Mystery Science Theater 3000 is
25 years old?!? Wow, it doesn't seem like that long ago that I stumbled
upon the show. I was astonished that anyone, even a cable station,
would broadcast a program that featured people talking over a movie.
Who would watch that?? It only took me a few minutes to become a
convert and I've been hooked every since. To celebrate the momentous
anniversary, Shout! Factory has released a special set of six MST3K episodes (four of which are
new to DVD) under the appropriate title of Mystery Science Theater 3000: 25th
Anniversary Edition. There's some great comedy here, a very rare
episodes, as well as the two episodes where the baton was passed from
Joel to Mike. What more could you want?
The new episodes in this set are:
Moon Zero Two (episode 111):
"In space, no one can hear a wegdie." - Crow
The first season of MST had its moments, but it was generally a
learning experience. It took Joel and the rest of the crew a while to
figure out what would work and what wouldn't and even late in the
season, like this installment, the comedy is a bit more miss than hit.
The plot revolves around a down-on-his-luck astronaut named Kemp. He is
hired by the villain to crash an asteroid on to the dark side of the
moon and make it look like an accident. It's illegal, but Kemp's
license is about to be revoked and he needs the money. While he's
making plans to crash the rock Kemp meets up with girl who is looking
for her brother, a miner, who mysteriously disappeared on the dark side
of the moon. Hmmmm....
This movie is really bad, much worse than the synopsis suggests. It's
one of those films where they throw every genre they can into the mix,
hoping "more" will lead to "better." It doesn't. With the wild
costumes, hip jazz soundtrack, and hokey dialog you'd think that this
would be perfect for MST. It is, for the first part of the movie. This
episode starts off very strong with some great jabs at the animated
titles and some funny lines about how ridiculous the movie is. Then,
about a third of the way through, Joel and the 'bots start to loose
steam. The jokes are less frequent and they aren't nearly as funny. For
the first season it's a pretty good show with some good comedy, but
it's a little too uneven overall to be considered great.
The Day the Earth Froze
(episode 422) "If you think you know what a Sampo is, write it down on
a piece of paper, throw it away, and try not to think about it...
you'll be glad you did." - Tom
Yes, this is the one with the Sampo! A favorite of mine from its
original airing, the episode starts out strong and keeps the jokes
coming through the entire show. The invention exchange features Dr.
Forrester's new idea, (one that he's invested all of Frank's money in):
The Unhappy Meal. A truly dastardly idea... that hasn't quite sold as
well as they had hoped.
The real meat of the show starts with the short, Here's comes the
Circus. It's an interesting short that features a look at a circus
circa 1946 but the riffs are what make it worth watching. From the
entrance of the performers ("It's Beezlebub the Clown!") and the
trapeze act ("Listen, you hit the floor a couple of times, you make
sure you get it right.") the jokes fly fast and furious.
The feature is a very odd Russian/Finnish production adapting on old
Nordic fable. It's hard to make heads or tails of the plot, but it
seems to involve a witch who kidnaps a girl in order to ransom her.
When her boyfriend arrives to retrieve her, the witch tells him there
is only one way for him to win the girl's freedom... he must build her
a Sampo! He does, and after leaving with the girl sneaks back in order
to try to steal the Sampo. When that doesn't work, the witch gets angry
as steals the sun.
This weird, bizarre movie plays works well on MST. The jokes are off
kilter and weird, which is when the show is the best. Crow sings a
beach Boys song ("I vish they all could be Norvegian girls..."), they
mock the hero musically ("Failure, failure, total failure... He's a
loser, la la la"), and everyone makes fun of the mystical device that's
supposed to be fashioned mercilessly ("Kids come runnin' for the rich
taste of Sampo!"). It's all around a great experiment.
The Leech Woman (episode 802):
"This is like a murderous episode of Lucy." - Mike
This is a low-budget thriller that is fun to watch when it's being
riffed. A doctor, Paul Talbot, is approached by an old black woman who
claims to be 140 years old. She wants to return to her native Africa
and in return for her transportation she's willing to share her secret
of longevity and youth with the man. Paul heads out to Africa with the
woman, along with his aged wife June, and does indeed learn the trip.
Apparently taking an extract of the male pineal gland, obtained by
stabbing a man in the back of the neck (and killing him) with a special
ring, will make a woman young again, for a short time. When June
discovers that she was only brought along to be Paul's guinea pig, she
steals the ring and kills him. Returning to the states June starts on a
killing spree to keep herself young and beautiful.
This was another enjoyable episode. The intro host segment was fun,
where Crow discovered that the SoL had been infested with prairie dogs
and sucks them up with a 'Varmint Vac.' The rest of the segments were
so-so. I'm not a huge fan of Pearl and the Brain Guy framing devices
and these left me cold too. That's okay, the movie was fun and that's
Gorgo (episode 909): "The
order comes in... 'Kill Willy!'" - Crow
It's a treat that Shout! Factory included this rare film. I never
thought it would be released on DVD. This particular episode aired
twice in one day and then was never shown again. There was a rights
issue that hadn't been cleared up and so the show went into the vault
with no reruns.
I really enjoyed this one a lot, maybe it's because I like the movie
but realize that it's not great art, or maybe because I it was the
first time I've seen it (and it's been a long time since that's
occurred). In any case the film revolves around a couple of guy who own
a salvage boat. After a bad storm, they discover a giant monster that's
attacking in Irish village. In exchange for some gold artifacts that
were recently uncovered the men capture the creature and rather than
killing it, they came to an agreement with a carnival promoter. Naming
the beast Gorgo they bring him to London and put him on display. Too
bad he's only a baby and his mother is coming after him. The real
Leonard Maltin makes an appearance in this episode (plugging his book,
of course) and even suggests the film for this experiment. I'm not a
huge fan of Pearl, but it was pretty funny when she kept forgetting
Maltin's name and calling him "Ebert." The show itself was very funny
too. There are several memorable riffs, my favorite occurring when
Gorgo first attacks a small village: "Poor Irish--if they aren't being
invaded by Cromwell or infested by leprechauns they've got this guy!" A
nice way to round out the set.
But, wait (as they say on TV)... there's more! There are also two bonus
episodes included with this collection also. These have been previously
released as stand-alone discs, this is the first time they've been
included in one of the MST3K sets.
Mitchell (episode 512): (to
the tune of Shaft) "Who's the puffy guy who's a big blurry sex machine?
It's fitting on for the 25th anniversary set that they include the
creator's last episode. At the end of this experiment, Joel leaves the
SoL, never to return.
Mitchell is a cop who likes beer. He really, really, really likes it.
He's also violent, slovenly, and almost totally lacking social graces.
He's an anti-hero who is trying to take down a crime cartel and won't
let anything get in his way.
I actually find this episode a bit sad, because I know it's Joel's last
time at the helm. Having said that, the crew at Best Brains do a great
job with his swansong. The movie is funny, the host segments are very
good, and they add a good dollop of humor right at the very end to take
the sting out of the departure.
Which segues nicely into:
The Brain that Wouldn't Die (episode
513): "You know they say there's always someone worse off? I'm that
person!" - Crow
Mike joins Tom, Crow, and the rest on the SoL with this experiment.
It's a wonderfully hokey movie about a doctor who has been perfecting a
new formula to help with organ transplants. When his finance is
decapitated in a car accident, he snags the head and hooks it up to
some machines in order to preserve it until he can find a suitable body
for his love. He didn't bother to ask her however, and she's miffed
that he didn't allow her to die with dignity. Oh yeah, and she's
Even though Mike was the head writer for a while, he's still getting
used to his role in front of the camera in this episode. Mike wisely
decided to play his role as the only human on the SoL a little
differently than his predecessor. As where Joel was more of a parent or
teacher to the bots, Mike was more of a co-conspirator. He'd join in
with the fun rather than telling the child-like mechanical creations to
stop. He's also play the straight man from time-to-time. There's
endless debate over who is better, and it seems to largely rest with
which host a person was first exposed to. In my opinion they're both
Each of the four episodes comes in its own slimcase, and all of the
discs are housed in an attractive, embossed, metal case.
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,
though the films soundtracks leave a little to be desired. There's some
light distortion in a couple of cases but nothing major. They actually
do a very good job mixing the audio from the movie in with the actor's
comments however, adjusting the levels so that both the riffs and the
movie can be heard. Of course there are a couple of times when one or
the other isn't easy to discern, but that is fairly rare. There are no
After watching this show for years on the copies that I taped off of
Comedy Central when it was first broadcast, I was very pleased at how
clear it was. My S-VHS tapes are good but this is much better. The host
segments are clear and bright, while the silhouettes during the movie
are solid black.
Shout! Factory has been creating new content for the bonus material on
their recent MST releases, but they really went above and beyond for
this collection. There first bonus is a very good retrospective on the
show, Return to Eden Prairie: 25
Years of Mystery Science Theater 3000. This 70-minute docu is
spread over the first three discs and gives a great look at the entire
run of the show and the constant struggles that the creators had to
deal with. Watching this it's astounding that the show lasted as long
as it did.
Ninth Wonder of the World: The Making
of Gorgo looks at the making of the film and runs a healthy
half-hour, and Life After MST3K
takes a look at what Mary Jo Pehl has been up to since the show ended.
Other bonus material includes a short introduction to Moon Zero Two by Hammer films
historian Constantine Nasr, MST Hour
wraps, a short look at Joel's decision to leave MST, and the wonderfully titled Leonard Maltin Explains Something.
There are also four mini-posters, one for each movie. It's an amazing
set of extras that add a lot to the package.
While the first film is just so-so, the other five range from really
good (The Brain that Wouldn't Die) to awesome (The Day the Earth
Froze.) It's a fantastic collection with some high quality extra all
wrapped up in a cool metal box. Highly