"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Vol. XXIV: Fugitive Aliens & Mighty Jacks

Last April, while my cohorts and I were handling Haruo Nakajima's appearance at the Monsterpalooza convention in beautiful downtown Burbank, I was tapped by Shout! Factory to shoot an interview for their MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 box set containing, arguably, the best (and most infamous) episodes of the seires: Gamera. After we finished the coverage for Vol. XXI, Special Features Producer Jordan Fields revealed that they had cleared the rights for Sandy Frank's TIME OF THE APES, MIGHTY JACK, FUGITIVE ALIEN, and STAR FORCE ("Fugitive Alien II"), based on the respective television series from Tsuburaya Producitons, and asked if I had anything to say about them. Well, since I love this stuff, I did.

Released December 6, 2011, MST3K: Vol. XXII contained TIME OF THE APES, MIGHTY JACK, THE VIOLENT YEARS, and THE BRUTE MAN. I provided on-screen introductions for TIME OF THE APES and MIGHTY JACK. The former was a 26-episode take on the popular PLANET OF THE APES film series, ARMY OF THE APES (1974), and the latter was an hour-long, 13-episode science fiction-tinged espionage drama, MIGHTY JACK (1968). Of course, the condensation of 26-episodes into a 97-minute film, would make even this juvenile adventure series even more confounding — especially with Sandy Frank's excruciating dubbing — while MIGHTY JACK comes across as a poor man's WHAT'S UP TIGER LILY?, making it prime MST3K fodder.

The latest, MST3K Vol. XXIV, released July 31, 2012, features the two Sandy Frank films culled from the 24-episode series, STAR WOLF (1979), based on Edmund Hamilton's pulp sci-fi adventure, produced in the wake of STAR WARS: FUGITIVE ALIEN and STAR FORCE. Also included in this set are THE SWORD AND THE DRAGON and SAMSON VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN. For FUGITIVE ALIEN, I provide the on-screen introduction to kick off the extras for this set, which includes three "MST Hour Wraps" with Mike Nelson as Jack Perkins, "You Asked For It: Sandy Frank Speaks!", two shorts ("Snow Thrills" and "A Date With Your Family"), "Lucha Gringo: K. Gordon Murray Meets Santo", a TV Spot for SAMSON VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN, and "Life After "MST3K": Frank Conniff".

It was a fun morning providing some background on these television series, to put them into context for the legion of MSTies and the uninitiated, and it was an honor to be involved with Shout! Factory's continuing stellar presentations of MST3K. It would be a pleasure to do it again if they eventually clear the rights to release Toei's PRINCE OF SPACE, INVASION OF THE NEPTUNE MEN, and LEGEND OF THE DINOSAURS. I'd love to talk about the Phantom of Krankor, if you're reading this, Jordan...

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