Thursday, November 23, 2006

We Gather Together To Watch Cheesy Movies

One of my fonder memories from earlier Thanksgivings is the Comedy Central Turkey Day marathon, featuring 24+ hour marathons of one of the best comedy shows of all time, MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. A brilliant variant on the defunct late night horror shows that used to play on local television, the show, for those who aren't familiar, first featured Joel Hodgson as Joel Robinson, a janitor shot into space by mad scientists and forced to watch bad movies, with the company of twin jokester robots Tom Servo (voiced first by Josh Weinstein, later Kevin Murphy) and Crow T. Robot (Trace Beaulieu, later Bill Corbett). Throughout the movie, Joel/Mike and the 'bots make clever wisecracks. The show was unceremoniously canned by Comedy Central in '96 (it moved to the Sci-Fi Channel, where it ran for three more years before being cancelled for good), but hopefully MSTies will keep the Turkey Day tradition alive. Here are some prime recommendations.

"POD PEOPLE"- The film, an odd Spanish monster movie with a heavy E.T. influence and a title that has nothing to do with anything, is just goofy and campy enough to be a good starter for non-fans. Some terrific host segments as well, especially Joel and the Bots' movie-inspired nonsense song. "It Stinks!"

"MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE"- Consistently rated as the worst film the boys have ever watched, which may well be true- it's a weird mix of boring and sleazy, shot on a silent camera with poorly dubbed-in dialogue and a strangely jazzy score. It's something about a family lost in the desert and an evil cultist and his giant-kneed friend. The episode also features part of "Hired!", a Chevrolet sales motivational short. "Every shot in this film looks like somebody's last known photograph."

"CAVE DWELLERS"- one of the ATOR movies, featuring Miles O' Keefe as a beefy warrior in a fantasy world which resembles Spain or possibly Italy. Some of the plot's absurdities (including a flight in an "improvised" glider) inspire choice rants, and there's a brilliant host segment in which our hosts recreate the opening credits by dressing up as the characters from the movie and basically gadding about in slow motion while synth music plays. You kinda have to see it.

"GODZILLA VS. MEGALON"- pick up the box set (Vol. 10) containing this one NOW (well, Friday), as it's been recalled over a rights dispute probably involving this movie. This is another one that's not too painful for the uninitiated- Godzilla is always fun- and the quipping actually makes for a better movie somehow.

"MONSTER A GO-GO"- The second-most-frequently-cited candidate for "worst movie they ever did", this slow, bizarre attempt at a monster movie is notable for its horrid production values (at one point, a phone ringing is conveyed by someone off-camera simply making a "brring" sound), plot points taking place entirely in narration, and a complete non-ending that goes to insane lengths to justify itself. This is for the die-hards.

"OVERDRAWN AT THE MEMORY BANK"- Raul Julia stars in an almost entirely incoherent sci-fi thriller produced for public television. There's too much weirdness going on for it not to be funny.

"SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS"- a good one to get you in that holiday spirit. Santa is kidnapped by Martians who want to bring Christmas to Mars- that's pretty much all you need to know, but the host segments feature Crow T. Robot's timeless carol "Let's Have A Patrick Swayze Christmas".

"THE WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN"- A dark horse in the "worst film EVER" sweepstakes, this attempt at emulating the then-ultra-hep Batman TV show is a train wreck of awful humor and incoherent zaniness, redeemed only slightly by the abundant bikini girls. It's the kind of film that makes you realize how short-sighted people are when they proclaim the latest tepid movie they've seen as the worst film ever. We know better, for we have gazed into the abyss.

"SPACE MUTINY"- A very cheap attempt at space opera (so cheap that all the spaceship effects were lifted from the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA- strangely enough, the MST writers failed to notice this), this film is about something happening on a space liner with some telepathic women and an evil guy and I dunno. Really, see it for the endless railing kills, the decidedly old-looking love interest, and the cavalcade of brilliant action hero names for our ultra-beefy protagonist (I prefer "Big McLargeHuge").

"WILD REBELS"- Odd stab at the biker movie genre featuring a particularly ineffectual protagonist hired to infiltrate "Satan's Angels." There's an annoyingly catchy surf tune, ludicrously stereotyped bikers, and an attempt to rob a bank that has to have at least $10 in cash on hand. The commercial for "Wild Rebels Cereal" is also a highlight.

Rhino continues to put out sets as soon as they can get the rights to the movies mocked, and for the others, the guys at Best Brains have given their tacit approval to the MST3K Digital Archive Project, which offers bootleg DVDs of unreleased episodes. Episodes sometimes pop up on Youtube as well (perish the thought.) So enjoy.

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