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TV on DVD: Mystery Science Theater 3000, Vol. XXVII

Shout! Factory has continued to release their four episode sets of the cult classic TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000. The newest collection, Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXVII features episodes all the way from their first season on Comedy Central all the way through their inaugural season on the Sci-Fi Channel.

The first entry from season one is The Slime People, a story about ugly underground earth dwellers, and the people who are left trying to fight them off. You’ll also see part 6 of the movie serial Radar Men from the Moon. While the cast and crew of the show tend to dismiss shows from their first season, there’s a creativity and spontaneity there that’s fun to watch. Extras include the trailer for the movie and an interview with June (Morton) Fraser. It didn’t say was Fraser was doing now, but it sounds like she’s involved in theater in some way. She spoke about the production, how unprepared everybody seemed to be, and how embarrassed that she and her friend and co-star Susan Hart were at the premiere.

 Next we have Rocket Attack U.S.A. This is a nice little bit of “Communists are going to take over the world” scare stories that were popular during the time. It also opens with the second chapter of the Phantom Creeps serial with Bela Lugosi which, as goofy as it was, did have a really cool looking giant robot. Another odd bit about this episode is that Tom Servo has a cylindrical head, instead of the round gumball machine head he normally sports. The MST3K wiki states that this was an experiment to keep Servo’s head from blocking so much of the screen during the movie. The change only lasted one more episode before going back to the round head we all know and love. Extras include “Life After MST3K: Trace Beaulieu” Great trivia bit: Beaulieu auditioned for the voice of Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Would that have made the character more likable? Probably not, but it would have made him more likely to say, “Bite me!” to Anakin Skywalker.

Village of the Giants is the next movie featured. This Bert I. Gordon classic was a science fiction/rebellious teen combo that was “loosely” based on H.G. Wells’ Food of the Gods. It also featured Beau Bridges as one of the overgrown teenagers and Ronny Howard as the (regular sized) resident boy genius. Extras are the theatrical trailer and a new interview with Joy Harmon. It was nice getting behind the scenes reminiscences from Harmon, but it was too bad that they didn’t get interviews with Bridges or Howard as well.

Finally we have The Deadly Mantis, your typical giant insect on the loose extravaganza, from the show’s later years on the Sci-Fi Channel.  Extras are the theatrical trailer, an introduction to the movie by Mary Jo Pehl, and the fascinating documentary “Chasing Rosebud: The Cinematic Life of Willam Alland”. In Pehl’s introduction, she talks about how, as the show went on, the writers were scraping the bottom of the barrel regarding bad science fiction movies that were available to them, so they tried to find ways to justify using movies that were out of that specific genre.  The Alland documentary goes into how Alland went from being a member of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater group, to producing classic films like It Came from Outer Space and Creature from the Black Lagoon (as well as “classics” like The Mole People and The Deadly Mantis).

 Once again I need to give kudos to the Steve Vance illustrated mini-posters for each episode and the awesomely imaginative DVD menus done for these. It’s another great collection of MST3K episodes that, of course, comes highly recommended. In the next volume, Shout! Factory will celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary with the episodes Moon Zero Two, The Day the Earth Froze, The Leech Woman, and the rare episode Gorgo. Also included will be the re-release of Joel’s last show, Mitchell, and Mike’s first one as host, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.