This series from Comedy Central began as a low budget film hosting show in a small television station in Minnesota. It was the brainchild of Joel Hodgson. It ended up running for 11 years and a feature film version.
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 DVDs. 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. There’s Crow T. Robot (Beaulieu), Tom Servo (Murphy), and Gypsy (Mallon). Part of an experiment 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 dialog 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.
You get 4 discs, each with a different film:
The Crawling Eye, Blood Waters Of Dr. Z, The Final Sacrifice, and The Beatniks.
Each episode of MST3000 is presented in its original full frame format. It doesn’t really matter what the original film intent 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. 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 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. Dialog 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.
Special Intro With Joel: (6:28) MST3K creator Joel Hodgson talks about The Crawling Eye episode which was the first national episode of the series. He points out changes made after that outing.
Interview With Bruce J. Mitchell: (9:29) Mitchell talks about his role in The Final Sacrifice as Zap, which was miscredited in the film’s credit roll.
The Main Event – Crow vs. Crow: (35:03) This is the best extra yet on one of these collections. The two players who have voiced and animated Crow talk about the show and the character. This is very cool stuff.
MST Hour Wraps: (5:10) This is a Masterpiece Theater mockup for The Beatniks episode. The pieces served as bumpers for the episode.
Any one who has watched this series knows that it was all intended as just major fun. There are plenty of bad films out there that could have kept this thing running forever. At 4 episodes per set, it’s going to be a long time before any collector is going to be able to own the entire series. Season sets are likely too large and thus too costly. This isn’t going to be a show that would benefit from any of the high definition release opportunities that Blu-ray provides. “It’s got a bad audio track. It’s in black & white. And the worst of all it stars Forrest Tucker”.