Monday, March 14, 2016

The complete Mystery Science Theater 3000 video collection

A while back, I went through all the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. I don't remember why. Probably a good reason. Actually, probably not a good reason, but I did it anyway, because, well, I do things like that.

Anyway, in order to watch them all, I had to get access to them. I had a friend who had many of the episodes on DVD, and he let me borrow those. Plus Hulu, Netflix, and other places had some online. Then there were pirate versions posted on the Internets. I was kinda uncomfortable with those. Anyway, it turned out that the only way to get some episodes was to buy them. I don't remember what happened next, but I ended up buying them all. All of them. Every one of them.

No, you don't understand yet. Probably. But, if you stick around, you're about to.

MST3K released episodes on VHS tape. Their company, Best Brains, sold them to MST3K Fan Club members. Later, they contracted with Rhino to distribute VHS tapes. Then Rhino started releasing DVDs. And, of course, Best Brains even released a few DVDs, but not many.

Then, Shout Factory took over from Rhino, and continued releasing DVDs. And that's the video release story at the high level.

Digging down into the weeds, though, we find there is more than one type of MST3K content. There's the riffing on the movies, of course, which is the bread and butter. Because some movies they riffed were shorter than typical films today, they would sometimes pad the episodes by having JOIKE and the Bots (some of you will get that reference) watch a short film, along the line of The Home Economics Story, or some other such "educational" video. And then there are the "host segments" that fill out the shows, and give the comedians the chance to do more than insult moving pictures. All the episodes had host segments and movies, and many had shorts.

They discovered early on that some movies they riffed were going to be difficult to release commercially due to the rights owners either wanting too much money, or refusing to allow them to release a version where the film is insulted for two straight hours. Egos. Go figure.

They solved this by releasing tapes (and later, DVDs) that contains shorts only, or host segments only. And, of course, blooper reels (called "Poopie!").

They'd release three single episodes on VHS at a time, along with three-packs containing those three tapes. Oh, and we can't forget the issues with losing rights to episodes after they released the VHS or DVD. It all adds up to a huge confusing mess.

The other thing? If you didn't get them when they came out (which was most of the tapes and DVDs, in my case) you have to find them from third-party sellers on Amazon or eBay or some other such place. And, some of the releases run into the hundreds of dollars. I am not making this up. If you're patient, and if you're lucky, you can find lower prices on some, but the fact is, to obtain a complete catalog, you're going to spend some money. So much that you'd be embarrassed to tell just how much.

By the time I realized all this, I was too far gone. It had sucked me in and I was a lost cause. I now had an impossible task before me: get them all. All of them.

Well, recently, I completed my quest. I don't know how much I spent. Oh, I could find out, but I wouldn't like it. So, I'll remain willfully ignorant. But it is a lot of money. I'm not sure which I spent more money on: the video collection, or the house I keep it in. Anyway, I do have them all. And, I have the pictures to prove it. And, if you keep reading -- there's still a lot more to go -- you'll understand just how impossible this task was. You'd be proud of me ... if I put this much effort into something actually worthwhile.

Here is a complete MST3K collection on VHS and DVD.

Now, for the details. This will take a bit.

The first picture is the VHS collection. That book/tape case starts with these Best Brains VHS tapes:
  • Play MST For Me
  • Play MST For Me 2
  • MST Poopie & Scrapbook (a two-pack)
  • MST Poopie! (single)
  • The MST Scrapbook (single)
  • MST Poopie II
  • Tom Servo's All Time Favorite Host Segments
  • Tom Servo's All Time Favorite Host Segments Vol. II
  • Tom Servo's All Time Favorite Host Segments Vol. III
  • The Last Dance - Raw
  • Tom Servo's All Time Favorite Host Segments Vol. IV
  • Mr. B's Lost Shorts??!!
  • Tom Servo's All Time Favorite Host Segments Vol. V
  • Play MST For Me 3
  • Assignment Venezuela and Other Shorts
  • The Touch of Satan
  • Girl in Gold Boots
  • Boggy Creek II: and the Legend Continues…
  • Hamlet, Prinz von Dänemark
Boggy Creek II on VHS was the last piece of the puzzle, by the way. I found it on eBay a couple of years ago, but was outbid. I dropped out before it passed $150. No, I'm not making that up. Recently, someone had a box of MST3K VHS tapes to sell, and it was one of the items in the collection. I paid under $100 for the two dozen tapes, but only really wanted that one. So, it took a couple of years, but I came out ahead. Kinda.

Oh, and you see the Poopie/Scrapbook thing? It was released as a two-pack, and as two singles. To be a complete collection, I had to find both releases. That took a while, but not as long as Boggy Creek II.

The next tapes are Rhino releases:
  • Mitchell
  • Cave Dwellers
  • The Amazing Colossal Man
  • The Brain That Wouldn't Die
  • Pod People
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie
  • Eegah
  • The Unearthly
  • Mondo-Hip (3-pack of The Atomic Brain, I Accuse My Parents, & Red Zone Cuba)
  • The Atomic Brain
  • I Accuse My Parents
  • Red Zone Cuba
  • Poopie 3 Pack (containing Manos: The Hands of Fate, Gunslinger, & Poopie!: Mystery Science Theater 3000 Official Outtakes Reel)
  • Manos: The Hands of Fate
  • Gunslinger
  • Poopie!: Mystery Science Theater 3000 Official Outtakes Reel
  • Twin Pack (containing Angels Revenge, an actual pair of MST3K shorts, & Shorts Vol. 1)
  • Angels Revenge
  • Shorts Vol. 1
  • 3 Pack (with The Crawling Hand, The Wild Wild World of Batwoman, & Beginning of the End)
  • The Crawling Hand
  • The Wild Wild World of Batwoman
  • Beginning of the End
  • Walking Tall 3-Pack (containing The Skydivers, Shorts Vol. 2, & Catalina Caper)
  • The Skydivers
  • Shorts Vol. 2
  • Catalina Caper
  • MST3K 3-Pack (with The Creeping Terror, Bloodlust!, & The Side Hackers)
  • The Creeping Terror
  • Bloodlust!
  • The Side Hackers
  • The Hellcats
  • Shorts Vol. 3
The Amazing Colossal Man is actually what started the whole VHS thing. That was the first release to be pulled over a loss of rights. It was never released on DVD, and the rights owner has not indicated any desire to let MST3K release it. I bought the VHS because that's the only legal format it was ever in commercially. Then I bought more. Until I got where I am now.

The next picture is the DVD case. Things didn't get any clearer when DVDs were released. The first DVD released was the feature film. Then, Rhino began releasing single episodes.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (original Image Entertainment release)
  • Eegah
  • The Brain That Wouldn't Die
  • Beginning of the End
  • The Wild Wild World of Batwoman
  • Mitchell
  • Manos: The Hands of Fate
  • I Accuse My Parents
  • Red Zone Cuba
  • The Crawling Hand
  • The Hellcats
The DVD packs started next, often with four episodes per pack, with occasional exceptions.
  • Volume 1: Catalina Caper, The Skydivers, Bloodlust!, & The Creeping Terror
  • Volume 2: Cave Dwellers, Pod People, Angels Revenge, & Shorts Vol. 1
  • Volume 3: The Side Hackers, The Unearthly, The Atomic Brain, & Shorts Vol. 2
  • Volume 4: Space Mutiny, Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, Girl in Gold Boots, & Hamlet
  • Volume 5: Time Chasers, The Touch of Satan, Boggy Creek II: and the Legend Continues…, & Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders
  • The Essentials (limited edition): Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Manos: The Hands of Fate, & Shorts Vol. 3
  • The Essentials (standard): Santa Claus Conquers the Martians & Manos: The Hands of Fate.

The packaging of The Essentials' limited edition and standard release are identical. The only way to tell the difference is to open the package and look for the limited edition bonus disc.

The next four DVD releases alternated between Rhino and Best Brains. The Best Brains volumes were DVD repackages of related multiple volume VHS releases:
  • Volume 6: Teenagers from Outer Space, Attack of the Giant Leeches, Gunslinger, & Mr. B's Lost Shorts??!!
  • MST Triple Decker (Play MST for Me, Play MST for Me 2, & Play MST for Me 3)
  • Volume 7: The Killer Shrews, Hercules Unchained, Hercules Against the Moon Men, & Prince of Space
  • Tom Servo's All All Time Favorite Host Segments
The last five volumes of the Rhino run came next, with the middle one having an interesting history.
  • Volume 8: Monster A-Go Go, The Dead Talk Back, The Phantom Planet, & Hobgoblins
  • Volume 9: Women of the Prehistoric Planet, Wild Rebels, The Sinister Urge, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies
  • Volume 10: Godzilla vs. Megalon, Swamp Diamonds, Teen-Age Strangler, & The Giant Spider Invasion
  • Volume 11: Ring of Terror, Indestructible Man, Tormented, & Horrors of Spider Island
  • Volume 12: The Rebel Set, Secret Agent Super Dragon, The Starfighters, & Parts: The Clonus Horror
  • Volume 10.2: The Giant Gila Monster, Swamp Diamonds, Teen-Age Strangler, & The Giant Spider Invasion
  • Volume 10.2 Upgrade Disc: The Giant Gila Monster
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (Universal re-release)
The story of Volume 10 is interesting. Turns out Rhino didn't have the proper clearance for the Godzilla movie. The version they riffed was owned by a company that didn't have DVD rights, as I understand it, and when Volume 10 was released, Toho, who owns Godzilla, was none too pleased. Volume 10 was pulled. Of course, that meant Rhino was losing sales on the other three episodes. Finally, they decided to re-release Volume 10 with The Giant Gila Monster replacing Godzilla vs. Megalon and call it Volume 10.2.

This wasn't going to sit well with those that already bought the original Volume 10, of course. They'd have to shell out a four-pack price for a single episode, as they already owned the other three. So, they also released the single disc of The Giant Gila Monster that could be ordered separately. They even got the cast back together to film a skit blaming Frank for the mix-up, and showing how to "upgrade" your Volume 10. It's kinda funny and quite clever.

Of course, I have Volume 10, Volume 10.2, and the stand-alone "upgrade" disc. Because complete.

Shout! Factory (hereafter called Shout Factory, or Shout) took over the DVD releases in 2008, the 20th anniversary of the first episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on KTMA TV-23 in Minneapolis.
  • 20th Anniversary Edition (Collector's Tin Edition with Crow figure): First Spaceship on Venus, Laserblast, Werewolf, & Future War
  • 20th Anniversary Edition (standard): First Spaceship on Venus, Laserblast, Werewolf, & Future War
  • Volume XIV: The Mad Monster, Manhunt in Space, Soultaker, & Final Justice
  • Volume XV: The Girl in Lovers Lane, The Robot vs the Aztec Mummy, Zombie Nightmare, & Racket Girls
  • Volume XVI (Collector's Edition with Tom Servo figure): The Corpse Vanishes, Warrior of the Lost World, Santa Claus, & Night of the Blood Beast
  • Volume XVI (standard): The Corpse Vanishes, Warrior of the Lost World, Santa Claus, & Night of the Blood Beast
  • Volume XVII: The Crawling Eye, The Beatniks, The Final Sacrifice, & Blood Waters of Dr. Z
  • Volume XVIII: Lost Continent, Crash of Moons, The Beast of Yucca Flats, Jack Frost
  • Volume XIX (Collector's Edition with Gypsy figure): Robot Monster, Bride of the Monster, Devil Doll, & Devil Fish
  • Volume XIX (standard): Robot Monster, Bride of the Monster, Devil Doll, & Devil Fish
As Rhino volumes or solo releases went out of stock, Shout began releasing episodes for which they were able to secure rights. For example, Volume 9 went out of stock, and Shout released an episode from that collection as a stand-alone. Until recently, Shout wasn't able to get full rights to an entire Rhino volume, so they'd release singles, in order to make them available to fans, and to make money.
  • Beginning of the End
  • The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies
  • Volume XX: Project Moon Base, Master Ninja I, Master Ninja II, & The Magic Voyage of Sinbad
  • Gunslinger
  • Hamlet
  • MST3K vs Gamera: Gamera, Gamera vs Barugon, Gamera vs Gaos, Gamera vs Giron, Gamera vs Zigra
  • The Unearthly
  • Red Zone Cuba
  • Manos y Manos: Manos: The Hands of Fate & Manos: The Hands of Fate (theatrical release)
  • The Atomic Brain
  • The Touch of Satan
  • Volume XXII: Time of the Apes, Mighty Jack, The Violent Years, & The Brute Man
  • The Wild Wild World of Batwoman
  • Girl in Gold Boots
  • Volume XXIII: King Dinosaur, The Castle of Fu Manchu, Code Name: Diamond Head, & Last of the Wild Horses
  • Volume XXIV: Fugitive Alien, Star Force: Fugitive Alien II, & The Sword and the Dragon, & Samson vs. the Vampire Women
  • Volume XXV (special release): Robot Holocaust, Operation Kid Brother (Operation Double-007), Kitten with a Whip, & Revenge of the Creature; Bonus disc: Radar Men from the Moon
  • Volume XXV (standard): Robot Holocaust, Operation Kid Brother (Operation Double-007), Kitten with a Whip, & Revenge of the Creature
  • Volume XXVI: The Magic Sword, Alien from L.A., Danger!! Death Ray, & The Mole People
  • Volume XXVII (special release): The Slime People, Rocket Attack U.S.A., Village of the Giants, The Deadly Mantis; Bonus disc: Serial Variety Pack: General Hospital, The Phantom Creeps, & The Undersea Kingdom shorts
  • Volume XXVII (standard): The Slime People, Rocket Attack U.S.A., Village of the Giants, & The Deadly Mantis
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (Shout! Factory re-release DVD/Blu-Ray)
  • 25th Anniversary Edition (Collector's Edition): Moon Zero Two, The Day the Earth Froze, The Leech Woman, & Gorgo, with bonus disk: Mitchell & The Brain That Wouldn't Die
  • 25th Anniversary Edition (standard): Moon Zero Two, The Day the Earth Froze, The Leech Woman, & Gorgo, with bonus disk: Mitchell & The Brain That Wouldn't Die
  • Volume XXIX: Untamed Youth, Hercules and the Captive Women, The Thing That Couldn't Die, & The Pumaman
  • Volume XXX: The Black Scorpion, Outlaw of Gor, The Projected Man, & IT Lives by Night
  • Turkey Day Collection: Jungle Goddess, The Painted Hills, The Screaming Skull, & Squirm
  • Volume XXXII: Space Travelers, Hercules, Radar Secret Service, & San Francisco International
  • Volume XXXIII: Daddy-O, Earth vs the Spider, Teen-Age Crime Wave, & Agent for H.A.R.M.
Shout obtained rights to all of the out-of-stock Rhino Volume 1. So, they rereleased Volume 1, with Volume 2 due later this year.
  • Volume 1: Catalina Caper, The Skydivers, Bloodlust!, & The Creeping Terror
  • Volume XXXIV: The Saga of the Viking Women and their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent, War of the Colossal Beast, The Undead, & The She-Creature
  • Volume XXXV: Teenage Cave Man, Being from Another Planet, 12 to the Moon, & Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell
And that's what a complete video release catalog of Mystery Science Theater 3000 videos looks like.

Oh, those other discs? What are they you ask.

No, really. Go ahead and ask.

Well, since you asked. You may have noticed that not all the episodes have been released. And, you may know that there was a 21-episode season on local TV (KTMA at the time) before the show was picked up by cable. There are fan recordings of all of the episodes of MST3K, except the first three KTMA episodes. Those small DVD cases are the KTMA episodes.

Those larger DVD cases? Those are fan recordings of some of the unreleased episodes from The Comedy Channel/Comedy Central, and from The Sci-Fi Channel. All of episodes that aren't commercially released are available online. Well, except for the first three KTMA episodes.

The more reputable of the "Keep Circulating The Tapes" Websites only sell discs containing unreleased episodes. Some disreputable ones sell them all, but stay away from those. They will deny the rights owner their due royalties, and you really don't want to deal with people like that.

I bought some discs containing episodes that were only available as fan copies, but then bought the commercial release when that came out.

And there you go. That's the story of owning an entire Mystery Science Theater 3000 video catalog.

If you have an interesting, funny, or lame story about MST3K, I'd love to hear it. Or read it. Don't call me and leave a voice mail. Leave a comment here. That way, others can enjoy your interesting, funny, or lame story, too.


  1. *slow clap*


    Some years back, I was part of an online group that reputably traded in only the episodes that were unreleased called The Digital Archive Project. (It appears to be gone.) They would kill an episode swap the moment that the announcement of a legit release was made by Rhino/Shout.

    They not only had all existing KTMA episodes, but they had some 13 specials on CD, such as the ones that they did for Sci-Fi Channel riffing the Oscar nominees. If you don’t have those, email me. (Basil, not everybody.)

  2. (bowing and scraping) WE ARE NOT WORTHY!!! WE ARE NOT WORTHY!!

  3. Shout! Factory has a Roku channel and they rotate episodes of MST3K. If you pay the subscription you can watch them without commercials. I have introduced these to my sons and even though they do not get most of the references in the show they get the idea of riffing and love to do it on stuff while watching netflix. Passing it on to the next generation. I even try to watch the Turkey Day marathon on Youtube and am looking forward to seeing the revival.

  4. I introduced by young son to MST3K.

    After that we, as a family, would watch bad movies and riff on them. One of the best moments was while we were watching a piece of poop called "Dragonworld: The Legend Continues" with Drake Bell. It was the type of movie where you could see the zipper on the dragon's back and the acting so bad that it was almost painful to watch.

    In one scene the boy hides the dragon (named Yowler) in a basement room. After the crisis passes the boy opens the door, walks in and says in an overly dramatic voice "Yowler!" that point my tween son spouted out..."It smells like Satan's butt crack in here!"

    I was so proud.

  5. Well Basil as Torgo would say...the master approves. Also the vast majority of MST3K episodes are on YouTube.

  6. You can tell it's a Minnesota production because the packaging changes from purple to blue.

  7. "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies"
    Heh. Way to slip political humor into this non-political post.

    "IT Lives by Night"
    So, this isn't your day job?

    Anyway, good job going Manos a Manos with this challenge and promoting Eegah access for all.

  8. Back in the early 2000s-ish, MST3K played a big part in getting me through a divorce with my sanity intact. This was before most of anything was released in any official form (I think the Rhino DVDs were up to Volume 4), and I had a copy of everything that was downloadable. Lost count, and it was incomplete, but still the collection was pretty large. Probably still exists on hard drives archived in my garage somewhere...

    Thanks for the story, Basil, and I'm green with envy.

  9. Now, can you get all the WKRPs with the original music?

    (Seriously, congratulations on a quest well accomplished!)

  10. This is quite an accomplishment! We'd love to interview you for the MST3K Revival League podcast, sometime. Our email is mst3krevivalpodcast at gmail dot com. Please contact us.

    Stay Curious


  11. ::wipes tear from eye::

    That is the most beautiful story I've ever heard! More beautiful than a strapless evening gown!


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