Hard to believe as it is, little cowtown puppet show Mystery Science Theater 3000 is celebrating its 20th anniversary. And just as it found two new network TV homes during its decade-long run, it’s found a new DVD home at Shout! Factory, which launches MST’s movie-mocking merriment on its own label with MST3K: 20th Anniversary Edition.
Like most previous box sets from Rhino, this one collects four MST episodes, meaning four movies: Werewolf, Laserblast, Future War and First Spaceship on Venus. None has been on VHS or DVD before; all are choice cheese worthy of riffing and ridiculing, especially Werewolf, a horror cheapie shot in Arizona with some European actors who don’t fool anyone, not to mention a “star” more never-was than has-been in Joe Estevez, brother of Martin Sheen and uncle to Charlie.
Werewolf was the most recent film ever shown on MST — just two years old when it aired in 1998. For more background, consult the keepers of the fan flames at Satellite News.
But beyond the bounty of four more precious MST shows preserved forever in the digital universe, Shout! Factory has added bonus features. Some come only in the new limited edition tin featuring a Crow T. Robot figurine and four “lobby cards.” (Well, sort of. Basically they’re repros of each film’s gently sensationalized slip-case art.)
But both the tin and a separate “standard” release due Nov. 18 share additional superb on-screen bonuses. And while the tin is handsome, these, in truth, are what really jazzed me about the latest DVD release of my favorite anthology TV show of the ’90s.
First and best of all, there’s a brand new History of MST3K. This runs 81 minutes total (feature length!) and is divided into three chapters among the first three discs. All three segments include a comprehensive slew of on-screen one-on-one interviews featuring the usual suspects, and then some. To name-drop, we have Joel Hodgson, Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy, Trace Beaulieu and Mike Nelson, not to mention Bill Corbett, Mary Jo Pehl, Paul Chaplin, Bridget Jones (Nelson), Frank Coniff and J. Elvis (Josh) Weinstein.
With insights and enthusiasm, these creators provide a detailed, loving look into the life of the program. These are peppered with vintage making-of clips at the Best Brains studio in Eden Prairie, Minn. (a Minneapolis suburb) and even some shots from the formative first season shown only on local broadcast channel KTMA (where Joel truly does look like his character’s lost-in-space-with-robots inspiration, Bruce Dern of Silent Running).
The whole History is an enormous treat, independently of the four fun episodes in this set. There’s also footage from a recent reunion panel, as well as theatrical trailers for the four clunker films newly delivered to DVD.
And there’s even more good news beyond this: Shout! Factory already has acquired global home entertainment rights to many MST movies/episodes which never have been on home video. So support this title and look for still more DVDs from the Satellite of Love.
On a personal note, I’ve followed this show almost from its inception and have covered it thoroughly over the years, most often for the Houston Chronicle. I’ve interviewed Joel, Mike, Kevin, Bill and Jim a number of times and even had the privilege of visiting Best Brains while MST was in production (albeit on an off-day when only Frank, Bridget and a few others were preparing to screen a flick and write the riffs). Yes, I have stood on the bridge of the Satellite of Love. Is there any greater fan honor?
And now I’m honored to continue taking up the torch and extolling this delightful, crazily creative show. Chances are we won’t see its likes again, but on DVD, as in our hearts, Mystery Science Theater is forever.