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Mystery Science Theater 3000
Collector's Edition, 25th Anniversary Edition, Limited Edition, 25th Anniversary Limited Edition
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A man and his puppets in space watching cheesy movies…sounds crazy, no? But here on the Satellite of Love, you might say each one of us is a captive audience, watching gifted writers and performers try to make sense of it all without losing their minds. Why do we continue to treasure this oddball TV series? That can be answered in one word: funny!
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the beloved Mystery Science Theater 3000, you are invited to enjoy four never-before-released episodes as well as two long-out-of-print bonus episodes that marked the seismic transition that occurred when Joel passed the torch on to Mike. A new look back at the history of the show helps us blow out the candles on a cake that only gets sweeter with time.
Titles Include: Moon Zero Two, The Day The Earth Froze, The Leech Woman & Gorgo. Plus a bonus disc with a double feature of classic episodes: Mitchell and The Brain That Wouldnt Die!
Has it really been a quarter century since Mystery Science Theater 3000 made its debut on television? The quirky comedy series--one part kids' puppet show, one part Saturday afternoon creature feature, and a whole lot of smart, razor-sharp comedy--not only helped to validate the undeniable pleasure of poking fun at lousy movies, but also brought a fresh, pop culture-driven perspective that has been adopted and adapted by dozens of subsequent programs, comedy troupes, websites, and even series creator Joel Hodgson's Cinematic Titanic and head writer/host Mike Nelson's Rifftrax. The 25th Anniversary Edition set, which arrives in a five-disc, limited-edition tin, presents five of the Peabody Award-winning series' most memorable episodes, as well as several substantive retrospective featurettes that trace MST3K's progress from humble public access programming to a cult favorite for viewers and critics alike. Six experiments in all are featured on the set, four of which have never been released on home video, including one of the show's best, the delirious Russian/Finnish fantasy The Day the Earth Froze from season four, which made the word Sampo a household term among MiSTies. The rest of the set comprises the Hammer sci-fi feature Moon Zero Two, from MST3K's debut season, as well as the black-and-white monster chiller The Leech Woman and the UK giant monster rally Gorgo, both culled from the show's final seasons on air. As a bonus, two long-out-of-print episodes--Mitchell, which marked the end of Hodgson's tenure on the show, and the creepy-sleazy Brain That Wouldn't Die, which kicked off the Mike Nelson era--are presented as a double feature on the fifth disc.
For completists, the return of these two fan favorites to the home video fold is a genuine treat, but the extensive featurettes are equally valuable in terms of presenting a glimpse of the series as a whole. The genre documentary company Ballyhoo Motion Pictures does a typically stellar job with the three-part Return to Eden Prairie, which traces the history of MST3K from Hodgson's early concepts through its early execution on Minneapolis-St. Paul's KTMA and transition to the Comedy Channel and later Comedy Central. Most of the main writer-performers, including Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, and Kevin Murphy, as well as producer Jim Mallon and prop designers Jef Maynard, Patrick Brantseg, and Beez McKeever, provide their own perspective, which is buttressed by extensive on-camera and behind-the-scenes footage from the KTMA era. Ballyhoo is also behind the short but sweet Last Ride of Joel Robinson, which details the various ideas behind and final execution of Hodgson's last episode, and the Ninth Wonder of the World, a fairly lengthy and laugh-free look at the making of Gorgo that details, among other facts, director Eugene Lourie's work on Chaplin's Limelight and the fast-and-loose careers of the King Brothers, who produced the film. Writer Mary Jo Pehl--the once-and-future Pearl Forrester--is profiled in a new Life After MST3K interview, while historian Constantine Nasr does his best to explain the curious, genre-bending Moon Zero Two and the influence of Stanley Kubrick upon the final product. Mike Nelson's wrap-arounds for The MST Hour's broadcast of Day the Earth Froze, a brief but amusing tribute from Leonard Maltin, and a high-camp interview with Brain actress Marilyn Neilson round out the major featurettes, which are accompanied by theatrical trailers for four of the six pictures. --Paul Gaita
• Ninth Wonder Of The World: The Making Of Gorgo (MST3K Edition)
• Last Flight Of Joel Robinson
• Life After MST3K: Mary Jo Pehl
• Interview with “Brain” performer Marilyn Neilson
• “Moon Zero Two” Intro by Hammer Films Historian Constantine Nasr
• MST Hour Wraps
• Leonard Maltin Explains Something
• Original Trailers
• 4 Exclusive Mini-Posters By Artist Steve Vance
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MOON ZERO TWO, Episode 111
James Olson and Catherine Von Schell star in this 1969 UK color science fiction film that is really just an old western about miners set in outer space. A group of criminals want to salvage a valuable asteroid by crashing it into the moon and the only place to do it unobserved is on another miner's claim, so they dispose of the miner. They hire a salvage team (headed by Olson) to get them the asteroid, but unknown to them the missing miner's sister (Schell) hires the same salvage team to help her find her brother. It's kind of a fun and lively movie with great sixties style music. Years later Catherine Schell would drop the "Von" from her stage name. Host segments include a moon landing pageant and Crow and Tom fight over the women in the movie in zero gravity. This is a rather enjoyable episode with a quite watchable movie.
THE DAY THE EARTH FROZE (with short: HERE COMES THE CIRCUS), Episode 422
This 1959 color Russian-Finnish movie is based on the Finnish folk tales set down in the Kalevala by Elias Lonrot and the original title was "Sampo". A sampo is a magic forge that produces salt, flour and gold. Apparently editors in the 1960s thought the Finnish folk tale was confusing to Western audiences so they chopped so much out of the film that it makes virtually no sense at all. This is similar to the hatchet job they did on the tale of "Sadko" by turning it into The Magic Voyage Of Sinbad. Anyway, the story revolves around the hero Lemminkäinen battling the evil witch Louhi to rescue the kidnapped maiden Annikki. This American dubbed version of the movie is goofy fantasy fun and worked extremely well for MST3K. The short is also not to be missed as every short about circuses made fun of on MST3K turned out really funny. Interestingly, Joel and the 'Bots talk over the explanation of what a sampo is during the film, then make hilarious speculation about what it is for the rest of the episode. Both the movie and the short get related host segments. This is a must-see and must-own episode of the show.
THE LEECH WOMAN, Episode 802
This black and white sci-fi horror film from 1960 concerns an endocrinologist seeking to keep his wife forever young by taking serum from the pineal gland of younger women to do so, a process that is fatal for the victims. This movie was a staple of UHF weekend "creature feature" programming back in the 1960s and 1970s. This was only the second episode to air of the new Sci-Fi Channel version of MST3K so Bill Corbett is still settling in with his portrayal of Crow. It's an entertaining episode using a fairly well-known low-budget Universal Studios film. The movie can be a little tedious in parts, but Mike and the 'Bots make it fun.
GORGO, Episode 909
Some UK film makers created their own Godzilla-like color film in 1961 and called it Gorgo. Eugène Lourié directs this decent "kaiju" type monster film about a large dinosaur-like creature captured and put on display in the UK under the name, Gorgo. When an even larger parent monster comes looking for the baby Gorgo she gives London the same treatment that Godzilla gives to Tokyo. Gorgo is a pretty good movie of its type for the time which makes for an enjoyable episode of MST3K. Like the Leech Woman, Gorgo used to be on UHF TV a lot back in the 1960s and 1970s and its nice to see what MST3K does with another relatively well-known film. This episode aired only twice on Sci-Fi Channel before an apparent rights dispute forced them to stop showing it, so it's fantastic good news for MSTies that Shout! Factory was able to get the rights to release this episode. Don't miss it!
Extra features include:
- The box of DVDs comes in a 25th Anniversary Collector's Tin
- Bonus double-feature DVD with MST3K episodes Mitchell and The Brain That Wouldn't Die (which have been out of print for a while)
· Last Flight Of Joel Robinson
· Life After MST3K: Mary Jo Pehl
- MST Hour wraps for The Day The Earth Froze
· 3-Part Documentary Return To Eden Prairie: 25 Years Of Mystery Science Theater 3000
· Ninth Wonder Of The World: The Making Of Gorgo (MST3K Edition)
· Leonard Maltin Explains Something
· Original Trailers
· 4 Exclusive Mini-Posters By Artist Steve Vance
I have to say my favorite movie in the collection is the goofy space western "Moon Zero Two" which is trippy and hilariously dated; that it's a perfect target for the MST3K treatment is immediately obvious from the animated opening credits. I was also fond of "Gorgo" (with an especially funny cameo from Leonard Maltin!) which I don't think is a bad movie of the giant monster genre, it's just so British in its demeanor that it stands in great contrast from most of the kaiju films. "The Leech Woman" is another classic, and one I hold especially dear: I actually named my favorite cat "Neil" after the protagonist, mostly because of his constant summoning by name (watch it and see; it's a great recurring joke). "The Day The Earth Froze" is a crazy Finnish fairy tale about young love between Lemminkäinen and Annikki which is constantly confounded by a witch, foreshadowing the wonderful "Jack Frost" four seasons later. It's one of the loonier plots to grace an episode of MST3K, and brings us the long-lasting mystery of the sampo. If you have to ask "what's a sampo" you need to watch the episode immediately!
A bonus disc presents "Mitchell", Joel Hodgson's last episode, and "The Brain That Wouldn't Die", Mike Nelson's first, along with an excellent short about that transition. Speaking of extras, Shout Factory has done a great job with this package: there are extras on every DVD and they are uniformly excellent, interesting, and relevant: particularly good is the multi-part special "Return to Eden Prairie: 25 Years of Mystery Science Theater 3000".
If you are a fan of MST3K this is an indispensable package; if you don't know much about MST3K this is a great collection to sample...or sampo!
While this version does not include the collectible tin, it also doesn't have that $100+ price tag. Frankly, I'm OK with that. Not only does this include all the movies from the tin, but the same extras that Shoutcast has been lovingly adding to each release, including the mini-posters. You get your four standard release movies PLUS Mitchell on DVD again and The Brain That Wouldn't Die (or Couldn't Die?) for the first time on disc as well.