DVD Review – Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume 19

It’s back (again)! On November 9, Shout! Factory is dropping the next installment of the cult classic Mystery Science Theater 3000. This new release, Volume 19 (or XIX if you want to go off the Roman numerals on the box), is a four-disc set which contains four previously unreleased episodes, a bunch of special features, and a limited-edition Gypsy figurine that’s now sitting on my desk as I write this. Let’s enjoy the mayhem, shall we?

The Show

Oh, MST3K, how I missed you. Like many of you out there, I’m sure, I spent a lot of time when I was younger watching this show and crying with laughter as Joel, Mike and the robot crew of Crow, Tom Servo and Gypsy lampooned some utterly horrible films. What they did has since been referenced or imitated countless times in pop culture. MST3K is a great example of how you can take almost no money and some crazy ideas and still come up with brilliance. Take that, expensive Hollywood projects!

This release is brought to you by the words “monster” and “devil” – namely that each of the four movies has one of those words in the title (Robot Monster, Bride of the Monster, Devil Doll and Devil Fish). These films are just as bad as you’d expect, and the commentary is deservedly biting and hilarious. What’s even cooler is that there are original trailers for and featurettes about some of them, so not only can you mock these ridiculous B-movies, you can see for yourself how they were put together and try to figure out just why anyone would bother.

This is another one of those shows that most of us will insist is amazing and the very rare person won’t get at all. When the show aired on Comedy Central, my father and I would faithfully watch every episode. My mother still doesn’t get any of this. Go figure. My only regret is that MST3K isn’t still around so it could lampoon Shark Attack 3: Megalodon.

The DVDs

You get a slightly bigger than normal box for this release, to accomodate the limited-edition figurine. Open it from the top (the cardboard does like to stick) and you’ll see the actual DVDs are tucked behind Gypsy. They’re enclosed in the standard Shout! Factory one-sided cardboard slipcase, with a plastic hard case for each film. On the back of each case (with their clever B-movie styled designs) you’ll find a synopsis and list of accompanying bonus features for that disc.

The menus themselves are worth playing for awhile, as they feature the characters generally being themselves along with some lampooning of whatever movie you’re about to watch. For instance, Robot Monster features Servo, Crow and a bubble machine before the film character of Ro-Tom interrupts them.

Like some of the other releases I’ve recently reviewed, MST3K reflects its age in that this is not the optimum transfer. You get a full-frame release (ish, as there are dark bars on both sides of the screen) that has some grain in the picture. Audio doesn’t seem too bad, and it’s not any worse than if you’ve recorded it off TV, but don’t expect that DVD is going to magically clear everything up. There’s no audio menu or option for closed captioning, so I can’t say whether or not the feature exists on this set.

The Special Features

There’s a neat special feature right when you open the box: mini posters for each of the films matching the art on each of the plastic cases. Each film also has corresponding special features.

Robot Monster: An introduction by J. Elvis Weinstein; a featurette entitled “Larry Blamire Geeks Out” in which cult moviemaker Blamire discusses the movie; the original trailer

Bride of the Monster: A featurette entitled “Citizen Wood” that focuses on Ed Wood and his making of the movie; a featurette called “Inventing the Invention Exchange” which isn’t about the movie but the happenings on the Satellite of Love in these episodes (it actually is first referenced in Robot Monster); the original trailer

Devil Doll: A featurette entitled “The Puppet Master” in which filmmaker Richard Gordon discusses the film; the original trailer

Devil Fish: Unrelated to the film, a featurette entitled “MST3K: Origins and Beyond” which was actually a panel at CONvergence 2009; the original trailer

The press release lists an Easter egg, but I haven’t found it yet. If I do, I’ll update with that information.

The Bottom Line

MST3K fans will once again enjoy this next collection of horrible, horrible movies and their hilarious parodies. While some of it doesn’t always hold up (I don’t remember Joel being as stiff as he comes across sometimes), it’s still good fun. The beauty of the show is that if you haven’t watched it before, given the largely self-contained nature, you can jump in just about anywhere, so curious types shouldn’t shy away from this collection either.

Volume 19 arrives on November 9, and will retail for $70.

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