Turkey Day Recommendations – Lesser MST3Ks

Thanksgiving is usually when I roll out my Turkey Day marathon suggestions, but usually I end up recommending the same movies. Although they remain good, I’ve decided, this year, to recommend MSt3Ks that have grown on me over the years. Maybe at first I thought they were okay, not special, but in time, I learned to appreciate them more. Minor MSt3Ks, if you will, that get very little love.

(Oh, and a live Turkey Day marathon is happening too.)


Human Duplicators – Although originally memorable for the sketch bit involving a dangerous, pent up Hugh Beaumont, this was the first movie I noticed had grown into one of my favorites. A truly inept, low budget science fiction film that seems to think androids sent as alien soldiers would have delicate china heads and would somehow be thwarted by a Fed and a blind scientist’s niece of unknown age – seriously, how old is she supposed to be?- who appears to do nothing but hang around the house. I have a natural soft spot for these schlocky, low budget affairs. (See also my love for the no budget, incoherent Bride of the Monster.) I don’t like deliberately bad movies, but ones hampered by budget constraints/plot predictabilities are fun, and this one is. Again, don’t expect it to make sense, but enjoy many good quips, and the robots inexplicably getting into the movie near the end. You may as well.

The Girl In Lover’s Lane
– Possibly the hardest one to defend, this is a tepid little nothing of a half-boiled melodrama about ’50’s style clean cut drifters who get mixed up in love affairs in a small town, and whose fourth act takes a seriously dark and mean spirited turn. It makes the robots mad enough that Joel tells them they don’t have to accept the end the movie gives them, which is basically what fan fiction is. But it does have many things to recommend it: along with the odd morality of the gently sexist film, the main character’s name is deliberately misheard as Big Stupid, and Joel and the bots delightfully refer to the character this way throughout. And, as is pointed out, Bix – sorry, Big – does spend most of the film saving wayward rich boy Danny from heterosexual experiences. It is dumb, and pointless, and kind of delightful, at least until the turn. And if you’d like to write a fan fic version of this film where Big Stupid and Danny get together, I won’t stop you.

Terror From The Year 5000 – Lost in the Sci-Fi years, where they often showed ’50’s black and white low budget sci-fi films back to back, is this weird little potboiler. A random blackballed scientist invents a machine that seems to pull artifacts from the distant future. Only they’re all heavily radiated, and if you’ve guessed that future Earth is a radioactive wasteland, you are correct. And are about fifty nine minutes ahead of everyone else in this film. While waiting for the horror to arrive, there’s turgid drama involving the scientist and his family and assistants that is poorly thought out and predictable, compounded by the fact that I can barely tell any of the white guys apart. Much like in Night of the Blood Beast, I just assume they’re all named Steve, except for Angelo, the greasy, voyeuristic groundskeeper, who may be a random stab at gross stereotyping. The terror is a mutated woman in a disco suit and cheesy facial appliances, and it all ends in a desultory, half-assed fashion, as if the writers didn’t actually know how to end this within budget constraints. (Possible.) It’s really terrible, but the riffing makes it almost endearing.

City Limits – This one is pretty indefensible. A truly terrible, schlocky entry into ’80’s low budget dystopia, both budget and editing makes this incomprehensible and yet predictable as hell. You could probably write a better version of this story yourself. Some unidentified thing – nuclear war? Plague? – has killed off most of the adults, leaving a world of mostly teenagers in surprisingly cuddly versions of motorcycle gangs. An adult led corporation wants to bring electricity back to the cities, but they’re evil and want to kill one of the gangs for … some reason. This is all as clear as mud, and ultimately doesn’t matter. This is the episode where Crow’s Kim Cattrall song comes from, as well as a funny list of possible comic books, but the movie itself is pretty … shaggy. But I have enjoyed this episode more over the years. It’s still a member of the lesser episodes, though, and if you want to skip it, I don’t blame you.

The Thing That Wouldn’t Die – Another one of those Sci-Fi era black and white ’50’s films, but this is a cheesy horror film as opposed to a cheesy sci-fi film. It’s all about a psychic girl who finds an old chest on her Aunt’s property, and it contains the head of an old time Satanist who couldn’t die, so his body and head were buried apart. His still living head has sinister powers, and it wants to be reunited with its body, and it wants to drink the blood of our virginal psychic heroine for … reasons? Again, it doesn’t make sense, and even if it did, it wouldn’t make a difference. For a horror movie, there’s no horror, but lots of unintentional laughs, including the Aunt’s regional accent, a truly bland and passive heroine, and lots of stilted, talky scenes that add up to absolutely nothing. Mike and the bots do have a little too much fun with totally unintentionally implied lesbianism, but you can’t help but think the female guest would have been a better love interest than the bland man they put her with. (I don’t know his name, and I confuse him with the other so called “younger” white men in the movie. This is a common pattern with these films.)

The Undead – Speaking of pointless black and white films, here’s one from Roger Corman, all about a hypnotist who uses hypnotic regression to take a prostitute back to a previous life in the Middle Ages, where she was falsely accused as a witch by a real witch, who wants her unattractive boyfriend for … unclear reasons.He’s really unappealing, and dumb as a bag of hammers. And while a powerful, shape shifting witch, she can’t make him fall in love with her? Okay. Just spelling out the basic plot makes me want to bang my head against the table, because everything about it is fucking terrible. And it really is in the movie too, but the sheer incoherence and the reasonably good use of a twelve by five set actually makes this weirdly enjoyable. I mean, it’s harder to imagine how this terrible story could have been told worse. It’s poorly written, poorly staged, and the acting runs the gamut from well-intentioned but poor to full on chewing the scenery like a crack addicted beaver. And it’s weirdly entertaining, in its terrible way. As Mike declares during a pivotal point in the film “I’ve never known less about what’s going on in a movie”. Neither do I, but that’s where all its charm lays. Also the witch woman is extremely attractive, and the director knows it. One caveat: the movie was a little short, so there’s a sketch with Bobo before the end credits that goes on forever, and isn’t funny. You have my blessing to skip it.

The Screaming Skull – Another black and white horror film from the Sci-Fi era, this is also one that may be hard to defend. A film that mistakes long scenes where nothing happens for tension, this one is about an unstable wealthy woman who seems to be haunted by the late wife of her new husband. Except, of course, he’s just trying to drive her to suicide – or a murder that looks like suicide – and his late, murdered first wife ain’t having that shit. This movie is so lazy we all know the plot and the “twist” going in, but the riffing is so good this has become one of my all time favorites. Bill Corbett especially shines in this episode, from “Was it a gun shot or more of a stabbing sound?” to a burning painting begging to be hung in a Comfort Inn, this has be-come a good source of laughs for me in these troubled times. But this movie is so bad, I have a hard time believing this was an actually released film. Somehow it was.

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