I remember seeing Mystery Science Theater 3000 for the first time when I was about 12 years old, around the time the second season began and it was love at first sight. If you don’t already know the premise, shame on you. Basically Dr. Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) puts a temp worker named Mike (Michael J. Nelson) into space and tries to drive him crazy by forcing him to watch bad movies. To cope, Mike, along with his robot pals Tom Servo (voiced by Kevin Murphy) and Crow (voiced by Beaulieu) make funny wisecracks at the movies’ expense. I’m telling you now that this review is coming from a die hard fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or MiSTies, as we are more commonly known), so if you’re one of those people who bemoan the fact that The Movie makes fun of This Island Earth, a film that some consider “a classic”, you can put an egg in your shoe and beat it.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie is slightly different from the series in that the budget is slightly larger and the running time is slighter shorter (an average episode clocks in at about 90 minutes while The Movie is less than 75). Since the writers chopped about 25 minutes of out This Island Earth’s running time, it greatly reduces the fat of the movie and allows Mike and Co. to make fun of (or “riff”) on only the best scenes. (Which is a good thing considering some episodes suffer from dry spells where the movie is just too bad to crack wise on.) The flick is also PG-13, which means that the crew can make more drug references and say “shit” every once and awhile.
The writers and performers really brought their A game to The Movie and as a result, MST3K:TM is one of their funniest efforts, second only to the infamous Manos: The Hands of Fate episode, in this humble reviewers opinion. There are so many good riffs in this one. The robots make fun of the “Mu-Tant” monster, saying he looks like he’s wearing slacks. There are a lot of jokes made at the human-looking alien’s foreheads. We also get some pretty good Gilligan’s
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie ranks Number 2 on The Video Vacuum Top Ten for 1996, just below Escape from LA and right above Bottle Rocket.
With This Island Earth being such an integral part to Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, I feel the need to review it as well, while I’m thinking of it:
Cal (Rex Reason) is a jet flying scientist who almost crashes his plane when it is mysteriously saved by a glowing green aura. Later, while building some sciency looking thing, he receives instructions through the mail of how to build an “Interociter”, a glorified LCD TV. We learn that the Interociter building assignment was just a test sent out by the smirking white-haired huge-foreheaded scientist
Sure, This Island Earth isn’t a “bad” movie per se, but it’s no classic. Like most Universal Sci-Fi/horror films from the 50’s, it’s not without its charms. The cheesy effects, goofy looking monsters, and bombastic acting make for a fun time. It’s these same ingredients that make This Island Earth a prime target for Mike and the ‘bots. Sure, the film is still perfectly watchable on its own terms, but it’s given a new lease on life courtesy of the trio’s constant commentary.
Reason and Morrow later teamed up for The Creature Walks Among Us the next year.