Over the course of its two dozen official Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVD collections, Shout! Factory has kept finding different ways to add jokes to the back cover copy; this time, there's a "Wikipedian" flavour to it. As for the actual selection of episodes, I was looking forward to them, even if I knew that to watch through it in the usual oldest-to-newest order would mean ending with an episode long stuck with something of a "difficult" reputation...
The sole "Joel episode" in the collection, "The Human Duplicators
," did get me remembering over the course of its "cashing in on the dawning James Bond boom meets the miserable tag end of the previous decade's science fiction boom" action some personal thoughts of the close of the fourth season feeling like the show had reached a new level. Although the only extra on the disc was the "Mystery Science Theater Hour" segments, managing to omit the segment where "the host" (played by Mike Nelson) recaps the first hour's worth of the movie, I suppose you could try and see that as not distracting from thoughts of how the mood the show was striking at that point carried forward to the end of the brief seventh season and the second episode in the set, "Escape 2000
." The six seventh-season episodes can all feel particular standouts to me (even when they can get hard to watch
), but this one's cut-rate urban dystopian action seems to turn out quite well. The DVD's extras include an introduction by Mary Jo Pehl and a little documentary about the movie that points out it was a sequel to a previous "Bronx dystopia" (the bombed-out tenement exteriors might even have been location shooting in the then very run down South Bronx, a contrast of sorts to the cracks about how "Italian" the movie is), complementing an original trailer that includes a good deal more gruesomeness than could get on television.
From there it was on to the eighth season. This can be where I start thinking the show could become "meaner" not just to its movies but to pop culture in general (which ties in to my unfortunate distance from the "post-MST3K projects" and my continued uneasiness about having paid for the upcoming revival), but "The Horror of Party Beach
" does seem ridiculous enough to still feel good-humoured; there's the same triumvirate of extras (the little documentary explaining just how much of an "outsider" project its northeastern seaboard beach horror was, but the trailer looking kind of dark and drab). As I closed out the collection with "Invasion of the Neptune Men
," I tried to remember thoughts it was the final extended battle that seemed to really get to the humour. Mary Jo Pehl's introduction didn't dwell too much on this, but the little documentary, featuring the return of the knowledgable person who'd contributed to the extras for the previous Japanese movies Shout! Factory had released, did explain the final battle had been padded out with not just stock but repeated footage to make it long enough for American television. (He also said a bit about "Prince of Space
," the sunnier-if-still-skewed sibling of the eighth season which had been released back on a "Rhino" DVD.) The original trailer at least looked sharper, and just perhaps a bit more impressive, than what wound up in Mystery Science Theater.