I know there are a lot of you out there who are fellow MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 junkies, so I put to you the following query: why the fuck are the shows being released in random order and why do the boxed sets mostly feature the duds from the series' run? My pal Glenn the Jew thinks it's because of rights issues — as is definitely the case with the recalled MST3K version of GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (which can still be found for rental on Netflix, BTW ) — but I'd like to know for sure. And considering that they're up to fifteen volumes of this stuff, most of which feature four films per set (three of the boxed sets have three full episodes and one disc with collections of just the short films), there's still a lot left — 120 episodes to be exact — to pick and choose from among the series' 177 post-KTMA episodes, so why the paucity of kickass entries?
This most recent collection featuring two Joel Hodgson and two Mike Nelson entries is especially dire and of those only one show is a definite keeper, but let's examine the set film by film.
THE ROBOT VS THE AZTEC MUMMY is the second episode of the post-KTMA series and, like several episodes from the show's first proper season, it's an example of MST3K before it really worked out its kinks and began firing on all cylinders (or any cylinders at all, now that I mention it). The bits with Joel and the 'Bots are only slightly amusing at best, and the early Deep 13 shenanigans of Dr. Forrester and Dr. Erhardt lay there like a dead cat. The movie itself is one of the slew of mediocre-to-awful Mexican flicks that saw limited U.S. release in the 1960's or were sold directly to TV for airings at Jesus o'clock in the morning where they could serve as free alternatives to sleeping pills, and while THE ROBOT VS THE AZTEC MUMMY is indeed bad, it's also painfully turgid and boring, and the fledgling MST3K riffers didn't stand a chance of making it worth sitting through. In fact, I doubt they could have made this one any fun even in one of the later, better seasons. Also included is the first chapter of the serial RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON which Joel and company snarked their way through for several first season episodes, and while it's also not very funny it is more entertaining than the feature by virtue of it being a lot shorter.
THE GIRL IN LOVERS LANE is a weird 1960 flick about a teen runaway who takes up with a rail-riding vagrant and gets the guy to mentor him in the ways of the seasoned hobo. When the pair arrive in a small, nondescript town (translation: "cheap place to set up cameras and shoot"), they run afoul of local hoodlums and earn the ire of the town's creepy pervert (Jack Elam) who somehow thinks that faking being a goggle-eyed, staring retard will keep the townsfolk off guard. This creep lusts after the cute and naive waitress daughter of the local greasy spoon's proprietor, and he's none too pleased when the visibly creeped-out girl rebuffs his awkward advances in favor of the manly experienced hobo. Plenty of low-interest violence, rape and murder ensues, and despite the presence of such material it's still a dull waste of the viewer's time. This one's from Joel's final season on MST3K, and even with years of riffing under their belts the crew only barely makes this one watchable. You'll miss nothing if you give it a miss.
1986's ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE held a special place in my heart since before it came out because it featured the film debut of one of my college buddies, the incredibly talented sculptor and full-blown Long Island cugine Anthony "Tony" Bua," who worked on some of the makeup effects/mold-making and memorably appeared onscreen as a Mohawked thug who eventually gets kicked about by asshole cop Adam West. When Tony returned to campus after filming was completed he stated that it was a total piece of shit, but that he had a blast playing a bad guy. Little did I expect that I would again encounter this crappy little Canadian-lensed turd some eight years later when it premiered as part of Comedy Central's 1994 Thanksgiving "Turkey Day" MST3K marathon, complete with Mike and the 'Bots goofing on Tony. I can think of few higher honors. Bowl-winding steamer though it may be, ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE was tailor-made for the show in just about every way and was one of the highlight's of Mike's early tenure on the show. As you may have guessed, this one's the keeper out of this boxed set, so rent it from Netflix.
RACKET GIRLS, originally entitled PIN-DOWN GIRLS, is an uninvolving 1950's exploitation piece about the linked worlds of women's professional wrestling and organized crime, and the less said about it the better. The short film ARE YOU READY FOR MARRIAGE? fares somewhat better, mostly thanks to its truly bizarre and quack-like system for psychologically evaluating a couple's readiness for tying the knot, but among the pantheon of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 short subjects this one barely registers a blip. In other words, it doesn't approach the merits of AQUATIC WIZARDS or the delirious heights of CATCHING TROUBLE or the crown jewel of the lot, the classic MISTER B NATURAL.
For no apparent reason the films do not have the customary "chapter selections" option in the menu, and the mostly-mediocre extras include a look at the bumpers from the KTMA years, some trailers, a deadening look into the writers' room as the cast and crew view SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS for script inspiration, and an okay reminiscence from two of the stars of ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE (unfortunately, Tony is not one of them).
So that's the skinny on MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 VOL. XV, and from here you can proceed at your own risk (of boredom).