Recommendations for Mystery Science Theater 3000 Movies Currently On Netflix, For the Quarantined and/or Bored

Because many people are self-isolating – which is also known as being a writer (ha ha!) – I thought I’d put up a list of Mystery Science Theater 3000s that are on Netflix right now, that you can watch, to distract yourself from the world being on fire and whatnot. Let’s have some fun!

Deathstalkers and The Warriors From Hell – This is my favorite of the older episodes currently offered on Netflix, and for several good reasons. It’s a terrible sword and sorcery movie, made indifferently on a tight budget, with random but powerful bouts of overacting and underacting, exceptionally poor writing, and a bit of misogyny mixed in. Why does this work? Because it’s so ridiculous you can’t ever take this movie seriously. (“Potatoes are what we eat!”) The thin plot is our unappealing hero has to save a princess and spare the world from the evil sorcerer Truxartis – this might not be how the name is spelled, but I refuse to Google for it. Along the way he’s helped by an overacting good wizard in a bad costume, and a nymphet archer with ’80’s rock video hair. It is silly and terrible all the way down. Even when it tries to be offensive, it’s so bad at it, all you can do is shrug or laugh. There are some good hosts bits in this one too – I love the romance novel bit, and the fast food restaurant skit – but warning The overarching story for the host bits is that Pearl is sick, and driving her son crazy. But it’s not even a virus, and the heart of it all is Mary Jo Pehl being perfectly annoying. It’s a small acting triumph, and better than anything in the movie.

Bride of The Monster – Oh, so you want some Ed Wood, do you? I actually think, without irony, that this is the best movie he ever did. And the plot of the movie, such as it is, are people are disappearing, and it’s being blamed on a “monster”, who is, in reality, Bela Lugosi and Tor Johnson in a cramped, M.C. Escher type house, that also has an octopus. Which I think is supposed to be the monster, but it’s either an octopus in a tank somewhere else, or a giant rubber octopus that the “victims” have to move the tentacles of to make it even half-way convincing. It might also be electric somehow, but that’s barely implied, and might not be. On the case is a go-getting female reporter, and her rugged cop fiance. But that takes away from the other important characters in the movie, the woman stuck in the newspaper morgue, and the police chief with the missing a finger who babies his pet parakeet at work. This movie is poorly written and acted, and honestly, even before the ending mish-mash, the editing ain’t great. But you do get a hint of enthusiasm here, as maybe Wood had zero talent, but oh boy, did he ever love making pictures, even if they were unspeakably awful. Keep an eye out for the rbuber snake, the angora hat, the blatant Lugosi “stunt double” in wild platform shoes, and the big papier-mache boulder. For whatever reason, I also think this is my favorite MST3K of the Joel era. I know that’s not one often picked, but I seem to have a fondness for these terrible genre movies. I should also mention this one starts with a short, Hired! Part 2, about selling cars door to door, which seems quaint and deeply antiquated. They also do a good musical number about it.

The Sinister Urge – The last of the two and a half Ed Wood movies MST3K covered (the other is The Violent Years, a real preachy piece of shit worth seeking out that Ed Wood did the script for, and Wood was involved in some way with another MST3K, Racket Girls, which makes total sense when you see it), and this one is from his later years, when he was making “message” pictures (see also The Violent Years). The problem is, it seems like Ed Wood has no idea how anyone lives in the real world. So we end up with this disaster of a movie, all about the evils of the smut picture racket, only nothing feels a bit true to life in the least. The head of this organization is a hatchet faced woman with a naturally craggy voice, who wears all sorts of bizarre outfits, and has teenagers rough up customers who aren’t buying? Or something like that. Also, one of her obviously imbalanced … distributors? (it’s not really clear what he is) … is currently killing women in the park, because all the smutty pictures makes him horned up for stabbing. Her greasy partner in crime – played by Ed Wood himself! – seduces hungry young actress into the trap of smut, and ultimately comes up with a Rube Goldberg like scheme to off their killer, which fails, and inadvertently ends all of their empire, mostly through ridiculous plot twists and incompetence. It is jaw dropping how inept and weird this movie is. Weirder than the swamp nazi with the electric octopus? Yes, by a thousand percent. None of this seems remotely plausible, not even the many parking scenes. But it does have one of my favorite terrible scenes of all time, where Ed Wood’s director is seducing a young actress who, for the life of her, cannot act even a little bit. She gives the most unconvincing “Oh, thank you” line reading in movie history, and it makes me laugh every single time. This also comes with a hygiene short that basically tells you human bodies are disgusting, and if you aren’t spending all day cleaning yourself, you’re looking at a skin infection or worse. The ’50’s were a weird time.

Hobgoblins – Speaking of weird times, this movie takes us on a rocket ride to the ’80’s, when bad horror movie knock offs were everywhere. One example is this film, which was a riff on Gremlins, but also one of those horror movies that was also ripping off Gremlins, like Critters. (I’m assuming. I don’t know the actual timelines of these films, and I refuse to look it up.) A milquetoast security guard at some kind of film back lot accidentally lets out aliens hiding in one of the vaults, the titular Hobgoblins, who make people’s dreams come true, and then murders them with it. Our main character is whiny and annoying, and his friends are somehow worse, from his horndog best friend, his prim and prissy girlfriend, her friend the “slut”, and her boyfriend, the meathead macho soldier. Sprinkle in some light racism and a touch of homophobia along with that good old woman hating, and you have this mess. Honestly, if you’re not rooting for the Hobogoblins to kill all these people, I don’t want to know you. Unlike Deathstalker, where attempts of offensiveness are simply lost in the overall miasma of a terrible film, every offense in this film stinks out loud. Probably because a lot of it was intended as a joke, but the problem is, jokes usually have to be funny. Insulting people – especially the viewers of said film – is not the way forward. On the plus side, Mike and the bots cheerfully destroy this misbegotten movie, exactly as it deserves. And the almost indecipherable song performed in the “punk” club – I think the guys eventually decide it’s Fish Picker, although film credits have it as Kiss Kicker – is actually relatively catchy, and easily the best part of the film.

Not everyone is down with the reboot of MST3K, but if you are, I have some recommendations there too.

Yongary – I’ll admit now I have a fondness for big monster movies, especially if they’re terrible. And this one is really bad. A Korean attempt at a Godzilla like film, Yongary is awakened from the earth’s core by a nuclear test, I guess? (Honestly, I wasn’t sure what was going on there.) It’s up to a hard working scientist and a precocious child to figure out how to stop the monster before he destroys everything. The monster suit is not terribly convincing, some of the forced perspective shots are really bad, and then, at the end, it takes a turn into realism that is unwelcome and kind of upsetting. Also, as is the way in many of these kaiju films, the precocious child is super annoying, and yet he’s not as bad as Kenny from the Gamera films. Although that’s a super low bar. If you’re down for a terrible kaiju film, yell “Capsule!” with me, and savor those persimmons.

Cry Wilderness – I think this is a unanimous favorite from the new series, because this is one of those films that is barely a movie. A young boy meets Bigfoot and makes friends with him; he warns him his forest ranger dad is in trouble, so he runs away from his boarding school to save him. There’s an evil big game hunter of some sort – whose comeuppance is honestly grisly considering this is a kid’s film – a loose tiger, several raccoons, another handful of racism, a really bad Bigfoot costume, an abandoned mine, and a lot of padding – just try and count how much wildlife footage is randomly inserted into the movie to pad out its time. What is even the point of this thing? It honestly eludes me. Be good to nature, I guess? But it seems like a random lesson smashed on the back end of this turkey. Another poorly written, unevenly acted trash fire with a really depressing closing theme, this is perfect MST3K fodder.

The Day Time Ended – Speaking of perfect MST3K fodder, there’s this pile of gunk, which I’m at a loss to explain coherently. A family pays a visit to grandma and grandpa, who have a funky, newfangled house in the desert. Aliens visit, but some are good and some are evil, and some want to hurt the family, while others want to save them. Then there’s a time displacement, and you realize this movie stopped making any sense about five minutes in. It feels like maybe they were going for a Close Encounters type of thing, but they threw in everything they could think of on their slim budget, and decided coherence could be sacrificed for spectacle. Which is why it’s a damn shame there is no spectacle. It’s like film scraps someone tried – and failed – to weave into a movie. There’s a great song called “Concepts” that the guys do near the end of the film that tries to make sense of what must have gone on in the writer’s room, and it’s great. It’s as close to a description of this movie as you will ever get. As a whole, this movie is very much the embodiment of the cliche “so that happened”, and may be the only thing you can say about it.

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