Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume 2 (review)

Snarksters have been heckling bad movies forever, but it took Joel Hodgson, Generation X’s own Ernie Kovacs, to bring it to TV. The MST3K gang sniped its way through a bounty of awful movies — and were so consistently brilliant over the series’ eleven years — that the phrase “Mystery Science Theater” has passed into pop-culture vernacular and the series continues to command a fanatical following four years after it left the air. For the uninitiated: In each weekly, two-hour episode, Hodgson (and later Mike Nelson) was forced to endure a really, really cheesy movie as a sort of mad-science experiment, during which he and his smart-aleck robot pals offered a steady stream of wisecracks. This four-disc set features some of the top fan-requested “experiments” — Pod People, a bad sci-fi flick; Cave Dwellers, a bad sword-and-scorcery flick; Angels Revenge, a bad bad-girls flick; and most hilariously, a series of short films from the postwar period on topics ranging from home economics to personal grooming to the “chicken of tomorrow” that simply beg to have their earnest pompousness punctured. (Purists take note: Because Rhino couldn’t work from original prints, the transfers of the films themselves are shaky in spots.) Intellectual anarchy reigns during the running critiques, referencing everything from science to sports, classical music to classic television, pop culture to politics; its own geeky audience and the show’s poor ratings get tweaked, too. Even the FBI warning on each disc takes on a subversive smirk.

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