Comedy

Ranking Every MST3K Episode, From Worst to Best

Comedy Lists best mst3k episodes
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137. Ep. 611, Last of the Wild Horses, 1948

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “Ah, Albert Glasser, the man who holds you down and pummels you with music.”

Last of the Wild Horses is one of the few MST3k episodes that truly deviates from the typical formula in a substantial, historic way, and it can’t help but be fascinating for that reason. When the Mads send up a “matter transference” device up to the SOL, a resulting splinter/parallel universe is created, Star Trek-style, wherein Mike and the Bots take on the role of the Mads, complete with goatees. Dr. F and Frank, meanwhile, are up on the SOL, and Trace Beaulieu in particular is brilliant in the way he satirizes the prior earnestness and positive disposition of Joel in particular. We even get a full fourth of the film (a fairly bland western) riffed by the Mads instead of our normal cast, who sit on the opposite side of the theater in true Mirror Universe fashion. This entire first quarter is the highlight, as Dr. F and Frank make for a compelling riffing duo, easily holding their own against the show’s own high standards. The rest of the episode brings things back down to Earth, but Last of the Wild Horses is ultimately a must-watch just because it’s one of only two episodes to flip the Mads/riffers relationship, with hilarious results.


136. Ep. 417, Crash of the Moons, 1954, /w General Hospital, Part 3

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “Yes, I’m afraid he’s an infant, but he’ll grow out of it.”

Crash of the Moons is the (slightly) superior example of two episodes made from combined Rocky Jones, Space Ranger episodes, but like Manhunt in Space this is the rare episode that is actually lowered rather than improved by the presence of a short. Maybe it’s just my taste, but the General Hospital shorts are all like watching paint dry, and they seem to suck the enthusiasm out of the riffers as well. Once we get into the feature, though, things pick up quickly: It’s another paper-thin sci-fi serial with plenty of great riffs about the bargain bin spaceship effects and Plan 9 From Outer Space-level costuming. The film is amusing in a perfectly innocuous, “our society could never be this earnest again” sort of way, which makes it a fairly easy watch. I’d almost give it a “low” on the movie pain meter, if only the film was a bit more interesting to look at, and wasn’t crammed full of so many scenes of people fiddling with switches and knobs. But alas, there is quite a lot of fiddling.


135. Ep. 210, King Dinosaur, 1955, /w X Marks the Spot

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “If you’re looking for plausibility, you won’t find it here, friend.”

King Dinosaur is the first ever Bert I. Gordon movie featured on MST3k, but far from the last. As one of the earliest pictures from “Mr. B.I.G.,” it’s cheaper than some of his later, more palatable fare such as Village of the Giants, and feels a bit like some vintage Corman claptrap—astronauts travel to a planet that just so happens to resemble the Midwestern USA and are menaced by “dinosaurs” in the form of force-perspective iguanas and alligators. It’s low-res stuff that tries earnestly to entertain, but the budget just isn’t there. The episode is improved, though, by the presence of truly bizarre short X Marks the Spot, which follows a dumb lump of man named Joe as he appears in heavenly traffic court to answer to the angels about his poor driving record. No, seriously: The short is all about bureaucratic angels explaining traffic statistics, and it’s wonderful in exactly the same fanciful way as Once Upon a Honeymoon. Also notable in the host segments is the infamously odd “Joey the Lemur,” a puppet that could only come from the mind of Joel. It’s profoundly stupid, but I can’t help but smile at “the splendiferous lemur, friend to all mankind.”


134. Ep. 412, Hercules and the Captive Women, 1961

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “Head injury playhouse presents: Don’t let this happen to you.”

There were four Hercules movies featured on MST3k (oddly, the original in the series is the last they watch), and they’re all generally solid, middle-of-the-road episodes. Hercules and the Captive Women is probably the weakest of the series overall, but there’s still plenty of chuckles to be had at the particularly uninspired casting of slow-witted Herc and the overall incoherence of the production—it’s very tough to follow what the hell is going on in this one, but it has an iguana-man and tons of “Uranus” jokes, so I don’t care! Many fans will likely remember this Hercules entry for one other prominent reason—it’s the only episode where Gypsy enters the theater to do a little riffing with the boys. Eager to participate as a full-on member of the SOL riffing crew, she’s initially puzzled by the concept of sarcastic riffing, but settles in long enough to get off exactly one genuine, solid joke before realizing that “this movie’s really not very good” and beating a hasting retreat. So long, Gyps! If only the movie had starred Richard Basehart, perhaps should would have stuck around longer.


133. Ep. 201, Rocketship X-M, 1950

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: Texan astronaut: “Maybe somebody don’t want us to get where we aim to get.” Joel: “Yeah, the god of grammar.”

The first episode of season 2 catches MST3k at a time of rapid evolution and maturation, as the “average” episode of the show increases dramatically in quality even when compared to better season 1 episodes such as Project Moonbase. Personnel is unsurprisingly a big aspect of this—although Josh Weinstein certainly has his fans, the show steps up another level with the on-screen arrival of Kevin Murphy as Servo and especially with the lovable, tender-hearted goof that is “TV’s Frank” Conniff. Their first assignment, Rocketship X-M, is perfectly emblematic of the cheap sci-fi films of the Joel years—black and white astronauts lost in space, flirting, crashing and dying. It does have Lloyd Bridges, though, which ensures plenty of Sea Hunt riffs, ‘ala “By that time, my lungs were aching for air.” Oddly enough, this is also the first episode where Mike appears on screen in a sketch—a weird coincidence, given that Lloyd Bridges’ Sea Hunt character was also named “Mike Nelson.” But in general, it improves upon season 1 with a faster pace of riffs that feel more calculated and responsive to the dialog, rather than improvisational, plus solid host segments such as the gang’s discussion on which objects are funny/not funny when floating in weightlessness. Like other classic comedies such as The Simpsons, season 2 is a quantum leap forward.

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132. Ep. 406, Attack of the Giant Leeches, 1959, /w Undersea Kingdom, Part 1

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “Oh take me to the sweet mushroom place, my old friend booze.”

The best way of describing Attack of the Giant Leeches might be to say it’s a bit like a more technically sound version of The Creeping Terror, except not by much. Instead of Lake Tahoe, we’re now in the deeeeep South, with a cast of hillbillies and those aspiring toward hillbillyhood. It’s paired with another Undersea Kingdom short, although I find this one considerably more entertaining than Part 2. The movie, meanwhile, is pretty painful, but at least it’s more or less coherent. The riffers have a whole lot to work with while tearing into the southern-fried performances, particularly those of the town tramp and her rotund, shotgun-toting husband, and the predictably bland leading man who arrives to oppose the dreaded threat of leeches. It’s a fairly by-the-numbers episode—not as inspired as the similarly southern Boggy Creek 2, but not bad. It’s worth watching for the bulky leech costumes alone, which look truly agonizing to wear.

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131. Ep. 204, Catalina Caper, 1967

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “Meanwhile, in the dark, impenetrable void, Jean Paul Sartre was a-movin’ and a-groovin’.”

The film that finally put the “beach party” movie subgenre in its grave, Catalina Caper is a real mess. It’s an unusual genre mix-up that combines the typical music/lighthearted juvenile hijinks and comedy of a beach party movie with a crime/heist caper that is happening simultaneously. Our protagonist is named “Don Pringle,” which unsurprisingly is a rich vein of humor throughout. It’s an unusual pick for MST3k in the sense that the film is ostensibly a comedy, which are rarely chosen because they’re more difficult to riff—you can’t simply refute every joke in the movie with riffs saying “that isn’t funny.” This does make some of the riffing a little awkward, and I assume the Best Brains probably thought back to Catalina Caper before choosing to riff comedies in the future. Highlights include the zaniness of the plan, which involves stealing an “ancient Chinese scroll,” and the character of “Creepy Girl,” who inspires some serious devotion from Servo. His ‘50s malt shop-style song for Creepy Girl is one of the early indicators of MST3k’s musical brilliance … as well as the pure singing chops of Kevin Murphy.


130. Ep. 1101, Reptilicus, 1961

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: Scientists, looking at a destroyed lab: “Well, it was either the eel, Peterson, or the giant reptilian monster we grew in a tub that is now gone.”

The first episode of MST3K’s new era is a showcase for the raw enthusiasm of the new cast, but also some of the reboot’s more easily criticized points. As I wrote in my full review of this particular episode, you can almost feel the weight of expectations crushing down on the riffers’ shoulders, and their reaction to it is to turn everything up to 11. This includes the joke density, and perhaps due to the fact that the jokes were prerecorded in studio and not performed live, it leads to their riffs sometimes feeling disconnected from one another—rapid and scattershot, in a way that is inorganic and feels like they’re trying to reach a preconceived “riff quota.” On the other hand, though, there is some dynamite material sprinkled throughout Reptilicus that hints at the much better episodes to come. Most of it comes during our focus on squirrelly scientists during the film’s first half, especially when “legendary Danish comic actor Dirch Passer” is on hand playing rubber-faced buffoon Peterson, who inspires Blazing Saddles comparisons: “Peterson only pawn in game of life.” Things slow way down during the repetitive monster smashing scenes with Reptilicus, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what is probably the single best host segment of the season: Paul & Storm’s brilliant “Every Country Has a Monster” musical number. It’s easily the best song of season 11, and it hangs right up there with any song in MST3K history, displaying fiendishly clever lyricism and vocabulary. Get these guys on staff full time, writing new MST3K musical numbers!
https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/04/mst3k-review-reptilicus-is-a-promising-but-uneven.html


129. Ep. 607, Bloodlust, 1961, /w Uncle Jim’s Dairy Farm

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “Already the children have disturbed Uncle Jim. Uncle Jim is an edgy man, who should not be riled.”

Out of ideas for your thriller movie? Why not make another adaptation of The Most Dangerous Game? No one’s done that before, right? No indeed—although somehow, Bloodlust doesn’t feel too fresh, regardless. The story is exactly what you expect: A few couples are stranded on an island, where they’re captured by a guy named “Albert Balleau” who proceeds to hunt them for sport. It’s capably shot and features some goofy characters, but a pretty bad audio track. It receives a workmanlike riffing, but the highlight is the amusing short, Uncle Jim’s Dairy Farm, which tries to make cow-milking and spending an entire summer on a farm sound like a heart-stopping thrill ride. I love the way the riffers tear into its sincere praise of country life and the dairy industry—very sarcastic, very cynical. Bloodlust is also notable as an episode for the first introduction of Dr. F’s mother Pearl, who would of course go on to become the lead Mad in seasons 8-10. She can honestly be a little irritating in some of the earlier appearances/sketches, but Mary Johl Pehl improved dramatically in her depiction of Pearl after taking the wheel as the show’s primary antagonist to become a great Mad in her own right.


128. Ep. 1010, It Lives By Night, 1974

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “I was just pimp-slapped by a bat; how the hell do I put that in my report?”

Very dark and greasy, It Lives By Night (also known as The Bat People) feels a bit like the Southwestern companion piece to The Horrors of Spider Island, what with its man-bat monster instead of a man-spider. Mike and the Bots really have a lot of fun riffing on the glum scientist, who is more interested in hanging around hip-deep in bat guano than physically pleasing his longing wife, a Mary Tyler Moore look-alike actress who is dubbed “Mary Tyler Less.” Somehow, he also reminds me of the cracker-craving “Dr. Ted Nelson” from The Incredible Melting Man, what with his bland, disinterested glumness. It’s a pretty weak creature feature overall, and all too often cloaked in darkness, but you can’t help but laugh at the costume that looks more like a werewolf or ape than a bat, or the strong supporting cast of derelict supporting actors.

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127. Ep. 403, City Limits, 1984

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “You’re really stupid if you manage to get hit by a car after the apocalypse.”

If the movie is connected to Film Ventures International in any way, then you know there’s going to be hurting. City Limits initially looks like it could be fun—an ‘80s post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie with James Earl Jones and Kim Cattrall?—but whatever promise there is to be tapped within the premise is scrubbed away pretty quickly by the dark, dingy quality of the sets and visuals. In terms of looks alone, the movie appears about 10 years older than it is. The riffing, thankfully, is solid, highlighted by Crow’s fascination and subsequent crush on Cattrall, which leads to him singing the odd, seemingly improvised “Kim Cattrall Song” in the first host segment. I also love the Mads invention exchange in this episode, which is human-sized tupperware designed to keep aging pop stars fresh. Mike appears in this sketch as a tupperware-preserved version of Morrissey, giving a hysterical impersonation of The Smiths singer—“Did I mention that I cried? Is it wrong not to always be glad?” All in all, City Limits feels like an episode where the crew gets surprising mileage out of a weak film to riff.


126. Ep. 410, Hercules Against the Moon Men, 1964

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff:Jim Henson’s Exodus Babies.”

Deeeeeep … hurting! Like a spiritual successor to the “ROCK CLIMBING!” in Lost Continent, Hercules Against the Moon Men arrives with quite a bit of hyping from the Mads, which is something I always love to see—when they’re pleased with themselves, you know it’s going to be a painful movie. With this edition of the adventures of Herc, they’re specifically referring to a scene in the last third of the film where the characters wander into a sandstorm, and just wander around foreverrrrrr. The sequence is so bad and so long that it’s practically unriffable; there’s just nothing else you can say after the first few minutes of Deep Hurting in the sandstorm. As for the rest, the episode is a bit up and down—I like Alan Steel as Herc more than the sleepy Reg Park in Hercules and the Captive Women, but there are too many palace scenes full of dialog that goes nowhere and not enough Herc smashing stuff. However: I have to give it points for one of my favorite MST3k stingers ever, with the old man who randomly gets impaled by a spike trap while trying to lead Hercules to freedom. It’s so unexpected and sudden that it cracks me up every single time.


125. Ep. 513, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, 1959

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “Luke. Join me, or you’ll star in Corvette Summer.”

After 86 classic episodes (plus the KTMA material), MST3k bid a tearful farewell to Joel in Mitchell, but the show was left in some very capable hands. Stepping into the hot seat was of course the wonderful Mike Nelson, who had already been with the group as head writer ever since the beginning of the Comedy Channel days. His first experiment fits almost flawlessly into the usual flow of MST3k, which is pretty damn impressive considering that he’d never done the in-theater segments before. I love the way the bots run him through “bad movie training” in the first segment, directly referencing Night of the Lepus and future episode The Beast of Yucca Flats, which I’ve already referenced as one of the most painful films they ever tackle. The Brain that Wouldn’t Die, on the other hand, is more conventional (although plenty silly) B movie about a woman who is decapitated in a car crash and then kept alive by her mad scientist boyfriend, who searches for a new body to sew her onto. It’s a dark, fairly ugly movie with extremely cheap sets, but Mike’s presence puts the crew into an upbeat, energetic state that contrasts nicely with it. I particularly enjoy the crew’s riffs on the nondescript backgrounds present in various close-ups, which have the look of throwing characters into empty pocket dimensions.


124. Ep. 613, The Sinister Urge, 1960, /w Keeping Clean and Neat

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “Jeez, you could shave with her voice.”

Poor old Ed Wood. It’s interesting that MST3k never tackled his most famous creation, Plan 9 From Outer Space, but they did provide the best possible format to watch Bride of the Monster, The Violent Years and this film, which was Wood’s last “mainstream” movie, before his descent into quasi-porn. It was made in the time period after the spectacular failure of Plan 9, when the enthusiastic but naive Wood was sliding into alcoholism and depression, and that certainly shows on screen. Regardless, it might technically be his “best” film, in the sense that the story at least makes sense. Taking inspiration from Psycho (it even highlights the word in the poster), it’s the story of a homicidal sleazeball who works for a pornographer and starts offing the female talent. Highlights of riffing are the non-emoting cop known as “KLINE!”, and the tortured voice of smut-wrangler Gloria, which are both running gags. Overall, a solid episode, but I place the other Ed Woodian efforts just a bit higher.


123. Ep. 318, Star Force: Fugitive Alien II, 1978

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “I just love the whole incoherent Mighty Jack quality of this film.”

Our second unintelligible journey into the world of Rocky and Ken, Star Force: Fugitive Alien II is a pretty serious mess of a non-movie, what Dr. F refers to as “biting down on a double-edged razor blade.” Any time the episode consists of several TV show segments cut together into a “feature film,” you know you’re in for a wild ride. In this case, it comes courtesy of Sandy Frank, famously cited by MST3k as “the source of all our pain,” so you know we’re in good hands right from the get-go. The riffing of this would-be sequel tends to revolve around the difficulty of grasping what exactly is happening in the sci-fi story, although I do also love the reality they establish centered around Captain Joe and his untreated alcoholism—plus Servo’s unrelated Jim Backus impression, because the ship is apparently named the “Backus 3.” Overall, the episode doesn’t have quite the same sizzle as the first Fugitive Alien, especially because it’s lacking the “tried to kill me with a forklift” running gag, but it still holds up admirably on its own thanks to some silly, breezy riffing.


122. Ep. 909, Gorgo, 1961

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “Ooh, I didn’t know elephants exploded on impact.”

A lot of MSTies have fond memories of the Godzilla films, but in comparison, the British knock-off Gorgo can’t quite manage to stand up alongside them … even if Leonard Maltin is willing to put in a good word for it. There’s just no way that a giant monster movie in the vein of Gorgo should be able to be this boring … it’s as if it inherited the stuffy British DNA of The Projected Man. At least the Japanese films are colorfully silly; Gorgo is just dour in nearly every scene that isn’t the monster smashing London. There are lots of jokes about the British Isles, and especially the cuisine of Ireland, and many jokes at the expense of the carnival owner “Dorkin,” who puts Gorgo on display just as in King Kong. The highlight for me is the “Waiting for Gorgo” host segment, a playlet by the gang that pokes fun at the dourness and self-seriousness of the production. They just seemingly can’t help themselves—it must be a British thing.


121. Ep. 616, Racket Girls, 1951, /w Are You Ready for Marriage?

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: The amazing “Vietnam flashback” riff while Sue stares off into space.

Racket Girls is another perfect example of an episode I hardly know how to rate, because it begs the question: How much is a world-class short worth to the overall ranking? If we were only watching this slow, tedious film (about women pro wrestlers!), the ranking would undoubtedly be even lower, except for one huge factor: Are You Ready for Marriage? This is one of the very best shorts in MST3k history, revolving around the timeless love affair of Larry and Sue, whose rock-solid foundation is sure to last clear on through high school and into a long and productive marriage. It has everything that tends to make the ‘50s-era instructional videos side-splitting, from the dopey earnesty to kids who are so profoundly stupid (and blindingly white) that they inadvertently reveal how little respect the writers/producers had for their own audience. Racket Girls, meanwhile, is a wrestling/crime saga that just draaaags itself along, and that’s coming from someone who loves pro wrestling. Mike and the Bots do what they can, but the main course is forgettable. Watch it for the amazing short.


120. Ep. 515, Wild, Wild World of Batwoman, 1966, /w Cheating

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “Geez, this kid could freak out Jamey Gumb.”

Another tough episode to rate, for the same reasons as the preceding Racket Girls—very painful movie (albeit with moments of greatness), coupled with a classic short. I love the hell out of Cheating, which lectures its audience on the deadly serious consequences of glancing at your neighbor’s exam with all the gravitas and darkness of an Ingmar Bergman film—it is so portentous and heavy for a relatively minor offense that it can’t help but become hilarious in the hands of Mike and the Bots. The feature, meanwhile, is a thick slab of camp that attempts to capitalize on the similarly silly Batman: The Movie and fails horrendously. It’s one of those episodes where the inherent silliness, i.e. the Batwoman costume and all the half-nude frolicking, may seem side-splitting at first and then gradually become tortuous over the course of 70 minutes. I do like that they continue to address the differences between Mike and Joel in the film’s early moments, as Mike flouts the rules in such a way that makes Servo refer to him as “some kind of maverick,” but the episode can’t really keep up its momentum. I can only assume that by the time Servo is screaming at the movie to “ENDDD!!! END!!!”, he was speaking for everyone involved in the taping.


119. Ep. 520, Radar Secret Service, 1950, /w Last Clear Chance

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “Your attention, please. You will love radar. Give yourself up to it freely.”

Both the feature and the short in this episode beg the question: “But why, and who thought this was necessary?” The short is predicated upon the idea that motorists really need to be shown a narrative about the dangers of crossing train tracks in their vehicles, and the “grisly results” of carelessness. All well and good, but has a film forcibly shown to high school drivers or people in court-mandated defensive driving courses ever had any actual IMPACT on a driver? It seems doubtful. Radar Secret Service, meanwhile, plays like a government-sponsored advertisement for the wonders of RADAR, which in this film is capable of practically any feat—although Servo does note that it can’t “look into a man’s heart.” It reminds me of the “G-men” style of films that arose as federally sanctioned alternatives to the mobster fare of the ‘30s and ‘40s, full of car chases and praise for the Christ-like sanctity of almighty radar. If you like your films and riffs to be dry, cynical and encased in a stuffy governmental shell, then Radar Secret Service is the episode for you.

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118. Ep. 802, The Leech Woman, 1960

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “A woman made entirely of gravy skin.”

It’s hard to believe The Leech Woman was made in 1960—it feels more like a mid-‘40s Poverty Row horror film. That’s not to say it’s terrible—I actually think there’s a rather decent movie at the heart of this episode, even if it is somewhat mean spirited and callous. It follows a jerk of a doctor who travels to Africa so he can learn the secret of how the natives stay eternally youthful. Spoilers: Leech women are involved, and the amazing powers of leech-hood soon seduce the doctor’s aging wife. I get a kick out of how her so-called transformation is portrayed—after becoming “youthful and beautiful” again, she essentially looks the exact same as she did before. The riffing has fun with the deplorable amount of stock footage used throughout the “African” sequences, and the host segments acquaint us a bit better with The Nanites, those semi-recurring cast members who are all too easy to forget during the Sci Fi Channel era.

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117. Ep. 605, Colossus and the Headhunters, 605

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “They washed up at a Klingon language camp.”

What do you do, when you want to make a Hercules movie, but your potential Herc just isn’t beefy enough? Well, you simply call him “Colossus” and surround him with shrimpier extras, of course. At least that was the solution here, in a film that feels like the red-headed stepchild of all the other Hercules movies featured on MST3k. The actual name of the hero is “Maciste,” which is pronounced more or less like “My Cheese Steak,” which suffice to say does not go unnoticed by the SOL crew. It all lends itself to solid, but perhaps laid-back riffing that pokes fun at the headhunters and the all-encompassing lack of charisma possessed by My Cheese Steak. This episode ends up being equally memorable for the running thread in the host segments, in which Dr. F creates a bizarrely adorable ball of pink fur named “Nummy Muffin Coocool Butter” as part of a plan to distract the world with the creature’s cuteness while he conquers it unchallenged. Watching the myriad reactions of each cast member to the irresistible force of nature that is Nummy Muffin Coocool Butter is a hoot.


116. Ep. 1107, The Land That Time Forgot, 1975

Movie pain meter: Low
Best riff: “Old Ahmski’s makin’ Encino Man look like Niles Crane.”

This is another one of those season 11 episodes where you find yourself wondering “Is this film too competent for MST3K?”—at least for the first half. The British/German submarine drama that unfolds for the first 45 minutes or so simply doesn’t provide the crew with that much material, aside from the amusing (and deadly) initial commandeering of the submarine by the Brits. You get the sense that the MST3K writers hoped that Doug McClure would be a perpetual running joke, but he’s almost always more blandly boring than he is amusing. However, things pick up pretty substantially once we reach the titular Land that Time Forgot; especially in the way that the submarine crew abducts and then immediately turns one of the local cavemen, “Ahm,” into their Man Friday. In general this is an episode that starts slow but then erupts in an unexpectedly violent, loony conclusion. There aren’t many moments in the entire season funnier than Ahm being carried away in the jaws of a Pteranodon while Doug McClure looks on uselessly. Enjoyable bits include the subtle reference to Friday the 13th’s trademark “ki ki ki mah mah mah” sound effects while gazing into the forest, or Servo’s description of a group of heavily bearded cavemen: “It’s Crosby, Crosby, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.”


115. Ep. 516, Alien From L.A., 1988

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “Look, your dad’s not responsible for everything that happens in the world!”

If voices could kill! One viewing of Alien From L.A. is all it takes to see why Kathy Ireland was a supermodel who appeared in magazine spreads, rather than feature films. Holy god, her squeaky, squirrel-like voice is irritating—she sounds like the silent film star in Singin’ in the Rain who needs to be dubbed in order to not offend the audience of the “talkies.” It’s a shame, because Alien From L.A. has a pretty fun, cheesy sci-fi action premise, involving an H.G. Wells-style trip to a civilization beneath the surface of the Earth. It’s hard not to laugh at the gorgeous Ireland being portrayed as a “nerdy” or somehow unattractive until she undergoes a ‘90s-style teen makeover montage: “Take off your glasses! Hey, you’re beautiful!” Also enjoyable: The Mad’s invention exchange, the “Vend-A-Gut,” which dispenses human organs such as livers for those in need. All in all, Alien From L.A. feels like an episode where slight tweaks, especially in the case of Ireland’s abhorrent voice, could have made a big difference in the rankings. But if I never have to hear her again, it will be entirely too soon.


114. Ep. 310, Fugitive Alien, 1978

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: Character: “What I expect from you is total obedience!” Servo: “...if that’s okay with you.”

Of the two Fugitive Alien entries, you have to give a slight edge to the first, if only for being the source for one classic joke. MSTies will know that joke arises when someone tries to bump off our hero Ken by running him over with … a forklift! Thus, the persistent “he tried to kill me with a forklift!” theme that recurs in various iterations throughout the rest of the episode, which gives Joel and the Bots a whole lot of mileage. This one also features Ken’s love interest “Rita,” who naturally stirs up “meter maid” and other Beatles references from the riffers, who are always game for musically inclined pop culture references. Like the second Fugitive Alien episode, it’s all over the place and it’s difficult to tell what the hell is going on thanks to the final product being multiple TV episodes stitched together, but it’s not too painful if you’re willing to completely unplug yourself from plot and focus on that doofus Ken and his adventures in and around forklifts.


113. Ep. 421, Monster A-Go-Go, 1965, /w Circus on Ice

Movie pain meter: Extreme
Best riff: While examining the obviously too small space capsule: “Douglas was pear-shaped, very short and stood the whole way.”

Legitimately one of the worst films ever made, Monster A-Go-Go can boast of featuring what might be the worst ending in monster movie history at the very least. It’s just really, really hard to beat “...and suddenly … there was no monster! There never was a monster,” in terms of sheer lameness. Created from an unfinished horror film with additional scenes tacked on, it’s so cheap that one scene actually features a man forced to make a telephone noise with his lips before picking up the prop phone. The film is presented with one of the more grating shorts of the Joel era, “Circus on Ice,” which actually brings the ranking down a little bit for me. The riffing and sketches, though, are solid, focusing on its next-level cheapness, shoddy production design and complete absence of continuity. I also love the invention exchange of the Mads in this one: The “Johnny Longtorso” action figure, with all limbs sold separately! All in all, though, it’s difficult for even solid riffing to overcome the overwhelming pain of this pieced-together dreck and its horrendous audio track in particular. Good riffing, but a challenging film to enjoy.


112. Ep. 304, Gamera vs. Barugon, 1966

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: Character: “It’s our punishment for wanting so much wealth.” Servo: “So what’s going to happen to Donald Trump?” (Seriously, this is a joke from 1991)

Wow, is this really our first Gamera movie on the list? Well, get used to it, because there’s going to be a whole lot more of them in the near future. Some people associate MST3k with Godzilla because they tackled a few of the Showa-era films, but Gamera is the real giant monster mascot of MST3k, as the show featured no fewer than 5 of them, all in season 3. They tend to blend together into one jumbled memory, full of giant monsters and shrill Japanese children in upsettingly small short pants … although this one is free from that particular annoyance. Barugon himself is one of the stranger monsters in this series, as his two primary modes of attack are to either smack you with his tongue or shoot explosive RAINBOWS in your general direction. Oddest about this entry is that there just isn’t very much Gamera in it, for a Gamera film, which hurts its ranking just a tad.

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111. Ep. 1103, The Time Travelers, 1964

Movie pain meter: Low
Best riff: “I’m actually traveling through time, at a rate of one hour per hour.”

This is about the point in the season 11 rankings when we start taking some big steps forward in terms of quality. Like The Land That Time Forgot, The Time Travelers is more competent than your typical MST3K fare, although it has a bit more of a campy ‘60s sci-fi streak running through it that makes it slightly more interesting to watch. We’re following a crew of surprisingly horny scientists—I like the elder statesman, with his Mephistopheles beard that Gypsy compares to “Rip Torn as Dr. Strange”—and their lab tech/janitor/resident idiot Danny as they accidentally end up in Earth’s terrible future, where a small community of future scientists and their disturbingly mouthless androids attempt to escape a doomed planet before being overwhelmed by gangs of marauding mutants. If you’re thinking that sounds like a plot that would have come out looking way cooler in 1987 than 1964, then you’re right. For the most part the film is blandly watchable and boring, replete with expected time traveling references to Back to the Future and Quantum Leap, but you’ll chuckle at the crew’s repeated heckling of the Dropo-esque Danny, who happily volunteers himself as a guinea pig for dangerous experiments throughout while lusting after future women. The ending ratchets up the WTF factor considerably, rocketing our protagonists past their intended destination and into a mystery utopia—but it’s okay, because as Crow points out, the future still has “PONIES!”

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110. Ep. 504, Secret Agent Super Dragon, 1966

Movie pain meter: Low
Best riff: “Do not worship false eyelashes.”

MST3k features its share of vintage Euro-spy movies, from Operation Double 007 to Diabolik to Agent for H.A.R.M., but Secret Agent Super Dragon is an episode with a slightly lower profile. That might be because the characters are somewhat less memorable, but that doesn’t actually hurt the quality of the film itself—it’s a semi-competent, colorful, easy watch, at least by MST3k standards. The riffers enjoy the “smoothness” and smirking smugness of the titular hero, and the film gives them a lot of material by providing a truly silly villain plot that revolves around secretly lacing chewing gum with an addictive substance, like something out of a ‘50s era Batman comic. Also memorable is Joel’s uncharacteristically angry reaction to being presented with an annoying “atomic-powered robot” toy in the first host segment. Who wouldn’t want a robot toy that loudly proclaims “Give my best wishes to everybody!” every five seconds?

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