5. The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, 1964
The film: Upon release, this film was promoted as “the first monster musical!” It’s completely incomprehensible, a disaster on every level. The entirely unprofessional cast is barely able to get through a scene without stumbling over their material. The characters are downright bizarre, especially “Ortega,” the deformed henchman coated in what appears to be a thick layer of Vaseline. It’s perhaps the most unlikable cast in MST3k history—every attribute of every character is irritating, and the film itself is incredibly ugly. They don’t get more aesthetically unpleasant.
Single worst moment: It’s all terrible, but the musical numbers in Incredibly Strange Creatures are in a class of their own. Tacked on either to pad the film or in some amazingly deluded belief they would be a group’s “big break,” they come out of nowhere and drag on like an eternity. In the middle of it all, there’s even a painful stand-up comedy portion. Truly, this film had no idea of how to fill its own run-time.
4. Red Zone Cuba, 1966
The film: By the time Coleman Francis got around to making his third and final feature, he was down to casting non-actors as the principal characters. In this spirit, he cast himself as the lead in Red Zone Cuba, one of the dreariest and most hopeless films ever made. Every frame of this mean-spirited movie is full of hopeless dread. Every character is repugnant. Its 89-minute story about escaped cons being terrible people will take a year off your life.
Single worst moment: This movie is its own worst moment, but if you’re going to narrow it down to just one, perhaps the “best” is when Francis and his fellow thug doom a perfectly innocent café owner to a slow death by dropping him into a well.
3. Manos: The Hands of Fate, 1966
The film: When your director is a fertilizer salesman making a no-budget horror film because someone bet him he couldn’t, your finished product just isn’t going to be very good. Manos is probably the most famous MST3k episode, and many would call it their worst film. It’s easy to see why—it’s incredibly slow, from its meandering opening to the long stretches in the middle where people are just wandering around a farm house or an unlit desert at night. The actors are all either awkward, stiff or both. The most compelling character is goat-man “Torgo,” who does nothing but stutter and leer throughout the entire film. This alone makes him the best thing in it.
Single worst moment: The film’s opening is the stuff of cinematic legend—an uninterrupted eight-minute sequence of a family driving around in their big boat of a car, getting lost in the countryside while jazz music plays. It may be the longest eight minutes of your life.
2. Monster a Go-Go, 1965
The film: You could easily make a case for Monster a Go-Go as the worst film ever featured on MST3k. Its original director abandoned it incomplete in 1961 when it was bought by cheapo gore master Herschel Gordon Lewis. Lewis then filmed additional scenes with all-new characters and stapled the entire thing together into one “complete” movie about an astronaut turned into a monster. The resulting feature is so cheap that there’s a scene where one of the actors has to fake making a ringing telephone sound before picking up the receiver.
Single worst moment:
Monster a Go-Go has what is authoritatively the worst ending of all time. After chasing the monster into the sewers and cornering him, a voiceover suddenly starts. It informs us that: “There was no monster to be followed. Astronaut Frank Douglas, rescued, alive, well, and of normal size, some eight thousand miles away in a lifeboat.”
Yes indeed, it’s the biggest movie cop-out ever.
1. The Beast of Yucca Flats, 1961
The film: This was Coleman Francis’ first feature, and there’s nothing that can be said to convey just how abysmal an effort it is. One can point out the nonsensical narration, which quips unexplained phrases such as “Flag on the moon: How did it get there?”
One can revel in the casting of Tor Johnson, perhaps the only time a director poached an actor away from Ed Wood. You can even make a little game of spotting characters alive and well who appeared to have been shot to death in earlier scenes. But the only way to experience what The Beast of Yucca Flats is really like is to either see the film or actually wander around the nuclear test sites of Yucca Flats until you mutate.
Single worst moment:
The Beast of Yucca Flats was filmed entirely without a soundtrack. There were literally no microphones present while filming, and the result is something I’ve never seen in another non-silent movie: A complete feature film with no on-screen dialog. Every bit of dialog in the movie was inserted in post-production and is delivered either while characters are off-camera or too far away to be seen (this is often). For its 54-minute runtime, The Beast of Yucca Flats is the worst thing you’ll ever see.
The Castle of Fu-Manchu, Being from Another Planet, Attack of the Eye Creatures.