Need further proof that Shout Factory rocks? No, of course, you don’t, because they’ve proved themselves dozens of times over by now. But at the very least, let’s give them a shout-out for not only taking over the release of “MST3K” DVDs but also not wasting time between releases. They started the ball rolling in November, with the show’s 20th Anniversary Set; now, it’s less than three months later, and we’re already being gifted with “Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XIV.” Better yet, it’s as if the producers of this new collection took the comments in my review of the anniversary set to heart, since the selections on “Volume XIV” are split straight down the middle: two from the Joel Hodgson era (“Mad Monster” and “Manhunt in Space”), two from the Mike Nelson era (“Soultaker” and “Final Justice”).
The big win here is unquestionably “Soultaker,” which not only stars Joe Estevez (who also featured in the last set’s “Werewolf”) but also features the return of both Joel and TV’s Frank for guest spots. Still, you can never go wrong with a Joe Don Baker film, so there’s much to be said for “Final Justice” as well. As for the Hodgson-era flicks, it must be said that any chance to take a trip in the wayback machine and experience some seriously old-school “MST3K,” and “Mad Monster,” which is from the show’s very first season, fits that bill perfectly. “Manhunt from Space,” from Season 3, is equally classic, with the film’s cheesy sci-fi effects inspiring references to everything from the B-52s to “Gamera.” Shout Factory has also come through with some nice bonus material: new interviews with Joe Estevez and “Final Justice” director Greydon Clark (both of whom are really good sports), the original trailer for “Mad Monster,” and a clip of Mike, Tom, and Crow appearing on ESPN Classic’s “Cheap Seats without Ron Parker.” Yep, it’s another great set all around, fans. Go forth and buy it.