Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XVII DVD has oodles of extras

“They make him watch movies, the worst they can find.” As a big fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I used to relate in particular to that line from its theme song. After all, for decades I covered movies for major daily newspapers, and that meant seeing many bad movies myself.  Joel, Mike, Tom Servo and Crow — I felt your pain. Perhaps more than most people, I truly did.

But now I’m working for a law firm by day, while blogging for fun on show biz by night, and I don’t have to see lousy movies any more. Rather, I can watch what I want, and only what I want. And often that means I watch — well, yes, lousy movies, but they’re movies played to the tune of  riffs by my MST3K heroes.

That brings us to the latest DVD set from Shout! Factory: MST3K: Volume XVII. (Don’t you love that Super Bowl — er, Roman — numbering?)

Due at retail March 16, this four-disc set has one of my all-time favorite bad movies within an MST context, Blood Waters of Dr. Z. I swear, it’s got more quips per minute that most of the series’ shows. For DVD extras, it’s also got original promos, an original trailer (for its original name, Zaat) and a photo gallery, along with some spiffy menu animation with Crow and Servo fishing.

And for this set’s extras, that’s just the start. There’s also a new interview with Bruce J. Mitchell, star of the panned Final Sacrifice; a six-minute intro by Joel Hodgson for The Crawling Eye, MST’s first scripted episode for national TV after the KTMA season; and a poorly shot but fun-filled panel at Dragon-Con Atlanta 2009, with Trace Beaulieu and Bill Corbett in a “Crow vs. Crow” faceoff. That’s arbitrarily placed on The Beatniks disc, which also adds Mike Nelson’s offbeat “wraps” for the episode when it was split up for the MST3K Hour.

Hodgson’s Crawling Eye reminiscences include the observation that the original KTMA season of MST in Minneapolis was “like a workshop” and was performed off the cuff. When they realized the show would shine more if they wrote their own jokes in advance, MST truly took off on the Comedy Channel. They also learned that the sketch segments worked better when they were faster, and I fully agree. Leave ’em laughing and get on with it.

The Crow vs. Crow footage — 35 minutes of it — has Trace revealing that the Crow puppets were hot glued and often fell to pieces. He and Bill both say Kevin Murphy had it easier as a puppeteer with Servo, but just as Kevin revealed in my recent interview with him, Trace also says he once made the mistake of taking his puppet home. “That was really creepy,” Trace tells the fans. “They don’t belong at home.” A fleeting reference to Anthony Hopkins’ film Magic makes his point.

Trace is the most articulate and loose, with Bill often deferring to his seniority. But Bill does allow that the “travel” Crow was tough to get through airport security, with personnel thinking it “looked like a pipe bomb.” Ken Plume hosts the segment, which is by far the beefiest extra on these discs.

The 10-minute Mitchell interview for Final Sacrifice underscores how low-budget the film was. “We brought our own sandwiches to the set,” he says. He also ruefully points out that the credits were mistaken at the end, confusing the two leads’ roles.

Now that’s a bad movie — one which can’t even get its credits straight. But we’ll give full and accurate credit here: MST3K remains an almost timeless DVD staple for high humor in a world where low lunacy too often rules. And thanks to Shout! Factory, the extras on DVD are as good as the movies are bad — which is quite good indeed.

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