I am somewhat tardy in reporting this as it was a few months when ago I picked up the Mystery Science Theatre 3000: 20th Anniversary Edition DVD box set. I was only making a routine scan of on-line shops and looking at what MST3K episodes had been released in box sets, so I was really quite lucky to be doing this shortly before the release of this box set and in time to get an order placed.
Of the episodes in the set, First Spaceship on Venus is a fairly standard affair. The film was made before modern standards of film-making and thus has a voice-over explaining most of the plot. Once the bulk of this exposition is out of the way the MST3K episode comes alive and is an entertainingly poor romp about flying to Venus and accidentally destroying alien technology, returning to Earth with a morality tale.
Laserblast follows a teenager who finds an alien laser gun and then goes on some sort of rampage, maybe because he is picked on by nerds pretending to be the Cool Kids. The alien weapon attracts attention from the authorities and he is hunted down by what might be a federal agent, I'm not entirely sure, and 'hunted down' is awfully strong for the ambling around town that occurs. The aliens also come looking to get their weapon back, although as they could have simply picked it up at the start of the film but were scared back in to space by the mighty sight of a Cessna maybe it wasn't theirs to start with. The budget for the film was probably wasted on the fiery explosions, because it wasn't spent on a screenplay.
I found the Laserblast episode particularly interesting to watch because it is the last MST3K episode produced for the Comedy Central channel and marks the end of Dr Clayton Forrestor's control over the Satellite of Love. Having only seen episodes shown completely out of order from widely varying series of the programme I never knew how or why the Satellite of Love ended up in deep space being chased by Pearl in a camper van, but now I do. The episode also sees Mike perform a disturbing impression of Captain Janeway and ends with an excellent pastiche of 2001, as Dr Forrester finds himself reborn.
Zoso might appreciate the abuse of archaeological finds seen in Werewolf. A baffling skeleton is dug up and the rough-tough team get in to a fist-fight because someone probably thought it would look good on film. The skeleton survives, but its skull is casually used to bludgeon someone in a fight later on. The apparently priceless relic is not treated with much care or respect, particularly considering it is the skeleton of a werewolf and turns other people in to werewolves. The director doggedly sticks to the lore of werewolves changing under the light of a full moon and bypasses any inconvenient logistics by ignoring the lore of a full moon only appearing once a month. A week of full moons means less plot required between attacks!
It's not the future and there is no war in Future War, but there is a Jean-Claude Van Damme-a-like punching tiny rubber dinosaurs made huge with forced perspective. There is not much more I can say about this obviously low-budget film, which makes it a good thing that the MST3K chaps find plenty to poke fun at.
Extras in the set include postcards of the individual DVD covers, as well as an informative retrospective on the programme in three parts, presented by all the cast and crew. There is also the San Diego Comic Con panel of the MST3K 20th Anniversary Reunion where cast and crew answer questions about the programme. Although most of the information has already been presented in the retrospective the presence of an audience encourages the panel to riff on the questions and each other and is delightfully entertaining.
The real prize, of course, is the small figurine of Crow T. Robot, capturing his sardonic grin perfectly. I hope I don't have to wait for the 30th Anniversary Edition before I can also get my Tom Servo figure.