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The Film Crew: Hollywood After Dark
DVD Released: 7/10/2007
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/8/2007
There's no doubt that DVD is a nifty piece of technology, but I'm not about to attribute magical powers to it. OK, it did help to resurrect Family Guy after it had been cancelled. And, the DVD of Smokin' Aces, which had failed at the box-office, was so popular that a sequel was in the works. But, that doesn't mean that there's anything overly special about DVD. Or is there? When Mystery Science Theater 3000 left the air in 1999, I was convinced that I would never see it again. And I was right. However, DVD has brought us the next best thing, as series veterans Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett are back making fun of bad movies as The Film Crew. Their first DVD release is The Film Crew: Hollywood After Dark.
The premise of The Film Crew is very similar to that of Mystery Science Theater 3000, complete with a zany wrap-around story. Mike, Kevin (who was Tom Servo on MST3K) , and Bill (who voiced Crow on MST3K) are "The Film Crew" and they work for Mr. Honcho, and their job is to add commentary tracks to old forgotten (usually terrible) movies. Thus, just as on MST3K, the guys watch the movie and crack jokes, making fun of the story and the filmmaking. The only real difference is that we don't get the famous silhouettes which graced the screen on MST3K.
For their first foray into their new project, the guys have chosen to watch 1968's Hollywood After Dark. (Well, I guess that technically that's wrong. There appears to have been a poll on their website where the fans chose the movie for the first release and this selection won.) This movie stars Rue McClanahan, who would become famous many years later when she starred on The Golden Girls. In Hollywood After Dark, Rue plays a temperamental stripper named Sandy, who apparently hates stripping and hates her boss, but we never see her apply for any other jobs. Actually, sheís an aspiring actress and she does have a meeting with a producer. She also has an odd relationship with a guy who works in a junkyard. When the movie isnít featuring really, really long burlesque scenes, we are treated to emotional scenes with Sandy and a really odd daylight armored car robbery. In short, this movie is a mess.
ďThis movie is a messĒ should be the perfect jumping-off point for The Film Crew. But, thereís something that I learned after watching years of Mystery Science Theater 3000: There are movies which are bad and can be ridiculed, and there are movies which are sad, and they are even beyond lampooning. Hollywood After Dark falls into that second category. In order for the MST3K/The Film Crew formula to work, Mike, Kevin, and Bill must have material to sink their teeth in to. Unfortunately, this is such a bottom-of-the-barrel movie that they are given very little to work with. Now, these guys are pros and there are some very funny moments here, and I had a pleasant MST3K deja vu as I had tears in my eyes due to laughing so hard. But, there are only a few of those laughs here. There are long stretches in the movie where nothing happens, and thus, the guys donít have of which to make fun. And then there are the long strip numbers. They go on and on, and only so many jokes can be made. Donít get me wrong, itís more than great to have these guys back making fun of movies, but this may not have been the right movie with which to start.
And then we have the wrap-around segments. When it came to Mystery Science Theater 3000, I would have to assume that there were two kinds of people: those who liked the non-movie segments, and those who didnít. Personally, I rarely found them humorous, save for the one where Crow cuts himself in half. I had the same issue with The Film Crew. The ideas are OK, and again, these are funny guys, but I just want them to get to the movie.
Despite some shortcomings, fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 should rejoice at having Mike, Kevin, and Bill back in front (or is it behind) the screen making fun of questionable movies. I still canít believe that Hollywood After Dark won the voting. (Maybe Bea Arthur voted a lot of times. She has very fast hands, as Tim Bedore can tell you.) The movie doesnít give the guys much to work with, but there are some truly laugh-out-loud moments here, so we know that the guys havenít lost their touch. The Film Crew already has several more releases planned, and at first glance, they promise to be more like the classic MST3K episodes. Whatever the case, watching The Film Crew: Hollywood After Dark was like welcoming an old friend back into my home.
The Film Crew: Hollywood After Dark shines a beacon of light on DVD courtesy of Shout Factory. The program is presented in a full-frame aspect ratio. Essentially we are dealing with two video formats here. The wrap-around segments were shot on video and look very good. The image is clear, and the colors look fine. However, the film, Hollywood After Dark, which is black & white, is dark, grainy, and contains many defects. Of course, this is how the film is supposed to look. So, overall, the video transfer is fine. The DVD features digital stereo audio track, which allows us to hear all of the jokes from The Film Crew. At times, the actual movie is hard to hear, but again, MST3K fans will be used to this.
The only extra on the DVD is a 90-second segment called ďOde to LunchĒ, where Bill, Kevin, and Mike praise lunch. Weird. Also, a limited amount (the first batch?) of the The Film Crew: Hollywood After Dark DVDs come with a small souvenir patch of The Film Crew logo.
Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long