A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

November 25, 2010

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

Happy Turkey Day to our fellow United Statesians. Traditionally in our household this day has been the home of the MST3K Turkey Day Marathon – something that Comedy Central did several years in a row around when Amanda and I started dating. Many of our most beloved and most watched episodes were aired as part of the Marathon and recorded for posterity by Amanda. We couldn’t think of any more fitting Thanksgiving movie therefore than this one – the only MST3K “episode” to have been released in theaters.

We saw this together in the theater on opening night. It was a fantastic time, surrounded as we were by other cheering, laughing MSTies. Our viewing was slightly marred when they had to evacuate the sold-out theater because somebody pulled the fire alarm near the start of the film. We had to all leave, wait for the fire department, and then file back in before they could re-start the film. (We have long speculated it was somebody from the back of the theater who wanted a better seat.) Otherwise it was one of the greatest opening night experiences I can recall. It’s all about the joy of being surrounded by people who have as much respect and anticipation for something. There was an enormous cheer for example when Crow delivered the line “Please say we get the Sci-Fi Channel. Please, please, please!” As there was for the “Manos” sign and musical sting on the controls for the manipulator arms on the SOL bridge.

This movie was filmed, as I recall, between Season Six and the extremely short Season Seven – just after Frank Conniff had left the show but before Trace Beaulieu left. It was a little odd at the time seeing Dr. Forrester without any side-kick after years of TV’s Frank and Larry before him. (Season Seven would feature Mary Jo Pehl as Dr. Forrester’s mother Pearl – a role she would fill for the entirety of the Sci Fi Channel run of the show.) Another thing that was strange about this movie is that it does not feature the iconic MST3K theme song – which has changed over the years as the cast changed but was always there – introducing us to the cast and reassuring us that it’s just a show and we should really just relax. Also missing is Cambot – the steadfast POV from which all action on the Satellite of Love is filmed. In this movie there’s a more cinematic feel to the SOL, which means that they chose to use multiple camera angles to explore the sets with more freedom.

At its core, however, the movie is faithful to the central theme of the television show. Dr. Forrester has Mike Nelson (played by Michael J. Nelson) trapped in a spacecraft orbiting the Earth and is sending him awful movies as an evil experiment. Mike’s only hope is to use his robot pals Crow and Tom Servo and his own wit to make hilarious fun of the movie so that it does less damage to him. There are no ad breaks, so no “commercial sign,” but the writers still found other ways to get the boys out of the theater so they could have other hi-jinks take place. In this particular instance the movie that they’re viewing is This Island Earth.

I confess that I have never seen the uncut and un-MiSTed version of This Island Earth. Going into this movie I knew only that it was considered a sci-fi classic and that it was featured in Allan Moore’s Watchmen books. The movie as shown in this treatment tends to jump around and doesn’t make a lot of sense and I’ve often wondered how much of that is due to the editing that the MST crew did to get it to fit into their time frame, and how much is due to the movie just being clumsily put together. I strongly suspect that it is the former, so I don’t really feel that I can comment on the quality of the movie within the movie. Oh, sure, it’s a fifties cheese-fest with hilariously bulgy-headed aliens, a funny looking bug-eyed monster, and more silly pseudo-science than you can shake a stick at, but I don’t think it’s actually all that bad. Still it does make for a fun MST episode.

Amanda and I have seen this movie probably hundreds of times over the years. We’ve bought it on VHS and twice on DVD. We’ve watched it when falling asleep at night more times than we can count. We had fun showing this at three AM during a twelve hour movie marathon at our high-school. The slightly punchy and exhausted crowd laughed uproariously throughout. (The biggest laugh, as I recall, was for the line “All the jerking around must have caused a flame-out” and Tom’s slightly uneasy “Should we be seeing this?”) The riffs are a little bit sparser than in a normal MST episode (the writers found when they showed it to test audiences that they needed to leave more time between jokes to give the entire theater time to laugh.) But it is one of our favorites.

This movie has been a very pleasant way to end an exhausting and long Thanksgiving. For any fan of MST it is always fun to see the silhouettes in the theater seats making fun of yet another film. And for anybody who has somehow missed more than a decade of hilarious movie riffing that went on from 1988 to 1999 then this would be a perfectly fine way to introduce them to the concept. Happy Turkey Day everybody out there – I hope you all are happy, well, and full.

November 25, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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