Have you ever shelled out seven dollars (or more) to see a movie, only
discover halfway through it that it really stinks? Did pride,
embarrassment or the loathing of wasting money keep you sitting in your
seat, silently, until its conclusion? Did you wish you could just take
your frustrations outat the film itself?
Well, a gaggle of talented, intrepid writers and comedians, mostly from
the frozen north of Minnesota, have made quite a nice living at doing just
that since 1988.
It was in that Olympic/election/leap year that Joel Hodgson, a prop comic
who logged four appearances on "Saturday Night Live" in the early 1980's
(when it was still funny), came up with the idea for "Mystery Science
Theater 3000", or "MST3K", as it has become affectionately known.
"It came from those old Warner Brothers' cartoons, where Bugs Bunny, or
some other character, would call out to a fictional audience, and a
silhoutted figure would rise up and answer them." said Hodgson. "I
figured, why not take that concept and apply it to reallly bad films. I
mean it's something we've all done at one time or another, anyway."
Hodgson's collaboration with Jim Mallon, a production manager at KTMA-TV
in Minneapolis, and two Twin City comedians, Trace Beaulieu and Josh
Weinstein, led to what was to become, at one time, the most popular show on
cable's Comedy Central (an off-shoot of The Comedy Channel and Ha!
The show features Hodgson (and later, Mike Nelson) and two robotic
puppets, Crow T. Robot (voice of Beaulieu) and Tom Servo (voiced in the
first season by Weinstein, and since by Kevin Murphy), wisecracking at the
expense of some of cinema's worst offerings. It has garnered a Peabody
Award, Emmy and Cable Ace nominations and an enthusiastic membership club
following of over 65,000 throughout the nation. Critics, such as Tom
Shales of "The Washington Post" have hailed it as "one of the best things
With such success, it was only logical that this program follow the lead
of other television shows to the big screen.
"Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie" opened at Hillcrest's Village
Cinema last week, and each show was packed with hundreds of "MiSTies", a
term used to describe die-hard fans of the show.
The picture's premise follows the TV show, with Beaulieu as Dr. Clayton
Forrester (a name taken from the lead character of
the 1954 classic, "War Of The Worlds")as an evil mad scientist, who has
sent Nelson into space to a satellite with the two robots to watch really
bad movies. This production enjoys a much bigger budget and is less
constricted by television mores and codes of conduct.
The cinematic scrathing post for this movie within a movie is the 1955
Universal Pictures release of "This Island Earth", starring Rex Reason,
Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue, and, briefly, Russell Johnson (best known as
"The Professor" on "Gilligan's Island"). This film which, in its own way,
is equally attractive for its often state-of-the-art technical effects and
somewhat literal script, and repulsive for its wooden acting, cheesy
monsters and Ed Wood, Jr.-type flying saucer scenes.
Such a production is ripe for the slings and arrows of the outrageous
fortunes of Mike, Tom and Crow, who, like us, just can't help heckling and
talking back to the screen during the film.
It's just that they're back up by a multitude of top-notch writers, making
practically every quip hilarious, by any standard, while we, as mere
mortals, would sound ridiculous by comparison.
And hilarious is the perfect description of the audience's reaction to 90
percent of the jokes. Woody Allen and Robert Altman should prayfor
laughter like this.
The film, in limited release, is currently only playing in Hillcrest, and
whether it goes the way of "It's Pat" or "The Fugitive" remains to be seen.
701-"Night Of The Blood Beast" (aka-"The
Creature From Galaxy 27")
(1958)-"Attack Of The Giant Leeches" director, Bernard L. Kowalski, is
back with this non-terrifying film about an astronaut (Michael Emmet-who
played "Cal" in "Leeches") who becomes impregnated by a giant paper-mache
parrot, and the "friends" who kill him in the end. Interesting pre-"Alien"
concept is undone by bad acting, shoddy direction and poor production
values. Ed Nelson ("Teenage Caveman", "Peyton Place"), John Baer ("Indian
Uprising") and Angela Greene ("The
Cosmic Man") complete the incompetent cast,and, as in "It Conquered The
World", supposed all-powerful alien is destroyed by fire. Overall riffing
is good, despite seeming pressed, at times. Episode debuted on Turkey Day
'95, so skits were re-
lated to a Thanksgiving party in Deep 13, as Dr. F tried to impress him
mother (Pearl), while Jack Perkins, the Kitten with a whip, Mr. Pitch and
Mr. B Natural look on. Funny sketches and bizarre, yet hilarious-MiSTed
short, "Once Upon A Honeymoon", give this one a B grade.
702-"The Brute Man" (1946)-One has to feel
genuine pity for Rondo Hatten,
once a handsome athlete for the University of Florida, who, after being
gassed in World War I, began to suffer the horrible effects of acromegaly
(the enlargement of the bones of the face, feet and hands). But Hollywood,
not a place to miss any opportunity for exploitation, and certainly with
Rondo's assistance, jumped on his deformity to make three films and a quick
buck. This last one, and featured Hatten as "The Creeper", who suffers a
disfiguring injury during a chemical explosion and kills those he feel were
responsible. Quite a stretch of imagination, considering what happened to
him. Creepy falls in love with a blind girl, and the message is, if you're
ugly, you are somehow less than human (unless someone can't SEE you).
Hatton is surprising good in his (very) limited role, but everyone else
(Tom Neal, Jane Adams, etc.) are as ham-fisted as Bill Buckner. Short,
"The Chicken Of Tomorrow" harkens back to the MST hey-day of "The Truck
Farmer" and "Out Of This World", and is excellently quipped. Great running
skit of oily jerk, "Sandy" (Paul Chapin), dating Pearl Forrester, before
being turned into a chicken by Clay. I give this one a B+.
703-"Deathstalker III: The Warriors From
Hell" (1989)-The third installment
of the "Deathstalker" series (made by the third different director) gives
Mike and Co. an opportunity to lambaste a film not unlike "The Cave
Dwellers" (see #301) and "The Outlaw (of Gor"), and since they've done it
before, the riffing is old hat and joyfully right on-target. John Allen
Nelson, who cannot act his way out a wet paper tunic, plays the title role
with just a bit of his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, while the other
cast members (Carla Herd, terry treas, Thom Christopher, et al) make this
the worst import from Mexico since diarrea and "Santa Claus". Even with
sub-par skits (The Renassaince Festival, among others) , I still have to
give this episode a solid B.
704-"The Incredible Melting Man" (1977)-Truly
awful entry into the
"astronaut goes into space and comes back deformed" genre (see "The
Crawling Hand", "Monster A Go-Go" and "Night Of The
Blood Beast"). This time, space jockey ( begins to melt (of course) after
a prolonged exposure to the atmosphere of Saturn. When he returns to
Earth, people start disappearing, heads begin to roll (literally) and soon,
a big fat general and a spineless NASA doctor become involved. Thrill as
major parts of drop off, leaving a trail of viscerus that is duly scooped
up by a black janitor at the film's conclusion. Bad acting, you're soaking
in it. Look for Academy Award-winning and Roger Corman-trained director,
Jonathan Demme ("Silence Of The Lambs") in a cameo role as an official, big
deal. Clever running skit has Dr. F and Pearl in charge of filming Crow's
"Earth vs. Soup" and concludes with "What I Learned (About the Film)
Was......". A "B-".
705-"Escape From The Bronx" (aka-"Escape
2000") (1985)-Totally unecessary
(and mislabled) Italian-made sequel to "1990:
The Bronx Warriors" (1983). Rondo Hatten-like Henry Silva appears as a
corporate exterminator hired to weed the Bronx of all its vermin so that a
new city can go up in its place. Led by non-talents Mark Gregory, Valeria
D' Obici (batwoman) and Timothy Brent, the vicious, ignorant, illeterate,
street gangs fight back. As displeasing to watch as a public execution, or
an episode of "The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air", but MiSTing is okay.
Clay puts his mother in a home is the funniest of mostly forgettable skits.
706-"Laserblast" (1978)-Extremely unappealing
and untalented teen (Kim
Milford-who makes Arch Hall, Jr. look like John Barrymore) finds a laser
cannon disgarded by two terribly lame alien puppets in the desert, and
before you can say "hackneyed and cliched", he begins to blast all of those
who wronged him in the past. A humiliated Roddy McDowall ("How Green Was My
Valley", "Night Gallery") and an embarrassed Keenan Wynn ("The Great Race",
"Dr. Strangelove") tag along at the end of their careers for a little
spending money, while no-names like Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith (frsh from her
appearance in "The Incredible Melting Man") and Eddie Deezen ("WarGames",
"Grease") join the pain. Decently
riffed, at times, but the sketches
(about the S.O.L. drifting off into a black hole, Mike and the 'Bots
becoming "pure energy" and Clay's "2001" starchild re-birth) are
well-produced, but strangly uninvolving. Please don't let the series on
this note. I have to give it a C.