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Pulp Culture
New MST3K DVDs
make forgettable
movies memorable


March 11, 2004
By Franklin Harris

You can never have too many DVDs. Well, OK, maybe you can. But I don't have too many yet, and chances are neither do you.

New to DVD this week is "Mystery Science Theater 3000" Vol. 5, the latest four-disc set from Rhino Home Video. Now that the Sci-Fi Channel is no longer airing MST3K, Rhino's DVDs are the only way for fans to keep up with Mike Nelson, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot as they talk during some of the worst movies ever made.

And boy howdy, the films in the new set sure are bad. They are: "Time Chasers," "Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders," "Boggy Creek II" and "The Touch of Satan."

For instance, "Time Chasers" stars nobody. There is the completely forgettable guy who invents a time-traveling airplane. Then there is the unmemorable (but evil) businessman who steals the airplane and screws up the future.

And lastly there is the unremarkable female TV reporter, who falls for the forgettable inventor and, er, does some other stuff. I think. I do remember that the time-traveling airplane is wired to a Commodore Vic 20. Now, you might think that traveling through time is a bit too complex a task for a machine with the computing power of a spatula. And you might be right.

"Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders," on the other hand, does have one star: Ernest Borgnine in the role of a grandfather trying to keep his grandson occupied by telling him a story about how the wizard Merlin came to the present-day United States and opened a gift shop.

Really.

Of course, Merlin's gifts all are magical and tend to teach their owners valuable lessons. Well, maybe not valuable lessons. And the guy who ends up transformed into a baby probably doesn't remember what he learned, anyway.

In "Boggy Creek II," a university professor and three students spend 90 minutes wandering around Arkansas swamps in search of a bigfoot-like creature. It's a bit like "The Blair Witch Project" only without the scares, tension or drama. And it probably was shot on a smaller budget.

As the title suggests, "Boggy Creek II" is a sequel. It follows 1973's "The Legend of Boggy Creek," which was shot documentary style and billed as "a true story."

The good news is that one of the students spends most of the movie topless. The bad news is that it's the one student who is a guy. And he is a bit pasty.

Lastly, we come to "The Touch of Satan," directed by none other than Tom "Billy Jack" Laughlin. This is the tender story of a boy, a girl who happens to be a witch and the crazy old lady with bad skin who keeps killing people for no apparent reason.

"The Touch of Satan" has enough unintentional 1970s camp value to be somewhat entertaining even without Mike and the robots making fun of it. But the other three are unwatchable without the MST3K gang hurling their insults.

"Mystery Science Theater 3000" Vol. 5 retails for $59.95 and includes bonus interviews with Michael J. Nelson and Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo).

Two movies that don't require irreverent commentaries in order to be entertaining are "Blacula" and "Scream, Blacula, Scream," both recently released on DVD as part of MGM's Soul Cinema collection.

Released by American International Pictures in 1972 and 1973, respectively, "Blacula" and "Scream, Blacula, Scream" were AIP's attempt to cash in on two of the company's strengths at once: horror and blaxploitation.

Both films turn out well, thanks largely to the talents of the late William Marshall in the title role. With his classical training and baritone voice, he brings dignity and gravity to the proceedings. As a result, the "Blacula" films, along with AIP's "Count Yorga" films starring Robert Quarry, set the standard for '70s vampire movies.

The "Blacula" DVDs retail for $14.95 each.

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