I’m a very specific kind of collector when it comes to geeky memorabilia and other collections. I don’t just snag every copy of a thing so I can turn my TARDIS-like apartment into a library beyond belief. I collect the things that I want because they mean something to me, and that includes home media. One of the few goals I have in my life is to collect all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes from now until the day they stop making them. It was a pretty obtainable goal… until our passions overran our fandom and we helped bring the series back, which will officially premiere on Netflix on April 14. yes, I’m sure I’ll be able to get all of those on DVD someday too, but for now, my quest for the originals continues forward as Shout! Factory released Volume XXXVIII this past Tuesday.
The volume has four films from a particular era in the time of MST3K, by which we mean that instead of them being split evenly between both hosts, you get four episodes with Mike Nelson and none featuring Joel Hodgson. The four films include Invasion USA (1952), Colossus and The Headhunters (1960), High School Big Shot (1959) and Track of the Moon Beast (1976). Each of them come with their own little quirks that make them prime candidates for riffing, such as Colossus having one of the worst audio dubs you’ll ever see and hear while the bots hack it apart for the voice synching. Or the repetitive dialog and poor film quality of Moon Beast while Mike mocks the repeated lines. But the best of the bunch has ti be Invasion USA as the crew tear the paranoia of the late-’50s apart as they prepare for the Cold War to happen on camera.
As always, these discs come with bonus content not originally part of the episode, presented by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures. Moon Beast comes with a chat from actress Leigh Drake about her involvement with the film, which includes her own disgust over it until the humor was pointed out to her. High School has the entire original film intact (because the show had to cut out some good chunks) as well as the theatrical trailer. Invasion USA also comes with a trailer, and a feature on Albert Zugsmith, who did a lot of exploitation films during the ’50s and ’60s. But the best feature of them all is “Mike, By Joel”, which is a featurette on Mike narrated by Joel, which includes his thoughts on Mike’s performance after he took over. It’s a cool and sweet look at him through the eyes of the creator and fitting since it’s a Mike-centric collection. And it wouldn’t be a complete collection without the four small posters of the box art to hang on the wall.
The last few volumes have been coming out with these specialty DVDs to the side that aren’t episodes per se, but do have episode content and other fun materials. This one comes with “MST3K Play MSTie For Me Triple Decker.” Why they didn’t just call it “METsK Jukebox” is beyond me, but that’s exactly what it is—39 different songs and bits created by the show over the entire run. It includes classics like “The Waffle Song” and “A Patrick Swayze Christmas,” as well as obscure numbers you totally forgot they created like “Sodium!” and “Where Oh Werewolf.” If you love the songs they created, this is the perfect thing to have as it’s just those bits and little else attached to them.
Now Volume XXXVIII may not be the strongest set of films out of the whole selection, but it isn’t the weakest either. These all have found that nice middle ground where you can kick back and enjoy the episode, even if you don’t get all the references. Which is saying something since a couple of them come fresh off the heels of Joel leaving while the cast and crew find a new level of enjoyment with Mike at the helm as host. A must have tot he MSTies out there, but a fine addition to the casual fan who may not appreciate Mike’s tenure and could use a second look.