The big screen adventures of the crew of the Satellite of Love finally arrives on Blu-ray, and for the first time in a Special Edition with bonus features fans have been requesting for years. Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie may be nothing more than a bigger budgeted episode of the series, but the movie gave fans of the show (at least those who lived in one of the few cities where the film received a brief theatrical run) a chance to watch an episode in a larger venue with fellow MSTies.
Distributed By: Shout! Factory
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 5.1 DD, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Run Time: 1 Hr. 14 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer), DVD-9 (dual layer)
Region: A, 1
Release Date: 09/03/2013
In the not too distant future, somewhere in time and space.....
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) was the brainchild of Joel Hodgson, a former prop comic and frequent guest on Saturday Night Live and Late Night With David Letterman. Basically an extension of the popular hosted movie format made famous by Vampira and Elvira, the original premise was that Joel (and later Mike Nelson), along with his robot companions Crow and Tom Servo, were sent into space, orbiting the planet and forced to watch bad movies by Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu). The show first aired on local Minneapolis-St. Paul UHF station KTMA in a very crude form in 1988, but was picked up by the Comedy Channel (now Comedy Central) as one of its first series a year later. The series survived for seven seasons, then moved to Sci-Fi for three additional seasons, finally falling out of first-run orbit in 1999.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (MST3K: TM) takes place between seasons six and seven, although the movie began its sporadic theatrical run halfway through the very brief and final seventh season on Comedy Central in 1996. The idea of taking the series to the big screen came from the series executive producer, Jim Mallon, after seeing how successful the first live show was held at a theater in Minneapolis. What Mallon saw was a community of fans coming together and having a good time, laughing and participating.
What was unfortunate about MST3K:TM was the involvement and restrictions that financier Universal Pictures placed on the film. The film chosen had to be from the studio’s library, in color, and in some form of widescreen. This Island Earth ended up being chosen, a film with a relatively large fan base, who were appalled at having their beloved film mocked. The studio then demanded that nearly every joke be cleared by both studio executives and the legal department. And to make matters worse, the studio (at least according to Jim Mallon) demanded the film’s running time be trimmed to under 80 minutes. The problem was that the average episode of MST3K was 90 minutes without commercials, This Island Earth had a running time of 87 minutes. While it was not uncommon for movies to be slightly edited both for content and running time to fit within an episode of the series, the cuts were typically not more than 5-10 minutes, at most. For MST3K:TM, nearly 30 minutes were cut from This Island Earth, causing it to be even more disjointed than it actually is. And that was even after the deletion of a host segment, trimming the final running time to 74 minutes, roughly 15 minutes shorter than the average MST3K episode. After all of the cuts, the film was then handed over to Gramercy Pictures, a boutique label that was a short-lived joint venture between Universal and Polygram, who had no clue how to market the film (a problem the company had with many of their films, including Kevin Smith’s Mallrats).
For me, MST3K: TM was my first, real exposure to the series. I had seen snippets of the show in prior years when visiting my sister in San Diego, since her cable company actually offered Comedy Central, while my provider would not add the channel until a month after the series went dark as it transitioned to the Sci-Fi Channel. Luckily, Cox added both Comedy Central and Sci-Fi at the same time. I remember seeing it at the Edwards University Town Center 6 during a Sunday matinee, was surprised to find a nearly full house, and laughed good and hard during the very brief 74 minutes. I was hooked, and quickly picked up the few available episodes on VHS from Rhino.
In the end, MST3K:TM is an above average episode of the series, a fun film to revisit, and a good way to introduce the concept of the series to non-fans. The film breaks the single-camera convention of the series, which for die-hard fans may feel out of place, cutting away to close-ups within the scene (something the series never did, except when cutting between locations). The host segments are, for the most part, funny and clever (I particularly enjoy Mike’s destruction of the Hubble and it was fun to visit Tom Servo’s quarters, although I cringe everytime I see the opening introduction by Dr. Forrester), and there are some really funny riffs during This Island Earth, however some of the pop culture references may be lost on younger audiences (such as Tom Servo’s John Sununu goes for a haircut!).
The 1080p transfer provided to Shout! Factory faithfully reproduces the film’s intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The host segments look better than ever in high definition, with more accurate colors and additional detail than seen on previous DVD releases. Film grain is left intact, but is never intrusive. The print used for This Island Earth was in poor shape when the movie was optically composited, and is even more evident now that the film can be seen in 1080p. But that was always part of the charm of the series.
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 replicates what the movie may have sounded like if it had played in theaters equipped with DTS (although most theaters presented the film in matrixed Stereo Surround). Again, it is the host segments that benefit most from the 5.1 mix, although surrounds and LFE are almost non-existent. Fidelity is increased, with dialogue directed almost exclusively to the center channel. Music and atmospheric effects are spread across all 5 channels, giving a sense of being inside the SOL’s theater and various areas of the ship.
Audio Rating: 3/5
Fans will be very pleased that MST3K:TM is finally getting some respect in this Collector’s Edition, after two previous bare-bones DVD releases (from Image and, more recently, Universal). The Special Features menu even includes the complete MST3K Theme Song by Dave Allen, as featured, briefly, in the film’s theatrical trailer.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
The Making of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (upconverted HD; 5:17): A very brief archival EPK, that I believe originally appeared on Comedy Central as a bonus commercial break of an episode just before the movie began appearing in theaters.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie - The Motion Picture Odyssey (HD; 33:05): Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy, Trace Beaulieu, Michael Nelson, and director of photography Jeff Stonehouse discuss the making of the film, intercut with behind the scenes footage and clips from the film in this documentary created specifically for this release.
This Island Earth: 2 1/2 Years In The Making (HD; 36:43): Another newly-created documentary, this time centered around the making of This Island Earth, featuring interviews with Robert Skotak, Joe Dante, Bob Burns, Tom Weaver, Rex Reason, etc.
Deleted Scenes (upconverted HD; 23:10): Fans finally get to see not only the original ending of the movie, but also the cut meteor shower host segment, as well as some segments of This Island Earth with riffs that were cut for various reasons. A disclaimer appears, indicating these were sourced from the best available masters, which appear to be from a VHS dupe.
Theatrical Trailer (upconverted HD; 1:40)
DVD Copy: The DVD contains not only the movie in standard definition, but also all of the bonus features also found on the Blu-ray.
As with Shout! Factory’s other MST3K episodic boxed sets, the menu design (on both the Blu-ray and DVD) is themed with the movie, with decent CG animation, and is very funny. Also included is a reversible cover created by Steve Vance to match the original comic book style DVD covers used in Shout! Factory’s episodic boxed sets of the series.
Shout! Factory continues to put a lot of much-appreciated effort into their MST3K offerings, and (finally) giving fans a Collector’s Edition with the bonus features they have been asking for.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
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