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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD Review: Mystery Science Theater 3000-20th Anniversary Edition



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#1 of 1 Todd Erwin

Todd Erwin

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Posted November 17 2008 - 04:01 PM

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Mystery Science Theater 3000: 20th Anniversary Edition



Studio: Shout! Factory
Year: 1988-1999
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 7 hours (approx)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None



US DVD Release Date: October 28, 2008


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 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.

This 20th anniversary set (the series first release from Shout! Factory includes four episodes from the series, one hosted by Joel, and the other three hosted by Mike.

Disc One: First Spaceship on Venus (Experiment #211)
Movie: 3 out of 5
You know you are in trouble when watching a science fiction movie that takes place 25 years in the future and that future was 23 years ago (not to knock Kubrick’s “2001”). The plot of this 1960 German-Polish import revolves around a manned expedition to Venus. In this episode, Joel and the robots have some good quips, such as Tome Servo’s “What do you think of Rosanne singing the National Anthem” during a televised press conference, the various jokes regarding the jumpsuits workers are wearing with an enormous letter (“It’s the A-team,” “he’s wearing a T-shirt,” etc), and the running gags “Joel, what’s a Herringway?” “About a pound” and every time a character exclaims “Tchen Yu!” Joel and the robots reply “Bless you!”

Video: 2.5 out of 5
Trying to judge the video quality on “MST3K” is a bit of a misnomer. The movie segments are typically the weakest, as most of the films featured are either public domain and/or crudely made and transferred. Of the four episodes, this disc has the weakest video, but it is also the oldest episode in the set. The video exhibits a great deal of noise and aliasing, especially during the host segments. “Mystery Science Theater” was shot on standard definition video, so this is mainly due to the limitations of the format and the budget constraints of the show.

Audio: 3 out of 5
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack does its job; the host segments and riffing are clear. As with the video, the audio of the movie segments are dependent on the film.

Special Features: 3 out of 5
Disc one includes part one of the documentary, “The History of MST3K.” Told mostly through recent interviews, show clips, and behind the scenes footage, this first segment covers the origins of the show and the KTMA era.

Also included is the original theatrical trailer for “First Spaceship On Venus,” presented in non-anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1). Overall quality of the trailer is poor, but it is nice to see it included here.


Disc Two: Laserblast (Experiment #706)
Movie: 2.5 out of 5
The final episode from the Comedy Central era of the series, “Laserblast” is a goofy, poorly made science fiction movie from 1978 about two giant shell-less turtle aliens who kill another alien in the California desert. A teenage boy finds the dead alien’s weapon and goes on a murder spree through town. As bad as “Laserblast” is, the jokes provided by Mike Nelson, Crow, and Tom Servo are not all that memorable. It is the host segments that are more memorable, but that is because, when the show was produced, it was believed to be the series finale, so they have a bittersweet context to them.

Video: 3 out of 5
The image quality of the host segments are rock solid, with little to no aliasing and good color saturation.

Audio: 3 out of 5
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack does its job; the host segments and riffing are clear. As with the video, the audio of the movie segments are dependent on the film.

Special Features: 3 out of 5
“The History of MST3K” continues on this disc, focusing on the Comedy Channel and Comedy Central years.

Also included is the original theatrical trailer for “Laserblast,” apparently taken from an old videotape transfer from a beat-up 16mm print. The trailer is presented in 1.33:1 full screen.


Disc Three: Werewolf (Experiment #904)
Movie: 4 out of 5
Archeologists uncover the skeletal remains of a werewolf in the desert, and then use it to turn townspeople into werewolves in Tony Zarindast’s “Werewolf.” Kevin Murphy has referred to this movie as a gift from the gods. The movie is so bad, it seems like it was made especially for MST3K. The acting is atrocious, the plot is forgotten very quickly, and the make-up effects are laughable.

“Werewolf” happens to be one of my all-time favorite episodes of MST3K, and I still found myself laughing hard during this umpteenth viewing. The constant mispronunciation of “werewolf” by lead actress Adrianna Miles and George Rivero’s ever-changing hairstyle are well worth the price of admission.

Video: 3.5 out of 5
This is the best this episode has ever looked, even during its cable run. Colors are consistent with very good detail throughout the host segments.

Audio: 3.5 out of 5
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack is adequate, providing a nice ambient soundfield with clear host dialogue.

Special Features: 3 out of 5
“The History of MST3K” concludes on this disc, focusing on the Sci-Fi Channel era, the feature film, and fan reaction to the series.

The home video trailer for “Werewolf” is also included in 1.33:1 video.


Disc Four: Future War (Experiment #1004)
Movie: 3 out of 5
“Terminator” meets “Jurassic Park” is the best way to explain “Future War.” Jean Claude Van Damme wannabe Daniel Bernhardt is a runaway slave from the future being chased by dinosaurs in 1990s Los Angeles. The episode has some good laughs, but is not a standout episode.

Video: 3.5 out of 5
This is the best this episode has ever looked, even during its cable run. Colors are consistent with very good detail throughout the host segments.

Audio: 3.5 out of 5
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack is adequate, providing a nice ambient soundfield with clear host dialogue.

Special Features: 3 out of 5
“MST3K At Comic-con ‘08” is the panel interview sessions with most of the cast and crew, hosted by comedian Patton Oswalt. While it was nice to see everyone in the same room together, most of the information was also covered in the three-part documentary.

“Variations On A Theme Song” is a compilation of all of the different openings from the series, from KTMA through Sci-Fi.

The original trailer for “Future War” is included in 1.33:1 video, obviously from an analog video source.


Overall: 4 out of 5 (not an average)
This is an exciting first set of MST3K episodes from Shout! Factory. The packaging consists of the episodes in single disc slim cases with comic book style artwork on the covers, all housed in an outer paperboard sleeve. Most fans of the show will be extremely pleased with this release.


This DVD was reviewed on the following home theater gear:
  • Toshiba 56HM66 DLP HDTV
  • Sony Playstation 3 (upconverting to 1080i)
  • Yamaha HTR-5940 Home Theater Receiver (in 5.1 configuration)
  • Yamaha NS-AP2600 Home Cinema Speaker Package
  • Yamaha YST-SW010 subwoofer

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