Joel Hodgson, a young kid from Minnesota found a way to help redeem bad movies and turn then into a worthy form of entertainment. He started a low-budget TV show that aired on Minnesota's public access channel, and who would have thought that his insane idea would become such a cult hit. From 1988 until 1999, Mystery Science Theater 3000 was one of the funniest shows on television, a simple idea that grew majestic in popularity. The premise involved a standup comic played by Joel Hodgson as a worker at a satellite station who gets shot into space by Dr. Clayton Forrester and his assistant, TV's Frank and is forced to watch incredibly bad movies so that Dr. Forrester can observe his behavior patterns. Joel creates robots Servo, Gypsy, and Crow that add a sarcastic running commentary to the inferior films.
The show itself is framed within the context of a short skit, mostly prop comedy, but the heart of the episodes consists on Joel and his pals observations and wise-ass remarks that not only elevate the work to insane funny heights but it is also highly entertaining. There references to pop culture, current events , history, movies, music , politics, famous people, and just about anything that comes to mind. The Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume 6 features four four discs that offer the best and the worst examples on this clever form of entertainment.
Disc 1 features Attack of the Giant Leeches, a 1959 horror movie from executive producer Roger Corman, which has some funny moments, thanks to Joel’s gang commentaries but at about the 62 minutes the film seems awfully long due to its lack of action and uninteresting characters. This is truly one dog of a movie. The film was directed by Bernard Kowalski, who later went on to direct the creepy SSSSSSS and had a very successful career in TV. The biggest laughs come from Tom Servo as he mocks the onscreen heroine’s desires and around the shop owner’s sexy wife’s southern accent played byYvette Vickers, Playboy's July 1959 Playmate. The horrible leech costumes are very funny enough and there are also a few effectively creepy scenes in which they show the dead victims slowly floating back to the surface of the lake. But this is not enough to carry this dog of a movie.
Disc 1 disc also has a bonus short, Undersea Kingdom, which is about earthquakes, the rise of Atlantis and its people waging war against homoerotic naval men in the U.S. Navy. There are references to movie classics like Citizen Kane, chimpanzees and politics. Very funny stuff indeed.
Disc 2 takes aim at the Roger Corman-directed Gunslinger, which was also Corman’s last western. Beverly Garland plays Rose, a lady marshall, taking over her recentlly murdered husband’s job. Rose's counterpart is the cruel Erica (Allison Hayes), always ready to kill anyone messing up with her dirty schemes. These two beautiful mortal enemies are involved in a love triangle with the gunslinger Cane Myro (John Ireland) who was hired by saloonkeeper Erica to kill Garland. The problem is that Ireland falls for the woman he has to kill. Garland is a tough cookie and to show she means business in enforcing the law, she forces Erica, to obey the town curfew. Erica refuses to shut down her all-night saloon so the two get into a vicious Dynasty-like cat fight which is one of the few highlights in this film. There is some hanky panky between all the characters , but torn between love and duty, Garland chooses duty and kills Ireland.
The tough and forced dialogue is at best campy. Garland and Hayes overact poorly and there is some really bad camera work. Included in the film, there are scenes in which it shows people walking on the set when they aren’t supposed to. There is also an an inept barroom brawl and lots of ludicrous dialogue; all easy target for the MST3K gang. Unfortunately westerns are not Joel or his robot friends’ forte and they seem to struggle to mock the film about as much as the film struggles to be entertaining. The funniest line in this episode comes from Tom (while discussing his funeral) in which he states “Dignity, schmignity! I want elephants, lots of them!” The most ironic comment comes from Joel when he says, “This movie is just sitting on my head and crushing it.". Gunslinger proves that some bad films are so bad they can’t even be mocked.
Disc 3 Mr. B’s Lost Shorts consists of six shorts, in which the MST3K gang returns to top form. Because of the short format our critics keep the comedy coming fast and furious to make it probably one of the best of the discs in this collection.
The most amusing is Design for Dreaming, a GM Motorama musical vision of the future. The funniest comment comes when the female lead flies on screeen and in the comments we hear "Stockard Channing as Peter Pan!".
Mr. B Natural ranks as the best short, possibly ever with a capital B for Brilliant! A sprightly muse instills the love of music into a young boy. The MST3K gang are severely affected by the high pitch delivery of the feminine Mr. B. A classic.
Are You Ready For Marriage? Another short in which a young couple consult a minister about their plans to get married is cute but it is far too long.
X Marks the Spot: a short about traffic safety and how not to drive has a few funny moments particularly when our gang bursts into their own rendition of “On the Street Where You Live” from “My Fair Lady".
Hired Part 1: is about a man that gets a job as a door to door car salesman but it is having problems selling any cars. This short is adequately funny but unmemorable.
Johnny at the Fair is about an adorable four year old boy’s escapades in a local Fair. Some of the MST3K gang's baby talk gags are witty and on target and a very cute way to end this disc.
Disc 4 Teenagers from Outer Space is a highlight in this collection. A race of “superior” aliens lands on Earth. We know this because they keep on proclaiming it all the time. “We are the supreme race.! We have the supreme weapons.!” Their agenda is to assess earth’s potential as a breeding colony for alien lobster. Everything turns into trouble when Derek, the unacknowledged son of the Glorious Leader, rebels. Alien boy meets Earth girl, alien boy gets chased down by homicidal alien boy, alien boy kills giant lobster, etc, etc.
The acting in Teenagers from Outer Space is particularly bad — and the source of most of the movie’s unintended hilarity. David Love and Bryan Grant are pathetically wooden and Grandpa is the target of many of the MST3K gang’s best jokes. The only exception is Dawn Anderson as Derek's human love interest. She is quite a babe and really quite good.
The special effects are laughable. The disintegrator ray and the giant lobster effects are pretty horrible. The dialogue has some real clunkers too. One of the funniest lines comes up early in the film when upon discovering the skeleton of her boss in his office, his secretary proclaims “I am not going to keep a job where this sort of thing goes on.”.
The MST3K gang take aim at the aliens' costumes and the cheesy skeleton effects. They also make plenty of inside jokes for film buffs, but also add hilarious dialogue during gaps of silence. There is a really great scene where a group of children first view Derrick. The shot shows them silently looking up at him while he stands there. The scene lasts for a few minutes, without a word of dialog. Our gang fills in with this exchange… (In baby talk) “Are you my daddy?”... More silence and then the proclamation by our entire gang “Jim Henson’s Baretta Babies!” A classic line in a classic moment. “ The initial bit on “Toto, Toto!” and later “Spike…eey! (the Dead Dog from the opening scene) is hilarious as well. When you have a movie this bad and let the MST3K people at it, you end up with a great episode. This is by far my favorite in this set, and good reason to look forward to Volume 7.