Shout Factory has moved into their fifth year of releasing Mystery Science Theater 3000 on home video this year – and it is nice to note that they are delivering a lot of quality material, including impressive supplements, at a reasonable price. As is always the case with their MST3K releases, the transfer quality on MST3K Vol. XXIII accurately represents the shot-on-video quality of the material. Colors and detail are appropriately good, there is no distortion or damage to the video and the sound mix is solid all the way through.
MSHowever, what makes this set truly special for fans is an array of bonus content spread out across the four discs. Last Of The Wild Horses has only one extra but it’s a really fun one – a 15-minute collection of old promo spots for MST3K. Each only runs about 30 seconds but they all give the Satellite Of Love crew a nice venue for their oddball sense of humor. Highlights from this reel include a witty parody of The Seventh Seal, an eccentric spot where they play explosion-scarred hillbillies, an even weirder spot where Joel and Crow invite viewers to a barbecue of Tom Servo(!) and a wicked send-up of Jay Leno (complete with oversized chin). Hardcore fans will love it.
Code Name: Diamond Head features two bonus items. The first is Codename: Quinn Martin, a brief but info-packed featurette in which biographer discusses the career of television producer Quinn Martin. In just over six minutes, he runs the viewer through a quick tour of Martin’s work, with all the key highlights mentioned as well as a mention of where Code Name: Diamond Head fits into his career. The only disappointment here is the segment’s brevity, as there is plenty of interesting stuff to discuss in Martin’s production roster, but this tightly-edited featurette covers the basics.
The second extra is Life After MST3K: Kevin Murphy, a featurette that allows the voice of Tom Servo to discuss what he did after his time on the show. Viewers will discover that he decided to stay out the showbiz mainstream (he’s quite blunt about his disdain for Los Angeles) and has done an extensive amount of work in the online work. He also tells the intriguing story behind his book A Year At The Movies.
The Castle Of Fu Manchu features a trio of bonus features. The first is an introduction to the film by Frank Conniff: he discusses how Castle offered a big challenge to the writers because of its incoherent plotline and a thoughtful rumination on why he doesn’t chastise actors for appearing in bad films. There is also a featurette about the creation of Darkstar, a recent interactive video game that involves most of the MST3K cast in acting roles. Though this segment is mainly here as a promotional item (Shout Factory distributes the game) there is also a specific reason why this segment is included on the Castle disc if you pay attention. A trailer for the original film closes out the special features here and it does its best to make the film look less cut-rate than it is.
The best extra pops up on the King Dinosaur disc in the form of The Incredible Mr Lippert. This is a documentary on b-movie producer Robert Lippert, the man behind King Dinosaur and several other films that bedeviled the MST3K crew. Using several commentators – everyone from screenwriter/historian C. Courtney Joyner to catalog film professional Kit Parker – this 35-minute piece chronicles Lippert’s journey from promotional man to indie theater owner to producer of fare for indie theaters. There’s a lot of talk of his cost-cutting ways, including a funny bit about using the same crew and sets to shoot multiple films at the same time, but there’s also a nice segment devoted to how he gave film buff favorite Samuel Fuller his start as a director. It’s also worth noting that he managed to cross over to the majors, working as a producer of b-fare for 20th Century Fox. This piece was masterminded by Daniel Griffith and it’s as informative, snappily paced and stylish as the other featurettes he’s done for Shout! Factory’s MST3K releases. It’s a must-see for anyone who’s ever been amused by a Lippert production on this show.
In short, MST3K Vol. XXIII is another strong box set for this series and illustrates Shout! Factory’s commitment to putting together worthwhile extras for fans of the show. If you’re an MST3K buff, you probably don’t need much encouragement to snap this up – but this is another quality set from Shout! Factory that the fans will want to own.
To read Schlockmania’s review of the episodes in MST3K Vol. XXIII, click here.