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. This edition features an all Joel collection.
You get 4 discs, each with a different film:
Robot Monster (1953):
Ro-Man (Barrows) is really a guy in a gorilla suit and a fish-bowl space helmet. Everyone on Earth has been killed except for a family of survivors who have to deal with Ro-Man, who wants them dead. All except Alive (Barrett) with whom he has developed feelings. Ro-Man lives in a cave filled with soap bubbles. Of course, it’s all just the dream of a little boy who smacked his head in the cave.
The film is most noted for its iconically bad script. It has been in competition with Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space for worst film ever. It was also originally in 3D. I’m told it’s a much better film in 3D. That’s hard to believe. Then there’s the stock footage of dinosaurs.
Bride Of The Monster (1955):
Bela Lugosi stars as mad scientist Vornoff, who intends to build a race of atomic supermen to take over the world. He’s assisted by wrestler Tor Johnson as the erratic and violent Lobo.
This is actually considered Wood’s best film and isn’t half bad. It features a memorable monolog by Lugosi that provides a glimpse of the once-great actor’s old self. There’s also the scene, made famous in the movie Ed Wood, where Lugosi is wrestling with a non-mechanical giant octopus that he has to wrap around himself as he splashes in a cold pond. The leads are Tony McCoy and Loretta King, whose only qualification is that they had money to invest in the movie.
Devil Doll (1964):
Not to be confused with the Tod Browning and Lionel Barrymore classic from 1936. This film features Bryant Haliday as the ventriloquist The Great Vorelli. The act is something special because the doll is alive. Vorelli wants to replace the soul in the doll with the attractive Marianne, played by Yvonne Romain.
This is truly one of the worst films the Satellite Of Love has ever played. Not even the gang’s one-liners can save this one.
Devil Fish (1984):
One of the more recent films to be riffed by the gang. This was Jaws rip-off. It was an Italian film made in Florida. It was directed by Lamberto Bava but is nothing like the spaghetti-nightmare king’s better works. It’s basically killer fish that munch on a few folks while a mad scientist attempts to control them for his own purposes.
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.
Robot Monster Introduction by J. Elvis Weinstein: (6:41) The Tom Servo performer talks about the episode. Apparently, the crew were reluctant to touch this classic but were forced into it when another film’s rights fell through. He talks about the early episodes and finding their footing on the riff routines.
Larry Blamire Geeks Out: (10:54) Blamire is the creative mind behind the Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra films. He talks about Robot Monster.
Citizen Wood – Making The Bride, Unmaking The Legend: (27:07) Richard Gordon, who produced the film, joins a host of folks to talk about Ed Wood and Bride Of The Monster. Larry Blamire, Joel, and others offer their humorous thoughts.
Inventing The Invention Exchange: (6:08) Joel talks about how he came up with the regular gag of exchanging invention ideas with Frank.
The Puppet Master – Richard Gordon On Devil Doll: (9:28) The producer talks about how he discovered the short story in a London mystery magazine. It’s a short but informative look at a very bad movie.
MST3K – Origins & Beyond At Convergence ’09’: (58:34) Mary Jo Pehl, Frank Conniff, and Joel Hodgson appear on a Q&A Panel.
Trailers for each of the films.
4 More Mini-Posters
A plastic replica of Gypsy
Shout Factory has started to mark these releases with more and more good stuff. You not only get another plastic replica of one of the robots and the mini-posters. Shout is beginning to create more and more new original features to go along with the releases. This is the best one to date. I’m going mad just waiting for the next release. “One is always considered MAD, if one discovers something that others cannot grasp!”