As I write this review, the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000
is currently in production for the episodes they raised funds for back in late 2015, slowly but surely producing much-desired comedic gold for the riffing community that has long awaited their return. November is usually an amazing time for MSTies, because the past few years have brought us both a new DVD set and Turkey Day marathons from the amazing people at Shout! Factory
. This year is no different, as they'll be presenting a six-episode marathon this Thursday
, and today we get Volume XXXVII to add to the DVD collection.
If you fail in any way, it will go on your permanent record.
For this set, we get an interesting mix of '60s horror and '80s sci-fi with four unreleased episodes: The Human Duplicators
(1965), Escape 2000
(1983), The Horror of Party Beach
(1964), and Invasion Of The Neptune Men
(1961). As a side note, with as many volumes as there are released, we're now seeing complete seasons available through multiple purchases. With the release of Escape 2000
, the complete seventh season of the show is now available to the public. Each of these films has its own unique charm for riffing, and surprisingly, there's only one Joel Hodgson-hosted episode
in the mix, compared to three with Mike Nelson.
This was once a glorious McDonald's playland.
To clump all four of these films into a single review doesn't quite do them justice. Aside from
the tone and story from
each film, the riffing itself feels much more cohesive than in some previous volumes. It makes one wonder what took so long for them to be released. The Human Duplicators
is clearly a popcorn flick aimed at a teenage audience for purposes of horror, and just misses the mark enough to where even the cardboard spaceship is laughable. Escape 2000
is a post-apocalyptic action film where people are running to escape from, of all places, The Bronx. The jokes practically wrote themselves at that point. The Horror of Party Beach
clearly takes a stab at the beach party films with Frankie Avalon and Anette Funicello, with their own musical numbers and pillow fights, mixed in with monsters that clearly were thrown together at the last minute. And finally, Neptune Men
feels like a combination of a Godzilla film with bad overdubs running head-first into an episode of Doctor Who
. Each film is terrible in its own right, each with a different tone of riffing that doesn't get old or tiresome. This feels like a collection we should have had much earlier in the series of releases, though like a lot of MST3K episodes, they probably didn't come easy with getting the distribution rights. But it's well worth the wait.
Monster on the floor! Monster on the floor!
Three of the films come with new introductions from Pearl Forrester herself, Mary Jo Pehl, as she talks about the process of selecting films after Frank Conniff left the show, and why each one was special enough to make the show. The Horror of Beach Party
and Escape 2000
come with documentaries about making each film, giving fans a little more insight as to how they possibly got made at the time. And along with theatrical trailers for the remaining three, The Human Duplicators
comes with MST Hour wraparound segments.
If you're one of the lucky 1,500 who purchased it from Shout's website, you got the awesome Fancy Hollywood Awards Preview Specials disc, which includes two forgotten specials: the "Little Gold Statue Preview Special" from 1995, and the Academy of Robots' Choice Awards Preview Special from 1998. To the untrained observer, these two specials may seem like nothing, but they're actually a tipping point for the series in a way many might not suspect. For years, fans had been writing in asking the show to riff on modern films, but the concept at the time just didn't work out for '90s television, especially with HBO and Starz competing for you to see films on their channels before they hit home video. These specials gave fans a chance to see what that would be like, as they spoofed clips from films like Titanic
, with one of the famous lines from Tom Servo, as they look at the captain of the ship smiling proudly to say "I'm going to sink this bitch." Fans of Rifftrax have these specials to thank for their eventual launch and run.
Volume XXXVII is a must-own, regardless of what level of fandom you may have for the show. As a long-time fan, even I admit some episodes occasionally overstay their welcome and drag on
in the third act, but not these four. These show what an amazing job the show did under the later constraints of being on the Sci-Fi Channel, and remind us that even when the show went through changes over the years, the spirit and humor was still very much alive with the crew.