The Episodes (3.5/5)
I can attribute Mystery Science Theater 3000 along with a few other cable/network movie shows that helped me become the movie fan I am today. Most people look at MST3K as a show that made fun of bad movies, but watching movies on Mystery Science Theatre you begin to see the distinction between the good perceived as bad (Danger Diabolik, This Island Earth), the entertaining bad (Mitchell, Santa Claus), and the headache inducingly bad (There is a circle of Hell solely reserved for Manos: The Hands of Fate).
The concept behind the show for those of you who do not know (all 5 of you), a man either the original Joel Robinson or later on Mike Nelson has been sent to a satellite hovering above Earth for a series of experiments. These experiments involve watching bad movies and documenting the effect on the subject. In order to not lose his marbles Joel takes spare parts from around the “Satellite of Love” and creates a few robots to keep him company in and out of the movie theater. Joel/Mike Crow T. Robot, and Tom Servo spend the majority of the show watching the movie experiment of the week, and making fun of it.
What we have here is the 16th DVD set of Mystery Science Theater 3000. This set like the ones before it includes 4 episodes of the show. This is the third set that Shout Factory! Has released since taking over distribution of the series from Rhino. Included in the set are the episodes Night of the Blood Beast(Thanksgiving episode), Santa Claus (Christmas Special), The Corpse Vanishes, and Warrior of the Lost World.
This is one of the most gleefully offensive holiday films, I have ever seen, and would actually probably watch this straight with no MST3K commentary in the future. It takes a concept that South Park has since long run with Santa versus Satan. In this movie Santa must face off against the devil to prevent the children of the world from being corrupted by old scratch. This is an extremely bizarre film, and contains one of the best commentaries provided on the set.
Warrior of the Lost World
Warrior of the Lost World is a Robert Ginty starring Italian Mad Max knock off. It involves a man played by Ginty who is only named “The Rider.” The Rider finds himself among a community of rebels who are fighting against the Big Brother-esque “New Way.” After being accepted into their rebellion after winning a fight. He begins to reluctantly assist the rebellion in a way that only a too cool to be part of your rebellion post-apocalyptic drifer could. The film co-stars Donald Pleasance and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson. The MST3K commentary is absolutely hysterical, and the movie adds a lot of fuel to the fire.
The Corpse Vanishes
The Corpse Vanishes is a public access staple. When I worked for a public access station in Seattle, I even programmed this one in a few late night slots to fill time, and that's what this film really does. The Corpse Vanishes tells the story of a mad scientist played by Bela Lugosi. He has recently created a serum using the fluids from virginal young brides to maintain his wife's youth. The film sort of is a cross between a detective thriller and a cheesy horror film with the film feeling more like the latter.
The episode is ironically taken from the first season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 which aired on Minneapolis station KTMA in the late 80's. The episode isn't very good, the production values are extremely low (This is sub Doctor Who stuff people!), but you can definitely already see what the show would become. The commentary is funny, but has quite a few slow bits.
Night of the Blood Beast
Night of the Blood Beast is one of the MST3K Thanksgiving specials. It kicks off with a short film about a wife who wants a better life for her and her songwriter husband, and an angel who attempts to make that happen. The feature film Night of the Blood Beast is an epic of trash that whose only competition is something like Robot Monster.
This film features a bunch of survivors from an alien attack on a space base banding together to fight off the titular blood beast. The episode starts out slow with the short film (although it should be said that the short is absurdly funny on it's own), and the establishing acts of the movie. However, toward the last half the commentary starts really rolling, as ends up becoming one of the highlights of this set.
The episodes are presented in their original full frame transfer. The transfer do not look good, but they are the same that were used during the original airings of the show, and as such are still edited for TV. The audio on the episodes is clear and understandable all the way through all 4 episodes. No distortion or background noise is present on these tracks.
Shout Factory has really loaded up with extras. First up the holiday episodes Santa Claus and Night of the Blood Beast feature their original holiday presentations, and then the alternate versions that aired later on. Also included are the bumpers for the episodes. Santa Claus pretty much got the Criterion treatment on it's disc. It features a 42 minute long documentary chronicling the history of the film. It also features a promotional spot for another documentary this one on K. Gordon Murray. The disc is rounded up with trailers, radio spots, and a gallery of stills from the film.
Warriors of the Lost World has the unique distinction of having a interview with the director of the film David Worth. The director talks about the film in the context of his career, and his feelings about the MST3K skewing of the film. Not too many directors would go on to talk about this sort of thing, so this offers some interesting context into the mind of filmmakers who have been riffed by the MST3K crew over the years.
The weakest disc in the set is the Corpse Vanishes and only features a trailer for the film. Included with the set are some MST3K mini-posters designed for each film, and an awesome Tom Servo action figure that would go nicely with last year's Crow T. Robot action figure from Volume XIV.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Vol. XVI contains 3 great episodes, and one good and historically interesting episode of the show. If you're a fan you've already picked it up, or it's on your holiday list. For everyone else it is well worth checking out if you're interested in the show as it contains 3 great episodes 2 of which are essential holiday viewing.