Once Again On This Island

24-Jan-08 11:17 AM by
Filed under Films; 3 comments.

The year that Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie debuted in a staggering 26 theaters nationwide, I spent the summer working my first job at Blockbuster Video. Courtesy channel surfing, I was vaguely familiar with the MST3K TV series, so when the movie received a wider release on VHS, I sought it out during my Friday night shift. Our one copy was rented out, so on my dinner break I called the local mom-and-pop store to ask if they had MST3K: The Movie. "Hmm… no, that doesn't sound like something we'd carry. You might want to try Blockbuster."

I eventually did get my hands on the VHS version and laughed until I cried. I immediately shared it with everyone I could think of, and when I bought my first DVD player three years later, MST3K was one of the first discs I bought. It's essentially a high-budget episode of the television show, but the jokes are spot-on (and occasionally a bit more risque than TV would permit), the editing of This Island Earth (featuring the Professor of Gilligan's Island) incisive, and the running time, though shorter than an actual episode, was just the right length to make for an engaging introduction to the series. I even showed it in a high school film studies course I taught, as I felt it essential for these up-and-coming geeks to graduate with an awareness of the rich heritage of B-films. I eliminated it from the course's next iteration, though, as some of the humor did not seem appropriate for the classroom, and the movie's substance was not as weighty at its curriculum brethren, such as Wit or Fail-Safe. (Its place in the course was occupied the next year by The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra.)

The movie still holds a prominent place in my video library, especially since the DVD was discontinued eight years ago, with used copies now fetching triple-digit prices on Amazon and eBay. So I was happy to read yesterday's report that MST3K: The Movie will be re-released this May 6th. This is good news for MST3K fans and those curious to see this quintessential episode of a cult classic. With the promise of additional features, extras, and commentary, the lust for the movie's original edition will surely plummet — but it's better for the film to be valued by fans than by collectors, so the renewed availability of the disc is something my devalued copy will happily accommodate.

3 Responses to “Once Again On This Island”

  1. Dayton Ward adds:

    MST3K: The Movie played here in KC, and it also was one of the first DVDs I bought, which was a good thing since it fell off the face of the earth shortly after that. I'll probably pick up the new edition for the features.

    As for the series itself, two of my favorites remain It Conquered the World and Space Mutiny, but there really are too many to list.

    Have you been checking out RiffTrax? They've gotten better since it became essentially an audio version of MST3K, rather than just Mike Nelson doing the schtick alone. And have you checked out Cinematic Titanic?

  2. Ken Gagne adds:

    I have indeed been enjoying RiffTrax, with a link to it in my blogroll ever since I first wrote about them. I have 12 RiffTrax so far, and after watching an older MST3K episode recently, I found I actually enjoyed RiffTrax more.

    I was a latecomer to MST3K and so prefer Mike's work to Joel's, and so have not checked out Cinematic Titanic. The Film Crew's work sounds like fun, but compared to $3 for RiffTrax, I haven't yet brought myself to spend $15.99 on a DVD I've never seen.

    Space Mutiny is available as part of the original show's fourth DVD volume, along with Girl in the Gold Boots, Hamlet, and Overdrawn at the Memory Bank (starring Raul Julia!) — making it one of the best box sets available.

    Unfortunately, I was mistaken in reporting the 2008 edition of MST3K: The Movie (which is now available for preorder) would have bonus features; seems 5.1 surround sound is the only addition.

  3. Ken Gagne adds:

    MST3K: The Movie is now available on DVD … again!