Returning to Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return

I forget who said it, exactly, but it helps in one’s appreciation of good food to eat crap food sometimes. If one swims in high art without every once in a while redefining one’s frame of reference, the best becomes average, and there is no appreciation for just how great the great really is. Mystery Science Theater 3000 has always been the Tapatio of bad films: a dash makes nearly everything palatable (I’m looking at you, Monster a Go-Go (1965)). So I was pretty darned stoked when Netflix Returned to the series after a too-long hiatus. Gone were hosts Joel (although Joel Hodgson did direct these Season 11 episodes) and Mike, back was the Invention Exchange, and the series’ bootstrapped cardboard aesthetic was back in welcome force. New host Jonah’s (we hardly knew ye) propensity for musical interludes was, admittedly, a tad distracting – it was clearly a source of comfort for the creative staff, and a device to fall back on when the films’ badness became too unwieldy (most films this season seemed to come from the worst of Roger Corman’s wheelhouse from American International Pictures and New World Pictures). Yet still, I only hope Netflix makes a matching contribution to the Kickstarter that built this new incarnation, so we can get more riff on with a season 12.

(Image: Slate, Netflix)

While marathon-viewing this season I kept brief notes on each film, scribbled in delirium (and kept on my Criticker profile), edited below for clarity:

Reptilicus (1961)

The Danish attempt at a monster movie ranks low on the suspense, but high on the unintentionally hilarious misogyny! The monster idea is halfway decent, unfortunately – remake! remake I say!

Cry Wilderness (1987)

Easily one of the more objectively “polished,” visually, of the MST3K lampoons. The whole movie you’re like, “Wow! What a great vista. Yep, still shit.”

The Time Travelers (1964)

Full of awkward moments. Like when you dead on recognize Oskar Fischinger’s sound/light installation the Lumigraph in a groovy bar makeout scene (see above). Or you awkwardly see Vilmos Zsigmond in the credits as the cinematographer, and try not to make eye contact, like when you accidentally see your mom at a dive bar. Or you check the dates and see the ideas for Lost in Space and Star Trek: Space Seed may have been cribbing this, like when you flee the bar you wonder if your dad really is your dad.

Avalanche (1978)

Jaw-droppingly idiotic. It’s like the bulleted list for a disaster flick seen through a fun house mirror: everything’s there, but it’s distorted or in the wrong place. Seeing a young Robert Forster rebounding Mia Farrow from Rock Hudson is not a career highlight for any of the actors. It comes off callous, and you wish the snow would wipe off the ick.

The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956)

Ah, the great American frontier! A vast untamed wilderness full of cattle rustling, social intrigue, love trianglOH MY GOD IS THAT A DINOSAUR F*&% RUN FOR YOUR LIVES

Starcrash (1978)

I knew everything before it happened. The dead came back to life and those I loved died before I recognized their passing. It was as if… my mind… oh, God! my mind!… could halt the flow of time. Time is no longer, and I no longer feel. I am finally free of this frail corporal form. With Starcrash I achieved singularity. I float in the great Abyss.

The Land That Time Forgot (1975)

Hello. I’m Doug McClure. You might remember me from such television specials as, “Don’t Ask Me, Ask God” and “The Garry Shandling Show: 25th Anniversary Special”. But I tell you what you won’t remember: “The Land That Time Forgot”. Unlike what I hear from my probation officer, some mistakes really can be forgotten. Especially after 5-to-10 and, if I may say so, rather excellent behavior.

The Loves of Hercules (1960)

The fact that Hercules and his “loves” each behave like serial rapists is actually pretty funny once you realize our creepy bustacular Hero is the real-life father of Mariska Hargitay.

Yongary: Monster from the Deep (1967)

A dollar store Godzilla faces off against a kid with a diabolical itch ray death gun – for the fate of Seoul, they decide to hold a dance-off.

Wizards of the Lost Kingdom (1985)

Lord of the Rings : The Legend of Zelda :: Wizards of the Lost Kingdom : Quest 64

Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II (1989)

“I never thought I would miss Kor and Simon.” So bad I hardly noticed that was indeed David Carradine

Carnival Magic (1981)

A rather magnificent piece of Americana trash that plays at times like a family-oriented remake of Freaks starring porn actors (this may or may not include the talking chimp. Frankly, nothing surprises me anymore. My soul is a vapid wasteland). I kinda liked this movie.

The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t (1966)

Makes several huge missteps, but I’ll be absolutely damned to perdition if I didn’t have genuine feels during the film’s conclusion. The rifftrak couldn’t diminish that. It’s embarrassingly naive in a way that may be objectively bad, yet makes perfect sense. I mean it’s Christmas for Christ’s sake.

At the Earth’s Core (1976)

Hello. I’m Doug McClure. You might remember me from such films as, “The Man Who Understood Women” and “Because They’re Young”. Although my latest film, “At the Earth’s Core”, is a rollicking, sleeveless, sexy good time, remember kids: the Hollow Earth Theory is no laughing matter. I’m legally obligated by the terms of my parole to remind all you young whippersnappers out there: there’s nothing to look into here. You live at the zenith of civilization. Enjoy the show.

(P.S. Of course I don’t own any of the above pictures or videos. I share because they need to be shared.)

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