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Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XX


Rod Lott March 3rd, 2011

Funny how some copies of Shout! Factory’s box set of “Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XX” come with a stress ball, as the show itself is enough of a stress reliever.

mst3kxx

The mirth-making bad-movie showcase remains — for me at least — the greatest thing ever to grace the airwaves. If laughter is the best medicine, you’ll OD.

This 20th collection of four episodes culled from seasons both high and low contains two of the long-running series’ Holy Grail episodes for fans: “Master Ninja I” and “Master Ninja II.” Neither is technically a movie; each is two episodes of NBC’s short-lived ‘80s action hour “The Master” repackaged as a would-be feature, starring ol’ Lee Van Cleef as a ninja and the ever-nasally Timothy Van Patten as his mush-mouthed protégé. Together, they travel the country in a van, fighting crime and picking up a hitchhiker who happens to be the young Demi Moore.

Since their debut, I’ve seen the “Master Ninja” episodes roughly four times each, and the jokes hurled at the screen by silhouetted hosts Joel Hodgson and his robot friends never, ever get old. That could be because as the years go by, Van Patten’s acting actually gets worse. Too bad they couldn’t get him to appear on the disc’s extra features, but you’ll happily settle for stuntman/bit player Bill McKinney, a gracious guy who recalls his time on “The Master.”

Although both featuring films from 1953, the other two “MST” eps featured couldn’t be more different: the black-and-white sci-fi cheapie “Project Moonbase” and the extravagant color spectacle of Russia’s “The Magic Voyage of Sinbad.” As Trace Beaulieu (aka Crow T. Robot) notes in a new interview on the “Sinbad” disc, the flick is actually a pretty solid fantasy — it’s just the American dubbing that did it in, making it perfect fodder for the Satellite of Love. The “Moonbase” disc includes Mike Nelson’s hysterical host wraps for its “Mystery Science Theater Hour” repeats, as well as a look behind the scenes with longtime DP Jeff Stonehouse.

A must-buy for MSTies everywhere (duh). —Rod Lott


 
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