Egad! ‘Eegah’ is back!

eegah

If, like me, you’re a longtime fan of that little ol’ cowtown puppet show known as Mystery Science Theater 3000, you’re probably in need of a fix.

Sure, you’ve collected all the original episodes released on DVD over the years by Rhino and Shout! Factory, as well as the two rebooted seasons with a new cast. But apart from a dozen shows for which movie rights weren’t acquired (Satellite News says six may be breaking loose–we can always hope), that well has run dry.

Now there’s nothing new on disc in the MST3K galaxy.

Or is there?

Behold Eegah, the 1962 caveman-in-modern-So-Cal cheapie which MST3K originally riffed in Season 5 and which returned to DVD after many years via Shout’s Singles Collection last year. Now it’s back again, but this time on Blu-ray, on a different label (The Film Detective) and in a 4K restored Special Edition with cool extras.

Due at retail on Nov. 26, Eegah’s numbered Special Edition of 1,500 copies on Blu-ray (with more available on DVD) features the original film, of course, but also MST3K’s version which aired in 1993.

That version is presented in an almost square aspect ratio, but I quibble. I may be wrong, but apart from Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie and Seasons 11 and 12 of the rebooted show, this may be the first MST3K episode on Blu-ray.

As for the film by itself, it’s offered in HD with a 16×9 aspect ratio and looks as good as you could hope a well-meaning low-budget clunker can look.

Bonus features beyond the MST3K version include a 13-minute interview with Eegah star Arch Hall Jr. and a seven-minute interview with MST3K creator Joel Hodgson. A box insert also has illuminating liner notes by Don Stradley, editorial advisor for The Film Detective

The interviews are superb, starting with a 70-something Hall, seen sitting with a guitar while he tells tales about the production put together by his novice filmmaker father, who also appeared in it.

His comments are interspersed with loads of clips from Eegah and elsewhere, and there are lovely graphics, all put together by producer-director Daniel Griffith, the reliable maestro of Ballyhoo Productions, which has created so many similar featurettes for DVD releases of MST3K.

Hall tells how his dad first made a teens-stripping-down-cars exploitation flick called The Choppers in ’59, but couldn’t get it distributed without a second film for a drive-in double bill. When meeting with 7-foot-2-inch actor Richard Kiel (who later starred in two James Bond films), Hall Sr. concocted a caveman spiel on the spot. Enter Eegah.

The tale of a prehistoric caveman somehow surviving into the 1960s and meeting the locals living near his desolate home, Eegah was filmed in So Cal in the summer of ’61, just after Hall Jr. graduated from high school. He’d been playing around the area with his band, the Archers, so they were worked into the film, too — along with scads of family members and friends.

Hall reveals such tidbits as “The dune buggy was a death trap” and “It was brutally hot” — up to 122 degrees in the shade. Eegah’s “cave” was shot on a pitifully makeshift set inside a commercial warehouse doubling as a sound stage.

He also says he has “only good thoughts” about Hodgson and MST3K, despite the barbs it hurled at the movie. As Hall rightly sees it, that gave the film new life.

As for Hodgson, he spends much of his segment apologizing for what he called a “cynical” and “super-judgmental” attack on the film on MST3K. He later met Kiel and Hall Jr. and liked them, and he started to see the film not as daddy’s nepotistic indulgence but as the work of two “adventurers.”

“My attitude and perception of the movie is very different now,” says Hodgson, who has “so much affection” for it today.

There’s more, but I’ll leave that to you.

Suffice it to say that MST3K lives, Eegah lives and Ballyhoo’s featurettes live — all on Blu-ray, no less.

All this is a reminder of an MST3K mantra which Hall Sr. provided when he dubbed in a line he didn’t speak onscreen: “Watch out for snakes!”

Better yet, watch out for his film’s Special Edition. For a time, at least, it should fix your misty-eyed-mirth-with-cheesy-cinema needs.

— Bruce Westbrook

 

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One Response to “Egad! ‘Eegah’ is back!”

  1. Majorjoe23 Says:

    Nice review. Shout has released several MST3K episodes on Blu as bonus features, including Brain That Wouldn’t Die, Projected Man, and Bat People.

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