Brad Cook reviews Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume 1…
Shout! Factory has brought us full circle with their latest Mystery Science Theater 3000 release, taking us back to the first volume released way back when Rhino had the license for the series. MST3K Volume 1 includes the four movies included back then but tosses in a few bonus features to make double-dipping seem a little more palatable.
However, the bonus features are on the lean side, and this set doesn’t come in a slipcover with those cool mini posters that have been gracing these volumes since Shout! took over the license. By the way, if you’re curious if the company will be doing this with all the Rhino sets, I asked a Shout! rep and was told, “We do not have plans to re-release additional Rhino collections at this time.” Maybe if this one sells really well, though, they’ll change their minds. I sure hope so.
Here’s what you’ll find in Volume 1, which has a 3:1 Mike:Joel host ratio and bonus features on 50% of the discs (but what’s there is great):
• Catalina Caper: This second season episode features a film from Crown International Pictures, a company well-known for its silly low-budget movies, many of which ended up on MST3K. This one was Crown’s attempt to cash in on the beach party movie trend of the late 1960s. A new bonus feature charts the company’s early days from its founding in 1959, noting that it still exists today.
That bonus feature is particularly relevant to this set because all of its movies were distributed by Crown.
• The Creeping Terror: This ridiculous 1964 science-fiction/horror film features minimal dialogue, lengthy stretches of useless narration, and a monster that looks like the offspring of a carpet getting busy with something out of the Cthulu mythos, but this baby was the runt of the litter. This was a sixth season episode.
The bonus features on this disc lead off with a seven-minute trailer for The Creep Behind the Camera (TCBTC), which tells the story of this movie’s director, A.J. Nelson (aka Vic Savage), who was known to be a con man. The film mixes documentary-style reminiscing with dramatic recreations of Nelson’s life and the making of The Creeping Terror. The trailer features healthy doses of both – it looks like an intense version of Ed Wood that mixes Nelson’s horrific abuse of people with some off-the-wall buffoonery.
MST3K cast members Frank Coniff and Trace Beaulieu, along with the filmmakers and stars of The Creep Behind the Camera, talked about the movie at Screamfest 2014, and 17 minutes of highlights from that chat are also on this disc. Between this and the trailer for TCBTC, I learned quite a lot of context around this film that I never knew, and that’s the kind of thing I love about these Shout! Factory sets.
The final item on this disc is a three-minute Creeping Terror trailer for Screamfest 2014 that emphases all the schlocky elements of the film.
• Bloodlust: Also hailing from the sixth season, this episode includes a short, Uncle Jim’s Dairy Farm, and is notable for being the first appearance of Pearl Forrester. (Oooh, it’s a collector’s item, like Detective Comics #27!) There’s nothing else on this disc, aside from the movie’s theatrical trailer.
• The Skydivers: Our final Crown movie is yet another sixth season episode that also offers a short, which in this case is called Why Study Industrial Arts? (Why indeed? Crow asks, “Because you’re bad at math?” and that sounded like a good reason to me. (Before anyone leaves an angry comment, yes, there’s nothing wrong with a career in one of the trades, but this short doesn’t help make such a job enticing.)) As with the previous disc, the theatrical trailer is the only bonus feature.
That’s it for this set, which doesn’t include the un-riffed versions of the movies, as Rhino used to do in their collections. I’ve seen a couple of complaints about that online, but that’s not something I care about. Does anyone really want to watch these movies without the riffs? Personally, life is too short for that, but your mileage may vary.
It’s a bummer that only two of the discs include bonus features, but Shout! put solid effort into what’s here, so they get points for that. And since this set was out of print for a long time due to rights issues, I’m glad Shout! was able to settle some contractual obligations and make these episodes available again.