“Mystery Science Theater 3000 Vol. XXXVIII”: Warm up some Turkey Day leftovers



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.

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The “Mystery Science Theater 3000” cast is reunited. And it feels so good.



(Photo courtesy of City Pages)

It was somewhere in the fourth hour of my five-hour drive up to Minneapolis that I wondered to myself whether my apparently lifelong devotion to “Mystery Science Theater 3000” was worth it.

I was driving from my home in Madison up to the State Theatre in Minneapolis for the live broadcast of the Rifftrax Live “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Reunion” show on June 28. In the ‘90s, this would have been a no-brainer. It’s fair to say I was obsessed with the show – had just about every episode on videotape, MST3K Info Club card in my wallet. Many a Saturday night was built around takeout Chinese and a new episode of “MST3K.”

But that was then. Now I’ve got a career, a wife, kids. I watch and write about the DVDs from time to time, and have headed to the local movie theater for a Rifftrax simulcast event from time to time, which is a lot of fun. But it’s not essential to me in the way it was 20 years ago.

And yet still, I went to Minneapolis. And I’m so glad I did. The event will be rebroadcast in theaters on Tuesday, July 12, and if “Mystery Science Theater 3000” has meant anything at all to you over the years, I highly recommend you go.

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Of teenage cavemen and deathstalkers: “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Vol. XXXV” on DVD


Roger Corman’s “Teenage Caveman” is one of the best movies ever made about teenage cavemen, and it is definitely the best movie ever made called “Teenage Caveman.” (In one of the strangest remakes ever, Larry Clark of “Kids” was commissioned to make a version for Cinemax in 2002. Surprisingly for a Larry Clark film, it featured a lot of teenagers getting high and having sex.)

The original “Teenage Caveman” is one of those movies where the title was more memorable than the film, which is why it made perfect fodder for “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Shout! Factory included it on the 35th (!) installment of its four-movie DVD sets, out this month.

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Celebrate Turkey Day the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” way


I think it was on Turkey Day 1992 that I first discovered “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Home for the holidays, my parents’ house in suburban Denver had a different cable provider than the one I had back in Chicago. Sneaking up to the TV room with my brother, he turned on Comedy Central and this cheesy Japanese sci-fi movie.

Only there were these silhouettes at the bottom . . .

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Recipes for failure: Behind the making-of docs for “Mystery Science Theater 3000” movies


With 29 DVD editions and four movies in each edition, you’d think Shout! Factory would be running out of bad movies to put in its “Mystery Science Theater 3000” boxed sets by now.

But nope, “Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXX” is out in stores this week, and still has some top-level cheese in it, from the cut-rate swords-and-sorcery of “Outlaw of Gor” to the classic ‘50s giant-insect shocker “The Black Scorpion.”

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DVD Review: “Mystery Science Theater 3000, Vol. XXIX”


And the riffs just keep on coming. Between the news that the Rifftrax guys will be hosting a new miniseries on the National Geographic Channel and the latest release of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” DVD sets from Shout! Factory, it’s a good time to be snarky.

After 28 installments and over 100 films, the Shout! Factory sets have this down to a science; like its predecessors, “Vol. 29” features four films, spanning the MST3k-verse from the uneven first season through the Golden Age on Comedy Central, and finally one from the Sci-Fi Network years. Sprinkle some bonus features on top, and you’ve got some cheesy goodness in store.

Original host Joel Hodgson, who seems to have really embraced the “MST3K” legacy in recent years, provides new introductions for the first two films in the set, “Untamed Youth” and “Hercules and the Captive Women.” “Untamed Youth” is a classic ’50s troubled-teens drama with Mamie Van Doren, who appears in a new interview on the disc talking about her experiences as a ’50 starlet. (It does not sound fun – when she wanted to start a family, the studio immediately dumped her.)

The “Hercules” movies are among my favorites in “MST3k” and “Captive Women” is classic Italian-dubbed sword-and-sandals badness. The disc also includes a surprisingly engaging interview with artist Steve Vance, who draws the delightful ’50s-style mini-posters that Shout! Factory includes with each film.

“The Thing That Couldn’t Die” (not to be confused with “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die”) is a slow-moving late ’50s horror film. The disc includes an entertaining making-of doc — at one time, strangely, an overstretched Universal Pictures shut down production on every film except this one, because it was so far under the radar.

But the jewel in “XXIX” is one of the best episodes of the Sci-FI Channel era, “Pumaman.” An incredibly cheap “Superman” knockoff from 1980, it boasts some of the worst “flying” visual effects imaginable, and a hero who wears a cape and sensible slacks. It is pure gold, and the disc includes an interview with star Walter G. Alton, Jr. How Alton became Pumaman is an odd story — he was a New York attorney who, when his firm refused to make him partner, decided to take a break and try acting. After “Pumaman,” he wisely went back to the law.

Alton also continues a run of MST3K “stars” who clearly bristle at the idea of the show making fun of their work. To quote from the opening theme song, they should really just relax. The show and the disc sets have brought a whole new audience to films that would have otherwise been forgotten. The Shout! Factory disc even includes an “Un-MSTied” version of “Pumaman” in its original form, although anyone who could sit through that would really be some kind of superhero.