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Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII



Now that we’re up so far in the chain of “MST3K” box sets, I’m assuming everyone reading knows and loves the show’s concept; I’ve reviewed so many of these, it seems pointless at this juncture to repeat it. So I won’t. This latest, “Volume XXII” (that’s “22” for those who didn’t pay attention in school), rounds up another seemingly random quartet of episodes, all from the Comedy Central era: “Time of the Apes,” “Mighty Jack,” “The Violent Years” and “The Brute Man.”

“Time of the Apes” enjoys a figurative spot in my heart as one of the five funniest episodes the team every produced. Maybe even one of the three funniest. Japan’s 1974 made-for-TV rip-off of the American classic known as “Planet of the Apes” would be amusing without the ribbing provided by Joel Hodgson and his robot friends, but it’s downright stomach-hurting (in a good way) with it. Shout!’s disc comes complete with a reasonable explanation of what the land of the rising sun was thinking, in an introduction by kaiju expert August Ragone (who could dress up just a tad for the cameras).

 By contrast, although there are no truly “bad” episodes of “MST3K,” Japan’s 1968 “Ultraman”-esque “Mighty Jack” doesn’t yield half the laughs as “Apes,” partly because the movie itself — actually cobbled together from a television series — is repetitive to the point of genuinely boring. It’s one of my least favorite “MST” moments, but again, I’m glad I have it.

Juvenile delinquency is the subject of (ridicule) 1956’s “The Violent Years,” notable for being one of the few films spoofed by the show to have sprung from the delusional mind of Ed Wood. The unsung hero of this set is 1946’s “The Brute Man,” a crime exploitation effort starring deformed character actor Rondo Hatton. It’s not that the movie itself is good (it’s not), but that it’s an episode that seems to have gone largely unnoticed. This set pays it its due not only by its inclusion, but with the touching half-hour documentary on Hatton, “Trail of the Creeper.” It's features like this that put Shout!’s sets way above the ones Rhino did before the reins ceded. —Rod Lott

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