krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
My viewing of an improvised trilogy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes featuring movies I'm tempted to call Star Wars ripoffs is now complete. After two "movies" made by Americans editing together episodes of a Japanese television series, I'm now on to a South African (although Tom Servo thinks it's Canadian) production featuring stock footage from an earlier television series that has also been called a Star Wars ripoff in the past. The movie is "Space Mutiny," and I've seen the episode called one of Mystery Science Theater's finest more than once. I won't disagree.

I can suppose that I would call this episode another example of how, for me, Mystery Science Theater is more about helping a movie ridicule itself than trying to "dismantle" it. There's overwrought acting (the crippled yet mutinous chief engineer is a particular favourite of mine), mysterious female aliens prancing around in ripped leotards for no clear reason (contrasted against, perhaps, the female lead of a certain age who's dressed and described as if she's about twenty), and action sequences I can suppose are meant to be exciting but reach far, far beyond their grasp (furiously misaimed zap gun fights and the "golf cart" travel pods, one of which the lettering is clearly crooked on). For me, though, there's also the odd awareness of how the movie's science fiction element (such as it is) manages to contradict itself. In the opening narration, we're informed that the starship Southern Sun (stock footage from the original Battlestar Galactica on the outside, which one of the Mystery Science Theater creators finally admitted they didn't say anything about in the episode, what looks to be a disused power plant to me and a minimalist bridge set with now very dated PCs set up in them on the inside) has been travelling for "thirteen generations" on a "ten light year journey." This suggests to me that it's supposed to be a "generation starship," one that travels much slower than light and which doesn't make any sense to leave until it reaches its destination... but people arrive and land on it (at least until the single docking bay is wiped out by the beefy hero crashing into it), the ship has to battle space pirates (in a very brief engagement that might have been cut down for time), and the space mutineers seem intent on getting off it, for all that this will "oppose the law of the universe." For some reason, I keep thinking of the starship in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series that was loaded with the phone sanitizers and advertising executives of a planet... Of course, there's also an odd moment along somewhat the same line in one of the "host segments" itself. After the bots complain in increasingly ludicrous terms about Mike's outdated encyclopedias, Mike produces a new set with online links on every page... the only problem being that they're currently two thousand years in the past, which makes me wonder how they connect. Of course, the theme song does contain the classic advice "it's just a show, I should really just relax"... (The new encyclopedias do contain "twenty-seven pages on Gwen Stefani alone," and I decided to indulge myself by looking up her entry on Wikipedia... to find it's a "featured article." For some reason, the joke seems that much more prophetic now...)

As with certain other movies featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, "Space Mutiny" ends with what might be supposed to be an ominous setup for a sequel but just comes across as a letdown now. Still, I did once encounter the movie in an unexpected yet very interesting setting. Before the premiere of Revenge of the Sith, a local Fox affiliate was showing The Empire Strikes Back on a Sunday afternoon... but before that movie, the "un-MSTed" version of Space Mutiny was scheduled. I should have taped it, but instead only spared the time to watch a few minutes, catching a scene or two cut down in the episode ("and our brave hero roasts the disabled man!"). Perhaps, though, they were enough.
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