Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXVIII

| March 28, 2017

We’re nearing the point where Shout Factory has released nearly every episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000’s 1989-1999 run on DVD. In fact, after Volume XXXVIII, only 14 episodes will have yet to see a DVD release from Rhino or Shout Factory, excluding the recalled Godzilla vs. Megalon disc. Whether or not we’ll see Shout secure the rights to release any significant portion of these remaining 14, only time will tell. But for now, we can enjoy four more episodes in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXVIII and marvel that, even as late as the 38th collection, we’re still getting thoroughly solid sets out of the series.

The four episodes included in this 38th collection are:
-Invasion U.S.A. (episode 602)
-Colossus and the Headhunters (episode 605)
-High School Big Shot (episode 618)
-Track of the Moon Beast (episode 1007)

You’ll note of course that three of these four episodes were produced during the series’ sixth season, and with the final episode pulled from season ten, this means we have here a set with no Joel episodes whatsoever. This may be heartbreaking for those diehard Joel fans among you. But what I see here, as someone who never chose a side in the Mike vs. Joel conflict, are four episodes released well after the MST3K gang had gotten riffing down to a science.

Sure, none of these episodes appeared on the recent Top 100 Best episodes as voted on by fans, but these are by no means bad episodes. In fact, there are as many laughs here as in any episode between seasons six and ten. These four just don’t features iconic characters of the likes of MST3K legends Torgo, David Ryder, Rowsdower, Mitchell, or Trumpy, all of whom notably appear in the fan-voted top five episodes. But all of those guys have been on DVD for a while!

What’s great about getting such less celebrated episodes as these on DVD is that this release gives us cause to revisit episodes that perhaps don’t spring to mind when we think of the series at its best. Yet, here we find the series at its best nonetheless. High School Big Shot (1959) is a film of the I Accuse My Parents-variety, about a big-mouthed teenage loner turning to crime that is every bit as cringe-inducingly hilarious. Invasion U.S.A. (1952) is a stock footage extravaganza to rival any other stock footage-laden picture in MST3K history. Colossus and the Headhunters (1963) is as oily and meandering a sword and sandals film as any Hercules movie riffed on by Joel and the bots in seasons four and five. And Track of the Moon Beast (1976) serves up a monster movie that’s every bit as dull and perplexing as Blood Waters of Dr. Z, though with a monster designed by Rick Baker… but on the cheap.

What this all boils down to is, if you’re on the fence about Volume XXXVIII because these aren’t episodes you’re all that familiar with, I assure you these episodes won’t disappoint. After all, these aren’t wholly unlike a number of time-tested fan favorites—episodes you’re likely to already love and know inside and out. They’re just episodes you likely haven’t memorized yet, which is a pretty good darn reason to pick up MST3K: XXXVIII.

If you want more reasons, though, look no further than the special features packaged in Shout Factory’s release of Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXVIII. You’ll find a brand new interview with Track of the Moon Beast star Leigh Drake, and a featurette about Invasion U.S.A.-producer Albert Zugsmith’s career from producing Invasion U.S.A. to Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil and back to exploitation. The set also includes the unriffed version of High School Big Shot and, of course, some trailers. The most significant feature in this collection though, is the 11-minute featurette, “Mike, By Joel.”

In “Mike, By Joel,” series creator and star Joel Hodgson discusses Mike Nelson’s role in the series both behind-the-scenes and on set during the Joel seasons, as well as the transition from Joel to Mike as series star, which is the most revealing portion of the featurette. Therein, Joel explains that he had suggested Bridget Jones should replace him as he prepared to leave, but no one else was too crazy about that idea. Joel also dispels the myth that he was bitter about Mike taking over, as though the show was stolen from him; Joel claims to have always planned to leave the show at some point, in fact. His only real hang-up about Mike replacing him it seems was that Mike, like Joel himself, was just another white, “doughy Midwestern guy,” but Joel had been pushing for some more diversity. It’s an impressively candid and insightful piece that’s well worth the purchase alone for any MSTie.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXVIII is now available from Shout Factory here. The first 1,500 orders placed on ShoutFactory.com will receive an exclusive bonus disc featuring MST3K: Play MSTie For Me Triple Decker.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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