For a good portion of the 90’s, we had bad movies absolutely covered. No, I’m not talking about sitting around and watching Super Mario Bros.: The Movie, but instead having a trio of comical geniuses – in this case, Joel Hodgson, Tom Servo and Crow – sit around and mercilessly make fun of some truly awful films.
Thus, Mystery Science Theater 3000 became a cable institution for many years, getting its start on low-grade TV before moving to Comedy Central and becoming a phenomenon. It would live on for several years, eventually moving to SyFy – with new host Mike Nelson replacing Hodgson – before fading away with one last romp, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.
But the tapes keep circulating, and the show is enjoying resurgence, not only from the die-hard fans, but through a push from Shout! Factory, producing a number of episodes for release on DVD and YouTube. There are plenty of gems to find here, like Operation Kid Brother (aka Operation Double 007, with Neil Connery of all people) and Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (“It’s the clawwwww!”), but there are five episodes that are absolute not-miss quality, especially if you’re just getting introduced to this cult favorite for the first time.
On top of that, Hodgson just launched a new KickStarter to bring the show back, in the hopes of introducing a new generation of viewers — along with the fans — to the genius of bad movies.
Arguments may vary – I can already hear some hardcore fans wondering where the hell The Final Sacrifice is – but here are the five episodes that, in my mind, no one should miss.
There’s nothing like a good cop drama gone bad, and that’s exactly what we get with Mitchell, featuring Joe Don Baker as the cop in question. The guys have a field day with this one, questioning his love making style (“Baby oil?!”) or how effectively John Saxon appears before his role is even complete in the film. But the jokes come rapid-fire, covering everything from Andy Kaufman (“You’re so stupid!”) to Johnny Mathis to questioning whether Schlitz is in stock on board a helicopter. And even when the action dies down, the commentary doesn’t, especially when Mitchell returns to his home. (“I’d knock, but I know I’m not home.”) Hey, if it pisses off Baker (which it actually did), it must be good.
Image Source: MST3K Wikia
One of the ultimate films that highlights the “man out of time” themes, Eegah is pretty much everything you could ever want in a bad film, whether it’s Arch Hall Jr. strumming away on a guitar by a pool or Richard Kiel in pre-Jaws mode, walking around in a makeshift caveman costume as he prepares to attack a car. Like some of the better episodes, Joel and company have a field day with Eegah, ribbing away at its numerous situations, such as a prolonged dune buggy sequence or, of course, the mysterious voice warning, “Watch out for snakes!”
Manos: The Hands of Fate
Of course, Manos. After all, it’s probably one of the worst films ever made, focusing on a demon-esque figure who makes a family’s vacation a living hell. The guys don’t let up with its production values, as well as the poor acting. And lest we forget about one of the greatest worst figures in film history, the picked-on Torgo, who also makes an appearance during the between-film sequences, complete with warped out soundtrack. Do yourself a favor and don’t accept the complimentary crazy bread.
Image Source: MST3K Wikia
The MST3K team covered quite a many monster movie in their day, including enough Gamera films to warrant the release of a special box set. But the original is the best place to start, if only to pick away at the little kid Kenny, who starts the whole mess to begin with and yet somehow manages to get away scot-free at the end, despite the warning of being “grounded for life.” This is the pure epitome of monstrous greatness here, whether it’s the primitive special effects or the consistent jokes that come with it. And, of course, Crow ends it just the right way – “Hey, Kenny, get bent!”
Night of the Blood Beast
Image Credit: MST3K Wikia
A rare sci-fi treat that has plenty of jokes working for it, Night of the Blood Beast puts aside shocks in favor of schlock – and that’s ripe for MST3K commentary. The “beast” itself is actually a mutated bird of sorts, which the guys have no problem roasting throughout the film. (“My nails aren’t dry!”) On top of that, it has a hell of a lead-in with a strange musical vignette called Once Upon a Honeymoon, where a couple rushes to get a song finished before they can go away on their trip – oh, and there are loads of appliances and a weird angel dude along the way, with a preference to playing piano invisible. (“Welcome to Shakey’s!”) The phone musical number following this is more than enough reason to check it out.
More on the MST3K library, including recent DVD releases and archived episodes, can be found here.
Feature Image Source: Shoutfactory/MST3K