- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Good news for dedicated “Misties,” quality-comedy lovers and bad-movie buffs alike: The ‘bots are back in town, accompanied by their flesh-and-blood buddies, in Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume 8 (four-disc, $59.95), new from Rhino Home Video. It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

Of the four films royally skewered here, heckling robots Tom Servo and Crow, along with human host Mike Nelson, save some of their best shots for the bizarre, minimalist 1957 spook-fest The Dead Talk Back, highlighted by an interstitial segment wherein the gang impersonates the Grateful Dead, complete with an endless, droning Jerry Garcia-styled guitar solo.

The group is in equally rare form taking on the low-budget 1961 sci-fi flick The Phantom Planet, making much sport of the movie’s clueless astronaut hero (Dean Fredericks), the strange customs of the eponymous planet’s 6-inch-tall populace and a cheesy mutant monster in what looks like a $1.98 rubber suit.

Of course, the “MST3K” crew’s real challenge lies in turning otherwise unwatchable dross into hilarious gold. While both “The Dead Talk Back” and “The Phantom Planet” supply oddball entertainment value even sans comic commentary, the same can’t be said for the mind-numbing 1965 mess Monster A-Go-Go and the 1987 abomination Hobgoblins, a witless “Gremlins” rip-off. But once again the show’s resident wits prove up to the task of nailing those celluloid groaners to the proverbial wall.



No additional digital frills adorn Rhino’s current set, but with the steady laughs averaging out at only pennies apiece (not counting repeat viewings), “MST3K Volume 8” rates as a reel bargain.

Tele-video

In other fresh TV-on-DVD developments, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment advances the adventures of two hit animated series with the 13-episode Family Guy: Volume 3, arriving with select commentaries and featurettes, and the 20-episode King of the Hill: The Complete Fifth Season (three-disc, $39.98 each). Warner Home Video contributes to the cartoon comedy cache with Mission Hill: The Complete Series (two-disc, $29.98), complemented by select cast and crew commentaries.

A&E Home Video aims to please sci-fi fans via two cult 1970s British imports. Time-slip: The Complete Series (four-disc, $79.95), charting two teenagers’ travels through time, includes the behind-the-scenes featurette “Beyond the Barrier,” while The Tomorrow People: Set 2 (four-disc, $59.95), following a trio of adolescents’ escapades in space, comes equipped with select cast commentary, a featurette and more.

Reality TV rears its ubiquitous head in Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (Buena Vista Home Entertainment, two-disc, $29.99) and Project Runway: The Complete First Season (Miramax Home Entertainment, three-disc, $39.99), while two documentaries delve into television’s distant past, SRO Entertainment’s The Original Amateur Hour (two-disc, $29.99) and PBS Home Video’s Pioneers of Primetime ($19.99).

Collectors’ corner

Walt Disney Home Entertainment celebrates all things Muppet with a quartet of family-friendly special editions: 1979’s The Muppet Movie, 1981’s The Great Muppet Caper, 1992’s The Muppet Christmas Carol and 1996’s Muppet Treasure Island ($19.99 each). The discs include full-screen and widescreen options, along with new bonus features.

Kino Video (kino.com) unearths three vintage French films: Marcel Carne’s noirish 1953 Emile Zola adaptation Therese Raquin, starring Simone Signoret and Raf Vallone; the 1958 Claude Chabrol thriller A Double Tour, with Jean-Paul Belmondo; and Roger Vadim’s 1964 La Ronde ($29.95 each), showcasing Jane Fonda and Anna Karina.

Capturing the rage and chaos of the late ‘60s with rare raw force, docudrama specialist Peter Watkins’ 1971 Punishment Park lands a welcome digital release via New Yorker Video ($29.95), while A&E Home Video offers a treat for silent-comedy fans with Kevin Brownlow and David Gill’s Unknown Chaplin: The Master at Work ($24.95).

The ‘A’ list

Among recent theatrical releases hitting vidstores this week, Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston head a family of superheroes in Sky High (Walt Disney Home Entertainment, $29.99), flying in with featurettes, bloopers and an alternate opening, while romance and murder wed in Doug Liman’s action comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith ($29.98), starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. And for diehard Rob Schneider addicts, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment issues the sequel Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo ($28.95).

A brace of big-screen documentaries likewise debut this week: the surprise Morgan Freeman-narrated nature hit March of the Penguins (Warner Home Video, $28.98) and the sports-themed Murderball (Thinkfilm, $29.99), both packed with extras ranging from featurettes to deleted scenes.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I am trying to locate an old movie, Stars and Stripes Forever, about John Philip Sousa, either VHS or DVD.

L.K. Kovarik, via e-mail —

While that 1952 film has yet to surface on DVD and is currently out of print on VHS, cassettes can be located via Amazon.com.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002, or e-mail us at [email protected]aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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