Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XVIII

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XVIII
If it is true that the world can be divided into Beatles fans and Rolling Stones fans, perhaps viewers of seminal puppets-making-fun-of-bad-movies show Mystery Science Theater 3000 can be split into Team Harold P. Warren and Team Coleman Francis. Do you gravitate towards the otherworldly tedium of Warren's Manos: The Hands of Fate or to the sad landscapes, hateful characters, sparse dialogue and incomprehensible editing of such Francis oddities as Red Zone Cuba and The Skydivers ― harsh, misanthropic little films that make Manos look like a panto play. In "No Dialogue Necessary: Making an Off-Camera Masterpiece," a documentary about Francis on this 18th MST3K DVD collection, filmmaker Larry Blamire says of The Skydivers, "It's just so bleak and depressing it defies description," while series writer/performer Frank Conniff says, "It has this very weird, dark, melancholy kind of lyricism." Francis scholars will be overjoyed to learn that the MST3K Vol. XVIII collection contains Mike Nelson, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot's skewering of his most famous work, The Beast of Yucca Flats, starring 300-pound Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson as a "distinguished Russian scientist" turned monster after a devastating atomic blast. Shot silent, with awkward, dubbed dialogue, Yucca Flats is narrated by Francis in a sad monotone that enhances the grey dreariness of its desert locations and staggeringly uneventful narrative. "It is probably the most nothing film I've ever seen," claims horror expert Bob Burns, who compares Francis unfavourably with Ed Wood. The MST3K peanut gallery is firing on all cylinders here: "This movie stops at nothing, and stays there," says Tom Servo; "It is more suspenseful when you don't know what's going on," says Crow; "Oh god! More driving action," says Mike. MST3K Vol. XVIII collects episodes of varying quality from both Joel and Mike eras: the earnest, low-tech space saga Crash of the Moons; the tedious, heavily padded adventure film Lost Continent; and the absolutely bonkers Finnish-Russian fantasy Jack Frost. These films give our heroes adequate riffing fodder, but the poetic, intensely personal incompetence of Beast of Yucca Flats is the real find. "Coleman Francis had a dark, muddy vision," says Tom Servo. "With some cars." (Shout! Factory)