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Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XVIII



p;creativeASIN=B003CNQPNI">Mystery Science Theater 3000." That's my dream, anyway. With each Shout! Factory box-set release of the movie-skewering series "? we're now up to "XVIII," which is 18 for you non-Romans "? its potential for converting new MSTies grows.

As with Shout!'s previous sets, "XVIII" presents another four episodes culled from all corners of the 10-year run. For me, the standout here is "Lost Continent," probably because it was one of the very first eps I saw, loaned to me on VHS by a friend in college in the early '90s, just before the show broke through to its peak success.

"Continent" is as good a starting point as any for newcomers, because the 1951 black-and-white film has dueling dinosaurs, not to mention a pair of recognizable faces for viewers in "Leave It to Beaver" patriarch Hugh Beaumont and former Joker Cesar Romero. It also has rock climbing "? lots and lots and lots of rock climbing "? which sends our hosts Joel Hogsdon and his robot friends into fits of frustration. The more the stars ascend, the more our hosts' sanity slips and, therefore, the funnier their barbs get.

That's not to say the other episodes included aren't great, too. Each has more laughs in 100 minutes than most sitcoms do in a season. Coleman Francis' 1961 monster movie "The Beast of Yucca Flats" casts Tor Johnson "? the bald, hulking beast of "Plan 9 from Outer Space" "? as a bald, hulking beast. Whereas Tor was mute in "Plan 9," everyone essentially is in "Beast," because sound was recorded later.

Such info on incompetence is doled out in a nice half-hour documentary about the making of the film and Francis' oeuvre. That suspect filmography also includes "Red Zone Cuba" and "The Skydivers," which, like "Yucca," are unwatchable outside of "MST," and still painful even then.

Foreign kiddie flicks have always been good fodder for "MST"'s crew on the Satellite of Love, and 1964's Russian fairy tale "Jack Frost" is no exception. Although the movie likely was never good, something's definitely lost in the translation to English, making it rife for a roasting, which is what it deservedly gets.

Finally, 1954's "Crash of the Moons" is actually another cobbled-together feature of the "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger" TV show, a bargain-basement, would-be Flash Gordon. ("Manhunt in Space" is another, also lampooned with extreme prejudice on "MST.") Aside from another "General Hospital" segment from yesteryear, the disc also comes with the ever-amusing "Mystery Science Theater Hour" wraparound segments, in which Mike Nelson "? as "Biography" host Jack Perkins "? calls the film "the 'Captain EO' of its day."

In other bonus features, "Frost" and "Continent" sport new introductions by cast members Kevin Murphy and Frank Conniff, respectively. These aren't quick hellos, but near-10-minute chats discussing the writers' behind-the-scenes misery in screening the films over and over in order to produce the episode.

Whatever the Roman numeral is for 19, I eagerly await it. "?Rod Lott

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