MST3K Volume XXXII IS Yet Another Must Have Both For Series’ Long-Time Fans And Classic Movie Buffs

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is one of the most underrated series in television’s modern history. The series, which originally ran from November 1988 to August 1999, was on the surface a show that poked fun at the best of the worst of Hollywood’s history. On a deeper level though, it proved a show that actually celebrated that history in its own playful way. It is because of MST3K that so many then much younger audiences become the lovers of film that they are today. This critic is among that mass of cinephiles, or lovers of cinema. After its cancellation in 1999, it became relatively difficult to find the show anywhere, including online. Thanks to the efforts of Shout! Factory though, the series has been kept alive through an ongoing series of box sets, each containing four episodes from the series’ eleven-season run. And today, Shout! Factory released what is just the latest in that ongoing series of box sets in the form of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXXII. Volume XXXII is yet another joy for any MST3K fan or film buff in general. The central reason for this is of course the films that were chosen for this collection. Shout! Factory has pulled four more best of the worst flicks. They are flicks that are so bad that they’re great even though their cast and crews would rather they remain forgotten.  Another reason that that it is another great set is the collective segments that break up the movies. The timing of Joel, Mike, and their cast mates make for plenty of laughs within themselves. And last but not least worth noting is the bonus material included with the movies. Cast member Frank Conniff offers new introductions to two of the movies. There is also a pair of background pieces on Space Travelers and Hercules that audiences will enjoy along with a pair of bonuses that focus more on the show. All of these bonuses by themselves offer plenty of enjoyment for MST3K fans of all ages. Together with the movies chosen for this set and the live action segments that break them up, MST3K Volume XXXII proves itself one more great addition to the collection of any movie buff and any MST3K fan out there today.

One hundred ninety-seven episodes and eleven years. That is how long the cult hit series Mystery Science Theater 3000 ran in its original broadcast. Throughout the course of time and those episodes, MST3K offered audiences more laughs than one can even begin to count. One of the reasons that it remained such a laugh riot for so long was its choice of movies and those movies’ associated commentary. That is just as obvious in the series’ latest collection of films. The movies picked for this collection include Radar Secret Service (1950), San Francisco International (1970)—which was the “pilot” for the short-lived series—Space Travelers (1969), and the granddaddy of all Hercules incarnations in the 1958 Italian import starring Steve Reeves. Gene Hackman probably doesn’t mind that Space Travelers is one of his far lesser-known pieces today, considering his body of work. And were he alive today, Gregory Peck would likely feel the same about the movie. Yes, it’s that campy. By comparison, Apollo 13 and every other cheesy space flick that has come along since puts this movie to shame. Yet it’s so bad that one can’t help but watch. By contrast, the 1958 Italian import of Hercules is actually campy I nits own right. But at the same time, it is just as enjoyable as it is campy. It could even be argued that its camp is what makes it so worth the watch, again supporting the central argument of why this collection’s movie selection makes it another must have for fans of the series. Radar Secret Service is just as campy both in its story and in its presentation. The story sees a group of government agents tracking a shipment of stolen uranium through the use of (yup) radar. The acting is just as cheesy as the story. It is pretty much on the same level as B-movie king Roger Corman’s classic sci-fi flicks. Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is os cheesy that audiences can’t help but laugh at it, in turn making audiences want to keep watching the movie. Still not enough? How about the standard cheese factor of the original Hercules (1958). The movie features one of the greatest of the demi-gods going on a quest for the mythical golden fleece. There is plenty of eye candy for the ladies. And for the guys, there is even an island populated by nothing but women that allegedly mate with men who come there and then kill them. And then there’s the over-the-top action of San Francisco International that takes place at a San Francisco airport. Of course as dumbed down and cheesy as that seems, there is plenty of material out there today that is even less intelligent offered to audiences. Keeping that in mind, it actually makes the likes of San Francisco International and the rest of this set’s movie’s all the more entertaining and important to its enjoyment.

The movies that were chosen for MST3 Volume XXXII are each equally entertaining in their own right. By themselves, they will offer their own share of laughs for both long-time fans of the series and for classic movie buffs alike. Of course by themselves, the movies can only offer but so many laughs. The segments that break up the movies (and the riffing during the movies) add to the laughs. Audiences will laugh uproariously when Crow and the rest of his robot buddies try to bring Mike back to himself in the skits used between Radar Secret Service. Their attempt to re-create his high school class reunion is a prime example of how the show’s mid-movie skits will leave audiences in stitches. Tom Servo’s speech between segments of Hercules about the ability to line up the stars to make any constellation is just as hilarious. It is so funny because it’s true. For eons, humans have passed down the knowledge of certain star clusters being specific patterns. Yet there are so many stars out there that it would be just as easy to take the same groupings of stars, line them up with other star groupings and make wholly different constellations. After all, who is to say that there couldn’t be a “sandwich” constellation? Audiences that watch this episode will get that joke. Speaking of jokes, the riffing during the movies expertly complements the mid-movie segments. In only a matter of minutes in Radar Secret Service, Mike and company take playful jabs at Harrison Ford, the classic 1975 sitcom Welcome Back Kotter, and even breakfast cereal Golden Grahams. If that’s not enough, there are jokes at the expense of the late, great Judy Garland and famed director John Sturges in Space Travelers (a.k.a Marooned). The writers playfully jab at Sturges that he had done much better work than Space Travelers, showing just how cheesy and over-the-top it was. There are plenty more jokes and riffs at which audiences will laugh uproariously throughout this set’s movies. They come so fast and furious that the only way for audiences to catch and fully enjoy them all is to pick up MST3K Volume XXXII. Regardless of whether for the noted skits and riffs or for others not noted here, audiences will agree in purchasing MST3K Volume XXXII that the laughs generated by each and every skit and joke more than make this collection of classic flicks a must have for any of the series’ fans and classic movie buffs alike.

The mid-movie skits and riffs offered up throughout the course of each of this set’s movies are a laugh riot. Between the zany skits, the jabs at all things pop culture, and the jokes in general, many audiences might find themselves laughing so hard that they cry tears of joy. That is thanks to the talent of the writers and to the choice of movies for this collection. For all of the enjoyment brought by the movies and the collective riffs and skits, they still are not all that makes this collection so fun for fans and movie buffs alike. The bonus material included with the movies puts the finishing touch on the set, proving without a doubt not only why MST3K Volume XXXII is a must have for fans and movie buffs alike, but also that this set is one of the year’s best new box sets for grown-up audiences. This time out, Shout! Factory has included a history on Space Travelers and its legendary director John Sturges and a history on Hercules producer Joseph E. Levine. There is also a fun little look at Frank and Trace’s trip to the U.K. for a sci-fi fan fest across the pond, and an equally entertaining piece focusing on the history of “Satellite News.” Space Travelers’ feature centering on director John Sturges spends a little bit of time going into detail on his body of work that included huge hits such as The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, and The Old Man and the Sea just to name a few. It compares those works to Space Travelers and its value versus that of this much bigger hits, explaining that is how the riff in the movie came to be. There is also an interesting point/counterpoint in whether or not its heads should have stuck with the title of Marooned or if going with the title of Space Travelers was better. For anyone that is a true lover of movies, this discussion in itself is sure to bring about plenty more discussions. Hercules’ feature centering on producer Joseph E. Levine is an eye-opener for cinephiles of all ages. It points out the movies that were brought to American viewers thanks to his efforts. As is noted in the feature, if not for Levine’s efforts American audiences might never have gotten to see the 1958 take of Hercules or another major motion picture in the form of Godzilla and other major foreign language films. Yes, Levine was even responsible for importing Godzilla. He is also the man responsible for bringing to audiences such hits as The Graduate, The Producers (go figure), and Darling among so many others. While it is not an extensive profile, this feature on Joseph E. Levine is still an important addition to MST3K’s latest collection of movies. It is just as important for any film history buffs, too. This feature and the piece on Space Travelers’ history are the central bonus features included in this set. That is not to discount the video post card that is Frank and Trace’s trip to London. or the “Satellite News” feature included in San Francisco International. Frank and Trace’s overseas trip serves to show the continued popularity of MST3K not just in America but around the world. That by itself is quite the statement. And speaking of statements, such a statement partnered with each and every other element noted here shows exactly why MST3K Volume XXXII is a must have for any of the series’ fans and for any classic movie buff. What’s more, everything noted here proves why this box set belongs on every critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets for grown-ups come December.

Whether for the movies chosen for the set, the mid-movie skits included in each episode and the riffing during the movies, or for the bonus material, MST3K Volume XXXII proves itself clearly to be a must have for any long-time fan of this cult favorite series. It also proves to be just as much of a must have for any classic movie buff out there. MST3K Volume XXXII is available in stores and online now and can be ordered direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/film-comedy/mst3k-volume-xxxii. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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Shout At The Devil Is Well Deserving Of Its Recent DVD/BD Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Timeless Media Group/MGM/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group/MGM/Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory re-issued this Spring a movie that is perhaps one of the lesser known wartime period pieces to have been released during the 20th Century. The movie in question is the World War I period piece Shout at the Devil. This 1976 film, starring Roger Moore (For Your Eyes Only, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker) and Lee Marvin (M Squad, The Dirty Dozen, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance), is a movie that deserves a second chance and rightfully has gotten one thanks to the people at Shout! Factory. The story’s script is the central reason for it to get that look that it otherwise might not have gotten in its original release. The script’s premise is pretty simple to follow, which leaves plenty of time for action throughout its length. Also worth noting is the acting on the part of both Marvin and Moore. The duo’s on screen presence makes suspension of disbelief quite easy, thus making the movie that much more enjoyable whether one is seeing it for the first time or the first time in a long time. And last but not least is the movie’s special effects department. While the movie is at its heart an action flick, the over-the-top explosions and other special effects that are overly used in today’s movies are nowhere to be found here. It seems like a minor detail. But reality is that it is quite important in the overall scheme of things. Each of the factors noted here are important at their own level. Altogether, they show just why Shout at the Devil is one of the 20th Century’s more underrated action flicks and war-time period pieces.

When asked to name some of the greatest war-time movies ever crafted during the 20th Century, most audiences will likely rattle off movie titles such as The Great Escape, Schindler’s List, Patton, and other big name movies. The likely reason for this is that movies centered on World War I are so few and far between. Next to Shout at the Devil perhaps the only other movie centered on that World War I that most audiences will come up with when asked to name any is All Quiet on the Western Front. Odds are few people will name Shout at the Devil as a matter of fact. Given the chance to watch this movie, word might finally spread now that it has been re-issued in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. And one reason that word might spread is the movie’s script. The script behind this movie is pretty simple. It sees Marvin and Moore as Colonel Flynn O’Flynn and Sebastian Oldsmith respectively. The pair goes toe to toe with German officer Herman Fleischer (Reinhard Kolldehoff) in a game of cat and mouse across Africa. After Fleishcer and his men set fire to the village where O’Flynn and Oldsmith are staying with Oldsmiths’ wife and child things get very personal. That’s because Oldsmith’s newborn is killed in the process. The pair is then given reason to join forces with the British Navy to hunt down Fleischer’s battleship and sink it. It’s as simple as that. So it leaves one wondering why some viewers didn’t like this movie. Perhaps those are the viewers that should give this movie another watch now that it has been re-issued on Blu-ray/DVD box set courtesy of Shout! Factory. Perhaps a second watch will allow those audiences to see it more clearly and in turn appreciate it for that script, if nothing else.

The script penned for Shout at the Devil is central to the overall enjoyment of this period piece. Working in direct connection with the script is the acting on the part of its lead cast. There is obvious chemistry between Moore and Marvin throughout the movie. Their interactions show that. From their first scene to their fight when O’Flynn’s daughter announces that she and Oldsmith are going to get married, to Oldsmith’s reaction to being volunteered for the mission to find Fleischer’s battleship, their interactions with one another pull viewers effortlessly into the movie. Audiences will find themselves laughing quite a bit at the contradiction of personalities between the duo at so many points throughout the story. And even in the story’s few more emotional moments, they both pull off their parts expertly. That ability to interpret each scene and properly emote will easily keep audiences engaged and entertained. In turn, they make the movie’s roughly two-and-a-half hour run time fly by thus proving once more why this little-known movie so rightly deserved its re-issue from Shout! Factory.

The acting on the part of Lee Marvin and Roger Moore in Shout at the Devil and the movie’s script are both important parts of the movie’s enjoyment. There is one more factor to examine in the movie’s overall presentation that makes it a movie worth watching. That final factor is the movie’s special effects. Those that give this movie a chance will note that it is both a drama and an action flick. No action flick is complete without a certain amount of special effects. The problem with Hollywood today is that it relies far too much on special effects to make up for what is an otherwise boring film that lacks any real substance. The case with Shout at the Devil is the exact opposite as today’s movies. Given, studios didn’t have access to the resources in 1976 to which they have access today. Regardless, those behind the movie’s special effects used the resources at their disposal at a minimum. The flight scenes were obviously filmed in front of a blue screen as was the scene early on in which Fleischer’s battleship rams the tiny boat carrying O’Flynn and Oldsmith. But in comparison to other movies released in the late 70s, these special effects were actually respectable. They didn’t look so deliberate that one would end up simply shaking their heads at said scenes. And even the final scene, which will not be revealed here, kept the explosions to a minimum. They weren’t the over-the-top flash-bang-boom trips on which filmmakers such as Michael Bay and James Cameron go in their movies. Simply put, the special effects used in Shout at the Devil were used as part of the story rather than to make up for lack of story. And that balance with the writing and acting serves as part of the whole that once more makes Shout at the Devil a movie that any movie buff and military movie buff should see. This is regardless of whether said individuals will see the movie for the first time or for the first time in a long time.

Shout at the Devil is available now in stores and online in a double-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo pack courtesy of Shout! Factory. It can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/shout-devil. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Timeless Media is available online at http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial, http://www.shoutfactory.com, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Timeless-Media-Group/358391474233364, and http://www.timelessvideo.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to the Phil’s Picks Facebook page and “Like” it at http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Great Escape Is A Great War Movie

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/MGM

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/MGM

The world celebrated what is one of the most important dates in history last week with the remembrance of VE Day.  That was the day that the war in Europe ended.  Interestingly enough, last Tuesday, MGM and 20th Century Fox released the fiftieth anniversary edition of what is one of the most talked about films centered on the war in Europe in The Great Escape.  This is hardly the shortest movie made about events from the war.  It clocks in at nearly three hours long.  And even with certain fictionalized portions as noted in the movie’s bonus features, it still proves almost half a century later to be one of the greatest WWII themed movies to ever be crafted.

What makes The Great Escape enjoyable, despite its run time, is that while it is on the surface a story based in WWII, it is more a story about the power of teamwork and of the human spirit to survive.  Having so many P.O.W.s from so many different backgrounds in one confined area could be argued to be a microcosm of the nations of the world.  This likely wasn’t the primary intent of script writers James Clavell and W.R. Burnett.  But seeing this and the ability of the men to work together for a singular cause despite their varied backgrounds helps to illustrate the power of teamwork and the human spirit to survive.  Those messages are made even more powerful when juxtaposed against the ideologies of the Nazi party.  It shows that no matter how great the odds, even ordinary people can do extraordinary feats when they come together.

The messages of teamwork and the human spirit are integral to the enjoyment of The Great Escape.  Those same messages are illustrated even more through the movie’s main storyline and its action sequences.  The movie’s main storyline is not that difficult to follow.  A group of P.O.W.s is sent to what is supposed to be an inescapable P.O.W. camp created by the Nazis.  The allied prisoners find every way to hide their “great” escape plan from the Nazi guards manning the camp.  The ways in which the plan is covered up are funny.  From singing Christmas music to using special code, it all seems so outrageous.  But it’s that outrageousness that is so entertaining.  As soon as audiences allow themselves to be pulled into the story, and get over the fact that some of the story was in fact fictionalized, they will find themselves appreciating the story even more.

Staying on the matter of the fictionalized portions of The Great Escape, the bonus features included in the movie’s fiftieth anniversary Blu-ray edition do a lot to justify the fictionalized portions of the story.  It is noted in the bonus features that portions of the story were in fact added that didn’t happen, such as Steve McQueen’s famous motorcycle chase.  It is noted that he made the demand that unless this scene was added, he was not going to star in the movie based.  Perhaps most interesting to note in the included bonus features is that despite some changes and additions here and there, the men that actually escaped from Stalag Luft III were quite accepting of the movie and even tried to claim that this character and that was based on him.  One can’t help but laugh at the pride brought out in those men when they shared their stories and joked about being the influence behind given characters in the movie.  The pride of the men on whom the movie was based is the most important reason for the movie having been made.  And it’s the most important reason for the movie to be seen to this day.  It is a tribute to just one more group of individuals of what former newsman Tom Brokaw properly called “The Greatest Generation.”  With members of this generation passing away each day, a movie like this is increasingly necessary in order to keep the memory of that generation alive.  It’s a movie that members of every generation should see at least once.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online via the Fox store at http://www.foxconnect.com

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