As much as I love MST3k, I have to admit that most collections feature at least one sub-par episode. Something fairly weak compared to the other three episodes. But this set was all winners in my opinion, no Swamp Diamonds or Catalina Capers to be found, just good, funny MST3k.
I should also say that, since I was born in 1987, I didn't catch a lot of early MST, so while I'm very familiar with most of the Mike years, some of the earlier stuff passed me by. I bought this volume out of interest in Zombie Nightmare, but I hadn't ACTUALLY SEEN any of these episodes before. So all 4 episodes were completely new to me.
With that in mind, here's my opinions of each episode:
THE ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY
You'd think with a title like that, they woulda brought the Robot in BEFORE 80 mins of the film pass you by. But you'd be wrong. All in all, its your standard incompetent 1950's horror schlock. But I enjoyed the movie's cheesiness and was pleasantly surprised by how good the riffing was. Being a 1st season episode (the 2nd episode of the 1st season, no less), I expected it to be pretty slow. The Crawling Eye had been my only previous experience with season 1 and I thought this would be much the same. But the riffs came faster and were actually pretty funny. Not the best episode ever, but very solid and I could easily see myself watching this one again. The robot alone is a riot, it very obviously has a PERSON inside it (they don't even try to hide his face!). Also comes with a Commander Cody short, which I've heard some people complain about but personally I found it very funny.
THE GIRL IN LOVERS LANE
In a word... AWESOME! This bumped POD PEOPLE out of my top 10 list and replaced EEGAH as my favorite Joel episode. Its the story of two drifters that come into a town and one falls in love with a waitress. Its actually not a terrible movie, the plot is cliched and its fairly low budget, but the acting is solid enough for you to care about the characters, which brings me to the problem some people have with this movie... the ending. Some MST fans are really bothered with the ending. And it raised an interesting question for the writers: What happens if your movie has a dark, toxic ending that's just downright depressing? Do you still riff? Joel and the Gang kept on going (how could they stop?), and the results make for one of the edgiest and most uncomfortable 4th acts in MST3k history. Because the movie's ending deals with a horrible tragedy, the riffing really borders on being tasteless, and it IS hilarious, just in a very uncomfortable way. I can totally understand why it bothered some people but I loved it. Overall a stellar episode, as long as you can stomach the ending. The best on the set by far.
Total 80's schlock in the vein of Hobgobblins. The movie is ridiculous enough on its own, but the riffing adds quite a bit (I love when the girl and her boyfriend are talking and Servo is just muttering "Shut up. Shut up." between every slight pause in their conversation). Its got Adam West and Tia Carrera in it, so you know it has plenty of potential! A good episode, but I found my particular DVD copy to be incredibly dark. I dunno if the movie itself was just very poorly lit, or if the master copy of the episode suffered some damage or something before the digital transfer, but most of the time I felt like I was watching a radio broadcast the movie was so dark. Anybody know whats going on with the darkness thing? Is it just me? Either way, very entertaining. A great Mike episode.
Did Ed Wood make this movie? It really really feels like an Ed Wood movie. You'd think with the endless scenes of female wrestling matches this movie would get boring, but Mike and the Bots keep it going. Very very funny, the movie also has one of the most hilariously inept endings of any MST3k film, just awesomely terrible. Also has a short about getting married which is really good. Another stellar episode.
All in all, a great set. Not the best beginning point for people new to the show (I'd start with volume 1, even with Catalina Caper the other three eps are great intros) but I can't see any fans being disappointed in the episodes on hand here. I mean, I never saw any of them before and I loved ALL FOUR!!!