With the home release fate of our favorite cow-town puppet show in the loving care of Shout! Factory, fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 have been enjoying consistent, rapid fire releases loaded with excellent and interesting special features. This year alone, we've had four major releases: three box sets and a special two disc edition of the Manos: The Hands of Fate. Shout! has also been awesome enough to produce eight reprints of episodes released in previous box sets by Rhino, which are now out of print. Admittedly, these reprints are bare bones in nature, but for those who missed out on the now unavailable box sets for whatever reason, these are a great way to acquire official version of these much loved episodes.
We haven't had it this good since the hay day of Comedy Central, giving us annual Turkey Day marathons. If you're a true MSTie, you won't require any convincing from the likes of me. Instead, please consider this more a list of the best 5 things about this most recent of box sets, tendered reverently from Shout! Factory's hands into your waiting mandibles for consumption.
Quickly, before we jump into your waiting maw of doom, here are the four episodes featured in this set (in case you suck at Amazon.com):
-306: Time of the Apes - A Japanese tv series attempting to cash in on the American Apes mania of the time, truncated into a crummy, nonsensical flick.
-314: Mighty Jack - Mish-mash of episodes five and six of a Japanese tv show set aboard a flying submarine that gently banks from side to side.
-610: The Violent Years - Despite it's violence, this is a truly boring entry in the "teenagers in rebellion sub genre". The overly long preceding short(Young Man's Fancy) is actually more entertaining and better riffed than the main attraction.
-702: The Brute Man - The final performance of Rando Hatton, who's disfigurement lead to him playing the rough thug in many films. Here he's "The Creeper", a shadowed monster who steals in order to fund the surgery of a blind woman he loves.
If you're looking for five hundred words each on episodes you've probably seen a dozen times, I'm certain any number of other reviewers of this set can hook you up. Now let's get to the good stuff.
1. More Sandy Frank episodes!
Sandy Frank is best known for importing (and hilariously poorly dubbing) the Gamera films and several Japanese TV shows and films to the American market. No less than eleven of these Sandy Frank imports were riffed as episodes for MST3K and on many occasions the mockery extended beyond the meterial to teasing the film distributor himself. This perceived animosity had led to the belief that all 11 Sandy Frank episodes would never see home release. A myth dispelled like so much Gamera flatulence with Shout! Factory's special five disc set revolving around the giant
2. The Making of MST3K (1997)
This, the second such special, has an unfair advantage over it's predecessor: It isn't narrated by the hated (by MSTies far and wide) Penn Gillett. Twenty-five minutes in running time, this special was filmed during season 8 and features some awesome insights from the cast and crew (much of which you likely already know from years of scouring the Internet, but still, it's great to get an official release of this). Mike and the bots riff the behind the scenes footage itself, as you'd expect them to, and the history of the show up to that point is illuminated for your personal edification.
3. Four new mini posters from Steve Vance
As with all of the Shout! Factory releases, artist Steve Vance graces us with his interpretation of Servo and Crow taking on the episode in question. While they're also on the individual DVD's display cases, it's always awesome to receive them bundled in as separate posters too. This time around, it really feels like Mr.Vance stepped up his game in an effort to include more details and action in the background. Kudos to him; I love these little posters.
4. The DVD Menus of MST3K
Hopefully you've spied with you little eyes the steady evolution of the DVD menus from static images accompanied by music from the film being riffed? Surely you've noticed that the menus themselves are now entertaining short form comedy in their own right with 3d renderings of Tom, Crow and the SOL? This fascinating extra takes you behind the propulsion pushing it forward. A man - in point of fact - not a fuel source as such. This extra gives a detailed glimpse behind that creative process.
5. Turn Down your Lights were applicable
This prompt would be seen just prior to the theme song for each episode of the show from the first episode of season 2 (201 - Rocketship XM) through the fourth episode of season four (404 - Teenagers from Outer Space) but had been noticeably absent from most of the home video releases (It was included on the previous set as all five Gamera episodes began with it). Shout! Factory has again listened to the MSTie outcry and has included it on both Sandy Frank episodes, allowing these episodes to begin as they're supposed to!
As always, Shout! Factory takes the ball and (insert relevant sports metaphor here- depending on the ball taken). They Rule. There's more special features I didn't mention including: an introduction to The Brute Man by Mary Jo, introductions to Might Jack and Time of the Apes by Japanese cinophile August Ragone, Ed-ucation: Archival Interviews with Delores Fuller and Kathy Wood and the MST Hour Wraps for Time of the Apes.
The only thing missing is an announcement detailing the next set's episodes! God it feels good to be a MSTie.