18 Nov

In the not too distant future… The Mystery Science Theater 3000 20th Anniversary box.

Posted by Bryan White | Tuesday November 18, 2008 | Reviews

I have been so extremely excited about this release since it was first announced back in the summer and the time has finally come.  I’ve seen a few of the other MST3K boxes released so upon review, it ocurred to me that I wasn’t entirely sure why I was so excited about this release.  The only thing that really sets this apart from, say, Swamp Diamonds/Giant Gila Monster/Teenage Strangler is that it features clips of the San Diego Comic Con panel and a documentary.  There’s also a cheesy figurine of Crow if you’re into that sort of thing. But I digress.

This set takes me back to a stranger time in my life.  Those fresh post-high school years marked by a brief but disastrous experience in the sound recording program at UMASS Lowell.  Where my chief occupation was fishing stuck tokens out of Skee Ball machines and a long relationship came to a bitter, acrimonious end.  Mystery Science Theater 3000 marked the one shinging point in my day where I could pretty much forget about all that shit and have a much needed laugh and a beer.  Sweet, sweet stolen beer.

Recently, I’ve found myself at a loss to do these econo reviews where I’m reviewing a TV series or a set of DVDs rather than just a single movie, so I’ll try and be brief:  The Mystery Science Theater 3000 20th Anniversary set comes with four movies.  You get: Laserblast, Future War, Werewolf and First Spaceship on Venus, each representing a differen era of the show.  I’m not sure if these were four deliberate choices to span the life of the show or if they were just four movies that hadn’t been released on DVD.  In First Spaceship on Venus, you get a rare look at the show from the days of the Comedy Channel, before many of us had even seen the show.

Laserblast represents the truncated season 7 as the show came to an end on Comedy Central and the  movie went into production.  The other two are early and late Sci-Fi channel movies.  Laserblast concerns the exploits of a southern California burnout who happens upon an alien weapon that transforms him into a monster, an early Charles Band production full of goofy stop motion animation, punctuated by the bots ragging on Mike about his pot smoking and Pablo Cruz days.  Rarely seen an extremely funny.  Due to a cop that bears a striking resemblance to Hank Williams Jr. there is no shortage of “are you ready for some football” jokes.

Future War plays itself off like a kickboxing Terminator ripoff with Catholic overtones, dinosaurs, particularly shitty special effects and Robert Z’Dar’s humongous chin. Claimed to be a movie produced in the 80’s, this weird-ass piece of direct to video trash is actually from 1997 and features some of the worst models and forced perspective photography you’re likely to ever see.  Add to that an actor filming news footage with a cardboard box and camera lens taped to it.

First Spaceship on Venus is the recut American version of Der Schweigende Stern, reviewed here.  What was once a respectable and very ambitious science fiction movie from a communist nation in the heart of the Cold War has been reduced to a completely schlocky piece of shit through rescripting and editing all the subversive elements away, leaving in its place a ridiculous science fiction movie with a blob monster.

Finally, there’s Werewolf, starring the black sheep of the Sheen/Estevez clan, Joe.  A particularly awful and genuinely weird-ass movie where a full moon comes out every night for a week and everyone pronounces the word werewolf in a myriad of fashion, Werewolf is one of the finer entries into the late period of Mystery Science Theater, i.e. the Sci Fi channel seasons.

So you get four episodes of the show, all knockout entries featuring Joel, Mike, Dr. Forrester and Pearl.  A good look at the lifespan of the whole show and what can you say about Mystery Science Theater when it was at the top of their game that hasn’t been said already?  When Best Brains was on point, they killed.  A source of constant laughter, literal ROFLs, if you get my drift.  But the appeal of this set doesn’t end there.  Aside from the fantastic San Diego Comic Con panel that is featured on the fourth disc, there is a 90 minute documentary spread across the other three discs that outline the show from its very beginnings at KTMA in Minneapolis, going so far as to feature footage from the early, rarely seen episodes.  See TV’s Frank’s predecessor, Dr. Erhardt in action.  See Joel with long hair and Tom Servo when he was known only as Beeper.  All movies and riffing aside, this documentary is the best part of the whole disc.  MSTies know the history of the show back and front and are notoriously obsessive about show data but to new people, of whom there are many, probably just now being introduced through Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic, this eye opening stuff, told from the mouths of the show creators themselves.

These four movies are some of the best, until now unreleased episodes of the entire series, presented with pure nostalgic goodness for audiences old and new.  It’s alarming to think that the show is 20 years old and that I can now clearly measure memories in years as great as 20 but I guess if I’m going to be made to feel old, I might as well remember some good times while I’m at it.  I couldn’t possibly find a single gripe with this set.  Where other MST sets feature some of the weaker episodes in the run, this one knocks it out of the park with four classics. It’s not to be missed.

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