close menu
MST3K Vol XXXVIII Celebrates the Genius of Mike Nelson (Review)

MST3K Vol XXXVIII Celebrates the Genius of Mike Nelson (Review)

Just the same way every Doctor Who fan has their Doctor, every MSTie has their host of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Unlike the former, though, where there are 12 (or 13 or 14 depending on how pedantic you are) different Time Lord leads to argue about, as of right now, there are only two hosts, and the factions are split heavily. Obviously both are amazing and have their own distinct take on riffing. But for me, my formative years of comedy were during the Michael J. Nelson years. The genius of Mike Nelson is celebrated in the latest MST3K DVD box set–number XXXVIII!

Mike Nelson took over the hosting duties after the departure of original host and show creator Joel Hodgson in the middle of the show’s fifth season, in 1993. I have a pretty decent memory of Mike’s episodes from that year, but my parents stopped watching thereafter and I was left totally un-MST3K‘d until the beginning of the Syfy years in 1997. As such, I more or less missed out on Mike’s first full season, and his only full season on Comedy Central. Taped releases such as Bloodlust! and Red Zone Cuba allowed me to see some, but it really wasn’t until the Rhino/Shout Factory DVD releases that I’d see anything from seasons 6 or 7, depriving my youth of peak Mike-enjoyment.

MST3K-Invasion-USA-robot

Luckily, Volume 38 of the DVD range features three episodes from season 6 that I’d never seen before, and an episode from my beloved season 10 for good measure. (I gush about my love of the Syfy years here.) Each gives a great insight into what kind of host Mike was in those early yet established days aboard the Satellite of Love, trying to stave off bad-movie-madness at the hands of Dr. Clayton Forrester and TV’s Frank. Unlike Joel, who was sort of a teacher and guide to his robots, Mike was a weird older brother and they’d all play tricks on each other. Mike’s riffing style is also much more biting than Joel’s, giving his barbs some sharp edges.

Episode 602, Invasion USA, is a propaganda film from 1952 in which people say they think the government is too involved in their lives, only to have communists attack the shores. Better give in to Uncle Sam, right? This episode immediately illustrates how Mike isn’t Joel when in the first host segment, he tries to build a robot, but utterly fails, and later when he plays along as Tom tricks Crow into giving an insanely detailed and boring lecture on the differences in the two actresses who played Lois Lane on the ’50s Superman show (both starring in the movie at hand).

MST3K-Nummy-Muffin-Coocol-Butter

A few episodes later, in Episode 605, Colossus and the Headhunters, your standard sword and sandal flick, has Mike becoming transfixed by Dr. Forrester’s latest invention–the world’s cutest pet, a pink dog-like thing called Nummy Muffin Coocol Butter. In episode 618, High School Big Shot, features the short “Out of this World,” an industrial film in which an angel and a devil vie for the soul of bread delivery drivers. Mike’s riffing in this short alone (along with the bots of course) makes this one a stone cold classic.

And finally in the set we have a personal favorite of mine, Episode 1007, Track of the Moon Beast, a crappy 1970s creature feature in which a buff dude gets hit by a meteorite piece and becomes a were-lizard. Not a good movie, but it was co-written by, of all people, Batman‘s recently-recognized co-creator Bill Finger. This episode is one I’ve seen a million times and features some genius riffs about Johnny Longbow’s stew recipe, and Mike approximating Kris Kristofferson for a VH1-esque expose on The Band That Played California Lady and their big hit, “California Lady.”

Along with the usual featurettes and interviews–and four brand new movie posters by Steve Vance (see gallery below)–is a real treat, entitled “Mike, by Joel,” in which Joel Hodgson reminisces about hiring Mike as writer, and then de facto bit player, and finally as replacement host, and discusses the strengths of Mike in that role and where the show went thereafter. This is a great and surprisingly candid interview from Joel in which, among many things, he talks about how he initially thought Mike was the wrong choice as his successor.

If you’re a Mike person like I am, this set is a treasure trove of greatness, and highlights a period in the show’s history where the writing was getting extra polished and the jokes were especially weird.

MST3K-vol-xxxviii-dvd

Mystery Science Theater 3000 vol XXXVIII is available on Tuesday, March 28, from Shout Factory.

Images: Shout Factory/Best Brains


Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist and a MSTie from days of yore. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!


How big are them moon letters, though?

Gallery

Did an International LAST JEDI Trailer Foreshadow Snoke’s Plan for Rey?

Did an International LAST JEDI Trailer Foreshadow Snoke’s Plan for Rey?

video
A Guide to Stephen King's Lovecraftian Gods

A Guide to Stephen King's Lovecraftian Gods

article
STAR WARS/FAMILY GUY Crossover Subs Chris Griffin in for Anakin Skywalker

STAR WARS/FAMILY GUY Crossover Subs Chris Griffin in for Anakin Skywalker

video