Do “Mystery Science Theater 3000” fans engage in fierce debates over who was the better ringleader – Joel or Mike? And if so, does it ever get ugly? A little bit of MST3K (as the cool cats refer to it) has always gone a long way for me. I’ve never been able to grasp how this gimmick lasted for as long as it did, since it requires 90-plus minutes of your time for each installment; while the concept of heckling bad movies is novel, you still have to sit through the bad movies. Often times the fare would be considered unwatchable if not for all the slings and arrows lodged in the direction of the movie screen. Of course I realize that’s the whole point of the thing, but if the gimmick isn’t working, as is the case about half the time with MST3K, it can be a torturous way to watch a bad movie.

The latest set from Shout Factory collects four more installments, from different eras of the series. Judging by these episodes, Mike would unquestionably win the proposed fan debate, as neither of the Joel offerings are anything to write home about. “The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy” comes from very early in the series, and it’s just terrible. I swear I didn’t even laugh once. “The Girl in Lovers Lane” is somewhat better, but the difference is negligible. The third offering, “Zombie Nightmare,” is an absolute scream – everything that this show ever did well is encapsulated in their lambasting of this terrible ‘80s film featuring Adam West. The final entry is called “Racket Girls,” and while not quite the standout the previous title is, it’s still pretty good stuff, although you’ll be able to safely slip off to the bathroom from time to time, and likely not miss anything special. Regardless, MST3K has such a devoted following, I can’t imagine fans of this show will be satisfied until every single episode is available on DVD, and therefore my stick in the mud antics carry very little weight whereas this series is concerned.

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