Mystery Science Theater 3000: Season 11 (Blu-ray Review)
DirectorRobert Cohen/Joel Hodgson
Release Date(s)2017 (April 17, 2018)
Studio(s)Netflix (Shout! Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: D+
- Overall Grade: C
WE’VE GOT MOVIE SIGN!!!
Mystery Science Theater 3000 returns with Season 11 in an 8-Disc Blu-ray boxed set from Shout! Factory. Premiering with a new cast that includes Jonah Ray, Felicia Day, and Patton Oswalt, as well as cameo appearances by original cast members and other celebrities, MST3K successfully relaunched via a highly successful Kickstarter campaign and premiered on Netflix in April of 2017 with 14 new episodes. Widely popular and well-received with only minor detractors, this new incarnation of the show is already on its way to another season.
I’ve gone into a good amount of detail about MST3K in past reviews, so I won’t bother getting into that. We’ll keep things short and sweet instead and just cover the set itself. New episodes of the show include the following films: Reptilicus, Cry Wilderness, The Time Travelers, Avalanche, The Beast of Hollow Mountain, Starcrash, The Land That Time Forgot, The Loves of Hercules, Yongary: Monster from the Deep, Wizards of the Lost Kingdom, Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II, Carnival Magic, The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t, and At the Earth’s Core. The quality of each episode varies, with some episodes being better than others.
Reptilicus is a 1961 monster movie imported from Denmark and released through American International Pictures. It features an array of Danish actors, monster-induced havoc, and snooze-inducing dialogue. Cry Wilderness, a family-friendly adventure released in 1987, features a tale about a young boy who believes in Bigfoot and goes looking for his father who is hunting a wild tiger in the wilderness. Ib Melchior’s The Time Travelers, released by A.I.P. in 1964, follows a group of scientists through a time portal to a future world inhabited by monsters who threaten human existence after a nuclear fallout. Avalanche, a tried and true disaster movie from 1978 with roles inhabited by Mia Farrow, Rock Hudson, and Robert Forster, involves a winter resort, a doomed love story, and mass, snow-driven destruction.
In The Beast of Yellow Mountain from 1956, a cowboy goes on the hunt for a prehistoric dinosaur after it steals his cattle and begins attacking local townspeople. Luigi Cozzi’s Starcrash from 1978 is an attempt to cash in on the success of Star Wars, but to a much lesser, but perhaps more charming, degree. In The Land That Time Forgot from 1975, a group of people wind up on an unknown island with prehistoric animals and a tribe of Neanderthal-like beings who are out to kill them. The Loves of Hercules stars Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay, the latter the titular hero seeking vengeance after the death of his wife, only to find another in the form of a queen, but not before battling monsters and no-good villains. In the 1967 South Korean monster movie Yongary: Monster from the Deep, a large, fire-breathing Kaiju emerges from the depths after a series of nuclear tests and earthquakes... sound familiar?
In Wizards of the Lost Kingdom and Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II (from 1985 and 1989 respectively), a young man must overcome various evil overlords with the aid of fierce warriors and kid-friendly creatures, all in laugh-inducing, swords and sorcery fashion. Carnival Magic, directed by Al Adamson in 1981, is a so-called family film about a magician and a chimpanzee who combine their talents for circus crowds, but not without jealous detractors. For holiday special fans, there’s The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t from 1966, featuring a down-on-his-luck lawyer and Santa Claus, both of whom must try and save Christmas by paying the lawyer’s rent and reigniting the lawyer’s landlord’s Christmas spirit, or something. And last but not least, At the Earth’s Core, Amicus Productions’ 1976 adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel about scientists who find themselves at the center of the Earth and overrun with monsters and prehistoric cavemen.
Shout Factory’s boxed sets of the old show were normally released three to four times a year with some nice extras and better quality episodes than what might have been found floating around online or on bootlegs. That’s not the case with this new show. As far as image and sound quality are concerned, the host segments were shot in high definition and the films themselves are taken from the best elements available, most of which are quite good. Everything appears colorful and detail-oriented as expected with little to nothing worthy of complaint. The audio for the show is presented in both English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD with optional English subtitles. I personally found the 2.0 presentation to be more than ample enough for the show, although the 5.1 does offer up some extra space to breathe, as well as added ambience. Both are fine tracks to choose from.
Unfortunately, the extras is really where this set falters. What has been included is Ballyhoo Motion Pictures’ excellent We Brought Back MST3K 73-minute documentary, which goes into extreme detail about the creation and release of the new season of the show, and is absolutely worth watching. However, sorely missing is all of the material from the Kickstarter-exclusive DVD and Blu-ray releases, which included an introduction from Joel Hodgson, two still galleries – concept art and production photos; a Season 11 blooper reel; several Kickstarter videos: Bring Back MST3K!, The Next Host, The Next Cast, Turkey Day 2015 at Kickstarter, Funny or Die: Leaked Star Wars Auditions, More Questions, and The Final Countdown Telethon; and last but not least, several After the Campaign videos, including a Rifftrax MST3K Cast Reunion excerpt, an MST3K Panel at SDCC 2016 excerpt, a Camp Conival 2016 Panel, a set of Turkey Day Marathon 2016 host segments, and the Advance Screening Tour: Q&A Highlights reel. Some of this material is featured in the documentary that’s been included, but I cannot wrap my mind around why it wasn’t included on the official release as well. Go figure.
All in all, this is still another solid boxed set release of MST3K from the good folks at Shout! Factory (outside of the missing extras, that is). If you’re a fan of this new version of the show and you missed out on the Kickstarter version, you’ll definitely want to pick this up. Now push the button, Frank... err, Max.
- Tim Salmons