DVD Review: Mystery Science Theater 3000 (25th Anniversary Edition)



Has it really been 25 years since bad movies were transmitted into space to torture an unfortunate soul and his three mechanical companions? A majority of America think it’s been 24 years. This is true if you count when the Satellite of Love was launched on the Comedy Channel. The lucky souls in Minneapolis, Minnesota were able to experience the weirdness on Thanksgiving day in 1988. Mom wasn’t the only person roasting a turkey on that day if you tuned into KTMA. A generation of cynical youth were ready for movie hosts to constantly mock a movie from the bottom of the screen. The show became a massive cable hit and inspired way too many people to talk through movies that were running in theaters. Mystery Science Theater 3000 25th Anniversary Edition is a massive celebration inside a metal box with six films.

Moon Zero Two (first season) is what happens when Hammer Studios left the safety of horror for science fiction. The studio pushed the film as a Western on the moon. It plays more like the lost pilot to Space: 1999. Doesn’t hurt that MZT‘s Catherine Von Schell went on to being in Space: 1999. Luckily few people remembered MZT after Stanley Kubrick brought out 2001: A Space Odyssey. This made it perfect fodder for the humor of MST3K. Why not let three people trapped in space talk about bad zero gravity special effects? This is a first season so you get joy of Dr. Laurence Erhardt (Josh Weinstein) working with Dr. Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) in Deep 13. They bring out their devious invention of celebrities puking toothpaste. Joel (Joel Hodgson) and the Bots have plenty of jokes about the moon landing.

The Day the Earth Froze
(season four) is based on an epic Finnish poem. Kinda makes you feel kinda lame that most of our movies are based off comic books. The movie is about lovers torn apart by an evil witch. He must build a Sampo to track down his lover. What’s a Sampo? You’ll have to watch the movie to believe it. The invention exchange has Joel create snacks in the shape of ninja weapons. The Bots love them. Back on Earth, Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank (Frank Conniff) make Unhappy Meals. There is a short film about going to the circus that really gets the Bots excited. Gypsy even gets into the act with her own one-robot show “Gypsy Rose Me!” It’s a treat to see them goof around with international cinema.

The Leech Woman (season eight) is about the high price of health care. In this case a woman who finds the secret to youthful looks. Sadly the treatment involves sacrificing young men to her beauty. That’s pretty normal for a co-pay. This is during the early Pearl (Mary Jo Pehl) time. She’s taken over the Planet of the Apes except her chimp followers are getting testy. The Bots find prairie dogs are infesting Satellite of Love, but Mike (Micheal J. Nelson) thinks they’re nuts. Things get really weird when Tom Servo wants to be Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies.

Gorgo (season nine) brings a big old monster to the screen. In this case it’s a movie that seems to blur King Kong and Godzilla with the plot from Mothra. A monster is captured and turned into a giant sideshow. Except it turns out this is the baby and momma is coming to London to get her child out of showbiz. There’s some great stomping action for Mike and the Bots to crush with wisecracks. This is a very special episode since it features a real guest star and not Mike Nelson impersonating a famous person. Uber-film critic Leonard Maltin gleeful gives Pearl the print of Gorgo to torture the SoL crew. They do find a bit of fun in the monster action. They create a play called “Waiting for Gorgo-t.” They won’t let Pearl and Leonard break their souls.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 25th Anniversary Edition also has two more films as part of the bonus features. That means you get to enjoy six films this Thanksgiving. It’s a mini-Turkey Day marathon. Few could have envisioned a quarter century ago that a goofy little show on a Minneapolis TV station would revolution how we mock cinema. It’s a film that became essential pop culture by mocking pop culture.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The show was shot on standard definition video. The six transfers look fine. The audio is stereo so you can hear the dialogue and the quips without much of an effort.

Mitchell and The Brain That Wouldn’t Die< are bonus films. These two movies feature the major transition between Joel and Mike as the test subject in the Satellite of Love.

Return to Eden Prairie – Part I: The Crew
(12:21) focuses on the production design. This is a joy since we get to spend time with Beez McKeever. She became the costume maker specialist during the later episodes. She’s dreamy.

Return to Eden Prairie – Part II: The Locations
(30:02) takes us to the scared ground. These odd buildings in Minnesota made the magic happen all those years ago.

Return to Eden Prairie – Part III: The Characters
(31:28) breaks down how the creative brain trust created the personalities of the robots and the mad scientists.

Life After MST3K: Mary Jo Pehl (7:44) proudly lets her show off her moment as a clue in the TV Guide crossword puzzle. She has done stuff since the show went off the air.

MST Hour Wraps (5:13) takes us back to when Jack Perkins cut The Day the Earth Froze into a two parter. Jack sings “Black Magic Woman.”

Introduction by Hammer Films Historian Constantine Nasr (9:37) explains why the Horror studio decided to make a space flick.

Ninth Wonder of the World: The Making of Gorgo (31:11) really gets detailed on the key figures in the making of this huge monster movie. Bob Burns (The Ghost Busters) provides great insight.

Leonard Maltin Explains Something
(0:35) clears up his cameo.

Last Flight of Joel Robinson (10:37) lets Joel speak of his departure from the Satellite of Love.

Interview with Actress Marilyn Neilson (4:16) recounts her time in the classic The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.

Gorgo Theatrical Trailer (2:31) contains all the monster stomping fun.

The Day the Earth Froze Theatrical Trailer (2:32) quotes critics without mentioning their names.

Leech Woman Theatrical Trailer (1:51) opens with a definition of “Leech.” There’s a lot of explosions.

Moon Zero Two Theatrical Trailer
(2:25) makes this film look so groovy in space.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 25th Anniversary Edition is the perfect way to celebrate a quarter century of mocking movies. Besides the normal four movies that come in the boxset, the bonus movies represent the switchover between the hosts.

Shout! Factory presents Mystery Science Theater 3000 25th Anniversary Edition. Starring: Joel Hodgson, Micheal J. Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Josh Weinstein, Kevin Murphy and Mary Jo Pehl. Boxset Contents: 6 episodes on 5 DVDs. Released: November 26, 2013.

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