“We’ve done a bunch of Hercules movies on ‘MST3K,’ and this one of them,” remarks a deadpan Joel Hodgson in the introduction to “Hercules and the Captive Women,” one of four episodes found in “MST3K: Volume XXIX” from Shout! Factory. Hercules may be second to Gamera as the character whose movies show up most often during the series (Wikipedia gives Gamera the edge, 5-4), and that episode is a classic from the Joel era, when he and the bots hit their stride during the fourth season.
This set also includes: “The Pumaman,” from season nine; “Untamed Youth,” from season one (when J. Elvis Weinstein played Tom Servo); and “The Thing That Couldn’t Die,” from season eight. While the bonus features aren’t as in-depth as the previous 25th Anniversary Edition set, they still offer a smattering of interviews and historical pieces, which the Shout! series has become known for.
In addition to Joel’s introduction, the Hercules disc also includes a look at artist Steve Vance, who draws the mini posters that are included in every set, along with a gallery of all the mini posters Vance has produced to date. While I don’t tend to mention them in my reviews, they’re a comforting inclusion in each volume, kind of like seeing an old friend again.
The “Pumaman” platter serves up a “Much Ado About Nanites” featurette, which digs into those tiny robotic creatures that showed up occasionally during the Mike years, along with the original, un-“MST3K”-ied version of the film. Original versions of movies are pretty rare in these sets – I think the solo release of “Manos the Hands of Fate” is the only other such occurrence, but there may be one or two others.
You might wonder why you would want to bother watching a version of “The Pumaman” that doesn’t have Mike and the bots along the bottom of the screen, but that would run you afoul of star Walter G. Alton, Jr., a very serious man who worked as a lawyer before heeding some friends’ suggestions and pursuing acting. He claims he was told that he would have had a good shot at the role of Superman, had he started acting sooner, and he is not amused — repeat, NOT AMUSED — by the fun “MST3K” poked at the hard work put in by himself and his fellow cast members. I’ve seen a few of these Shout! Factory interviews where people don’t seem to get what the show was all about, but Alton is the first one who gives me the impression that he would happily stomp the bots to bits if he could.
The “Untamed Youth” disc also contains an interview with a star — in this case Mamie Van Doren, who, yes, has had a ton of work done but who still looks pretty good for an actress in her 80s who stopped working on a consistent basis after the 1960s. She doesn’t mention “MST3K,” but she does discuss her career, with much emphasis put on her claim that she was the first woman to sing rock ‘n’ roll in a movie when she made “Untamed Youth.” Between her and Alton, I wondered if Shout! Factory has any fact-checkers.
Hodgson also shows up to do an introduction to this film, and in “About Joel Hodgson’s ‘Riffing Myself,'” he talks about his one-man show, which covers his career. He says the show grew out of the interviews he’s done in support of his main post-“MST3K” riffing project, “Cinematic Titanic.” He found himself recounting his life story so many times that he figured he might as well put it in a show.
Finally, “The Thing That Couldn’t Die” disc has a nice, albeit very short, look at the film’s making called “The Movie That Couldn’t Die.” It’s one of those nice historical pieces that show up in just about every set in this series. Bad movies don’t just happen in a vacuum, folks.