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Mystery Science Theater 3000: 25th Anniversary Edition DVD Review

Mystery Science Theater 3000- 25th Anniversary Edition DVD

The 25th Anniversary Edition is one of the best MST3K Shout! Factory releases to date.

To help celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” Shout! Factory has gone all out by including 4 new to DVD episodes (“Moon Zero Two,” “The Day The Earth Froze,” “The Leech Woman,” and “Gorgo”) and a TON of extra features in a brand new box set. On top of that, 2 fan favorites (“Mitchell” and “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die”) have been re-released and included here as bonus episodes. So, how does everything fare? Read on to find out!

First up is the weak link of this set- “Moon Zero Two.” This is another clunky and awkward season one episode with an even more clunky and awkward 60’s Hammer sci-fi movie. Despite some lavish production values and some truly stunning ladies, this lifeless sci-fi stinker is a chore to sit through. The mediocre riffing and line flubs don’t exactly help matters either. With that said, there are still some enjoyable moments here such as Joel dancing in the theater, the Richard Kiel joke, and Crow’s “Wiener Man” song.

“The Day the Earth Froze” (AKA the Sampo episode) is a fan favorite that has been on the DVD wishlist of most MST3K fans. The bizarre Finnish movie involves a witch, a woodsman, a kidnapped woman, a Sampo (a magic mill that creates gold, salt, and flour), a log boat, a dancing bear, sun stealing, chained winds, red horse making, a flaming magic moose boat, and magic talking tree. Now, imagine all of that being riffed and you can pretty much guess that this one is a winner. As if that weren’t enough, ‘Froze’ is also preceeded by a great nightmarish short called “Here Comes The Circus” that is littered with scary clowns.

“Mitchell” is Joel’s swan song, but it’s also one of the ten best episodes of the entire series. The movie is a pretty by-the-number cop story, but it’s filled with ridiculous moments and a less than flattering Joe Don Baker performance. Between the host segments setting up Joel’s departure and Mike’s arrival AND the hilarious jokes (and songs) about beer, Joe Don Baker, and Mitchell (the character), it’s near impossible not to cherish this classic episode.

As most fans know, “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” is Mike’s first episode. The movie is a laughably bad and sexist sci-fi horror tale about a mad Doctor (Bill) who tries to bring back his dead girlfriend (Jan). You see, Bill manages to keep Jan’s head alive (don’t ask) and is trying to find a suitable body for her despite the fact that she wants nothing more than to die. While it’s clear that Mike Nelson is adjusting to his new role (both in the theater riffing and in the host segments), this is still a fine first outing for him as he and the bots manage to crack plenty of memorable jokes about another dimension, added character dialogue, neck juice, diarrhea, and more head and arm puns than you can imagine.

“The Leech Woman” is the first Sci-Fi channel era episode on this set from a chronological standpoint. The movie is a 1960 “horror” thriller about an endocrinologist (Dr. Paul) who travels to Africa to seek a miracle drug (Nipe) that allegedly slows the aging process. Paul decides to bring along his aging boozer wife (June) whom he plans to use as a test subject for the potentially revolutionary discovery. Naturally, things don’t quite go as planned for either of them. While not as bad as many other experiments/episodes, ‘Leech’ does suffer from some truly bad acting (note the bored cop in the conclusion) and cheesy plot devices. Of course, this makes it perfect for riffing as Mike and the bots mercilessly and amusingly mock the characters and the overabundance of stock footage. Highlights here include anything involving the running jokes of “Neil” and “Jed.”

The other Sci-Fi channel era episode in this set is “Gorgo.” The slow paced film is essentially a rip-off of “Gojira” and “King Kong.” It’s a pretty poor entry in the monster movie genre overall, but the inclusion of a parent/child monster storyline is noteworthy. As far as the episode goes, it’s not exactly “Gamera” or “Godzilla” level riff quality, but there are still plenty of hilarious jokes that involve Dorkin, “My Giant,” and the Irish. Note: The host segments contain some great moments with film critic Leonard Maltin who plays himself.

Video/Audio:

The picture quality for the six films is all over the place. “Moon Zero Two” is probably in the best shape here while “The Day The Earth Froze,” “Mitchell,” and “Gorgo” look like weathered VHS tapes. The B&W prints of ‘Brain’ and ‘Leech’ are decent at best.

As per usual, the audio quality is wildly inconsistent. While the riffs are always loud and clear, the audio for the films tends to be low. In the case of “The Day The Earth Froze,” the dialogue is often very faint.

Extras:
* Theatrical trailers for “Gorgo,” “Moon Zero Two,” “The Day The Earth Froze,” and “The Leech Woman.”
* 4 mini-posters for “Moon Zero Two,” “The Day The Earth Froze,” “Gorgo,” and “The Leech Woman.”
* Introduction to “Moon Zero Two” by Hammer Films Historian Constantine Nasr. The story behind the film is more interesting than the film itself.
* “Return To Eden Prairie Part 1: The Crew”- A featurette about props, costumes, and sets (from both the Comedy Central and Sci-Fi Channel eras) that contains set footage, episode clips, still photos, and staff member interviews.
* “MST Hour Wraps” for “The Day The Earth Froze.”
* “Return To Eden Prairie Part 2: The Locations”- The second segment covers Joel’s career, how MST3K came about in Minneaopolis-St. Paul, the KTMA era, how sets and characters were created, the Eden Prairie location, etc. A truly great extra that includes a lot of informative behind-the-scenes stories, rare KTMA footage and archival set footage.
* “Life After MST3K: Mary Jo Pehl”- Mary talks about working on MST3K, traveling the world, books she wrote, Cinematic Titanic, and her dreams.
* “Return To Eden Prairie Part 3: The Characters”- The third and final segment revolves around the cast and the characters they played.
* “Leonard Maltin Explains Something”- A goofy short segment featuring film critic Leonard Maltin.
* “Ninth Wonder of the World: The Making of Gorgo (MST3K Edition)”- A documentary that contains stories about director Eugène Lourié, the King Brothers, and the inception of “Gorgo.” Well worth watching if you are interested in film history.
* An interview with actress Marilyn Neilson in which she talks about her career and her appearance in “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.”
* “Last Flight of Joel Robinson”- A making of “Mitchell” featurette that contains MST3K cast and crew members, discussions about the “Mitchell” movie, Joel’s departure from the series, Mike’s introduction to the show, unused sketch ideas, etc.

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November 26, 2013 - Posted by | DVD review | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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