For fans of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” November is December and Thanksgiving is Christmas.
Since the show was originally on the air in the 1990s, MST3K fans have been trained to get hungry at Thanksgiving and the annual “Turkey Day” marathons that Comedy Central would put on. For a full day, the network would show non-stop episodes of the show, and for several years included bonus segments in between the movies. If you thought your relatives were insufferable before, wait until you had to entertain them in the living room (the one with the good furniture that you were normally banned from), knowing that the marathon was going on in the TV room upstairs.
The “Turkey Day” tradition was revived by Shout! Factory a couple of years ago, with original host Joel Hodgson presiding over an online streaming day of six classic “MST3k” episodes. This year, of course, fans have plenty to be thankful for, as a brand-new season of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” with comedian Jonah Ray taking over hosting duties, is coming to Netflix in 2017.
But some of us had to be adults and have adult Thanksgivings last week where we couldn’t stay glued to our laptops or phones for 12 hours. So, for us, it’s happy timing that last week Shout! Factory released its latest 4-DVD box set, “Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXXVII.” (And yes, I have trouble keeping track of which editions are which at this point, too.)
This one is a good set of four classic episodes never released on DVD before — “The Human Duplicators,” “Escape 2000,” “The Horror of Party Beach,” and “Invasion of the Neptune Men.” All but “Duplicators” have very funny introductions by writer and TV’s “Pearl Forrester” Mary Jo Pehl, who goes into detail about some of her favorite riffs and what made the movies great riff fodder. It’s also somewhat comforting to know that, though she had to watch these movies several times each for her job, she couldn’t understand the plot either.
“Horror of Party Beach” is perhaps my favorite, because it’s that classic “Mystery Science Theater” creation, a black-and-white ’50s beach movie that includes both teenagers and monsters. But the Itali-sploitation post-apocalyptic action movie “Escape 2000” is a close second, a quickie ’80s ripoff movie trying to cash in the popularity of both “Mad Max” and “Escape From New York.” The Japanese sci-fi movie “Invasion of the Neptune Men” is also fun, although as the bonus featurette points out, it was so chopped up by its American distributor (edited down from 120 minutes to 80) that it’s basically unintelligible.
Only the ’60s sci-fi movie “Human Duplicators” is missing much in the way of extras. But this is a solid set that will tide us over into the new episodes of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” — and, seriously, is that a phrase you ever thought you’d read? — come out next year.