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The cult television series Mystery Science Theatre 3000 transfers its brand of science-fiction wisecracking to the big screen with relatively few changes.
The concept is the same in series and film: an innocent man (Michael J. Nelson, playing Mike Nelson) is stranded in outer space by a mad scientist, who subjects the poor slob to experiments that involve watching the worst movies ever made.
In order to survive this cinematic torture, Mike and his two companions, sarcastic robots Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, mercilessly heckle the film in self-defense. In this case, the target is This Island Earth, a 1950s sci-fi opus that, despite its silly makeup effects and stilted dialogue, actually stands slightly above the usual Mystery Science Theatre fare.
Otherwise, despite the larger budget, the film plays as a shorter version of the television show, with the robots and sets purposefully maintaining their ingenious, homemade look.
Despite its loyalty to the original concept, many long-time fans found the film less sharp than the series, and the cinematic version failed to attract many viewers beyond the original audience.
Nevertheless, it serves as a good introduction for the uninitiated, demonstrating the show's combination of pop culture deconstruction and intelligent, playful humor.