Aug 3 2008 4:50am

Exclusive interview with Jim Mallon, Trace Beaulieu, and Joel Hodgson of Mystery Science Theatre 3000

Now that we've all recovered from post-SDCC fatigue and Pablo's had a chance to edit and upload the videos, I'm thrilled to finally present's exclusive interview with some of the key cast members and creators of Mystery Science Theater 3000. MST3K (as it's been fondly nicknamed by its fans) rose from cult fandom to geek ubiquity over the course of eleven years, during which it moved from Minneapolis public access television to Comedy Central to the Sci Fi Channel. The show is beloved both for its unique premise—mad scientists ship their janitor to a satellite and force him to watch terrible movies; janitor copes by building robot companions out of ship components—and for some of the cleverest dialogue on television.

Now, nearly ten years after the last episode hit the air, the show has received a sudden surge in attention with the announcement that Shout Factory will commemorate the show and its legacy with a 20th Anniversary box set that includes four episodes never before released on DVD. Shout Factory kicked off its SDCC presence with a packed* reunion panel featuring Joel Hodgson, Mike Nelson, Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Mary Jo Pehl, Bill Corbett, J. Elvis Weinstein, Paul Chaplin, Bridget Jones-Nelson, and stellar moderation by Patton Oswald. This assemblage of mad genuises resulted in a panel so good it almost seems cruel to pick out particular lines to highlight, especially given that the entire thing will be included in the box set (pssst: there's an extremely low-rent version on YouTube now, if you can't wait 'til October).

The second part of Shout Factory's plan was to organize some interviews with traditional and new-media outlets, and they were kind enough to give a slot even though we were just over a day old. Consequently, Jim Mallon, the series' executive producer and director of more than 75 episodes; Trace Beaulieu, who played Dr. Clayton Forrester and voiced Crow T. Robot for most of the show's run; and (joining us for the second half) Joel Hodgson, who acted as the human presence on the Satelite of Love for the show's first five years, sat down for a few questions with this upstart website.** The results are here...

...and here...

I'm told that we'll be getting a review copy of the box set, so you'll definitely hear more about it here if we do. In the meantime, you can satiate some of your cravings for good riffs on bad movies by checking out Joel and Trace's work on Cinematic Titanic or Mike Nelson et al's on RiffTrax.

* Really! I had to con my way in by pretending to be part of the film crew. Don't let anyone say we never sacrifice anything for our stories...

** I'm especially grateful for their patience with this rookie fangirl reporter's unformed interviewing technique.

Mike Frighetto
1. Mjfrig
I would have gone to SDCC just for this panel. I've been a fan of MST3K for a long time. The show never failed to crack me up. I'm looking forward to the 20th Anniversary set, even if it makes me feel old. 20 years? Really?
Serge Mailloux
2. SergeBroom
Curses! Their new set doesn't include The Day The Earth Froze. C'mon. My videotape is about 16 years old and my wife and I have been watching it every year when winter shows up. Who knows how more years the tape has left?
Liz Gorinsky
3. TooMuchExposition
Mjfrig: Interesting how many people I've heard say that about the panel. It was definitely one of my two hell-or-high-water panels, and MST3K is definitely one of those "small but devoted band of fanatical minions" type of shows.

Serge: Alas! I imagine rights-clearing for MST3K DVDs must be all kinds of nightmare, but in this case maybe they just can't *find* anyone from the Finnish or Russian studios to give them permission.
Black Bart
4. Black Bart
I sat in that room for almost six hours to make sure I had a seat for this panel. I was right next to the mic for when they opened it up for questions from the audience - which never happened. Oh well. I guess with that many Mysties in the room, any Q&A would have lasted another 6 hours easy. Patton Oswalt did an awesome job, though, as moderator.

Re: Episode 422-"Day the Earth Froze" (aka Sampo) - the show's print was copyrighted Rigma American Corp/Mosfilm Studios and the DVD of the original non-MST3K version of the film was released by Retromedia. Assuming the AIP version of the film is in the Public Domain, it is possible - or at least likely - that "Day the Earth Froze" could be released in time. Shout Factory seems to be pretty "hip" to the spirit of the show and the hearts of the fans, so they might do a better job than Rhino did in getting out the fan favorites.
Black Bart
5. Torgo
FYI - if you are looking for non-released episodes of MST3K, the Digital Archive Project has all of these babies in AVI format, at about 700mb per episode. Do a search for DAPcentral and DAPcentral torrent tracker in any search engine. They are very responsible and only have episodes that are not currently available via retail.
Liz Gorinsky
6. TooMuchExposition

Black Bart @ 4: Your devotion is incredible, but it does trigger my guilt at having sort-of snuck in. Though I ultimately blame CCI for poor information: I got there about a half-hour early (as early as I could given other commitments) and they were already telling people the line was closed. At this point I got desperate--I had an interview scheduled the next morning and it would have been terrible to miss the panel--so I took the opportunity I saw, and let out my breath when there were 50 or so empty seats in the back of the room at start time.

What question were you planning on asking? It's sad that there wasn't time for everything, but Oswalt did do a great job at covering the basics.
Black Bart
7. Malachi
I just stumbled upon this site, but you mentioned in the footnote your "rookie fangirl reporter's unformed interviewing technique."

As a random guy who shoots press junkets with actors and directors, I have to say that I've seen a lot and you were better than most.

First, you knew your interviewees well and asked them questions they probably aren't normally asked. That generally means a good interview. You also responded to their answers, which is also great.

As a camera operator I was constantly annoyed at how it was shot. A bright light behind two (then three) dark subjects is a major distraction, though I understand that you couldn't hire a professional film crew. Also the lack of a second camera on the interviewer would make any editing obvious, though again I understand.

This may seem harsh, but it's clear from how they acted that they somehow decided that you were a very minor interview. They were not giving you the responses they would have given someone they respected as an interviewer. Maybe the interviewer approached them as a fan, maybe the videographer didn't seem to know what he was doing, I don't know. Even if you're a huge fan you should approach them as a journalist who wants a good interview, not as a "fangirl" who wants to talk to them.

There were some awkward spots where the interviewer didn't seem to know where to go next (which always makes the guest anxious), and I'm just a random guy, but I've shot many interviews like this and the interviewer had quite a bit in common with Terry Gross of the NPR show "Fresh Air" who is, in my mind, the best interviewer out there. If you want tips, listen to her podcast.

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