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Buy from Amazon

Buy from Amazon.com

Rhino presents
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Essentials (1991)

Santa: We've never disappointed the kids yet.
Crow: 'Cept the poor ones.

- John Call, Trace Beaulieu

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: August 16, 2004

Stars: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Jim Mallon, Frank Conniff
Other Stars: John Call, Pia Zadora
Director: Jim Mallon, Nicholas Webster

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild innuendo)
Run Time: 01h:37m:14s (Santa)
Release Date: August 31, 2004
UPC: 603497034420
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+BC+ D-

DVD Review

The long-running Comedy Channel/Comedy Central/Sci-Fi Channel series Mystery Science Theater 3000, the program that made mocking movies cool, continues to leak out ever so slowly. This new set contains two programs, one of which has already been released on DVD, the classic Manos: Hands of Fate, widely regarded as one of the best episodes of the series ever. Unfortunately for you, Rhino didn't send out screeners of that disc from the set, but presumably it's the same as the previously-released disc. Fans of the series who already bought that but want its companion episode may be appropriately outraged at the double-dip now.

But Rhino did send screeners for the notorious episode Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964), a truly absurd piece of dreck that almost makes fun of itself. Martian children (one of whom is a young Pia Zadora, immediately multiplying the camp factor exponentially) have begun watching Earth television programs and have become obsessed with Santa Claus. Their parents decide to come to Earth and abduct Santa so that he can explain to them this "Christmas spirit" thing. But they end up not only getting Santa (John Call), but little Billy (Victor Stiles) and Betty (Donna Conforti) too. Can Santa win over the fun-averse and cold Martians? Well, the title kind of gives that one away. Inept from the start (check out the opening credit for "custume designer"!) to finish, it's hard to believe that actual kids weren't just bored and insulted by this film, which features what must be the most unconvincing bear suit ever committed to film. The kid-sung theme song, "Hooray for Santy Claus" is painful and inappropriate, a characteristic shared by the occasional blasts of jazzy sax and brass that come out of nowhere.

Host Joel (Joel Hodgson) and robots Crow (Trace Beaulieu) and Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy) are in particularly fine form in this episode, with not only the usual high-quality mockery of the feature, but some inspired host segments. Particularly notable is the new carol, "Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas" (says Joel: "I've never heard of an action sequence in a Christmas carol before.") Coming in for particular abuse is the obligatory Odious Comic Relief, Dropo (Bill McCutcheon), who is even more odious than one might fear. It's one of the best entries in the series that I've seen, entertaining from start to finish. Since the feature itself was long in rights limbo, it's somewhat surprising that Rhino is releasing this one, but it's certainly a happy occasion. The grade is for the MST3K content, not the movie itself.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The host elements look quite fine, with vivid color and nice black levels. It never looked this good on the air. Unsurprisingly, the film being mocked has faded to various shades of pink and faint greens. The main problem is a recurring shake to the picture (and it affects the silhouettes of the robots and Joel, so it's not just the Santa Claus film elements. It's not terrible but a bit more care could have been taken.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono sounds acceptable for what it is, the feature is a bit hissy and noisy but the host segments are reasonably good. It's not always easy to make out the dialogue, making the absence of subtitles or closed captioning lamentable. The theme music sounds quite nice, with good range.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Packaging: Unknown
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are no extras whatsoever. The chaptering is quite generous, with 20 stops.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

If you only intend to buy two MST3K episodes, these two are definitely a good place to start. The transfer is fine, but nothing at all for extras.

 


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