My favorite “Mystery Science Theater 3000” sets are the ones whose bonus features put some context around the riffed-on movies or around the series itself (or, hopefully, both). Volume 26 in Shout! Factory’s long-running series serves up a whopping portion of the former, proving once again that bad movies don’t just pop into existence, even if it seems that way. The interview with Albert Pyun, director of the Kathy Ireland starring “Alien From L.A.,” is my favorite bonus feature in this set. He offers an interesting glimpse into the unusual ways some movies get made — in this case, the background tale involves block funds that needed to be moved out of Africa during the waning years of the Golan Globus reign at The Cannon Group. That part of it is a bit unclear (starting with, “Whose block funds were they, and why could they only leave the country by making a movie?”), but the rest of it shows how hard it is to make movies.
Of course, the biggest unansweed question you’ll likely be left with after watching the interview is the same one I pondered: “Sure, I can see why putting Kathy Ireland in an indie film could be desirable, but, um, why not dub her annoyingly squeaky voice?” Pyun’s solution was to decide that her voice showed how innocent she was, and when it became clear on the set how irritating she sounded, his other solution was to start having characters make fun of it. Maybe he was doing the best he could because her contract didn’t allow her voice to be dubbed.
And that’s the thing with so many of the movies shown on “MST3K”: You can have a decent budget and an intriguing idea, but so many things can go wrong along the way. (Look at “The Terminator” for an example of a low-to-mid-budget film in which things went right along the way. And, no, I don’t think the budget for “Alien From L.A.” was quite as much, but they obviously weren’t operating on a shoestring either, given all the sets, costumes, vehicles, and so forth.)
“MST3K” Volume 26 also includes “Danger!! Death Ray,” “The Mole People,” and “The Magic Sword.” That last one was a Bert I. Gordon film – he holds the distinction of having eight of his movies skewered in the series, and the “Bert I. Gordon: The Amazing Colossal Filmmaker” featurette on that disc covers his career. “Of Mushrooms and Madmen: Making ‘The Mole People'” can be found on the “Mole People” disc. Both of those pieces do a nice job of framing some movie history, if you’re into that kind of thing.
“Danger!! Death Ray” doesn’t have any background stuff on the disc, but it does contain “Life After ‘MST3K’: Mike Nelson.” I think just about all the cast members have been featured in “Life After ‘MST3K'” at this point, so pretty soon they’ll have to move on to former crew members.