DVD Review Mystery Science Theater 3000: 25th Anniversary Edition

mst box

So often, “anniversary” observations deserve quote marks. I’ve seen movies get anny editions a year before or after their true release date. Similarly, my beloved (and now hapless) Houston Astros marked their 50th anny in their 51st season. (No wonder they’re struggling.)

But in this case, Shout! Factory has it right. Due Nov. 26 is a new five-DVD box set of Mystery Science Theater 3000: 25th Anniversary Edition. And is it truly the 25th anniversary? Well, the set’s due date is almost exactly 25 years after the show’s birth on Minneapolis’ KTMA on Nov. 24, 1988. That close enough for you? (Besides, Nov. 24 this year is a Sunday, and DVDs aren’t released on Sundays.)

Like a previous Gamera collection, this one comes in a “silver(ish)” (as Shout calls it) tin. (Well, it is on the inside.) The four new movies/episodes are Moon Zero Two, The Day the Earth Froze, The Leech Woman and Gorgo. But also enclosed is a fifth-disc double feature of two previously issued but OOP titles: Joel Hodgson’s last episode as host, Mitchell, and Mike Nelson’s first, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.

Of course, if you’re like me, what you’re really keen to see are the extras. And the new set, as with so many Shout! Factory releases for MST, boasts a bundle. So let’s get to them:

First, be advised that this set has the mother of all making-of retrospectives: a three-part Return to Eden Prairie: 25 Years of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Made with reliable thoroughness, polish and even a sly sense of grandeur (note the background music) by the folks at Ballyhoo, the three parts on three discs run a combined 73 minutes — almost feature-length.

They’re divided into looks at The Crew, The Locations and The Characters. (The Crew is the shortest, at 12 minutes; the other two run about a half-hour each.)

Each features interviews with the likes of Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Jim Mallon and many others — but oddly, no Mike Nelson.

Though staunch fans will know much of the info, some tidbits are fun to savor, such as the fact that the mock Planet of the Apes set at the start of Season 8 was considered “Deep Ape” and that the Observers’ brains were placed in “nacho bowls.”

Winding up in the quiet Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie involved a lot of luck and some conveniently available office space. I had the privilege of visiting Best Brains’ studio back in the day, and I can confirm there was nothing exotic about the bland office-park setting for MST’s bizarre little puppet show.

We also learn that the creaky 1965 film The Great Race provided an inspiration in villainy for Dr. F and TV’s Frank, and that Mary Jo Pehl’s Pearl was envisioned as “Norman Bates’ mother.” Too, Nelson’s nutty portrayal of Torgo had slow takes because he almost went Method with Torgo’s slow, deliberate walk. “He was a better Torgo than Torgo,” Murphy says.

There’s lots more, but I’ll leave it for you to discover for yourself.

Other features in the set include a Life after MST3K featuring Mary Jo, who spends much time looking back, gushing that “It was the best job I ever had.” (For her it lasted seven years.) She calls MST “a defining experience” that “shaped my sense of humor” and says it was “heartbreaking” to bid goodbye at its end. “I loved that job.”

Also look for an almost 10-minute intro to Moon Zero Two, a poorly written sci-fi cheapie which had the added indignity of filming near Stanley Kubrick’s work on 2001: A Space Odyssey.

A far deeper look goes to Gorgo, via Ninth Wonder of the World: The Making of Gorgo (MST3K Edition). Running 31 minutes, it has film historians explain how the director’s daughter steered the film’s happy-ending reunion of a baby monster with its mama, since she disliked the monster dying at the end of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

The set also has Last Flight of Joel Robinson as well as MST Hour wraps for The Day the Earth Froze. (Jack Perkins has got to be the classic role for Mike.)

That enough for you? It certainly is for me. For a silver anniversary set, this one is gold.

— Bruce Westbrook


2 Responses to “DVD Review Mystery Science Theater 3000: 25th Anniversary Edition”

  1. Ryan Leasher Says:

    Bruce, that closing line is fantastic. Just going to leave this here for you…

  2. farsider Says:

    Thanks, Ryan! That shot looks like my former employer, in a way, since I worked for Hearst Corp.

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