Diving into the second of two Shout! Factory releases of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" episodes (part of their new online Shout! Selects series), I find myself looking back over the various releases of the show on DVD and wondering whether a perfect strategy will ever be possible. I imagine a great many fans would pony up in a second (steep price tag and all) for a complete ten season box set, but the best Rhino, and now Shout! has been able to do are four at a time. Now, the Selects line has begun offering single-episode releases, which unfortunately seems like a step in the wrong direction.
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (episode 812) is an interminably long and meandering story about a carnival fortune-teller (Brett O'Hara) who apparently has the power to curse her customers. Through a series of confusing developments, this fate befalls Jerry (played, with intense blandness, by the film's director and Nicolas Cage look-a-like, Ray Dennis Steckler), who wanders around under hypnosis killing innocent people. None of it seems to have anything to do with zombies until, several unnecessary musical numbers in, some zombie creatures finally show up in the last 15 minutes to wreak some havoc on the carnival.
Mike and the bots get the most mileage out of the film's woefully incompetent dance sequences, particularly the last one ("Shrimp out of shape?" "Schick out of shape." "Well, then try Gillette!"), and Steckler's terrible performance ("I remain unaffected."), with a few choice sub-targets in the movie's supposedly sexy Carmelita (Erina Enyo) and her manly legs, excessively large hairstyles, and Jerry's heavily accented best friend. During the host segments, the gang peeks in on Pearl, saddled with babysitting duty before trying on the gigantic beehive wigs for themselves. Servo also unveils the remarkable full name of "Helping Children Through Research and Development", which is apparently an acronym.
On one hand, Incredibly Strange Creatures... is a solid episode of the show, but it's hard to get around the steep price tag and the fact that the discs are just one episode (movie length notwithstanding) of a television show. I don't want to put the blame on Shout! -- licensing fees for the films themselves is likely expensive, not to mention a potential logistical and legal hassle if the title has changed hands -- but it's hard to imagine copies flying out the door. Perhaps Shout! should look into an "assemble your own box set" option on the website (akin to Adult Swim's current custom DVD setup) for future releases.
As one of the DVDs available through Shout! Factory's new Shout! Selects line of products, the artwork is standardized: the MST3K globe, the silhouettes, and a poster/logo treatment of the film in question, with a starfield background. The inside front cover looks basically the same, featuring another vintage poster for the movie. There is no insert, and the disc comes in a transparent Amaray case.
The Video and Audio
Nothing spectacular to report: "MST3K" looks about as good as you expect it to look, and sounds about the same. I detected no video compression errors and did not hear any audio glitches, but the episode does not necessarily leap off the screen or out of the speakers with vivid colors or enthralling fidelity.
None. Although Rhino previously issued Incredibly Strange... as part of their 4-film "Volume 9" box set, their disc had no extras either, and that box set is now out of print.
Unless it's a personal favorite, the value of a good but not timeless episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" would be increased if you could get it with three others for a $50 or $60 price tag. As it stands, like the other disc, I'm not sure the episode without any extras quite warrants the $20 MSRP, so I'm going to have to limit the disc to a rental.
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