Judge Mike Rubino hasn't been invented yet.
"Man, this movie is just sitting on my head and crushing it."
I know Roger Corman pretty well. I've seen his films, I've reviewed over half a dozen of his DVDs, and I know the kind of epicly awful and surprisingly great stuff he has contributed to the world of cinema. His thrifty directorial style has produced some real (campy) classics like Tales of Terror and A Bucket of Blood; but no one, especially not I, can make the claim that Gunslinger is one of those gems. The MST3k riff-masters floating around on the Satellite of Love can't either; thank goodness we have their unwavering commitment to tear apart bad films forever captured in the Shout! Factory direct release of Mystery Science Theater 3000: Gunslinger.
The episode, from the show's fifth season on Comedy Central, finds Joel Hodgson, Crow T. Robot, and Tom Servo tackling their first western. This turn away from Japanese lizard, space travel, and beach monster flicks doesn't slow them down in the slightest. I don't see how it could, given that the movie is a sloppy, awkward mess.
Since Corman probably shot the thing in a week, Gunslinger is riddled with awful acting moments, community-theater-quality stage fighting, and a good share of editing gaffs always reminding you that you are, in fact, watching a movie. To make matters worse, this flimsy tale about a widow (Beverly Garland) out to avenge her sheriff-husband's death is padded with some lengthy chorus dancing sequences. Joel and company are on top of everything, it seems, firing off a consistent amount of winning riffs throughout the episode (my favorite being the running gag about various objects and maneuvers "not being invented yet").
The episode isn't perfect. I'm not one of those MSTies that really enjoys the sketches in between segment breaks, and these ones are especially trying. I don't understand how the gang can be so funny while riffing at the film, but be content to ham it up with weird shtick as a supplement. The riffs themselves may work most of the time in this episode, but Corman's padded plot and pacing means that things can drag from time to time. These are minor issues, of course, and don't really detract from what is ultimately a very good episode.
Gunslinger was originally released in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 Rhino box set (volume 6), but has since been discontinued. Shout! Factory continues to do fans a great service by re-releasing these episodes as single-disc versions through their online store. The disc may be devoid of special features, but it's affordable and offers a great opportunity for fans to pick up some lost classics.
MST3K: Gunslinger is another great episode from the Comedy Central years of Joel and the bots.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
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