Posts Tagged ‘mst3k’

My favorite MST3k episodes featuring coherent movies

May 2nd, 2020

As we’re all sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one activity I’ve found well suited for the times is watching episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or MST3k.) Each episode is about an hour and a half, featuring a human host and his robot pals watching a janky movie and cracking jokes at its expense.

While all the movies shown on MST3k over the years are bad, some of them are absolutely incoherent: movies like Manos: The Hands of Fate, or The Day Time Ended, or even The Castle of Fu Manchu. Those are a challenging watch even with the MST3k treatment and I can’t imagine trying to subject myself to such madness while being locked inside for weeks on end.

So here we go: in no particular order, my favorite MST3k episodes with coherent movies — specifically episodes you can stream online at home.

Laserblast (1978)

Available on Amazon Video

Like many B-movies in the late 70’s, Laserblast is a sci-fi movie that can’t quite decide if it’s ripping off Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Star Wars. This becomes quite apparent due to the main character’s resemblance of Mark Hamill and later when he blows up a Star Wars billboard. 

The story revolves around a young guy who finds an alien weapon which can only be used when he’s wearing a special necklace. The more he uses it, the more he turns into a monster. It’s a perfectly good premise and actually has decent special effects. Unfortunately, nothing else really works from the script to the casting to the cinematography.

The riffs focus on how the movie’s bargain bin Mark Hamill seems incapable of wearing a shirt (or at least one that fits) as well as a police officer who may or may not be “ready for some football.” They also suggest Pepsi may have secretly paid for the Coca-Cola product placement. But the real focus is why film critic Leonard Maltin gave this trashy film two and a half stars.

This episode marks the last time Trace Beaulieu appeared on the show. His Dr. Clayton Forrester character is sent off with a parody of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Gorgo (1961)

Available on Amazon Video

Easily one of the most watchable of the monster movies on MST3k over the years, though to be honest the back half gets pretty dull. This one takes place in the UK instead of Japan, yet somehow it has the overall kaiju style anyway.

In this host segment Leonard Maltin appears as himself (though Pearl keeps calling him Roger Ebert) to recommend Gorgo — and plug his then new 1998 movie review guide.

The riffs refer to a number of other monster movies and make fun of the English and Irish. Crow declares Gorgo has the “best teeth in England.” They also get a lot of mileage about a circus in London named “Dorkin’s.”

Mac and Me (1988)

Available on Netflix

This movie answers the question “What if E.T. was a commercial for Coke and McDonald’s?” It’s arguably the best known movie they’ve ever shown. The story has some big plot holes and the cinematography is roughly on par with an average sitcom. The aliens are supposed to be cute but come across as both cartoonish and repulsive at the same time.

While the first season of the rebooted MST3k on Netflix was a mixed bag, by the second (and so far, last) season it was firing on all cylinders. In this episode the riffs are funny, well paced, and overall I’d rate it as “pretty nice!” 

The riff that sticks with me the most comes pretty early on when they point out the score seems to have been composed for a much more exciting movie.

Mitchell (1975)

Free on YouTube

This Joe Don Baker vehicle certainly features a lot of, well… vehicles. I’d estimate about half the movie is just shots of people in cars, either parked or driving very slowly. Oh and there’s a car chase, albeit a very slow one that mostly seems to exist to pad the movie’s runtime. The most baffling thing about this is it got a theatrical release despite looking like a made for TV movie in every respect.

Before I get to the riffing, I should mention the host segments: this was Joel’s last outing as the host of the show, so most of the host segments are set up to introduce his replacement, Mike, and Joel’s escape from the Satellite of Love.

Most of the riffs focus on how out of shape Baker is here, and his character’s appetite for alcohol and snacks. Supposedly when Baker got wind of this he wasn’t happy and (jokingly?) threatened to beat up the cast of MST3k.

Space Mutiny (1988)

Available on Amazon Video

This Canadian sci-fi action film features a story that kind of makes sense but is marred in every conceivable way. Despite being set on a spaceship the sets don’t look like spaceship interiors at all, the acting is embarrassingly poor, and the editing almost seems intentionally bad — one character dies, only to appear alive in the very next scene. 

The riffing gets a lot of laughs out of just pointing out the numerous mistakes and poor acting choices in the film, as well as coming up with nicknames for various characters. The muscular leading man gets a whole string of nicknames including Flint Ironstag, Slab Bulkhead, and Big McLargeHuge. 

The Final Sacrifice (1990)

Available on Amazon Video

Also from Canada, this student film is about a kind of annoying teenage boy who’s forced to avenge the death of his father — who died at the hands of a mysterious death cult — with the help of a drunk redneck named “Zap Rowsdower.” 

For some reason it was released on home video. The whole thing has a very outsider art feel to it, like a community theater group trying to make a film.

The riffs in this one are some of the funniest MST3k has ever done, from “the bacon-y stench of Canada” to mocking a character’s Yosemite Sam-like voice… and making fun of the name Rowsdower, of course. But the true lesson we learn from the riffs is never to invest in lemon mines.

If you happen to come across this one on DVD it includes an interview with the actor who played Rowsdower. This is likely the closest thing to a “making of” type documentary for this film we’ll ever see.

Alien From LA (1988)

Free on YouTube

Kathy Ireland’s first attempt at transitioning from a model to a movie star resulted in this dud. To be fair it’s not entirely her fault, though speaking in an irritating squeaky little girl voice for the entire film didn’t help. The story thrashes between genres before eventually deciding to become a sci-fi chase through Atlantis.

Mike and the bots often imitate Ireland’s aforementioned squeaky voice, as well as another character they describe as “Australian.” When they start referring to unnamed characters as cereal box mascots, you know the movie’s in trouble.

Watching this episode again I’m surprised I’d forgotten the host segments. From Mike milking a refrigerator to a “sexy” Tom Servo, this is MST3k at its silliest and best.

I Accuse My Parents (1944)

Available on Amazon Video

Before the movie, this episode kicks off with a short — and extremely dated — educational film called “The Truck Farmer.” It’s ostensibly about modern farming practices, but Joel and the bots poke fun at how they’re spraying everything with pesticides, exploiting labor, and bulldozing forests — all so we can eat carrots. 

Getting on to the movie, it’s a cautionary tale about a young man who joins the mob by accident due to his alcoholic and uncaring parents. The movie opens with his trial before jumping back in time to see how he got there — which has less to do with his terrible parents than the set up would suggest.

The riffs focus on the character’s numerous lies, the advanced age of the actors playing teenagers, as well as references to the time period (for example one unnamed character is referred to as Eleanor Roosevelt.) The host segments in this episode are quite memorable as well.

Hobgoblins (1988)

Available on Amazon Video

This shameless straight-to-video Gremlins knockoff is about a tribe of small alien “hobgoblins” with mind control powers who escape an (unlocked) vault in a movie studio to terrorize a group of young men and women. 

Oh, and it’s the kind of movie where every female character is either a “nag” or a “slut” — an extremely misogynistic one in other words.

The riffs really zero in on the amateurish production values and make a lot of jokes referencing the 80’s. In one scene early on Mike asks “does he have Pringles in his shoes?” due to poor foley.  In a dance scene, Mike makes up lyrics to the music: “It’s the 80’s, do a lot of coke and vote for Ronald Regan.”

My favorite riff in the whole movie: “Someone’s rubbing puppets on us!”

 

Honorable mentions

Not all the films I wanted to include on this list are currently available for streaming, though there are low-quality copies on YouTube. Three stand out in particular.

Soultaker (1990)

In this cheesy movie, a group of “teens” die in a drunken car crash and wind up as ghosts. The angel of death dispatches his minion to steal their souls. It’s one of (at least) two movies they’ve covered starring Joe Estevez.

Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)

Unfortunately MST3k lost the rights to this one, and it was only very briefly available on DVD. The movie barely has anything to do with Godzilla; instead it’s mostly about a robot named Jet Jaguar fighting a giant bug thing named Megalon. 

12 To The Moon (1960)

This odd film about an early moon landing seems more on the drama between the astronauts than the strange events that start happening once they get there. It’s preceded by a ridiculous short film called Design For Dreaming about all the new products from GM and Frigidaire coming in a very 1950’s version of the future.

 

Depending how long the shelter in place order continues I may end up doing another round of these — feel free to send in suggestions. After life goes back to normal I may do a similar entry for incoherent movies on MST3k, of which there are many to choose from.

Joel from MST3k Halloween costume

October 31st, 2015

Joel from MST3k costume
 

This year for Halloween I’m just another face in a red jumpsuit: specifically, I’m Joel from Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Much like last year’s costume, this is one of those where you either get the reference or you don’t. If you were watching a lot of Comedy Central in the 90’s (or you had friends that did) you probably remember the show where a silhouette of a guy and his two robot pals sat at the bottom of the screen, watching unbelievably terrible movies and making wisecracks the entire time. That show was Mystery Science Theater 3000, or MST3k for short.

The costume itself is remarkably simple: it’s a red jumpsuit I got from Amazon with a Gizmonics patch I bought from Etsy hastily sewn on. The hard hat (which Joel wears in the intro to the show) is a cheap yellow hard hat from Amazon. I found the “G” logo from Google Image Search, printed it out, and hot glued it to the hat.

A more advanced builder than I might have made a Tom Servo and/or Crow T. Robot puppet to go along with the outfit, and indeed many folks have done exactly that. Instructions are a quick Google search away for those with a lot of spare time on their hands.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got movie sign!