Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol.

Encoding: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Black & White, Colour, Box set
Number of discs:



Some fans in the States of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the TV show which mercilessly lampoons bad movies in the guise of three silhouetted figures seen sitting in a cinema, were disappointed by this particular release, mostly because many of the episodes on it are still being shown as re-runs on television.

Well, fans from outside the States probably don't care: Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or MST3K for short) is no longer showing on the European Sci-Fi Channel, and if it wasn't for these Region 1 DVDs, there probably would be no other way to see any of these episodes.

The movies lampooned in this set are:

HAMLET - Yup, the bard himself. This is a dreary Black & White version made in 1960 for German television. It stars Maximillian (The Black Hole) Schell as the Danish prince himself.

After hearing some MSTies (as fans of the show are called) disparage this particular episode, I wasn't expecting too much of it, but in the end I had a blast. This episode will be of particular appeal to anyone (like myself) who had to suffer through English Lit at university.

OVERDRAWN AT THE MEMORY BANK - The only clever thing about this movie is its title. This 1985 made-for-American-public-television show starred Raul Julia (Gomez of the Addams Family movies!) and has something to do with . . . well, I don't know really. Matrix-style virtual reality and a 1984-like dictatorship run by a hugely fat guy. The plot is confusing, the computer-generated effects crummier than those in Tron and Julia gives a truly lousy performance - sad for such a talented actor really. (Incidentally, one IMDb reviewer gives Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, the original version, a 7 out of 10 rating. Shows that you get all kinds . . .)

SPACE MUTINY - A horrendously bad sci-fi movie about a huge spaceship facing a mutiny. I think - the plot is confusing to say the least.

Interestingly enough this craptacular movie was filmed in South Africa in the mid-1980s when Apartheid was at its height. Or make that, technically filmed in South Africa. You see it was filmed in one of the apartheid state's controversial so-called homelands - artificially created countries in which Blacks were supposed to live while actually working in South Africa itself. This particular country was called Bophuthatswana, and it was incorporated back into South Africa following a popular rebellion and coup (noted for the futile interference by a small White neo-fascist group to prop it up).

Ironically Bophuthatswana was a popular destination for South African Whites because of Sun City, a huge gambling resort (where Space Mutiny was filmed). You see, gambling itself was banned in puritan South Africa itself. Bizarrely the spaceship in the movie is called the Southern Sun, which was also the name of a hotel resort owned by the same group.

Filmed in Sun City's huge basement, Space Mutiny is hilariously bad and the MST3K running comments during it are brilliantly funny. Definitely the best episode of the bunch and a perennial favourite of mine which I have seen several times. (Sci-fi fans will note that old Battlestar Galactica stock footage is used verbatim instead of any original special effects!) 

Also, if you bother reading the credits you'll see that someone who worked on the film's financial side (no doubt intended as a tax write-off) shares my wife's maiden surname - actually quite a common Afrikaner surname.

GIRL WITH THE GOLDEN BOOTS ? Not the worst movie in the bunch, but definitely the worst episode. Only vaguely amusing, this is a 1960s rag-to-riches tale about a wannabe dancer waitressing at a diner entitled simply ?Eat.?

THE DISCS: What is quite bizarre is that these discs (four of them in the set) are actually all Region 1 encoded, which means that people in Europe and elsewhere with Region 2 or other DVD players won?t be able to play them! This is despite the fact that there are no Region 2 or 4 or any other region besides Region 1 MST3K DVDs available. Really bizarre ? just what is the point here?

Anyway, if you've done the clever thing and have removed the region restriction on your DVD player, they should play fine. Why are these particular episodes still playing on U.S. TV? Well, probably because these episodes date from the show's later years when it ran in the late-1990s on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Interestingly enough the show ultimately ran for over a decade ? first on the Comedy Channel in the early 1990s! So that means that there is a hell of a lot of episodes out there, right? Right. And one of my minor gripes with the MST3K DVDs are that I'm sure with the low image and sound quality of the movies being lampooned, they could easily have fitted in two episodes on a single-sided disc.

However, a few MST3K episodes are better than none, especially of this quality ? and this goes doubly for this particular set. (Oh, I forgot to mention that this is the first time that these particular episodes are available on either VHS or DVD ? unlike the earlier box sets which featured material previously available on stand-alone video cassettes.)

WORTH IT? Three out of four very funny MST3K episodes makes this a must buy set.

RECOMMENDATION: If you live outside the States the only way to obtain these discs is by buying them from a U.S.-based on-line retailer like If the hilarious Space Mutiny episode doesn't convert you to the MST3K cause then I'm afraid nothing will.



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