‘MSTing With the Stars’

As America slides more deeply into a rift between haves and have-nots — shameless greedheads and regular folks — at least some of our pop culture keeps the latter rich, if only in spirit. On ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, they’re show-biz has-beens or barely-weres whose fans love them because they’re still-standing borderliners. And for the faithful flame-keepers of Mystery Science Theater 3000, what could be better than fresh interviews with director Robert Fiveson and actor Don Sullivan?

Uh, whodat?

You’re right to ask. Those names may not ring bells even among barrel-bottom-loving MSTies. But they’ll get to know them better via Rhino’s Volume 12 of its Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collections, just out.

Though such sets always are artfully packaged — and I’m just grateful a show axed eight years ago still has life via DVD — they’ve never bulged with special features. But V.12 has ’em, notably sit-down gabfests for two of its films.

One is with Sullivan,  fifth-billed “star” (his credit didn’t make the trailer) of 1959 beatnik crime caper The Rebel Set, jeered and cheered in MST‘s fourth season. A fleeting film and TV actor of the late ’50s to early ’60s — who by all rights should have crossed paths with Ed Wood Sullivan also was in MST whipping-boy (whipping lizard?) The Giant Gila Monster (no MST disc yet). So OK — he’s exploitation-guy legit. But the cheesy charm of his fanboy credits aside, this Sullivan is no “really good show” Ed, just a dull as dust Don, droning drearily for 12 minutes of routine reminiscence.

No, the better choice for your plate of steaming-hot extras is to dish with Fiveson, director of 1979 sci-fi/horror cheapie Parts: The Clonus Horror, ripped by MST’s merry movie mockers in season eight. Fiveson spews juicy details on his legal battle with producers of big-budget 2005 flop The Island (even slave-to-commercialism Michael Bay found a way to blow $125 million that time), based on an alleged 103 similarities between the films about unsuspecting human clones in a cut-off colony being raised like crops for organ harvests. (The two sides “came to terms,” he says. Translation: DreamWorks and Warner must have caved, at least a bit. Shades of The Terminator’s precedents in Harlan Ellison’s two Outer Limits scripts.)

Less juicy but still tangy is Fiveson’s reaction to being bashed, berated and bushwacked by MST’s wacky crew.

I’ve always wondered how actors and filmmakers felt when targeted by Mike or Joel and their lot of  ‘bots. Fiveson says his first reaction to the prospect was “like I’d been punched in the gut — the ultimate low in my career.” But minutes later, he had an epiphany: This would be cool. It would be cachet. And hey, any new national exposure would sure beat dusty video bargain bins.

“The film sucks. It had no budget. And who am I not to be laughed at?” he reasoned. Beyond that, he soon learned that stalwart MST fans, ever ready to dance with their “stars,” would champion his plagiarism case.

“I was very honored to be part of that show,” says Fiveson, who also admits “there were some good zingers in there.” Besides, MST’s mirth is affectionate at heart, and at least “MSTing With the Has-Beens” provides some have-nots with a “have” and a haven.

That’s it for now. You’ll hear more from me on movies, TV and DVD, fields I’ve covered professionally for longer than MST‘s run. Let’s have some fun — one of the best “haves” of all.


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5 Responses to “‘MSTing With the Stars’”

  1. ern2150 Says:

    Awesome, just bought this set a day or so ago and hoped the Island / Clonus dirt was in there somewhere.

  2. bigmoneygrip Says:

    What a good read. I always wondered about those that were targets of MST3K. I had the feeling most everyone, with the exception of JDB, liked it.

  3. farsider Says:

    Considering the big shots Mike and friends are now nailing via RiffTrax, from “Spider-Man” to “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” anyone is fair game. Besides, as the old show-biz saying goes, any ink is better than no ink (“ink” being publicity).

  4. John H. Says:

    Welcome to blogland!

  5. farsider Says:

    Thanks, John H. Actually, I’ve been blogging since June of 2005, first a DVD blog for chron.com (The Houston Chronicle) called Special Features, then various TV and movie blogs, and now this one.
    — Bruce

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