It’s nearly Thanksgiving and we’re doing something only a couple of websites have done: watch every episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and rank each one.
I’d love to sit here and pontificate about the show’s history and how great it was…but 1) you’ve heard it all before 2) you don’t really wanna sit here and read what I think about the show’s history when so many other people have said what’s already been said and 3) we’ve gotta get going with this thing.
The one thing I will say is that this list is long overdue from me. Allow me to recite my qualifications…
I’ve loved Mystery Science Theater 3000 from the first moment I laid eyes on it in 1991 when I saw the episode “Fugitive Alien”. Since then, I’ve been obsessed with the show. I recorded Turkey Day marathons and caught up on episodes I missed. I remember where I was during specific show events — like watching the Jays and Phillies in the World Series the night Joel left the SOL and Mike joined. Or the final episode of the Comedy Central era and how it took place the night of my high school graduation and casino night — and I was looking forward more to the FINALE than I was that evening. I didn’t see the SyFy episodes until a little later in my life — but I did have a friend, online, who sent me everything he had on VHS (with some holes in the collection) and I was overjoyed to have caught up somewhat.
As we moved into the digital age, I managed to get a hold of my best friend’s copy of “The MST3K Digital Archive Project” which housed every single episode of the show. Over time, I added to it and customized it with files I found online. I downloaded the new Turkey Day bumpers from the recent marathons on Shout TV. I found new interviews and unedited versions of episodes that didn’t air. I added the “Film Crew”, “Cinematic Titanic” and “RiffTrax” projects the various cast members went on to do after the show ended.
That archive is probably now one of my most prized possessions in my entire collection of digital shows and films.
To this day, I still watch old shows in November and I watch the marathon Shout puts up each Thanksgiving Day.
MST3K is one of the greatest television shows of all-time simply because it helped give birth to modern trolling (in a positive way), thus it fits right in with modern times.
So, this is as much personal as it is a professional assignment.
If you still insist on knowing what the hell I’m talking about, feel free to visit the following sites:
And, if you wanna compare lists (though that doesn’t sound the LEAST bit healthy for a growing man such as yourself), you can do so here:
If you want to watch episodes with other MSTies, you can visit the following sites.
Club MST3K – This site compiles a full episode guide for the show along with corresponding streaming video of nearly every single episode available online. It also offers a forum to chat with fellow MSTies while you watch. 🙂
Where to See MST3K Episodes – This site does the same thing.
With all that out of the way, WE’VE GOT MOVIE SIGN!!!
We start at #196…
196) 410 – Hercules Against the Moon Men
This is one of many of the “Hercules” films featured on the show (this time, with Alan Steele playing him) and it manages to toss out all the fun of the prior films in the series of Herc films and introduce pseudo-alien beings as the main perps in the film. How in the hell anyone from BBI was able to get ANYTHING out of this film is beyond me. It features a climatic sandstorm sequence that goes on for almost 20 minutes — and the riffing is awful. I know it’s PURPOSELY awful — Joel and the Bots are doing a bit where they’re desperate to make jokes where there are none — but it’s just uncomfortable to watch, even when they’re acting. Even when they try and recover and make actual jokes, they’re not funny and, sadly, that’s the story of this entire episode, the worst in MST3K’s run.
(HERCULES sidesteps two guards who run into a giant gong.)
JOEL (as HERCULES): You’ve been GONGED! A-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!
195) 211 – First Spaceship on Venus
A bunch of idiotic scientists investigate a signal coming from Venus and figure out that the people there were planning on attacking our planet…but it just didn’t happen. Ok, then. The movie is boring with a capital “B” with astronauts and scientists explaining how things work, ad nauseum. The riffing on this sucker is just as boring. It’s pre-Japanese Movie Monster and one would think this would be in the show’s wheelhouse but the film is so dull, it sucks the life out of everything else. The sketches are terrible, with a random gorilla calling the SOL and the Bots inventing a robot which emits foam as a sort of speech. They’re just flat this time around.
MAN: How long can we stay here?
CROW: About…three and a half minutes ago…
194) 317 – The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (w/ short: Home Economics Story)
I swear…everything Roger Corman touches, he wrecks…which extends to anything MST3K. Watching “Viking Women” is as torturous as watching “Teenage Caveman” and the riffing on this episode makes me crazy because it’s inexplicably centered around waffles. Like, obsessively centered. Almost every other joke after the terrific short is about waffles for some reason. The ones that aren’t are just about flat. Even the sketches are about waffles. The second sketch is literally ten seconds long, features Joel eating waffles and finally saying “waffles”. Easily, one of the worst episodes of the series.
SERVO: …but for Fran Tarkington and the Vikings, there would be another day…
193) 617 – The Sword and the Dragon
Another MST3K, another Russo-Finnish production. And not the best of them. Whereas “Sinbad” and “The Day the Earth Froze” were so bright and silly and provided material for some great jokes, this one is flat and just drags all the way up to the climatic dragon battle with a beast that looks so ridiculous, it should be an easy target — and it’s just not. There’s pure silence from the guys at times, the jokes that are there (Crow’s “just a torso” riff is so-so) miss the mark. I will never see why there’s so much love for this one. Cheers, though, to the hilarious Ingmar Bergman joke sketch. It’s beautifully produced and executed.
MIKE: Y’know, now I have an unhealthy hatred of Finnish people.
192) 902 – The Phantom Planet
There are episodes which hearken back to Season 1 and this is one of them. This is a murky, dirty, dark sci-fi outing about a man who lands on a meteor and then shrinks down to about the size of a human foot and meets beings who are as tall before gaining wisdom…and the whole thing is a dream, I guess. It’s crap and the riffing is just dull to boot with jokes that really only got smiles from me. The sketches aren’t really all that much better as Pearl attempts to build some sort of Doomsday Device — only to see the main component accidentally getting sent to Mike and the Bots on the SOL. This isn’t really expanded upon in any way and the climax (villagers storm Castle Forrester) is just so-so.
CROW: Wow, this is almost as good as 2001…NAILS driven into your eyes.
191) 107 – Robot Monster (w/ short: Commando Cody: Radar Men From the Moon, Chapters 4 & 5)
Good LORD, this movie…a family survives the end of the world and is tormented by a thing wearing an ape suit and a robot helmet. He says things like “To live like the HUE-MAN…” and waddles around like goofball. Then nothing happens and everything’s a dream at the end. I forgot to tell you: dinosaurs fight before that. I don’t know why. This movie is painful and the worst thing Joel and the Bots have consumed up to this point. The riffing is so-so. The best of it, unfortunately, comes from not one, but TWO Commando Cody sketches where they mock Cody for constantly getting his ass kicked day in and day out. The sketches are the same with the sole highlight being Ro-Tom as he plagues Joel and Crow. This episode is on YouTube.
SERVO: Upon further review, the refs find that Cody is dead. The play stands…Cody is dead…
190) 103 – Mad Monster (w/ short: Commando Cody: Radar Men From the Moon, Chapter 2)
Oof. Another hard one to take, though slightly above “The Crawling Eye” in terms of execution. Massive pauses in jokes and a movie that is just terrible and makes no sense (something, something mad scientist, werewolf) and the whole thing is an exercise in patience. We have ANOTHER Commander Cody short, which is fine since the riffing is superior there. There’s a great sketch involving Tom Servo hitting on a blender — and Joel coming over and drinking from the blender pitcher, horrifying Tom completely. That’s some funny stuff, but this is still mediocre stuff.
(The werewolf wanders underground.)
CROW: What’s the werewolf doing in the wine cellar?
JOEL: Trying to figure out which wine goes with people, I think…
189) 209 – The Hellcats
Good LORD…another biker film is shown here as MST3K tries to re-capture the magic that was “Wild Rebels”. It’s nowhere close. The film is like watching badly-edited home movie footage of someone’s drunken weekend in the woods.. There are endless scenes of idiots doing stupid things like fighting with leather and chains and stretching people between bikes. The riffing is dull and boring with almost none of the jokes landing. What’s worse: the sketches are simply flashbacks to past sketches we’ve seen because Joel and the Bots are “sick” and are writing down their thoughts. Cute idea, but we’re literally watching entire past sketches. It’s just lazy. This is easily one of the worst episodes of the series thus far.
SERVO: I bet if these guys filmed “Citizen Kane”, it would have had a 20-minute sled sequence in it.
188) 111 – Moon Zero Two
“Moon Zero Two” is like if Stanley Kubrick didn’t exist and “2001” was made by the people who produced “Laugh-In”. It’s a terrible movie…like watching a doughy, uncooked version of Space Mutiny where “Zero Gravity” means you’re just moving in slow-motion. It’s good fodder for Joel & the Bots…or, so you’d think. This is another case where it might have been funnier with a more seasoned MST3K writing crew. There are some funny lines. During the lounge scene, groovy dancing blonde ladies do ballet while people drink. “Wow! They’re so versatile…it’s like Swan Lake-a-Go-Go!” says Joel. The cheesy, jazzy swingin’ soundtrack score does the film no favors and Servo lets them have it: “Music to shoot thugs by!” The sketches are also so-so. It’s forgettable. (Free on YouTube)
CROW: In space, no one can hear you YAWN.
187) 616 – Racket Girls (w/ short: Are You Ready for Marriage?)
Imagine an entire movie built around female wrestlers. Wait, where are you going? It’s as bad as it sounds. The film features seemingly ENDLESS sequences where women wrestle in a ring. It’s not interesting. It’s not titillating. It’s just there. And it’s all unedited as Mike points out well into one of the matches. The rest of the film features a sub-plot about the mob and dirty money being funneled through this wrestling promotion. That’s also not interesting. The riffing doesn’t help things but, then, there isn’t much you can do with women locking arms for ten straight minutes. The sketches aren’t much better with Crow and Servo attempting to marry one another. something which just devolves into random chaos because the show, at this point, seemed to lose its knack for succinct sketches with decent punchlines. Luckily, the short saves the whole thing from being a total loss…but that isn’t saying much.
CROW: This film awakened Eleanor Roosevelt’s sexuality.
186) 808 – The She-Creature
If you can get by the first ten episodes of the 8th season and continue on, unabated, bully for you. “The She-Creature” is brutal. It’s murky and dull and there’s just not a damn thing the guys can do with the material. The line below is the funniest line and it’s funny because it’s true. The film sucks the life from everything. Luckily, this episode marks the end of Observer World as Mike inadvertently destroys their planet, something which will pay off later in “Agent From H.A.R.M.”.
CROW: They tried to light this, but the movie is like a super-absorbing black hole.
185) 101 – The Crawling Eye
The one that started it all. This was the first cable episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, airing on “The Comedy Channel” (what would later become “Comedy Central”) in November of 1989. At this point, this show was The Comedy Channel’s signature show — though, if you just watched the episode I’m talking about, it’s difficult to even fathom that. The episode is full of major pauses between riffs from Joel and the Bots and what’s there isn’t entirely laugh-out-loud (what the kids would now call “LOL”) funny like the later episodes are. The sketches aren’t well-written, falling more on the cutesy side of things and everything seems cheap and basic. But what was there was huge: a clever concept soaked in pure wit and charm courtesy of series creator Joel Hodgson. Joel’s encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture fueled everything and his ideas were undeniably clever — and when the show’s jokes landed, boy, did they land. That said, “The Crawling Eye” isn’t a great start. The riffing is slow and has some major gaps. The timing is way off, too. It does gain some speed around the halfway point but only manages to get some chuckles here and there as Joel and the Bots take on an incredibly boring creature feature about gigantic mutant eyeballs who drive people to murder. The full episode is above, courtesy of the MST3K Channel on YouTube.
(Joel has told the Bots to stop making “eye” jokes)
JOEL: I spy with my little eye…
SERVO: You hypocrite…
184) 105 – The Corpse Vanishes (w/ short: Commando Cody: Radar Men From the Moon, Chapter 3)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Bela Lugosi is a mad scientist. I know, unreal, right?! He basically uses weird juice from the necks of younger women to keep his wife young. I think. The 8th season’s “The Leech Woman” covered this a little better, as creepy as this was. The movie is as dull and lifeless as “Mad Monster” and “The Crawling Eye”. Luckily, the riffing makes it watchable, as anemic as it is. I’m finding that this is the case for much of the first year. It’s hard to rank the episodes because of it so everything is based on a slight gradient system. Also, there’s another Commander Cody short but the riffing wasn’t as sharp, which is a shame since the series is so silly. The sketches are getting funnier with the Bots being more humanized as they read “Tiger Bot” magazine where they fantasize about Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and learn his turn-ons and turn-offs. The barbershop segment also has some laughs but, overall, the episode is a bit of a dud. Once again, the episode is free on YouTube.
MAN: Hey, Pat…you’re not gonna pass out too, are ya’?
WOMAN: No…no, I’m ok.
SERVO: It’s just the pace of this movie that’s gotten to me…
183) 411 – The Magic Sword
Bert I. Gordon strikes again with this gorgeous sword and sorcery epic shot in glorious color and starring Basil freakin’ RATHBONE. This episode holds the distinction of featuring one of the most quality films the show has seen. But, while the feature is decent and fun, the riffing just isn’t. I might be in the minority here but there’s just nothing that’s laugh-out-loud funny or even chuckle-worthy. Most of the jokes are flat and Crow’s crush on Estelle Winwood is old hat — though the sketch where he professes his love for Winwood is Emmy and Golden Globe material. In fact, it’s the sketches that carry this episode. It’s just weird.
(During the big dragon battle at the end.)
JOEL: Lighten up! They’re just PUPPETS!
182) 102 – The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy (w/ Commando Cody: Radar Men From the Moon: Chapter 1)
MST3K’s second episode ever is a bit easier to watch. The jokes are still a little slow but nowhere near as delayed as the first episode. They’re also a bit tighter and funnier. The goofy opening short film (a staple of MST3K) is a riot and produces some great lines (“The moon looks just like Arizona!”) and, unlike “The Crawling Eye”, the nonsensical feature film is a lot of fun to watch with some great riffs (“The table’s moving…it’s a better actor than anyone in this film”, followed by “Well, it’s made out of the same material as everyone else: wood!”). The sketches are also cute, introducing a bunch of “Demon Dogs” which invade the Satellite of Love and occasionally “disgrace themselves” all over Crow and Servo when they try to talk sense into the dogs and get them to leave. One of the main issues which persists through most of it is how hushed the jokes are. The boys don’t read anything with any emphasis and mumble things from time to time. Still, a major improvement over the first episode. The full episode is above, courtesy of the MST3K Channel on YouTube.
CROW: This is the kinda film you WON’T put on “pause” when you leave the room.
181) 205 – Rocket Attack U.S.A. (w/ Phantom Creeps, Chapter 2)
Joel and the Bots get a true-blue black-and-white Cold War paranoia film in “Rocket Attack U.S.A.” and, boy, is it preachy and depressing. The riffs aren’t totally memorable (a lot of their jokes are at the expense of a narrator who just talks over nearly everything and the Bela Lugosi imitations during “Phantom Creeps” just aren’t working anymore) and the sketches are bland and fairly dark (Joel hosting a quiz show about Civil Defense is just morbid and unfunny). Not the worst episode of the bunch but feels mediocre. Some notes here: The Hexfield Door is all done and debuted in this episode! Servo got a “buzzcut”, a gimmick which didn’t last long, thank god. Episode “Stingers” began with this episode. A “Stinger” is the small bit of footage from the film they watched after the end credits.
CROW: “Nobody will be admitted during the breathtaking car-parking sequence!”
180) 104 – Women of the Prehistoric Planet
“Women of the Prehistoric Planet?!” Joel exclaims. “My sister watched this film and the boys all had to go to the GYM.” The first color film the cable MST3K did has some women on a planet which is dubbed “prehistoric” thanks to the fake plant life all over the place. Most of the film is dweeby white guys standing around discussing science while leaning against boulders and ferns. It’s like watching “Star Trek” if the show was cast by a half dozen 1960’s high school Biology teachers. The riffing is quick and lively here, a nice departure from the first few episodes of the series, with the birth of some trademark running riffs like “Hi-Keeba!”, “You’re lucky my chick’s here, man!” and the singing of the Gilligan’s Island theme during storm scenes. This is also the first episode where Joel reads fan letters, a tradition which never should have gone away. Listen for future host Mike Nelson as the voice of the Doomsday Satellite Joel manages to nab from outer space.
JOEL: The sexual harassment laws are a lot more loose in the future…
179) 110 – Robot Holocaust (w/ short: Commando Cody: Radar Men From the Moon, Chapter 9)
Thank the lord, there’s no more Commando Cody after this. The film breaks a little ways into things and I’m thrilled. This leaves us with the 80’s dystopian goodness that is “Robot Holocaust”. This was the youngest film shown on the show, having been made in 1987. It’s supposed to be depicting a world post-holocaust from a “robot war of ’33″…except there’s a huge, glistening city in nearly every shot and the actors just wander the outer-boroughs like D&D roleplay geeks. The film’s opening theme sound familiar? You’ll hear it later in Season 7…Joel and the Bots go back to some sparse riffing which is hit-or-miss and that’s a shame what with the terrible costumes, the wooden acting and the random voiceovers. Most of the jokes come at the expense of Angelika Jager who plays the monotonous Valeria. Simply listening to her recite her lines makes you laugh, reminding one of Adrianna Miles from Season 9’s “Werewolf”. It’s a riot hearing them try to guess what she’s saying…but it wears thin after the first few times. The movie is SO unintentionally funny by itself and the riffing (which does pick up in the second half) could have been epic if the boys were on point. This marks the first time the boys stay and watch the credits for a little while before heading back to the main bridge. In any case, they’ve done better with the 80’s as we would see in Season 3. (The episode is available on YouTube)
SERVO: “Yeah, I GUESS it’s a wasteland if you don’t count that big CITY behind them…”
178) 203 – Jungle Goddess (w/ Phantom Creeps, Chapter 1)
Welp, we have a Robert Lippert film starring Superman and Wanda McKay. This is after a NEW series of shorts called “Phantom Creeps” starring Bela Lugosi. That’s all the shorts we’d see for Season 2, so settle in. That was the one thing leftover from Season 1: crusty, boring shorts. The main film has not aged well. The “natives” are all of completely different races and, of course, look like White Hollywood of the 40’s thinks they should look. There’s stock footage of just about every wild animal in the bush and a character who just fires at anything that moves. The riffing is decent but nothing to write home about. While the guys have fun with many of their lines, they’re mostly minor observations and nothing more. The sketches are fair. One is a meandering infomercial involving Phantom Creeps which clean surfaces but it just goes nowhere. The second is brilliant featuring Joel demonstrating different camera POV’s…but the third just devolves into meaningless meandering when Jim Mallon and Mike Nelson show up playing the two white male leads from the film. The whole ordeal feels like a Season One episode with more output. (Free on YouTube)
JOEL (as the snake on the tree): “Hi! I’m Satan! Enjoy the film!”
177) 607 – Bloodlust (w/ short: Uncle Jim’s Dairy Farm)
It’s an extremely low-budget version of “The Most Dangerous Game” starring Robert Reed of “The Brady Bunch” fame. “Robert Reed listed this film as ‘The Tempest’ on his resume”, says Mike, but the film isn’t that bad. It’s fairly decent and suspenseful for what it is (teens end up on an island where they’re hunted by a madman for sport), so the jokes are just so-so throughout the episode. The grimy farm short before it is pretty funny stuff so, yeah…it’s one of those episodes. The sketches are decent, but arbitrary (though we get to meet Dr. Forrester’s mom, Pearl, for the first time — and she’s closer to Frank than her own son as it turns out) — and short, which would become somewhat of a thing from here on out. From here on out, the SOL’s “bridge” had been modified. The bridge went from a beige color scheme to something more grey…or, at least that’s how it appeared. The overall lighting was lowered and ambient and the color highlights were heightened somewhat.
(Mice crawl inside the remains of a skeleton)
MIKE: Cadavers for Algernon!
176) 818 – Devil Doll
“Devil Doll” is the equivalent of being stuck in a room with awful, sleazy people who have seen better days, while they chain smoke. The movie is just gross and creepy. And that impression doesn’t come from the “doll” featured in the film. The ventriloquist in the film is a total sex fiend who seduces not one, but two women in the film, in scenes which rival “Mitchell” in sheer vomit-inducing disgust. It’s so awful, the riffing drowns in it and that’s a shame because Mike and the Bots manage some decent one-liners throughout but nothing sticks consistently. The constant mockery of Vorelli’s abuse only has so much traction as does the mockery of his dummy’s requests for wine and various food items. The sketches are pretty good as Pitch returns (of 52’s “Santa Claus”) to sell Crow some dolls at the cost of his eternal soul. But, overall, the show bit off more than it could chew with a mean and ugly picture.
SERVO: If not for alcohol, there would be no moisture in that woman at all.
175) 615 – Kitten With a Whip
A fugitive on the run (Ann Margaret) shacks up with with a state Senator (John Forsythe) in a truly bizarre film. The issue with this film is that it’s surprisingly pleasantly off-beat and watchable and dialogue-heavy and that kills the riffing here. Sure, the guys get some good shots in but most of it is boring and it isn’t helped by fairly mediocre, arbitrary sketches (the “Kitten With a Whip” sketch with Kevin Murphy playing the “kitten” is just absolutely painful and will make you wish for the days when Joel had some say in the writer’s room) and bad pacing.
(A stripper dances on stage.)
CROW: Wow! Amy Grant has REALLY crossed over!
174) 412 – Hercules and the Captive Women
We’re on our third Hercules flick, this one starring the third different actor to portray him in Reg Park. But that’s neither here nor there. MST3K tries something new in adding Gypsy…which lasts all of about five minutes before she bails on the guys because, simply put, the movie is “not very good”. She does get one good lick in during a scene where men on horseback move through a sudden fog bank (“Get this: they’re steam-cleaning their horses!”) and It’s a neat moment in the show — but it’s a moment with so much more potential that gets squandered. The episode has energy and life up until Gypsy leaves. After that, it’s tough sledding. The jokes aren’t great and Hercules fatigue sets in long before the episode is over. Three trips to the well in five episodes will do that.
(ANTINEA kisses HERCULES.)
CROW (as ANTINEA): You taste like Alan Steel!
SERVO (as HERCULES): You taste like Yvonne De Carlo!
JOEL: Wait a minute! Now you can have BOTH!
173) 605 – Colossus and the Headhunters
I don’t know what this show’s obsession was with Italian leather-and-sandals films but, I swear, they’re cursed to the point where even the riffing isn’t funny. There’s a point in “Colossus and the Headhunters” where two of the characters are talking to one another and there’s just long periods of silence between the riffing which isn’t very funny. The “Nummy Muffin CocoButter” sketches on the ship are amusing but can’t save a fairly dull Season 1-esque episode.
(Colossus walks through a forest)
MIKE: Jeez, he’s like Art Garfunkel walking around the world…
SERVO: Yeah, except he doesn’t have an assistant to pick him up and take him to his hotel every night.
172) 1111 – Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II
(Available on Netflix)
During one of the break points, Patton Oswalt says “Just be glad ‘Wizards of the Lost Kingdom’ wasn’t a trilogy!” Indeed. Watching this movie is agonizing, as it just dumps the goofy charm of the original film and goes for an almost improvised film where things just happen. “Just shut up and act interested in things,” the elderly, overweight, wheezing wizard says to the young boy in the film. “Is he talking directly to us?” Crow quips. And that doesn’t sound like a joke. It’s genuine. The riffing doesn’t get good until about halfway into the film and then it just peters out and dies again and you’re left just smiling and chuckling at the remainder. Sketch-wise, we’re not doing well, either. This opens up the weird story arc where Kinga tries to marry Jonah for ratings. I never really get what’s going on with the modern sketches. I want them to be good but I feel like they should just stand on their own like the past bits did.
JONAH: The threat of the knife is diminished by the man purse.
171) 202 – The Sidehackers
Oy…we ask for color films and we get…this…a film about morons who “Sidehack”, which is basically a racing sport comprised of dirt bike nuts who attach makeshift rolling platforms to their bikes that can be fit another rider…who uses their weight to –you k now what? You don’t care and I don’t care. The film is like somebody’s home movies edited together to show that…along with random scenes of men fixing bikes and men abusing women. It’s an ugly, ugly film and one that is nearly un-riffable. The full, uncut version of the film exists online and shows a fairly graphic scene where a female character is raped, murdered and hung from a ceiling. Why the Brains decided to air even the edited version of the film is beyond me. The riffs are just so-so with maybe a few good lines sprinkled in. The running joke from “Patton” (“You magnificent son of a bitch!”) is funny once and then just falls apart a few times afterward. It’s sloppy for the most part, with the guys just talking over dialogue at times and there’s no timing. The sketches are also average. Nothing really stands out. There’s a cute “Sidehacker” musical number by Joel and the Bots but they’ve done better in that regard but the “Sidehack commentary” and “Rommel hats” bit are just flat, despite the cleverness of Mike making another appearance as “J.C.” from the movie. (Free on YouTube)
JOEL: This is kinda like “Thirtysomething”…
CROW: Except for all the naked pictures in the background…
170) 1005 – Blood Waters of Dr. Z
Remember how ridiculous the fish creature from “Horror at Party Beach” looked? The fish creature in this flick is somehow worse than that. “Blood Waters of Dr. Z” is nearly unwatchable. It’s ugly, grimy, pervy and features a shrill, irritating “soundtrack” that I can say best resembles the sound of a piece of warped aluminum being struck by a dying cat. It’s awful on every level. So awful, in fact, that one becomes a victim of Godwin’s law and immediately feels compelled to call this an aquatic version of “Manos, the Hands of Fate”. It’s not out of the question. It’s easy to see why one might do such a thing. The riffing is so-so on the film (the creature attacking the swimming girl is funny, but that’s about it) and it doesn’t help that the opening sketch involves Crow spitting tobacco into soda cans — which Servo drinks by accident. It just adds to the lac of attractiveness and makes you want to throw up.
MIKE: Ah, he’s a “Copafeelacanth”.
169) 811 – Parts: The Clonus Horror
Peter Graves returns in “Parts: The Clonus Horror”, a film famous for being ripped off by “The Island”. It’s not bad at all, really. The film is certainly more interesting than the riffing is, which is mostly quiet up until the last third of the film where Richard finds his real life counterpart, but even then, it’s hindered by that unriffable 70’s TV drama feel that plagued films like “San Francisco International” and “Stranded in Space”. The “Three’s Company” and “Bewitched” references don’t help. That, and the running storyline during the sketches takes another stupid turn with the omniscient “Star Children”, played by Mike and Bridget Nelson, and Paul Chaplin.
SERVO: And the director just points the camera at the lamp and expects the lamp to carry the scene.
168) 508 – Operation Double 007
It’s Bond. Not Bond. Neil Connery (Sean’s real-life brother) plays James Bond’s…brother, I guess? And James Bond dies at the beginning…? I think? So Neil goes on a secret mission to save the world. Like the film, the jokes are hollow and predictable, poking fun at the entire Bond franchise. The only saving grace is a sketch where Joel and the Bots compare Neil and Sean’s career trajectories which starts out a touch mean-spirited but ends with the Bots giving Neil the rub in the Kiel vein. What else can you say about an episode which has to rely on a Manos reference to wring comedy from this sucker?
CROW: We just came to beat everybody up…we’re leaving now…thanks.
167) 305 – Stranded in Space
Film Ventures, the goofballs who bought and redistributed such fare as “Cave Dwellers” and “Pod People”, gives us a repackaged failed TV pilot for a series called “The Stranger”, about a man who ends up on a terrible, parallel universe Earth. The premise of the film and some of the events are more interesting than most of the riffing, which is sparse.with a lot of pauses and “hm’s” from the riffers. The film, itself, is boring and dull, despite the interesting plot, so it’s hard to get anything worthwhile from it. Points for the host sketch where Joel (the leader of the evil totalitarian syndicate) orders the Bots to kill various 70’s heroes who stand in his way.
(Man walks through room with several different TV actors in it.)
SERVO: Boy…do you know how many TV series would wiped out if this room was blown up?
166) 323 – The Castle of Fu Manchu[Watchable here.]
I know films on MST3K are supposed to be bad…but this is pushing it. “Fu Manchu” is an ugly, plodding film with long periods of people talking and talking…and talking…and even the riffing, which thankfully picks up midway through before fizzling out again, doesn’t do anything to help it. The sketches feature a running gag where Joel and the Bots keep losing their emotional shit (while Dr. Forrester and Frank revel in their pain) because the movie is just a gigantic gorilla that sits on you and refuses to move. It’s not the complete flaming wreck of an episode the fans say it is, but it’s sure close.
CROW: This must be like a triathlon: you swim, jog, then appear in a boring movie.
JOEL: Yeah, well, I’ll have you know that Roger Ebert liked this film…
CROW: Hey, I’ll have you know that the only thing Roger Ebert “likes” is big pans of LASAGNA.
SERVO: LOTS of ’em.
165) 1114 – At the Earth’s Core
(Available on Netflix)
The last time we saw Doug McClure on MST3K, he was working with Ze Germans and ended up in a land where dinosaurs and man co-existed. In “At the Earth’s Core”, he joins forces with Peter Cushing to travel to the Earth’s core (as the title suggests) to lead an insurrection against some evil troll things whose language “sounds like an AM radio with bad reception” according to Crow. The riffing on the episode is so-so. A bit reminiscent of the early seasons on the show. The big attraction is the sketch work which is Jonah and Kinga getting married for ratings while Max attempts to stop her because he loves her so much. Growler, another new robot, is introduced here (He’s the second new robot after the introduction of M. Waverly a few eps back) and he also gets he cold shoulder from the veteran bots, only to see them apologize for their behavior…and then take it back the moment he “piano fakes Leonard Cohen”.
SERVO: Jim Henson’s “Muppet Atrocity”!
164) 322 – Master Ninja I
The first of two “Master Ninja” experiments, this one is the lesser of the two and I still have no idea why. The film (which, like “Fugitive Alien”, is just TV episodes sewn together) is so charmingly silly and absurd, one would think it’s the perfect target. Instead, there are long bouts of silence and missed opportunities galore. It isn’t until the end that the jokes get good (the one where Crow asks who the “Arab woman” is, is a riot as horrible as that sounds) and, by then, the episode is already so far into mediocrity, it’s not salvagable. Points, though, to the only part of the show with any personality: the “Master Ninja Theme Song” sketch at the end.
SERVO: Doesn’t anybody ever SLEEP in this movie?! It’s like ten in the morning, for cryin’ outloud!
163) 324 – Master Ninja II
Just what nobody wanted: a sequel to the original “Master Ninja”. It’s more ninja hijinx as Kung Fu star wannabe Lee Van Cleef and Timothy Van Patten traipse all over America in a van, getting into danger…so, pretty much the same thing as last time. The episode really could have used a short or funnier riffing. The film isn’t “Fu Manchu” bad but, like the first “Master Ninja”, it feels like there were a lot of misses. The sketches aren’t particularly good, either. The best of them has Joel and the Bots designing their own sweet custom vans (wooo!) but, overall, the episode is another weak Season 3 entry, which is odd because, for some reason, I remember this season as being one of their funniest.
MAX: She’ll talk you to death.
THE MASTER: I’ll risk it.
MAX: I’ll need a game plan…
(THE MASTER reaches out to straight Max’s bow tie.)
THE MASTER: On the tenth sentence…kiss her.
CROW: Oh, sure! Take advice from long-time bachelor, Lee Van Cleef.
162) 614 – San Francisco International
A kidnapping, political figures on a plane, and a neglected teen hijacking a prop plane. One of these things, if focused on intently, might produce decent television. Unfortunately, the producers of “San Francisco International” decided to go with all of them, so we got a messy television pilot set at the famous coastal airport, which somehow got a half dozen episode order AND Lloyd Bridges as the lead. The riffing on the episode is so-so with some decent hits near the end. The butt of the jokes come at the expense of that poor neglected teenager who takes off in a plane and has to be taught how to land it but it can’t carry the entire show. Neither do the “Urkel” sketches which are merely comprised of Mike imitating Steve Urkel from “Family Matters” until it literally isn’t funny anymore. I get the concept of the sketches (that Urkel isn’t that funny and the joke gets old quick) but it’s something that could have gone one sketch and died. Still, there are some local jokes that might resonate with Bay Area residents such as myself (Herb Caen and ABC newscaster Spencer Christian both get mentions).
MIKE: This movie just staggers from one commercial break to another.
161) 308 – Gamera vs. Gaos
Either this episode wasn’t very good or I’m just tired of the entire Gamera series of films. Most of this film is people talking, so it doesn’t give Joel and the Bots much to work with and there’s only so much mileage you can get making fun of the requisite “monster child” and the two morons in the film who talk in weird, high-pitched voices. The main battle doesn’t even have much to offer and is riffed on like every other Japanese Monster Movie. The sketches are slightly better featuring Joel and the Bots debating on how to kill Gaos while Crow struggles to find a happy medium which will impress his colleagues.
SERVO: Well, kids, if you enjoyed today’s movie, you’re SURE to like this shameless padding!
CROW: Yeah, it’s just like a Burt Reynolds film: these are the outtakes.
160) 213 – Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster
The second and last Godzilla film on the MST3K film slate, this one features Godzilla going toe to toe with a huge crustacean. This isn’t nearly as good as the last Godzilla entry nor is it even as good as any of the later Gamera entries. The entire thing just seems lost, The film was renamed, so there’s a running joke where Joel and the Bots don’t even know what the film is called. The jokes are purely observational and aren’t very funny. The sketches are far funnier than anything heard in the theater with “The Godzilla Genealogy Bop”, followed by Joel going nuts and building Earth landmarks with junk found around the SOL — and Mothra (Mike Nelson again) visits the ship to talk and joke around with the Bots. Those moments save the episode from being a complete loss but it’s still not very good.
(Sea Monster stabs his spike into the water and lifts up, seeing that he’s stabbed two men completely.)
CROW: Ah! Kabob and…Ka-STEVE! (he laughs to himself)
159) 310 – Fugitive Alien
Another episode, another Sandy Frank mess. Fugitive Alien is a Japanese television show and this is basically a bunch of episodes strung together to make a “movie”. It’s like watching a never-ending space opera where almost everyone is named Ken except for the main characters. The riffs aren’t particularly memorable as the “Ken” thing has a window of about ten minutes before they kill it and repeat “AGAIN” after somebody says “Rocky!”, the name of one of the main ship’s crew. It IS memorable for having one of the trademark riffs of the show: “They tried to kill me with a forklift!”, sung to the tune of the movie’s musical score. But, the entire thing is dialogue-heavy and there aren’t many jokes that can be wrung from it. The sketches are pretty good, though, with Mike Nelson making his first appearance as Jack Perkins, the lovable host of A&E’s Biography. We’ll see more of “Jack” as the show goes along.
MAN: When we save you…a little swatch of cloth got torn off your uniform…I found one exactly like it…NEXT TO THE BODY OF MY LITTLE DAUGHTER! Well! What have you got to say?!
158) 312 – Gamera vs. Guiron
The 4th of the five “Gamera” films featured on this show and I’m worn out by all things Gamera/Sandy Frank at this point. And that’s not good because, at this point, there are at least a few more of those features ready for me to analyze. This is probably the most unintentionally funny “Gamera” flick of the set with weird alien women abducting some kids (one is Japanese, the other American) and making them watch as Gamera is tortured and made to fight a giant mutated steak knife with eyes. The riffs are all right with most of the laughs coming from the goofy, stilted dialogue (which might be the fault of the American translators) and the “Gamera Song” (“Gamera is really neat! Gamera is filled with meat!”) which shows up in the brilliant ending sketch where Mike Nelson appears, playing tacky lounge artist Michael Feinstein who delights the mads in a piano version of the song while regaling them with stories of old jazz legends. Still, it’s just another Gamera episode and this is one of those episodes where Joel and the Bots beat a dead horse with jokes that weren’t that funny to begin with (the “Cornjob” character joke is overkill).
(Gamera is flipping around on a gymnastic bar between two pillars.)
SERVO: You know, guys…it just dawned on me how, how…WEIRD this film is, y’know?
157) 1110 – Wizards of the Lost Kingdom
(Available on Netflix)
It’s the modern MST3K’s first venture into sword-and-sorcery territory involving young wizards, rogue swordsmen, and…what the hell is that, a YETI?! And the same dude from “Deathstalker” playing almost an exact carbon copy of the villain he was in that film?! All the ingredients are there for a classic episode and it’s gonna draw comparisons to “Deathstalker”…except it isn’t that. This is like a medieval version of “Starcrash”, a film that’s already hokey on its own and that’s been one of the problems with the Netflix era: a few of these films aren’t really designed to be riffed. They’re more like Asylum (“Sharknado” and next season’s “Atlantic Rim”) before there was Asylum. Jonah and the Bots try to make Kor the next “Lovable Hero” in MST3K’s lore but it falls flat mainly because there isn’t anything memorable about the guy. I mean, yeah, it’s hilarious when they dub him “Fat Sting” but, after that, it’s an uninteresting blonde guy with a sword. Nothing more, nothing less. The riffing is boring with only a few bright spots.
JONAH: You know, movie, I doubted you before but Kor the Conquerer vs. three wicked ass demon men? This is gonna be GREAT!
(The demon guys run away and the battle never happens.)
JONAH: …aaaand I’m disappoined.
156) 1008 – Final Justice
Joe Don Baker returns(!) in a film about a Texas cop who thinks he’s a cowboy — and who has to go to Malta to hunt down his perp. We have fond memories of Joe Don Baker in “Mitchell”, which “Final Justice” is unavoidably going to be compared with. This is not that film. It’s not even close. The charm (what there was of it) just isn’t there. It has a harder edge and the actors involve swear and curse so much, the censored audio takes away from the flow. Furthermore, whereas Joel and the Bots hit bucket after bucket going after Baker for being an unattractive slob in “Mitchell”, he actually does fit the role he’s in here (though his catchphrase, “Go ahead on” is really awkward and not really intimidating), so the comments about his obesity seem desperate and cheap and fall flat as a result and, once you look beyond that gag, the riffing is sparse and uninteresting. The sketch work saves the episode somewhat with Crow completely trashing “men from Malta” in a bit that’s a little mean-spirited and may not fly these days. Also funny is the ending segment where the SOL’s alert systems are on and Gypsy is counting down as Mike proclaims that he gets to go back to Earth since he watched a bad Joe Don Baker movie, just like Joel (he really isn’t; he’s sitting in the boiler room of the ship instead of in an escape pod as the Bots point out, rather miffed). The plaque dedicated to the Bots showcasing “an inspirational quote from ‘Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo'” is hilarious.
CROW: The sun is blotted out as Joe Don Baker approaches!
155) 314 – Mighty Jack
It’s a Japanese spy caper where the villains are dumb as rocks and we get to witness SEVERAL…BANK…TURNS! Training films showing how to MAKE bank turns didn’t have this many bank turns. But here they are. And, then, there’s the awkward editing and arbitrary occurrences which don’t seem to gel together. I don’t know what it is about MST3K and most of the Japanese imports that came through the show but the guys don’t have too much to add here, though some of the callbacks are funny (the “Sandy Frank” song, “You’re stuck here!” from “Fugitive Alien”) but the film is so discombobulated, it’s like sitting through a Season 1 episode and that’s not good.
CROW: Wow! Just think about if this movie had a PLOT…it would REALLY be neat!
154) 502 – Hercules
Another season, another Hercules flick. This was the first and most famous Herc film. It’s campy and beautiful at the same time but the film is dull as hell. I don’t know what it is about the Herc films but the guys just can’t do much with them. The jokes are mostly chuckle-worthy with a few good zingers and it finally picks up at the end during the big climatic battle (Joel’s line about it being “South Central Greece” after the government troops attack is great here) but the episode falters due to the bar being set so high that this show seems like a throw-away.
(A slew of primitive men attack Hercules and his men.)
JOEL (as Hercules): Well, they’re not Amazons but, when in Rome, fellas!
153) 401 – Space Travelers
Season 4 began with “Space Travelers” which was really “Marooned” under the Film Ventures label. The film is also the only one featured on MST3K to win an Oscar (Best Visual Effects) AND it boasts a hell of a cast in Gregory Peck, Richard Crenna, Gene Hackman, David Janssen, and James Franciscus. It’s not a bad film at all, really, and it’s one that my Mom was a huge fan of when she saw it in theaters. The problem? The riffing. Again. It gets good right in the middle with an excellent zingers during the bit where the astronaut’s wives contact the boys on the shuttle (and Crow constantly — and perfectly — imitates Gregory Peck) but, otherwise, this is a dull affair despite the high production value and actors involved and the jokes just don’t work.
MAN: What are your numbers, Tony?
CROW (as Tony): Uh, Cleveland 8, Cincinnati 4…uh…oh…
152) 405 – Being From Another Planet
More 80’s crap…and it’s another massive strikeout for MST3K. An exhumed mummy turns out to be an alien in “Being From Another Planet”. I think this might have worked in the later seasons but not this one. The entire episode barely induces a chuckle to the point where I struggled to even find a “Best Riff”. There’s a running joke involving the mummy/alien’s POV (shot in a green camera filter) and the Bots flip out and act like they’re afraid. The sketches are as dull as the jokes are. Thankfully, the riffing DOES pick up in the second half but it still adds up to an experience that’s nowhere near as good as it should be. I will never understand missed opportunities like this because the film is just cruisin’ for an MST3K bruisin’.
(A young girl finishes making out with her boyfriend and walks down the hall to tend to a crying baby.)
SERVO: Don’t tell Mom the babysitter’s HOT!
151) 106 – The Crawling Hand
An astronaut’s severed hand comes to life, chokes some guy out, and then causes him to re-animate and go nuts and murder people. It’s hilarious. Spot-on riffing here. The long delays between riffs are mostly gone and the timing is better. The entire kitchen sequence with the hand’s first victim is a scream as is Joel playing the phone operator after the murder. The sketch where Joel and the Bots “Shatner” while severed hands choke them is great stuff but, beyond that, the sketches are a bit weak. Alan Hale, Jr. is in this film. We’ll see him again later. Despite all that, this might be the first season’s first good episode. The entire episode is currently online at YouTube.
JOEL: “The Crawling Hand”…you will believe a hand can crawl…
CROW: You will believe Alan Hale can act…
That’s it for the first 50…we will be back tomorrow to give you the next 50 episodes as we count down to #1 on Turkey Day!
Until then, push the button, Frank