Saturday, January 18, 2014

#1,251. Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996)

Directed By: Jim Mallon

Starring: Trace Beaulieu, Mike Nelson, Jim Mallon

Tag line: "Finally a movie that's okay to talk through!"

Trivia: Each episode of the television series is actually longer than this movie

Mystery Science Theater 3000, which aired on U.S. cable network Comedy Central from 1989 to 1996, was an incredibly popular TV show in its day (so much so that, when Comedy Central cancelled the series in 1996, it was picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel, where it ran an additional 3 seasons). Set in “the not-too-distant future”, Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured a main character (originally played by series creator Joel Hodgsen, then later by head writer Mike Nelson) who’s launched into space by evil scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) and forced to take part in a bizarre psychological experiment. Along with his two robot sidekicks Tom Servo (voiced by Kevin Murphy) and Crow (Trace Beaulieu), Joel (then Mike) spends his days watching bad movies hand-picked by Dr. Forrester, who wants to see how many films it will take to drive his test subject insane. Fortunately for Joel (and Mike), he and his robots have a great sense of humor, and enjoy mocking the cinematic failures Dr. Forrester sends their way. Covering everything from low-budget B movies to 1950’s educational shorts, Mystery Science Theater 3000 grew to cult status, and reached such a high level of popularity that, in 1996, the show made its move to the big screen with the aptly-titled Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (from here on out, I’ll refer to it as MST3K: The Movie) follows the same format as its TV counterpart, only with a slightly bigger budget. Linked together by a handful of comedy skits starring Mike and the robots (in one, Mike tries to repair the Hubble spacecraft, which was damaged when he crashed the spaceship into it), MST3K: The Movie sees our heroes riffing on This Island Earth, a 1955 sci-fi film about aliens trying to save their dying planet.

Many of the movies presented on MST3K over the years were truly awful (my two favorite episodes featured Manos: The Hands of Fate and Eegah!). Every now and then, though, the show would poke fun at a decent flick, which is precisely what happens in MST3K: The Movie (This Island Earth is one of the better sci-fi films to emerge from the ‘50s). That said, Mike and the boys do a fine job picking it apart, tossing out dozens of hilarious one-liners and witty observations (some of the funniest involve the strange relationship that exists between the film’s lead character, played by Rex Reason, and his nerdy sidekick). In the end, MST3K: The Movie didn’t change my opinion of This Island Earth, but it did provide plenty of laughs at the movie’s expense.

Truth be told, MST3K: The Movie isn’t particularly cinematic; aside from a few instances of colorful language, there’s nothing here we haven’t already seen on the TV show. But as someone who enjoyed the series, I didn’t have a problem with this at all. MST3K: The Movie doesn’t have an intricate storyline, and it certainly didn’t dazzle me with its special effects. But the film made me laugh, which was reason enough to see it.

1 comment:

James Robert Smith said...

It never made any sense to me whatsoever why they chose a perfectly decent and credible (and respected) science fiction classic to serve as their foil for the theatrical release. Are parts of the film dated? Certainly. But not to the extent that it made reasonable fodder for the humor for which the TV show was known.

And so: Fail.