Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXVI

Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXVI
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In its original series format, Mystery Science Theater 3000 had a minor narrative trajectory, loosely tying together makeshift episodic plots with overriding punishments from ever-changing villains. With the box set format established for the very gradual DVD releases, episodes from different seasons are tossed together with little thematic or linear continuity (likely due to obtaining rights), heightening the erratic sense of disorganization present in the low budget shenanigans of Mike, Joel, Tom Servo and Crow as they watch crappy movies and make smartass comments. This 26th instalment features episodes from season five (The Magic Sword), six (Alien from L.A.), seven (Danger!! Death Ray) and nine (The Mole People), further complicating things by featuring two episodes with Joel Hodgson and two with Mike Nelson, who took over hosting duties at the beginning of the seventh season. The framing plot devices about creating a This is Your Life show and building organ donor vending machines used here do little to add to the template of ripping apart the bad movies, but are slightly less grating superfluous elements than in earlier seasons. What's important is that the episodes of The Mole People and Alien from L.A. offer up more laughs than usual, featuring Hugh Beaumont (Leave it to Beaver) and Sports Illustrated model Kathy Ireland making respective journeys underground to discover lost civilizations. While the jokes from Alien are implicit, stemming from the casting of the squeaky-voiced model as a dorky waitress-turned-explorer with unflattering glasses and a ponytail, The Mole People works as a legitimately bad film, ripe with opportunity for derision, having cheap painted backdrops, atrocious costumes and a plot that finds scientists scrutinizing a cuneiform tablet that leads them to an albino oligarchy. In the "Making of Mole People" supplement, the casting and production of the notoriously bad movie is peppered with anecdotes about the studio system in the '50s, noting that Universal had different studio heads for each genre, each with a different scope and budget for their endeavours. The interview with Alien in L.A. director Albert Pyun provides some amusing context on the financing of the film — block funds needed to be moved from Africa — while an interview with Burt I. Gordon gives a breakdown of the prolific career of the sci-fi writer and director. Also included with the set is a piece on Mike Nelson, as well as the usual posters, trailers and wraps. (Shout! Factory)