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    Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXX DVD Review

    DVD Shout Factory TV Reviews

    Jul 29 2014 01:11 PM | Todd Erwin in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    This 30th collection of episodes from Mystery Science Theater 3000 on DVD from Shout! Factory has some great episodes, but the special features are lacking, particularly on two of the later episodes in the set.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Shout! Factory
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 480I/MPEG-2
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Audio: English 2.0 DD
    • Subtitles: None
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 3 Hr. 0 Min.
    • Package Includes: DVD
    • Case Type: DVD THINPak keepcases enclosed in paperboard sleeve
    • Disc Type: DVD-5 (single layer), DVD-9 (dual layer)
    • Region: 1
    • Release Date: 07/29/2014
    • MSRP: $59.97

    The Production Rating: 4/5

    In the not too distant future, somewhere in time and space.....

    Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) was the brainchild of Joel Hodgson, a former prop comic and frequent guest on Saturday Night Live and Late Night With David Letterman. Basically an extension of the popular hosted movie format made famous by Vampira and Elvira, the original premise was that Joel (and later Mike Nelson), along with his robot companions Crow and Tom Servo, were sent into space, orbiting the planet and forced to watch bad movies by Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu). The show first aired on local Minneapolis-St. Paul UHF station KTMA in a very crude form in 1988, but was picked up by the Comedy Channel (now Comedy Central) as one of its first series a year later. The series survived for seven seasons, then moved to Sci-Fi for three additional seasons, finally falling out of first-run orbit in 1999.

    Volume 30 is the eighteenth set of episodes to be released by Shout! Factory. The mix of episodes consists of two from the Comedy Central era (one with Joel, one with Mike), and two from the Sci-Fi Channel era.

    Experiment #113, The Black Scorpion, was the season one finale that also marked the departure of J. Elvis Weinstein, who played Dr. Forrester’s sidekick, Dr. Earhardt, as well as providing the voice of Tom Servo. This is probably one of the better first season episodes, with more rapid fire riffing and interesting host segments. The Black Scorpion has volcanic eruptions just outside of Mexico City releasing giant scorpions from the earth below that attack the rural countryside and head to Mexico City. It’s up to a group of scientists, led by Richard Denning, to find a way to stop the behemoths. Despite some impressive stop-motion animation by Willis O’Brien (King Kong), the movie is dull and essentially a retread of Them!

    Next up is Outlaw (of Gor), Experiment 519 from season five, a sequel (filmed concurrently) to Gor, based loosely on the series of novels by John Norman, and produced by Cannon Film Group. Tarl Cabot (Urbano Barberini) is transported back to the planet Gor with his annoying best friend, Watney Smith (Russel Savadier), where they are reunited with The Elder, his new bride, his daughter (with whom Cabot had a fling with in the previous film), and Xenos, an evil sorcerer (played by a scene chewing and cash-checking Jack Palance). Cabot is quickly framed for the murder of The Elder, is banished, frees some slaves, and leads a revolt against those that framed him. The movie is goofy on its own, and in some ways reminded me of Cave Dwellers from season three, but this one is more annoying thanks to Watney (who was not featured in the first film) whining the name, Cabot, constantly. Mike and the ‘bots have a grand old time riffing this movie apart, and has some creative host segments (including the Tubular Boobular Joy song).

    For you trivia fans, The Projected Man, Experiment 901, was the first episode mixed in stereo (although the mix used during this episode’s original broadcast was horrendous and eventually fixed for later airings and this DVD release). The movie is a retread of many science fiction films that came before it, with under-funded scientist Dr. Paul Steiner (a blonde Bryant Haliday) working on an experiment to teleport inanimate and animate objects across vast distances (such as from one end of a room to another). When his backers threaten to pull funding on his experiment, he tries it on himself, deforming one side of his body that electrocutes anyone who comes in contact with it. This has to be one of the slowest paced movies to appear on Mystery Science Theater 3000, with Mike and the ‘bots getting so bored with the plot that they begin to root for the return of a minor character (Lembach) and Tom’s instant obsession Steiner’s scantily-clad secretary Sheila (Tracey Crisp).

    Finally, the set concludes with Experiment 1010, IT Lives By Night, wherein a scientist is bitten by a bat while on his honeymoon, and slowly transforms into one, killing innocent bystanders during his blackouts. The only notable mention of this film is that a young Stan Winston created the makeup effects (something Mike and the ‘bots completely overlooked). This is, perhaps, the weakest episode in the set, but there are some great callbacks to Werewolf, and a funny reference to Lord of the Rings.

    Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    As I’ve stated in my previous reviews of these sets, judging the video quality of an episode of MST3K is difficult. The movies are usually in fairly bad shape, with sub-par transfers that the series’ producers had to contend with.

    The only fair thing to do is to judge the host segments, and the quality improves as you get later into the series. Disc one has some minor softness to it, but colors are consistent. The remaining discs are excellent, with increased detail and well-defined colors. Throughout all four discs, however, there are some brief minor anomalies inherent in the broadcast masters, such as dropouts, but these are few and far between

    Audio Rating: 3/5

    As with the video, the audio quality is best judged by the host segments and the actual riffing during the movie. All four discs include a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, encoded at 192 kbps. Dialogue is intelligible and overall the tracks have good fidelity.

    Special Features: 2.5/5

    As with Shout! Factory’s other MST3K boxed sets, the menu designs on each disc are themed with the episode, with decent CG animation, and are very funny. Also included in the set are a set of original comic book style mini-posters for each episode, identical to the DVD covers, created by Steve Vance. All five discs come housed in THIN-Pak keepcases within a paperboard sleeve.

    Disc One (The Black Scorpion):
    Stinger of Death: The Making of “The Black Scorpion” (12:33): A look at the killer insect movies of the 1950s, particularly those from Warner Bros, plus some behind the scenes tidbits on The Black Scorpion, hosted by film historian C. Courtney Joyner.

    Theatrical Trailer (2:08)

    Disc Two (Outlaw):
    Writer of Gor: The Novels of John Norman (12:44): Richard Curtis (John Norman’s agent and publisher) discusses the history of the Gor novels, yet never mentions the two movie adaptations.

    Director of Gor: On Set With John “Bud” Cardos (6:30): Director John Cardos talks quite frankly about how he got involved in shooting the sequel when the first film’s director fell behind schedule.

    Producer of Gor: Adventures With Harry Alan Towers (6:52): Danny Lerner, the production manager on the Gor movies, discusses the career of producer Harry Alan Towers and working on a film in South Africa during apartheid.

    Disc Three (The Projected Man):
    Shock to the System: Creating “The Projected Man” (3:52): Film historian Tom Weaver narrates this very brief look at the making of the film, often sounding either rushed or sped up.

    Theatrical Trailer (1:30)

    Disc Four (IT Lives By Night):
    Extended Trailer for The Frank Music Video (1:14): Coming to Amazon Instant Video in the fall of 2014.

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    This 30th volume of episodes allows collectors to now have a complete first season on DVD, and includes some fun episodes of the series. But the special features are where this set falls short, especially on the last two discs.

    Reviewed by: Todd Erwin
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    • Mark Walker likes this


    6 Comments

      • TravisR and Radioman970 like this

    Funny I thought Revenge of the Creature was the first one they did in Stereo .

    This show used to be on late nights years ago on tv.

     

    Watched Hangar 18 over  a 1000 times + not the episode below the film on youtube.

     

    Photo
    Johnny Angell
    Jul 31 2014 11:56 AM
    Is there an option to watch only the movie?
    Photo
    Johnny Angell
    Aug 01 2014 12:06 PM
    Isn't $54 for this on DVD, way overpriced?
      • andySu likes this

    ^ Amazon usually has a better discount than 10% off the MSRP. I'll wait them out until it drops to about $45 or $40.