Shout! Factory has just released Mystery Science Theater
XIX, another collection of four episodes
from the classic program. This set
features two Joel and two Mike installments, and with only one
episodes are all hilarious, especially Robot Monster, one of the show's
successes from season one. Add to that a
nice Gypsy figure (to go along with the Tom and Crow figures previously
released) and you've got another wonderful set.
Most of you reading this are probably already familiar with Mystery
Science Theater 3000 (or MST3K for short.)
For those who might have missed the program when it was being
Comedy Central or the Sci-Fi Channel (in its later years), here is the
in a nutshell: some evil scientists have trapped Joel (later replaced
on a satellite in space. Dr. Forester
(or his mother in the later shows) tortures poor Joel by forcing him to
bad movies. Really bad movies. To keep his sanity, Joel has used parts from
the ship to fashion robots, Crow and Tom Servo, who watch the movies
him. While these movies are playing,
Joel, Crow and Tom are silhouetted at the bottom of the screen and
at the movie's expense. It sounds
simple, but it is one of the funniest shows to ever air on television. One of the reasons for the show's success is
the fact that the jokes come form all over. They will throw in
pop culture, ancient history, current events, movies, music (classical,
country or rock,) politics, famous people, (and not-so-famous people)
about anything else you can think of.
Some of the trivia they come up with is so obscure it is
Of course, the quality of the movies they pick are almost
not an issue. As a general rule, the
worse the movie is, the better the show will be. (As
evidenced by Manos, Hands of Fate, a totally abysmal
film that is arguably the
best episode of MST ever. Read my review
here.) In any case, I'll give a brief
synopsis of the movies, as well as a review of the quality of the
The episodes included on this volume are:
Monster and Radar Men from the Moon, Chapters 4 & 5:
"To call this film wretched would just be a insult to the
word wretched! It stars no-one! Oh, man, you won't believe this!" - Dr. Lawrence Erhardt
A wonderful turkey of a film... it is one of those so-
bad-it's-good movies that's fun to watch all by itself.
Adding the MST riffs just makes it
better. A family (headed by a scientist
with a German accent, naturally) is out picnicking in a quarry, when
invades and destroy nearly all of mankind.
The creature, Ro-Man from the race of Ro-Man, starts to hunt
last handful of humanity still alive, the family of course, but once
sees the hot daughter of the scientist he starts to feel love, a
This film is famous for having one of the most outrageous,
and cheap, monster costumes ever: a man
in a gorilla suit with a diving helmet on his head.
Yeah, that's terrifying. What makes
this fantastic MST fodder however
is Ro-Man's constant pontificating on love and science.
"I must, but I cannot! At what
point on the graph do 'must' and
'cannot' meet?" Joel and the bots
mercilessly riff on the abysmal dialog.
|A Ro-Man, out standing in his
This is an episode from MST's first season, which was a work
in progress. They were still finding
their way and figuring out just how long the host segments should last
many jokes to put into the movie section of the show.
This episode is an early success that shows
what the program would soon evolve into.
Episode 423-Bride of
the Monster and Hired! Part 1:
"He tampered in God's domain." - Capt. Robbins
The short that starts out this experiment is excellent.
It's a short made by Chevy about selling cars
and how to train new salesmen. Joel has
a great time yelling out "Hey do you want to buy a Chevrolet?" whenever
clean cut main character would knock on a door.
He carried that riff over to the main feature, which was a nice
The feature is the first Ed Wood Jr. film to get the MST
treatment. This is also one of the last
films that Bela Lugosi stared in before he died (as opposed to the
stared in after he died, the infamous Plan
9 from Outer Space). In this film
Bela plays a scientist who uses atomic radiation to create a monster, a
octopus that lives in the lake by his house/laboratory.
When a female reporter starts snooping around
investigating a string of mysterious deaths near the lake, she stumbles
the doctor who takes a fancy to her.
Luckily the woman's fiancé is a police office who goes
out looking for
her when she disappears.
Poor Bela wasn't doing well at this stage in his life, his
heroin addiction was taking its toll.
Someone doubled him (very obviously) in all of the action scenes
SOL inhabitants have a great time with that, as well as pointing out
the movie's less than convincing effects and insert shots.
Another great experiment.
Episode 818-The Devil
"I've seen Baptist who can dance better than this."
This is the only episode that doesn't really work.
The movie, about a ventriloquist and his
dummy that seems to be alive (a subgenre I usually enjoy), is very slow
ponderous and Mike and the crew can't quite bring it to life, even
After a reporter's girl friend, a rich heiress, goes up on
stage and is hypnotized by The Great Vorelli, she's oddly attracted to
creepy performer. When she abruptly
breaks off the relationship and announces that she's running away with
the reporter can't understand it and starts looking into the
The problem with this episode is that the movie is just too
slow. There isn't a lot of dialog to
riff off of, just a lot of long, endless close-ups of people brooding. There's only so much you can do with that.
The one place where this episode excels is in the host
segments. While the framing sequence
involving Pearl in ancient Rome was mediocre
at best, the segments
during the film itself were great. Pitch,
the devil from Santa Claus (episode
521), offers to sell Crow some Devil Dolls, and give him a 10% discount
just sign a simple agreement. Mike kicks
Pitch off the satellite, but he returns and offers to teach Crow how to
transfer souls. Mike again shoos away
the demon, but not before Tom's soul is transferred to a breakfast
Episode 911-Devil Fish:
"Does the Coast Guard have a lot of use for flamethrowers?"
- Crow T. Robot
Another solid episode from late in the show's run.
When a mysterious creature starts killing
boaters in the Everglades, a team of
biologists sets out to track it down.
They soon find that it's much more than just a new species of
animal, it's a Devil Fish.
This Italian production was just ripe for having the MST
people take a shot at it. The silly plot
twists and rather pedestrian acting left room for some wonderful jabs. I especially enjoyed the way the made fun of
the heroin chic lead actress' lack of heft.
It's a funny episode.
Each of the four episodes comes in its own slimcase.
All four are housed in a clipcase.
The audio on the host segments is very clean, and the riffs coming
through loud and clear. The audio during the movies are pretty good,
films soundtracks leave a little to be desired. There's some light
a couple of cases but nothing major. They
actually do a very good job mixing the audio from the movie in with the
comments however, adjusting the levels so that both the riffs and the
be heard. Of course there are a couple of times when one or the other
easy to discern, but that is fairly rare.
There are no subtitles.
After watching this show for years on the copies that I
taped off of Comedy Central when it was first broadcast, I was very
how clear it was. My S-VHS tapes are good but this is much better. The
segments are clear and bright, while the silhouettes during the movie
black. The quality of the movies themselves leave something to be
they look just as faded and scratchy as when they were first shown on
which is how it should be.
I'm pleased that Shout! is including some nice bonus
features with their MST releases. This
set includes a nice sized plastic (inarticulate) figure of Gypsy, as
four mini-posters that reproduce the DVD covers. In
addition there are some extras on each
disc. There's an introduction to Robot Monster by J. Elvis Weinstein, an
interview with Joel, Inventing the
Invention Exchange, where he discusses his thoughts on the
structure of the
show (and reveals the full name of Gizmonic Institute, which I hadn't
across before). There's an hour long
panel discussion from CONvergence 2009 featuring Joel, Frank and Mary
Jo Pehl. This is a nice talk and Joel is
forthcoming about the origins of the show.
Pretty interesting stuff.
Other video extras include Puppet Master:
Richard Gordon on
Devil Doll and Citizen Wood: Making
The Bride, Unmaking the Legend, a
bit on Ed Wood.
Three great episodes, one not-so-great installment.
The set is still a must-buy, especially for
Robot Monster an early high
in the series. Highly