DVD Review: Mystery Science Theater 3000 (XXIII)

Joel, Mike, Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot and all the rest are back again with their 23rd box set! Like previous collections we get two Joel episodes and two Mike episodes.

We start with a season two episode: King Dinosaur (episode 210) wherein a couple of scientists travel to another planet to explore it and find a shocking amount of stock footage, a lemur and a giant lizard. It is preceded by a very silly short film called X Marks the Spot that sort of meshes that Mr. Walker/Mr. Wheeler Goofy cartoon with Albert Brooks’ Defending Your Life. Joel and the bots do a great job riffing this film and Joel does a very bizarre lemur dance with a puppet at one point.

Up next we have the season 3 episode The Castle of Fu Manchu (episode 323) wherein Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank have Joel and the bots “on the ropes” This film is so bad that Tom has a complete mental breakdown a little over halfway through. In this film Christopher Lee plays the evil Dr. Fu Manchu who threatens to freeze the Earth’s oceans or some nonsense like that. This is a particularly horrible film and particularly hilarious episode.

Our Mike portion of the set begins with the season 6 episode Code Name: Diamond Head (episode 608) which is actually a failed TV pilot being from Quinn Martin. This film is about an undercover agent battling evil in Hawaii. It is proceeded by an extremely benign short A Day at the Fair. This is a very solid episode.

Lastly we have another season 6 episode, Last of the Wild Horses (episode 611) where in we get the infamous alternate universe where we meet evil Mike and Tom (Mike comes complete with Spock-esque goatee) and the nice version of Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank who actually riff with film for the first third. Frank also pays tribute to Joel’s odd lemur dance from the first episode in this collection. This is a fantastic episode, maybe the best of this collection.

All-in-all this is a very strong collection with not one bad episode in the bunch. This a great addition to the growing MST3K box set library and certainly a must own for all fans, be they some-time fans or completists. A total side note: I did the math, at 4 episodes per box set, there will be 50 when all is said and done to accompany all 198 episodes. Unless they release two 5 episode sets, then there will be 48 box sets. We’re almost half way there! (That is, of course, if they can get the rights to all the films.)

MST3K is presented in full screen and 2.0 Stereo sound. I’d only ever seen bootleg versions of these episodes that were recorded off TV by VCR’s (remember those?) and they look fantastic on this box set! These episodes have never looked or sounded better.

There are couple extras on each disc:

King Dinosaur: The Incredible Mr. Lippert: (35 min.) This is a very interesting documentary about film producer Robert L. Lippert, who not only produced crap like King Dinosaur but gave Sam Fuller his first big break. Also includes the Original Theatrical Trailer.

The Castle of Fu Manchu: Introduction by Frank Conniff (3 min.) Frank talks about how hard it was for the MST3K gang to do this episode. Original Theatrical Trailer. Darkstar: Robots Don’t Need SAG Cards: (18 min.) A promotional behind-the-scenes look at Darkstar an interactive movie featuring just about all the actors that were involved in MST3K.

Code Name: Diamond Head: Life After MST3K: Kevin Murphy: (9 min.) Kevin talks about what life was like for him after MST3K and the events that brought him full circle into Rifftrax. Code Name: Quinn Martin: (6 min.) A short look at the career of producer Quinn Martin, though he produced stuff like Diamond head he also created great shows like The Streets of San Francisco .

Last of The Wild Horses: Vintage MST3K Promos (14 min.) There are dozens of these all strung together. It’s really fun to see these old ads.

Twenty-three down Twenty-Five or so to go. This is another great box set from MST3K to their fans with some great special features and some fun menu screens. Again, an absolute must buy for fans of the series.

Shout! Factory presents Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIII. Created by: Joel Hodgson. Starring: Joel Hodgson, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu. Running time: 480 min. 4 episodes on four discs. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: March 27, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

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