Sunday, September 7, 2014

My Favorite Shorts!

A short look at the MST3K shorts!
I always loved a short, who doesn't. They were like little golden rays of sunshine heaped on us. An extra surprise treat before the main course.

That the Sci-Fi era didn't offer more of these delights was a shame (I wish they would have ditched the long "story" segments and given us more of these mini-movies).

The following is a list of shorts, ordered from my favorites on down. It's not iron clad - the shorts are so great it's impossible to make an exact science out of grading them. But I did my best, so, without further ado, I bring you... SHORTS!


Grade: A+ 
1] ONCE UPON A HONEYMOON 
Available on: #701 Night of the Blood Beast (Shout vol 16) - Shorts Volume 3 (Rhino special DVD release w/Essentials) 
Wild, weird and musical. All the components for the 'fun slice of strange' I enjoy. The riffing explores the frustrations of a couple kept from their Honeymoon and the fey angel sent to help them. Nice host segment (not seen on the shorts discs) where Gypsy gets everything she sings about.

2] CHEATING 
Available on: #515 Wild World of Batwoman (Rhino) - Shorts Volume 1 (Rhino DVD, Box set 2).
This dark little story, tells of the downfall of a kid who once had it all and lost it. The quips are really sharp and serve to compound our fallen hero's suffering -"Mother Theresa called... She hates you - Crow

3] WHY STUDY INDUSTRIAL ARTS? 
Available on: #609 Skydivers (Rhino) - Shorts Volume 1 (Rhino DVD, Box set 2). 
Why? This short will tell you why, in painful detail. Riviting and erotic, the gang was in a silly mood for this one... "I can't get this thing back in my pants, Earl" - Crow

4] APPRECIATING OUR PARENTS
Available on #320 The Unearthly (Rhino) 
Tommy learns to pitch in around the house. Includes one of my all time favorite riffs... "Tommy's the lathe of Heaven" - Joel... and overall, this is a blast from beginning to end.

5] THE DAYS OF OUR YEARS 
Available on : #623 Amazing Transparent Man - Shorts Volume 2 (Rhino DVD, Box set 3) 
Bad things happen to several people. Very sad but Mike and the Bots make it very funny! Still, If you're the hyper sensitive type, the dark nature of the subject matter might prove to be too much to handle.

6] ARE YOU READY FOR MARRIAGE? 
Available on: #616 Racket Girls (Shout vol 15) - Mr. B's Lost Shorts (BBI VHS. Rhino DVD, Box set 6) 
Well? Are you! Rubber bands become a rich source of comedy because of this short, as a couple seeks advice on whether they should marry. "Never make light of Boing, son" - Mike. There was also a hillarious skit involving the Mads and rubber bands that followed (again, it's not included on the shorts disc)

7] LAST CLEAR CHANCE 
Available on : #520 Radar Secret Service - Shorts Volume 2 (Rhino DVD, Box set 3).
"Why don't they look?" A depressing cop warns of the dangers of driving into trains. Again, the subject is dark but the humor is a ray of light.

8] A DATE WITH YOUR FAMILY 
Available on: #602 Invasion USA - Shorts Volume 1 (Rhino DVD, Box set 2).
Eating dinner is more complicated than I ever imagined. This is the best part of "show #602 as the riffs tap into the truths hidden behind the families polite veneer.

Grade:
9] HIRED! Parts 1 & 2 
Available on: #423 Bride of the Monster (Shout vol 19) & #424 Manos (Rhino & Shout) - Mr. B's Lost Shorts (Part 1. BBI VHS. Rhino DVD, Box set 6) 
This short was split over two episodes and inspired a funny skit too. It's all about a door to door car salesmen and an old guy who see's invisible elves. Brilliant!

10] MR. B NATURAL
Available on: #319 War of the Colossal Beast - Mr B's lost Shorts (BBI VHS. Rhino DVD, Box set 6).
Quite possibly the most frightening short of all. A music sprite visits a nerd and transforms him into a hep cat with a horn! Weirdly fun and the jokes mostly concern the trauma Joel and the Bots are experiencing while watching it.

11] JOHNNY AT THE FAIR
Available on: #419 The Rebel Set (Rhino vol 12) - Mr. B's Lost Shorts (BBI VHS. Rhino DVD, Box set 6). 
A little boy ditches his parents and has all types of adventures. The guys were on riff-fire from start to finish. Nice observational humor.

12] HERE COMES THE CIRCUS 
Available on: #422 The Day the Earth Froze (Shout vol 28)
The horror of clowns is well riffed. Though I did I grow a little weary of Joel's constant admonishments on the bots dark quips. I like dark quips, they're funny!

13] THE HOME ECONOMICS STORY 
Available on: #317 Viking Women and the Sea Serpent - Shorts Volume 1 (Rhino box set 2).
Four girls explore their career options in this long short that's large with laughs. Sadly, the Rhino version cuts out a riff (when the teacher shows the students some mucus)

14] IS THIS LOVE? 
Available on: #514 Teenage Strangler (Rhino set #10) - Shorts Volume 3 (Rhino special DVD release w/Essentials). 
Impulsive teens fall in love and ruin everyone's lives. The gang have a lot of fun with the characters in this flick. Which features an actual Romulan!

15] X MARKS THE SPOT 
Available on:#210 King Dinosaur (Shout vol 23) - Mr. B's Lost Shorts (BBI VHS. Rhino DVD, Box set 6). 
Joe Dokes stands trial in traffic court... in Heaven! The very first informational short opens up show #210 very well and was the beginning of something great. I especially liked that guardian angel.

16] A DAY AT THE FAIR
Available on: #608 Code Name: Diamond Head. Rhino shorts Vol 2 (Collected set #3) 
The gang seemed to really like shorts set at fairs because they riff them so well. This one focuses on farm animals and corn.

17] A YOUNG MAN'S FANCY
Available on: #610 The Violent Years (Shout vol 22)
Squishy gal falls for a guy obsessed with kitchen electronics. There are some missed opportunities I thought, but when they hit with a joke, they hit it out of the park. A great example of humorous 1990's sensibilities colliding against 1950's innocence.

Grade: A-
18] CENTURY 21 CALLING... 
Available on: #906 Space Children and Assignment: Venezuela (BBI VHS & Rhino DVD extra in box set 7). 
Two teens run all around Seattle's World fair, grinnng like fools and pointing at everything they see. This is my favorite Sci-Fi era short as Mike and the Bots have a lot of fun with these kids and all the fair exibits - "Come on, Let's go grope that Eskimo!" - Servo

19] SPEECH: USING YOUR VOICE 
Available on: #313 Earth vs Spider - Shorts Volume 3 (Rhino special DVD release w/Essentials). 
Wire racks and plenty of lip and tongue action are the highlights here. The crew has a lot of fun with the shorts host, Professor Buehler. This is one of Herk Hervy's (Carnival of Souls) efforts.

20] POSTURE PALS 
Available on: #320 The Unearthly (Rhino) 
Let the battle for the 'Burger King' crown commence! The best part of show #320, was the shorts (see also "Appreciating Our Parents"). This one's about 4 kids who are working to better their posture.

21] ROBOT RUMPUS
Available on: #912 The Screaming Skull (Shout vol 31)
Runaway Robots terrorize the Gumby clan. This is a very short, short. But Mike and the Bots pack in a bunch of top notched riffs. This is the one sci-fi short that wasn't included on "Assignment Venezuela" and one has to assume there were rights issues. Obviously, since cleared up.

22] ASSIGNMENT: VENEZUELA 
Available from the BBI video of the same name and as an extra on Rhino's DVD, Box set 7. 
A man takes a dream job and writes his family about all the neat, narrow stuff to be seen in Venezuela. There's a distracting time code on the screen, but this is still one funny (and long) short.

23] WHAT ABOUT JUVENILE DELINQUENCY 
Available on: #518 The Atomic Brain (Rhino disc & Shout Select). 
Teen ditches his gang (after they rough up his dad) and becomes a righteous dude. The humor style is short, sweet and to the point - "I say lets put them all to the spanking machine!" - Servo

24] KEEPING CLEAN AND NEAT 
Available on: #613 The Sinister Urge (Rhino set #9) & Shorts Volume 2 (Rhino Box set 3).
Strict rules on cleanliness, requires a full days work. The humors a wee dark, just the way I like it -"Never go to bed with wet hair" - "Or a first date" - Narrator/Crow

Grade: B+
25] BODY CARE AND GROOMING 
Available on: #510 The Painted Hills (Shout vol 31) - Shorts Volume 1 (Rhino Box set 2).
According to this short, you'll find love and be happy for the rest of your days as long as you remember to bathe. The opening bits are the best part of this one, and it inspired a great debate between Crow and Servo during a Host Segment.

26] UNCLE JIM'S DAIRY FARM 
Available on: #607 Bloodlust (Rhino DVD). 
A couple of city kids spend the summer with Uncle Jim and learn to milk cows and climb ropes and... Not as steady as the above shorts but still very funny.

27] CATCHING TROUBLE 
Available on: #315 Teenage Caveman - Shorts Volume 2 (Rhino DVD Box set 3). 
Animal hunter 'Ross' is glorified in this upsetting short. Joel gets 'em good in a Host Segment though.

28] MONEY TALKS! 
Available on: #621 Best of Yucca Flats (Shout vol 18) 
A kid with no cash receives a visit from Ben Franklin's shadow. It's his darkest vision ever (LMAO!) and I love that giant Malomar riff.

29] THE CHICKEN OF TOMORROW 
Available on: #702 Brute Man - Shorts Volume 1 (Rhino Box set 2) 
Everything you ever wanted to know about chickens, but were afraid to ask. This one gets funnier every time I see it, so It could jump in the ratings

30] PROGRESS ISLAND U.S.A.
Available on: #621 Beast of Yucca Flats (Shout vol 18)
Makes a nice double header with "Money Talks" - the other short that opens Yucca. Rock solid riffing on a film that demands that you go to Puerto Ricco!

31] WHAT TO DO ON A DATE 
Available on: #503 Swamp Diamonds (Rhino set #10) - Shorts Volume 2 (Rhino Box set 3). 
Geeky Teen tries to figure out how to entertain a girl -"Would Kay like a wienie roast?"- The gags are a little spotty, it's not a relentless laugh machine but solid.

32] DESIGN FOR DREAMING 
Available on: #524 12 to the Moon - Shorts Volume 3 (Rhino special DVD release w/Essentials) and Mr. B's Lost Shorts (Box st 6). 
Music and dance is used to sell us futuristic cars and modern Kitchen devices. Riffing's okay, but I love the short anyway because it's so imaginative and strange. Plus, I just dig that spooky chick.

Grade:
33] JUNIOR RODEO DAREDEVILS 
Available on: #407 Killer Shrews (Rhino DVD box set 7) - Shorts Volume 1 (Rhino DVD, box set 2). 
Delightful look at the suffering of kids and their farm animals. Old Billy Slater is the man as he lasso's some kids and forces them to hold a rodeo!

34] SNOW THRILLS 
Available on: #311 It Conquered The World. 
All the thrilling things that can happen when it snows is exhaulted here; Yipee! Word play is used effectively for this short, from "sheep Thrills" to "skit".

35] CIRCUS ON ICE 
Available on: #421 Monster A-Go-Go (Rhino box set 8) 
Skaters act out scenes of violence against a fawn and a dragon. The riffing is hit and miss, but Tom sings a great little song about the color "pink" - and a joke that hits on how wholesale slaughter is offered as entertainment, is dead on hillarious

36] OUT OF THIS WORLD 
Available on: 618 High School Big Shot. Shorts Vol. 3 (Rhino special DVD release w/Essentials).
Heaven and Hell vie for the soul of a bread salesman. Not bad, but with this goofy premise I was expecting better.

Grade: B- 
37] A CASE OF SPRING FEVER 
Available on: #1012 Squirm (Shout vol 31) - Assignment Venezuela (BBI VHS & Rhino DVD box set 7). 
Coily hassles a poor shlub who just wants to go golfing. It slows down when the shlub does his long speech thing, but the scenes with Coily are fun.

38] AQUATIC WIZARDS
Available on: #315 Teenage Caveman - Shorts Volume 3 (Rhino special DVD release w/Essentials).
A demonstration of all the neat stuff you can do on the water. Chad Slab-Body was memorable.

39] ALPHABET ANTICS
Available on: #307 Daddy-O. 
The guys tackle this kid friendly short from A to Z. Cute, but not devistatingly funny.

40] THE TRUCK FARMER 
Available on: #507 I Accuse My Parents (Rhino DVD). 
A couple of nice riffs here and there. But a mostly fair effort on a short about the food processing and packing industry.

Grade: C+ 
41] SPEECH: PLATFORM POSTURE AND APPEARANCE 
Available on: #619 Red Zone Cuba (Rhino DVD). 
Sparse riffing mars this helpful guide for standing tall and straight while speaking. Includes an odd exersize that everyone should try.

42] THE SELLING WIZARD 
Available on: #603 The Dead Talk Back (Rhino set #8). Shorts Vol. 3 (Rhino special DVD release w/Essentials).
Pretty dry, especially when the narrator drones on about the mechanics of refrigeration. At least it gives us the pizza dominatrix.

UNDERSEA KINGDOM 
On Season 4 eps, and collected on a special offer DVD from SHOUT
GENERAL HOSPITAL 
On Season 4 eps, and collected on a special offer DVD from SHOUT
For some strange reason, during season 4, the crew returned to doing series shorts. Neither of these are horrible, there are a few nice jabs in each. But I'd have preferred they ditched these and did "Soapy the Germ Fighter" or "Lunchroom Manners" or that one about the kids in Monkey masks who suffer through all kinds of horrible accidents!

Grade: C
RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON 
On Season 1 eps, and collected on a special offer DVD from SHOUT
THE PHANTOM CREEPS 
On Season 2 eps, and collected on a special offer DVD from SHOUT
There were a few good riffs, but the problem with these serials is that they are very repetitive. There's not a lot of different things the gang can do after 1 or 2 shows. These two are my least favorite. I do like the first "Phantom Creeps" but by #3 they were out of gas.


The Rhino & Shout Collections
Of Note: All of these were made available on Tape, from BBI or Rhino. Rhino as since stopped production on VHS and the only new copies to be had will be through DVD.

Shorts Volume 1
Available on the Collected Set. Volume 2
Includes: The Home Economics Story, Junior Rodeo Daredevils, Body Care and Grooming, Cheating, A Date with Your Family, Why Study Industrial Arts? Chicken of Tomorrow
Hosted by Tom Servo, this is the first and best of the shorts discs. Each short is a blast and makes for a great way to introduce newbies to the show. The one negative is in the edits. In the Home Economics Story, a riff is cut off (This is phlegm, this is mucus). The quip was said just before cutting to comercial and someone (BBI? Rhino?) cut away too quick. Dumb, dumb, dumb... Yet despite this faux pas volume one deserves its A+

Shorts Volume 2
Available on the Collected Set. Volume 3
Includes: Catching Trouble, What To Do On A Date, Last Clear Chance, A Day At The Fair, Keeping Neat and Clean, The Days of Our Years
Call this the "Dark Set" due to the gloomy subjects in 3 of the selections. They still are as funny as all get out. Sadly, gone is the host (Servo did one, why not Crow?) and would it have been any trouble to include the skit with "Catching Trouble" (Catching Ross). You really need to see them both as the host segment proves to be very healing.
Grade: A+

Shorts Volume 3
Was only available in a special offer with "Essentials"
Includes: Speech: Using Your Voice, Aquatic Wizards, Is This Love?, Design For Dreaming, The Selling Wizard, Out of This World, and Once Upon a Honeymoon
Despite the inclusion of the razor sharp "Honeymoon" and "Is This Love?", this is the weakest of the short sets. "Selling Wizards" is arguably the worst of the informational shorts. Replacing it and "Aquatic Wizards", with "Appreciating Our Parents" and "Here Comes the Circus", would have transformed this into a classic.
Grade: B+

Mr. B's Lost Short
Includes: Mr. B Natural, X Marks The Spot, Hired, Part 1, Design For Dreaming, Johnny at the Fair, Are You Ready for Marriage?
This was previously only available direct fom BBI on tape, but Rhino has now released it on disc with the Collected Set Volume 6. This is an outstanding collection but I wish they ditched "Design For Dreaming" (which is on Volume 3) and included both parts of "Hired". And paired it with the host segment it inspired. Also the "Marriage" short had a hysterical skit based on it as well. Aside from that complaint, this is a great disc.
Grade: A

Assigment Venezuela
Available from the BBI on tape and as an extra on Rhino DVD, Box set 7
Includes: Assignment Venezuela, Centruy 21 Calling..., A Case of Spring Fever
I've reviewed this is the "Specials Etc" section.
3 very funny shorts, makes for a nice extra on set 7
Grade: A

Orders of Volume XXV from Shout Factory's website include an extra disc with all MST3K Radar Men from the Moon segments with an introduction by J. Elvis Weinstein.

Order of volume XXVII from Shout Factory's website include an extra disc with all MST3K General Hospital, The Phantom Creeps, and Undersea Kingdom segments.