Mystery Science Theater 3000

ans of snarky humour will appreciate this four-disc set of the beloved cult comedy which features an equal mix of Joel Hodgson and Mike Nelson-hosted episodes. Their wisecracking barbs are thrown at a diverse mix of films, including the 1948 western Last of the Wild Horses, 1955 sci-fi cheapie King Dinosaur and 1969’s The Castle of Fu Manchu.

Quinn Martin may have been the brains behind TV hits The Fugitive and Barnaby Jones, but he also produced his fair share of flops, including 1977’s Code Name: Diamond Head. Mike and the bots heckle their way through this failed pilot starring Roy Thinnes as a top spy in Hawaii. Some of the gang’s best jokes focus on the fact that the show appears to have been shot set on sets: “Rope had more Hawaiian locations than this film.”

Ian McShane costars as the villain and is the subject to an abundance of Lovejoy jokes — a few years later, and you’d be sure they’d be Deadwood references.

According to an interview with cast member Frank Conniff, making fun of Jess Franco’s nonsensical Fu Manchu entry was one of the toughest shows to film. The Castle of Fu Manchu was the last of five movies in which Christopher Lee starred as the Chinese master criminal and, clearly, one of the low points of his career. It’s not only the onscreen ridicule that’s amusing here; a segment in which Crow delivers a tearful litany of all the Caucasian actors who portrayed Asian characters in the early days of Hollywood is also quite good.

Exclusive extras include original theatrical trailers and an update with Kevin Murphy, the voice of Tom Servo, who still continues to make fun of movies via the Rifftrax website.

Also included are featurettes on Quinn Martin and little-known movie-theatre owner-turned-B-movie producer Robert Lipert. A brief foray into Samuel Fuller’s career, which began with Lipert, is a pleasant surprise in this 35-minute extra on the producer of Wild Horses and King Dinosaur. In the awkward interview with Martin biographer Jonathan Etter, he reveals that Diamond Head was actually shot on the island state, despite the jibes thrown by the MST3Kers.

Granted, this 23rd volume is getting close to the bottom of the MST3K barrel, but fans will still want to pick up these episodes, which make their first appearance on DVD.