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VINE VOICEon November 24, 2008
This set is apparently the DVD-only version of the 20th Anniversary set from Shout Factory. That means that it does not include the tin case, plastic Crow figurine or episode lobby cards. It does contain four great episodes of everyone's favorite cow-town puppet show.

This set features one episode with Joel Hodgson as host and three with Mike Nelson hosting. Two episodes are from the Comedy Central years while two are from the Sci-Fi Channel shows.

211- First Spaceship on Venus
Originally called Der Schweigende Stern and made in 1960, this international cast film about the first astronauts to land on Venus is a hoot. Filled with wonderful ideas about international cooperation, yet strangely dated in its science even for when it was made, this movie's vision of the future is fun, action-filled and nearly breaks the goofy meter! The jokes are endless, non-stop and really top-notch from the MST3K crew. "What's a herring weigh? Oh, about a pound." "Everything's better in the crawler copter." Just the endless jokes about the robot in the film, Omega, will keep you laughing throughout. The host segments are just awesomely funny. When the planet has it's "brown explosion" near the end you'll be rolling with laughter and the jokes fly really fast at that point. This is a sometimes overlooked, underrated classic that is too funny to describe. I love it and never get tired of watching it no matter how many times I see it.

706- Laserblast
This 1978 feature comprises the final episode from Comedy Central and is an odd little feature that received 2.5 stars from Leonard Maltin, a fact that is the source of endless wonderful wisecracks as the credits roll. Hilarious throughout in spite of the fact that everyone working on the show knew it might be their last one ever. The host segment wrap-up with great 2001: A Space Odyssey references is terrific.

904- Werewolf
This 1996 feature with Richard Lynch is even more ridiculous than most stories based on lycanthropy. The goofy meter breaks in the first reel of this film and never gets repaired. An archaeologist gets cut by the skeleton of a werewolf and so, predictably, becomes one. The acting, bad foreign accents, and other low-budget silliness in this film are hammered mercilessly by MST3K. The host segment where Mike and the 'Bots are a girl group singing a teen tragedy song, a sort of like "Leader of the Pack" type number, is absolutely killer funny.

1004- Future War
This 1997 video feature is so bad it is beyond words. The huge headed Robert Zdar appears in his second film done on MST3K (the other was Soultaker) and his acting is just as stiff as in the other movie. The film features terrible looking rubber dinosaurs, mediocre martial arts-style action sequences, a hackneyed formulaic plot and acting so bland that calling it wooden would be a compliment! Fortunately, it has enough movement and scene changes to at least fuel a barrage of great jokes from MST3K. It's fun, but only thanks to the MST3K treatment. By itself, this film would be unwatchable.

The extra features on the DVD discs include the 3-part history of MST3K and a video of the reunion panel from Comic-Con 2008. These are very informative and entertaining, even for long-time fans. Great stuff all around.
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VINE VOICEon July 29, 2008
This set features one episode with Joel Hodgson as host and three with Mike Nelson hosting. Two episodes are from the Comedy Central years while two are from the Sci-Fi Channel shows.

211- First Spaceship on Venus
Originally called Der Schweigende Stern and made in 1960, this international cast film about the first astronauts to land on Venus is a hoot. Filled with wonderful ideas about international cooperation, yet strangely dated in its science even for when it was made, this movie's vision of the future is fun, action-filled and nearly breaks the goofy meter! The jokes are endless, non-stop and really top-notch from the MST3K crew. "What's a herring weigh? Oh, about a pound." "Everything's better in the crawler copter." Just the endless jokes about the robot in the film, Omega, will keep you laughing throughout. The host segments are just awesomely funny. When the planet has it's "brown explosion" near the end you'll be rolling with laughter and the jokes fly really fast at that point. This is a sometimes overlooked, underrated classic that is too funny to describe. I love it and never get tired of watching it no matter how many times I see it.

706- Laserblast
This 1978 feature comprises the final episode from Comedy Central and is an odd little feature that received 2.5 stars from Leonard Maltin, a fact that is the source of endless wonderful wisecracks as the credits roll. Hilarious throughout in spite of the fact that everyone working on the show knew it might be their last one ever. The host segment wrap-up with great 2001: A Space Odyssey references is terrific.

904- Werewolf
This 1996 feature with Richard Lynch is even more ridiculous than most stories based on lycanthropy. The goofy meter breaks in the first reel of this film and never gets repaired. An archaeologist gets cut by the skeleton of a werewolf and so, predictably, becomes one. The acting, bad foreign accents, and other low-budget silliness in this film are hammered mercilessly by MST3K. The host segment where Mike and the 'Bots are a girl group singing a teen tragedy song, a sort of like "Leader of the Pack" type number, is absolutely killer funny.

1004- Future War
This 1997 video feature is so bad it is beyond words. The huge headed Robert Zdar appears in his second film done on MST3K (the other was Soultaker) and his acting is just as stiff as in the other movie. The film features terrible looking rubber dinosaurs, mediocre martial arts-style action sequences, a hackneyed formulaic plot and acting so bland that calling it wooden would be a compliment! Fortunately, it has enough movement and scene changes to at least fuel a barrage of great jokes from MST3K. It's fun, but only thanks to the MST3K treatment. By itself, this film would be unwatchable.

This set will have a Crow figurine, collector cards, a video segment showing the MST3K reunion panel at Comic-Con from July 2008 and possibly more as yet unannounced features. Highly recommended!
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VINE VOICEon July 28, 2008
This review is for the episodes in this set, not the set itself (although the artwork looks spiffy!)

211- First Spaceship on Venus A controversial add among fans, but this episode unnecessarily gets a bad rap. The basic movie is about a multinational space expedition to Venus (a theme in a least of couple of later MST3K experiments). Goofy of course, and funny, but the host segments are fun (others disagree, but who cares?) The Brain's own "Amazing Colossal Episode Guide" The Mystery Science Theater 3000 : Amazing Colossal Episode Guide indicate that this wasn't one of their favorites, but they have said that about lots of MST3K episodes that others enjoy. Your mileage, of course, may vary but any early MST3K is worth a look.

706- Laserblast This was the final experiment of Season 7, and indeed the era of hours upon hours of MST3K as filler on Comedy Central. It's the Cadillac of this set, and almost worth the price of admission. The movie is priceless - an androgynous, hopelessly attractive loner finds an arm-sleeve laser gun in the desert, and is quickly seduced by its power. Seduced? No, he's turned into an alien. After tasting the fruits of his forbidden power, our hero goes on a rampage. He doesn't rob banks or blast bad guys, he goes after Eddie Deezen, cast out of type as a annoying geek (and kind of a bully, too.) The host segments involve the end of the SOL's funding, with Pearl pulling the literal plug. Our heroes go off to the void, and Dr. Forrester finds a 2001-esqu fate. A keeper, and I'm delighted to find this more or less permanently preserved on DVD at last!

904- Werewolf (aka "Wahr-wilf"). One of the better episodes from the unfortunately truncated Season 9 - it stars, well someone, with an unfortunate encounter with the teeth of a wolf skull involving stitches. It also stars perennial B-movie villain Richard Lynch, with a low-rent cameo from Joe Estevez as a sun-addled native archaeologist day laborer. Check out the impossibly predictable twist ending. The host segments are about as good as MST3K has ever generated - Mike attempts escape (and is quickly detected by the otherwise incompetent Pearl, Professor Bobo, and Brain Guy). There's even a nifty song, "Where O Werewolf".

1004- Future War By this time the show was on the way out the door, but in the last couple of years MST3K featured some really cheesy bad 1990s-era monster movies. This one is actually not as bad as many, if you can get past the rubber dinosaurs. (Plot? Oh yeah, a man from the future visits a la Terminator, quickly followed by man-eating dinosaurs - or something). The host segments are serviceable, involving dropping LSD, kick boxing, and making fun of someone's facial-deforming illness (never said MST3K was a great family show).

I had the pleasure of interviewing the cinematographer of "Future War", and his attitude towards the MST3K treatment of his film was delightful. The crew of "Future War understand MST3K, and they have a terrific sense of humor. This is a better episode than most, and it's great to have it on immortal DVD.

On balance, there are some unusual choices for this box set, but it sounds like Shout Factory is on the right track. Looking forward to many future box sets.
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VINE VOICEon December 31, 2008
Introduction

As timing would have it, Shout! Factory's first release of Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVDs after obtaining the rights away from Rhino Records coincided with the twentieth anniversary of MST3k's premiere. They decided to pull out several stops for their first release (although they kept the same number -- 4 -- of actual episodes per box set as Rhino had); besides the episodes themselves, the non-Limited Edition version contains a new documentary detailing the rise and fall of MST3k and a recording of the twentieth anniversary reunion of the core cast/crew from the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con.

While extras are always welcome, it's the episodes that really matter. Here I believe Shout! Factory has done a good job. While the split between Joel and Mike hosted episodes is 3 to 1 in favor of Mike, the quality of joke telling is great and highlights MST3k at its best.

FIRST SPACESHIP ON VENUS

After the discovery of a message from the inhabitants of the second planet in our solar system, an international group of astronauts is sent to Venus to determine if intelligent life has evolved. In typical 1960s sci-fi movie fashion, much time is spent showing the viewer how the space program of the future works and how space travel really would seem to the astronauts. This makes the middle third of the movie extremely arduous as we are treated to long sequences of weightless (with the aid of harnesses) people and elderly scientists playing chess against robots.

I'd never seen this episode before, but I had seen the original film (although I'm not sure I was ever able to stay awake during the whole thing). I found the joking from Joel and the bots to be average at best. One factor which started to annoy me after some time was a sub-plot wherein Servo's sarcasm sequencer was set to a higher level causing him to make increasingly repetitive sarcastic remarks about the film. I found this to be a rare mis-fire from the Best Brains.

LASERBLAST

This is the story of a young man so low on the social ladder that he is actually the recipient of Eddie Deezen's bullying. However, something working in his favor is that he stumbled upon a neat piece of alien technology which attaches to his arm and allows him to fire lasers at his tormentors. On the downside, the claymation dinosaur aliens are now hunting him to retrieve their lost ray gun.

LASERBLAST was the final episode made for Comedy Central, and while the crew had hopes of the show being picked up by another channel (it eventually was) they were aware that this was potentially the last movie they would have the dubious pleasure of mocking. It seems appropriate therefore that there is a greater than average number of hilarious call-back jokes to earlier experiments. The fact that there are a fair number of recognizable faces in the cast (Eddie Deezen, Roddy McDowell, Keenan Wynn) gives the crew many additional avenues for jokes, which they duly capitalize on.

WEREWOLF

Joe "younger brother of Martin Sheen" Estevez is infected by an unknown werewolf virus. The screenplay initially makes a big deal that this is not the standard werewolf story of legend; transformations can occur between any two species. The film promptly turns into the classic cliché of actors getting fur glued to their faces and then having them howl for hours at the moon.

This film (along with FUTURE WAR) is one of the most recent films that MST3k tackled and there are several very 1990s directorial touches. It's not the worst movie ever, but it is silly, goofy and totally illogical (thus becoming an instant classic episode). The crew gets a lot of amusement over the fact that the full moon appears to last for a week, and the bad guy infects people with the werewolf virus for no reason other than that he is Evil.

FUTURE WAR

This was an episode that I hadn't watched -- despite having a VHS recording of it -- since its original broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel. The reason for avoidance was my memory of the film was so dire that I simply couldn't handle another viewing. My sole memory was a scene of the Jean-Claude Van Damme looking guy kickboxing Robert Z'Dar in a warehouse of empty cardboard boxes.

So watching this episode brought me two surprises. One, the riffing from the crew was much better than I had remembered (my theory is that in the ensuing years I've become much more strengthened against bad films and am therefore now able to pay more attention to the jokes). Two, the only memory I had of the film was wrong, because that scene never occurs in quite that way I had recalled.

I had completely forgotten about the terrible special effect dinosaurs, the mini-skirted nun, and the two huge guys in the halfway house. You can really smell the 1990s odor coming off of this one, right down to its flannel. Another case where a movie pitches up softballs to the crew and they hit home run after home run.

Extras

The new documentary is an interesting look at the history of the show, although I doubt there is too much new information that devoted fans don't already know. However, I did find it informative in its telling of the program's very early days at KTMA.

The panel from the San Diego Comic-Con was hosted by Patton Oswalt (for what reason, I am not privy) and I found it to be slightly disappointing in that the moderator talks too much and the sound quality is not always great. Still, its nice to see them all together again and I really got a kick out of Frank Conniff asking whether the urban legend about Joe Don Baker wanting to beat up the writers of MST3k was actually true.

Stinger

So I would judge Shout! Factory's first release as a success. Even ignoring the extras, they've given us one solid and three great episodes. They've already announced the next release and I can't wait.
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on July 30, 2008
I whole-heartedly agree with reviewer B.Vereen ... 'Laserblast' from 1978 is pretty much worth the price of admission to this box set. MST3K (arguably. My Argument) was at its best when they picked on the low-rent offerings of the late 1970s (Angel's Revenge, Parts: The Clonus Horror, etc.). These movies are bad, but also highly entertaining, and 'Laserblast' - about a boy, a found lasergun, and the damage that ensues - is really highly entertaining. It was the last show for Comedy Central and Mike and Bots really gave it the old community college try. It's one of their funniest episodes ever. -- Also included in the set is 'Werewolf' with Joe Esteves (or, as Mike drily points out "Can a movie actually STAR Joe Esteves?"). It stars a beautiful woman with an indecipherable accent and some werewolves (I think) and this episode also stands as one of their best. The bumper segments for the SCIFI channel are sometimes too ambitious and busy, but the movies never disappoint. As a 20th anniversary offering, this box set delivers the goods.
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on February 20, 2009
I used to believe that the only true MST3K episodes were the ones hosted by Joel Hodgson - but over time I actually shifted positions and now love both of them. I think it was Mike's "12 To the Moon" and "Santa Claus" episodes that did it (those two NEED to be included in box sets SOON... as well as "Racket Girls" and "Night Of The Blood Beast" - take note manufacturers...)
If you don't include Joel's pre-season one, Minnesota TV-Only episodes, Mike has made one or two more episodes than Joel, so there's gonna be a lot of them so don't fight it - relax and let your mind open to Nelson's charm and gentle sarcasm. He's REALLY REALLY good - and if I could learn to love him, anybody can.
It helps that his episodes in this set are very good - especially "Future War". I can finally throw out my old VHS copy, which had poor sound quality. "Werewolf" is another fan-favorite ( some actually list this as their favorite episode of MST3K, along with "Puma Man" - which should have been included in this set instead of "Laserblast"; although "Laserblast" is a great episode, eps 903 and 904 go together really well and make a heckuva double feature.)
But then again, "Laserblast" and "Futre War" make a great double bill as well, so I can't complain too much there...
But I CAN complain about the Joel episode they included... "First Spaceship To Venus" is a poor episode any way you look at it. The only time I laughed during this one was at the very end when the 70's/80's new wave band Devo welcomed the ship back to earth.
They've been giving us poor-to-fair Joel episodes for awhile now and I'm really disapointed. If they toss us "Castle Of Fu Manchu" next time I'll set myself on FIRE... (In case you haven't seen it, that episode makes Mike's "Hamlet" episode look like the Laurence Olivier classic. Not a single good comeback by the crew and the film itself is physically painful. You can tell Joel is NOT having a good time.)
There were only maybe 8 or 9 Joel episodes that I didn't like, making it about a 94% chance that I'd love the one(s) included in a box set - and they've picked almost all of the 'bad' ones to date - "Women Of the Prehistoric Planet", "The Unearthly", "Hellcats", "Cave Dwellers", "Secret Agent Super Dragon", "Gunslinger" and now "First Spaceship To Venus" - the only other Joel episodes I didn't like are that Fu Manchu nightmare, "Mighty Jack" and the last Gamera episode they did.
I still can't believe they picked Super Dragon over "Operation Double 007" which is another spy flick from the same season - and much better too!
BUT - at least now there's a heckuva lot of great Joel episodes coming soon... I'm especially looking forward to such classics as "Rocketship X-M", "Master Ninja 1 and 2", "Fugitive Alien 1 and 2", "MadMonster", "The Slime People", "Time Of The Apes", and "The Day The Earth Froze".
To wrap up - this is still a great set, and showcase Mike in a very smart way, as the films he's forced to watch are all fun, and he's in great form. Please learn to accept him, as you're missing out on something really special if you haven't learned to love him yet. He really is something special - it's just that he's a PEER to Crow and Servo, where Joel is their FATHER-figure, so the bots' attitudes and the mood on the ship are different. Once you accept and embrace that difference, you'll start to look forward to seeing more Mike episodes. Seasons 8 and 9 are probably the best seasons of the series (although I personally have a strong fondness for season one - I know, most of you think that's crazy, but I really liked Larry Ehrhardt, Servo's original voice, that awful Radar Men From The Moon serial, and Joel's especially laid-back attitude.)
Bye - and long live the Satellite Of Love, still hovering above the earth somewhere, crew being forced to watch "RV" and "Mamma Mia"...
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on December 16, 2008
As a MST3K fan, i'm glad to see they are still going to continue releasing these 4 movie sets. I won't be the only one to admit that you can't get enough of this show. It IS, no doubt, one of the best shows and has one of the most loyal fan bases of any show out there. This 4-disc set features 4 GREAT episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and includes Laserblast, Werewolf, Future War, and First Spaceship on Venus. Special features include "The Oral History of MST3K" feature in three parts, 2008 Comic-Con MST3K Reunion Panel, featuring Joel Hodgson, Mike Nelson, and more, original film trailers, "Variations On A Theme Song"

BUY IT NOW!

Oh and just so everyone knows the next set is coming out February 3, 2009!
Episodes will be 103 - Mad Monster, 413 - Manhunt in Space, 1001 - Soultaker, 1008 - Final Justice
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on October 28, 2008
nothing i'm about to say should dissuade you from buying this set, it's absolutely worth it. it's like opening the 20th anniversary release of 'dark side of the moon'. lots of nice extras.

you already know the movies & how laserblast is considered one of the best mst3k episodes like, EVER. so i won't go on about it.

the canister's paint job is spot on, the art for the individual dvds is really beautiful & brings out the whole "fresh paint on a broken down chevy" feeling you get watching joel/mike & the bots have fun.

there isn't much room for the actual dvd set to fit inside of the tin, i could barely get it in & the person at the factory who initially did so dog-eared the internal box. no big deal. the crow figurine is a little smaller than i thought it'd be & i'm hoping they release a complete set of these some day. i'm worried about scratching the paint job & i'm going to put this away until i have some place to display it along with my mst3k the movie laserdisc, first run DVD & my complete dvd set.

ANY fan would do well grabbing this set.
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on December 10, 2008
Crow figurine is cheap but cute, "lobby cards" infinitely disposable, so the best thing aside from the DVDs themselves is the tin box which you can use to carry things around in. All in all, it was worth it pre-release at retail price but not now at the current out of print collectible price $100+ so please don't bother with this one (the 5 stars is for the DVDs) instead get the currently available DVD set (no tin, no figurine, no "lobby cards", big deal who cares).
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on January 22, 2013
The usual pattern seems to be two great, one good, and one not-so-good. In this case, the better three are all from mid-to-later MST3K; those who prefer the Joel era may have a correspondingly unapproving opinion. Since another reviewer praises precisely the episode I disliked here, I give my reasons (and individual grades) below:

LASERBLAST has adequate picture and sound, decent editing and pacing, and interesting host segments. The riffing is inspired on several levels -- not just cracks but running gags, and the throwaway comments were vastly outnumbered by others that were witty or timely [including some not caught until the second or third viewing]. Add in inspired host segments and you have a classic. A-

FUTURE WAR likewise isn't so terrible a production, featuring some very good cinematography. But it's not here by accident, with more than enough fodder for plentiful and varied riffing. Solidly entertaining MST3K, good rewatch value. C+ to B [depending on how you feel about the laughably unrealistic dinosaurs]

To me, WEREWOLF pegs the needle for MST3K hilarity -- only a handful equal it, and none are better. Another film whose production doesn't strain our eyes or ears but still reveals a truly terrible film. And by "terrible" I mean "begging to be mocked at every corner", which the boys do and then some, leaving no aspect sacrosanct. Like LASERBLAST, there are running gags and strong host segments. Even the end-credits are a highlight. In short, MST3K perfection. A

And then there's FIRST SPACESHIP TO VENUS, an episode so unmemorable that I can't remember anything except wishing it was over less than halfway through [despite having seen it twice]. Like many MST episodes, the "bad" here is just tedious, dull slogging through a nothingness of non-cinema -- MANOS minus the material. This understandably doesn't inspire much humor, and this episode largely trudges along with less (and less-inspired) quips from the boys. The Joel era still has unreleased episodes much better than this [even now, in 2013]; this one could have been left in the vault. D
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