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Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIII


'XXIII' marks the spot for laughs.

Rod Lott March 30th, 2012

Fans won't need much convincing (if at all) to plunk down their choice of currency for a purchase of Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIII (that's "23," dummies), because by now, Shout! Factory's rep for packing these boxes with genuine care and irresistible extras is rock-solid.

mst23

As for the four films contained within? Well, they’re all horrible, naturally, which means they’re hilarious when pitted against Joel Hodgson or Mike Nelson and their robot friends, who sit in silhouette at the bottom of your screen, mocking all the way. In this set, we’re treated to a true variety of genres that previous sets have not always enjoyed: sci-fi (King Dinosaur), crime (The Castle of Fu Manchu), spies (Code Name: Diamond Head) and Westerns (Last of the Wild Horses).

King Dinosaur is my favorite, if only because it was one of the very first episodes I had seen way back when, on an otherwise dull Sunday afternoon in my dorm room.

We also get relative star power, with Christopher Lee slumming as Fu Manchu, and Invaders lead Roy Thinnes as Diamond Head. The latter is actually a TV pilot, a format with which the MST3K gang always excels. They also wring aces from shorts, and two of those are here, most notably the driver-ed disaster “X Marks the Spot.”

Among the extras scattered across all four discs, the documentary “The Incredible Mr. Lippert” casts a spotlight on producer Robert Lippert, the independent theater owner who ventured into moviemaking with a bent toward the Bs. Starting with low-budget Westerns, he reasoned a movie doesn't have to be good — just quick. At one point, he was simultaneously shooting six movies with the same cast. MSTies know him from two films on this set, King Dinosaur and Wild Horses, plus other episode fare like Destination Moon, Rocketship X-M and Lost Continent.

TV producer extraordinaire Quinn Martin, the brains behind Diamond Head, is the subject of his own featurette, not as interesting as almost as entertaining, given its brief running time. In an unloving remembrance of the Fu Manchu flick, TV's Frank Conniff calls it "one of the most incomprehensible movies we ever did" and "impossible to follow," both of which equate to gold for the show’s fervent followers.

While a behind-the-scenes look at a Darkstar video game involving some of the Satellite of Love's former crew members feels a bit of a stretch to include, the opposite is true for Kevin Murphy's history lesson on life post-MST3K. For the record, that includes a book, the Timmy Big Hands website, four DVDs with The Film Crew, and his current gig as part of Rifftrax. We’ll take him and the others any way we can. —Rod Lott



 
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