The stars I assigned to these DVDs does not reflect the quality of these episodes — like other “Mystery Science Theater 3000” fare, they’re solid shows with plenty of laughs. My problem is that neither has any bonus features — unlike the four-episode volumes Shout Factory has been releasing — and at $20 bucks each, buying both of them costs as much as one of those four-episode volumes. The bang for your buck simply isn’t up to Shout’s previous standards.
Both of these episodes feature Mike as host. “Beginning of the End” is a fifth season entry with Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank serving up the B-movie fare; “The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies” is from the eighth season, after Pearl Forrester took over for her son. They were previously available from Rhino and long ago fell out of print, so Shout is doing fans a favor by bringing these back. I’m just not sure why they didn’t wait to put these in another collection with some bonus features, rather than putting them out sans extras. (And note that you can only buy them from Shout online.)
“Beginning of the End” is one of many cheesy sci-fi films made during the 50s. It’s part of the “attack of the giant creatures” sub-genre; in this case, they’re giant mutant grasshoppers that lay waste to everything they come across. Mike and the bots, of course, get busy laying waste to this movie, one of several MST3K entries starring Peter Graves, who worked a lot during his career but also made some questionable decisions along the way. (A perfect observation for a bonus feature, by the way.) This one is also notable as a Turkey Day episode, which became a Thanksgiving tradition for the series.
“The Incredibly Strange Creatures…” is a clumsy early 60s horror film about a cult at a carnival. The story is about as comprehensible as the title, but, hey, that only provides more fodder for the jokes. The Wikipedia entry for this episode claims it’s the first to use new music during the commercial sign logos, but it didn’t sound different to me. Otherwise, there’s nothing notable about this episode.