Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996)

mst3k the movie

“And if your hands were metal, that would mean something.”

The Scoop: 1996 PG-13, directed by Jim Mallon and starring Trace Beaulieu, Michael J. Nelson, and Kevin Murphy

Tagline: Every year Hollywood makes hundreds of movies. This is one of them.

Summary Capsule: Mike, Crow, and Tom ridicule and survive the classic B-movie “This Island Earth”


Justin’s rating: But… yeah… so… what DOES Mike eat, anyway?

Justin’s review: Mystery Science Theater 3000. 10 years, scores of horrible films, and thousands upon thousands of jokes at their expense. It’s a legacy to be given some proper awe, unless of course, you don’t know much about it. Woe to thee, uneducated philistines, who do not know of Crow’s acid wit, or of Mike’s sufferance, or of Tom Servo’s magnificent singing voice! Woe to thee, who do not know the proper response to seeing the name Miles O’Keefe*, Roger Corman or sweaty Joe Don Baker in the credits! Woe to thee, Babylon, for not learning how to properly snipe out loud at abominable flicks!

You who have missed out on MST3K are now properly woe’d, so get off your Dawson Creek butts and gather up old episodes of MST3K like you were building a comedy bomb shelter designed to withstand the total devastation of the Atomic Irony Bomb. Trust us, here at MRFH, we only want what’s best for you. And Mike (or Joel), Servo and Crow will fill a void in your life that you’ve been trying to stuff with pizza and rogue reality shows.

One of the best ways for an uninitiated to ease into the decidedly batty world of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is to check out the short, sweet and silly Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. It takes maybe two seconds to understand the premise, because we’ve all done it: it’s three guys (well, one guy and two robot guys, but what’s the difference, really?) watching a movie and making fun of it. The whole outer space scifi aspect is just tacky window dressing for the main feast. Thus, gather your spork and knife, and gorge yourself in 70 or so minutes of wackiness!

MST3K: The Movie riffs on an edited version of 1955’s This Island Earth, a movie that featured with a super-studly Earth scientist dealing with a bunch of large-foreheaded aliens. Now, I want to be up front and honest with you, O Millions of Internet Readers, because MST3K isn’t as pure and flawless as some of us rabid fans make it seem at times. MST3K’s main fault is the inconsistency of the jokes. In certain episodes/movies, you’ll get terrific streams of side-splitting cracks, and those are to be cherished. But at other times, you experience some rather long pauses between lame puns that are best for background viewing.

I give you this caveat emptor to illustrate how polished MST3K: The Movie is. It’s shortened running time and rapid-fire jokes make for a quick and incredibly satisfying run through a snarky playground. While there are certain episodes of the show that most certainly top the movie in total humor value (Manos: The Hands of Fate, Mitchell, Cave Dwellers, to name three of my favorites), I find most of my MST3K-related quotes coming from this cinematic reservoir.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 gave both TV and movie viewers a precious gift worthy of several swarthy kings: finally, we get to vent our frustrations on bad movies vicariously, being in on the joke the entire time. Sure, maybe you pause for a minute or two to consider the actors and filmmakers of these apocalyptic turds and how they feel, sitting at home and crying into watered-down porridge. But your imaginary sympathy goes only so far, and you’re right back to saying “What were they THINKING?” while Tom Servo launches into a catchy little baritone ditty in tribute to the on-screen action.

Special notice goes to this film for perhaps the single BEST end credit sequence ever: Mike, Crow and Servo return to the theater to watch the scrolling credits… and make jokes about them too! Okay, it’s a lot funnier than it sounds, believe me, and in doing so, we were granted with what is perhaps the best out-of-context quote to use in any situation:

“EASTMAN! He came out of the east to do battle with the AMAZING RANDO!”

* The proper reponse to seeing Miles O’Keefe in the credits, by the way, is the quote: “How much Keefe is in this movie?” “Why, Miles O’Keefe!” From the episode “Cave Dwellers”.

Toni’s rating: 3 out of 3 weird forehead dents.

Toni’s review: You all have no idea how left out I feel because I’ve never once seen the MST3K TV series. I wanted to! A few years back (quite a few), the show was going to be picked up by Sci-Fi and I was just pumped full of fuzzy joy and then….then…we moved! Or we may have moved. Maybe we just changed cable companies or something. The cause is unimportant. The important thing is that I lost the Sci-Fi channel just weeks before the show’s premiere air date! Weeks! It sucked! I’ve had to console myself all these years by reading pages and pages of online MiSTings, the ones done with really bad fan fiction are the best. And now it -really- hurts because I’ve watched the movie and I know I would absolutely love the TV version. Bah humbug.

Other than ‘hey, that was hilarious!’, there’s not much to say about the movie. It’s funny, fall-backwards-off-your-cheap-rolling-chair-and-whack-your-head-open-on-the-desk type funny. And that’s pretty much the point isn’t it? I mean, you don’t rent this one for plot, you rent it for the poking fun at the bad sci-fi stuff. And why do you do that? Because, in this new era, making fun of movies is an art form all it’s own. Matter of fact, I think we should get government grants to do it. Graduate students could write thesis papers on how the natural order of life requires the dismemberment of Joel ‘We could use another BatButt shot here’ Schumacher. Oh! Oh! We could wear lab coats and carry clip boards and look all scientific! Because art and science go well together.

Just like robots and wacky one-liners.

Do you like how I tied that in? I managed to give my unrelated meanderings meaning within the context of an actual movie review despite the fact that only 5 lines of it pertained to the movie itself. Crafty, yet legitimate. Watch the movie.

DnaError’s rating: This is why I’m like this.

DnaError’s review: The world’s languages simply do not describe the powerful and fundamental impact this movie had my soft, childhood brain. I watched this show, or attempted to, my entire formative years, and during my teenaged ones, dedicated my life to collecting every episode of the show’s 11 year run. The show, it’s characters, it’s whole method of comedy via sharp wit mixed with bizarre humor and off the wall references ranging from Russian history to ’70s commercial jingles. To say the least, Mystery Science Theater 3000 turned me into the hideous beast before you.

I guess I have to review the movie now, since I’m not gonna do a plot rehash, let me just say: WATCH IT! WATCH IT AS IF THE FATE OF THE FREE WORLD DEPENDED ON IT. I can quote the whole movie back to front, and get every single in-joke, reference, sly remark Mike and the Bots make. I have yet to find a single human being who doesn’t find at least one thing funny about this movie, and you guys do, call me and we can send him/her off for study.

PoolMan’s rating: I’m a Mutant, similar to your Earth ants… larger of course, and more intelligent.

PoolMan’s review: One day, when the cold, lifeless husk that was once Earth soars through the universe, having escaped the gravitational pull of the sun (courtesy of DnaError’s ceaseless meddling with the laws of nature, no doubt), strange, wonderful, long-limbed beings will land on her scarred surface, realize it was once the home of an intelligent race, and survey the wreckage for artifacts of this lost civilization. They will find Mount Rushmore, and learn what we looked like. They will find the Louvre, and learn about our art and spirit. They will find the Pyramids, and will remember that drunken bender, all those eons ago.

Then they will find a copy of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, and they will worship us as gods.

Okay, perhaps that’s a little melodramatic, but still, one day I’m confident the existence of this flick will either raise us to the role of deities in the eyes of our galactic brethren, or they’ll swoop in and blow every one of our asses up with energy weapons. That’s how much I love this movie.

MST3K has been the inspiration for much of the way my sense of humour as an adult has formed. It’s instilled in me the ability to pick things apart, to belittle them, and to make inane observations on any subject imaginable. Between Tom Servo and Chandler Byng, I’ve become a priest of Sarcasm and Innapropriate Comment. I’m not sorry for a minute.

The other side of the Misties’ mocking coin is this: would you REALLY sit through “This Island Earth” without the witty banter of Mike and the robots? As a serious movie, I think not. The MST3K phenomenon breathes all kinds of hilarious life into an another crappy flick. I can’t wait till they get the rights to Battlefield Earth.

Anyone of reasonable intelligence can watch this movie. It’s not dirty, there’s hardly any cursing, only the cheesiest of violent scenes, and laughs galore! Is it for everyone? No, I can’t say that. But if you like to laugh, you’ll have a fine time. Or as I like to express it:

      • begin

if {senseofhumour} > value:’loser’;

    • then goto {mysterysciencetheater3k};
    • else goto {boringmuseums, citycouncilmeetings,
    • dryingpaintwatchersclub};
  • end

(Note to self: when accusing boring people of being losers, don’t use a mock computer program to point it out)

We LOVE Brok!
We LOVE Brok!


      • When Mike uses the “Manos” manipulator arms, the theme to Manos: Hands of Fate plays softly
      • On the video, as they boys leave after the credits, they offer the viewer to return the unused portion of the tape if not satisfied with the quality. Of course, this is the end of the movie, so there is no unused portion. Still, I wonder how often Blockbuster has to deal with this…
      • The “hard copy of the status report” that Mike is reading at the beginning of the film is actually a copy of “Satellite News” the official newsletter of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 information club.
      • The head of TV’s Frank appears on door #2 of the “theater tunnel.” TV’s Frank was a popular character played by Frank Conniff, who left the show after the sixth season.
      • The TV show’s usual density of gags was reduced for theatrical audiences, so that a larger number of people laughing wouldn’t cause too much dialogue to be missed.
      • In PoolMan’s review’s fourth paragraph, he spelled TV’s Friends character “Chandler Bing” as “Chandler Byng”. This is why we love him.
      • Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? Oh yes, yes, a THOUSAND TIMES yes! Mike, Servo and Crow come back in the theater to make fun of the credit scroll.
      • Your Beginner’s Guide To MST3K
          Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) was a television show that ran for 10 seasons on various networks, including Comedy Central and the SciFi channel. It was basically a forum for a group of comedy writers to mock some of the worst, lamest and goofiest films ever made (like the movies we like). The basic premise is this: a human (first Joel, who was later replaced by Mike) is put on a satellite and forced by Mad Scientists (“The Mads”) to watch said atrocious films to see what would happen (which is why the shows are called “experiments”). To keep his sanity, Joel built four robots to keep him company. Gypsy runs the ship, Cambot videotapes all the action, and Tom and Crow join the human in the screening room to riff on films. We, the audience, view the black silhouettes of Joel/Mike, Tom (the short, bulbous robot) and Crow (the bird-looking sassy one) sitting in their movie seats, in front of a large screen where the movie plays. And that’s basically it. The crew makes around 700 jokes per movie, which have included everything from horror to scifi to PSA films. MST3K was a nutty show done low-budget and had poor actors… but great jokes and better voices. Fans are downright, well, fanatical about it!
          A fan of the show is called a Mistie.
      • The MST3K Brief Timeline:
          1988 – MST3K premieres as a local program on KTMA-TV in the Twin Cities (this year was known as the KTMA season). Pretty bad shows, only a couple of the future cast was present.
        • 1989 – MST3K is picked up by the Comedy Channel (later Comedy Central) . Season one has MST3K staples Trace Beaulieu (Crow and Dr. Forrester), Joel Hodgson, and Jim Mallon (Gypsy).
        • 1990 – Kevin Murphy comes on the show as Tom Servo’s “new voice”. TV’s Frank (Frank Conniff) starts during the second season as well.
        • 1993 – Comedy Central re-airs several MST3K episodes in a “Mystery Science Theater Hour” format, splitting one episode into two one-hour shows (hosted by Mike Nelson). Joel leaves the show and is replaced by Mike.
        • 1994 – Dr. Forrester’s assistant TV’s Frank leaves the show.
        • 1995 – Season seven airs only 6 episodes (instead of the 24 standard eps that were done per seasons 3-5). This was because of the change of networks and the MST3K movie. Trace Beaulieu leaves the show after this season and the movie.
        • 1996 – MST3K moves to the SciFi channel after a series of disputes and problems with Comedy Central. Crow is played by Bill Corbett. MST3K the Movie comes out April 19.
        • 1997 – Jim Mallon gives up the role of Gypsy. At this point, the entire original cast had been entirely replaced.
        • 1999 – Joel returns for one episode, as does TV’s Frank. MST3K is cancelled after it’s 10th season. Total shows, including KTMA, were 199.

Groovy Quotes

Joe: You know what my kids would say?

Tom Servo: Industry, Science, and Technology! Big men putting screwdrivers into things! Turning them! And adjusting them!

Tom Servo: Suddenly I have a refreshing mint flavor.

Crow T. Robot: Into the weenie mobile, weenie man away!

Crow T. Robot: Hey, Mike, you think you can toss me my calculations? Thanks! Ah, here it is. “Breach Hull – All Die.” Even had it underlined.

Tom Servo: [reading credits] Okay, let’s see here… Shatner, Shatner… no, doesn’t look like he’s in this one; we’re safe.

Crow T. Robot: Well believe me, Mike, I calculated the odds of this succeeding versus the odds I was doing something incredibly stupid… and I went ahead anyway.

Mike: Let’s slip away under cover of afternoon in the biggest car in the county.

Servo: Self cleaning mutant. Leaves only the fresh scent of pine.

Tom Servo: It’s the amazing technicolor cheese wedge!

Mike: Washingtonland, the new Disney theme park.

Dr. Clayton Forrester: This is my test subject, Mike Nelson – a disgustingly mild-mannered dope who’s managed to survive every film I’ve subjected him to. But, perhaps, this movie will drive him to the breaking point and crush his soul. And then I’ll unleash it on an unwitting public, and then I will rule the world!
[Laughs maniacally and spanks himself with the photo]
Dr. Clayton Forrester: Yes, I’m a naughty boy! Naughty! Naughty! Naughty! …Oh, ahem.

Tom Servo: Captain’s log: a bunch of our ship fell off, and, nobody likes me.

Exeter: Now place your hands above the rail [hands suddenly attach to the rail] …they’re magnetized.
Crow T. Robot: And if your hands were metal, that would mean something.

Tom Servo: I’m experiencing a sensation altogether new to me, and frankly I love it!

Crow T. Robot: The secret government Eggo Project!

Carl Meecham: Relocation? To where?
The Monitor: To your Earth.
Exeter: A PEACEFUL relocation…
Crow T. Robot: After the genecide, of course.

Tom Servo: EASTMAN! He came from the east, to do battle with the amazing RANDO!

[Onscreen: an alien sitting on a metallic command chair]
Tom Servo: Why’d they put the toilet seat in the middle of the room?

[Onscreen: the hero bashing the exposed “brain” of an alien]
Crow: Ow! Ow! I’m very vunerable there! Ooh, there go the piano lessons!

If you liked this movie, try these:

    • MST3K: Manos, The Hands of Fate
    • MST3K: Cave Dwellers
    • MST3K: Mitchell


  1. For those who missed it because they don’t follow the Comments RSS feed, a while back I had subjected the MST3K movies to the Bechdel Test, and the results were a bit unexpected. Not only did the movies in question pass more often than not, the older tended to fare better than the more recent offerings.

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