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He Said, She Said Review Site

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

What She said:

She

Today’s kids may not be aware of this, but there used to be a pretty awesome TV program called Mystery Science Theater 3000. They may have overheard their Gen X parents obsessing over Joel Hodgson, Crow T. Robot, and Tom Servo, and wondered what the heck they were getting all giddy about. Well, I’m here to tell you that this 1990s cult phenomenon was well worth its fan-boy fervor. And while it may not resonate quite the same way today (although I still love it), the show really was a staple of my Saturday mornings as a teenager.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

Still totally in the dark about this one? Well, here’s some further explanation. Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a TV program where a guy and two of his robot friends sat down and watched really bad D-movie science fiction flicks and made gag jokes about them along the way. The show aired on Comedy Central for a while and then the Sci-Fi Channel before ultimately being cancelled in 1999. For the viewer, it was like sitting around with friends and finding humor in cinema’s worst-of-the-worst.

Joel Hodgson played the human role for several seasons before stepping out in favor of Michael J. Nelson, who hung in there for the rest of the show’s run. Nelson also played Mike in the 1996 big screen adaptation of the show, which took on the stink-flick, This Island Earth. Apparently, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie was somewhat controversial in its time. Many of the diehard fans wondered why it was necessary, felt it was far too scripted, and complained that its victim film was not actually that bad of a movie—it had just been edited and spliced in a way that made it nonsensical. For me, I could not care less. I think the movie version of MST3K is hilarious, and so I was delighted to learn that my local hometown movie theater was holding a late night screening just this past Friday.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

I watched the show as a teenager, and also had a much-loved VHS of the movie that I would watch over and over in between. The premise of the film—and basic idea of the show as well—is that Mike, Crow, and Servo are all trapped aboard a space ship orbiting the Earth, being held captive by the mad scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester. Dr. Forrester experiments on them by making them watch really bad sci-fi movies, and he believes he’s found the ultimate stinker of the film industry in This Island Earth. Dr. Forrester sits them down for a viewing, hoping that this will be the movie that finally makes them crack. But Mike, Crow, and Servo just take it all in stride, surviving the film by riffing their way through the scenes. The entire production lasts a scant 75 minutes, and so it’s hardly a “movie” to begin with, but it’s very, very funny to watch.

Let me give you some basic background of the plot of This Island Earth as well—at least the plot as I have come to understand it, as it’s not the easiest story to follow. The movie chronicles Dr. Cal Meacham, a renowned scientist whose laboratory work goes haywire when he receives some mysterious parts in the mail. He and his assistant Joe Wilson use the new parts and accompanying instruction manual to build an interocitor. As soon as the thing is built, a guy with an Oompa Loompa-like complexion and peculiarly large forehead appears, praises Cal for his work, and invites him to join him and other exceptional scientists at his remote compound to take part in his special research project. He calls himself Exeter.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

Cal is kind of a show-off and cannot resist the temptation of mystery, and so he decides to take Exeter up on his offer, even though sidekick Joe voices concerns. Cal boards a plane with no windows and no actual pilots, is drugged to sleep, and wakes up after landing at a compound in the middle of nowhere. There he encounters an old flame Dr. Ruth Adams, who doesn’t seem to remember him, and other internationally renowned scientists. Cal meets with Exeter and shares a meal with him but grows suspicious of what is really going on. He attempts to flee with Ruth and another scientist, Dr. Steve Carlson, but their car is attacked and Dr. Carlson is killed. As Cal and Ruth attempt to fly away in a small aircraft, they’re abducted into a flying saucer and transported to another planet known as Metaluna. It is revealed that this is Exeter’s home planet, and that it’s on the verge of collapse after a war with the Zagons. Apparently, Exeter’s people came to Earth in search of uranium deposits, but the decision has been made by their leader, The Monitor, to have the Metalunans instead fully relocate to Earth. Exeter objects, but it’s too late. With the Metaunan base under heavy siege, Exeter tries to help Cal and Ruth escape back to their home planet, and they’re being chased by these Metaluna Mutants try to pinch them to death.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

 

It’s a really fun movie to watch. It doesn’t completely make sense, but you’ve got to love the out-there B-movie charm that This Island Earth has. Even better, Mike, Crow, and Servo rip the movie to shreds with hilarious observations that are iconic. They make the kind of one-liner jokes that will stick in your mind afterwards and you’ll find yourself quoting them months later. While the jokes on the TV show were largely PG, some of these are a little zestier. However, the movie remains well within the boundaries of PG-13. 

As far as production value, well, let’s be honest, this feels like low-budget ‘90s faire. The show was the exact same way. I guess, by comparison, this is a little bit fancier than the show, but not a whole lot more so. We’ve got ‘90s hair, ‘90s clothing, ‘90s puppetry, and ‘90s special effects. Don’t come into the film expecting more or you will leave disappointed.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie is in no way meant to be a great movie—no Oscars for this one. The short segments when Mike, Crow, and Servo are not in their theater watching This Island Earth are nonsensical and irrelevant. They’re just filler—the moments when you step out for a refill on your Cherry Coke or popcorn. But what is wonderful about MST3K: The Movie is the fun and lively humor when the crew gets down to what they do best, movie riffing. And in that sense, it’s one of the better offerings of the franchise. Very funny from start to finish.

Thumbs up.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

What He said:

He
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

I live in a town that is home to a historic theater. Hint: A famous scene from an old 50s monster movie was filmed there. One of living here is that the theater is still open! It’s small and only has one screen, so it shows a lot of older movies, thought it does get one or two new releases (usually independent movies).

One of those older movies recently shown was Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. This cult classic holds a special place in the She’s heart. Actually, it’s a big deal with her whole family. I was not as familiar with the show growing up as the She was, but I certainly saw it. I had no idea a movie existed and long ago when we started dating, I was introduced to this movie and its place in her family.

I hadn’t seen it in years, so when we found out it was coming to the local theater, and the She said she was treating her sister to a showing for her birthday, I wanted in on that. For starters, I haven’t seen the movie in a while, but knew I liked it, so I was looking forward to seeing it again. I was looking forward to seeing it on the big screen and at the local historic theater. I don’t go there as often as I would like, but whenever I do it’s a treat.

For those who don’t know, I offer you a brief recap. Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a show about a guy named Mike (Mike Nelson) who was held hostage, along with a couple of robots, and forced to watch the worst movies in the world. His captor, Dr. Clayton Forrester, believes it will drive him nuts and…somehow serve as the key to taking over the world? I forget what it is exactly Dr. Forrest (Trace Beaulieu) wants, but it’s not important. What’s important is that Mike, Crow T. Robot, and Tom Servo (his robot partners) are forced to watch some truly bad movies. To pass the time, and much to the audience’s amusement, they offer commentary throughout the movies they are forced to watch.

The movie chosen for this feature presentation is an old 50s monster movies called This Island Earth. It’s about some scientists who get abducted by an alien race.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

Dr. Cal Meacham is a renowned scientist, pilot, and stud. I’m not kidding about that, he is one suave guy. Anyway, he (Rex Reason) is working on some project when he gets a package. He was expecting repair parts for whatever it is he was working on, but it’s the components and instructions to build something called an interocitor.  He and his assistant Joe – who is the exact opposite of Cal – put it together.

It turns out it was a test. The device was sent to him by a mysterious man named Exeter (Jeff Morrow). I don’t mean mysterious simply because he sent them this strange device in order to test Cal without hiw knowledge. I mean mysterious because he has a giant forehead, bright white hair, and a skin tone that is more orange than the most dedicated sun bather. Exeter informs Cal he passed the test and invites him to his private research facility. Joe pleads for him not to go, but Cal can’t resist a challenge.

Cal arrives at an unknown local and is greeted by Dr. Ruth Adams, who is a former colleague (and more) that seems to have no memory of meeting him. That’s red flat numero uno. Ok, it’s really the second red flag, the first one is Exeter’s ridiculously large forehead.

So Cal arrives at Exeter’s house and is introduced to Exeter, as well as a slew of other great minds from around the world. Exeter claims they were all invited there to get the opportunity to do innovative work. He doesn’t like what’s going on, so after dinner he, Ruth, and Dr. Steve Carlson (The Professor from Gilligan’s Island). Their escape attempt is short and the end up on an alien ship. Yes, Exeter is an alien and not just a bizarre man with a big forehead.

Exeter explains that his planet is under attack by another alien race called the Zagons and that he was tasked with assembling Earth’s greatest minds in an attempt to find a solution.

Man, is this movie funny. I hadn’t seen I in a while and remembered most of the plot, but forgot almost all of the jokes.  Sometimes going a while in between viewing a comedy makes it worth it, because all the laughs feel fresh.

This is the second time we’ve reviewed an episode of Mystery Science Theater and the second time it was a 1950s monster movie. I sense a pattern. I don’t know if people thought these movies were good when they came out, but they make for great comedy. Watching them on their own would be funny enough, but watching other people make fun of them is even better. All the elements are there: Cal, the cocky, but studly leading man, Ruth, the damsel in distress, and  ridiculous costumes and special effects. Movies like this were made to be made to be made fun of.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on February 28, 2015.