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Two so-so experiments, and two of the funniest episodes in MST3K's entire run:
THE CRAWLING EYE (aka THE TROLLENBERG TERROR, 1958) - Episode one, season one; the show's 1989 debut on the Comedy Channel. Forrest Tucker fights to save the world from, well, a giant, crawling eye. Not too many laughs to be had, but Joel and company were still finding their groove.
THE BEATNIKS (1960) - There are no beatniks in "The Beatniks," but you do get the ludicrous overacting of Peter Breck as a murderous hoodlum, as well as voice artist Paul Frees' one shot at being a writer/director. It's the story of a young punk on the verge of becoming the next Vic Damone (big band pop is beatnik music, y'know), but who can't break away from his no-good friends. It's a middling fourth season episode, not bad, but not that funny, either. I think I got more laughs out of seeing Crow in drag than I did from the riffing this time around.
THE FINAL SACRIFICE (1990) - A $1,500 Canadian independent film about the search for a lost city in the wilds of Alberta(!), with mullet-haired, alcoholic hero Zap Rowsdower (!!) vs. the world's most inept evil cult. This ninth season episode is one of the show's unqualified masterpieces of mockery, Mike and the 'bots outdoing themselves in a ninety minute orgy of Canada-bashing.
THE BLOOD WATERS OF DR. Z (aka ZAAT, 1971) - Mad scientist transforms himself into a human catfish, and proceeds to target his former colleagues, as well as random, bikini-clad women in a low-budget rampage. The movie's villain and heroes prove to be equally incompetent, and the riffing is consistently strong from start to finish.
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62 of 69 people found the following review helpful
Four more great episodes, including show 101. MSTies must have!18 Dec. 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
This latest terrific set from Shout! Factory includes four more never before released episodes. Two have Joel Hodgson as host and two are hosted by Mike Nelson. Joel episodes are from the Comedy Channel/Comedy Central shows and the Mike episodes are from the Sci-Fi Channel period of the show. Note that show 101 is the first network episode, a MSTie-must-have for sure!
101- THE CRAWLING EYE This black and white 1958 film was originally called The Trollenberg Terror and based on an ITV serial. This film version stars Forrest Tucker. A weird tentacled alien creature menaces a small town high in the mountains of Switzerland. This is the very first network episode of MST3K made for the Comedy Channel and it's been a long, long time since this one was shown even compared to other episodes of the unfortunately canceled show so many MSTies still have likely not seen this, but everyone should. A lot of things would be changed and improved on the show in coming episodes, but this one gives fans a fascinating window into the show's early development and of course, it's funny! The movie itself used to be a weekend and late night staple on UHF channels across the US and I saw it many times as a child. Needless to say, Joel and the 'Bots make it more fun. There's a call-back to this episode in the final episode of MST3K.
415- THE BEATNIKS (with short: GENERAL HOSPITAL PT 2) Paul Frees directed this black and white film in 1960. It concerns a young man's attempt to make it big as a recording artist while trying to escape from the grip of his criminally inclined childhood friends. It contains the much loved MST3K catch-phrases "shut up, Iris, shut up I tell you" and "I killed that fat barkeep" along with the song, "Leather Coat" as fans might call it. A highly entertaining episode. MST3K even makes the dismal General Hospital short hilarious. This episode first aired on the Turkey Day 1992 marathon and it's a fan favorite.
910- THE FINAL SACRIFICE This 78-minute color 1990 film from Canada has a hero named "Zap Rowsdower", an annoying youth who tags along with him, some weird cultists in cheap outfits and not much else. It stars no one and has nothing to recommend it. Maybe that's why it's become a favorite among many fans over the years. Perhaps it's sort of the Canadian "Manos: Hands of Fate"! The writer/director's name is Tjardus Greidanus. In any case, find out what the buzz is about and don't miss this.
1005- BLOOD WATERS OF DR. Z This 1975 horror film is also known by many alternate titles such as "Zaat" and "Dr. Z". It was directed by Don Barton and stars no one and has a cheap monster, but these schlocky horror films always worked well for the MST3K writers and this one is no exception. Of course there's a mad scientist out for revenge against those that scoffed at his ideas, thereby proving them correct when they "said he was mad". Bad monster schlock equals good jokes on the SOL.
Extra features at this time are listed as:
* The Crawling Eye Special Introduction by Joel Hodgson * Mystery Science Theater Hour Wraps on The Beatniks * The Main Event: Crow vs. Crow at DragonCon `09 * Blood Waters of Dr. Z Photo Gallery * Original Trailers and Promos * Mini-posters by Steve Vance * ...and More Yet To Be Announced!
43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Set Has 2 Joel and 2 Mike (with Cast Changes for the Bots)19 Dec. 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
Two movies are hosted by Joel and two by Mike. Another noticable change is in "The Crawling Eye," where a different cast member is the voice for TOM SERVO. Here's the info on each episode:
"The Crawling Eye" - Joel Hodgson and the Bots host this 1958 Black & White SciFi movie starring Forest Tucker. This was in the early days of MST3K and Josh Weinstein does the voice for Tom Servo. If you haven't seen the early shows you will definitely notice the difference between Weinstein's deadpan Tom and the wonderful Kevin Murphy who does an emotive and emotional Tom Servo. The movie, set in a mountain resort, is somewhat scarey at times, especially when the fog comes in and nasty things happen to the humans. The ending reveals the real monster and there's even more laughs at how lame it looks.
"The Beatniks" - Joel Hodgson and the Bots host this 1960 movie that stars Peter Breck (from The Big Valley). Oddly enough, it doesn't have one single Beatnik but it does have hoods. One wants to break out of his criminal past because he can sing. He gets an offer that can bring fame and fortune. Stupidity prevails. The short is another segment of "General Hospital." Really boring old soap opera about depressed, boring medical people who you would never want to stick needles in your arm!
"The Final Sacrifice" - This one is a MUST SEE!! A favorite among most fans, Mike Nelson and the Bots host this really cheesy movie from Canada. This is the first MST3K movie in the set where Bill Corbett takes over to be the personna of Crow T Robot. A pasty, skinny, nerdy kid who lives with his aunt somehow comes across a priceless map that leads to a lost city. Immediately, a Cult of guys are after him for the map. Apparently all you need to be part of the Cult is a pickup truck, ski mask and black clothing from Walmart. A guy named Zap Rowsdower, who formerly belonged to the Pickup Truck Cult protects the kid. Although MST3K went off the air a few years ago, this one sticks out in my mind, for the homage to CANADA. (I'm Joking). Mike and Crow are singing a somewhat disparaging tune about Canadians. Tom breaks in (dressed like a Mountie) and berates them. He soon has a song of his own but goes waaaaay overboard. He winds up apologizing to the entire population of Canada! The Riffing is hilarious too.
"The Blood Waters of Dr Z" - Mike and the Bots host this awful 1975 movie that would make Ed Wood look like Steven Spielberg. A mad doctor transforms himself into a swamp creature and decides he needs mates. Enter pretty women. The beginning is a lot of voice-over and narration which almost takes up one third of the movie. Really, really cheesy creature costumes and very cheap filming make great fodder for the Crew.
In previous sets, Shout Factory added the funniest animation at the beginning of each episode, where the Bots re-create scenes from the movie. The bonus Mini-Posters were shots from the animation. Shout has added more posters with this set. (Click on the link below and you can see the posters from the previous set) Mystery Science Theater 3000: XVI [Limited Edition]
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
All Hail SHOUT FACTORY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!22 Jan. 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
Just wanted to say Shout Factory has done an AMAZING JOB. Each one of their MST3K sets has had an outstanding mix from various MST eras and it seems as though the ratio of great to mediocre episodes is MUCH better than with that ***other*** company. And they seem to be coming out with regularity-- every 90 days or so, it seems.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
It has FINAL SACRIFICE, it kinda HAS to get 5 stars...13 July 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
This was the first set of MST3k I bought from Shout Factory. Why? You'll see...
Here's the breakdown:
THE CRAWLING EYE: The first MST episode. Many fans (myself included) had never had a chance to see this earliest of episodes. Turns out we weren't missing much. The movie is about mysterious deaths happening near the top of a mountain, turns out its done by a bunch of huge crawling eyeballs. The monsters are pretty cool. As far as the actual comedy offered up by this episode... well... Joel tells you in the special features that MST3k was a show they kinda had to figure out as they went along. This being the first scripted episode, it really shows. The jokes are few and far between, with nothing being exceptionally witty. If you're a hardcore fan, you'll find the first episode to be a pretty fascinating glimpse into the early evolution of the show. That said, once you watch it, you probably won't revisit it anytime soon. Its just not very funny. They'd be much sharper even by the next couple of episodes, but this one is a total snoozer.
THE BEATNIKS: A 50's rags to riches story that features no actual beatniks. A guy sings in a diner and gets offered a record deal on the spot, can he find fame AND stay leader of his gang of nogoodnicks (including the clearly psychopathic and overacting Mooney)? Does anyone care? Its a pretty goofy movie, which makes for a solid Joel episode. BTW, Mooney killed that fat barkeep.
THE FINAL SACRIFICE: The greatest episode of MST3k of ALL TIME... Anything I can write to summarize this episode would be doing it a disservice. Its seriously that good. I showed it to a friend who very literally laughed NON-STOP from the moment Mike Pipper came onscreen til Mike and the Bots left the theater for the host segment. I thought he was gonna puke or pass out or something, he just kept going. The movie is perfect, the guys are absolutely on fire in the theater, and for once even the host segments are incredibly funny (Canada song, anyone?). If you see this episode and DON'T laugh, seek therapy immediately. This is the very peak of the MST3k experience. Nothing tops it.
BLOOD WATERS OF DR. Z: I remember seeing this years ago on the Sci-Fi channel and not thinking it was anything special. Upon watching it again now that its on DVD, I realized I was very wrong, this is a spectacular episode. The movie seems to have been scripted with high hopes yet had no way of effectively pulling it off on such a small budget. Basically, a mad scientist turns himself into a half-man half-catfish (which coincidentally seems to make him swim much slower than a normal human would be able to) in order to traverse the waters of the south, using a ketchup spray bottle of some chemical called ZaaT to transform the normal inhabitants of the lakes and streams into an "army of walking catfish" (which we never actually see and are never brought up again in the last half of the film) to prove to all the scientists who claimed him mad in the past that "they THEY are the ones who are mad!" The fun part about this movie as that Dr. Z and the government ecological team chasing him both seem pretty bad at their respective jobs. The movie moves fast enough and has enough goofy weirdness to it that its fairly entertaining on its own. The riffing Mike and the Bots give it is exceptional, however, and it makes for a very very strong episode.
All in all, this is an easy buy for fans. Sure, THE CRAWLING EYE might only appeal to the hardcore Misties, but the other three episodes are all very good in their own right. Personally, I can't thank Shout Factory enough for getting me a DVD of THE FINAL SACRIFICE. It wouldn't matter what else was a part of the box set, I'd gladly buy it for that episode alone.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
"The formula they all laughed at!"4 July 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
When the twentieth anniversary box set of MST3k DVDs was announced, there were two omissions in particular which seemed to irk a vocal minority of fans. MST3k's first episode seemed to be an obvious inclusion and fans had long wanted to see THE FINAL SACRIFICE. That box set did not contain those episodes, but this one does. As they say, better late than never.
THE CRAWLING EYE (1958)
Here it is, at last. The first national episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Until now I had never actually watched this one. I was looking forward to seeing how they explain the premise of the series, but it turns out that most of the information is intended to be conveyed only in the opening theme song. I did like that they never bother explaining why they do the invention exchange. And I couldn't help but chuckle when Joel says "This is the last time," when carrying Tom Servo into the theater. Joel and Mike would carry Tom into the theater for the next ten years.
As Joel points out in the (newly filmed) introduction, the riffing is slower than what MST3k would do in later seasons, but it seemed to be a little quicker and livelier compared to other first season episodes (THE ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY or THE CORPSE VANISHES). Still, a lot of opportunities for jokes are missed. For example, characters in the movie repeatedly say "Just like..." and then pause; I kept waiting for a "Sister Ray says..." The MST3k characters themselves aren't fully developed yet (despite having one season at a local Minneapolis station under their belts). Dr. Forrester seems to be the only fully complete character.
Truthfully, I wouldn't mind seeing this one tackled by Joel Hodgson's current Cinematic Titanic. The quick gag they do based on Forrest Tucker's name in the final episode of MST3k ten years later (where they briefly watch this movie again) is probably as funny as any riff delivered here.
The film itself is a fairly typical 1950s sci-fi B-movie. It felt to me like a Patrick Troughton era episode of Doctor Who minus the character of the Doctor. It features the absolutely ludicrous shot of a gigantic eyeball speeding around a mountainside which would enter into MST3k's opening credits and (as Joel points out) give an instant visual shorthand as to the types of movies Joel and the bots would be subjected to.
THE BEATNIKS (1960)
I had not seen this episode of MST3k before getting the DVD, but I had previously seen the original movie itself and been outraged by the lack of beatniks in a movie called THE BEATNIKS. The movie is fairly dull and unoriginal. Most of the plot points are signposted well in advance so there really isn't anything to get overly excited about. I honestly wouldn't describe the riffing and gags as anything more than an average outing for Best Brains, but it's a solid, fun episode.
An episode of "General Hospital" is included for your convenience.
THE FINAL SACRIFICE (1990)
A fan favorite for years, it's great to finally get this one on DVD (especially after a representative from Shout! Factory had once declared in a fan interview that it was unlikely that this movie would ever see the light of day because of legal/rights issues). This is really a fun episode to watch because the underlying film is a wonderful combination of fresh-faced enthusiasm mixed with utter ineptitude resulting in enjoyable ridiculousness.
BLOOD WATERS OF DR. Z (1975)
I watched this episode when the Sci-Fi channel first aired it. I hated it. I know I recorded the episode on VHS, but I'm not sure I ever watched it again. I thought the movie itself was so bad, so slow, and so painful that the jokes and the riffing couldn't manage to make it watchable. Literally my only memory of this was a guy dressed as a human-sized catfish walking up and down the same flight of basement stairs seemingly hundreds of times.
So I'm as shocked as anyone to find that this episode turned out (over ten years later) to be my favorite disc in the set. Sure the whole movie is populated with a parade of characters who have no last names (or in some cases no first name either), and, yes, the main character's evil scheme is the most illogical, implausible attempt at villainy that the movies have ever seen. But somehow now I am able to laugh at the sheer madness of it all rather than being overwhelmed and depressed by it. The riffs from Mike and the bots are an example of the cast and crew really at the top of their game, mixing pop culture references and observations, managing to puncture the film's attempted pretentiousness seemingly without breaking a sweat.
Another strong effort from Shout! Factory. Can't wait for the next one.