krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
I was a bit slow to open the latest official collection of Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVDs once I'd received it in the mail. Going on vacation last month had something to with that, but I was aware even so of the feeling the episodes in the set ranged for me from "not personal standouts" to "actually uncomfortable to watch." What with the nagging worry I'll be stuck with personal disagreements with the "riffing" in the upcoming revival, it might have been an especially awkward time to have some reluctance towards the original series.

Once I did have the set open, though, I started finding things to interest me about the episodes and the movies (or thereabouts) featured in them. Getting past the infamous blandness (and a certain emphasis in the "riffing" to 1970s TV) of "Stranded in Space," I also found myself thinking past the cheapness of "this other world just happens to exactly look like the Earth" to contemplate how it's easier to exposit about a conformist dystopia than to actually work out how an ordinary person might have to get by in it. The disc also included a short feature on "Film Ventures International" as the last of the episodes featuring its cheap video credits got on official DVDs, and explained that by the point it was making up those for-TV packages it was pretty much all the way down the declining slope. It had risen from "foreign imports" to making movies cashing in on trends, but one feature's promotion had been just a bit too much like the way its inspiration was being sold and that had caused problems that had built until the company's founder had cleaned out the office safe and vanished.

"City Limits" then got out of the 1970s for once in the set, by heading to the 1980s no less. The special feature was an interview with Rae Dawn Chong, who had played one of the major supporting characters; she talked about just how dangerous the post-apocalyptic motorcycles were to the people riding them and shared an amusing yet embarrassing anecdote about James Earl Jones. With that, though, it was on to "The Incredible Melting Man," featuring makeup I seem to have become only more squeamish about over time. I tried looking away at first, which didn't quite work. Then, all of a sudden I took off my glasses; I sit far enough away from my TV that all I could see was a colourful blur, and that seemed to help me enjoy the hard-working "riffing" even if it made it a little harder to get the jokes about the more solid characters. I suppose that might even have worked for the bonus features on the disc, which, as with "Squirm," were taken from a "serious" release of the movie by Shout! Factory; I had suspected there'd be a fair dose of the makeup effects in them as well. However, I had also been thinking that as I haven't watched the "after MST3K" feature for Trace Beaulieu, who auditioned to do voice work for Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace and might only have gloated about his escape, it could use a little company that way. In any case, the DVD menu for this episode, now made using actual puppets as well, follows the lead of the DVD menu for "Stranded in Space" by noting how once more the movie starts in something like an Apollo capsule but replacing the "Joel cutout" with an actually amusing "melting puppet." (Crow and Tom Servo are at least consistent.)

With that, it was on to "Riding With Death," an amusing slice of 1970s TV patched together into an approximation of a theatrical feature. The efforts to tie the pieces together only seem to draw attention to themselves, but I did get to thinking about how the exact point of the second half of the story seems to elude me. I suppose it's possible some of the exposition got cut for the sake of the episode's running time. In any case, it was a nice way to close out the collection, and included an interview with the original series' writer Steven de Souza, who explained how he'd got his first break with the series and seemed to have the crises of the different halves of the feature somewhat mixed together in his memory.
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