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Case Number 03743

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Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Volume 4

Rhino // 2003 // 500 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // December 18th, 2003

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Volume 1 (published December 19th, 2002), Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Volume 2 (published June 27th, 2003), Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Volume 3 (published July 9th, 2003), Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Volume 5 (published April 14th, 2004), Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Volume 6 (published January 12th, 2005), Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Volume 7 (published May 11th, 2005), Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Volume 8 (published June 28th, 2006), Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Volume 9 (published June 26th, 2006), Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Volume 10 (published October 18th, 2006), and Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Volume 12 (published November 21st, 2007) are also available.

The Charge

To be…or not to be…huge!

Opening Statement

There is nothing more difficult than resurrecting a once-dead television show. Some can argue that finding a hooker with an actual heart of gold or a politician with a sense of moral purpose would be the tougher haul, but when it gets right down to it, bringing back from the video void a once popular program is like extracting meatballs from Anna Nicole's pie-hole. The justification is simple: for some reason, fan frenzy, online petitioning, or a desire on the part of producers to whip their cash cow to within an inch of its life keeps the creative in a constant clamor to exploit that which worked well once before. But usually after it's been cancelled and last episoded, to try and recapture the routine and ratings of a previously enjoyed entity of electronic entertainment usually spells dee-saster. The New Avengers is a good example of remixing the martini one too many times. During its heyday, the show was a suave spy send-up, surviving cast changes and tone shifts with a stiff upper lip and lots of gin blossoms. But when 1976 rolled around and another attempt at Emma Peeling jackknifed into a disco Dante's inferno, no amount of Patrick McGee's three-piece suiting could cure the cancer. The New Monkees was also a born again bad idea, since the producers decided to not even approach the original pre-Fab Four but, instead, create their own boy toy alliance, years before bonding with such pre-tweens was considered cool…or legally acceptable. Recently, we've seen Battlestar Galactica, otherwise known as "the sucky Star Wars" (of course, that was until The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones hit big screens) try and trick an audience into believing that updating and reconfiguring a terrible travesty would somehow spark specialness.

So what made the makers of Mystery Science Theater 3000 think they could recast gold in another variation on yet another no-name cable channel? True, Comedy Central's cancellation coldcocking came as the show was going through a kind of renaissance. Joel's departure made way for Mike and his more homespun, viewer friendly demeanor. And even with TV's Frank leaving, the core concept still seemed solid. So what made them decide to go geek, give their souls over to a science fiction fraudcast station, and change Crow's voice? The answers to these questions, and more, can be found in the first set of episodes released on DVD culled exclusively from the Sci-Fi Channel Era, Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection Volume 4.

Facts of the Case

This box set contains four episodes all coming from the Sci-Fi Channel days, two from season eight and two from season ten. Oddly, only 50% have futuristic themes. The other two installments feature massacred classic literature and go-go dancers (sometimes, both in the same film). In order of appearance on disc, we get:

Girl In Gold Boots (Episode 1002): Back in those swinging sin days of the mid-1960s, as free love was giving way to human sordidness and war protesting was still almost exclusively song based, a diner dame could actually dream of going to the big city and getting a job in the most glamorous of all professions: dancing go-go. When Buzz, an incredibly old looking juvenile delinquent type, stops over at an off-road greasy spoon to realign his shorthairs, he meets Michele, an equally matronly waitress who seems to be working for horsefly bites. He sweet and sweat talks the long-in-the-tooth lass into coming to California with him to seek her fortune as a half-dressed hoofer. He even claims his rag hag sister will help her get started. So Michele gives her two drink notice, and then it's her and Buzz and a dog named Boo…oh wait. They don't have a dog. But they do adopt a Critter. Along the way, these two crazy middle-aged kids meet up with the oddly monikered man, a strange countrified fellow who speaks like he swallowed a copy of Ms. Manners as written by Junior Samples. Together the trio arrives at The Haunted House, one of those classy theme strip clubs that balding beefy Johnson-era businessman loved to entertain "clients" at. Michele does get help from the ditzy, pill-popping sister Joanie (headliner of the flaccid floor show and the title tapper), and soon she too is cutting a ribald rug. Buzz falls in with a criminal drug ring run by Leo, the club's manager, and Critter turns out to be a pretty decent songwriter and even better draft dodger. Like the head of a zit, things get nasty and ready to pop and when they finally do, there's not a single pair of gold boots to be found. Just bloody bare feet along the boulevard of broken dreams.

Hamlet (Episode 1009): Not sure if any of you have heard about this sordid saga of Denmark gone death wish, but here goes. A sad sack prince returns home from brooding school to discover that his daddy has been ear slaughtered and that his uncle is tub-thumping his mom. And even worse, the rogue relative has also named himself the new king, right over Hamlet's gloomy birthright. Ham gets all glum about the circumstances and talks to himself a great deal in mind-bendingly long non-internal monologues. He sees ghosts, gives his one time girlfriend Ophelia some rather rude convent-based advice, and formulates all manner of overly articulate plans for getting revenge. Eventually, our depressed Dane decides that the best way to tell everyone that their new leader is an underhanded, sniveling killing machine is to get some actors together and stage a play about the dastardly deed. Seems Hamlet is hoping that once His Royal Heinous suddenly witnesses the moving performances and close-to-home narrative, he will jump up and confess out of pent-up guilt. Well, it's time to chime "Wrong again, Danish breath" as things don't work out quite the way anyone planned. The entire court ends up sword fighting. Everyone dies. Endless literature classes are created. A subject called English is invented. Numerous PhD's are awarded. Gilligan's Island does a great musical parody of it. Millions of high school kids are bored. The End.

Overdrawn At The Memory Bank (Episode 822): In the not to distant future, everyone will work for a Big Brother style hyperglobalmegacorporation that will treat you like a slave and force you to sit at a computer desk all day punching in code…oh wait. Anyway, Aram Fingal is one of the DOS drones that just can't keep his finger on the button. Like most of his fellow chair moisteners in this oppressive mall mezzanine social order, Fingal loves to watch old movies. Indeed, all forced laborers for Microsoft 2044 sit and pine for the moment when the boss isn't scanning their brain so that they can boggle or boogle or buggle into the magical worlds of Andy Hardy, Zazu Pitts, and Steppin Fetchit. When Fingal's radical ideas about personal freedom and hygiene are seen as threatening by the mind police—AKA the psychiatric community—he is forced to dopple into the crazy cortex of another being as kind of a pseudo luxury spa lobotomy. So he acquiesces and while under the technological spell, he is accidentally transported into the mind of a monkey and much poo flinging occurs. Realizing he has to save himself, he figures out a way to un-dipple the nipple and re-flippy the floppy to gain access to the mainframe and his ultimate flick fantasy: Casablanca. That's right, it's not long before Fingal fights Novicorp and its human fat cell "The Chairman" right there in Rick's Cafe Americain. He even drags the computer controlling assistant Appollonia along for the fetid ride into Hollywood's virtual reality past. And all this to merely topple a megalomaniacal monopoly.

Space Mutiny (Episode 820): Earth is destroyed and a ragtag group of the most bizarrely dressed dissidents make their escape aboard the Battlestar Galactica…wait, no, aboard the Setting Son, or the Wayward Sea, or a Carnival Cruise—something like that—and head off into the stars. The main objective of this intergalactic pleasure tour is to transport these last remaining Earthlings into the void of space, where they can procreate to their hearts and hips content and provide the next generation of crew members who will maneuver eventually this "Love" boat to the new interplanetary home, Alpha Beta Seti Prime Directive. But sad badass Kalgan doesn't like the idea of endless nookie without a place to put your feet up. He wants the Crimson Permanent Assurance to put in at any old planet port so he can stretch his space legs (and pants) and get a tattoo before he goes bonkers. Our bath salts soldier gets a further ragtag group from the original ragtag party and starts a space mutiny of horny seditious men. Just as he's starting to get his traitor on, a big beefy slab of a superhero crash lands on the Bounty and makes it his mission to stop Kalgan. Dave Ryder, or as he is lovingly known, Pec Boulderdome, finds life on the Raging Queen an extraterrestrial delight, especially after meeting Jansen, the burly bearded leader and Lea, his post-menopausal daughter (?). Ryder is immediately smitten with the aging kitten and it's not long before their bumping birth and stretch marks in the holodeck. But soon duty and nature calls, and Pec must battle Kalgan to the death, or otherwise he'll be stuck helping Lea find her lost celestial Polident for the rest of his hopefully short-timed life.

The Evidence

When Mystery Science Theater 3000 said its final, 2001-inspired goodbye to Comedy Central, it's future was very much up in the air. Many held out hope that this beloved bright bemusement would find a new honorable home in which to work their movie riffing magic. Days went by, and then months. With a failed feature film in and out of theaters like hummus through a supermodel and no other options, it looked like no one was interested in an entirely cult based puppet show that featured wise-assed entities (both human and inanimate) making fun of really bad old movies. Then the Sci-Fi Channel came along and said "What the hey." They ordered up a season's worth of fetid films and added an additional, fateful mandate: the movies all had to have a basis in science fiction/fantasy/horror. They then asked the Best Brains to jazz things up a little by having the whole show work within a serialized setting, with definite, linear locations and weekly adventures taking the place of most introductory/epilogue skits. An entire new cast of characters was created, a constantly evolving nation of newbies for Mike and the robots to run into and against. It wasn't long before they would disappear and another odd assortment of the arcane would take their place. By the end of the run, the new and improved MST3K had been all over the universe, forward and backward in time and intermingling with all manner of life forms, both recognizable and suspect. It meant that the show was always changing, reinventing, and polishing. But just as they seemed to settle in on a threesome of villains and a dark castle mad scientist lab, the threat (and eventuality) of cancellation reared its retarded head.

The jury is still out—kind of—on Pearl Forrester, Professor Bobo, The Brain Guy/Observer, and the rest of that wacky bunch that were introduced when Mystery Science went over to the Sci-Fi Channel. Instead of having a standard us vs. them dynamic at play between the Satellite of Love and Deep 13, Pearl and her ever-changing crew of criminal cronies and hench…things existed in various sometimes confusing time/space/historical arenas. One series it would be a Planet of the Apes-ish realm with speaking simians who made Nova seem like a genius, then without any advanced word, we'd be stuck in mid-space while Mom Forrester babysat for some of the most offensive galaxy bratlings alive. Either it was ancient Rome or the Observer planet, the farthest reaches of space or a castle in the Black Forest. As hard as they tried, as much fun as they seemed to be having, and as fresh as some of the humor was (kiss "Hi-Keeba" and "Dickweed" goodbye), the Sci-Fi MST sometimes just feels too new, as if it was still trying to come down from the high of being resurrected and the mandates of said reprieve. But not everything novel was for the best. Perhaps the worst facet for fans coming directly from the Comedy Central days was the significant lack of Trace Beaulieu. One of the cornerstones of the original show (he was around during the initial formative KTMA days), his razor wit and wonderful robot performance was suddenly gone. No more Dr. Clayton Forrester. No more Crow T. Robot as irritated innocent. While the more than capable Bill Corbett took over for the golden bird-dog thing, fans mourned. And while Corbett is good, he has succeeded in making Crow over in his own image. So gone was the good natured and willed Crow and we now had to welcome a darkly sarcastic spiteful little pile of plastic.

Thankfully, all qualms aside, the Sci-Fi version of the show is just as inventive, just as irreverent, and just as insane as the previous versions. The bad news is that this DVD only lets you experience a small smidgen of this. You are simply handed Observer without knowing his backstory (or his weird planet of bodiless entities holding their brains in their hands), and Professor Bobo has none of his Ape planet set up. Both basically come across as a goofball in a monkey suit and a pale white gay guy. The pragmatic reasons for not presenting MST3K in complete seasons has been explained over and over again (read: $$$), but to drop us into the Roman story mid-point, or have us, in the next episode, stranded in space is seriously disconcerting. Only the most knowledgeable fan will get the full effect of these shows since they will understand the interpersonal and pseudo-human dynamics going on. Heck, the only explanation you get for Crow's new voice is in the opening jingle where he brays "I'm Different." There was an episode early on in the first Sci-Fi season that explained why he is different, but it is not here. What's here is wonderful but it does make for an occasionally confusing sketch or two. Let's take a deeper look, shall we? Good.

Girl In Gold Boots

If ever a movie wanted to make you leave your humdrum life and run off to join the chorus line, it would not be this one. Ted V. Mikels, directing like he just discovered the viewfinder, stages this entire exploitation no-skin flick with a medium shot mania that just won't quit. Every dance number, every musical moment, every exchange between two oily criminals is composed so that everyone and everything fills the screen from head to toe, top to bottom. The story here is standard stage door melodrama, except now it's drenched in politics, drugs, and very mature actors. No one looks the age they are playing here. Most seem to be in the twilight of their youth—around 40—and most have a very mannered way in which they act. Take Leslie McRae as Michele. She seems frozen in a breathy sigh, always speaking her lines like she studied with Julie Newmar at the Marilyn Monroe Birthday Greeting School of Delivery. She's less animated than the eyelashes the loopy loaded Joanie wears. Now here's a character that seems like she's always waiting for her facelift to come undone. On the boy side, Buzz is a criminal head of Play-Doh suffering from the elements and crimped far too hard. Leo, along with his henchmen Marty, comes from the greasy BO school of suave. But it's hero/hunk Critter, with his Lee Hazelwood meets the morgue musical quality, who steals the movie outright. Between his hillbilly maxims, his Grizzly Adams attitude, and guitarzaniness, we have a leading man as lackadaisical lazybones. Even when everything is spelled out for him in black and blood; when the drugs and the drag and the dramarama serpentines into a mess of methadone, menses, and mascara, all he can manage is a sigh, a song, and a Champale burp. Like the rest of the cast in this sloppy strip joint soap opera, he seems so detached as to be secluded on his own idiot's island.

Rumor has it that Kevin "Tom Servo" Murphy championed the use of this film as part of the MST canon for years, and thankfully he somehow got Sci-Fi to agree. After all, even with the massive amount of cosmetics, silicone, and other body fakery, this is still not a futuristic fantasy film or mega-monster movie…or maybe…it is! On the other hand, Mike and the Bots are in fine form, and the movie is so camp classic crappy that they are practically handed satirical soundbites to lob at the audience—especially whenever the cracked china doll Joanie or atonal counterculture Elvis Critter shows up. These two characters, along with the terrible music in the movie, enliven the gang as to make their mockery that much more painfully funny. As for the skits, most of the SOL stuff is silly and fun, but the best material comes as Pearl tries to get certified as a genuine Mad Scientist. It's a gas watching her explain her methodology and goals to a weird gothic bureaucrat. The show is still tossing about strange, incredibly obscure reference (Buffy Saint Marie anyone?) and using the musical number to wreak unholy havoc (Mike's rainy day ditty is another classic). Overall, this episode indicated that the Sci-Fi series was settling down into a good, habitual setting and circumstance from whence another long series run could be gleaned. Unfortunately, MST3K would be cancelled after only 11 more shows.

Hamlet

The poor Dane. His dad is dead. His mom married the man who killed him. His girlfriend is a whack job (not the kind of j.o.b. he was looking for), he sees dead people, and his best friend can't quiet get his finances worked out. Amidst all this scandal and intrigue, these monumental moments of dramatic irony and double-dealing, all our hero can do is chatter. Prattle. Blather. Like a one-man Tower of Babble, he runs his mouth like he is in desperate need of a mega dose of oral Kaopectate. There is just no stopping him. Wherever action is called for, whenever an instant demands his mobility and proceeding, he drops off, tunes out, and turns to the audience in a mad attempt to explain his innermost thoughts in 40,000 couplets of less. And it's not like his wordiness is wise. He is just, basically, complaining. About his girlfriend's lack of nunnery getting. About how dear old dead daddy had a little bit of an earwax problem and his unctuous uncle's underhandedness cleared it up with an unguent made from deadly nightshade. Still, Hammy-let can teach us a thing or two about dealing with life's little destruction book. For example, just because you don't intend to do anything about something, doesn't mean you can't have a several volume opinion about it. When faced with the choice of existing, or not existing, don't immediately answer the quandary but, instead, make a really long speech out of it which high schools kids will be forced to memorize centuries later. In 2003, Hamlet represents the quintessential slacker—pissed off at his life and surroundings, but too filled with funk punk ennui to do much about it except sponge off of mom and step-dad, bitching and moaning the entire time. Something, indeed, is rotten in the State of Denmark. And it's our spoiled little passive protester.

In the literary life, you either love Shakespeare or you don't, and the Germans definitely do not. This 1960 television version of the Bard's brainchild is so cold and calculated it's like Berlin in February. Many consider Hamlet to be (or not to be) the perfect performance piece, the ultimate drama and the titular tragedy, but in the hands of these talented, if apparently traumatized, Teutonic thespians, all the power and glory is gone. What's left is an Aryan atrocity filled with fetid Frankfurters. It's interesting to see how the MST crowd works within one of the literary sources they referenced so often. And the answer is that they are awesome. Mike and his robot pals are electric here, careening through obscure fictional asides, random jabs, and brutal character assaults. And if the proof for something's mythical worth lies in the number of ways one can make fun of and draw humorous sketches from it, then Hamlet is a licensed guffaw goldmine, as all the skits in this episode are just as classic as the play itself. Crow and Tom's attempts at "spooking" Mike like Hamlet's father are priceless, as is the hilarious "Alas Poor, Who?" a game show in which skulls are examined by players (in this case Tom and Crow) who then try to guess who they are. Even the setup is clever, with Mike winning at Three Card Monty and getting to pick the movie. Little did he or the audience know it would be this death camp version of Shakespeare's classic.

Overdrawn At The Memory Bank

Somebody find and kill the borderline basket case who thought of making a sci-fi thriller out of a combination holographic displacement and the Hollywood classic Casablanca, hopefully before they can mix and match again. Overdrawn at the Memory Bank is a teleplay travesty. Raul Julia, appearing embarrassed for even considering this monkey turd of a project, wanders around looking lost switching between a vague Hispanic accent and a faux Bogarted Humphrey that makes Fred Travalena and Rich Little seem like friggin' geniuses. He is supposed to be an anarchist, a rebel without a cursor as he undermines the mega-corporate notion of faceless, nameless number slaves (hey, if you had a name like Aram Fingal, you'd be dying for a digital nomenclature replacement pronto). But seeing the stupid way he wants to undermine authority, you wish they would have left his brain in the festering lice ridden baboon when they had the chance/ (See, in the future, hardworking indentured web designers love to relax by letting their mind meld—via technology—with various fur and disease bearing animals. And people think NASCAR is stupid.) But no, some shape in a drape named Appollonia has to rescue him, the world, and our fond memories of Ingrid Bergman as she raccoons her way through silly counterfeit scientific half speak in a mad attempt to return Fingal to his dingle, and visa versa. In the end, there is some overbaked resolution complete with a visual graphic sequence straight out of the opening to John Byner's Bizarre, some guy named Sam plays a song, and Fingal and Appy head out into the rays of a new sun to dopple down those Donny Brooks, so Fingal can do what he please. You can see it now: a whole world full of Fingals.

It's amazing that broadcast anything network (?) Fox has yet to come up with a television special based on the concept of When Science Fiction Concepts Go Bad. How anyone at WNET in New York could think this underdone innerspace adventure was anything but an elaborate joke has got to have their cred examined. But at least the public television roots gave birth to a wonderful set up for an MST3K show. Again, this is a case where the premise for the show sometimes outshines what is going on in the theater (which is some of the best quipping of the series, by the way). Public Pearl TV, Forrester's version of PBS, is a "why haven't they done this before" bit of classic lampooning that is second only to SCTV's Telethon sketch in making fun of the pledge drive diorama. Pearl and Brain Guy's hilarious song "When Loving Lovers Love" is pitch perfect, and the phone bank pleas are equally glorious. Even the non-Pearl related sketches (Crow's catchphrase, Tom Servo doppling down to the Nanite world) are great. But there is a bit of a bugaboo here that references back to a previous discussion. Pearl relies a great deal on Ortega in this episode, but since we have yet to be introduced to him on DVD (he comes from show 812—"The Incredibly Strange Creatures who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies," one yet to find its way onto home video) those without Sci-Fi or previous experience with the weird looking lug will just be baffled.

Space Mutiny

The AARP have done a lot of good for the aged population of the United States. They have fought for maintaining the integrity of Social Security. They have helped defeat age discrimination and mobilized a loud and lucrative political force for senior's rights. So perhaps we can forgive them for signing off on the casting of Space Mutiny. After all, once they saw how hard octogenarian Cisse Cameron was trying at being young and perky, when they saw her aerobics meets Alzheimer's outfits, when they witnessed the massive amount of mortician's wax she used to fill in her face craters, they had to be pleased. After all, nothing spells good publicity for an elderly think tank than one of their own making it big in an action movie. Too bad she had to co-star along side the human suet factory Reb (not short for Rebel, but for Reb-pugnant) Brown and his pecs of renown. This steroided stud has the kind of could have been a pretender bodybuilder bunk that makes him appear ballooned, not bulked up. With most of the hyper-fattening weight gain formula he must consume going straight to his motor skills, he has to struggle through even the most involuntary muscle contraction or face possible personality paralysis (too late). He is all squat and no thrust. Add "was once Diabolik but now looks alcoholic" John Phillip Law with a greasy hairdo and a even oilier acting style, and you've got the worst film about a battle in space since a certain industrial light and magic man shat on his own interstellar franchise. Perhaps the single least endearing aspect of Space Mutiny is that it borrows effects shots from Battlestar Galactica and then tries to find a way to incorporate them into the plot. It also introduces a bunch of anorexic models that are supposedly witches, but they even get the first letter of that wicked label wrong.

Apparently, to crib a classic movie tagline, in South Africa, no one can hear you scream. Otherwise the torment that the actors had to go through in making this mindless drivel would have been heard all the way to the UN. Space Mutiny may have been a decent straight to video variation on the classic interstellar soap opera, a struggle between the enlightened and the frightened, but the bamboozling bad way it is handled here makes it horrendous in each and every one of its arid aspects. Like the classic episodes of old, the cast and situation here gives Mike, Crow, and Tom plenty of repetitive ribaldry to use. They rely on the same killer quips to build the humor into an explosion of comedy. Every time they ridicule Cisse Cameron's age, address hero Dave Ryder by a new joke name (Slab Beefwell…Chest McLargehuge), or deconstruct Cameron Mitchell's outer space Santa, you can feel the halcyon days of MST3K returning. Along with Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, this episode has the best in-theater riffing in the set. But as for the bookends, we are again at the tail end of the new show's serialized skits. We don't learn how Pearl and her plebes ended up in ancient Rome. We don't know why the Empress is mad at them. We don't understand why Brain Guy is so stupid. And we just don't get the necessary impact of the entire Ancient Rome storyline. While the rest of the movie merriment and skit wit is great, the beginning and end bollocks tends to make you scratch your head more that tickle your funny bone.

Overall, The Mystery Science Theater Collection Vol. 4 is a good indication of how the Sci-Fi version of the show progressed. Thanks to the limits placed on them in the first two seasons (of which Space Mutiny and Overdrawn at the Memory Bank are prime examples), they had to trudge through a great deal of mindless science fiction farting to achieve their consistent greatness. This may also explain why shows like Girl in Gold Boots or even the tough to tolerate Hamlet seem a little fresher. While Space and Overdrawn are the best for classic comic ridicule, Girl and Hamlet open up the show's skits to the same possibilities that it had in the past, and the reinvigoration was welcome. One can only imagine how the show would continue to blossom and grow after having their cinematic horizons broadened by the bean counters. But the reality is Sci-Fi did an exact Comedy Central and claimed bad ratings and improper demographics, and again it was time for another cancellation farewell. By the end of Season 10, Pearl had grown into a formidable, loveable villain, Bobo's baboon meets buffoon antics were just plain dumb fun, and Brain Guy's gay-related sensibilities were sly and subversive. But just like other supremacy not appreciated in its time, MST3K seems always destined to fall under a middle manager's axe. The favored cow town puppet show is again off the air. At the end of 2003, the last remaining reruns will finally stop rotating and the world will again be without this clever conceit. Thanks to Rhino, we can at least revisit a few of the classic (and semi-classic) moments from its rich history.

The DVD presentation here is good, but not great. Rhino went out of its way to get Mike Nelson to introduce each episode. Translation is that for about 20 to 40 seconds before each show starts, Mike appears in front of a black backdrop and discusses in a friendly manner the things he remembers about each show. Sometimes they are funny, other times he seems to be killing time. While it's always welcome to hear one of the Brains discussing the series, this is not commentary or even interview worthy material. It's pleasant and appreciated, but doesn't take the place of major bonus material. Not even the inclusion of a trailer and a TV spot for Girl in Gold Boots makes up for the lack of MST, Best Brains, or individual performer based bonuses.

Visually, the show looks great. The transfer from video is crisp without any bleeding or haloing and there is sharpness to the image that's wonderful. On the audio side, MST3K was never a speaker-sparking offering, so unless you care that all you'll get is a front channel heavy, crystal clear, non-immersive sound, then leave the aural issues alone. About the only downside fans will have with the latest packaging of Volume 4 is that there is a tiny planet "button" that sticks out a good 1/4" from the box that makes neat side-by-side placement in a bookshelf system impossible. Maybe Rhino thought that you'd be too busy watching it, having the set out so often that there was no need for it to be put it away, but the non-flat façade makes the packaging a strange situation indeed.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I've ranted before, therefore I will not rant again. But some worthy contextual material would be nice here. Thanks for listening.

Closing Statement

It's not surprising that Mystery Science Theater 3000 bucked the trends and found a way to reinvent itself for Sci-Fi. After all, the series built its reputation on having to constantly shift gears based on the movie being done any given week. One episode they'd be immersed in Asian anarchy as Godzilla or Gamera was running around Tokyo having a Toyota temper tantrum, another time it would be the Serbo-Croatian call of the Eastern Block as wildly warped fantasy films about woman-headed birds and Sampos scream across the screen. It was actually a challenge for the MST3K crew to come up with a linear story arch and serialized installments for each new show. The fact that, with a couple of missteps along the way, they managed to make it work is one of the wonders of the show. It bears repeating that this was one of the few television vehicles where success or failure was measured on how well the writers reacted to material crafted by others, basing their entire ability to entertain on how well they deconstructed the usually awful cinematic work of amateur auteurs. It's a privilege for movies as bad as Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, Hamlet, Space Mutiny, and Girl in Gold Boots to be given a second chance at some manner of appreciation at the hands (and minds) of the Best Brains. And Sci-Fi could have been a little more grateful for landing such a special show. But in the end, it is we fans and fanatics who should give a little dap to cable in general. It allowed us to see MST3K for over ten seasons, and that's more than most alternative comedy gets. While parting is such sweet sorrow, at least we have The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection Vol. 4 to soften the blow.

Alas, poor MST3K, we knew it well.

The Verdict

Not guilty. Any Mystery Science Theater on DVD is welcomed. Rhino's attempts at bonuses is noted by the Court and added to their current record as time off for good attempted behavior.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 95
Audio: 90
Extras: 20
Acting: 100
Story: 100
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Rhino
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 500 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Comedy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailer for Girl in Gold Boots
• TV Spot for Girl in Gold Boots
• Introduction to Each Episode by Mike Nelson








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