Shout! Factory saves the best for last (and the last for last) with “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Vol. XXXIX”


It’s fitting that, as we all settle in to celebrate Turkey Day, Shout! Factory has saved the best for last when it comes to its “Mystery Science Theater 3000” DVD sets. And also saved the last for last.

The new “Vol. XXXIX,” which came out this week, is the last scheduled of the four-disc sets to be released by Shout! Factory. They’ve now put all of the original “MST3K” episodes they have the rights to out on disc, ending with this set.

Two years ago, it would have been a bittersweet occasion for fans of the cult show of the ‘80s and ‘90s, a reminder that the show’s run is long done. But with the show revived on Netflix earlier this year, with a successful live tour this summer, it’s a rare time where fans are looking forward even more than they’re looking backwards.

The last movies we get are the ‘50s teen reform school potboiler “Girls Town,” starring Mamie Van Doren and Mel Torme, as well as the see-through heist movie “The Amazing Transparent Man.” And then there’s “Diabolik,” Mario Bava’s deliciously campy 1968 spy spoof starring John Philip Law and some fantastic outfits. Like “Marooned,” it’s one of those rare times when the “MSTie” gang riffed on an actual good movie, but it’s so ridiculous that it gives them plenty to work with.

“Diabolik” was also the last episode of the original “MST3K” series, airing on the Sci-Fi Channel in 1998. They came up with a pretty great ending, with Mike Nelson and the ‘bots having safely landed on Earth, only to spend the last scene as roomies in a garden apartment in Milwaukee, watching and riffing on “The Crawling Eye” (the movie that was the subject of the very first episode).

The disc includes a pair of behind-the-scenes documentaries about the making of that final episode. “The Last Dance” is some rough footage that was put out on in VHS form for Fan Club members back in the day, while the new documentary “Showdown in Eden Prairie” includes interviews with cast and crew about that fateful show.

Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be a lot of tears shed over the last episode on the set. Everybody talks about savoring the shooting of the final episode, but Kevin “Tom Servo” Murphy suggest that they were pretty creatively exhausted after making the show for a decade. While about 200 props were auctioned off to fans on eBay, the rest was summarily broken down and thrown into the dumpster.

Shout! Factory has kind of done the same breakdown with the movies that they could never get the rights to put on DVD, including such gems as “The Amazing Colossal Man” and “I Was A Teenage Werewolf.” They’ve stripped the host segments out of each episode and put them together on a fourth disc, called “Satellite Dishes.” A nice idea.

“Vol. XXXVIX” also includes an interview with musician Chuck Love, who wrote the music to the original “MST3K” theme song. And there’s also a final bow of sorts from documentary filmmaker Daniel Griffith, who made all the documentaries about the films that appeared as bonus features on the DVD sets.

So, until they ever get the rights to “The Amazing Colossal Man,” or if they start putting some of the new Netflix Season 11 out on DVD, that’ll be it for the DVD series. But the show goes on – on Turkey Day, Shout! Factory will continue the tradition of streaming six episodes online.

So, even if this is a farewell of sorts, we should really just relax.

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