Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a cult hit during the late 80s and it enjoyed a successful run for over a decade clocking in an impressive 198 episodes on Comedy Central and the Sci Fi Channel as well as a feature film. The shows premise concerned itself with a man trapped on a satellite in space who is forced to watch “bad” B-Movies with his two robot companions. The trio are shown as silhouettes at the bottom of the screen and give a running commentary that takes the piss out of some of the more atrocious flicks to be committed to celluloid. Beyond Entertainment’s 4 disc 20th anniversary set brings us four episodes of the show First Spaceship On Venus, Laserblast, Werewolf, Future War and includes a documentary chronicling the history MST3K and it’s impact on popular culture.

The set opens with First Spaceship on Venus which was excruciatingly boring and the crew’s jokes weren’t much better. I was seriously wondering what I’d got myself in for signing on to review this set. I think they could’ve stopped their search for the worst movie ever right here. An awful start to the set which thankfully got better.

Next up in the set we have Laserblast a 1980 Charles Band produced (the very mention of his name will tell you how huge the budget was on this one) sci-fi film about a teenager called Billy (Kim Milford) who stumbles upon an alien weapon in the desert. The weapon’s radiation mutates the teen turning him into a violent maniac intent on taking revenge of those who have made his life difficult. The aliens who left the weapon behind are soon on the trail of Billy and his new toy. The MST3K crew’s humor improved on this disc and there’s some funny calls especially at the expense of the “Cracker Stoners” that make up the flick’s cast. Laserblast featured some pretty cool stop motion work (his debut I believe) from David Allen a protégé of Ray Harryhausen who went onto work on the effects in The Gate and Freaked. Mr geeky himself Eddie Deezen makes an appearance a long with Roddy McDowall and Dennis Burkley.

I dug this one a lot as I’m a big fan of Charles Band/Full Moon’s early features. They’re great mindless entertainment and despite their shortcomings a bunch of these films are really overlooked gems of 80s sci-fi and miles ahead of their shoddy horror output of 90s. Who hasn’t want to deal to the people who’ve pissed you off with a kickass laser cannon?! Great hilariously bad fun that was my favorite film of the set.

The werewolf subgenre has brought us some masterpieces of horror cinema notably The Wolfman, American Werewolf In London, Ginger Snaps and Silver Bullet. Werewolf however sits in the gutter with cinematic turds like Howling III and American Werewolf In Paris. An archaeological dig uncovers a werewolf skeleton which scratches one of the crew and he makes the change from man into wolf. The werewolf eventually returns to the archeologist’s camp but is killed by silver bullets. The foreman of the group Yuri (Jorge Rivero) uses the werewolf skeleton to hatch a evil plan of revenge on the group after he is fired for his heavy handed advances on Natalie (Adrianna Miles). The nonsensical plotline poor editing (wait for the car crash scene that will have you shaking your head) and average effects work really make this a stinker that the crew’s commentary shows no mercy to. Richard Lynch is always good value which was one of the films saving graces for me and the appearance of Joe Estevez (Charlie & Emilo’s uncle) was amusing especially when the crew really let him have it for being a washed up never will be “Can I still be in the movie?, Got a spare part anywhere?”.

Future War rounds off the set and is an epic of bad sets, fake looking robots, dinosaurs and showcases the exceptional acting prowess of kickboxer Daniel Bernhardt. I’ve become quite the fan of these sort of films over the last year or so and found it a pretty enjoyable Terminator knockoff. There’s some epic mullets on parade in this one and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many empty cardboard boxes used as props in my life. The fight scene involving Bernhardt throwing them at villains with sounds of broken glass as they strike is pure gold.

The set could’ve done with versions of the film without the MST3K crew’s take on them because they are just as enjoyable minus their presence if not more so when the jokes fall painfully flat. However there’s a good mix of episodes ranging from old school sci-fi to later era trashfests which shows the wide variety of films that the crew of the Satellite of Love ridiculed during their existence.

The humor in the set may not be to everyone’s taste but MST3K is an interesting enough distraction and is a great introduction for those uninitiated with the series or B-Movies in general not to mention trip down memory land for those who remember the series from it’s first run on television.

Extras

  • 20 Year History of MST3K (in 3 parts)
  • 2008 Comic-Con International Reunion Panel
  • Original Trailers

Mystery Science Theatre 3000 – 20th Anniversary Ed is available on DVD from Beyond Home Entertainment.

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