For various reasons, the Mike Nelson years of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are "lost years" for me, so it was with some surprise that I discovered the film Prince of Space in one of MST3K's DVD sets. It turned out to be pretty doggone enjoyable, both on its own terms and in the MST3K context.
According to the Internet Movie Database, Prince of Space was released in 1959 by Toei studio, orginally as a mini-serial and then as an edited one-shot version in the U.S. The story centers around the Prince of Space defending Earth from the Phantom of Krankor. The Prince of Space disguises himself as a shoe-shine boy who takes care of children in his spare time and evidently is teaching them the trade! The Phantom of Krankor is one of the most hilarious villains I have ever seen, with an appropriately flamboyant "heh-heh-heh-heh" chortle that goes way over the top. Then there's the giant that guards the Krankor base...you really need to see this movie. The production values are relatively high and the print the Best Brains guys got their hands on is a beauty.
The MST3K "layer" is fun too--although towards the beginning, even they seem to be caught up in the on-screen shenanigans, to the extent that no riffing takes place for long stretches. The host segments are all take-offs on "worm-hole" sci-fi alternate realities. One of them features a brain-twisting, out-of-order conversation; in another, Mike Nelson becomes a ventriloquist-dummy-sized robot version of himself (this bit is particularly amusing, as the robot Mike joins the 'bots in the theater for a segment); and in yet another, Mike, Crow, and Tom Servo are actually filmed outside in the woods somewhere, which, to the long-time fan, is a somewhat jarring image!
The jokes are enjoyable--the film itself lobs softball after softball across the plate for the guys to hit. My laugh-out-loud moment came when the camera panned across a Japanese cityscape accompanied by the comment: "Ah, a rare Godzilla-free day." Mike and company also make passing reference to Gamera and their infamous Gamera song.
Prince of Space is worth a watch, whether you go with the MST version or not. Be forewarned, however, you will not soon forget the Phantom of Krankor's evil laugh (or his costume)!