa Claus is bizarre, from the first half hour of “It’s a Small World” international singing children to the horrifying doll dream that the protagonist, Lupita, has during the course of the film. In addition, the lines “He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake” have never sounded so ominous until you witness Santa using his spying devices to maintain his totalitarian grasp over the world.

The riffing is, as always, top-notch for Santa Claus, and the sweet nondenominational song that Mike and the Bots sing near the end is for me the highlight of the episode. The DVD also features a 50-year retrospective on the movie entitled “Santa Claus Conquers the Devil” that helps to explain how K. Gordon Murray found the film and how it achieved its cult success that has continued over the years, along with information on the film's production (and why Santa is more like an El Santo-esque superhero). There is also a stills gallery and a teaser trailer for The Wonder World of K. Gordon Murray. If you can make it past the mumbling children and creepy Santa battling with the devil, this film is sure to become a holiday tradition for your family as it has already become for my husband and me.

A very different, but also enjoyable episode is Warrior of the Lost World. Joel often leaves me bored and annoyed with his dull demeanor and half-baked gadgets, but even I must admit that the riffing in this episode is stellar. This movie is one bizarre amalgam of every apocalypse film ever made with a sprinkling of The Warriors for flavor. The two aspects of this film that stand out in my mind are the machines (the protagonist’s motorcycle that annoyingly chirps words and Mega-Weapon!) and the nausea-inducing makeout scene at the end that seems to last forever. Although the riffing by Joel and the bots is great, the most impressive joke is Tom Servo pointing out every single person in the three-tiered stands at the end of the movie and assigning them a celebrity look alike. That, my friends, is what makes Kevin Murphy a master riffer.

In addition to this hilarious episode, the DVD features some illuminating extras, including an interview with director David Worth and movie stills with Worth narrating. Worth is self-deprecating in his interview and seems to be an it-getter in relation to the premise of the show. My husband and I both felt that he came off very well in his interview, and Mr. Worth, if you are reading this, my husband would LOVE for you to do an interview with HK and Cult Film News!

In conclusion, if you are a fan of MST3K or just enjoy cult movies, do yourself a favor and buy this DVD set. The four episodes included in the set look fantastic, sound great, and are filled with fascinating extras that will keep any MSTie satisfied until the next DVD release. But who am I kidding…the real reason to buy this Limited Edition set is so that you can have your very own Tom Servo figurine! Get yours today!


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