Ranking Every MST3K Episode, From Worst to Best

Comedy Lists Best Mst3k Episodes
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169. Ep. 609, The Skydivers, 1963, /w Why Study the Industrial Arts?

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: Mike, as the nebbish industrial arts boy: “...then I thrust the nail into the soft, yielding wood …”

Calling The Skydivers Coleman Francis’ best movie is like saying that arsenic is the most pleasant of ingestible poisons—it’s still a very, very painful ordeal to suffer through, but it’s SOMEWHAT less painful than Red Zone Cuba or The Beast of Yucca Flats. In truth, I may even be overrating The Skydivers a bit, but compared to those other two movies it’s a Coleman Francis magnum opus, and the episode is better as a result. It’s full of the typical Coleman plot-stretching BS such as long, pointless conversations over coffee and cigarettes, but it also has some truly zany assassination attempts involving parachutes and corrosive acid, plus a love triangle so fiendishly complex and inane that it boggles the mind. The real thing that bumps this episode up a bit, though, is the presence of the great Why Study Industrial Arts? short, which follows an awkward, would-be serial killer-looking kid as he navigates the magical world of shop class. That, and you’ve got to love Frank describing the feature film as “like Manos, without the lucid plot.”

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168. Ep. 612, The Starfighters, 1964

Movie pain meter: Extreme
Best riff: “So basically, according to themselves, the Air Force is a bunch of leather-faced, not-so-bright, heavy drinking, dull-witted speed freaks who poop in their pants and can’t make it with women, right?”

With an awesome title like that, you’d probably think this movie was an exciting, outer space action movie, right? Not so! It’s actually one of the most painfully boring and tedious films in the history of MST3k, and the “starfighters” in question are a bunch of lumpy Air Force pilots training to refuel planes in mid-air. That’s seriously what most of the movie revolves around: Mid-air sequences of refueling, provided in glorious excite-o-vision via reams of stock footage. The only thing that saves it (slightly) as an episode is some solid riffing, which of course includes the famous running joke about “poopie suits.” The riffing actually runs toward the bawdy at times in this one, as the crew can’t help but make many copulation jokes about the endlesssss refueling sequences, which eventually wears a bit thin. Still, this episode does also feature one of my favorite host segments of all time: Mike and the Bots doing their damndest to sell “Cowboy Mike’s Original Red-Hot Ricochet BBQ Sauce,” which is “so bold it’s not recommended for human consumption.”

167. Ep. 407, The Killer Shrews, 1959, /w Junior Rodeo Daredevils

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: Joel, upon seeing an antenna: “I’ve fallen in with a group of HAM radio operators.”

Another very objectionable film, for different reasons—The Killer Shrews is a lazy, messily plotted, incompetently made piece of garbage, that is thankfully lifted a bit by the short, Junior Rodeo Daredevils. The actual film is just a mess, though—a boat crew of strangers end up on a strange island, where they meet a doctor who is experimenting on shrews and turning them into deadly beasts. The shrews themselves are where most of the humor can be mined from—they’re completely ridiculous looking, and are clearly just dogs with carpet samples haphazardly glued to their bodies. There are events that happen in the film at some point, but you’ll never be able to remember them after the fact. In reality, the only things you’ll remember are: First, that the characters seem to spend all of their time getting drunk at the fully stocked bar of their cabin; and second, that you can’t understand ANY of the dialog because the audio quality is atrocious. The crew spends the entire episode misunderstanding every piece of dialog, which yields some laughs but can’t carry the entire 90-minute load.

166. Ep. 209, The Hellcats, 1967

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “What is this, Sergeant Exposition and Detective Plot Hole?”

After the surprise success of The Wild Angels in 1966, the “biker film” became the signature exploitation film style of the late ‘60s, and we get a couple of them on MST3k. This one is a real bore, full of uninteresting characters, but at least it’s easy to follow. A soldier infiltrates an outlaw biker gang to avenge his dead brother, and the laughs trickle behind him. Oddly enough, it’s produced by Anthony Cardoza, who also produced (and appeared in) the films of Coleman Francis—not the best career track record for Mr. Cardoza. The crew has some fun poking at the “filmed in Zaprudervision” cinematography and shaky camera, and in dull leading man Ross Hagen, who also stars in the similar The Sidehackers later in this same season. It all begs the question: Did Ross Hagen seriously think The Hellcats was so good that he took it upon himself to produce The Sidehackers two years later? The host segments, meanwhile, are good fun focusing on “flashbacks” between the bots, and even include a little bit of season 1 footage with the voice of Josh Weinstein as Servo.

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165. Ep. 416, Fire Maidens of Outer Space, 1956

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: Joel, admonishing Crow: “Now, I don’t want you to EVER let another dark spectre on board the ship again.”

I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record now, but this movie just … isn’t very good at all. Shocking, I know, but this is an especially virulent strain of tedium, approaching Castle of Fu Manchu levels of boredom. It’s especially cheap, with astronauts wandering around in grassy fields and “fire maidens” played by women in what look like re-used togas from an ancient Greek movie—it’s so cheap that you’d almost think it was directed by Roger Corman. Hell, the “monster” is just a tall, thin guy in an all-black body suit, wearing what appears to be a plastic thrift store monster mask. More than anything in the film, this episode is memorable for the odd host sequences, which see Crow receive a silent, possibly psychotic “friend” named Timmy after praying for companionship. “Timmy” is played by one of the black-painted variations on the Bots that were used for the theater sequences, and his violent attempt on the life of Tom Servo is one of the craziest and most memorable, plot-driven host segments of the Joel era. The well-mannered Joel even says “bitch” at one point!

164. Ep. 603, The Dead Talk Back, 1957, /w The Selling Wizard

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “You could use a flashback; remember, this is a MOTION picture?”

The Dead Talk Back is one of the darker films screened on MST3k … and I mean that in the “I can’t see anything because it’s so dark and ugly” sense. It’s quite the painful movie—I almost gave it an “extreme” rating, and it’s certainly right on the cusp of hitting top-tier badness territory. It revolves around a goofy little mad scientist—very much a would-be Herbert West type—who builds a machine to communicate with the dead that is little more than a tinfoil ball and a speaker. There’s also crossbow-related Murder Most Foul at work, and it’s part police procedural at the same time. A few big laughs are mined by the crew out of the omnipresent narration and the squirrelly guy who freaks out when confessing to murder, but much of the episode is on the slow side. The preceding short, The Selling Wizard, also isn’t going to make any list of the best MST3k shorts—featuring a sullen, caped woman selling refrigerators, it sounds like A+ material for the show, but has entirely too many dead periods where the narrator WILL NOT SHUT UP about technical aspects of refrigeration. 12 minutes of refrigerator talk will likely have you banging your head against a wall, trust me.

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163. Ep. 608, Code Name: Diamond Head, 1977, /w A Day at the Fair

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “You know, when this originally aired, by this point everyone had turned to Carter Country.”

Quite a few of the ‘70s movies featured on MST3k tend to be the feature length pilots to failed TV shows, and Code Name: Diamond Head is one of the more inglorious and forgettable in that vein, like an uninteresting version of an Andy Sidaris erotic action flick. Honestly, who was going to watch a spy show where our protagonist’s code name is “Diamond Head”? It’s a boring, instantly forgettable pastiche of spy elements, but this episode as a whole is buoyed greatly by two other factors: The short and the host segments. A Day at the Fair is great fun—not quite as brilliant as Johnny at the Fair, but pretty close. I love Crow’s fill-in-the-blank response to “Here at the Olson’s farm … Pain is everywhere!” The host segments are also memorable for strongly incorporating the Satellite of Love’s rarely utilized “Magic Voice,” which attempts to teach Tom and Crow some lessons about respecting Mike, who they never treat very well. These segments involve Mike taking on the identity of various film and TV characters, culminating hilariously in ‘80s-‘90s PBS cooking show star Jeff Smith, the “Frugal Gourmet.” He even uses Servo as a pepper grinder at one point! It’s as if Mike turns into Joel for a few minutes.

162. Ep. 413, Manhunt in Space, 1954, /w General Hospital, Part 1

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “This is the part where the Zagnut is fertilized by the salted nut roll.”

The idea of combining multiple TV show episodes into a “feature film” rarely makes for an entertaining final product, and Manhunt in Space is no exception. In reality, it’s two episodes of the 1954 TV series Rocky Jones, Space Ranger that have been stitched together, the exact same as the slightly better episode Crash of the Moons—and both are combined with boring General Hospital shorts, which does them no favors. The titular space ranger, Rocky Jones, is like a much less entertaining, white bread version of “Big McLargeHuge” from later episode Space Mutiny, which would be a compliment if only he was more memorable. Still, the riffing is pretty steady, with lots of jokes directed toward the equally silly and annoying comic relief sidekick, who, I shit you not, is actually named “Winky,” like he’s some sort of Christmas elf. It’s some good ‘ole sanitized ‘50s pablum.

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161. Ep. 414, Tormented, 1960

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “Sandy, how’d you like to bungee jump, without the bungee?”

Director Bert I. Gordon holds a special place in the lore of MST3k for helming more movies than any other director ever featured on the show, at an impressive 8. These include the likes of King Dinosaur, Village of the Giants, The Beginning of the End and more, but Tormented stands out because it lacks the director’s usual trademark: “Giant” people or monsters, which, along with his initials, earned him the nickname “Mr. B.I.G.” Instead, this is a fairly competent ghost story in the vein of The Uninvited, somewhat plodding but not quite as bad as much of your typical MST3k fare. A man is haunted by his dead ex-girlfriend, people go tumbling off lighthouses, and the Bots do their best (not very well) to haunt/torment Joel at the same time. I do rather like the host segment where Joel and the Bots build their own mean-spirited model lighthouse and toss off the effigies of actors and singers who have annoyed them.

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160. Ep. 203, Jungle Goddess, 1948, /w The Phantom Creeps Part 1

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: As a plane pilot: “Now, come clean with me, Frank—tell me that you haven’t ever had the urge to ram this baby into the ground.”

Jungle Goddess is about as distasteful, racially, as you would expect a “savages in the jungle” movie from 1948 to be. It concerns the search of a pilot for a missing heiress in the jungle, who is naturally being treated as a white savior by the natives. It also features the murderous supporting character of “White Devil,” whose lust for violence is truly unquenchable. The short, meanwhile, is the first installment of The Phantom Creeps, a serial that bears some resemblance to Commando Cody but is mercifully much more watchable, thanks to the crew’s persistent Bela Lugosi impersonations. Also of minor historical interest for MST3k buffs: There’s an early on-screen appearance of Mike Nelson in the final sketch, and he’s joined by rarely seen executive producer Jim Mallon playing the White Devil. Mallon is a somewhat contentious figure among the fanbase of the show, thanks to the creative disputes he had with Joel, but one would be remiss to forget that he also spent 8 seasons memorably voicing Gypsy.

159. Ep. 202, The Sidehackers, 1969

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: The entire host segment where the crew demonstrates some rapid-fire “sidehacking terminology” in the style of sports commentary is full of brilliant tongue-twisters.

Dear lord—for a movie that initially appears like it’s going to be something lighthearted about silly motorcycle sidecar racing, the actual story of The Sidehackers is pretty damn dour. The actual “sidehacking” scenes are all uniformly hilarious—it’s such a bizarre pseudo sport to see in action, full of men dangling out of motorcycle sidecars and looking moments from a grisly death. But then you get into the meat of the actual story, about a driver named Rommel who turns down a woman and sets a chain of events into motion that ends with his own fiancee raped and murdered. Yeesh. It’s pretty sordid stuff for a MST3k movie, which are usually a bit more innocent than all that. According to Mike in The Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, this was the result of the cast deciding to shoot this particular episode before they’d fully watched all of the footage, a policy that was changed after the distasteful nature of The Sidehackers forced their hand. Regardless, when you’re not saying “ew,” the episode is otherwise solid, with good host segments that fixate on the inherent weirdness of sidehacking. Of note: This may be the only episode of MST3k where Cambot technically has “a riff,” when he superimposes some ESPN-style graphics over the sidehacking action.

158. Ep. 518, The Atomic Brain, 1963, /w What About Juvenile Delinquency?

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: Wife: “He’s resting now…” Mike: “... or he’s dead. It’s hard to tell with him.”

With a great, pulpy name like that, you’d hope that this movie was about a giant, irradiated brain laying waste to San Francisco, but no such luck. Instead, it shares DNA with the likes of The Leech Woman, about a cranky old lady who wants to pull the old brain-swapping maneuver with a younger body. The film is a slice of dull B&W averageness, but it’s at least paired with a solidly cheesy short in What About Juvenile Delinquency?, wherein a gang of teenage hoodlums rob a man of his—I shit you not—prized pencil. Mike and the bots have good fun with that one, as it presents the “terrifying future” of juvenile delinquency gone wild. Riffing on the feature is uniformly solid, but it just feels interchangeable with any of the MANY other “mad scientist” episodes. You could cut segments of it into The Unearthly and no one would ever notice.

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157. Ep. 615, Kitten With a Whip, 1964

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “I am a fugitive from a slumber party!”

The story of Kitten with a Whip isn’t much to write home about, but it’s surprisingly vivacious in how it’s shot and directed—distinctly watchable, for MST3k fare. The movie was designed to be the big Hollywood debut of Ann-Margret, or as Mike wonders aloud, “I always thought it was Ann-Margrock.” It’s one of those “juvenile delinquent” films, with Margret playing the role that would belong to Mamie Van Doren in Untamed Youth or the much better Girls Town. Regardless, she’s “in it for the kicks” when she escapes from some sort of juvenile hall and then makes the bizarre decision to hide out in the home of a candidate for the U.S. senate. Soon, she’s joined by some no-good hoodlum friends, one of whom carelessly wields a straight razor, and they all take their new Senator friend/hostage across the Mexican border to have a grand old time. Riffing is steady throughout, but although it’s perfectly pleasant, scene after scene of people conversing in dark rooms eventually starts to wear thin.

156. Ep. 313, Earth vs. the Spider, 1958, /w Speech: Using Your Voice

Movie pain meter: Low
Best riff: “He died as he lived … with jelly all over his face.”

Everything about a title like Earth vs. the Spider says “perfect MST3k material,” and this is pretty much the case. As I mentioned above in King Dinosaur, director Bert I. Gordon is the man who directed more MST3k films than any other, but unlike say, Coleman Francis, the films of Mr. B.I.G. are usually distinctly watchable: Silly, but pleasant. Such it is with Earth vs. the Spider, which is also paired with a very solid short in Using Your Voice, which goes on at length about the proper “lip and tongue action” you need to employ to be an effective ‘50s-style door-to-door salesman. The riffers have some good fun with the shoddy sets, the continuously screaming spider and the cheap projected effects—this movie doesn’t quite have the budget of some of Gordon’s later FX-driven films. Ep. 313 is also the first-ever appearance of Crow’s long-simmering screenplay, Earth vs. Soup, which is continuously referenced for the next four seasons until it gets the Hollywood treatment in season 7’s The Incredible Melting Man. I love that the killer soup is created by a cook “mixing up a batch of Uranium 235 in the same pot as our soup of the day.”

155. Ep. 808, The She Creature, 1956

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “They tried to light this, but the movie is like a super-absorbent black hole.”

The She Creature is just one dry, tasteless slab of cinema. It’s not the kind of episode that gets mentioned among the worst films ever riffed on MST3k, if only because it’s technically proficient most of the time, but DAMN this movie is dull. It revolves around greasy hypnotist Dr. Carlo Lombardi as he attempts a bizarre, largely unexplained scheme involving hypnotizing a young woman to somehow bring to life a prehistoric sea creature who is technically her ancestor from millions of years earlier—an oddly similar plot to the very next episode, I Was a Teenage Werewolf, now that I think about it. The riffing work is pretty strong, highlighted by the bots brutality toward actor Lance Fuller’s lack of emotiveness, but is tempered by the film’s inherent ugliness and lack of watchability. I do love that it gives us the hypnotism command “SLEEEEP!”, which Tom Servo is fond of repeating throughout the series. Also, the host segments build on one of the best running jokes of MST3k’s brief dalliance with continuity, which is Mike’s tendency to accidentally destroy entire planets until he has a reputation as a bloody-handed galactic butcher. He’s put on trial for his crimes later this season, in Agent For H.A.R.M..

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154. Ep. 402, The Giant Gila Monster, 1959

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “It’s the magnificent men in their jaunty jalopies!”

The Giant Gila Monster was actually shot back-to-back with The Killer Shrews by the same director/producer team, and the film suffers from many of the same problems: Grainy picture and even grainier audio, which makes it difficult to pick out most of the dialog. Not that it actually matters in this case, as almost all of that dialog is just “teens” jabbering at each other about their cars, or running from the titular giant Gila Monster (actually played by the closely related Mexican Beaded Lizard). The film is as much a celebration of ‘50s teen music and “hot rod” culture as it is a monster movie, and of course, like any other “teen” movie of the period, it has the requisite terrible music numbers. Some of them are just painfully awkward, like the protagonist serenading his little disabled sister as she attempts to walk with new leg braces. However, I think we can all agree that “I Sing Whenever I Sing, Whenever I Sing” is an earworm that gets its hooks in you and just never lets go. It makes for a great running joke, as the SOL crew inserts the tune into the minds of nearly every character on screen (including the Gila Monster) every time a new scene starts.

153. Ep. 901, The Projected Man, 1966

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “Ah, parking! What a way to create characters and establish tension!”

Projected Man syllabus: Man attempts to rip off the experiment from The Fly. Man succeeds in turning himself into a Two Face-style monster who can electrocute people by touching them (for some reason). Man touches others to death. The end! It’s a dumb British sci-fi horror film, but it at least has a few things going for it, like being in color and having a decent audio track. Bryant Halliday, who starred as the evil ventriloquist in the more memorable Devil Doll a few episodes earlier, returns here as the titular “projected” fellow. The riffs focus heavily on the snooty, foppish, brandy-quaffing British character actors, and are variable in quality. During some segments of inane chatter, Mike and the bots really catch fire winging barbs about the script and the woodenness of the characters, but other segments such as the tedious laboratory sequences fall flat. It’s uneven, but if you really want to see the riffers tear into Merry Old England, this one makes a fine companion to The Deadly Bees or Gorgo.

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152. Ep. 622, Angels Revenge, 1979

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “This was Jim Backus’ first film after he died.”

Angels Revenge is a rather shameless Charlie’s Angels rip-off that wears its lack of originality on its sleeve while feeling like some kind of spiritual precursor to Andy Sidaris’ “Bullets, Bombs and Babes” movies of the ‘80s. There are a few connections to other MST3k episodes, from the presence of an antagonistic Jack Palance (also the villain Outlaw of Gor) to Alan Hale (The Giant Spider Invasion). The director, Greydon Clark, is even the same man who directed Joe Don Baker in Final Justice! As an episode, Angels Revenge isn’t as memorable as any of those other films, but it certainly has its moments. The opening segment, with the Mads dressed as their “favorite ‘70s relief pitchers” is delightfully weird, and the film is tolerably campy throughout, as a group of sexy lady spies come together to take down the sort of local drug ring seemingly present in any ‘70s cop movie. Crow is especially unforgiving: “The director doesn’t have Ed Wood’s passion for this kind of material.”

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151. Ep. 205, Rocket Attack USA, 1958, /w The Phantom Creeps, Part 2

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: Character: “We were just switching to radar controls and everything went boom.” Tom: “Uh, can you put that in layman’s terms, please?”

Rocket Attack USA is a wooden film, but pretty well executed for a season 2 episode. First of course, we get a second Phantom Creeps short, which I find much more palatable than the likes of Commando Cody or General Hospital, probably because of the Bela Lugosi factor. The film is a typical ‘50s Cold War spy yarn, about an American spy infiltrating Russia in an attempt to stop a secret ICBM sneak attack. There’s a hilarious, fat Russian henchman who the riffers describe as “Tor-Lite” in reference to legendary Plan 9 From Outer Space acting blob Tor Johnson—it’s almost a shame that they didn’t take on this film after The Unearthly or The Beast of Yucca Flats, or there would have been more callback Tor jokes to be made. But in general, this is a well-riffed experiment for its era, as the crew has particular fun with the overbearing narrator who seems to want to become an on-screen character in the movie. Note: Servo looks considerably different in this episode, as the show was briefly experimenting with changing his distinctive gumball machine head shape to reduce its obstruction of the screen in the theater. The change didn’t last.

150. Ep. 409, The Indestructible Man, 1956, /w Undersea Kingdom, Part 2

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: As Irish cop parody: “Alright, gather round everybody, lots to see, show’s just startin’.”

The Indestructible Man initially feels promising, like a lost Universal horror movie thanks to the presence of star Lon Chaney Jr., but unfortunately it’s strapped to a painfully unfunny Undersea Kingdom short. An old-fashioned serial that is uncomfortably reminiscent of Commando Cody in terms of visual quality in particular, it definitely hurts the overall ranking of this otherwise amusing experiment. Good old Lon is certainly showing his age here, looking a generation older than the star of The Wolf Man in this tale of a criminal who is executed and then revived as an “indestructible” monster. Still, it’s more or less watchable, and there are some good riffs at the expense of poor supporting characters—especially an unnerving young woman who never seems to blink. You have to be in the right mood for this one, or be an appreciator of Poverty Row-esque cheapo Hollywood horror. Oddly enough: Lon Chaney Jr. actually appears in the Undersea Kingdom short for a few lines as well!

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149. Ep. 606, The Creeping Terror, 1964

Movie pain meter: Extreme
Best riff: “The unbearable whiteness of being!”

The Creeping Terror is legitimately among the worst movies ever made, and it’s certainly one of the most inept … or perhaps “careless” is even more accurate. How else could you end up with a monster movie where the “monster” is a man covered in rugs? To quote the equally abhorrent Attack of the The Eye Creatures, “They just … didn’t … care.” This is a good example of an episode where the film is on the same caliber of badness as anything by Coleman Francis, but the superior riffing manages to drag it up out of the mire. The crew has particular fun with the shoddy design of the creature (how could they not?) and its almost complete immobility. As Mike observes, “Did anyone in the ‘50s ever think of running?” The Creeping Terror is one of the least frightening monsters ever, for this very reason—it moves at a pace that is literally glacial, while stupid teenagers just stand there, waiting to be be consumed. Which is to say, “waiting until they have to physically crawl into its mouth because the monster can’t do anything.” Another highlight is the oppressive narration, which legend has it was added to the film in post after part of the soundtrack was literally dropped into Lake Tahoe. It may not be true, but it would certainly explain a lot.

148. Ep. 1114, At the Earth’s Core, 1976

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “Being a chivalrous gentleman, David traps his fellow slaves with their captors in a room full of lava.”

Season 11’s two “Doug McClure movies” feel fairly close to the style of films that would have been tackled during the classic MST3K; dino films such as Lost Continent or King Dinosaur, with one small difference—they’re just not quite as legitimately bad. That becomes a running theme of sorts for season 11—it’s clear that the tier of movies they were aiming for this time involved better picture quality and relatively coherent plots. There’s just not quite as much “deep hurting,” which was to be expected in a reboot that is intended to reach a wider audience on Netflix. But I digress. At the Earth’s Core feels almost immediately like a sequel to also uninspiring Land that Time Forgot, featuring proper English types stumbling into a world of monsters. It’s impossible not to feel bad for Peter Cushing while watching—I absolutely love this man and his Hammer Horror films, but dear lord is he irritating in this one. He reminds me of the senior security guard from Hobgoblins, with his Muppet-like take on what I think was supposed to be a foppish dandy’s accent. His performance here is worse than the CGI Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One, and that is not hyperbole. The riffers, meanwhile, try to zero in on McClure, but he doesn’t offer them nearly as much substance to go on as some of MST3K’s more memorable leading man chunkheads. Big McLargeHuge, he is not, and Joel McHale’s turn impersonating McClure likewise falls flat. I did, however, love the understated return of Paul Chaplin as the leader of the Observers—his crisp, dry delivery hasn’t changed a bit. The best segment is Doug McClure’s savage battle, and then immediate bromance, with a cave dweller named “Rah.” Says Jonah, by way of introduction: “You’re not going to believe this, but I’m the protagonist!”

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147. Ep. 911, Devil Fish, 1984

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “You know, just because you CAN edit, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.”

Few films in the MST3k canon can claim to offer a more comprehensive course on bad film editing than Devil Fish. It’s truly otherworldly—I can’t think of a single other episode of the show where spastic editing actually provides bigger laughs than it does here, especially during one of the early scenes that spastically intercuts three different locations at the same time. It’s legitimately the highlight of a film that is otherwise a real slog. The plot concerns a beer-swilling scientist dude and a disturbingly thin dolphin trainer woman as they search for a government-engineered sea monster that has broken loose from captivity and embarked on a bloody rampage. You kind of have to take the film at its word that this is what’s going on, though, because the editing and visuals are both so atrocious that it’s often difficult to tell what is happening during any sequence where the monster is on screen. I also get a kick out of the kooky ending credits sequence, as the bots randomly start tittering and continue to disturbingly cackle at nothing in particular for 90 seconds while Mike just sits there in silence.

146. Ep. 623, The Amazing Transparent Man, 1960, /w The Days of Our Lives

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: Narrator: “...he had a wonderful girl who wanted nothing more than to be Mrs. Joe.” Mike: “So his name is Joe, Joe?”

This is another one of those episodes with an instantly forgettable feature that is elevated by its excellent short—one of the few in the Mike era of MST3k! “The Days of Our Lives” is amazingly weird stuff; 20 minutes of a reverend strolling around his depressed Midwestern city, talking to various people whose lives have been destroyed by workplace accidents, gawking at their mental scars and gruesome physical injuries. The riffers are absolutely on fire throughout the entire thing, mocking the staid, Garrison Keillor-esque blandness of the people and their setting, and the ridiculously macabre, hopeless tone of the narrator, who visits people with “bitter, flavorless, futile days” remaining in their lives. That’s an actual quote from the narrator! Transparent Man, on the other hand, comes back down to Earth with a combination crime/science fiction yarn that screams “cheap.” The story revolves around a thief who is made into an invisible man, but the best running joke revolves around a guinea pig that is also turned invisible. But ultimately, the short completely steals the show on this one.

145. Ep. 801, Revenge of the Creature, 1955

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “Everyone’s drifted over to the World Of Barnacles exhibit.”

Revenge of the Creature is definitely a step down from its predecessor, Creature From the Black Lagoon, but it’s still pretty cool to be able to say that at least one classic Universal Monster was featured in a MST3k movie. As the first episode of the SyFy (then Sci-Fi Channel) era, much has changed. Trace Beaulieu has sadly departed as Dr. F, and thus as the voice of crow. Bill Corbett steps in ably as a more brash, less childlike version of Crow, while Mary Jo Pehl takes over as Pearl, the head Mad. The network mandated at this point that the show needed to have an ongoing storyline, which somewhat hurt the quality of the host segments (and especially the ability to watch episodes out of order), but this requirement was largely dropped by the start of season 9. Revenge of the Creature, meanwhile, receives steady riffing that doesn’t miss a beat from the Comedy Central days—in the theater segments, you’d never know that anything is different. Highlights include the comatose monster, who spends the first part of the film bobbing face-down in the water, and of course the first-ever screen appearance of a young Clint Eastwood. Crow’s assessment: “Oh, this guy’s bad. This is his first and last movie.”

144. Ep. 418, Attack of the The Eye Creatures, 1965

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “Sure is dark out there, hope they don’t get a moonburn.”

Attack of the The Eye Creatures is some seriously cheap garbage—cheap enough to actually let two “THE’s” in its title somehow go unnoticed. It’s painful, yes, but it’s just the right kind of painful for MST3k, in the same sense that Manos is ideal for the show. It was a remake of the ‘50s cheapo classic Invasion of the Saucer Men, but taken down several more levels. It depicts what has got to be one of the most inept planetary invasions ever carried out by any species, and is so cheap that some of the eye creatures can’t even afford full costumes! While some are dressed as monsters head-to-toe, there’s one guy simply wearing a black body suit with the eye creature mask draped leisurely over his shoulders—truly unbelievable. It receives exactly the belittling it deserves via one of the all-time classic host segments, wherein Joel and the Bots point out the litany of reasons that the film “just … doesn’t … care.” And then there’s the “drifter” guy who spends most of the film wearing what appears to be a red and green striped dress, for no apparent reason. Eye Creatures is inexplicable on every level.