MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 Volume XXVIII: 25th Anniversary Edition (DVD)
Shout! Factory / 1989 - 1997 / 660 mins / NR
It is MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000's tin anniversary! So what better way to celebrate than with a mega-set of episodes in a tin box? Four never-before released episodes are finally seeing the light of DVD along with a supplement disc of two ADDITIONAL episodes that have long been out of print (I'll cover those in "The Extras"). So what diabolical films do Joel, Mike and the 'bots have to suffer through in this set? Let's see:
"Moon Zero Two" is from the British house of horror itself, Hammer Films and was billed as the "first moon western" upon its original release. In the year 2021, the moon is slowly being colonized by swingin' 60's astronauts (the bizarre costumes, hair design and set décor go a long way to show this) and space travel is old hat. Evil millionaire J.J. Hubbard (Warren Mitchell) is out to harvest a 6000 tonne asteroid made of pure sapphire by crashing it on the far side of the moon (a very illegal operation) and hires space salvager Bill Kemp (James Olsen) to help.
Next up is the Finnish/Russian co-production, "The Day The Earth Froze" (original title: "Sampo.") The original film was edited by some 24 minutes and the only explanation given of the magical "Sampo" is riffed over by Joel and the 'bots, so you need to do some research if you want to know what the story is actually about. Based on the Finnish legend "Kalevala" the story tells of two lands, the good Kalevala and the evil Pohjola, that are desperate to have a "Sampo" (a magic mill that makes gold and grain) to help their people. However, the only person who can make it can only create it if his daughter is married. Needless to say, a mighty good guy (named Lemminkainen and played by Andris Oshin) wins her heart for the Kalevala but she is then kidnapped by the Pohjola as ransom.
We transition to Mike Nelson and the Sci-Fi Channel era with "The Leech Woman." A creature feature from Universal Studios of the 1950's, "The Leech Woman" is the 140 year old Malla (Estelle Hemsley/Kim Hamilton) who falls for the married Dr. Paul Talbot (Phillip Terry.) Promising him the secret of eternal youth, she takes him and his unhappy wife to Africa where she plans on not only getting a shot of youth, but getting rid of the wife as well.
Last up is the British answer to the Godzilla craze of the 1960's, "Gorgo." When a volcano erupts off the coast of Ireland, the 65 foot tall reptilian Gorgo is released. When he is quickly captured by salvager captain Joe Ryan (Bill Travers) and brought to London, our heroes soon discover that Gorgo has a mother that is none too pleased her baby was abducted. Due to rights issues, this episode was only broadcast twice (on the same day) and is a hugely desired episode by MSTiE's the world over.
A few years ago I remember going through a website that listed all of the episodes of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 and the likelihood of each episode ever being released on DVD. The website was very logically making their assumptions based on the rights holders of the movies being riffed. When Shout! Factory released the Gamera set and recently started releasing the early Season Eight episodes (with the Universal films), a light of possibility and hope that all of the episodes would eventually see the light of DVD shown for the first time. With this 25th anniversary set containing not only another Universal film, but the Warner Brothers/Hammer owned "Moon Zero Two" and the long thought forever tied up "Gorgo" that light of hope is shining brighter than ever. This is a fantastic collection of four excellent episodes; there is not a weak one in the bunch. Shout! Factory has once again proven themselves to be the saviors of MST by getting the hard-to-find episodes cleared and creating some extraordinarily well made supplements for them. Just check out "The Extras" section below for a HUGE surprise!
As usual, video quality varies depending on the movie being riffed so I judge the full frame 1.33 transfer by the host segments. Once again Shout! Factory delivers what will probably be the best looking transfer of each episode we are likely to see. The source material is in excellent condition with bright colors and detail as strong as it can get given the video origin.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix is clear and loud allowing for every riff to be heard clearly and every squeak and slam of the doors to come through well. No complaints at all on the technical side.
For this 25th Anniversary tin, Shout! Factory has gone above and beyond for us MSTiEs by adding two of the most important episodes in the shows history as a BONUS DISC! Yes, longtime fans who covet their long out of print copies of Rhino's "Mitchell" and "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" should not see these taking up half a new release set and those that missed them will get a whopping 6 full new episodes in this set. "Mitchell" ranks as one of the absolute best episodes of MST3K of all time and sees the end of Joel's time on the Satellite of Love. "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" is the very next episode and introduces Mike Nelson as the new subject of Doctor Forrester's (Trace Beaulieu) experiments. This disc is pure catnip for MSTiEs.
Each of those films comes with their own supplement as well:
"Last Flight of Joel Robinson: Making the "Mitchell" Episode" has Joel, Trace and Jim Mallon looking back at the feelings surrounding shooting Joel's farewell.
"Interview with Actress Marilyn (Hanold) Neilson" has the actress fondly looking back on her career and how "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" fit into it.
But wait! There are awesome supplements as well! And they kick off with what will probably be the last word on the history of the series: "Return to Eden Prairie: 25 Years of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000." While this three part retrospective only includes about half of the participants (Mike, Brain Guy, Frank, where are ya?) from the series, it is generously sprinkled with loads of footage from the KTMA era and original 'bot sketches from Hodgson's personal sketchbooks. Even without some of the leads this is hands down the best documentary on MST ever made.
"Moon Zero Two" includes a very informative "Introduction by Hammer Films Historian Constantine Nasr"
"Leonard Maltin Explains Something" has the good natured film critic explaining...well, I won't spoil it.
This sets installment of "Life After MST3K" focuses on Mary Jo Pehl.
"The Day The World Froze" includes the "MST Hour Wraps"
"The Ninth Wonder of the World: The Making of GORGO (MST3K Edition)" never really takes about the MST episode, but it is a VERY thorough look at the making of the beloved film itself.
Finally, all four films have their original theatrical trailer included and you get another set of awesome mini-posters by Steve Vance.
MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: 25th Anniversary Edition is quite possibly the best set ever released from the series. Highly Recommended!