My MST3K Turkey Day List, Volume 2
Last year, I suggested a Turkey Day MST3K marathon for you, and while I’m going to do the same thing again this year, I decided to do it by picking out one episode per season, while also limiting myself by being unable to suggest any titles I used last year. Yes, it’s an odd way to do it, but since the internet has all the episodes that the DVD collections don’t (not that I’m saying there’s an MST3K club where you can watch every episode ever made … although there is … ), I thought this might be a fun way to showcase everything MST3K has to offer, as well as force me to make some very tough decisions. Just promise me you’ll watch the ones on DVD/streaming if they’re available.
Season 1 – Kind of a rough year – and I’m starting with the official Comedy Channel/Central season here – as MST3K was growing into the unstoppable riff machine it was, but you can still find a rough gem. Here I’m going to go with Moon Zero Two (episode #111). A cheesy but acceptably goofy ‘60’s mod science fiction riff, it’s not a horrible movie, so it isn’t painful to sit through. And while it’s still not up to MST3K’s rapid fire gag rate, they do get off some amusing lines.
Season 2 – Things pick up this season, and brings us such MSTie classics as Sidehackers and Jungle Goddess. But for my pick, the funniest film was Godzilla Vs Megalon (episode #212), the first of two Godzilla films MST3K ever covered, and a laughably bad one at that, where Godzilla is relegated to a cameo in his own film. The plot is more nonsensical than usual for a Godzilla film, involving inventors who make their own robot, and an underground society called Seatopia that wants the robot technology for themselves, even though they command giant monsters. It doesn’t make a lick of sense at any point, and is enjoyably batshit.
Season 3 – There were a ton of classic episodes in season 3, as this was when MST3K really hit its stride. I had to choose between all the Gamera films, all the Fugitive Aliens, all the Master Ninjas, all the Colossal Mans, Daddy-o, Pod People. Really you could just watch this season beginning to end and be thoroughly entertained. But, after thinking about it long and hard, I had to pick … It Conquered The World (episode #311). A cracker of a film by MSTie staple Roger Corman, a mutated pickle with tentacles from Venus tries to take over the Earth, and comes very close to succeeding. The only thing standing in his way is a super stiff Peter Graves (a recurring MSTie actor), although really it’s Beverly Garland (another MSTie recurring actor) who puts up the gutsiest fight. This movie is so awful, and the writing staff is utterly on fire here, making this one an almost solid laugh from beginning to end. Stick around for the bombastic final speech by Graves, which, thanks to a shorter than average running time, is repeated a couple of times, like the profound thing it isn’t.
Season 4 – More Golden Age MST3K, and I seriously wanted to pick a classic like Teenagers From Outer Space ( a true gem) or Monster-A-Go-Go (another one, often strangely overlooked), or one of my all time favorites, Bride of the Monster (the first of a few Ed Wood films covered by MST3K). But I can’t, because the final episode of this season is Manos: The Hands of Fate (episode #424). MST3K elevated this little piece of truly appalling film making into a weird cultural touchstone, and why not? It’s poorly made, poorly done, and like many MST3K films, incoherent from start to finish. It also introduces the big thighed character of Torgo, who becomes a returning character staple for the gang. Remember Torgo’s haunting theme, as you will hear it every time the character appears. It’s never not funny.
Season 5 – A transition year for hosts, with a mid-stream switch between Joel and Mike, but it’s still a really solid season. I’m not one of those who picks between Mike and Joel, because they each brought their own separate thing to the table. By rights, I should pick Mitchell, the episode that lets Joel exit and brings Mike in, but I can’t. And you know why? Because Outlaw (episode #519) is right there. A horrible sword and sandals fantasy, it has the dubious record of most buffalo shots (or, in other words, butt shots) on any MSTie film, and is just so badly acted/written/dubbed – you name it – that it never fails to make me laugh. An awful, awful film that the writers take great joy in pulling apart. (And here’s something that will haunt you forever: “Cabot!”)
Season 6 – This season saw TV’s Frank leaving by its end, but no, I’m not picking that episode either. No, I’m going with the switcheroo episode, the only one where Doctor Forrester and Frank spent some time in the theater critiquing the movie, the really shitty Western Last of the Wild Horses (episode #611). An extended riff on the Star Trek OS episode “Mirror, Mirror”, it’s delightfully silly, and it’s weirdly satisfying to have cowed versions of the Forrester and Frank characters riffing on a film. Especially one as cornball and deserving of ridicule as this slapdash, cliched Western.
Season 7 – The truncated season, cut short due to the ill fated movie, all of its episodes were still surprisingly strong, dare I say brilliant., save for one (sorry, Brute Man). I should go with Laserblast, technically the “last” MST3K episode (well, on Comedy Central), but I can’t. In fact, I got forced into a horrible choice, as two of my favorite MST3Ks are from this season. But, because I picked Night of the Blood Beast and Deathstalker for my last Turkey Day marathon, I’m forced to choose The Incredible Melting Man, which is even cheesier than its title suggests. A ‘70’s sci-fi/horror entry, this one is undercut by its low budget, meandering plot, and wonderfully indifferent acting by the ostensible hero of the film, who couldn’t be blander if he was a beige wall in a beige room. (Here’s another catchphrase for you: “Hotchka!”)
Season 8 – The first Sci-Fi Channel season, it really does have many outstanding, classic episodes, which might be a surprise to those that missed it. I mean, come on – Agent For H.A.R.M. ? Prince of Space? Horror of Party Beach? Too much good stuff here. But I was forced to forsake The Giant Spider Invasion and Space Mutiny, because they were mentioned in my last Turkey Day marathon. So I’m going with The Deadly Mantis, an often overlooked gem about a …. giant mantis. You’d never would have guessed, would you? There’s a looser goofiness to the riffing here than in their other previous big bug film, Beginning of the End, and if “There’s a mantis in my pantis” doesn’t make you chuckle, you’re dead inside.
Season 9 – Oh boy. This season has two classics going head to head: The Final Sacrifice (episode #910) and Werewolf (episode #904). Asking me to choose between them is pure agony, because they’re both undeniably wonderful. Terrible films both, both ostensibly horror, and both made amateurishly, featuring strangely odd details (the unbelievable names and the prospector in Sacrifice, and the overacting and constant hair color changes of Yuri and the inexplicable accents of the leads in Werewolf) seem to have captured the writing team at peak levels. But I mentioned both in my last Turkey Day list. So, I’m going with Puma Man, a truly terrible superhero film starring a non-heroic hero (a staple in many MST3K films) and a heroic sidekick, it shows off cheap effects like they’re somehow marvellous, and the scariest thing in it is the fashions on display.
Season 10 – The final season, and I should pick the final episode. But, as usual, I’m not going to. Nope, I’m going with Future War, some kind of super low budget, weird ass action/sci-fi film about an alien raised human , a doubting, street wise nun, cyborgs with kabuki makeup, and dinosaur puppets. It is actually stupider and more nonsensical than it sounds, as hard as that is to believe. And boy, did everyone on this film hate cardboard boxes. Worth every second for a scene near the end where the hero’s shirt “accidentally” falls off (is ripped off by him) during a poorly edited, underwhelming fight scene. So ridiculous, it’s almost kind of beautiful.