I was introduced to “Mystery Science Theater 3000” back in the nineties when it was on Comedy Central. It was a show where you’d sit down to watch a guy and two robots mock a really bad movie. You weren’t just the spectator, but you got to laugh along with them, and could even mock along with them. It lasted ten years, and it still hasn’t quite worn its welcome with fans. We followed the show from Comedy Central in America to Syfy, and mourned its end. We still mourn its end. At last, we present to you our definitive list of “Our Top Ten Mystery Science Theater 3000” episodes of all time. These episodes can be purchased from Shout! Factory, or if not available, can be found on Youtube and other online video sites.
Feel free to list your own in the comments! Without further ado.
“Mitchell. Even his name says “Is that a beer?”” Poor Joe Don Baker. First he stars as an action hero in the “Walking Tall” movies and then stars in “Mitchell” only to be lampooned by the satellite of love, who go to town on the man for his weight. Though I’m not one to enjoy jokes about one’s girth, the jabs at Joe Don Baker in “Mitchell” are hysterical. The movie–co-starring Martin Balsam and Jon Saxon–is bad and ineptly made enough, we’re supposed to believe this large man is something of a stealth rebel? Much of the humor is made around Joe Don Baker’s character asking about food, even when he’s interrogating a criminal in his home, and you can’t help laughing at the panting noises the guys make whenever Don Baker engages in an action scene.
There are some wonderful nuggets of comedy including “I’m the chubby blue line!” and when there’s an unusual focus on tense “action packed” car chases on highways, they proclaim “Tense merging action!” This also marks the last time we ever saw Joel Hodgson on the series, as he moved on and Mike Nelson replaced him. Here he’s a repairman duped in to going aboard the Satellite of Love and just takes over for Joel. It’s funny, in the first episodes he’s a man tricked in to going aboard, and once Pearl came along, he’s a man held prisoner and forced in to movies. In the early days the movies just started spontaneously.
9. Horror of Party Beach
One of the many goofy beach blanket bingo horror movies, “The Horror of Party Beach” is a goofy tale of teens partying in the sun, and ridiculous monsters wreaking havoc. Most of the film is terribly written, and utterly stupid, and the guys on the Satellite of Love have a ball bashing the idiocy that occurs, including the really bad death scenes, the terrible underwater footage, and the shockingly awkward musical numbers that end in goofy beach fights. It’s tough to be scared of monsters with googly eyes, and this episode is consistently funny in showing why the creatures here are utterly awful.
8. I Was a Teenage Werewolf
Yet another classic horror film I’ve never been fond of, the guys have a field day with this lame teen pandering werewolf film. Michael Landon is a young man with emotional regression that, thanks to hypnotism and an experimental serum, turns him in to a wolf, man. Groovy. There are a lot of hilarious jabs at Landon’s days on “Bonanza,” and much of the goofy perspective shots from the werewolf’s view is lampooned ad hilarity. The guys always worked best when mocking these goofy monster movies, and “I was a…” is one of their best.
7. The Final Sacrifice
“You know this has the bacony stink of Canada all over it.” This Canadian horror fantasy cheapie was watched almost ten times a week by me back when the series was on television. Not surprisingly, the guys have a ball bashing the film, from the poor editing, the tedious pacing, and the French Canadian names of the crew, including Greidanus (“He comes from a history of Greid Anuses”), and Bharbara (“That’s an illegal use of a silent consonant.”). “The Final Sacrifice” is a torturous movie experience, but the wonderful Canada bashing really does make the experience laugh out loud hysterical. Especially the barbs about the poor special effects and horrific acting.
“Laserblast” is Charles Band before Full Moon came along and made low budget cheese a lot of fun. The plot is nonsensical, the special effects stink, and even I have to take issue with Eddie Deezen being used as a bully for our whiny protagonist. No offense, Eddie. “Laserblast” is a goofy and ridiculous movie about a young man who obtains an alien blaster and begins wreaking revenge on his bullies. And for some reason Roddy McDowell appears for ten minutes just to die. One of the better moments of the viewing is during the closing credits when the guys go in to the Leonard Maltin review book and find out which great movies he gave less stars than “Laserblast.”
He gave it two and a half stars, shocking enough. Why? Some of the best jabs are at the sheer tedium of “Laserblast” including the endlessly long shots that offer nothing to the story, and the meaningless melodrama. At one point Mike says “So we’re watching someone waiting for someone.” And you can’t help but laugh at the pan shot that shows the film crew reflected in a gas meter window. It’s a capital A awful movie, but it’s one of the best episodes.
5. Puma Man
What’s the point of introducing a superhero only for him to do nothing for literally the entire movie? The season nine episode set on “Puma Man,” is one of the funniest episodes of the series dead set on a ridiculous movie. With a horrific superhero. And to make things worse he has an Aztec sidekick who does all of the work for him throughout the film (“I’ll go mess up and you come save me.”). Co-starring Donald Pleasance, “Puma Man” is a stupid movie that just didn’t get how stupid it ended up.
Thankfully the guys are here to smash this attempted superhero movie to pieces with their constant mispronunciation of the hero’s moniker, and their awe at the sloppily filmed flight scenes where character fall in wrong angles and slow speeds. To make sure we’re aware he’s a Puma Man, he flies at criminals with hands open like paws (“Grrr! I’m a deadly puma, be frightened of me!”). Forget his ridiculous costume and lack of secret identity. He’s often too slow to keep his Aztec sidekick from getting beaten near death, and can barely dodge a slow moving Donald Pleasance and his magic mask. You also have to love how his Aztec sidekick tests his hero’s powers by tossing him out of a window. And who can forget the inexplicable mirror ball UFO?
“Can we have a rule that films have to be made by filmmakers?!” The first five minutes of the movie is spent by Tom and Crow trying to escape the theater as Mike has to wrangle them back to their seats making them watch the movie. That’s a surefire sign that “Hobgoblins” is an experience you won’t soon forget. And if the suffering you endure isn’t bad enough, mid-way in to the movie, Mike creates wooden cutouts of himself, Tom, and Crow and evades the torture for a better portion of the episode. And who can blame them?
“Hobgoblins” is quite possibly the worst “Gremlins” clone ever made, and as a film it’s so utterly inept it can’t even afford to feature its hand puppet monsters for at least half of the film. Thankfully, it’s a bad movie that the directors don’t seem to know is bad, so the group not only are able to garner some incredible laughter, but sadly suffer through the duration of it. Whether it’s the popular night club obviously composed of a decorated gymnasium, or the hilariously bad fight scene involving garden rakes on a front lawn, “Hobgoblins” is the worst of the “Gremlins” clones that is clearly some of the best from the Mike and the guys.
3. Manos The Hands of Fate
“Manos” is a deeply troubled film with a sad history, but that didn’t stop it from being one of the funniest episodes of the series. Arguably the most famous episode of the series, “Manos” is a redundant and incredibly boring horror film about a family that runs afoul a satanic priest and his goofy sidekick Torgo. Joel and his bots have a good time with the poorly crafted farce of a film, as there are minutes of characters doing nothing but driving through scenic country sides, and an odd sub-plot involving a young couple making out almost non-stop throughout the movie.
Torgo’s over acting also provides some of the best material, as he harbors an odd obsession with the family’s mother. Mike Nelson, future replacement host of the show, cameos mid-way giving a hilarious impression of Torgo who happens to be a pizza delivery man. This is another of the many MST3K episodes that garnered almost too much laughter from me, and it’s rightfully one of the most beloved episodes of the series run.
2. Space Mutiny
Nothing ever became of the cast of performers in “Space Mutiny”? The hell, you say. “Space Mutiny” is one of the many “Star Wars” knock offs so incredibly bad and poorly directed, that it’s a comedy with or without the Mike and his robot pals. Watch the climactic chase that launches at two miles per hour! Gasp at the characters that die only to re-appear later in the film as extras. And you have to enjoy the awkwardly written and paced dialogue. The guys go to town on this movie, noting all of the ridiculous plot holes and settings, while mocking Reb Brown whose performance is a notch above abysmal. As Dave Ryder, he’s a beef head space hero who does little but flex his muscles and screech in odd moments.
There’s also the hilarious pointing out that for a high tech space ship, it’s unusual they have a boiler room that seems very twentieth century (“Ha ha, good, good. Back to the rusting septic system of this FUTURISTIC SPACESHIP!”). There’s also the villain who is consistently stunned, to which the guys insist he’s trying to force his skull out of his skin. And who can forget the constant nickname’s for Brown’s numbskull superhero? “Rip Slagcheek”! “Punch Sideiron”! “Gristle McThornBody”! “Slake Fistcrunch”! “Buff Hardback”! “Bob Johnson, oh wait..”! “Blast Thickneck”! “Crunch Buttsteak”! “Slab Squatthrust”! “Lump Beefbroth”! “Touch Rustrod”! “Reef Blastbody”! “Big McLargeHuge”! Regardless of how many times you’ve seen it, it just never stops being funny.
1. A Case of Spring Fever
No springs! From the episode where they lampoon “Squirm,” this final entry is a bit of a cheat, but since Shout! keeps releasing the shorts as separate DVD releases, I think this warrants respect all on its own. Originally I saw this short only through Youtube thanks to my uncle, an equally hardcore MST3K fan. We sat and watched the whole thing and mid-way I had to stop and catch my breath because I was laughing so much. “A Case of Spring Fever” is one of the many ridiculous short films about the importance of a seemingly minute part of life. When a man wishes there were no more springs, a spring sprite named coiley appears to show him how his wish fared. The short is so badly directed, and horribly ridiculous that the Satellite of Love fellas are able to go to town on it with one hysterical one-liner after the other.
The jokes come rapid fire, so it’s hard to capture every joke when you’re laughing almost non-stop. It just makes no sense that a man would wish for a world without springs, and it makes even less sense he’d be punished for it, so the guys attribute him to a demon, and end the short with “Look! There’s Coiley’s Army of Darkness!” Though many will argue that there are so many more candidates for the number one spot, “A Case of Spring Fever” is a non-stop laugh riot that takes a stupid short film about the value of springs, and turns it in to a demented dark comedy. I feel sorry for folks with asthma because when the guys are on, they deliver so many raucous jokes, you have to inevitably break mid-way to catch your breath and gather yourself. “A Case of Spring Fever” just works with me, and leaves me whimpering with laughter. My favorite line has to be: “So… one clod says one thing, and the whole world pays?”