In the not too distant future Mystery Science Theater 3000 is making a comeback. After one of the most successful Kickstarter funds for a film or television production to date, the beloved cult classic comedy series is going to be returning sometime in 2017. Series creator Joel Hodgson is reviving the series with some wicked talented and funny people including Jonah Ray, Felicia Day, and THE Patton Oswalt.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) is a science fiction comedy series about mocking cheesy movies. MST3K followed the plight of Joel Robinson (played by Hodgson) who was shot into space by his mad scientist employers and forced to watch bad movies as part of a psychological experiment. To keep sane, Joel built two robot pals to keep him company. The audience of the show had to watch the movie right along with Joel and his robots. Over the course of two hours, viewers were entertained by one-liners being jabbed at the movies in question (a form of comedy referred to as “riffing”) as well as various colorful skits.
The only time you don’t have to yell “keep it down up front!”
The series lasted for ten seasons and played on Comedy Central and then the Sci-Fi Network in the 1990s. In its heyday, it even spawned a theatrical film release. Joel eventually moved on during the series’ fifth season and was replaced by the equally talented Mike Nelson. Although the series came to an end, the concept of movie riffing lived on in the internet age. Nelson and some of his MST3K alumni went on to form Rifftrax, while Hodgson and others went on to form Cinematic Titanic.
So let’s say you never saw the show before and want to get a primer on what you’ve missed out on, I’ve compiled a list of my top five favorite episodes. Also, if you wonder how the heck you can watch these episodes, you’re in luck! Shout! Factory, the company that has the rights to release episodes on DVD, also puts episodes online, for free, on YouTube! Most of the episodes I list in this article can be found there.
And, if you move fast, you can check out this year’s Turkey Day Marathon online. More information here.
“Manos” The Hands of Fate
No list of “must watch” MST3K episodes would be complete without at least a mention of “Manos” The Hands of Fate. Arguably the worst movie ever made, “Manos” was certainly the worst among all the films savaged by the MST3K cast. The film was made by Harold P. Warren, a fertilizer salesman from New Mexico who fancied himself a filmmaker. Apparently, Harold took the ingredients of his day job and used it in every aspect of the film. “Manos” follows a family who makes a wrong turn and ends up at a remote lodge where bizarre cultist calling himself the Master lives. The Master worships a deity called Manos, and with the aid of his big kneed assistant Torgo, he collects women to be part of his harem. If you can make it through this one, you’ll be just fine with the rest of the movies on this list.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
You mutilated my reindeer, I know some visitors that are getting lumps of coal for Christmas.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is the Cold War propaganda film that the whole family can enjoy! Picture the film Mars Needs Women, but instead of kidnapping women, the Martians kidnap Santa Claus and two annoying kids. Apparently, the children of Mars are losing any sort of joy in life, and only Santa Claus can make them learn to be children again. The biggest flaw in their plan, in my mind, is that they decided against the whole spirit of Christmas angle and went right for the rampant consumerism. Anyway, some of the Martians don’t like this plan and are trying to sabotage Christmas on Mars.
This episode of MST3K also contains the classic Christmas carol, “Let’s Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas This Year,” sure to be a classic in your home next time the holidays are around the corner.
This looks like the kind of car that has a lot of farts trapped in it.
Mitchell is a milestone episode that saw the departure of Joel Hodgson as the host of MST3K and Mike Nelson taking his place, and what a send-off film. Mitchell is a 70’s detective adventure that starts Joe Don Baker. The titular character of this movie is a greasy, beer swilling, womanizer who is pretty awful at his job. He’s like the disappointing love child of Dirty Harry and Nash Bridges. This sloppy mess tries to break up a drug deal in the most inept way possible. Joel and the Bots don’t pull any punches with this one, and you’re all the better for it.
Coming this fall: Werewolves in Cars getting Coffee.
Werewolf is the tale of a young writer who’s transformed into a werewolf. It’s one of those sleazy low-budget 90s films that tries to push pass a sub-par plot in the hopes that you’ll be distracted by the top-heavy actress and the sleazy guys who gawk over the poor girl. The special effects are laughably bad (see above), there are some very liberal pronunciations of the word “werewolf,” and they have an Estevez running around through some of the movie.
If you’re exhibiting road rage because of your own driving, it’s time to get some help.
Space Mutiny is a dreadful film that rips off stock footage from the Battlestar Galactica, is obviously shot in a cheap warehouse, and has all the continuity of an Alzheimer patient. The movie is set around the crew of the Southern Sun, a space ship carrying a crew of humans who have been in space for centuries trying to find a new world to call their own (sound familiar?) There is a crew of dissidents that want to take over and land on the nearest planet. There’s lots and lots of stock footage. It’s just so terrible. You’ll also love Mike and the Bots constantly coming up with the new names for the hero of the film.
So there you go: Five episodes to get you started. Hopefully, you’ll be watching MST3K in the not too distant future.