Case Number 15729: Small Claims Court


Shout! Factory // 1989 // 360 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // February 18th, 2009

The Charge

If you're wondering how he eats and breathes
And other science facts
Then repeat to yourself, "It's just a show
I should really just relax."

The Case

Four more reasons why Mystery Science Theater 3000 was one of the smartest and funniest shows to ever grace the airwaves.

The Mad Monster (1942; Episode 103)
A vengeance-happy mad scientist (George Zucco, The Pirate) turns his gardener into a murderous wolfman to destroy those who've wronged him. ("It's kinda like an early music video, isn't it?" "Yeah, before they invented 'action'...or Paula Abdul.")

Tom Servo falls in love with a blender, and Joel helps the bots try to figure out the biology of wolfpeople.

Short: An installment of the serial Radar Men on the Moon ("A little tweak on the nipples, and I'm outta here!")

Manhunt in Space (1956; Episode 413)
Episodes of the series Rocky Jones, Space Ranger were edited together to make this feature about pirates in outer space. Watch as space becomes a better place with the adventures of Rocky, Vena, Winkie, and precocious little Bobby. ("I got a headache this big, and it's got Bobby written all over it.")

The bots want Joel to play soap opera; Winkie visits the Satellite of Love.

Short: Creepy goings on in an early episode of General Hospital. ("Here comes Nurse-feratu.")

Soultaker (1990; Episode 1001)
Joe Estevez (uncle of Emilio, brother of Martin Sheen) stars as an Angel of Death type hot on the trail of some teens who didn't quite die in a car accident. It's his job to get their souls. ("No messy soul residue!")

Mike and the bots have a wet t-shirt contest, and the Satellite of Love gets a Very Special Visitor.

Final Justice (1985; Episode 1008)
A fat Texas lawman (Joe Don Baker, The Pack) finds himself in Malta chasing a fugitive. ("I'm wearing spurs on your Italian marble.")

Tom Servo's exploration of the song, "Owner of a Lonely Heart" takes a troubling turn, and Maltese culture takes a beating -- in more ways than one -- at the hands of the bots.

A quick update for the uninitiated: Mystery Science Theater 3000 was the brainchild of comedian Joel Hodgson. Joel starred as Joel, a guy trapped on a space ship (the Satellite of Love) with robots (Cambot, Gypsy, Tom Servo, Crow). They are all forced to watch terrible movies. Joel, Servo, and Crow, riff along with the awful films and take a few breaks for some sketch humor. Joel left the show in 1993 and was replaced by Mike Nelson, the series head writer. In some fanboy circles, this was cause for meltdown, though in retrospect, the transition was far smoother than it had a right to be. Mike's character was different enough from Joel that the series was able to get a fresh start while not losing its focus.

If you're not a full-on MSTie or if you're just getting your feet wet, Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XIV is a good place to start. The set contains one of the earliest episodes, a solid entry from the midway point, and two episodes from the last season, one of which -- Soultaker -- is an MST3K latter-day classic.

The Mad Monster is from MST3K's first season televised nationally over the now-defunct Comedy Channel. (The real "first season" was broadcast locally on a Minneapolis UHF channel.) The Mad Monster is a fun episode, and Radar Men on the Moon a cool treat, but this is definitely the weakest episode in this set. The jokes just aren't as sharp, and the guys don't seem as in synch as they do later. Not helping matters is that the film itself is in wretched shape and barely watchable, full of scratches and jumps. The Mad Monster is one of two Joel episodes on this set. The other, the fourth season's Manhunt in Space, is far better, a natural target for the hip and sarcastic MST style.

The two episodes from Season 10 are the best here.

Soultaker, with its low-budget pretensions and famous-relative star, is a riot, and an "important" episode in the MSTie canon, as it features the return of Joel and the only time Joel meets Mike.

In a likely unintentional, shot-in-a-warehouse-ran-to-a-theater type of coincidence, the fourth movie on this set, the hilarious Final Justice, stars Joe Don Baker, whose film Mitchell was featured in the episode where Joel leaves and Mike takes over. At the end of Final Justice, Mike references Mitchell and Joel's departure, meaning Joel, in presence or in spirit, turns up on every disc in this set.

The shows look and sound exactly as they did when broadcast, down to the pop up with the address for the MST3k fan club.

For extras, we get the trailer for The Mad Monster; interviews with Joe Estevez and Greydon Clark, writer and director of Final Justice; and Mike and the bots giving the MST treatment to a segment of ESPN's Cheap Seats Without Ron Parker, which was itself a riff on MST3K. Frankly, none of these extras is especially compelling. The interviews are the kinds of bland supplements you might find on a regular DVD release of these films, and the Cheap Seats bash, while funny, just kind of comes out of nowhere. If you're not familiar with Cheap Seats (I wasn't), it's not going to make a lot of sense. Each disc comes in its own slimline case, and we also get "limited edition" mini-posters for the MST versions of the films.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XIV is a great sampler of this great series. Here's to more sets from Shout! Factory.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2009 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 88

Perp Profile
Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
* 2.76:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 360 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Featurette
* Interviews
* Mini-posters

* IMDb: Mystery Science Theater 3000

* IMDb: The Mad Monster

* IMDb: Manhunt in Space

* IMDb: Soultaker

* IMDb: Final Justice

* Official Site

* Official Fan Site