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DVD Review: MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 Vol XXX

It absolutely boggles my mind sometimes that not only is Mystery Science Theater 3000 nearly 26 years old, but that it continues to be as popular and beloved now as it was at the time, if not more so. In fact, definitely more so I’d say. There’s just something so universally enjoyable about watching two robots and a guy sit in front of a movie and crack jokes that are so well-crafted and perfectly timed that everybody watching just thinks they’re off the cuff. I know the format isn’t for everybody, but it’s very hard to argue with results. It’s a show that shaped my love of comedy, which has also been the case for countless others. Nevertheless it’s still staggering that we’re already up to Volume XXX (30!) of Shout Factory (formerly Rhino Home Video)’s run of releasing every episode they possibly can. Each set, with a few exceptions, has been four episodes and Volume XXX is no exception, complete with a bevy of extras and collectible mini-posters for each episode as drawn by artist Steve Vance. Let’s dive in!

This set contains one Joel episode and three Mike episodes, one of which is from the Comedy Central years and the other two are from the Sci-Fi Channel years, which are my personal favorite seasons. It’s a good mixture of beloved and more obscure episodes but they are all hysterical and well worth a watch. (Sidebar: There are certainly episodes of MST3K I like more than others but I don’t think there are any that are just unfunny or not even worth a look. In 10 years, every episode is good to great. That’s exceedingly rare.)

The first movie in the bunch is The Black Scorpion, the final episode of the first Comedy Central season. It’s always nice to go back and look at these super old episodes, from back before most people were even aware of the show. It aired in 1990, for cripes sake! It’s the last episode to feature J. Elvis Weinstein as Dr. Erhardt and as the voice of Tom Servo, and is also the last episode before Michael J. Nelson was brought in as head writer.

The movie itself concerns a giant scorpion running amok, maybe even wreaking havoc, on Mexico following its release from a volcano. Hey, it was made in 1957; people were scared of giant bugs back in them days. The disc also contains a making-of for the movie itself, so you can get a good idea of what people were thinking when the movie got made.

MST3K outlaw

The second disc is the film Outlaw (of Gor), episode 19 from Season 5, which was Mike’s first half-season as host and main character. There are some really strange host segments this time, not least of which being when Mike and the bots all don blonde wigs, fake chins, and plastic chests to be Fabios. In Mike’s first episodes, he’s a lot more of a livewire in the host segments than he would end up being as the even-keeled everyman he’d later become. Probably as a way of distinguishing himself from the recently-departed Joel.

Outlaw of Gor, known elsewhere as simply Outlaw or as Gor II, is the sequel as you might have guessed of Gor, an adaptation of the first in John Norman’s series of books taking place on the barbaric planet of the same name. There’s much humor poked at the fact that there are scantily clad women everywhere and that Jack Palance didn’t care at all about being in the movie. These points are both talked about in the many extras on this disc (easily the most extras in the set) including an interview with Norman’s publisher who discusses the books’ more salacious and troubling sexual politics, an interview with Outlaw‘s director, and one with its producer.

Disc 3 is the first of two Sci-Fi Channel episodes, this one, The Projected Man, being the first episode of the show’s 9th season. After the lengthy and arc-driven (which makes no sense) chase narrative of Season 8, Season 9 ushered in the Sci-Fi years’ Mads, Pearl Forrester (Mary Jo Pehl), Professor Bobo (Kevin Murphy), and Observer, aka Brain Guy (Bill Corbett), finally reaching their permanent base of operations in historic Forrester castle from which all the scheming and world domination took place, and failed.

The Projected Man is a cruddy British sci-fi/horror movie about scientists attempting to transport things through the air using a big laser-like device. When the head scientist’s greedy bosses cut off his funding, he performs the experiment on himself, turning him into a kind of Two-Face inspired monster who can walk through walls and burns people when he touches them. A great much of the joking refers to whether or not a scientist named Lembach will or will not stay. For this disc, there’s a brief discussion of the film by critic and historian Tom Weaver.

Projected man

The final disc contains the episode/movie It Lives By Night, episode 10 of Season 10. Also known as The Bat People, the movie follows a newlywed doctor studying bats who gets bitten by one and starts to slowly turn into it. Or maybe he’s just rabid; it’s very hard to know for sure. What we DO know is that the guy minces around and whines a lot. This disc contains a trailer for the movie and that’s it. A very funny episode regardless of extras, however.

So, all in all, once again we’ve got four excellent episodes to get the MSTies in your life excited and drooly. Highly recommended.

MST3K xxx

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4 comments

  • “when Mike and the bots all dawn blonde wigs”

    It’s “don”, not  “dawn”–as in “do on”.  The opposite is “doff”.  Thanks, Late Middle English!

  • The real question is: Is the sound quality (during the movie segments) fixed on “The Projected Man”? When the episode originally aired, the SciFi Channel experimented with a new stereo mix to separate Mike & the Bots from the film dialogue, but only made them sound like they were being funneled through a cheap echo filter. This rendered nearly all the quips and comments nearly indecipherable, and because of that, it is one of the few episodes I’ve gone back to revisit.