Let’s try and cheer ourselves up with a Turkey Day marathon …
I have to admit, I consider Thanksgiving cancelled. It doesn’t seem like there’s anything to be thankful for in this terrible, awful, beyond shitty year. 2016 should just go and eat a bag of dicks. For instance, I am personally hoping an asteroid wipes all out before 2017. But, in an attempt to not be all doom and gloom, I decided to put together a small MST3K Turkey Day marathon that you can legally stream yourself, any time you want. You don’t have to wait for (No) Thanksgiving. If you could use the levity, feel free to watch some now. Click the titles to be taken there.
Let’s start with this evergreen classic, about a teenaged alien – maybe in his late twenties/early thirties? – coming to Earth and falling in love with a chipper, trusting Earth girl, which leads to a giant lobster shadow terrorizing the planet. This low budget film is terrible in the best ways. The script is awful, the directing mediocre, the acting is either way over the top or heavily medicated, and don’t even ask about the non-existent special effects. I’m happy to watch this one any time.
Okay, this is a controversial one, because the movie is so terrible. No, really – Teenagers From Outer Space looks competent and well made compared to this turd, about an astronaut who comes back to Earth, mutated into a monster. Or not. That makes sense if you’ve already seen the film. But there’s so much in this episode I love. For instance, the scene where a man pays a visit to the astronaut’s home to break the news to his wife, and his son comes in. “Make other plans, Jimmy.” It’s a bleak riff off on the worst ways to break the news of death to someone, and it always makes me laugh. Also, the phone ringing scene. Again, if you’ve seen the movie, you already know what I mean.
Let’s jump to a color film, and one of the more current films MST3K ever covered before going off the air. This incomprehensible, bafflingly bad action movie is wonderful for several reasons – dinosaur puppets, unending abuse of cardboard boxes, woefully timed exposition dumps, Jean Claude Gosh-Darn – but the scene that honestly makes this entire film worth it is at the end, with a fight involving the world’s saddest cyborg in the world’s saddest chapel, which is made fantastic by the “accidental” loss of the hero’s shirt in the fight. Oh no, that didn’t look unnatural at all. Nothing in this movie works. It’s great.
And here’s Ed Wood, with his enduring classic of cops with endless ammo, a reporter with an easily triggered fainting response, a house with changing doors, and Bela Lugosi in his declining, heroin addicted years. There’s also an obvious body double, a monster “octopus” that doesn’t work, and the world’s most noticeable papier-mache boulder. In a strange way, this movie is adorable. Ed Wood had lots of enthusiasm for making movies. No talent, but oodles of enthusiasm.
Let’s go with another poorly made monster film, this involving killer alien spiders that don’t actually get giant until close to the end of the film, and then it’s really just the one. It makes the ‘70’s look greasy, unattractive, and super cheap, which may or may not be true. The MST3K crew also has a great framing device for the sketches between breaks, which is a riff on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and I enjoyed it immensely.
We’re not going anywhere without acknowledging one of the more highly regarded MST3K episodes. What is there to say about this one? A very ‘80’s spaceship – which looks like some very dank basements, and from the outside looks like recycled Battlestar Galactica original series footage (because it is) – is threatened by a mutiny. Our hero is a big slab of muscley beef with many names, although I am fond of Stump Chunkman, and our heroine is dressed ridiculously. The plot makes no sense, but who cares? No one’s here for plot, are they Captain Santa Claus?
Speaking of movies that don’t make sense, this one’s a corker. Some privileged asshat is embarrassed by his mother’s drunken ways and his father’s carousing, which somehow leads him to getting involved with gangsters. This whole film was supposed to be moralizing with a message, but I disliked the lead character so much I felt the true moral was missed: don’t be a gullible, privileged asshat.
Here’s another one that needs no explanation. A lost family runs afoul of a deadly cult in this unrelenting shitpile of a movie that has one of the best and yet most useless henchmen ever, and a nifty caftan. Asking for more just seems selfish.
Dear lord, do I love this one. Another film about a deadly cult, this time involving no nifty caftans or big kneed henchmen, but with the greatest ridiculous name ever featured in any film: Zap Rowsdower. Yes, that’s the name of our Han Solo-by-way-of-rural-Alberta secondary hero, and there’s a weird poetry in how they are resolutely committed to this unbelievable name. It’s actually more unreal than the plot of this thing, and that’s saying something. I’ve seen this one a million times, but every time it’s on, I have to stop and finish it. It gives me so much joy.
Speaking of films that give me ridiculous joy, here’s another one. An odd one to end up on MST3K, since it’s basically an overripe melodrama about a woman who wants to be a dancer, and falls in with thugs, drugs, and – gasp!- a draft dodger as she tries to make it in Hollywood. This almost makes the plot of The Final Sacrifice seem realistic, and tries on a variation of the morality lesson used poorly in I Accuse My Parents, to equally poor effect. This is a deeply stupid, awful movie, and I weirdly adore it.
For Those Willing To Take A Chance/Advanced User Option
This is not my favorite Coleman Francis film ever featured on MST3K. That would be the plotless, meandering Skydivers, where they forgot to have things happen. (I love it. It’s one of those MST3K I have to finish if it’s on.) But this is second on the list of his movies I’ve ever seen. (Which numbers three.) It’s an ugly, stupid, pointless picture about ex-cons who get involved in the failed Bay of Pigs operation, and then come back to try and rip off the widow of one of their fellow recruits. The budget was thirty seven dollars, and Cuba is represented by a small stretch of beach, but the lack of budget doesn’t make up for the fact that this movie, which is probably an hour and fifteen minutes long, feels much longer. Unpleasant characters have anti-climactic adventures, and then get caught, in a manner that is neither tense nor satisfying. Colemen Francis movies are best described as “Ed Wood with no enthusiasm” – it’s like it was a punishment for him to make these grindingly joyless, airless films. So I can only recommend something like Red Zone Cuba to those willing to go to the advanced level. (I’d rather recommend Skydivers, but it doesn’t seem to be legally streaming.) It does have some very funny moments in it, but you have to know what you’re getting into. And if you do decide to watch this, follow it with Girl In Gold Boots, just so you have a palate cleanser.