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Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996)


“Breach Hull – All Die.” Even Had it Underlined.

Nobody requested that I review today’s movie. This was all me. Whatever the inspiration was that made me decide to watch today’s movie eludes me. I just felt like watching a movie that I love. I would possibly call this movie one of my favorite comedies – and perhaps favorite movies – of all time, were it not for the fact that it’s basically just the TV with a little more production value. But I would definitely call the TV show my favorite TV show of all time, so I don’t feel it’s very significant that I don’t think of the movie as a movie. Either way, it’s good fun, so let’s review this. This TV show turned movie is Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, written by Michael J. Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy, and Mary Jo Pehl, directed by Jim Mallon, and starring Michael J. Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, and John Brady, and the voices of Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, and Jim Mallon. That’s basically 5 names repeated, but that’s how the show and movie work. And boy do they work!

The story of MST3K is a fairly simple one: mad scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) has trapped Mike Nelson (Michael J. Nelson) in the Satellite of Love with a couple robots, mainly Crow (Trace Beaulieu) and Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy), with Cambot filming and Gypsy (Jim Mallon) flying the Satellite. Dr. Forrester forces Mike Nelson to watch bad movies along with Tom and Crow in order to drive them insane, then showing him which movie to force upon the world to drive it insane and allow him to rule it. Mike and the ‘bots get through these movies by making jokes about it, and we watch them do that. The movie they watch today is This Island Earth, a somewhat famous science fiction movie from 1955. In this movie, Cal Meacham (Rex Reason) is recruited by a “man” named Exeter (Jeff Morrow) to join other scientists like Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue) and Steve Carlson (Russell Johnson) in a mysterious study. Turns out that Exeter is an alien, and he abducts Cal and Ruth to save his planet of Metaluna. They go to the planet, find out their leader, The Monitor (Douglas Spencer), wants to movie the aliens to Earth and control the humans. Exeter helps Cal and Ruth escape, but is fatally wounded in the process. Metaluna explodes into a star as they leave, Cal and Ruth are returned safely to Earth, and Exeter crashes his ship into the ocean. The end. Back on the Satellite of Love, Dr. Forrester is not pleased to find out that Mike and the ‘bots are not driven mad by this movie.

This might be a somewhat lackluster review because it’s not very easy to make fun of a movie about making fun of a movie, especially when those people mocking the movie are so much better at it than I am. I know, it’s shocking to read that, but it is possible for people to be better at this than I am. In fact, the Mystery Science Theater boys are probably the reason I like to make fun of movies in the first place, but they’ve been doing it so much longer than I have. This is a fantastic comedy film with a decent science fiction film within it. The jokes of MST3K just get better with age. I found that, as my life experience expands, more of their jokes made sense to me and gave me a new thing to laugh at. The first time I watch something MST3K, I enjoy it, but there may have been a few jokes I didn’t get the first time around, so on the second viewing, the jokes I got the first time are slightly less funny, but the ones I missed are stepping up to the plate. Perhaps the first time I saw this movie I had no idea who Roger Dean was, but I’ve looked him up now, so next time I’ll find that much funnier. The only thing that could be considered a problem with the MST3K part of this movie is that fact that it’s exactly like the TV. It’s even the same length as the TV show would be with the commercials removed, coming in at only an hour and 22 minutes. Some of the jokes may be a little dated, but so am I because I get most of them. And there are so many of them that not getting one won’t matter because you’ll get one of the next ones in the same minute. They also seemed to use their increased budget to improve the sets, cameras, and cinematography. I don’t know why, really. The look has never been a factor for me. The writing is where it’s at with MST3K, and it’s phenomenal here.

This Island Earth was unlike any other movie that the MST boys tended to choose in that it was probably once a really good movie. It seemed to have really good look and production value for its time, fairly decent performances, but probably not a lot of thought put into the story itself. I’m only speaking of the cut used in the MST3K movie, because I’ve never seen it outside of this movie, but the first half of the movie was Cal doing his own experiments, somehow getting parts to an alien machine sent to him, putting it together, finding out it was a communicator, and then having it explode. This is basically how the entire movie was written. Setup to the story is about 50 % of it, travel to the story is 30% (15 for going, 15 for coming back), and the other 20% is the story. The cut of the movie I saw had all this set up to them getting abducted by Exeter, they spend a lot of time on the spaceship going there, and then only about 5 minutes on Metaluna. They spent a lot of time talking about science they clearly didn’t actually understand at the time, or just saying whatever and knowing that the general population would have no idea they were wrong. To quote from the movie: Exeter: “Now place your hands above the rails” (Cal’s hands jerk down to the rails) Exeter: “…they’re magnetized.” Crow: “And if your hands were metal, that would mean something.” There was also a lot of talk about combining nuclear energy and push-button electronics, which I feel like they stopped trying to go after when all those children with a third arm coming out of their forehead kept showing up. Either way, it’s not that bad for a movie from 1955, but I can’t imagine wanting to watch it without the MST treatment.

I hereby recommend Mystery Science Theater 3000 in any of it’s forms, be it the TV show, the movie, or even the newer version called Rifftrax. They had a bit of a slow start in their comedy careers, but at this point their joke writing is absolutely sublime. I may not laugh on my 47th viewing of MST3k: The Movie, but I always love it. I would say the movie they watched this time around (This Island Earth) is probably only enjoyable with their treatment of the movie. But, since I’m reviewing their treatment of the movie, I say you should definitely watch it. I just checked, and not only is the movie available on Netflix, but it’s available to be streamed, and you should at least do that. I own it, so I don’t need such convenience. I will enjoy this movie whenever I please. I give Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie “It’s the amazing technicolor cheese wedge” out of “Increase the Flash Gordon noise and put more science stuff around!”

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