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Friday, August 30, 2013

'Mystery Science Theater 300: The Movie" Blu-ray: Great Restoration of Cult Classic

September 3, 2013 is a date that will live in infancy for Misties everywhere; that is when "Savior of Mystery Science Theater 3000" (MST 3K) Shout Factory makes the wonderfully juvenile humor of the 1996 film "Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie" available in Blu-ray for the first time. This 2-disc set includes the movie in DVD format.

Aside from its own greatness, "MST 3K: The Movie" is a wonderful appetizer to the November 26, 2103 DVD feast titled "Mystery Science Theater 3000: 25th Anniversary Edition [Collector's Tin.] This six-disc set of episodes from the "MST 3K" television series includes the hamdinger of an episode that is original host Joel's last one before Mike Nelson assumes that role.

Not only does the sharp picture on the Blu-ray of "MST 3K: The Movie" pass the "glasses off" test, it leaves the prior non-Shout DVD release of the film in the dust.

Aside from infinitely better picture and sound quality, the Shout release includes awesome extras that include a candid half-hour documentary regarding "MST 3K's" Best Brains gang working with big movie studio Universal to make the film. Another extra offers the extended scenes and deleted segments that fell victim to Universal's decree to keep the film short.

A third special feature documents the making of the 1955 Universal sci-fi movie "This Island Earth," which is the film within a film in "MST 3K: The Movie."

As resident evil scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester explains at the beginning of "MST 3K: The Movie," his experiment involves forcing regular Joe captive Mike Nelson on the Satellite of Love to watch really bad movies so that Forrester can determine the human breaking point for schlock. This is all part of Forrester's plan for dominating earth.

In the case of "MST 3K: The Movie," the film to which Forrester subjects Mike is the aforementioned "This Island Earth." This movie, which actually is pretty good, tells the tale of a scientist who quasi-benevolent aliens recruit to lend his expertise to a genuinely universal goodwill mission.

The test to which the aliens subject said scientist is akin to the screening that is integral to the scifi film "The Last Starfighter" and the pilot episode of the scifi series "Stargate: SGU."

The Satellite of Love is a bone-shaped spaceship that orbits the earth in the movie and several seasons of the show. Nelson's companions on the ship are four sentient puppet robots. Gypsy, who looks like a upright vacuum, operates the ship and keeps her male companions in line. The mostly unseen cambot allows us at home to see the hi-jinks on the ship.

Tom Servo is a confident and suave gumball-machine appearing robot, and Crow T. Robot is a generally avian-looking wise-cracking character. Tom and Crow, collectively known as the 'bots, join Mike in watching the films.

As the series' theme song states Mike "tries to keep his sanity with the help of his robot friends." (The special feature main menu offers an awesome alternative version of the theme.) The group's primary tactic to avoid going mad involves Mike and the 'bots riffing on the terrible films that Forrester forces them to watch.

The topics of the riffs in the series are as diverse as the categories in a season-worth of "Jeopardy," but they are scaled down to more "common denominator" subjects in "MST 3K: The Movie." Most of these references relate to pop culture.

Examples of great jokes in "MST 3K: The Movie" include a scene in "This Island Earth" that involves a high-pitched ringing prompting our heroes to comment that that is how everything must sound to hearing-impaired "The Who" and solo musician Pete Townshend, and a large-headed and bug-eyed monster inspiring a reference to "Queen of Mean" hotel chain owner Leona Helmsley. Other references in "MST 3K: The Movie" include Harvey the invisible rabbit and Cheech Marin.

A rather wimpy character in "This Island Earth" being the butt of jokes regarding breaking electronic parts and generally fouling up is another theme. The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, illustrates this and overall provides a good sense of the humor of "MST 3K."

The inclusion of Russell Johnson, who played "The Professor" on "Gilligan's Island," in the cast of "This Island Earth" prompts relatively predictable jokes. Referring to making a station wagon out of bamboo is one of the better riffs on this topic.

Production elements that distinguish "MST 3K: The Movie" from episodes of the series include limited use of four-letter words that basic cable of the late '80s and early '90s does not allow. More importantly, the larger sets and increased budget allow exploring more of the Satellite of Love than the bridge and the movie theater that the series depicts.

"MST 3K: The Movie" introduces Misties to an expanded view of the bridge, the lower-level of the ship, and Tom Servo's bedroom. A cut scene, which the DVD set's deleted scene special feature includes, occurs in a storm cellar on the ship.

Largely due to the prohibition on "two-percenter jokes" that only a handful of people understand, "MST 3K: The Movie" is slightly less clever than some episodes of the television series. At the same time, "This Island Earth" is one of the better-quality films that finds its way onto "MST 3K." Further the higher production values and the awesome Blu-ray quality more than make up for any restrictions on the riffs.

Anyone with questions regarding "MST 3K: The Movie" or the series is welcome to email me. Folks who prefer using Twitter can find me under @tvdvdguy.