Friday, February 10, 2012

"Keep Circulating The Tapes"

This task of watching all the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes is a larger task than I realized. Here's how it went:
Hey, Netflix has some MST3K episodes available for streaming. I liked that show, but didn't see a bunch of episodes. I think I'll watch the streaming ones on Netflix. Into the Streaming Queue you go!

Oh, look. They also have some on disk that aren't available for streaming. I'll pop them into the DVD Queue.

Hey, these are pretty good. I wonder how many I've actually watched. I'll look into that.

Oh, look. There's a boatload of episodes I haven't seen. And there's a lot of information about them, including when they aired. And I plumb forgot about the story arcs of Pearl and Brain Guy and Bobo. I missed some of the start of that. Let me look into this.

Hmm. Seems watching them in random order makes it hard to follow all the story arcs. And, some of the references don't make any sense until I watch an earlier episode later. I ought to watch them in order.

Well, the spreadsheet is done. Gosh, there are plenty of episodes I've never seen. But, I do own some of them, and have rented some of them. But there are plenty I don't have, to go with all those I do have. Maybe I'll buy some of those I've just rented. Maybe. Something to think about.

Okay, I've now seen all the ones that are available from Netflix, plus many of the ones I own. Still a lot more episodes I haven't watched, though. Wonder how this whole episode trading thing works?

"Keep Circulating The Tapes"
Ah, I see now. There seem to be two big camps. There's a pirate camp (that's what I call them), where they don't care how you got it or anything about copyrights, they'll trade or sell episodes. Any episodes. Then there's the we're-not-really-pirates camp that only trades episodes that aren't commercially available. If you want an episode that's commercially available, they'll send you to MST3K/Best Brains, or Rhino, or Shout Factory, or, or somewhere else. They won't trade commercial episodes. A matter of honor. But, for episodes that aren't commercially available, they take the "Keep Circulating the Tapes" thing to heart. I like this camp.

Oh, look. The KTMA episodes are available. I wonder what that's like?

Well, I have a bunch of episodes on either DVD, VHS, or iTunes format. I wonder if the ones I don't have are still available.

How about that. They are. And there are two versions of the Volume 10 multi-pack. Maybe I will get the other episodes. Maybe.

I wonder about the other episodes, the ones that aren't for sale. How hard is it to get those? Oh, not hard at all, I see. I can trade some stuff for some of those. And, I can purchase some.

Look at that! I have them all. But I haven't watched them. I have lots of not-for-sale episodes I haven't watched. And, looking at this list, I see I have some commercial episodes I never watched. Let me study this a bit longer.

Okay, I think I'll watch them all. In order. And maybe I'll blog about it. Lord knows, I haven't blogged about much else lately.
So, now I have purchased a legal copy of all the episodes that have ever been released. One episode released on VHS never made it to disk, but, I do own that VHS tape.

Not only do I own every episode that's been officially released, I also own every disk. For example, some multi-packs went out of print when rights to one or more of the episodes was lost or expired. Some of those episodes have been re-released as solo discs. I now have all of those.

Bottom line, if it's been released, I have it in one legal form or another. Some, I own more than once (multi-pack and solo, both Volume 10s, iTunes and disc, etc.). For example, Episode 424: "Manos" The Hands of Fate was released on Rhino in 2001. I bought that.

In 2004, it was released as part of a two-episode set, MST3K: The Essentials. Same disk. Same contents. Same extra features (the blooper reel). But it was paired with Episode 321: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, which is only available via The Essentials set. I bought that.

In 2011, it was released again, this time by Shout Factory. It was paired with the uncut version of the movie, with a whole new pack of extras (interviews and such). I bought that.

Oh, and it's also available from the iTunes store as a download. I bought that.

So, when it comes to Episode 424: "Manos" The Hands of Fate, I own it. Four times. But, I'm a collector. If you have it, I hope it's a legal copy. I suggest you buy it, at least once.

Similar story about the Volume 10 multi-pack. Volume 10 was released with four movies, including Godzilla vs Megalon. Turns out they didn't get proper rights for that, so they pulled the pack. After a short time, they re-released it as Volume 10.2, with The Giant Gila Monster replacing the Godzilla movie; the other three films were the same.

For a limited time, they offered The Giant Gila Monster as a single disc available to those that had purchased Volume 10, calling it an "upgrade" to Volume 10.2.

I have Volume 10, and the upgrade disc, and Volume 10.2. Yes, overkill, I know. Unless you want a complete collection. I wanted a complete DVD collection. And have one.

Now, what about episodes that have never been released? Actually, I have some of those. In fact, I have all of them. I have obtained them from a variety of sources, involving trades and such. I did trade some episodes for some unreleased episodes. And I traded other good and valuable considerations for selected unreleased episodes.

One site I've been very happy with is He seems to have a good quality unreleased episodes. And, I like the fact he doesn't copy and trade commercial episodes.

There is software that can be used to extract videos from commercial DVDs. I use such software to transfer my DVDs to iTunes, when the episode is not available from the iTunes store. But, I do not abuse the ability. I do not copy and sell or trade commercial episodes; my copying of commercial content is for my personal archive only, as allowed by U.S. law. The guy that runs doesn't deal commercially-available episodes either. And, when a new episode is announced for sale via commercial means, he pulls them from his trading library. I like that.

Now, he's not the only person that runs sites to allow you to "keep circulating the tapes," but he's one I read a lot of good things about, and one that I've enjoyed doing business with. If you want to trade episodes, he's a good place to start. He has links to other MST3K trading sites.

Oh, one other thing. Though I have the unreleased episodes that are going to be in Volume 23 (King Dinosaur, The Castle of Fu Manchu, Code Name: Diamond Head, Last of the Wild Horses), I ordered the DVD when it was announced. It's officially released on March 27, but I've already purchased it; it's schedule to arrive on that day.

I've enjoyed watching the episodes over the years, and have had fun with this "watch 'em all in order" project that's currently underway.

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