Dennis’ favorite MST3k Episodes
For those of us in the know, MST3k stands for Mystery Science Theater 3000, a weird, hilarious little show, originating from the nation’s heartland in the early 90’s, wherein a hapless human host (first Joel Hodgson, then Mike Nelson) and his puppet-y robot pals Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot are stranded in space and forced to watch the worst movies of all time by a succession of inept mad scientists. In order to fend off madness and/or ennui, Joel, Mike and the ‘bots sit in the darkened theater and make with a barrage of wisecracks at the expense of the film, torment their tormentors, and turn the whole thing into a cathartic laugh fest. Videoport’s got OVER 100 episodes of this classic show on VHS and the DVD, and here are some of my favorites.
Mitchell. A very made-for-TV-looking cop movie starring a very made-from-beefy-burritos-looking Joe Don Baker as the titular, pork-faced cop who overcomes his chronic lethargy to collar bad guy Martin Balsam and bed dippy hooker Linda Evans. Watch for Joel’s horrified scream of, “BABY OIL?! NOO!!!” after spotting a bottle on Mitchell’s nightstand during an unappealing love scene between the already-lubricious hero and Ms. Evans. Historically, this was Joel’s last episode after five years of hosting the show, as he is jettisoned back to earth in the heretofore-unknown escape pod, the Deus-Ex-Machina.
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. Taking over as host, head writer Mike Nelson ably fills Joel’s shoes as he and the ‘bots savage this sleazy 60’s mad scientist flick about a totally mental young doctor who keeps his fiancee’s decapitated head alive in a lasagna pan while he trolls strip shows, beauty contests and artists’ models so he can reassemble his beloved, preferably onto someone with a nice rack. Mike quickly gets into the swing of things: as the doctor, tucking the concealed head under his arm after the fateful car crash, runs through a park, Mike riffs, “He’s at the fifteen, the ten, no one will catch him!”
The Amazing Colossal Man. Joel and the lads take on the titular fifty foot atomic bomb survivor in this classic episode highlighted by very poor special effects, the whiniest giant around, and the spectacle of a huge, bald dude wearing an enormous, saggy diaper. In a skit, Joel sits in a cardboard dollhouse as the lugubrious, self-pitying hero, bemoaning his fate as Tom and Crow pepper him with irrelevant questions (Crow: How many fish can you name? Joel: Who cares? I’m immense, I’m huge, wahhhhhh). As the now-mental big guy complies with a soldier’s bullhorned order to release his understandably-upset girlfriend, Tom quips, “Thanks for putting down the girl. Now here are some bullets for you.”
Manos: The Hands of Fate. The legend. Although it has been said about almost every movie ever done on MST, this is officially the worst movie ever made, and Joel and the ‘bots let it have it with both barrels. A murky (Joel states that “every frame of this looks like someone’s last known photo”), sleazy, badly dubbed, atrociously acted tale of devil worshippers and a bland tourist family, Manos (yes, the title, translated, means “Hands, The Hands of Fate”) almost proves too much for our heroes, who periodically just break down and start weeping at its awfulness. All is saved, though, with Joel, dressing up as the berobed cultist from the film trying to subjugate the ‘bots, commanding, “Salutations, imperfect one! I am The Master and you are mysteriously drawn to me! Everything I say you must do right away without having to ask twice. I am evil and mean and unforgiving! In your brokenness, you have failed and now must repent. Bow down now before me! BOW DOWN!” Servo’s response: “Oh, hi Joel…”
Space Mutiny. Mike and the ‘bots vs a wretched space opera where all the space footage is purloined from the old Battlestar Galactica series, Cameron Mitchell plays the benevolent leader who looks like Santa in a mumu, the love interest appears to be about twenty saggy years older than the chunkhead hero, and all of the ‘spaceship’ interiors look suspiciously like decrepit warehouses. A running gag involves the boys yelling out alternative names for the bemuscled protagonist every time he does something ‘heroic’ (a partial list: Slab Bulkhead! Bridge Largemeat! Punt Speedchunk! Butch Deadlift! Splint Chesthair! Flint Ironstag! Bulk Vanderhuge! Thick Mcrunfast! Buff Drinklots! Slunk Slabchest! Fist Rockbone! Stomp Beefmob! Smash Lampjaw! Punch Rockgroin! Dirk Hardpeck! Rip Steakface! Crud Bonemeal! Brick Hardmeat! Gristle McThornbody! ) Watch for the Uwe Boll-worthy continuity error where a dead character suddenly reappears without comment back in the movie.
The Creeping Terror. Well, maybe this is the worst movie ever made… An alien (which looks suspiciously like a chinese dragon type thing covered with old burlap) shambles around an overexposed countryside in a very ineffectual attempt to do..something. It’s invaluably aided by the rock-stupid townies who just stand there screaming until it wobbles on top of them while they helpfully climb inside its mouth area. Most of the film is dubbed over by a supercilious narrator, reportedly because the original soundtrack was lost by the filmmakers; after one rare non-dubbed line emerges from someone’s mouth, Mike narrates, :”The sound of actual dialogue startled everyone”. Filled with odd interludes like the whitest high school dance you’ve ever seen (even for the 50’s), and a lengthy scene in which a young mother demonstrates the proper use of a rectal thermometer as soon as her baby starts crying (Mike: “How about talking to him? Or holding him even?”).
Cave Dwellers. It’s sword-and-sorcery time, with Joel and the ‘bots coping with this atrocious Conan ripoff by pointing out various continuity errors (like the medieval warrior wearing sunglasses. Crow: “Who’s that behind those Foster Grants? It’s OG!!”), logical inconsistencies (Joel: “Why is she limping?” Crow: “Because she’s got an arrow in her chest.” Joel: “Oh, I can see…huh?”), and the inexpressive, soloflexiness of former Tarzan Miles O’Keefe (“How much keefe is in this movie? Miles o’keefe.”)
Night of the Blood Beast. Indie film maverick he may be, but there are few names that cause more collective horror to the gang on the Satellite of Love than Roger Corman, and this awesomely cheap sci fi thriller is the epitome of all that is Corman-tastic. A cut-rate space program (consisting of six whole people in a shack in the California countryside) kill their only astronaut when their water-heater-looking rocket, unsurprisingly, crash lands. Only he’s pregnant! With alien sea monkeys! And the outer space papa won’t be denied his visitation rights! Mike and the boys are all over this one, and the riffing is as inspired as I can ever remember: “This space program stinks! I’m gonna go work for my uncle’s space program…”, “Look, they can launch their rockets in the morning and then sell corn out of their flat bed truck!”, and lots and lots of jokes about a doughy astronaut suddenly being all knocked up with brine shrimp. Genius. (Also includes one of the all-time bazonko shorts, the inexplicably phone-philic 50s ‘Once Upon a Honeymoon’.)