Sunday, September 7, 2014

MST3K Specials

THIS AND THAT: A look at a few of the MST3K Special episodes that were released over the years.

PSX Underground
The February 1998 issue of Sony Playstation Underground (Vol. 2, No 1) included a disk that had Mike, Tom and Crow riffing on Playstation games and videos. The source material isn't that great but the guys do a bang up job taking shots at it. In addition to the theater segments there's an opening skit and some interesting behind the scenes action at the end. The whole package lasts about 9 minutes and is pretty fun. Youtube used to have it, but it was pulled (Dang it!) so ask your local trader if they have a copy. Grade: B- 

This is MST3K 
A half hour look at the show, created during the Joel era. The best stuff is the interviews with cast and crew. The worst is the narration by Penn Jillette (put down the Milk Duds and shut up!!). Full of clips from the show and comments from media types, fans and Doogie Howser. Kind of light and makes you long for more. Note: Portions of this showed up as an extra on Volume 15 from Shout Factory. Grade: C+ 

The Making of MST3K
Made during the Sci-Fi era and provides a lot more insider info than "This is MST". We get the MST cam which offers us a look behind the scenes ( I love the writer room.Very cool) and more interviews with the cast. Lots of fun for those (like myself) who enjoy seeing how the production of this show comes about. Grade: A 

Poopie Parade of Values 
Mike, Kevin and Trace do a spot on send-up of TV infomercials. They imitate all the insipid questions and fake laughter (and accents) you see in these things as they shill 2 tapes the MST Info Club offered for sale (Poopie and the Scrapbook Tape). This special lasted about 17 minutes and was part of Turkey Day 1995. It aired before the final Deep 13 Turkey Day bumper and the premiere of Night of the Blood Beast. Grade: B+

Covering MSTs early years (up to season 6), this is the first of two videos which highlight the shows out-takes and flubs. It's not bad, though not every things a hoot. The show itself is so hysterical that the mistakes pale by comparison. Still there's many a cute moment (Pancakes!) which earn this video, available from Rhino. Grade: B- 

Poopie II
I haven't seen the full edition of this one, only the 15-minute edit on Rhino’s box set 10 (Teen-age Strangler disc). This one covers season 7 and 8 and it wasn't near as funny as the first Poopie release. They should have waited and included seasons 9 & 10 so that they'd have had more material to chose from. I always thought it looked like Trace got clipped in the mouth in that Blood Beast skit, and the out-takes show this to be true. Only, it isn't funny to see Trace bleeding like that. Also, while they worked together for years and I'm sure they got along fine, in these clips there didn't seem to be any onscreen chemistry between Trace and Mary Jo in these out takes. I dunno, Trace came off kind of uncomfortable. Grade: D 

Little Gold Statue Oscar Special 
Tom and Crow make their picks for the Oscars! They don't sit in the theater, just show clips and let fly with some comments on each. This hurts the special a bit but there are still a few good laughs. I enjoyed the Elton John segment and the Bots really luving the dreamy Robert Redford. Okay, but not one I'll revisit a lot. Grade: C+ 

1st Annual MST3K Summer Blockbuster Review 
Hysterical look at the summers blockbusters. Starts off hilariously as Tom and Crow tackle the "5th Element" (complete with funny behind the scenes commentary) and then they are joined by Mike for "Lost World" (and some staring). It drops off a hair when Bobo, Brain Guy and Pearl join in. Though they aren't bad - Bobo asking dumb questions during "Men in Black", and Crow teasing Pearl and her George Clooney obsession are funny moments. So all in all It equals out to a rock solid... Grade: A- 

2nd Annual MST3K Summer Blockbuster Review 
Crow informs us that it is our duty to watch the movies offered in this special. There's no Pearl, Bobo & Observer this time, but it also doesn't have the strong start of the first one either. Films like Armageddon (with funny digs at Ben Affleck), X-Files, Deep Impact The Truman Show, Small Soldiers, Saving Private Ryan and a special presentation of "Goshzilla" are presented. Solid riffing all the way through and it's a gas when Mike gets a title wrong (Halloween Water?) Grade: B+ 

1998 Academy of Robots' Choice Awards Special 
The crew targets the Oscar once again (this time by command of Vice President Gore!), and this version is much better because M&TB make their comments in the theater. Clips from "L.A. Confidential", "Good Will Hunting" (the running gag about Mike's irritation with this title, gets old fast), "Titanic" and others, receive the msting treatment. Some of the funniest bits for me came with the riffing on the very serious flicks, "Amistad" and "Mrs. Brown". It ends with Al relaying some bad riffs to Mike during the credits. Grade: B+ 

MST Scrapbook Tape
There's no narrator, just clips. Great big beautiful wonderful clips. Clean shiny excerpts from KTMA open the tape and they brought a huge smile to my face. There are clips from the pilot (with Beeper), the KTMA "Sales" tape, MST Live from 1989, the "Pitch" tape to Comedy Central, footage of the gang building the sets, the Turkey Day bumpers from '91, scenes from the conventions. If you're an MST geek like I am, this is an absolute must have. The only negative would be that I wanted more (how about ALL the host segments from KTMA's lost episodes?) but that doesn't tarnish the joy I felt watching this tape. Note: Bits and pieces of this showed up as an extra on volume 15 from Shout Factory.  Grade: A+ 

Last Dance Raw 
This tape covers the making of the final episode, which would have made a neat documentary. But that's NOT what this is, the operative word in the title is, "Raw"! What you get are clips of the host segments as they aired. Then we watch take after take after take as they film that segment. It's very tedious and the crew doesn't really say or do anything very interesting or funny. There's no sentimental reflection or tearful goodbye, it's like watching something your Uncle Carl made with his camcorder. Highlights? Well, we watch Murphy get made up as Bobo, but even that grows dull after a while. So, aside from getting to see the always cheerful prop diva, Beez McKeever, there's not much to recommend here. For obsessed MSTies only. Grade: C- 

Assignment Venezuela 
A 25 minute short which was shown at the 1996 Conventio-Con but never broadcast on TV. Told mostly through letters, where our nerdy lead often describes everything as "Narrow". This shorts about an American Oil Man who moves his family to Venezuela. A.V. still has a distracting time code and the sound quality is bad (at times you can hardly hear the riffs, then suddenly the voices boom out!) but the jokes are a delight. Coupled with "Century 21 Calling" and "A Case of Spring Fever". Well worth adding to the collection. Grade: A

The Cheap Seats 
In March of 2005, Mike, Servo and Crow returned to the theater for one brief beautiful moment and riffed on the hosts of ESPNs Cheap Seats.  CS, if you haven't seen it, is an MST type show where comedian/twin brothers Randy and Jason Sklar, make comments while watching wild sporting events, games and contests.

The Sklars have put together a decent show that's chock full O' genuine laughs. They are nowhere near the level of the masters. Their delivery is sometimes flat; plus (being siblings) they are very similar in voice and timing which doesn't allow for the joyous variety in style and character that we receive on the SOL. I got a bit tired -for example- of the... "Did he/she/they just..."  lines which are delivered in the same nasal tone.
But while the Sklars are good - M&tB are great! They are shown in three short bits where they make fun of Jason & Randy and the show. Not every joke hits the mark, but the interplay between these 3 distinct personalities are what separates the men from the boys. I don't want to spoil the fun by revealing the riffs, But I will say that when they nail a joke, it's the funniest thing heard on the show. It was so nice to see and hear these guys again and I hope somehow, in some way, we get more of them in the future. B+ overall * A for M&TB