DVD Review: Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Volume One)

When the first volume of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes hit the DVD shelves, fans rejoiced and pondered how long could this go on? The world was so different back in November 12, 2002. Bill Cosby and Subway’s Jared were still role models. TV only had one CSI. American Idol looked like it would never end as the most watched show in the universe. While some things changed, MST3K releases remained rather consistent on the calendar. Now they are up to Volume XXXIII. So what happens when a new fan catches onto the show and wants that initial boxset that was released by Rhino? They can buy a used copy that was recently selling second hand online for around $300. That is just too much for badness. These are merely DVDs and not the Milwaukee Bucks. Thankfully Shout! Factory (which took over the releases after Volume 12) is reissuing these out of print sets. Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume One collects four films that came from the indie legend Crown International.

Catalina Caper (Season Two) was Crown International’s attempt to get the crowd that was flocking to American International Picture’s Beach Party films. They did the smart thing by hiring ex-Disney superstar Tommy Kirk who would star in AIP’s Pajama Party and Ski Party. They even paid for Little Richard to lead a music number on a boat. Sadly the producers did’t quite understand how Frankie and Annette made the magic happen. The plot involves the theft of a priceless Chinese scroll. Tommy and his pal have to track it down while getting to enjoy a lot of bikini action on the magical island. This film is just rip for roasting. The glory moment comes during Little Richard’s singing when the Bots think he’s “hopped up on goofballs.” That phrase quickly became part of the repeated code by fans of the show. It’s how you could tell a fellow fan in a crowded theater. The bits outside of the movie were golden. Crow and Tom fight Joel (Joel Hodgson) having them pray for the soul of Twiki from Buck Rogers during their robot prayers. The invention exchange allows Dr. Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) and TV’s Frank (Frank Conniff) to go extreme with the concept of tank top. Joel goes off track while telling the Bots about growing up in America during the ’60s. Tom Servo exposes his passion for the Creepy Girl character. It truly was a magical episode that allowed Tommy Kirk to let us laugh at love once more. And remember that Little Richard couldn’t save a non-sinking ship.

The Creeping Terror (Season Six) is another legendary bad monster from space movie. The terror does creep since it seems to be a pile of carpets attacking the locals. A majority of the audio is done by a narrator. Rumors persist of the director actually had a microphone on the set or if they lost the audiotapes. What matters is this lack of real sound gives Mike (Michael Nelson) and the bots plenty of space to mock the no budget action. Tom goes on a bit of a power trip first as the security guard forcing everyone to sign in. Later Crow creates a flag for the Satellite of Love and Tom needs everyone to salute its glory. The Mads do an secondary experiment by seeing how Mike and the Bots would react to being in a coffeeshop. They do a spoof of Love American Style that includes the heart cast introductions. You almost fear the creeping terror moving too fast and reducing the time the Bots have to enhance the film’s sluggish tempo.

Bloodlust (Season Six) gives us a glimpse of what the Brady Bunch goes to Hawaii should have been. Robert Reed (Mr. Brady), a pal and two ladies land on an island that’s owned by a mad man who enjoys hunting anything that gives him a rush. He wants a few teenagers over the mantlepiece. They do their darnedest to survive in the wilds. The mad man’s wife also finds herself a target when her dark secret gets exposed. Nobody is safe from the rifle sight. There’s also a great short “Uncle Jim’s Dairy Farm” that gets ripped for child labor laws. What makes this episode monumental is the arrival of Dr. Forrester’s mother Pearl (Mary Jo Pehl). While her son thinks she’s evil, she gets along so well with Frank. The sketches includes a fast food dinner murder theater. Later the Bots swear Mike is going to hunt them down.

The Skydivers (Season Six) is all about plummeting to Earth. It’s easy to imagine that a majority of the script was lost in a free fall. There’s a lot of narrator describing the action moments since it seemed this stopped the actors from ruining scenes by remembering all their lines. There’s a whole searing expose quality to the film about the forbidden passion of these thrillseekers. But mostly it’s about using jump footage to pad out the running time. There’s also plenty of ladies doing the twist to fill up the screen. The short “Why Study Industrial Arts” features teachers with all their fingers. The opening has Tom Servo turn himself into a planetarium exhibit. Crow wants to skip the tour of the planets and jump straight to Uranus. The Mad Scientists top it with their swing choir showdown that ought to be Pitch Perfect 3. Director Coleman Francis received a complete career retrospective on MST3K will all three of his feature films getting run during season six. Red Zone Cuba and The Beast of Yucca Flats are of equal quality.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume One does not merely a repackaging of the Rhino version. The only bonus feature was a flipper disc that featured the original version of the movie. It’s hard to imagine wanting to stomach any of these titles without a heavy seasoning of Crow and Tom Servo. Shout! Factory has wisely only provided the MST3K version along with new bonus features. Plus there’s a reduced price that won’t make you have to set up a Kickstarter.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The standard definition transfers look fine. You don’t lose sight of the Bots in the theater. The audio is Dolby Digital stereo. The mix tries not have the comments completely overwhelm the original movie soundtrack.

The Crown Jewels (17:29) is the history of Crown International. This is more than you’ll learn in film school about an indie legend. They started before American International and still are in business working the catalog. Among my favorites that you can get in mega-collections is The Van and Van Nuys Boulevard.

Catalina Caper Theatrial Trailer (0:52) promises a lot of teens versus old guy outlaws.

Extended Trailer For The Creep Behind the Camera (7:21) promises to tell the whole story of how The Creeping Terror was made. It’s Ed Wood with Manos.

The Creeping Terror Trailer for Screamfest 2014 (3:47) is a new cut to get today’s kids jazzed up for monster action.

TCBTC Q&A From Screamfest 2014 featuring Frank and Trace (17:14) is the cast and crew talking to the audience about how they found out about the film.

Bloodlust Theatrical Trailer (1:56) makes that island look too evil for four hot teens.

Skydivers Theatrical Trailer (1:31) makes you really want to see the free falling action. There’s also plenty of passion outside the chutes. Coleman Francis looks like a genius.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume One brings back that first batch of DVD joy with a few extras to make viewers understand the importance of these films.

Shout! Factory presents Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume One. Starring: Joel Hodgson, Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Trace Beaulieu. Boxset Contents: 4 movies on 4 DVDs. Released: September 1, 2015.

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