The Essential MST3K
By Tate Blackmore
From the heart of Mystery Science Theater 3000's long run, Millionaire Playboy, with help from Chris "Sampo" Cornell, co-maintainer of the Satellite News web site, counts down the top ten episodes every fan needs to laugh at and suffer through!
Check out the complete episode information for each movie from MST3kinfo.com at the end of each entry.
Episode #515: The Wild World of Batwoman
This black and white mess of a vampire/hippie a-go-go movie might be one of the more painful flicks to start off with but the riffing from Crow, Servo, and Mike (only his third episode as host) is all around solid. Although, picking this particular episode out of all of season 5 (possibly the strongest) may have a lot do with personal bias (yes, even for a top ten list). Back in 1989, my friend's mom bought this movie for us because she thought it was Batman-related. We soon learned better and shut it off after about fifteen minutes. Yet, I've seen the MST3K version more than a few times, which, considering how bad this movie is, proves how great the writing was. Any sane person that has seen one of these movies by itself would happily agree with me.
Episode: #806: The Undead
One of the biggest debates between MST3K fans is the Joel/Mike question. However, in late 1997, when the show moved from Comedy Central to the Sci-Fi channel, many argued that their best days were behind them. The Undead shows Mike and crew in fine form. In this Roger Corman flick, a beefy-chinned scientist sends a hooker back in time to her past life through hypnosis. All hell breaks loose when the devil himself shows up in a Robin Hood feathered cap and has a pointy, off-center Adam's apple, creepier than all of the occult references in the movie. And of course, Mike is just as freaked out by it as he pokes and prods at it. As for the host segments, Cornell says, "Some funny stuff, but the show ends with a LONNNG bit that divided MSTies at the time--some found it hilarious, others found it a long walk down a short pier." I guess the debates continue.
Episode #516: Alien From L.A.
Like The Princess Diaries and She's All That, this flick tries to convince us that a girl with a high-pitched voice and nerd glasses could never be hot. Supermodel Kathy Ireland is a klutzy dork searching for her father in an underground city filled with Australians and ends up smokin' hot in a bikini. Mike and the Bots have a ball with this one. And as always, the best segments spoof the movie as Servo and Crow play "The Kathy Ireland Fabulous Range of Emotions Acting Guessing Game." One of the best things about this show is that when the credits roll (on the show, not the movie), you have to remember not to change the channel before the stinger. In this episode it's Kathy squealing, "Yuk!" It's always fun try and guess what the stinger will be. Though, it was particularly hard to do for Alien From L.A., considering it provided enough stingers for damn near the entire season.
Episode #319: War of the Colossal Beast
This experiment, a sequel to The Amazing Colossal Man (Episode #309), is notable for the short at the beginning: Mr. B Natural. This dizzying sing-along of sexual confusion features a leggy Peter Pan-type teaching us about music. Needless to say, Joel and the bots' reactions are priceless. In more awkwardness, Mike is shirtless when imitating Glenn Manning, The Colossal Man in one hilarious segment. This is truly an episode for the stout of heart.
Episode #813: Jack Frost
Although we all would love to see the Best Brains crew take a stab at that Michael Keaton horror where he turns into a snowman, it isn't that Jack Frost. This Jack Frost is a grating fairy tale involving a babe named Nastinka, a Prince Valiant-hared nimrod who gets turned into a bear by a mushroom, and an old guy named Jack Frost who shows about an hour in. "This episode pleased a lot of longtime fans because the movie harkened back to the trilogy of Russo-Finnish films the show did in the Comedy Central era," Cornell says. "This one had the same frostbitten Eurasian zaniness, with a little of Santa Claus [Episode #521] thrown in for good measure. The riffing is first-rate." And while previous host Joel seemed to wink at us through his deadpanned performance to let us know that we're watching a puppet show, Mike's hilarious Lord of the Dance opening segment in this episode convinces us that he really thinks he's stranded on a satellite with two robots. All around, one of the strongest Sci-Fi channel episodes.
Episode #303: Pod People
Ah, the psychedelic fun you can have with a long-snouted alien named Trumpy. That is, until his crazy ass friends start tearing up glitzy, vacationing rock bands and a Leslie Neilson-looking poacher. As this movie jump cuts from the mountains to a recording studio to ten minute shots of big glowing red things, it gets foggier and foggier, prompting Servo to quip, "Even the movie Fog didn't have this much fog!" Cornell says, "[This is] an episode from the heart of the Joel era; it's well-loved by the old timers. Stunning fact--this episode was made during the FIRST George Bush Administration. A little reminder of how long this show has been on TV."
Episode #903: Puma Man
Actor Donald Pleasence, the sweet blind guy from The Great Escape, is the sinister villain Kobras, sporting frumpy leather in this zany punch-up of a superhero stinker. Though Kobras is a cunning foe, he is no match for Tony Farms, the mild-mannered scientist proven to be the soaring Aztec hero in pressed JC Penney khakis, the Puma Man, after being thrown out of a window. "This episode is well-loved by fans; especially well-remembered are the lyrics Mike and Bots put to the lame little Puma Man jingle that is repeated endlessly in the movie," Cornell states. "Puma Man, he flies like a moron!" the crew sings, as the Puma Man thrashes through the air like he's drowning in a lake. On the skit side, Crow and Servo mimic the movie's ridiculous plot of making paper mache heads of world leaders and using it to control their thoughts, by making a head of folkie Roger Whitaker (Kevin Murphy) and sic him on Mike.
Episode #321: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Don't be fooled by the title of this movie! It sounds like cheesy fun but it's really enough to make you want to stab the center of your eyeball with a bent-up paperclip. Joel and the Bots really give this one a shellacking, especially the Martians in their revealing jumpsuits and the theme song, "S-A-N-T-A, C-L-A-U-S, Hooray for Santy Claus." And speaking of songs, this episode features a true classic: Crow's, A Patrick Swayze Christmas. Overall a tough experiment, but St. Nick fails to conquer the Satellite of Love.
[Ed note: my favorite episode ever, AND it features a young Pia Zadora]
Episode #512: Mitchell
Despite MST3K's well scripted banter referencing everything from L. Ron Hubbard to Counting Crows to the movie Mannequin, Joel, Servo, and Crow manage to reduce most of the jokes in this episode to one word: Mitchell! And it's funny every time. The title refers to cooked, chewed-up, and spit-out cop Mitchell, played by the very doughy Joe Don Baker. This movie is a swirling hangover of beer cans and half-eaten chicken legs wrapped in a funky 1970's package, with Linda Evans as hooker to boot! "Mitchell is a crucial episode in the series, and probably the most famous--the episode in which Joel Hodgson departs the series and we get our first look at new host Mike Nelson," explains Cornell. "Watch carefully, during the famous Mitchell versus the annoying kid scene--Joel quietly sighs and puts his head in his hands. He's tired."
Episode #424: Manos: The Hands of Fate
For all MST3K fans, this is the rite of passage! If you can survive Manos, you can survive anything. Word on the street is, even the Best Brains crew themselves had trouble making it through this one, which probably prompted the series' first apology by Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank. Roughly translated, the movie's title is Hands: The Hands of Fate. A shot of someone's hands for two hours would be more entertaining. "The movie is a blurry, nauseating mess, made for about $30 by an El Paso fertilizer salesmen and his friends, about a stupid, incompetent family that gets lost on a car trip and decides to stop for the night at a nice little place right near the mouth of hell," Cornell summarizes. "Manos: The Hands of Fate is probably the most infamous episode of the entire series, featuring one of the worst movies ever made, and I'm not kidding. Most MSTies consider this a graduate-level episode. DO NOT show it to people who have never seen the show before, unless your goal is to make sure they never want to watch it again." Cornell adds, "Other 'graduate-level' episodes: "Red Zone Cuba," "The Creeping Terror" and "Castle of Fu Manchu."
Check out our interview with Mystery Science Theater 3000's own Mike Nelson.
Stop by and check out the wealth of information at the Satellite News, MST3kinfo.com
The Official MST3K website on Sci-Fi Channel
All movies and characters are property their respective owners. This review is © 2003 MillionairePlayboy.com and can not be reproduced without permission.