All fans of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” remember the first time they watched Joel or Mike and the bots ridicule a poorly made piece of cinema. The TV glued that moment onto their brains the way Guy Pierce covered his body with permanent Post-it notes in “Memento.”
My old man and I were spending a lazy Saturday night looking for something to watch when a strange movie on Comedy Central stopped his incessant channel surfing. It was some B-movie schlock about aliens with long snouts that hard-core film fans would easily recognize as the classic episode “The Pod People.”
The movie wasn’t the most interesting part. Our attention was drawn to the strange silhouettes of a man and two weird-looking puppets sitting in the front row of a theater at the bottom of the screen. They were talking back to the movie, and unlike those annoying teenagers who seem to inhabit every movie theater in the country, they were actually funny.
We watched every episode we could find. We scheduled meals, Little League games and family events, including weddings, around the TV schedule. If this really was the master plan of maniacal scientists trying to enslave the world, we would gladly give up Earth just so we could watch what they would do to “Hercules Unchained.”
Now MST3K is coming back thanks to the show’s original host and creator Joel Hodgson and a very successful Kickstarter campaign fueled by some loyal fans. Any movie buff knows there are still plenty of bad movies out there that deserve to get the MST3K treatment. Here are seven of those stinkers.
1. “Yor, the Hunter from the Future”
One of the great things about a show like MST3K is that it doesn’t just feature bad science fiction films. It can feature all sorts of genres and styles so long as they’re terrible and the rights to purchase them don’t cost as much as the GDP of a small South American country.
The people who made this dud don’t seem sure what genre they want it to be. “Yor” starts as a prehistoric adventure movie, but it morphs into science fiction when UFOs and technological warfare are shoved into the plot. They should have called this one, “Yor, the Warrior from…Squirrel!”
2. “The Navy vs. the Night Monster”
You can’t have a new season of MST3K without at least one cheap monster movie with creatures that look like they were made by kindergartners who ate too much paste.
This uncredited Roger Corman schlock-fest looks like a poor ripoff of Howard Hawks’ classic 1951 horror film “The Thing from Another World.” However, the terrifying plant monster has been replaced with laughable killer trees that are replanted following a plane crash in the remote South Pacific. You know a movie needs to be mocked when the victims can literally be outsmarted by trees.
3. “Hercules in New York”
One of the true joys of watching the original run of MST3K was coming across a movie featuring a young movie star in something even worse than their biggest bomb such as a young Demi Moore in “Master Ninja I” or a pre-balding Ron Howard in “Village of the Giants.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger had an early infamous shot at playing Hercules that failed on almost every level. Director Arthur Allan Seidelman dubbed over all of Schwarzenegger’s lines for the first cut because he was worried the audience wouldn’t understand Schwarzenegger’s dialogue. Schwarzenegger also had yet to learn that acting schools were a thing. He also probably didn’t learn how to read English by then because the script is horrible.
4. “The Giant Claw”
You can’t go wrong with a giant animal movie. If it works, it’s scary and exciting. If it doesn’t, it’s hilarious. The fact that it cost millions of dollars to produce makes it downright hysterical.
This infamous dud from 1957 about a giant bird that tries to peck away at humanity could have been great if producer Sam Katzman hired special effects master Ray Harryhausen like he planned. Instead, he got cheap and hired a studio from Mexico to produce a marionette puppet of a giant, angry bird for his movie. Putting the puppet next to toy trains and tiny building models just makes the whole movie funnier with every frame. The film looks like a Six Flags puppet show for children designed to teach them about the end times.
5. “Mazes and Monsters”
Imagine watching Jonah and the bots ridicule one of the worst films from the career of Tom Hanks, one of the most celebrated actors of our time. “Mazes and Monsters” will make you wish they could take back one of his Oscars.
The then-unknown Hanks got an early shot at movie stardom in 1982 when he won the leading role in a weird made-for-TV movie about a group of RPG-playing college students (the game isn’t named Dungeons & Dragons for copyright reasons) who decide to take their favorite game to an actual cave where the game’s villains come to life. They have to use their plus-2 charisma powers to survive what may or may not be a mental ordeal. Come to think of it, “mental ordeal” is a pretty good way to describe what it feels like to watch this movie.
6. “Mac and Me”
Remember the first time you saw “E.T.” and cried in that final scene when E.T. bids farewell to Elliot? “Mac and Me” made my parents cry at the end when they realized they paid actual money to sit through this mindless, appalling film.
The whole movie is just one giant commercial for McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and any other food or beverage seen on the screen. Even if you take out the blatant product placements, you’ve still got an incompetent film about an alien who looks like an unformed fetus trying to find his family by befriending a boy in a wheelchair named Eric. Some scenes can make the world’s least shameless person feel dirty, such as the dance number in a McDonald’s featuring Mac disguised as a horrifying teddy bear made out of shag carpet and Eric suddenly rolling off a cliff, a scene that Paul Rudd still uses as his promo clip every time he has a movie to plug on Conan O’Brien’s talk show.
7. Roger Corman’s “Fantastic Four”
It’s tempting to suggest a beloved big-budget Marvel Universe movie like “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” or the latest “Fantastic Four” reboot for a MST3K screening. Those, however, would cost way too much money, and even if the show could afford to buy the rights, the Walt Disney Company would send its army of anthropomorphic brooms to descend upon the MST3K offices and take the film back by force. However, there is a way for Jonah and his buddies to mock a Marvel movie that’s much more affordable and extremely abominable.
A German film company called Constantin Film bought the rights to The Fantastic Four from Marvel Comics in the mid-1980s for a rock-bottom price. Producer Bernd Eichinger held on to those rights too long, and when Marvel wouldn’t grant him an extension, he decided to make a cheap, quick “Fantastic Four” movie before his ownership period ended. So he teamed up with Roger Corman’s now-legendary New Horizons studio to produce a super cheap and super bad “Fantastic Four” movie. Years later, 20th Century Fox would prove that you can still accomplish the same level of suck with a “Fantastic Four” movie even if you’ve got plenty of time, Marvel’s foolish permission and millions more for your budget.
Which movie would you like to see Jonah and the bots take on in the new season of “MST3K”? Post it below in the comments.