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Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 5 (2004)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 5 on DVD.

I had just finished reading a well-argued article by the excellent film critic Chris Fujiwara about the evils of Mystery Science Theater 3000 -- specifically the 1996 theatrical movie -- when I received Rhino Home Video's new box set in the mail.

Chris made some good points, not the least of which that the film chosen for the MST3K movie was This Island Earth, and is actually a good movie by most accounts. But I disagree with Chris in that I love "bad" movies and I enjoy MST3K.

Nevertheless, I certainly did not enjoy Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection Vol. 5 as much as I enjoyed Vol. 1. One reason is that I tend to prefer the "Joel" episodes to the "Mike" episodes. Joel strikes me as a little drier and less eager to please.

Another reason is that the Vol. 1 box set thoughtfully included the uncut, unaltered versions of the original films -- Bloodlust (1961), with Robert Reed, the beach movie Catalina Caper (1967), the famously bad carpet monster movie The Creeping Terror (1964) and Skydivers (1963) -- on the flip sides of the discs. Vol. 5 does not.

But the main reason is that most of the films included in the Vol. 5 box set are not only reprehensibly bad, but bad in a way that makes them unwatchable.

Specifically Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders (1996) starring Ernest Borgnine, which seems to be a severely failed children's movie, and Time Chasers (1994), a truly dreadful sci-fi film. In order to sit through 90 minutes of a bad movie, even with the funny comments, the movie has to have something to make it worthwhile.

Boggy Creek II (1985) fares only slightly better, as does The Touch of Satan (1970), the only true classic drive-in movie in the box. Even so, this old-time horror film about a beautiful witch and a drifter who falls in love with her, moves far too slowly for even Mike and the robots to fill in enough jokes.

And so, MST3K seems to work better with older movies, and especially movies with some kind of cult appeal. In his article, Chris suggested that the team take on something like La Dolce Vita for a real challenge. That I'd like to see.

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