Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XIX

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XIX
At last, 19 DVD sets in, the denizens of the Satellite of Love finally encounter possibly the most ill advised monster in cinematic history. Ro-Man (the alien conqueror from the planet Ro-Man and star of Phil Tucker's Robot Monster, circa 1953) is indeed a giant gorilla in a diving helmet with antennae, but he's so much more. Look at the way he talks, waving around his right arm in a way completely at odds with his awkwardly post-synched dialogue. Or the lumbering way he walks around Bronson Canyon ― I mean, the "post-apocalyptic wasteland" ― usually filmed in an extreme long shot that decidedly downplays his size. "It's like Ro-Man heading to work," observes filmmaker Larry Blamire in the DVD extras. Ro-Man is no run-of-the-mill Z-movie monster. For the sheer magnitude in which it fails to intimidate, he becomes a transcendent testament to the filmmakers' self-delusion. Of course, if Phil Tucker is a patron saint of self-delusion, then Edward D. Wood, Jr. is a God, and the cast of Bride of the Monster (1955) is another assemblage of his gang of desperate Hollywood wannabes, who critic J. Hoberman once called a "menagerie of Day of the Locust weirdoes." There are the has-beens: 400-pound Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson, with that priceless exaggerated frown, and a withered, drug-addled, but deliciously hammy Bela Lugosi, still giving it all he's got as neglected, betrayed scientist (and kindred spirit?) Dr. Eric Vornoff. There are also the never-were ― hordes of 'em ― like uncharismatic co-leads/financiers Loretta King and Tony McCoy, and pitiful, pitiful comedy relief Paul "Kelton the Cop" Marco. An old dark house thriller in the Universal horror mould, Bride always strains just a little too hard to look like a real movie: note the strategically crooked picture frames in Lugosi's house; the sad, painted stone wall in his laboratory; and, yes, the fake, immobile rubber octopus that several actors valiantly pretend to battle. There's only one word for this strange product of Hollywood's underbelly: perfect. The MST3K peanut gallery also takes aim at Devil Doll (1964), an oppressively dark, living-ventriloquist-dummy film enlivened by an unfortunate man-on-dummy fight scene. As well there's Devil Fish (1984), an Italian-made Jaws rip-off that's awful even by this show's standards, featuring the least convincing aquatic killer since, well, Bride of the Monster. MST3K riffing is pretty sparse on Robot Monster (from the show's hit-and-miss first season), but the other episodes are solid, if not quite classic. Some choice out-of-context jabs for you die-hard fans to smile at: "You know, this is Bela's best scene and he's not even in it"; "He's shooting at a different movie!"; "Ooh ― Tor got back"; "Why is he carrying Al Pacino?"; "I think I'll have a vodka sandwich"; and, most importantly, "Just because you can edit doesn't mean you should." There are plenty of good DVD extras, including a documentary about Ed Wood and an MST3K panel discussion at a sci-fi convention, where Joel Hodgeson reveals a key factor to the show's success: he actually kind of likes these movies. (Shout! Factory)