Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996)

Rating: C

Dir: Jim Mallon
Star: Michael J. Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Jim Mallon

MST3K was a much-loved cult hit in the nineties, yet I never got fully into it. I think I was too concerned about the potential impact it could have on other, far less witty viewers, encouraging them to amuse themselves by talking back to the screen. The concept of an MST3K feature, therefore, is downright dangerous, given my fundamental belief that those who talk at the cinema should be hung, drawn and quartered. It’s an odd idea, basically falling foul of the problem with many TV shows turned into features: why pay to see something you can watch for free at home?

Certainly, there is nothing here that adds anything to the central concept, except for the absence of commercial breaks. In addition, the choice of This Island Earth as a film against which the characters can riff, from their space-station captivity, is odd – MST3K was famous for its ruthless destruction of bad cinema, such as Manos: Hands of Fate, and Earth is by no means in the same league. Indeed, when you allow for the era, it’s probably better than MST3K: The Movie. That said, more than 50 years have passed since the feature came out, and SF cinema is perhaps the genre that dates most quickly. Therefore, this cultural chasm provides plenty of scope and I can’t deny that I laughed out loud at some of the lines, such as “Oh, they’re flying into a Roger Dean album cover… Remember, we’re parked in the Denubrian Slime Devil lot.”

However, any such humour is entirely not present during the non-cinematic segments on the space station, which are embarrassingly unfunny, with Bealieu as the mad scientist who trapped Mike up there, a particularly wretched “stinkburger” of a performance, to appropriate his phrase describing Earth. These segments could have been removed, except that would have left the film barely an hour long: oddly, it ends up being significantly shorter than the one they are supposedly watching. While passing the time acceptably, you’d probably be more entertained by watching This Island Earth in its entirety – whether or not you verbally skewer it, is entirely up to you.