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2007 In Review: The State of The MSTie Union

You know it’s a special post when the title and the tags are both excessively, unnecessarily long. If you’re an ignorant, out-of-touch MSTie, then this blog post is for you. See, there’s been an incredible amount of activity in the past year related to our favorite eight-years-dead TV show. So much, in fact, that you almost might not think that it was dead. (Let’s all come to terms with it, kids – Mystery Science Theater 3000 as we know it, for the foreseeable future, is dead.)

Anyway, I’m going to try my best to summarize the recent goings-on in the MSTie community as efficiently as possible, while keeping an eye on 2008. There are currently six available ways to get your fix of Brain stew, most of which do manage to provide sufficient lulz. How can you get your fix? Click past the break for a rundown of the state of the MSTie union.

Most notably and most importantly, Rhino continues to release four-DVD box sets of MST3K episodes. So far, the rate of release seems to be somewhere around two sets per year, on average. Just recently, Volume 12 was released. Most brick and mortar DVD stores probably have at least one of the volumes, and there’s no end of places to buy a set online. You can usually find them for somewhere in the area of $30-40 (US dollars, natch). You’d be a fool to pay more than that. Volume 13 has yet to be announced, but it’s likely to make an appearance soon.

Rhino recently announced that Volume 10 would be returning to stores in February, with The Giant Gila Monster replacing the decidedly not-legal Godzilla vs. Megalon. For those of us who already own the old Volume 10, Rhino will also be selling Gila Monster as a limited single-disc release, through their website.

Apart from Rhino’s limited releases, fan trading continues to thrive. You can still buy episodes on DVD from fan traders, or you can download and burn them yourself via torrent sites like MySpleen. And of course, for your short-term needs, there’s YouTube. (I need to update my links. Patience.)

The guys at Rifftrax continue to pump out audio commentaries, though they’ve been taking a break during the holiday season. The release schedule is set to continue around January 16th. Mike’s been working with both Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy fairly regularly, these days. Apart from that, they’ve also been experimenting with the new On Demand service, releasing a couple of shorts. Also, the new “Rifftrax Player” is currently in beta, which should make synching DVDs on your computer a piece of cake. And this cake is not a lie.

Their last two commentaries were the Star Wars Holiday Special and Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, as well as the A Visit To Santa short. As usual, hit the website for the remainder of commentaries, clocking in between $2.99 and $3.99. Check out my video links page for a smattering of samples.

Originally recorded approximately four years ago, these incredibly MST3K-like DVDs finally saw the light of day during the third quarter of 2007. They’ve been met with virtually unanimous acclaim, just as much as (if not more than) Rifftrax, with the online press coverage to match. Only four episodes exist at the moment, and the reviews seem pretty similar – the riffing is pretty darn good, but the “host segments” suck. You can find them for around $13-15 at most online retailers. Don’t go to the stores, because you’ll likely end up shelling $20 for them. Long live the internet!

Okay, so, what does the future hold for The Film Crew? Not much, actually. Shout Factory, the company behind the DVDs, has stated that, if the series sells well, there could be new releases somewhere down the line. However, if anything’s happening between Mike, Bill, and Kevin and Shout Factory, everyone’s being hush-hush about it. So let’s just sit back and enjoy what we’ve got, eh?

This project is a little more left-of-center. The only major regular cast member from MST3K is TV’s Frank Conniff. Essentially, Cartoon Dump is a dark satire of children’s shows, like a “Big Comfy Couch — From Hell.” (If that’s not, in fact, redundant.) Frank portrays Moodsy, The Clinically Depressed Owl. He, however, is not the host of the show. That role belongs to Erica Doering, as Compost Brite. There’s also a rather attractive woman who plays some gun-toting badger, but I haven’t seen that episode. Joel Hodgson occasionally mans the puppet Dumpster Diver Dan, but usually only for live performances.

If you like dark humor and painful cartoons, then this should appeal to you. It’s actually the most original of all the Brains’ major projects. And, unlike most of those projects, this one can be enjoyed for free. People in SoCal can catch live performances on the fourth Tuesday of each month, and the show was even taken to New York, recently. The rest of us shmucks can get some here. It remains to be seen whether or not Cinematic Titanic will hinder the Dump’s progress.

Meet the newest arrival to the MST family — and the inevitable bastard child. This new incarnation of MST3K features only the three primary robots, in an abstract Flash-animated form, with only one of the original voices behind them. Resident Scrooge McDuck Jim Mallon spearheaded the project, which is being written by the lovable Paul Chaplin (who voices Crow now). Each short consists of around five minutes of mischief aboard the SOL. The episodes are currently free and are backed by a small line of merchandise.

The series only just launched at MST3K.com on November 5th, and already there’s a fairly significant backlash from the masses. If you think people freaked out about Rifftrax (“New movies!?” “Mike alone!?” “Audio only!?”), well… this one is an uphill battle. While I’ve yet to write up a review of the first episodes, I can tell you that it will not be pretty. The show just isn’t funny. At its core, it just feels like Jim Mallon trying to redirect interest back to his product and make a buck. Needs more Brains.

Currently, the series appears to be on hiatus. Phew.

Ahhhh… Take a deep breath. If the MST3K animated series left your taste buds rotting and the foul stench of an unearthed, decaying corpse in your nostrils, this might just be the breath of fresh air you need. Joel Hodgson has returned to the riffing arena, and he’s brought with him Frank Conniff, Mary Jo Pehl, and original bot-heads Trace Beaulieu and Josh Weinstein. It’s about as “MST3K” as you can get, setting the five of them in silhouette against a crappy b-movie.

The first episode, The Oozing Skull, was released in December, but has only just now started to ship. The rate of release is currently unknown, but they’ve reportedly licensed twelve films to lay waste to. Currently, you can order the debut episode in DVD form, but there will be file downloads available in the future, so you can download and burn the episodes yourself. In other words, you can pay them so that you can do all the work for them.

I’m excited about this. I mean, who knows what the motivation behind this is? (And yes, I do care about these things. If this is a man returning to something he loves, that’s far more enjoyable than watching a guy desperate to make a buck.) But it does seem like Joel is eager to hop back on the riff bus and, hell, I’ll watch anything that involves Trace making funny. And who can resist a peek at the long-invisible Josh “Please Call Me J. Elvis, Mr. Customs Man” Weinstein? Watch this one closely. It could be amazing.

It still isn’t out. Maybe this year. Maybe.


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