DVD Review: Mystery Science Theatre 3000 - The Movie / Cert: PG / Director: Jim Malllon / Screenplay: Michael J. Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy / Starring: Trace Beaulieu, Jim Mallon, Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, John Brady / Release Date: Out Now
For the uninitiated, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was a TV show that ran from 1988 to 1999, plunging hapless astronaut, Mike (Nelson) and his wise-cracking robot buddies into B-movie hell at the hands of the evil Dr Clayton Forrester (Beaulieu). On a weekly basis, the mad scientist doctor would force Mike and the robots to watch the worst science fiction movies ever made, in an effort to mentally ‘break’ them. Unfortunately for him, it never worked as the captive crew just used the screenings to yuk it up.
With the movie playing on a giant screen in front of them, as a viewer ourselves, we simply see the silhouettes of Mike and his pals, Crow, Gypsy and Tom Servo reacting to what’s happening. Inevitably, their interpretation of the film and its original narrative have very little in common. An overpowering score can suddenly become an additional character in the movie, or an over-excited lab assistant a crazed stalker. The list is endless.
And so we come to this, a movie that arrived three years before the show finally bowed out, and this time subjected the hapless inhabitants of the orbiting space station to 1955’s cheesefest This Island Earth. This being an attempt at a theatrical film, it also throws in some vague plot points including Tom accidentally mining through the hull of the ship in an attempt to tunnel to Earth and the crew booting up their own Interocitor to contact the inhabitants of Metaluna. But thankfully, the rest of the movie stays on brand as the crew laugh their way through the movie, pumping out one-liners and driving their insidious tormentor insane in the process.
Okay, so effectively the creators of the show have captured here what we all do with friends over a couple of beers and a pizza after a night out. But then that’s what has always made this concept so accessible and the perfect format for those who love old movies or taking the mick out of them. There is a ‘but’ however. Bizarrely, this movie is actually shorter (at 74 minutes) than the series episodes (which ran to 91) and as a result this just feels as if there’s something missing. The mini plot points squeezed in between don’t help. And while This Island Earth is certainly ripe for mockery, it doesn’t give the crew as much material to bend the narrative as other examples in the TV show’s 10-season history.
What there is though, is great. Featuring hilarious internal monologues, film references, impressions (Shatner’s Kirk being a favourite) and observations that blow apart the already thinly glued plot, this might not live up to the show’s reputation, but it is nevertheless an enjoyable watch with some real laugh-out-loud moments.
Special Features: A disappointingly thin selection for a franchise with such a rich history. A five-minute Featurette speeds through the premise and concept of the film, with interviews and behind the scenes shots thrown in among clips of the trailer and movie.The Trailer is also here in its own right, along with some stills (which include press material and, bizarrely, screen shots from the film), all accessible via a fun little animated menu.