The Fanvid That Wasn’t — Mystery Movie Theater 2000

Fresh from an opening night viewing of the limited theatrical release of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, a coven of youths in Virginia (USA), high on sody-pop and Lik-M-Aid (actual comestibles may vary), was inspired to make their own home-brew MST3K. They high tailed it home to start work on an ill-fated MST3K fanvid project which would eventually be called Mystery Movie Theater 2000.

Rehearsing on the S.O.S. set.

There was an initial burst of gumption that was slap-dash and adlibbed and short-lived. But, a few months later, their ring-leader, Edgar (last name Justus), got the ol’ bee in his bonnet astirrin’ again with a plan to create something more substantial than just a triple of kids ladding it up in the basement. The MMT2K project was finally off to the races.

While their KTMA-era effort was entirely unscripted and lacked production value, the new approach for this league of Justus would involve more pre-production, actual sets, and scripted host segments (with the movie riffing to be improvised). Instead of, as they had tried originally, just pausing the camcorder in-between to record the segments sequentially, MMT2K’s post-KTMA-era would be recorded out-of-sequence and then edited together using what MST3K superfan Edgar describes as his parents’ “VHS copier”.

The change in tactics was inspired by a VHS tape Best Brains, Inc. put out called the MST3K Scrapbook. Edgar watched it over and over and could see how the big boys did it and wanted to emulate the pros:

Watching the process of how their show was made, the process of the creation of the sets, the bots, the scripts, the filming process, everything–it really inspired me to want to do the same. I thought, “Wow, it would be so cool to do something like that. I wonder if we can do that, but here at home.”

The premise of MMT2K is a tale as old as time: a regular mug trying to make his way is shanghaied by mad scientists and shot into space as a test case for an evil experiment. Dr. Brent Hamster (Brent Rossen), TV’s Prank (Ed), and Joke Rubinson (also Brent Rossen) work at Techtronic Institute. The duo-former are forcing the singulatter to watch bad movies as he orbits the Earth inside the Satellite of Stuff. Up on the S.O.S., Joke creates some off-brand MST3Kesque robot pals to watch the movies with him. Respectively, Crowmatic T. Crowbot, Tom Sweetanlow, and Tipsy are respectfully nicked allusions to MST3K’s golden spider duck, squat crimson pig, and Mrs. Richard Basehart:

Yep, pretty much a complete ripoff! – Edgar Justus IV

The summer of 1996 brought with it one big question: how come Universal Studios focused all their film distribution and advertising efforts on Pamela Anderson’s post-apocalyptic Barb Wire instead of on the big-screen debut of cult television show Mystery Science Theater 3000? That summer also brought with it a few months of a flurry of activity on what would have been one of the earliest MST3K fanvids.

Ed’s bedroom, featuring the S.O.S. set.

Ed wrote a script for the host segments. And, with the help of his parents, built the bots and the sets. There were two sets: the Mads’ Lair and the Satellite of Stuff. Both were set up in Ed’s bedroom. The “lair” set was pretty simple, according to Ed, Edd, and Justus. Just some green table cloths on the wall with some movie posters and a computer. The S.O.S. set was a tad more involved. It was a make shift desk and a few large styrofoam sheets with some gray cloth and tape for the traditional MST3K geodesic look. Some spray paint was used to make the (barely) operational theater door look just right. In order to mimic the traditional MST3K desk lights, they used a real bathroom light fixture.

My parents, Edgar and Angela Justus, were absolutely invaluable in making this whole thing for us possible. They spent money, time, effort in creating everything with and for me, and we were the lucky kids who got to play and be creative with it all.

Amazingly, even after losing track of the bots over the passing of one score and three years, Eddie J. still remembers what the bots were made of. These days, he has replica MST3K bots. But, for his home-brew riff-do, the bots were much less canon accurate. Sweetanlow does have an actual gumball machine head (filled with packets of Sweet’N Low®), but it’s a different than expected brand. His body is made from candy dishes, egg slicers, be-handed slinkies, and a bunt cake pan with gray foam tubing. Crowmatic had ping-pong ball eyes, an assemblage of dinner trays and bowls and a bucket for the body, and plastic tubing arms with plastic fork hands. His webbing was from a football helmet. His beak was a mustard bottle. And, to round out the cranial region, a couple of plastic bowls in a sort of Edward D. Wood, Jr. UFO shape with a hole cut in the front. And, not to be forgotten, Tipsy was a flashlight, two painters trays with foam tubing lips, and some of that corrugated drainage tubing that’s so hard to find in the unperforated form factor.

Rehearsals go off the rails.

But, to pay off all the foreshadowing, a completed episode of Mystery Movie Theater 2000 never came together in its entirety. Ed owes the fizzling out of the project to the obligations and ineffable qualities of youthful whathaveyou. The summer did produce the Mads’ half of the host segments because Brent and Ed had already been cast in those roles. They were never able to lock down someone to play Crowbot. So, all that exists of the S.O.S. half of the host segments is some rehearsal footage with Crow being controlled by their (mysteriously uncastable) friend Adam Gardner. There was also never any in-theater footage shot for the same reason. The end of the summer came and school started back up. At some point, the sets disappeared from Ed’s bedroom and life just went on– without Mystery Movie Theater 2000.

Lair of the Mads

Years later (this one just last, in January), Ed re-discovered some old video tapes and revealed to the world via the Twitter the existence of his old fanvid project with a screen shot of the rehearsals. He released a few minutes of the video of it on July 13th (HST) of this year. He says that there might be some some behind the scenes footage of the bot construction laying around somewhere, too, but he’s still looking.

He also says that he might be interested in, after all these years, finally finishing the project. But, he’s not making any promises. The sets are gone, and so are the bots they constructed. There is, though, a possibility that the footage of Ed and Brent, in their youngsterines, as the Mads still exists somewhere. If the project gets started again, Ed thinks he might use that old footage and shoot the rest of the show using the replica Tom and Crow bots he has, in his old age, been able to obtain. The original project derailing hitch in the ointment though is still finding some people interested in being a part of it.

If the project had been completed back in 1996, the experiment was going to be the 1956 Toho classic “Rodan“.

Dr. Brent Hamster and TV’s Prank

These days, Ed works in a book store in Hawaii that his cat owns. The book store, Talk Story, is the only remaining actual bookstore on the island of Kauai. It also boasts the distinction of being the United States of America’s westernmost bookstore.



Comments 1

  1. Administrator wrote:

    This post was updated with a link to a PDF file of the original host segments script written by Ed Justus. The file can also be found via a link in this comment. Your hyperlink prowess may vary.

    Posted 20 Jul 2019 at 12:42 pm

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