Not everyone appreciates the genius of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. This TV program was a showcase for horrible movies that ran on Comedy Central from 1989 to 1996 and the Sci-Fi channel from 1997 to 1999. It goes a step further than other hosted movie showcases: while we watch the film we get to see and hear three silhouettes at the bottom of the screen riff on the movie we are unfortunate enough to watch.
The three silhouettes are Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson), an average joe who has been shot into space aboard the Satellite of Love by his Evil Scientist bosses, Crow T. Robot (Trace Bealieu), and Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy), two robots he built out of loneliness. The bad movies they are forced to endure are an ongoing experiment by said Evil Scientists Dr. Forrester (Trace Bealieu) and TV’s Frank (Frank Conniff). The cast, incidentally, mutated over the 10-year run of the series but this collection, “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection - Volume 6”, contains episodes exclusively from the Joel Hodgson period of the show (the early 90’s).
Like any television show some of the episodes are clinkers, many are standard fare (in MST3K’s case standard is funnier than anything else on TV), and a precious handful are sheer genius. This collection has one movie from each category. First up is a horrid Roger Corman movie (redundant, I know) Attack of the Giant Leeches concerning a small Florida town filled with stereotypical southerners who are disappearing at an alarming rate due to men in giant leech costumes. Joel and the ‘Bots give it their best, but this episode is excruciating.
Up next is the much better Gunslinger, another Roger Corman movie, and one of MST3K’s few forays into westerns. This turkey concerns a woman in the Wild West who takes over for her marshal husband when he is gunned down in the line of duty. She’s a hell of a shot (compared to everyone else in the movie) and her nemesis is the owner of a saloon (another woman, so there’s plenty of opportunity for cat fights). This episode contains a lot of good laughs and ranks as a fun episode but not as memorable as some of their classics.
The third disk contains 5 short films. These shorts are used as fillers when the movie of the week isn’t long enough. I enjoyed them, especially the short “Mr. B Natural”, which concerns the Spirit of Music who visits a lonely boy and convinces him to play the trumpet. A woman plays Mr. B, so there are many stupid comments about sexual ambiguity. The others are worth watching but not as memorable. My complaint with these is usually all MST3K episodes are interspersed with skits where Joel and the ‘Bots would expand on the theme of a movie or a short introduction, and were some of the funniest bits of the show. These short movies do not include their accompanying skits, which would have been a fun addition.
The last disk is the immortal classic, Teenagers From Outer Space. Some movies are so entertainingly wretched the inhabitants of the Satellite of Love don’t have to do much work. In this catastrophe, a group of aliens comes to earth looking for breeding grounds for their herd of gigantic lobsters. One of them is a rebellious youth who runs away and gets involved with a bunch of naïve doofuses in a small 50's town. The image of the attacking gigantic lobsters is forever seared into my memory. I watched this episode for the first time since Comedy Central cancelled MST3K and I was happy to see that it was as horrid as I remembered it.
Overall, the best thing about these episodes being released on DVD is the fact that they were released at all. Even when the show was being aired first-run on Comedy Central fans were feverishly taping every show they could and sharing them with cable-deprived friends (Which reminds me - I still want my tapes back. You know who you are). Many of the Comedy Central episodes are languishing as the rights to many of the movies expired and Rhino is doing its best to acquire those rights to get these episodes released.
Other than that fact, this DVD release is bare bones. I’m not going to complain too loudly, there is no good reason to have commentary because all of these movies already have a running commentary. Volume One in this series contained the MST3K version of the movie plus the unaltered version. This volume does not, and I am eternally grateful that I did not have to sit through Attack of The Giant Leeches twice.
The picture looks good, better than I remember in fact, but that’s probably because I’m used to seeing the show on 2nd and 3rd hand VHS tapes. The sound is decent but sometimes I couldn’t hear the original movie soundtrack even when Joel, Tom and Crow weren’t making rude comments. I recall that problem was the case with the original shows as well though, so not a fault of the DVD. It wouldn’t have hurt to do a little remastering but again it's a feeble complaint because I'm just happy that I can once again inflict Teenagers from Outer Space on unsuspecting friends! Muahahahaha!
Like I said in the beginning of the review, “Mystery Science Theater 3000” is not a show for everybody. The fans of the show will delight in having Volume 6 in their collection. If you have never seen the show and are wondering if this DVD collection would be a worthy purchase, take this litmus test: Have you ever watched a horrible movie, said to yourself “Sweet animal crackers, that sucked!!!” then immediately watched it again? Did you ever take said stinker over to a friend’s house and force him or her to watch it with you? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then I highly recommend this collection, and all other MST3K collections, for your consideration. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.