Benjamin Svetkey
June 14, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Cave Dwellers

Current Status
In Season

We gave it an A

Some tragedies are so shocking, the horror resonates forever: the crash of the Hindenburg. The sinking of the Titanic. The cancellation of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Who can forget that dark day last December when Comedy Central pulled the plug on the cult TV series? I certainly can’t, but then, I have no life.

Mercifully, there’s some good news on the MST3K front. Three 1 1/2-hour episodes of the show, in which creator-star Joel Hodgson and two robots crack wise at stinky B movies, have just been released on tape — Cave Dwellers, The Amazing Colossal Man, and Mitchell — to be followed by 22 of the best episodes over the next few years. Of course, any self-respecting MSTie has already taped these shows off TV. And Comedy Central is still airing the series in repeats every weeknight (albeit at two in the morning in some markets). But for newcomers or the cable impaired, these tapes make a pretty good primer.

I myself might have chosen three different episodes to launch the MST3K video collection — say, Rocketship X-M, Manos: The Hands of Fate, and Jungle Goddess — but never mind. The ‘bots are at their whip-smart best in Cave Dwellers, starring Miles O’Keeffe (”How much Keeffe we got in this movie?” asks Hodgson. ”Miles O’Keeffe,” answer his pals), and the Invention Exchange sketch before the movie is a hoot (mad scientists genetically splice a plant and a human being to create a plant that pretentiously reviews music). In The Amazing Colossal Man, there’s a brilliant bit in which the hecklers try to think up questions to ask the film’s hero, who’s grown 50 feet since getting irradiated by a nuke blast (”How many kinds of fish can you name?” is the best they can do). And the crime drama Mitchell has major sentimental value: It’s Hodgson’s farewell episode (he finds an escape pod in a box of Hamdingers).

If you didn’t understand a word of the above — but are intrigued anyway — these tapes were made for you. All three: A

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