It has been some time since the Satellite of Love has been lost to deep space, or crashed to Earth, or whatever happened to it. In the years since the end of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mike Nelson has sought other avenues to deliver his comically scathing commentaries of films that deserve a good skewering.
One avenue has been his RiffTrax site; there you can buy the MP3 tracks to listen to while you watch the flick. Another has been the Legend Film releases of films like Plan 9 From Outer Space and Night of the Living Dead that feature RiffTrax commentary. Now, there is a new way to get your bad film-skewering fix — The Film Crew features the reunited final lineup from MST3K, supplied with a new stream of bad movies to "enjoy."
The Film Crew has Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy (voice of MST3K's Tom Servo), and Bill Corbett (voice of MST3K's Crowe T. Robot) employed by a faceless billionaire, Bob Honcho, who has charged them with providing commentary to all of those films which have so far been neglected. The trio are more than happy to provide value added content to make money for someone else. They receive their first assignment from Honcho Charlie's Angels style though a speaker box on their desk. They eagerly grab the tape marked "Urgent," grab their headsets, and head off to the viewing room.
The first target that has landed within their sights is a little known 1968 release (made in 1961) mash of heist caper and sexploitation flick called Hollywood After Dark (originally released under the Walk the Angry Beach moniker). It stars a younger Rue McClanahan as a would-be starlet with dreams of silver screen success, though she is stuck working a seedy burlesque show with a couple of thieves for bosses. While the stripper Rue brings the requisite star power, her story is really the secondary plot. The stripper story plays second fiddle to the focus on Tony (Jack Vorno, whose sole other credit is another sexploitation flick called Help Wanted, Female). Tony, a former undersea demolitions expert, currently runs a junkyard. However, two goofy gentleman that cross the fence are not interested in a dented muffler; rather they are seeking to employ Tony's past experience in an armored car robbery.
Our comedic trio have plenty to make fun of in this uncooked turkey. From the wacky use of music, to the horrendous burlesque dancing that goes on for way too long, to the goofy beach dates, to the extended robbery sequence that is performed in mime (not really, but there is no dialogue), concluding with the nonsensical climax. Sure, some of the film is cut out to accomadate the Film Crew skits, but it would take a lot of footage to make this a watchable movie. In this new format, we do not get the silhouettes in the corner of the screen, nor do we get the sci-fi vignettes, but that is the price we pay for new tracks!
Their jokes are as good as ever, ranging from broad comedic strokes, to more obscure references. Frankly, this is the only way to watch this movie, as it is so nonsensical, dull, and just plain dumb to wrap yourself around in any other way.
The presentation is decent. They didn't put much effort into restoring the film, and marks and dirt are quite evident, but that isn't what this is about so I cannot fault them for it. It looks and sounds good enough to justify its reason for being. I think the bigger problems with the disk lie in the laps of its stars, who are not terribly adept at the attempts at sketch comedy that open and close show, as well as the interlude. They just aren't all that funny when they are not pointing out the problems of terrible cinema. As far as extras go, we get Bill Corbett's written verse spotlighting the joys of lunch. Eh, I'll pass. It would have been kind of nice to have the feature sans commentary.
Bottom line. In the end, this is a pretty interesting release. It offers up some big laughs, and this will likely be the only way you will get a chance to see this awful display of burlesque. It is fun and doesn't overstay its welcome. So, if you are looking for some fun at Rue McClanahan's expense, this is going to be right up your alley.