9/4/13- Calloo, callay! Shout Factory’s blu ray of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie came out yesterday. FINALLY. The only MST3K product that can really be released in hi-def (since everything else was filmed on standard def video), I was hoping we’d get this for a long time and yes, it looks great. It is absolutely worth getting. The stuff that actually was filmed by Best Brains featuring the cast looks pretty pristine and while I wouldn’t want to actually buy a blu ray of This Island Earth that looks the way it does in the film, it’s perfect for the transfer. It looks like a slightly beat up, faded print, just like you’re watching a revival screening in a theater, so I don’t know what else you could possibly ask for. As much as I appreciate Rifftrax Live or Cinematic Titanic, this is the closest you will pretty much ever come to a live version of MST3K with the puppets. (And the season 5-7 cast.) Could the movie be better? Absolutely. It’s actually pretty amazing it came out as well as it did given how much they were interfered with. As it is, it’s consistently funny throughout, has a fantastic opening (“Look at that. Breach hull, all die. Even had it underlined.”) and it serves as a great primer for someone that has never seen the show before. I was one of the few people lucky enough to see it during it’s theatrical release and I can assure you that it absolutely slayed 16-year-old me.
The extras are one of the reasons this is worth an upgrade. You get an EPK from Grammercy about the “making of” (which is about the only thing they ever did to sell it) and a brand new “making of” featurette from Shout’s frequent collaborator for the TV sets, Ballyhoo. You get to hear the real poop about how working with the Universal executives was basically like having a red-assed baboon come into a room and tell you that you weren’t doing a good job of being a human. There’s also a little bit about This Island Earth, but the true gem of this is over twenty minutes of deleted or extended scenes, including extended riffing sequences (with some different quips, no less), an entire host segment that was cut involving a meteor shower and an alternate ending with “Uncle Scrotor.” This is definitely one of my must buys for the year. And it’s actually at a good price. Shout has done the film just as proud as the rest of the catalog titles that they are just crushing. Between the 80s horror films, the Corman titles and the genre films they are putting out, they’re sort of like the Reverse Criterion. Whereas Criterion releases tons of arthouse films but throw in a few fun genre films here and there, Shout releases a few arthouse pieces in addition to the plethora of b-movies they deservedly treat like genuine classics.
9/6/13- I finally got to sit down with Yocum again and he decided I needed to see Jack Arnold’s The Mouse That Roared, a Peter Sellers comedy from the ’50s where he shows how Eddie Murphy’s been chasing him his whole career (though it seems pretty obvious he’s completely given up when you look at his output over the last couple of decades. Pluto Nash did terrible things to that man.) Sellers plays three different roles in the film including the protagonist, the Prime Minister and the country’s Dutchess. It’s a damn good film that’s held up reasonably well. There’s some Cold War stuff inside that is more fragrantly cheesy than a block of Muenster, but most of it is so over-the-top that it still manages to land. And in the current climate of nigh-automatic interventionism with the US military, it could be remade with some minor tweaking to reflect current foreign policy with respect to the Middle East. (Though the tiny Western European mini-state with it’s Franco-British culture is a far cry from the countries we’re dealing with.) The thing is, politicians don’t tend to change over generations and the various absurdist applications of national alliances, economic prospects of foreign aid, diplomacy or a lack thereof and European government structure that attempts to balance democracy with tradition are all things that still seem to have just as much relevance today.
There’s a romance subplot that practically announces itself with semaphore flags, but still manages to seem to come out of nowhere. However, Jean Seberg is a knockout despite (or perhaps because of) her late-50s pixie haircut. And checking out her Wikipedia entry… wow. Didn’t see that coming. I had a little big of a nerd out when I saw William Hartnell was in it as well. For those who are unfamiliar with him, he’s the first Doctor from the BBC’s Doctor Who back when the show started in 1963. Back when the Doctor had more “Get off my lawn!” in him. Maybe they’ll finally get back to that with the new fella.
I’ve also been looking at some of Guillermo del Toro’s films again since I liked Pacific Rim so much. I watched Hellboy a while back and the other night I finally rewatched Hellboy II: The Golden Army for the first time since the initial release in theaters. As much as I like the first film and as much as the lame dismissal of Agent Myers bugs me (yeah, the hand-picked successor to Dr. Broom just gets sent off to Antarctica) I have to say that Hellboy II is definitely the better film. (Oh yeah, and as cool as Doug Jones is, I missed David Hyde Pierce doing Abe’s voice.) While it certainly has all the greatness of the comic, it manages to also somehow be pure, unfiltered del Toro in a manner that I remember matching up surprisingly as a lighter vision with the darkness of Pan’s Labyrinth coming out around the same time.
The move to a more “magical” storyline works surprisingly well and the performances are pretty great all around, even from Seth MacFarlane as Johann. What surprises me is that as much as they seem to be trying to set up Jeffrey Tambor’s Manning as the thorn in Hellboy’s side, it really seems to stem in the opposite direction. Tambor manages to make his character sympathetic because of how big a pain in the ass Hellboy has to be.