Shout! Factory serves up Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XIX, another well-balanced DVD box set of the cult TV show.
You are cordially invited to step aboard the stranded Satellite of Love as its crew continues its ongoing assignment of viewing (and mocking) the most… ahem… misunderstood… films of all time! Join hosts Joel Hodgson and Mike Nelson as they celebrate the very first — and only — 19th DVD box set of the hilarious cult phenomenon Mystery Science Theater 3000 with their loyal, albeit morally misguided, crew — Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot and, of course, Gypsy!
The first two episodes are from The Comedy Channel seasons, hosted by Joel Hodgson, and the remaining pair are Sci Fi Channel entries hosted by Mike Nelson. Dividing the set even more neatly, Hodgson’s episodes both have the word “Monster” in the title, while Nelson’s begin with “Devil”.
Robot Monster, Season 1:
This hunk of cheese regularly shows up on Worst Movie Ever lists. It’s also fairly short, so the episode opens with a double dose of the Commando Cody serial Radar Men from the Moon: Chapters 4 & 5, “Flight to Destruction” and “Murder Car”. Then it’s on to the classic sci-fi B-flick, Robot Monster, featuring randomly inserted stock footage of stop-motion dinosaurs and dino-lizards, a bubble machine slash alien device that inexplicably gets a lot of screen time, and the titular robot monster, Ro-Man, who’s just a guy dressed up in a gorilla suit and space helmet. Ro-Man uses the “advanced” technology of his world to wipe out the human race in the first few moments of the story, but somehow has trouble tracking down the lone surviving family over the rest of the film, even though they’re only a stone’s throw from the primitive cave that serves as Ro-Man’s base of operations. To further complicate matters, Ro-Man develops a disturbing crush on Alice, the movie’s requisite hot-chick-scientist. In other words, Robot Monster is perfect riffing material for Joel and the ‘Bots, who spend the host segments imitating the aliens and mocking the complete lack of sense that the movie makes. Of note to MSTies, this is the final episode of the show to have a green theater seat silhouette, before it changed to the more familiar black. The bonus features on this disc are a new introduction by J. Elvis Weinstein (the original “Tom Servo”), the Larry Blamire Geeks Out featurette that gives indie filmmaker Larry Blamire’s perspective on the movie, and Robot Monster’s original theatrical trailer.
Bride of the Monster, Season 4:
As a prelude to the movie, the Satellite of Love crew riffs on Hired!, Part 1, in which a car salesman is really, really bad at his new job, inspiring Joel and the ‘Bots to stage Hired!: The Musical during one of the host segments. The main feature, Bride of the Monster, is an Ed Wood title that practically riffs itself. It stars two of Wood’s regulars, Bela Lugosi and Tor Johnson, as mad scientist Dr. Eric Vornoff, and his mute henchman, Lobo, who are attempting to create a race of atomic supermen. Alas, Lobo gets distracted by the pretty lady his master intends to experiment on, and Vornoff discovers that a giant, man-eating octopus — a limp rubber prop in half of its scenes — isn’t, perhaps, the safest choice of pet to guard his lab against unwanted visitors. The bonus features on this disc are the retrospective featurette Citizen Wood: Making the “Bride”, Unmaking the “Legend”, the Inventing the “Invention Exchange” conversation with Joel Hodgson, and Bride of the Monster’s original theatrical trailer.
Devil Doll, Season 8:
Devil Doll is a typical possessed-ventriloquist-doll horror tale, except that the ventriloquist, in this case, is way more creepy, evil, and expressionless than his wooden puppet. Everyone is the movie seems to be mesmerized by The Great Vorelli’s stage act, despite his utter lack of talent and the peculiar tension between him and Hugo the Dummy. The film plods along as Vorelli plots to hypnotize a wealthy beauty into becoming his unwilling meal ticket… er, bride, with plenty of dead air in the script for Mike and the ‘Bots to throw their voices into. The bonus features on this disc are The Puppet Master: Richard Gordon on “Devil Doll” featurette (Gordon being the film’s executive producer), and Devil Doll’s original theatrical trailer.
Devil Fish, Season 9:
A French-Italian production filmed in Florida, Devil Fish is essentially a cheap knock-off of Jaws. Rather than simply presenting a freakishly big shark, though, the “devil fish” is a genetically engineered octopus/shark hybrid that’s escaped its creators and gone on a rampage, much like in Roger Corman’s recent Devil Fish-inspired Sharktopus. When the devil fish isn’t chomping anyone who gets within six feet of the water, the movie focuses on the characters wearing skimpy swimwear, tosses in a gratuitous love scene, and plays a soundtrack that sounds like it was lifted from softcore porn. Meanwhile, in between bouts of movie-riffing, Mike and the ‘Bots have to deal with some angry sealife of their own when they manage to offend dolphins with their prank call to SeaWorld, and the dolphins, who turn out to be a superior, space-faring species, show up at the Satellite of Love in their battle destroyer. The bonus features on this disc are the hour-long convention panel MST3K: Origins and Beyond at CONvergence 2009 (with Mary Jo Pehl, Frank Conniff, and Joel Hodgson as panelists), and Devil Fish’s original theatrical trailer.
The Steve Vance-illustrated covers of the slimline DVD cases are included as mini-posters, as usual, and the discs’ animated menus incorporate sound clips from the episodes that they go before, a now-standard detail for Shout! Factory’s MST3K box sets. What’s new in the Volume XIX set is the inclusion of a Gypsy figurine. It’s become a tradition that the end-of-year MST3K DVD release comes with a limited-edition bonus, beginning with the Crow. T. Robot figurine that accompanied Shout! Factory’s very first MST3K set in 2008, followed by Tom Servo in 2009. Gypsy’s arrival in 2010 sees the completion of the ‘Bot trio, and marks the first time that Gypsy has appeared as a toy or model. She’s in scale with her two smaller companions, so she towers above them, the hose that makes up her body coiled into a disc-shaped base that keeps her top-heavy purple head from toppling over. Tom Servo’s catchphrase of “I’m huge!” would be an appropriate tagline for this figurine, as would Crow’s “You know you want me, baby!” After all, the Satellite of Love wouldn’t function properly without the big-hearted Gypsy.
The question now, with all three ‘Bots accounted for, is what will the next bonus be? If you’d like to suggest action figures of Joel and Mike, or perhaps a Christmas ornament of the Satellite of Love, then e-mail Shout! Factory or post your ideas on their Cult Faves message board.
Or order directly through the Shout! Factory website.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 is distributed by Shout! Factory. For more Mystery Science Theater 3000 information, please visit The Official Mystery Science Theater 3000 Website and Satellite News: The Official Mystery Science Theater 3000 Fan Site.