Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XV (1989 - 1996)
By: Paul Ryan on June 11, 2010  | 
DVD
Beyond | All Regions, NTSC | 4:3 | English DD 2.0 | 365 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Joel Hodgson, Jim Mallon, Trace Beaulieu
Starring: Joel Hodgson, Michael J. Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, J. Elvis Weinstein
Screenplay: Joel Hodgson, Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy
Country: USA
External Links
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Here's another quartet of episodes from the vaults of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, the long-running (1988-1999) comedy series dedicated to programming – and razzing – dodgy movies. The third release of the series to see the light of day in Australia (despite the "Volume XV" tag, which follows the Shout Factory run of releases in the US) presents some vintage poverty-row sleaze and horror, plus one eighties stinker with a couple of familiar faces.

The episodes n this set are:

The Corpse Vanishes (Episode 1.5): Joel Robinson (creator Joel Hodgson), and his robot pals Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot butt heads with a 1942 Monogram Pictures chiller quickie starring Bela Lugosi. The former Dracula stars as a mad scientist behind a series of murders of brides (at their own weddings, no less), who harvests a fluid from their bodies to rejuvenate his dying wife (Joan Allen look-alike Elizabeth Russell). The world's most insensitive lady reporter (played by Luana Walters, who exclaims "what a story!" right near the family of a just-murdered bride) investigates, encountering bogus undertakers and a midget along the way. Pressed to say something nice about the film, Tom Servo literally blows a fuse in response. The film is prefaced by the third episode of the Commando Cody serial, Radar Men From the Moon ("nipple-nipple, tweak-tweak, fly fly fly!!!!").

The Girl in Lovers Lane (Episode 5.9): As Servo and Crow decide to give themselves bellybuttons (using a giant drill), Dr Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) subjects them (and Joel) to a 1959 potboiler of drifters, hoochie mamas and a murderous Jack Elam. There are some hilarious sketches from Joel and the 'bots in this one – particularly Crow's Jack Elam impersonation, complete with wonky eyes – while the film itself is splendidly trashy.

Zombie Nightmare (Episode 6.4): Featuring a 31-year-old Canadian rocker (Jon Mikl Thor) as a teenager, a seriously slumming Adam West (in the stage of his career where he was stuck in the z-grade likes of Hell Riders and Young Lady Chatterley II) as a cigar-chomping cop, and a debuting Tia Carrere, the Canadian cheapie Zombie Nightmare is enough of a hoot on its own, but Mike Nelson, Crow and Servo give it some added laughs. The plot (?) concerns a muscle-bound teen (Thor), who is killed in a hit-and-run by hooligan kids. As luck would have it, his mum knows a nearby Voodoo priestess who can bring him back to life and arm him with a baseball bat right out of the grave in order to get revenge on the kids who killed him. Oh, and one of the town bullies – so nasty he throws spaghetti at his mum - is played by Shawn Levy, who went on to direct such family-friendly pap as Big Fat Liar and the Night at the Museum films. Step up, or sideways? You decide. Full of cruddy make-up, inappropriate character acting, jaw dropping racial stereotypes and incompetent direction, this gets well and truly razzed by the MST3K crew.

Racket Girls (Episode 6.16): Awesomely sleazy (with a breast obsession to make Russ Meyer blush), this 1951 obscurity from Glen or Glenda producer George Weiss is a would-be "expose" on the sordid world of women's wrestling. Featuring long, tedious scenes of ladies grappling (trust me, it ain't as hot as it sounds), and Ed Wood vet Timothy Farrell as a comical Italian mobster, it is mesmerizing in its weirdness, especially with its hilariously blatant shots of bosomy lead Peaches Page jogging and jumping rope in "training" scenes. This is prefaced by a short titled "Are You Ready for Marriage?" This is one of those hilariously hokey educational shorts that flourished in the forties and fifties, and is worth its weight in comic gold. Naturally, it also inspires Crow and Servo to tie the knot themselves. Oh and Lisa Loeb (played by Nelson's wife, Bridget Jones) invades the Satellite of Love to torment everyone with a non-copyright-infringing version of her one hit wonder, "Stay". Because why not, really…

As always the quality of the individual episodes is uneven, with certain films inspiring funnier commentary than others. Also, there are numerous cultural references that haven't aged well (or traveled, for that matter), but all told, the success rate of the gags is typically high. Compared to the Region 1 release, there's been a switcheroo in one of the episodes. The R1 edition of Volume XV has the Mexican epic The Robot Vs the Aztec Mummy in place of The Corpse Vanishes (which is on Volume XVI instead). I'm not sure why this has happened, but hopefully that episode will turn up on a future volume.
Video
A bit noisy overall, the NTSC video isn't reference quality, but then again, neither is the picture quality of any of the films themselves. The host segments have some minor colour bleed and compression artefacts, while the prints of the films are either littered with scratches and minor tape faults (which the hosts also point out), or overly dark. The episodes are still perfectly watchable though.
Audio
Functional, but nothing more, the audio is generally clear, though film dialogue is noticeably softer than the host commentary.
Extra Features
Poor-quality trailers are included for The Corpse Vanishes and Racket Girls (the latter under the alternate title of Blonde Pickup). Zombie Nightmare gets a retrospective in the form of new interviews with Jon Mikl Thor (sans flowing locks, but still the kind of guy who wears sunglasses indoors) and Frank Dietz (who comes off as a pretty decent fella), while MST3K Scrapbook Scraps II gives you a fly-on-the-wall look at the making of the show in general, and the 1991 Santa Claus Conquers the Martians episode in particular. Why it doesn't accompany the DVD of that specific episode, I don't know. Lastly, there's a five-minute excerpt from the upcoming feature film Hamlet A.D.D. (a comic adaptation of the Shakespeare play) which features the voices Trace Beaulieu and Kevin Murphy and the late Majel Barrett-Roddenberry.
The Verdict
More craziness from the crew of the Satellite of Love, this volume of Mystery Science Theater 3000 will certainly please fans, though the extra material is a bit hit-and-miss.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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