Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (Blu-ray)
Shout! Factory / 1996 / 73 mins / PG-13
MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: THE MOVIE was and is a project that was fraught with ironies. The television series was on its way out with Comedy Central, as the network was cutting down episode numbers each season. Even though the series appeared to be on its last legs, Universal and Gramercy Pictures financed a big screen adaptation. The entire cast and crew of the series worked on the movie, giving it a very strong sense of continuity and indeed this project kept that gang together as the Comedy Central years came to a close and they transitioned to the Sci-Fi Channel.
Usually, when a feature film is made from a television series, the idea is to make it bigger, better and do things that normally could not be done on television. Apart from a PG-13 rating and some very good looking and spacious sets, MST3K: TM is basically an above average episode; and a very short one at that! An average episode of the television series clocks in around 95 - 98 minutes. MST3K: TM runs a very brief 73 minutes; almost a third shorter than any given episode. The reason for this lies with Universal. For some reason, the powers that be decided that no comedy movie can run longer than 90 minutes and they continually cut and trimmed the full length film the gang at Best Brains delivered.
The movie quickly brings newcomers to the MST3K world up to speed by having mad scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) address the audience directly. He tells us that he has shot Mike Nelson (Michael J. Nelson) into space and is forcing him to watch the worst movies he can find in hopes of breaking him, at which point he will unleash that movie on to the world and conquer it. The movie he and his 'bot buddies Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy) and Crow T. Robot (Beaulieu) are to suffer through this time is the classic 1955 science fiction adventure THIS ISLAND EARTH.
The main complaint critics and some fans have with the movie is that THIS ISLAND EARTH was so brutally cut up that it no longer makes sense. Hard to argue with that as THIS ISLAND EARTH by itself runs almost 15 minutes longer than the entirety of MST3K: TM. Rather than looking at what is missing (which has been mostly rectified in the supplements) we should look at what is here, which is one funny episode. Some of the riffs in this movie are the best of MST3K's entire run. The Satellite of Love has never looked better and we get to explore much more of it than we ever did on the series. MST3K: TM may not have the length of one of the television episodes, but what it is is pure undiluted comedy gold.
Shout! Factory's anamorphic 1.85 transfer is quite a sharp looking product. Colors are very vibrant (just look at Dr. Forrester's lime green coat) and detail is so sharp that you can make out the weird things on the walls of Deep 13 and the Satellite of Love. The print of THIS ISLAND EARTH Universal gave Best Brains to riff may not look too great (color is a bit washed out and there is noticeable source print damage) but overall this is the best MST3K: TM has ever looked.
The soundtrack is presented in a very nice DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. Dialogue and every single riff are crystal clear and the background ambience gives the locations a very spacious feel.
Shout! Factory gets top marks for the technical presentation but they truly went above and beyond in the supplement department delivering a treasure trove of goodies for Misties the world over.
First up is the vintage "The Making of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: THE MOVIE" featurette. Made during the production of the film, we get input from the entire cast and get a healthy chunk of excellent behind-the-scenes footage.
However, that pales in comparison to the newly made "The Making of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: THE MOVIE: The Motion Picture Odyssey." All of the key players from the film as well as several film historians and famous fans (including director Joe Dante) look back at the uphill battle of adapting the series to a film and dealing with studio executives that "knew better" about what it should be. This over 30 minute documentary is an absolute must see!
Next up is "THIS ISLAND EARTH: 2 ½ Years in the Making." This is another excellent documentary examining what a huge film THIS ISLAND EARTH was for Universal in their attempt to expand out from the black and white horror movies they were known for and into the full color world of science fiction that was just taking over theaters.
The next supplement is probably the single best thing a Mistie could ask for: 23 minutes of "Deleted Scenes." These seven sections include five extended scenes from THIS ISLAND EARTH being riffed, the entire excised "Meteor Storm" host segment and the original ending. The picture quality of these scenes is weak as the original film elements could not be located, but what could be better than more MST goodness?
The original theatrical trailer rounds out the supplement package. Unfortunately, there seems to be some problem with the sound here. The voice over is nearly drowned out by the music track. But it is here nonetheless.
Shout! Factory hits a home run with an absolutely perfect release of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: THE MOVIE. A great transfer is boosted by a load of excellent supplements making this a Highly Recommended release!