DVD Review – Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996)

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, 1996.

Directed by Jim Mallon.
Starring Michael J. Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy and Jim Mallon.


Mad scientist, Dr Clayton Forrester has concocted a diabolical scheme for world domination, to subject the human race to the worst movies ever made. This time it’s the classic 1950’s B-Movie This Island Earth.

When I was about 14 I once stumbled upon a little film at 1:15am named Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie. While I never forgot the name, I never saw it again or found it on DVD. A couple of years later it was on TV again at around the same time, which I recorded, so the only version of this film I’ve ever owned is a VHS copy taped off TV. When I got the Internet I discovered that the film was based off a TV show that had been running for years.

The problem was that Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a TV show that never aired over here in the UK and therefore never made it onto VHS or DVD. The only bits of the show I’ve seen have been on YouTube or as downloadable films off the Android Market. But finally, 16 years after the movie’s release, it’s here in the UK on DVD and Blu-Ray. And boy was it worth the wait.

For those of you who have never seen or heard of the show before, let me give you a little back story. Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a show that began in 1988 about a man who was kept on a space station with only two robots for company. He’s being kept away from humanity by evil scientists who force him to sit through the worst movies ever made in an effort to turn him insane. However they hadn’t planned on the one thing –Joel has a sense of humour. So, the show was basically a movie being played with silhouettes of Joel, Servo and Crow T. Robot poking fun at the film as it plays. Have you ever done that with your friends? Watched a movie but not really watched it so you just laugh at the stupid things that happen? Well, Mystery Science Theater 3000 was the TV version of that.

The movies tended to be really low budget b-movies of the worst kind. Movies to appear on the show included Horrors of Spider Island, Manos: The Hands of Fate, Godzilla vs The Sea Monster, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, Attack of the Eye Creatures and many more. More often than not it was a movie that you’d never seen or heard of before which made the show that little bit better. The show ran for 11 seasons (with head writer Mike Nelson replacing Joel in 1993) before being cancelled in 1999. But in 1996, the crew took a show about movies, and made a movie. Thus, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie was born.

The movie in question for this film adaptation was Universal classic This Island Earth (one of the few films I’d actually seen before I’d seen them spoof it). It’s about a scientist who is contacted by a group of aliens before being taken to a secret island and then to their home planet where they are being attacked by MutANTs (mutated ants – geddit?). The film is full of hammy acting, bad storytelling and a really weak script – making it the perfect vehicle to poke fun at MST3K style.

Well, there really isn’t much to say other than This Island Earth is an awful movie and Mystery Science Theater 3000 makes it laugh out loud hysterical. Seriously, this movie is belly-achingly funny. I don’t want to spoil any of the jokes for you, but if you want to get a feel for the sort of humour you can expect from MST3K, search on YouTube and you’ll find many ‘best of’ compilations. Having now seen many of the episodes of the show, I can say that this is one of the funniest things they ever produced. Tears of laughter streamed down my face and I find myself quoting it to people who have never even seen the film.

If I was to give MST3K: The Movie some criticism, it would be that the scenes outside of the movie watching are really lame and unfunny. The TV show suffered from the same problem, but here it just seems worse as these scenes are embarrassingly bad and cringe-worthy. It’s a stark contrast to the brilliance that happens when they are actually watching the movie. Watch them once, but next time you watch the movie, you’ll probably find yourself skipping these scenes so you can get back to the good stuff.

If you’re a fan of movies and, better yet, you’re a fan of making fun of movies, you will love this film. The writing is excellent, the jokes are hilarious and the comedians are superb (outside of the movie watching). It will never rank in the top 100 greatest movies ever made, but it’s a damn funny one. If you like what you see, I highly recommend their spin off series Rifftrax which are downloadable MP3s that you can play on your laptop/MP3 player while watching the DVD they are spoofing (they do all the latest films as soon as DVDs hit the shelves). I’d suggest renting this movie first (or watch some bits on YouTube) before committing to buying, as I imagine it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’ve got a good sense of humour about bad movies, you will find this a treat.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.

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  • Simon Singh

    MST3K did air in the uk. Saturday mornings on the sci-fi channel.

  • Commander Adams

    This Island Earth is an excellent movie that didn't deserve the trashing it received. Of course, just because it WAS subjected to it, a lot of people who can't think for themselves believe otherwise.