Mystery Science Theatre is an acquired taste. For me, I’ve really got to be in that certain mood to watch it. That’s the beauty of these DVD’s. You pop them in when you’re ready. The idea is pretty whacked. Depending on the season you’ve got, Joel or Mike is trapped in space on the “Satellite of Love”. Doomed to spend his life watching very bad films, our hero makes the best of a bad situation. He uses his resources to construct a couple of robot pals. Together they watch the films from the front row, constantly ranting throughout. If you’re like me, you’ve invited a few friends over to watch a schlock festival. The movies weren’t as important as the banter you created while watching. That’s exactly what you see here. The silhouettes of our host and his robots dominate the lower portion of the screen, where they provide alternative dialogue and sometimes witty commentary on the action. The two evil station owners/mad scientists send them a new bad film each week to observe their reactions to the bombs. The films are broken up by off the wall skits and fake commercials to alleviate the tedium. This DVD collection is better than some because it includes films from four different seasons to give you a good sample of the overall series.
The first of the four films panned by these crazy hosts is “Women Of The Prehistoric Planet”. This film features an introduction by Irene Tsu, who starred in the flop. Look for Quincy’s Robert Ito and Rockford’s Stuart Margolin as well as science fiction legend John Agar. This film is from the show’s first full season on Comedy Central. Don’t expect any prehistoric women here as the title implies. The film is a super schlocky class struggle moral. There are plenty of oddly dressed women on the ship that remind you of some of those early original Star Trek female costumes, only cheesier.
From the second Comedy Central season we get a teenage biker gang film in “Wild Rebels”. No future or past stars here. Lots of crappy songs and biker gang antics. This was a great film for the gang to pan. One of the richest in material to be sure.
From the seventh season of Comedy Central comes “The Sinister Urge”. The urge here is to turn off the television. Still… once again we’re saved by the antics of our rude hosts. What shlock fest would be complete without an Ed Wood film? Your wishes are fulfilled in what is truly a bad film even for Wood. I’ve known Conrad Brooks for years, and his pride in this one is typical Conrad. “Look, Pally, this is good stuff.” Porno drives a man to become a crazed killer. Are you sure it wasn’t Wood’s films? Conrad provides an intro here. Nice going, Pally!
Finally the too long titled “The Incredible Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies” If the title alone doesn’t let you know the quality of cinema you get here, you just aren’t paying attention. More crappy songs abound. Unfortunately there aren’t too many zombies around. This is easily one of the worst films done by the series. It’s bad, and I don’t mean in a good way.
Each episode of MST3000 is presented in its original full frame format. It doesn’t really matter what the original film intents might have been. These prints are far better than they deserve to be. Mostly the low budget prints are surprisingly clean. Now that’s not to say they look good at all. Colors are always washed out. The first film looks like a third generation video tape. It’s just that these films really don’t warrant anything better than poor. Of course, colors and black levels are highly variable from episode to episode. The Sinister Urge is in black and white. The MST3000 stuff is pretty much nicely reproduced. We’re talking cardboard sets here, so they look pretty bad, but at least they look bad in nice color and definition. If you’re a fan of this show, you’re not here for the video specs.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is often terrible. Dialogue on the films is often muted or unintelligible for a variety of other reasons. Musical scores are more often than not distorted. Dynamics is a word with no association at all to these productions. Still… that’s not what you’ll be buying them for. Fortunately every word of wit and wonder from our hosts is clearly audible. Don’t take this the wrong way, but bad is good here.
There are the two introductions I mentioned along with a short hygiene video packaged with The Sinister Urge.
I must admit I really didn’t watch this show at all during its original run. Sure, I was familiar with the idea. The pop culture references were known, but I never sat down to watch an entire film. Believe it or not, I found this stuff works great as background while your cleaning your room. Let’s face it, you won’t need your state of the art system for this stuff, and all you’re really interested in is the comments. At first I thought it would have been nice to feature an alternative audio without the ramblings. That is, until I watched this stuff. This show started on an indy station in Minneapolis and moved to Comedy Central in its second year. Because of this, the season numbers are arguable. I used network numbers for this review. If you are unfamiliar with the show, you really should find a way to try an episode first before you buy one of these sets. When you do you’ll just need to “repeat to yourself it’s just a show”.