With a record-setting Kickstarter campaign and a new cast, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is ready to make its return. But what should be on the docket for the upcoming 14-episode season? As someone who contributed .0000001 percent (or so), I feel it is my right and obligation to offer some suggestions. Here are five films that would fit in perfectly with the new MST3K, along with a bonus suggestion for the promised holiday episode!
When making this post, we did set a few ground rules. Movies riffed during the original run were off limits, as were ones that have been done by the successor spin-off groups, Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax. We tried to be realistic as far as rights go, so while Transformers, Attack of the Clones, and the Twilight movies are an unholy selection of terrible, riff-able movies, $6.3 million can go only so far. (Also, we have chosen to ignore these rules when necessary.)
The Green Slime
The very first episode of MST3K was Invaders from the Deep, broadcast on KTMA-23 (the ancestor of CW23) on Thanksgiving 1988. However, Joel Hodgson and crew had actually made a pilot previously to test out the concept using The Green Slime. It wasn’t a full riff. Hodgson and some proto-bots did a couple of host segments, and spent a few minutes in the theater, tossing out a jokes amid the on-screen action.
It was always a shame that they never returned to The Green Slime during the 11-year run of the original show, because it’s prime MST3K material. Astronauts on a groovy 1960's space station save the Earth from an approaching meteor, but they bring something back with them: the titular hued slime which quickly grows into a green monster that wrecks havoc. In other words, this is prime territory for riffing (and there's a super cool title song to boot).
The Chronicles of Riddick
Most modern Hollywood flicks are B-grade movies with bigger budgets. Vin Diesel's space-age meathead antihero is maybe the most B-movie of the lot, with a plot involving an undead space army and... you know what. That doesn't matter. The film makes little sense in its full-blown 119-minute run (or 135 if you brave the director's cut). Imagine what would happen if it had to be cut down to fit into the (we expect) 90-minute slot of MST3K? Pure incoherence on a Mighty Jack level.
Plenty of money was spent on actors will real pedigrees (even Dame Judi Dench, in a role she would likely want to scour from her c.v.) camping it up left and right. Riddick even outruns the rising sun in one scene (he'd get burned to death for.. oh, again, it doesn't matter why).
Birdemic: Shock and Terror
We'd break our own no-Rifftrax rule here. There are two towers of modern Z-grade movie crap: The Room and Birdemic: Shock and Terror. The Room has two demerits against it: long, loving shots of Tommy Wiseau's ass before, during, and after sex; and occasional snatches of competency (the opening shots of San Francisco, for example, are pretty nice to look at).
There are no such worries with Birdemic. Director James Nguyen appears to have never actually seen a movie before in his life, let alone showcase the skills to actually craft a coherent story out of the various bits of footage he shot. The actors often look like they are shocked to have been caught on camera, and instantly stiffen up in hopes that the lens will look at someone else. The special effects make one long for the graphic spectacle of the Atari 2600. There's a lot of talk about solar panels, and someone breaks off a conversation because he thinks he heard a mountain lion.
This is our era's Plan 9 from Outer Space or Manos: The Hands of Fate. Except those are both Casablanca in comparison.
Attack of the Crab Monsters
What would MST3K be without Roger Corman? The B-movie auteur toiled for days on his films, which in turn provided a bedrock of bad movies for the show during the classic era. It's unclear whether or not Hodgson would want to go down the Corman route again, after the troubles Cinematic Titanic had with another film from the director, The Wasp Woman. (Corman's lawyers served CT with a cease-and-desist letter, even though the film was in the public domain. In the end, an extra disclaimer was added that the much-more entertaining riffed version of the film had not been authorized by the original creators.)
Still, it might be worth it for this short, but-still-slow-moving giant monster movie. On a nameless Pacific island, a group of scientists and sailors/crab fodder arrive to investigate what happened to the previous expedition to the island. The film's title pretty much gives away what is responsible for the deaths, and the various characters meander around a set and a location while the crabs take their time and pick off each of them in turn.
As a bonus gift, the movie is only about an hour long, which would give our fresh crew a chance to tackle a short or two. Maybe they could even finish up the Commander Cody serial from the first season.
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
Cheesy-movie all-star John Phillip Law? Check. Goofy-but-impressive Ray Harryhausen special effects? Check. Future Doctor Who Tom Baker in skin-darkening makeup? Er, check to that too. There's actually quite a bit of talent here, and Harryhausen's work is always fun to watch, but it is the goofy tone that gives this movie such a warm glow.
The original show featured a trio of strange fantasies co-produced by teams from Finland and the Soviet Union, and there is a lot of the same confounding D.N.A. running through this film.
Christmas Episode: Santa with Muscles
There are plenty of terrible Christmas movies, but how many of them star Hulk Hogan? Putting Hogan in anything — a wresting program, TV commercial, sex tape — increases the cheese factor by a 1000. Now, what if I told you it also featured Ed Begley Jr. as an evil scientist, a bunch of Goonie-wannabe scamps, and an original cast member of Saturday Night Live? Alas, it's not Chevy Chase or the ghost of John Belushi, but Garrett Morris.
We're not sure if all of this will leave people with warm holiday memories, but the rights likely would be cheap, as it made less than a quarter-million dollars when it was released in 1996. In other words, a fraction of what Hodgson and Co. were able to raise on the promise of entertainment over the course of a month.
Taping will start on the new shows early next year, with a target of next fall for the premiere.