Shout Factory’s latest “Mystery Science Theater 3000” volume picks up where their excellent 20th Anniversary Edition left off, with some unique footage among the bonus features. “Glimpses of KTMA: MST3K Scrapbook Scraps I” showcases some of the interstitial pieces that aired during the show’s Minneapolis public access TV days, while “Behind the Scenes: MST3K Scrapbook Scraps II” digs up some behind-the-scenes footage from 1991. The latter is an intriguing, albeit abbreviated (it’s about eight minutes), look at how a typical episode was made; I’ve heard and read about the process before, but it’s nice to be able to see it too.
This collection is also unique in its inclusion of the “The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy” episode, which was the second one aired after the series moved to The Comedy Channel (later to become Comedy Central). Josh Weinstein, who joined the show during its KTMA days, lasted just the first season on national TV before being replaced by Frank Coniff (TV’s Frank). Weinstein played Dr. Clayton Forrester’s sidekick and performed Tom Servo’s voice, giving those early episodes a very different feel from the ones most of us know and love. Weinstein wasn’t bad, but his character was a scheming evil scientist too; the dynamic between TV’s Frank and Dr. Forrester was much funnier. And I don’t know if I can imagine anyone other than Kevin Murphy voicing Tom Servo.
As with other “MST3K” volumes, the four discs included here are split between the Joel and Mike years: “The Girls in Lovers Lane,” from season five, is the other Joel episode, while “Zombie Nightmare” and “Racket Girls” (both from season six) round out the set. The bonus feature on “Zombie Nightmare” includes interviews with two of its stars, Frank Dietz and Jon Miki Thor, who were fans of the series before – and after – their film was eviscerated on it. Like most interviewees in that situation, Dietz and Thor take it all in stride, noting that the extra attention paid to their work didn’t hurt their careers. True, it didn’t give them a huge boost, but they clearly view it as “any publicity is good publicity.”
The “Racket Girls” disc features a five-minute excerpt from “Hamlet A.D.D.,” starring the voice talents of Trace Beaulieu (Dr. Clayton Forrester/Crow), Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo), and Majel Barrett Roddenberry (Gene Roddenberry’s widow). The full film stars several others too – it re-imagines Shakespeare’s play as a tour through the ages, beginning in 1602, continuing to the present day, and then moving far into the future.
“Racket Girls” and “The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy” also include their respective film trailers.
With nearly 200 episodes of “MST3K” in existence and many not available on DVD yet, including the entire KTMA run, Shout Factory should be busy for many years to come. I just hope they continue to mine behind-the-scenes material and other artifacts for the future volumes.