My copy of the thirty-eighth official DVD collection
of Mystery Science Theater 3000 waited a long time to be opened. It had arrived just before the revival of the series got under way, and I suppose I was thinking a bit of potential unfortunate reactions and returning to known experiences as one way to get over them. Fortunately, the revival worked out pretty well for me in the end, and as I finished its last episode I could think ahead to opening the collection at last, and of the plans I'd made while waiting for that.
All the episodes in the collection were "Mike shows," and that did get me thinking of working backwards in episode-number order from the single "Sci-Fi Channel" instalment to the three sixth-season shows, not quite just "for a change." On starting with "Track of the Moon Beast
," though, I did find myself thinking there was a sort of "comforting familiarity" to things. Before I could really distract myself considering how it compared to the revival episodes (with no intention of trying to put them down somehow), I was pretty well engaged with the episode's humour as it took on a 1970s monster movie (with an ultimate undercurrent of bleakness I can associate with a lot of the movies from that decade that wound up on the series), and I went on from it to a bonus interview with the actress who'd played the female lead, who did go to slight lengths to say she'd been leery about the whole thing to start with but did seem to have had a positive reaction to the MST3K version.
From there, it was back to the "Comedy Central era" and "High School Big Shot
," just about as bleak in its own juvenile-delinquency-meets-degenerate-
film-noir sort of way (even including the short subject "Out of This World," which takes a unique theological viewpoint on the delivery of bread) but which seems just about as funny in the series. Its bonus feature was the original movie, which have been included on a few discs before but which are perhaps a bit too much for me to take in. "Colossus and the Headhunters
," the "Mike era" echo of the muscles-and-mythology Hercules movies from the "Joel years" (just as the revival included a Hercules movie of its own), was a cheerful change from what I'd just seen, and while a bonus feature where Joel talked about Mike wasn't directly connected to the movie it had some interesting moments, such as Mike's determination as a standup comic and Joel having contemplated the "Best Brain" Bridget Jones replacing him as a "genderswapped Joel" only to be told everyone else had come to their own conclusion. The DVD menu for "Invasion USA
" just happened to reference the "host segments" of "Colossus and the Headhunters," which just might be seen as my backwards viewing order paying off in the end. I've seen other people unimpressed with the episode and its Cold War-agitprop movie put together with a great deal of stock footage, but I do have to admit a number of the sixth season episodes can impress me in a "bricks made without straw" sort of way. There's also the memorable short "A Date With Your Family," of course. The extras included a little documentary about the movie's producer Albert Zugsmith, who'd started in Hollywood with this production. (The documentary did mention how just before that he'd represented Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in their attempt to get the rights to Superman back, if not Shuster's later suspicion, reported in Gerard Jones Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangster, and the Birth of the Comic Book
that Zugsmith had made his nest egg to finance the picture by betraying his clients...) Following a career path that some of the other documentaries in the Shout! Factory sets have included, Zugsmith went on to make some fairly respectable movies, only to then then step off that path by going back to exploitation (including "Girls Town
," which should be included in the next and possibly concluding collection