Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume 5 
DVD Comedy
Written by Bryan Dailey   
Tuesday, 09 March 2004

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume 5

Rhino Home Video
MPAA rating: NR
starring: Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy
release year: 2004
film rating: Four Stars
sound/picture rating: Three Stars
reviewed by: Bryan Dailey

Sure, a handful of great movies are released every year and one takes the Academy Award for Best Picture, but for every classic film that hits theaters there are hundreds, if not thousands that go straight to video or even worse, never to be seen by anyone. Watching a bad B-movie can be good fun, especially if it’s with a handful of friends who are aspiring comedy writers. The writers and creators of Mystery Science Theater 3000 have found a very clever way to turn some of the worst films ever made into some of the funniest comedy you’ve ever seen.

Popularized as a series on Comedy Central, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is about a man named Mike Nelson who is stuck on a satellite, floating through space with several robots. They are being tailed by an evil woman, in a spaceship made from a converted VW van, who wants to rule the universe. She forces the Mike and the robots to watch really bad movies in an attempt to find a movie so bad that she can show it to the entire world and then overthrow it. Of course, to help ease the pain of watching the bad movies, Mike and the main robots, Tom Servo and Crow, turn each movie-watching experience into a non-stop comedy fest as they make fun of the films at every opportunity.

The episodes from this DVD set are from the Sci-Fi Channel era of the show. There are many diehard fans of the MST3K who feel that it was at its peak during the Comedy Central years, when the main character was the much more cynical lead character Joel Hodgson, the show’s original creator. Both Hodgson and Nelson are funny; perhaps if this DVD series sells enough copies, we may see the older Comedy Central shows released on DVD as well. Until then we just have the version with head writer Mike Nelson as the show’s star on DVD, so if that is okay with you, then continue reading.

Even if you don’t think you have ever heard of or seen Mystery Science Theater 3000, often called MST3K for short, you probably have. If you’ve ever been flipping through your cable channels and saw a cheesy monster movie or sci-fi film with the black silhouette of some movie theater chairs and the heads of a man and two strange-looking robots at the bottom of the screen, then you have encountered MST3K. The short skits between segments of the movies are almost always relevant to the current movie being shown, but are ultra-cheesy-looking and don’t inspire much confidence in new viewers that this show is genius. Crow is made of a bowling pin, with ping-pong balls for eyes. Tom Servo is a gumball machine who talks through the change slot in the front. If you were flipping past this show and someone hadn’t told you to stop and watch it, you’d think it was a bad Saturday morning kid’s show.

There are four complete episodes on this four-disc set and the films featured are “Boggy Creek II,” “Time Chasers,” “Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonder” and “The Touch of Satan.” You can tell by the titles alone that these are pretty bad movies, but the actual films that are shown on the show are irrelevant. The comedy comes from the fact that Mike and his robot partners are able to take the worst piece of crap movie and turn it into a hilarious viewing experience. It’s obvious that a team of writers sat through each of these dreadful films several times, throwing out ideas and jokes until they found the funniest ones to use for the final cut of each show. The references they use are so random and obscure that they would even throw Dennis Miller for a loop, so your knowledge of pop culture and movies had better be vast if you are going to get everything, but there are literally nonstop jokes during the entire film. Even if you only you get half of the obscure references, you’re going to love this show.

On this DVD set, there are four feature films and a 30-minute interview with Nelson and Kevin Murphy, a writer who also does the voice of Tom Servo. At the beginning of each of the four episodes, Nelson gives us a little insight into what the writers thought the funniest parts of the movies were. For example, in “Boggy Creek II,” we learn that this actually the third in the “Boggy Creek” series, but for some strange reason, the second movie was lost and the makers of the third one called it “Boggy Creek II.” On “Time Chasers,” Nelson talks about how the robot Crow insisted that the big-chinned, mullet-wearing star of the movie can’t be the actual lead. “I will not accept this guy as the star of the movie,” Crow mutters for the first five minutes of the movie. It’s hilarious as the geeky star goes into his home and Crow says, “He must be going in to meet the REAL star of the movie…” Of course, Crow doesn’t get his wish and they are forced to see Mr. Hockey Hair carry this dreadfully bad but hilarious 1991 science fiction story about a man who made a small three-seat airplane into a time machine.

I’ve tried to explain how funny MST3K is to people for years and a select few friends of mine were open-minded enough to give this goofy but ultimately very intelligent and hilarious show a chance. Watching bad horror and sci-fi movies has been taken to a new level by the writers of MST3K and it has achieved cult status. The fact that so many of the episodes are being put out on DVD is a great opportunity to relive these classic turkeys without having to endure the commercial breaks. As the discs are derived from a TV show that shows bad movies, the sound and picture aren’t anything special. However, the DVD packaging is very well done, with a handsome four-fold case and slick cardboard dust sleeve. I can’t wait to add the rest of the series next to season five on my DVD case shelf.

more details
sound format: Digital Stereo 2.0
aspect ratio: 1:33.1 (full-screen)
special features: 30-Minute Documentary/Interview with Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy (voice of Tom Servo); Trailer Featuring “The Touch of Satan”; Episode Introductions by Mike Nelson
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 36-inch Sony XBR

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