MYSTERY-SCIENCE THEATER 3000: VOLUME II
MOVIE: ***** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
Joel Hodgson as JOEL ROBINSON
Michael J. Nelson as MIKE NELSON
Trace Beaulieu as CROW T. ROBOT
Kevin Murphy as TOM SERVO
Trace Beaulieu as DR. CLAYTON FORRESTER
Frank Conniff as TV’s FRANK
Studio: Shout Factory
Created by: Joel Hodgson
BY KEVIN CARR
As “Mystery-Science Theater 3000” is seeing a rebirth, Shout Factory has continued its commitment to MSTies around the world to bring some of the classics back. A few months ago, they brought Volume I of the classic television series out of the vault in a new slim package. Now it is time for another installment.
In a strange way, “Mystery-Science Theater 3000: Vol. II” is a bigger deal to me than the re-release of the first volume. Some of this comes from personal nostalgia, but some also comes from significance of the titles in this volume.
Two of the titles in particular – “Pod People” and “Cave Dweller” – hold a special spot in many MSTies’ hearts because they were two of the first episodes released on VHS back in the days that Rhino Video was handling them. While it seems less of a big deal now, those Rhino releases offered fans a chance to see a professionally-recorded version of the show on demand (at least to the top of what the VHS presentation standards would allow).
Before this, fans had to rely on shows that had been recorded at home on VHS with quality loss from a standard analog cable broadcast (many of which were relegated to EP in order to fit three entire episodes on a single expensive VHS tape). So, to me the re-release of these on DVD are significant simply because of how monumental their original releases were.
Additionally, for fans of Joel, “Pod People” and “Cave Dwellers” represent two of the better shows from his era, juxtaposing against the Volume I weight of Mike Nelson as host in season six.
As you’d expect from early releases, the special features are very slim in this set, amounting to “MST Hour” wraps for the aforementioned “Cave Dwellers” and “Pod People.” Still, these classic episodes are not sought after because of special features but rather for the original content.
This episode kicked off the third season of the show, which is when the series really hit its stride. The movie started Joel and the Bots down the path to sub-standard sword-and-sandal fantasy non-epics that have become so common in the series.
I remember seeing the original “Ator the Invincible” in theaters in the early 1980s as a cheap attempt to cash in on the success of “Conan the Barbarian.” This sequel is even lower rent and has more foibles, which makes it ripe for the MST riffs. It’s a lot of fun to watch again and reminisce on seeing it broadcast on Comedy Channel back in the early 1990s.
This disc includes the “MST Hour” wraps, featuring Michael J. Nelson as Jack Perkins from when Comedy Central repackaged the series into one-hour syndicated blocks.
This episode in particular is the most nostalgic for me. It was at Thanksgiving dinner back in 1991 that my sister and I stumbled upon the rebroadcast of “Pod People” during the Turkey Day marathon. The rest of the family kept telling us to turn the terrible movie off, not quite understanding the appeal of the running commentary by the shadows at the bottom of the screen. Everyone else would have preferred to watch the football game, but it was my sister and I who wrestled control of the remote to allow us to watch this (as well as “The Sidehackers,” which was broadcast in that same block).
Even today, “Pod People” holds up as a classic MST-3K episode. Sure, it’s a terrible movie that tries desperately to capitalize on the success of “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” but it’s also strangely watchable as a train wreck horror/sci-fi thriller. Joel and the Bots are in rare form in this episode, reminding us of the glory days from the early third season. So many classic riffs came from this episode, including the discussion of which movie they were watching (A, B, C or D for “dumb”) and giving the a-okay sign and yelling, “It stinks!”
Like “Cave Dwellers,” the “Pod People” disc includes the wraps for the “MST Hour.”
Here is the Mike episode in the pack for all the fans of our second host. Like the Mike episodes from Volume I, this comes from season six, which was when he was in his heyday as the figurehead on the Satellite of Love. It’s not the most famous episode from the Mike years, but it certainly has all the charm and humor you’d expect from his tenure.
The story follows a cheap knock-off on a “Charlie’s Angels” set-up, complete with 60s TV actor cameos and twice as many Angels. What makes this episode special is the 70s made-for-TV movie flavor you get from it (even though it had a proper theatrical release). The writers of MST-3K always had an affinity for cheesy 70s TV, and while this isn’t the TV-movie pilot like “San Francisco International” was, it certainly connects well with that feeling.
Sadly, there are no bonus features on this disc.
“Shorts Vol. 1”
In keeping with the tradition from the original VHS releases from Best Brains that we saw in “Play MST for Me” (and continued in the RiffTrax format today), Shout Factory has culled a series of the introductory shorts used to pad out the episodes of the series.
Presented are a hodge-podge of subjects with both hosts, tied together with interstitial introductions by Tom Servo. All of these are quite entertaining and offer a more short-attention-span look at the show. The only drawback is there is some repeated content from other releases still in print, some of which are fairly recent (like “Viking Women and the Sea Serpent” in Vol. XXXIV).
Shorts included on this disc are: “The Home Economics Story,” “Junior Rodeo Daredevils,” “Body Care & Grooming,” “Cheating,” “A Date with Your Family,” “Why Study Industrial Arts?” and “Chicken of Tomorrow.”