Rhino // 1992 // 400 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge John Floyd (Retired) // November 21st, 2007
"The motion picture that will steal your heart...and your liver...and your kidneys...and your eyes...and your limbs..."
The crew of the Satellite of Love is back for a twelfth DVD compilation. Once again, they manage to make four really bad movies very enjoyable to watch.
The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection Volume 12 contains three episodes from the series' Comedy Central run and one of the very best from its tenure on the Sci-Fi Channel. Hosts Joel Hodgson, Mike Nelson, and their robot friends Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo, take on The Rebel Set, Secret Agent Super Dragon, The Starfighters, and Parts: The Clonus Horror.
The Rebel Set is a mediocre crime caper disguised as a juvenile delinquent-beatnik film, notable primarily for featuring Edward Platt, the Chief from Get Smart, and Don Sullivan of The Giant Gila Monster fame. The story involves a con man convincing three losers to knock over an armored car during a train stop in Chicago. Once they get back on the train, the organizer of the heist appears in disguise and begins manipulating his slow-witted marks to turn on one another, in hopes of getting the loot all for himself. Joel and his robotic pals skewer the unremarkable film fairly soundly, but their best ribbing comes at the expense of the opening short, Johnny At The Fair. In it, two negligent parents let their five-year-old son wander off by himself during the Canadian National Exhibition. While they walk around pretending to be concerned, the boy enjoys the sights and bumps into a handful of famous people, including former Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King and heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis. In the best gag, Johnny sees a helicopter and the narrator says, "'Jiminy,' thinks Johnny, 'if only I could get a ride in one of those!'" The next scene shows Johnny meeting a comely female figure skater, prompting Crow to intone, "'Jiminy,' thinks Johnny, 'if only I could get a ride in one of those!'"
Secret Agent Super Dragon is a smug, bland Italian spy picture starring the smug, bland Ray Danton and several exotic women wearing entirely too much eye make-up. This cheap, muddled James Bond knock-off is ostensibly about evil Euro trash poisoning American college kids with deadly chewing gum, but there is precious little action to drive the story as our self-satisfied hero and his doughy sidekick (nicknamed "Babyface"!) move from one over-decorated interior to another without really doing anything. Super Dragon's primary talents seem to be stealing tricks from other, better movie spies (for example, slowing down his breathing and metabolism to a near stop, ala James Coburn's Derek Flint) and turning his back on captured enemy agents just long enough for them to pop a cyanide pill. Joel and the 'bots deliver plenty of funny ribs here, a personal favorite being Servo's quip about having to "drain the Super Dragon" as our protagonist hurriedly crosses a room and passes through a side door. They also take time outside of the theater for a clever discussion of the application of puns after death scenes in '60s spy movies.
The Starfighters is a seemingly endless string of stock footage of jet aircraft taking off, landing, refueling, and dropping ordinance on nothing in particular, tied together with an equally endless series of monotonous, wholly uneventful dialogue exchanges between a handful of thoroughly average non-actors. Nothing whatsoever happens in this movie, and it happens to a bizarre score comprised of easy listening and generic jazz. Imagine Top Gun on thorazine, or an Air Force recruiting film designed to reassure mothers that their enlisting sons will be completely safe, and you'll get a good idea of the kind of edge-of-your-seat thrills on display in The Starfighters. At best, the film makes a solid case for the expense of building the F-104 fighter jet, since its presence in active service seems to completely deter any kind of combat or action at all. There is so little going on in this tepid stinker that it plays like a sort of ROTC version of Seinfeld, minus the humor and quirky characters. As often happens with films this dull, however, Mike, Crow, and Servo are in rare form here. During the second lengthy mid-air refueling scene, for instance, they review all of the sex jokes they've already made to ensure they aren't covering the same material again. They also have a good time regularly pointing out that nothing is happening in the movie, and really get on a roll at the introduction of "poopysuits," water survival apparel issued to the film's pilots as they prepare to deploy to Europe.
The highlight of the set, however, is Parts: The Clonus Horror. In it, a colony of clueless young white people spend all of their time training for their opportunity to "go to America" -- which, unbeknownst to them, is a euphemism for being gassed to death and having their internal organs harvested. These oblivious simpletons are actually clones created specifically for the purpose of providing new livers to rich, powerful people who have had too many three martini lunches. When one of the clones discovers the truth, he flees the colony and tries to elicit support from his "real" counterpart, only to be betrayed. If all of this sounds familiar, it's probably because Michael Bay and Dreamworks stole it almost verbatim for their big-budget flop The Island. The makers of Parts sued and received a seven-figure settlement which was undoubtedly larger than the production budget of the original and the box-office take of the unauthorized remake combined. Parts is the better of the two films, featuring a few genuinely creepy moments. Thankfully, however, it's still dull and amateurish enough to be prime fodder for the MST3K gang. The jokes come so fast and furious, and hit their mark so often, that one is inclined to forgive the flat, arduous wraparound segments featuring Mary Jo Pehl as the obnoxious Pearl Forrester. There is one modestly amusing bit when Mike and the 'bots create their own version of a Mexican children's show, but most of the material outside the theater is typical of the Sci-Fi Channel run of the program.
There are some nice extras here, including interviews with Rebel Set star Don Sullivan and Parts director Robert S. Fiveson. Also included are the "Jack Perkins" wraparound segments for the Super Dragon episodes of the short-lived Mystery Science Theater Hour (the packaging incorrectly states that these are for The Rebel Set), theatrical trailers for three of the films, and another edition of the MST3K Video Jukebox, featuring memorable tunes like Creepy Girl from Catalina Caper and Whispering Christmas Warrior from Santa Claus.
Though this is a strong collection of episodes, it is noticeably devoid of any monsters or Italian musclemen, staples of the MST formula. Unlike the first few volumes in this series, later sets do not include unedited prints of the films without all of the wisecracking. Though even the toughest viewer would have a hard time getting through The Starfighters without Mike and the 'bots providing some comic seasoning, bad movie aficionados might have appreciated the opportunity to see the other films in this collection in their uncensored entirety.
Rhino Home Video has done it again, compiling another memorable sampling of the best of every era of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The films are terrible, the jokes are great, the extras are quite interesting, and the packaging is...well, it holds all of the discs in and looks nice on your DVD shelf (especially if it's sitting next to volumes 1-11). What more could you possibly want?
The makers of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (even Pehl) and the folks at Rhino are innocent and free to go on making us laugh at awful movies. The makers of The Starfighters, however, are found guilty of unspeakable crimes against humanity, for which they are sentenced to summary execution by firing squad. Sentence is to be carried out immediately, before even one more frame of film featuring fighter jets refueling is exposed.
Review content copyright © 2007 John Floyd; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 400 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Original Theatrical Trailers
* MST3K Video Jukebox, Vol.3
* Interview with The Rebel Set star Don Sullivan
* MST Hour "Jack Perkins" Wraps for Secret Agent Super Dragon
* Interview with Parts: The Clonus Horror director Robert Fiveson
* IMDb: The Rebel Set
* IMDb: Secret Agent Super Dragon
* IMDb: The Starfighters
* IMDb: Parts: The Clonus Horror
* Official Site