For those unfamiliar, "Mystery Science Theater 3000" was a cult series that ran from 1988-1999 and revolved around a mild-mannered worker (Mike Nelson in the second half of the series, Joel Hodgson in the first half) who is shot into space by his crazed boss, Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu, although when Beaulieu left the series, the character was replaced by Pearl Forrester, played superbly by Mary Jo Pehl) and forced to live on the Satellite of Love watching the worst movies that can be dug up while the Dr. monitors his mind. Mike/Joel can't control when the movies begin or end, because those parts were to make robot pals Crow T. Robot (voiced by Trace Beaulieu and Bill Corbett), Tom Servo (voiced by Kevin Murphy or J. Elvis Weinstein) and Gypsy (voiced by Patrick Brantseg or J. Elvis Weinstein).
The series saw Mike or Joel accompanied by Tom Servo and Crow into the viewing room, where they were subjected to Z-grade movies so horrendously awful that they often come out onto that other side where they're not only amusing, but oddly fascinating in their sheer badness. The simple premise of the series has the group commenting on the movie at hand - continuing the thoughts of the characters, making random pop culture references that manage to make sense in the scene or making wisecracks about what's on-screen. Serving as breaks are "host" segments, where Mike or Joel and friends chat about the movie at hand and/or do a bit that often revolves around the movie they're watching.
It's amazing that it's been more than twenty years since the series first started airing (those who want to learn more about the history behind the series - as well as get four entertaining episodes - can get the show's 20th Anniversary Collection, which has a terrific documentary about the show, as well as other bonus features.)
This set, which is the 14th collection of episodes from the series, provides four more hilarious episodes of the classic TV show: "Robot Vs. Aztec Mummy" (a scientist invents a robot for the purpose of stealing an artifact from an ancient mummy, who's not too pleased), "Zombie Nightmare" (A young baseball player is killed by a car of teens, so his mother uses a voodoo priestess to resurrect her son so his zombie corpse can have vengeance), "Racket Girls" stars real-life female wrestlers in the store of a lowlife wrestling manager forced to run for his life when he takes $35K from a local crime boss and finally, "The Girl in Lover's Lane" (a drifter has to make things right with both the local crooks and law after his protege screws up once too often.)
The movies are all genuinely awful, but "Girl in Lover's Lane" and the early episode, "Robot Vs. Aztec Mummy" are not quite as funny as the other two episodes. There's genuinely awful in a flat way and there's genuinely awful to the point of delight and fascination - "Girl" is the former and there are stretches where the group doesn't come up with that much to say. Still, there are a few great little throwaway bits, such as when the film print jumps and the picture seems to skip ahead a few seconds, which leads Joel to crack, "Ahh! A wrinkle in time!" There's also a completely random "Star Trek" reference and a brief "Six Million Dollar" man riff that got laughs.
Staring off with a bizarre Lisa Loeb parody and a hysterical PSA ("Are You Ready For Marriage?", which has a couple of 50's teens act like idiots and say "Gosh" and "Golly" a lot), "Racket Girls" seems like a bizarre mash-up of a crime drama and highlights of women built like football players wrestling one another. This isn't one of the finest "MST3K" episodes, but the ridiculous plot and horrific acting do lead to some good laughs. "Zombie Nightmare" stands out as the best of the bunch, simply because it stands out as one of the worst films the series has ever featured. The 80's films features absolutely pitiful acting and looks as if it was filmed on film stock that was recycled many times over and then left out in the sun and then put into a spin cycle. In terms of the riffs from the trio, this stands out as the best in terms of quantity and quality ("In voodoo you really have to handhold your clients, geez.") Amazingly, none other than "Batman" star Adam West has a role in the movie.
As for the segements where the group is talking outside the theater in the satellite, the image quality is probably the best the episode has ever looked - crisp, clear and with strong colors. As for the films themselves, they look perfectly awful. The movies on MST3K aren't supposed to look great, and these certainly do not. They look soft, worn and often grainy.
As for the sound, the same formula applies - the dialogue between the group in the outside segements is crisp and clear, and the sound from the movie is pretty terrible.
EXTRAS: "Behind the Scenes: MST3K Scrapbook Scraps 1 & 2" (each offers seven minutes of behind-the-scenes footage), preview of the upcoming "Hamlet ADD", "Zombie Nightmare=MST3K Dream" (interviews with the stars of the film), "Racket Girls" promo & "The Robot Vs. The Aztec" promos.
Final Thoughts: Although not the very best of the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" sets, the episodes included here still do provide some good laughs. The DVD set also offers a couple minor extras. Recommended.