Judge Erich Asperschlager wants whoever's been killing space to please stop; it's getting really tight in here.
Our reviews of The Film Crew: Hollywood After Dark (published July 10th, 2007), The Film Crew: The Giant Of Marathon (published October 26th, 2007), and The Film Crew: Wild Women Of Wongo (published September 11th, 2007) are also available.
"Killers From Space? More like Killers of Time…"
Like Judge Rob Lineberger, who reviewed The Film Crew: Hollywood After Dark, I was a huge Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan—and have been since the Comedy Central golden years of the early '90s. Unlike Judge Lineberger, however, I don't have a handcrafted MST3K silhouette overlay for my television. It's not that I don't think that sounds awesome. I'm just really lazy.
Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett were part of the genius group that made making fun of bad movies a legitimate television sub-genre. Though it's been many years since MST3K got cancelled, our boys are still keeping that snarky torch burning with the recent launch of a DVD-only series called The Film Crew. Its second entry is the Peter Graves nukes 'n' aliens snoozefest, Killers From Space.
Facts of the Case
Like so many B-movies with cool-sounding titles, Killers From Space has precious little killing, and virtually no space (unless you count the space between interesting things happening). It's basically a mix of white people in white offices smoking lots of white cigarettes; stock footage of planes, bugs, and lizards; some bug-eyed aliens plotting to colonize earth; and a young Peter Graves.
The plot centers around scientist/pilot Dr. Martin (Peter Graves, Clonus), whose plane goes down during an A-bomb test, but who somehow emerges from the crash unscathed. After exhibiting some erratic behavior that includes being haunted by visions of floating eyeballs, he remembers what really happened after the crash, and what he must do to avert worldwide catastrophe.
OK, I just made the movie sound 50 times better than it is. It's a worthless piece of dreck. It's slow. It's boring. The special effects are laughable, and it relies too heavily on stock footage and unnecessary close-ups.
But, hey. You didn't come here for the movie, did you?
Gone is the elaborate "man in space forced to watch bad movies by evil scientists" set-up of MST3K. These days, all Nelson, Murphy, and Corbett have to do is show up for work, which is exactly what they do as The Film Crew. No more puppets; no more low-fi special effects; and no more make-up (which must make former monkey man Murphy and ghoulish "Observer" Corbett especially happy). They go by their real names, and the premise is the bare minimum needed to hold this series together: the three are tasked, by a certain "Mr. Bob Honcho," to provide commentary for every movie that doesn't have one.
The good news: this is guffaw-inducing stuff. The jokes come fast and furious, from comparing the goofy aliens to Buzz Lightyear, to exchanges like: "You know, guys, this is actually a well-known editing technique. It's called 'take-all-the-pieces-of-film-and-throw-them-on-the-floor-and-paste-them-back-together-randomly'." "Oh, right! Michael Bay uses that, doesn't he?" These guys have been working together for a long time, and it shows. Their chemistry is great, and while there may be a touch fewer jokes than your average MST3K episode, they rely less on obscure '70s pop cultural references and running gags (though they take full advantage of Peter Graves's connections to A&E's "Biography" and "Mission Impossible"). The only vaguely creepy part is, because Murphy and Corbett voiced Mike's MST3K 'bot companions during the Sci-Fi Channel years, hearing their voices over the movie brings those characters immediately to mind.
The trio does comedy bits before the film, during a mid-movie "lunch break," and as a way of closing things up at the end. Unfortunately, as was generally true on MST3K, these bits aren't nearly as funny as the commentary.
Because they're no longer on television, the crew has complete freedom from censorship. That said, the closest they get to pushing any kind of envelope are a few phallic jokes (wait 'til you hear the one about the penis cemetery).
The video quality of the non-movie antics, though nothing special, is shot on film stock which puts it a notch above the TV show. Killers From Space, on the other hand, is suitably awful-looking. I say "suitably" because the scratches, dirt, bad splices, and dark image are part of what makes a movie this bad, well…this bad. It looks, in fact, as though exactly as much care was taken in its preservation as it deserved.
I'm not sure what I expected for extras on this disc, but there's only one: a jokey movie trivia bit called "Did You Know?" Kevin Murphy gives us some info about the use of backmasking for an alien tranmission, then provides a series of (fake) alternate takes based on a feud between the actor who played the alien and Peter Graves. Unfortunately, these takes aren't all that funny—at least not as funny as watching what Murphy does if you wait too long before making a selection.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
With The Film Crew, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett don't stray too far from their Mystery Science Theater roots, which is probably smart; with such a rabid fan base, they must realize they'll never be able to escape their television work. It's a blessing and a curse: on one hand, they've got a built-in audience; on the other, they've got a lot to live up to.
The only problem The Film Crew DVD series might run into is one of cost-value for the consumer: at the current MSRP of $19.99 per release, things will add up quickly for fans who get every disc in what could easily be a long-running series. I'm not saying these DVDs aren't worth it, or that those involved shouldn't be compensated for their outstanding work. It's just that Nelson & Co.'s other current project, "RiffTrax," provides paid-for-download MP3 commentary tracks customers can listen to while watching big-name DVDs like 300, Casino Royale, and Star Wars: Episode I—at only $2.99 per feature-length commentary. It's a completely different model (and nothing quite beats hearing these guys savage B-movie tripe from yesteryear), but it shows how costly disc-based releases are compared to downloadable content. Of course, for a RiffTrax commentary you have to either own or rent the DVD, so actual cost varies. Heck, what am I complaining about? Viva la consumer choice!
I love that these guys are still doing what they do best (and doing it very well). The pricing for these DVDs might prove a little steep in the long run, but if that's the cost of keeping the funny coming, I say "huzzah"!
The Film Crew is free to return to its slave-like existence, working a menial job for an absent boss. Now dance monkeys! Dance!
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