Friends, it was while writing for the Retroist that I learned there is an all-important question for fans of classic science fiction and horror B-movies with a sense of humor… Joel or Mike? I can recall being taken aback by just how passionate some Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans were when it came to which host they preferred. Although no battle lines were drawn in the sand that I can recall, some of the comments on the article were at the very least strongly worded. Having said that however I believe that the majority of MSTies know that both Joel Hodgson and Micheal J. Nelson are equally fantastic, as is Jonah Ray who joined the ranks of Human hosts thanks to the two seasons streamed on Netflix. But it was 25 years ago today that Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie was released to the big screen… at least 26 theaters were lucky enough to receive the film that is.
I happened to be working at a local movie theater when Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie was advertised to come out on April 19th of 1996. As the theater was literally run by cinephiles, we immediately began planning on how we would decorate the theater in an effort to promote the film. There was even talk of making a cardboard cut out of Mike, Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy), and Crow T. Robot (Trace Beaulieu), painting it black and placing it on the partition in front of the screen. And then one day we received instructions from the home office to remove the posters from the lobby as we wouldn’t be carrying the film.
Thanks to an oral history article by Adam Carston for The A.V. Club published earlier this afternoon, I found out some interesting facts about what the process was like for the cast and writers of MST3K to make the jump to the big screen. Such as the fact that the attempt to make a movie began when Joel Hodgson was with the show, it was one of the reasons he eventually decided to step away from the series he had created with the 107th episode – Mitchell!
I don’t think that I am spoiling that A.V. Club article too much to say that overall the experience working on the film version of MST3K wasn’t the best for the cast and crew. Although it certainly sounds like there were some high points, such as getting the opportunity to sit in a screening room and checking out the vast catalog of Universal Pictures movies and TV shows. One of the most surprising things was that they entertained the notion of possibly riffing the likes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker as well as Night Gallery.
My first chance though to see Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie was when it was released to video stores in October of 1996. I have to be totally honest and admit that I was a little hesitant about the fact they were riffing on This Island Earth. I get a little defensive when it comes to anything related to the Universal Monster pantheon, a roster that the iconic Metaluna Mutant in the film is part of. Having said all of that however, I was giggling in a matter of minutes after the film had started.
In closing out this article, here is to 25 years of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. With a new and already successful Kickstarter campaign underway that is attempting to raise the necessary funds to produce new episodes without the assistance of a network, it looks like we will all be enjoying MST3K for some time to come.