Thursday, September 5, 2013

This Movie MST3K, The Whole Story On Blu-Ray

As many Rifftrax fans await the encore of the live riffing of Starship Troopers next week in theaters, and Night of the Living Dead just before Halloween, many of them have picked up the new blu-ray release of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the Movie. It's not only a new and improved version of the 1996 movie, but it also includes extras that reveal why the movie didn't do as well as it should have...and studio meddling is a main reason why.

I remember seeing it at a theater in Eureka in 1996  just after watching the show on Comedy Central. The crowd was small, but it was a good movie...and strangely short. I got a copy by taping it off Starz during one of its "free preview" weekends.

The premise, of course, is evil mad scientist Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) ready to show the movie to poor lab rat Mike Nelson and his two bots Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy) and Crow (Beaulieu), figuring the movie's so bad they'll be driven insane. For some reason, Clayton went overboard on the "crazy". Maybe he was missing TV's Frank, who left Deep 13 just before this experiment started.  Safe to say, the "victims" shake it off easily.

The new edition includes a "featurette" that's a combination of the trailer and interviews with the cast. There's
even a couple of scenes that never made it in the final version.  Then, Ballyhoo presents the real story of the very hard road the production had to travel just to get to the screen, or 26 of them (according to Box Office Mojo). It features interviews with Mike, Trace and Kevin, along with producer/director Jim Mallon, aka Gypsy. We find out some new facts about pre-production, such as another studio was interested and it almost became a musical.
Making the show for the movies is quite different than making it for Comedy Central. For one thing, Universal tried to control the choice of the film (like only using its titles), and what kind of jokes they could tell. That's why the weird alien was called Leona Helmsley instead of Bootsy Collins. They also kept insisting on cutting the film under 90 minutes, even asking for a scene they later decided they didn't need. That's why the movie is 74 minutes, much shorter than a typical MST episode without ads (not to mention This Island Earth, which lost 13 minutes being MSTied).

There's also focus groups, whose odd opinions also affected production. The pain they inflicted was recreated in the host segments from The Incredible Melting Man, where "Earth vs. Soup" got the real Hollywood treatment.

A third featurette looks at the making of This Island Earth, and how Universal had hoped it would give them a bit more prestige after the release of Forbidden Planet and The War of the Worlds. We also learn people connected with that movie are not happy with what the MST crew did to it.

Then there are the deleted scenes. I had seen them on video footage of the 1996 ConventioCon, but the ones in the blu-ray version are much better. Ballyhoo said Universal didn't have the original masters of those scenes, but what they found are still in good shape. The storm shelter scene is classic, and those suits at Universal should have risked a 91-minute comedy and kept it. There was also a different ending that actually would have been better, especially when you see Crow finding a chainsaw in Servo's room. The extended scenes have slightly different riffs compared to the original.

MST3K The Movie may not have been bigger and better than the typical Comedy Central episode, but it was a bridge to its second life on the Sci-Fi Channel. It might have had better luck it if was made like a regular episode with a bigger budget, and Universal just butted out and took whatever was given to them.
It's also more fondly remembered than Barb Wire, the movie that Gramercy decided to support because it had Pamela Anderson and That movie made nearly three point eight million dollars in 1300 screens. Compare than to a million dollars in only 26 screens for MST3K. It also came in handy as a go-to movie for Cinemax and Starz for a while.

Shout Factory made a lot of MSTies happy with a fantastic blu-ray release that gives the movie the respect it deserves.  Copies are likely to be seen during stops of the Cinematic Titanic farewell tour.

Maybe someday, the Rifftrax crew will take on This Island Earth, the complete version. Then again, riffing on Barb Wire may be an even better idea. To keep Mike, Kevin and Bill Corbett from being distracted by Pam', the Gorilla Grams can always block the screen again.

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