Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XVI 

y continues its bang-up job of collecting episodes of the late, great "Mystery Science Theater 3000" TV series with "Volume XVI." We're up so high that I'm starting to think a few seconds on what the Roman numerals translate to.

This four-disc set bestows another quartet of ultra-cheesy movies made more than watchable by our snarky, silhouetted, space-marooned hosts aboard the so-called Satellite of Love. In orbit, there's little to do but lampoon cinema's all-time worst, and Mike Nelson and his robot friends are the best in the universe at doing so.

And, in the case of the early seasons, show creator Joel Hodgson, who is represented with the first-year episode "The Corpse Vanishes," a Bela Lugosi clunker featuring the former Dracula fully ensconced in the Poverty Row,  "pull da strings!" portion of his career. If you remember the days when the "MST" crew skewered serials before the main feature, you' ll enjoy this one, which comes complete with a chapter of "Radar Man from the Moon."

So shoddy is the futuristic motorcycle movie "Warrior of the Lost World " that it could be called "Joke-pocalypse Now." In a bonus featurette, its writer/director David Worth admits to enjoying watching the show "tear it a new one" and discusses the  1980s low-budget actioner's abbreviated genesis and production.

The sci-fi snorer "Night of the Blood Beast" is the least of the four episodes here, but at least you can watch it with its 1995 live "Turkey Day" intros, back when Comedy Central hosted all-day "MST3K" marathons on Thanksgiving.

And that brings us to one the series' all-time classic episodes in "Santa Claus," a woefully misbegotten Mexican children's film from 1959 with nightmarish imagery, politically incorrect stereotypes and Lupita, a little girl whose dubbed questions will drive you to the brink of insanity. In a good way.

The best of the special features lies on the "Santa" disc: a terrific 20-minute documentary on the 50-year-old film (which appears to have been culled from a forthcoming feature on its U.S. producer, K. Gordon Murray, which I'll have to see).

But wait "? as they say on late-night infomercials "? there's more! Act now and get the limited-edition set complete with mini-posters and a Tom Servo figurine, all in a collectible tin. Whether you get that one or "just" the standard one, " Volume XVI" is one of the best DVD boxes of the year.

"?Rod Lott

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