My own MST3K Turkey Day Marathon
Ah, Thanksgiving. Many people look forward to turkey and all that crap, but not me. I look forward to creating my own MST3K marathon. What are those? Well, when the show Mystery Science Theater 3000 was on the air at Comedy Central, they used to play these blocks of MST3K movies all day. I look forward to programming my own MST3K block for the holidays. Thanksgiving means nothing to me but astonishingly awful movies.
So here is my choice for a holiday stuffed with celluloid turkeys, with the added benefit of being really, really funny. A warning: as they once said, all these films star no one and feature nothing.
- Teenage Crime Wave – You may have to search for MST3K + Teenage Crime Wave to find this one online, but you can, and I recommend it because it’s a movie that actually takes place at Thanksgiving. Also, it’s a bloody awful ‘50’s juvenile delinquent flick where the juveniles in question are at least in their twenties, and the overall message of the film seems to be “don’t be a slutty girl with a guy’s haircut, be good and proper and you’ll be okay – otherwise, you’ll die in a parking lot”. It’s hilarious, with many great riffs by the guys, “Go on, have yourself a teenage cry wave.”
- Night of the Blood Beast – This one is available on DVD, and oh my god, how I love this one. One of my all time favorite MST3Ks, this is a deeply stupid Roger Corman picture about a male astronaut impregnated with shrimp, courtesy of an alien that appears to be a burnt parrot mascot costume. The guys are on fire in this one, with so many quotable lines I find it hard to pick just one. Maybe “We had to snap him in half like a frozen dog to get him out of the capsule…” The DVD also has the original Turkey Day marathon skits in it, which is well worth watching. The lesson in this movie? Never name a kid Steve.
- Bride of the Monster – Also available on DVD, it’s not a Turkey Marathon without Ed Wood, and here’s possibly his best picture (a bit like picking a best disease, I realize …), a truly inept film about the love quadrangle between a mad scientist, an intrepid girl reporter, his man mountain sidekick, a wooden cop, and a nuclear octopus. (I wish that was a euphemism, but sadly it’s not.) So poorly made on every level it’s funny even without the MST3K treatment, but once again the guys do a fabulous job. Admittedly, riffing on an Ed Wood movie is a bit like T-ball, but they do it well. “Embrace death, Roy!” The message to this film? Don’t let Ed Wood write or direct anything.
- Space Mutiny – Available on DVD, and the first color film featured in my line up, this is a truly sad, incoherent mash up of (original) Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars, with almost all the plot removed. It’s about this muscle bound slab of beef that the guys can’t stop making up names for (Stump Chunkman may be my favorite … no, Crud Bonemeal …) fighting a rebellion on a spaceship or something. Worth watching for the strange futuristic zamboni race/fight at the end, which somehow cranks the ridiculous meter up to eleven. You can try counting the railing kills, but it will be hard. The message of this film? Don’t give your villain the name Calgon if you want him to be taken seriously.
- Teenagers From Outer Space – Another one on DVD, this classic stinker stars thirty year old teenagers, with one of them an alien trying to stop his evil people from using the Earth to feed the giant lobsters that make up their food supply. Hilariously terrible. If you miss this one, the High Council might well sentence you to TOR-CHA! The lesson in this film is never rent a room to a whisper thin guy in a jumpsuit.
- Deathstalker and the Warriors From Hell – You’ll have to search the internet for this one, but as the MSTie guys say during the movie, it’s one of the most ambitiously bad films they’ve ever done. A bunch of sword and sorcery bullshit, it stars an unappealing lead going up against the campiest villain this side of Richard Simmons, and it maintains its incoherence throughout, which is a feat. Absolutely worth it for the opening sketch, where they bedevil Doctor Forrester by pretending to be fast food counter workers, and then a middle sketch, where Crow reads to a sick Pearl from a book titled “Love’s Sweet Throbbing Gondola”. Awesome. The lesson here is never let an actor pick his own beats for the script.
- Agent For H.A.R.M. – Also only available on the internet, this poorly made James Bond rip off with an unappealing spy in a cardigan is seriously funny, but what makes this one extra special is a run of sketches that are arguably the best in MST3K history. Mike is put on trial for destroying some planets, bringing up too many good gags and set pieces (“This court is out of order! The candy machine by the men’s room is out of order!”) that show off a love of courtroom dramas. Excellent all the way around. The lesson here is that the combination of the spaz chop and the pocket wound was too much for the old man.
- Giant Spider Invasion – Packers! Available on DVD, this is a hysterical creature feature, about a giant spider (that’s a Volkswagen with legs) and several smaller spiders that threaten to wipe out life as we know it, somehow, but actually does a service by wiping out several odious white trash characters. “I hate it when a movie kills off a beloved character … this is great, though.” The lesson here is that just because anybody can make a movie doesn’t mean they should.
- Werewolf – Available on DVD, this is another one of my all time favorites, about poorly made up werewolves in Flagstaff. Worth watching for the grab bag of accents, that one actor whose hairstyle and color changes every scene (what the hell was that about ..?), and a scene that I think should be in the movie making hall of fame: a werewolf driving. No, really. It’s awesomely silly. “Now that I’m driving, those caribou won’t stand a chance.” The lesson here is never go on an archeological dig with a guy named Yuri, and always decide ahead of time how the actors are going to pronounce “werewolf”. (My favorite on display is whurwoof.)
- Skydivers – This is another personal favorite, available on DVD. But a movie you can skip if you really feel you can’t do it. Some people really don’t like this one – not because the guys aren’t funny here, because they very much are, but because this is a Coleman Francis movie, the director who really deserves the “worst filmmaker ever” title traditionally given to Ed Wood. Still, I think this is Coleman’s best (once again, like picking your favorite infection …), an utterly pointless thing about an unhappy marriage and the scheming woman who inevitably kills someone, all set against the thrilling backdrop of a small skydiving outfit. As one of them comments, “It’s like they forgot to have stuff happen in this film”. Indeed. The message here is always fasten your chinstrap, and sex for sundries is fun.
- And we end things with The Final Sacrifice, also available on DVD. A Canadian film about a lost civilization and an evil cult, it features a character with a grand mullet and the most absurd name in movie history: Zap Rowsdower. I’m guessing the budget here was three dollars, and the script was written on bar napkins. The guys do a great job making sport of this strangely amateurish, rambling film. The lesson here is never give your character a name like Zap Rowsdower.