MST3K: King Dinosaur (1990)
Director: Jim Mallon
Writers: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Jim Mallon, etc.
Starring: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Jim Mallon, and Frank Conniff

The Plot: In the not-too-distant future, Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgeson) is abducted by his boss, Dr. Forrester, at Gizmonic institute and shot into outer space. Forrester then sends him the very worst movies that he can find in order to document his reactions. Joel, who has built two robot friends named Crow and Tom Servo, watches these movies and has a good time making fun of them in order to keep his sanity. In this episode, Dr. Forrester forces Joel to watch the 50s sci-fi title known as King Dinosaur. The story focuses on two couples, who are also scientists, that arrive on the distant planet called Nova. Nova is very similar to our earth, but as these scientists begin to investigate they find that it is slightly more primitive. Featuring giant tyrannosaurus-rex dinosaurs, who look a LOT like the household Iguana, and a lot of other really bad creature FX. This one looks like it is going to be a rough ride for Joel and his crew. Will they survive, or will their minds melt whilst watching?

The Review
Mystery Science Theater 3000 has been well-covered here on Varied Celluloid. However, if you’ve read a few of the reviews, you will notice how dependent an episode is upon the original source material. Although there are episodes where the episodes turn out great despite the movie presented being a boring mess, these instances seem to be the exception in comparison to the other boring movies presented on the show in the past. Even the Manos: The Hands of Fate episode becomes a bit of a drag after a certain amount of time. All it seems to take for a decent episode is for the movie that is presented to have energy. When a movie is inspired and moves at a decent pace, the crew are able to find their footing and have a lot of fun! Unfortunately, the movie we are discussing today is a slight hybrid. Sure, it moves along at a decent pace, but King Dinosaur is a movie filled with monotonous scenes that rarely capture the attention of its audience. A throwback science-fiction film with awful special effects, it seems that it would have been tailor made for the MST3K crew, but in actuality it is a rather tedious movie that the guys do their best to liven up.

King Dinosaur obviously doesn’t prove to be one of the very best episodes that Mystery Science Theater ever had. There’s a certain amount of fun to it, but the episode seems “off” in comparison to many others. There are funny bits throughout, I can’t argue with that. Funny bits include: A bit about a snake that might be Satan, some fun with a lemur, some comedy involving the pre-feminist mentality of the movie, and a hilarious moment where the character of Ralph wrestles with an alligator while Joel and the Bots give the scene some pro-wrestling style commentary. However, despite these few solid bits, the memorable moments seem few and far between. Although the movie seems rife for the MST3K treatment, something is lost in the translation. The previously mentioned lack of energy is the key, and the over-reliance on poor special effects are also a major detriment. I respect Joel and the crew for not cluttering the movie with obvious jokes at the expense of the low budget special effects from so long ago, as it would have been like shooting fish in a barrel. Ultimately, the movie drowns under the weight of the meandering plot that takes place during the first half of the movie. Paired with the slightly-better X Marks the Spot short, this certainly marks one of the weaker efforts on this new MST3K boxset.

X Marks the Spot is a safety video short that was apparently made for the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles. It details a man dying and then sitting through a court proceeding in heaven, where he sits with his guardian angel as the two go through this dead man’s driving record. The short is a little on the slow side, but it makes for decent riffing material due to the exaggerated performances. It really does turn out to be more humorous than the following feature film in most respects. The Frank Capra-style short tries its best to be something more than a safety video, but it turns out far too cheesy for its own good. The guys dig into the short with gusto. After this, once King Dinosaur begins, the audience is left hoping for something equally as goofy and potentially nostalgic. Unfortunately though, King Dinosaur never develops a rhythm and simply seems to wander on forever. Despite this being a relatively short film, it feels like it lasts for ages. The only hope for entertainment comes from questioning the scientific logic of the movie. This lack of logic is the only thing that keeps the movie partially entertaining during its soap opera-esque plot developments.

The small scientific concepts are what generally caught my attention with the movie, and those concepts were completely ignored by King Dinosaur. This crew shows up on planet Nova, which is teaming with animal life and filled with both water and forestry, but they still take a considerable amount of time to actually figure out whether this planet is habitable and filled with oxygen. Never mind the fact that all of this should/would have been discovered before ever making the trip to this planet… it doesn’t take long to pick up on the oxygen, hydrogen, and carbons that obviously make up this planet. As soon as they do figure this fact out though, the whole crew dresses down as if it were casual day at the lab. No scientific future-suits for these fine folks, they prefer khakis and short sleeve tees. These scientists act as if they are perplexed at how many hours might be in a day on this planet, since it very well could rotate faster than the earth. As if these scientists, who are on the verge of the largest breakthrough that humankind has ever stumbled upon, would not know the rotations of this planet. While I understand that this sort of science might not have been extremely mainstream in this era, the filmmakers show a infinitesimal amount of knowledge in the science department. This shows through during the course of the movie where the “scientists” act in extremely unethical and non-scientific ways. The conclusion to the movie, which i don’t want to spoil, is the exact opposite of everything defined by the scientific method. Inevitably, our characters turn out to be more savage than their own surroundings, and the movie plays out like Cannibal Holocaust; only, this movie doesn’t acknowledge its own irony.

Featured on the Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume 23 boxset, King Dinosaur comes with a few interesting tidbits packed along with it. As always, these sets come loaded with special features that are split up individually with the movies. Also packed in the case are some cool lobby cards featuring the MST3K cover art for each episode, as well as some of the best animated menus in the business. This disc also features the original theatrical trailer for King Dinosaur, but the real meat of the special features is a fairly detailed documentary called The Incredible Mr. Lippert. The documentary focuses on Robert Lippert, a movie producer who made a whole lot of junk in his era. The documentary also shines a better light on the filmmaker, showing that he made a few quality productions amongst all of the b-cinema. Very entertaining and highly fascinating, this documentary adds a lot to the overall worth of the set. Very intriguing stuff!

The Conclusion
There’s not a whole lot else to say about King Dinosaur. This isn’t a great episode of MST3K, but it isn’t because of a lack of effort. The episode has its high points and its low ones, but different viewers may take from it different things. Me, personally, I give it a lower 3. Although the weird pacing definitely leaves a lot to be desired, after having finished the entire set I must say that this movie certainly stood out as being memorable. Not a fantastic episode, but it is interesting.

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