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'Mystery Science' stars return as 'The Film Crew'

By G. Michael Dobbs, Managing Editor

The return of the "Mystery Science" guys is highlighted in this week's DVD column.

The Film Crew: Hollywood After Dark

Like many people, I mourned the passing of "Mystery Science Theater 3000," the innovative television show set up hundreds of cheesy movies. Now, though, three of the Mystery Science" principals are back doing essentially the same act, only on straight to DVD releases.

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett are "the Film Crew," three guys who've been hired to provide commentary tracks to obscure movies because their boss has decided that every film deserves a commentary track.

Their first assignment is perhaps one of the very worst films I've ever sat through which through their work became one of the funniest something called "Hollywood After Dark." Shot apparently in 1961 or '62 but not released until 1968, this black and white exploitation film wants to have its intellectual cake and eat it, too it's supposed to be deep and philosophical and titillating at the same time.

Director and writer John Hayes apparently had the idea he was going to tell a hard-hitting emotional story of two people on the fringes of Hollywood. Rue McClanahan (yes, from "The Golden Girls") stars as a would-be actress making a living as stripper who falls in love with a bitter junkyard attendant. The result is a pretentious, poorly acted, terribly edited movie punctuated with nudity-free strip routines.

The Film Crew does a great job with this subject and it's the kind of production that's gets better with repeated viewings.

It's great to see these guys back in action.

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This is Tom Jones

You have to hand it to Tom Jones. While many of his contemporaries from the 1960s music scene have become parodies of themselves, Jones has ridden the wave of musical trends and stayed afloat. Like Tony Bennett, Jones is actually relevant to the current generation of music lovers.

Time-Life has now released a three-DVD set of eight of Jones' ABC variety shows from 1969 and 1970. The set includes new introductions from Jones as well as archival interviews.

The only reason to watch these shows is the music. Jones looks a little overwhelmed and uncomfortable gabbing with guest stars or participating in skits. The moments where he looks most at home is when he is singing.

Performers such as The Who, Mary Hopkin, Burt Bacharach, Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, Little Richard, and Aretha Franklin joined Jones on his show, providing the set with some great performances.

For Jones fans, this set is essential and is probably the first of a series.

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Engineering An Empire

My mom always tried to get my brother and I to do something constructive during summer vacations by insisting completing math and English workbooks would be "fun."

I love my mom.

I've got a 2007 suggestion that might work a bit better. This 12 documentary set might be the cure for those kids who think history is boring.

"Engineering an Empire" is a great combination of travelogue, mystery, archeology and history and looks at civilizations from the British Empire to Russia under the Czars to the ancient Mayans.

Peter Weller, the actor known for his role as "Robocop," is the host of the series and has some legitimate history chops himself he lectures at Syracuse University on the Roman Empire.

This is fascinating stuff that kids and adults should like. You'll learn and not even realize it!

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