Do I have to tell you what Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or MST3K) was? Lord I hope not. Even if you’re a young horrorhead and grew up after this awesome and much loved comedy TV show went off the air, I’d like to think that everyone has seen episodes of it somewhere. Failing that, if you’re a poor thing that’s been living in a cave for years, that you have at least heard about it and know how it influenced the vast majority of funny people in the comedy biz today. But just in case you don’t know about MST3K, here’s the nickel tour. It was a TV show that ran from 1988 to 1999 about a guy marooned on the Satellite of Love way up in space who had to watch cheesy B-grade (or often Z-grade) movies as some sort of deranged experiment. In order to survive his mind-numbing ordeal, our hero made some robot friends and together they make fun of, or “riff on,” all the bad movies. And as simple as that sounds, something that fans of bad movies have done for just about forever, it was revolutionary to see it on television. Oh and not to mention hilarious. So much so, that even 13 years after its last episode aired, it still has a rabid cult following, is constantly name dropped by comedians, and lives on in two distinct incarnations today. Check out Rifftrax.com and Cinematictitanic.com for more info on both of those.
However, for us old school MSTies (MST3K fans) nothing beats the real thing, and thankfully the good people over at Shout! Factory have continued to put out the original television show on DVD for years. This four pack is their latest offering and it’s a must have for fans of offbeat comedy and low budget, usually horrible genre fans. Furthermore, Shout! Factory wisely decided to put out two episodes featuring Joel and two featuring Mike, thus all fans of MST3K, regardless of what camp they fall into on the Joel vs. Mike debate, will be happy.
As for the movies the guys and bots are riffing on this time, you’ve got a one-two punch of sci-fi cheese with Fugitive Alien and Star Force: Fugitive Alien II, which were actually episodes of a low budget ’60s sci-fi TV show from Japan, loosely stitched together in an attempt to make a feature film. That attempt pretty much failed, but it did create some wonderful material for the MST3K crew to make fun of. Fantasy fans can look forward to some sword and spell-slinging goodness from Finland in The Sword And The Dragon. Lastly for all us horrorheads, these some vampire action south of the border that mixes sexy bloodsuckers with masked luchador wrestlers. Yeah, no kidding, while this movie is known as Samson vs. The Vampire Woman, do not expect to see a guy in a toga and sandals in this Mexican import. Instead you get silver masked, cape wearing El Santo, a professional luchador wrestler, not to mention part time super hero turned vampire hunter. Yep this bit of weirdness is easily my favorite of the four flicks getting the MST3K treatment here, but each and every episode was a winner in my book.
As for extras, Shout! Factory has included a nice selection. There are four mini posters included with the boxed set, a pair of short films that get the MST3K riffing, bumpers taken from the episodes when they originally aired, and an intro by columnist and blogger, August Ragone. Then there are a few featurettes, such as an interview with Frank Conniff (‘TV’s Frank’ from the show), a look at luchadors, and interview with Sandy Franks, the man responsible for bringing the Fugitive Alien flicks, all the Gamera movies, and lots more cheese to America and to the attention of the MST3K riff masters. Sadly this mini-doc is a long, boring, ramble on Mr. Frank’s showbiz career with only about 30 seconds of its 30 minute run time devoted to MST3K. Uhm, why is it included in this Mystery Science Theater 3000 set again? It’s pretty much “must skip TV”, and a chore to sit through. But if you’re looking for a cure for insomnia, it might do wonders for that.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIV is a great MST3K collection. It really has a bit of everything: horror, sci-fi, fantasy, lots of comedy, and both Joel and Mike. For MSTies, this is a no brainer. Go get it when it comes out July 31st. If you’ve never seen Mst3k before, then this ‘a little bit of everything’ sampler is a great way to start. Consider it highly recommended.