MST3K VS. GAMERA: MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000, VOL. XXI [DELUXE EDITION]
MST3K Vs. Gamera: Mystery Science Theater 3000, Vol. XXI [Deluxe Edition]
Actors: Joel Hodgson
Directors: Kevin Murphy
Format: Box set, Color, DVD, Full Screen, NTSC
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
Number of discs: 5
Studio: Shout! Factory
DVD Release Date: August 2, 2011
Run Time: 540 minutes
So Happy Together: a
look back at MST3K & Gamera
Gamera Obscura: a
history by August Ragone
Gamera Vs. The Chiodo
The MST hour wraps
mini-posters by Artist Steve Vance
is really neat! He is full of turtle meat! And damn if he wasn’t made for
Mystery Science Theater!
The giant fire-breathing turtle who is friend to all children started out as
a bad knock-off of Godzilla, then eventually
developed a cult following all his own. The merry pranksters at MST
saw potential in him immediately, and used five of his movies as fodder
during their inaugural season on KTMA in Minneapolis.
When Comedy Central picked them up, they returned to those same five movies
in new episodes that aired during the show’s third season. Shout Factory has
used them as the basis for their new boxed set; it proves an extremely apt
choice, though you need to be ready for a whole lot of turtle.
The five films in the set – Gamera, Gamera vs.
Barugon, Gamera vs. Gyaos, Gamera vs. Guiron and Gamera
vs. Zigra – all follow a similar pattern of guys in rubber monster suits
bashing the crap out of each other while horrified human extras look on.
Like the Godzilla franchise, the films
became more family friendly as time went on; Gamera begins as this
overwhelming threat to civilization, then gradually morphs into a
kid-friendly hero, saving all manner of tubby Japanese boys from the
clutches of carnivorous aliens and other sinister grown-ups.
It’s all colossally goofy in ways that only a Japanese monster movie can be
. . . which explains the deep affection the MST gang has for the
films. The models are shoddy, the costumes outlandishly fake and the
Japanese-to-English translation results in some of the strangest dialogue
you’ll ever hear. It’s an entirely off-kilter experience, but as actor Trace
Beaulieu notes in one of the extras, these are essentially family films, and
thus offer nothing patently offensive. The riffing responds to that status:
taking place during the kinder, gentler Joel Hodgson era, and while their
never-ending riffs are hysterically funny, they stem from a place of love.
The only downside to the package is the comparative lack
of variety in the films. Shout Factory’s previous MST collections
have covered as many bases as they could: with a healthy mix of Mike Nelson
episodes interspersed with the Joel Hodgson ones, and hard-to-find
first-season stuff (which frankly isn’t very good) added into later episodes
when the crew really had their mojo going. All of these come from the same
season, and since the movies themselves are so similar, they may become a
little repetitive for people who don’t dig the whole “curb stomping Tokyo”
On the other hand, the set’s definite theme lends it a
great deal more distinctiveness than other
MST collections, and fans of the Gamera films won’t need to hunt
throughout multiple sets to get the complete collection. There’s even a
specialized opening to the menu on each DVD, with Gamera charging forward
through the tunnel to the Satellite of Love’s theater. The set’s identity
helps it stand out from the remainder without skimping on the dependable
nature of MST3K’s DVD releases. The 21st set proves to be yet another
winner . . . gift wrapped with a giant fire-breathing bow.
THE DISC: The five-disc set (one more than most
MST3K collections) comes in a handsome-looking tin with Gamera on the
front, and contains a set of mini-posters from artist Steve Vance, as is
typical for the Shout Factory releases. Extra features include a
retrospective on the relationship between MST3K and the Gamera
films, a documentary charting the history of Gamera (featuring film expert
August Ragone), and “Gamera vs. the Chido Brothers,” which covers the
history of Japanese monster movies in general. MST “hour wraps”
featuring Mike Nelson’s perennially confused host and the original Japanese
trailers complete the set.
WORTH IT? The set is slightly more expensive than
other MST collections, but the extra movie justifies the additional
RECOMMENDATION: A terrific set from Shout Factory;
just be prepared for a whole lot of giant turtle and not much else.
- Rob Vaux