Friday 15 June 2012


A thoroughly odd movie based on an even odder TV show, the absolute slacker classic that is Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie is now out on Blu-ray and DVD.

In the not too distant future, Mike Nelson, a marooned technician floating through space in a satellite shaped like a bone, watches crappy movies with his robot friends built from scrap metal. Sent the movies by the mad scientist/evil boss Dr Clayton Forrester, Mike and the robots (Crow and Tom Servo) provide witty sarcastic commentary over the action.

That's the basic premise of the cult TV show, but in this 1996 feature version they watch the entirety of This Island Earth, a 1955 science-fiction extravaganza of dubious quality and spacemen with exceptionally large foreheads. Almost like we are sat just a few rows behind them, we watch the film along with them as their silhouettes heckle and gesture at what's on the screen, insinuating about the sexual preference of characters and making fun of the ropey effects on show (ironic, considering). Even Universal International, the distributor of the film don't get away unscathed. "Doesn't the fact it's Universal make it international?"

Is it two movies for the price of one, or just one movie that you can't turn the commentary off on? One things for sure, you won't ever be able to watch This Island Earth and take it seriously, even though it's unlikely you would want to. It may seem cruel to laugh at these films taken out of their original time, setting and context, but it's a film that's ahead of its time in many ways but laced with a wit that's so very much 90's. You can't watch an episode of Beavis and Butthead without resorting to chuckling along with them, and the same goes for MST3K: The Movie (as it helpfully abbreviates down to).

If you've been brave enough to read an internet message board anytime recently you'll see the same brand of derogatory sarcastic humour running through. It's a theraputic exercise that, although a little bit mean, is a fact of modern existence. Having said that, the film comes with the risk of being a little impenetrable for some modern audiences. It's a concept that requires little explanation (the TV show theme tune does it better than any synopsis, and it's bizarrely missing from the film) but is still strange enough to alienate people unfamiliar with the show. Also, the hijinks on the satellite (they crash into the Hubble telescope), in between the characters quite literally sitting down to watch the film in front of us don't have the same wit on show, and can be a bit tedious at times. The attempts to attach any sort of plot only distracts from the goofing around.

Although it's hard to even describe as science fiction, there's a certain amount of Dark Star-iness about MST3K: The Movie. That film made an alien out of a beach ball, this one has a main character made out of a gumball machine. It's nice to see they didn't bother trying to wow people with fancy special effects; these are the same homemade robots used on the TV show and the same average Joe working on the station. In that respect it's an excellent adaptation of the TV show, sticking with the formula the fans loved and delivering a great companion piece.

Even for those unfamiliar to the show, the film offers a great entry point that will leave you hooked and watching clips of the show on YouTube until the early hours. I still can't see how this would have worked cinematically, but on DVD it's a treat. Delivering mockery that's both infectious and hilarious, you'll start looking for things in the film they might make fun of wishing you were on the Satellite of Love too. If you're a fan of laid back, sarcastic and stoner-esque comedy, this belongs on your shelf next to the South Park DVDs, Beavis and Butthead boxsets and Red Dwarf compilations.


Special Features:
+ 5 minute featurette
+ Trailer

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