“Maybe it worked best that one medium mocked another medium,” “Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Movie” director and producer Jim Mallon says. “And when we went to the source medium and tried to mock it, maybe the streams were crossed and it couldn’t be done.”
Mallon makes those comments during the 33-minute “‘Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Movie’: The Motion Picture Odyssey” bonus feature in this Blu-ray/DVD release from Shout! Factory. While I enjoyed the only foray by “MST3K” onto the big screen, Mallon has a point: Perhaps the show should have been left where it was. Did it really gain much with a feature film adaptation?
In the end, I’d have to say “No.” The movie has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and the bigger budget allowed the characters to explore more of the Satellite of Love, but as Kevin Murphy also says during the same bonus feature, it’s basically an above-average episode of the TV series. In addition, studio executives forced many cuts to reduce the running time, which meant that plenty of funny moments were lost, along with big chunks of the source film. (Someone remarks that “MST3K The Movie” is actually shorter than “This Island Earth,” the film it skewers.)
If you’re interested in assembling a full cut of the film, though, those deleted scenes are also included as another bonus feature. (A DVD is included with the Blu-ray, which makes the video ripping much easier, but beware: the video quality of the cut scenes is very poor.) In some cases, bits of scenes were carefully excised to reduce the running time, which Mallon says was done only because the studio executives insisted that comedies had to be less than 90 minutes long and as close to 80 as possible.
The other bonus features include the trailer, “‘This Island Earth’: 2 1/2 Years in the Making,” and “The Making of ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Movie,'” which is from 1996 and is basically a longer version of the trailer with behind-the-scenes stuff. By the time you’re done, you’ll have a nice perspective on not only the making of “MST3K The Movie” but also the history of its source material.
Some people venerate “This Island Earth” as a classic film that “MST3K” should have left alone, but I’ve never felt that way about it — I would rank “Forbidden Planet,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and others well ahead of it. In addition, as Mike Nelson points out in the bonus features, they wanted to use a film that would hold up well on the big screen and was ripe for riffing. (He says he thinks the movie is good.) The reality is, you can riff on just about any movie, within the limits of your personal taste, so if you’re someone who loves “This Island Earth,” you can still enjoy it and simply forget about what those heathens at “MST3K” did to it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an interociter to build.