10 “Underrated” MST3K Episodes

Hola Amigos. Lost post ahead: an update and then a list article (listicle? Are we still doing that?). So, get that coffee brewed and then strap in.

Last week I published only two posts on this site. I had actually drawn a lot of stuff, but most of it was just a few pages of dopey robot doodles between a couple of non-RwC comic strips I’ll be self-publishing next year. Add to that: just non-stop work at the early morning gig, with long naps after getting home, and failing to get in front of the computer, make scans, and edit the drawings for RwC & non-RwC drawings.

I watched and then decided against writing a rambling review of Roger Corman’s “The Fast & The Furious,” which was not remade by Rob Cohen beyond the title into the series of weird car race themed heists and international dogoodery adventure flicks. The plot, however, was recycled as “The Chase,” the movie starring Charlie Sheen and Henry Rollins, but not the movie of the same title that we discussed here a couple years ago. It’s as flat and boring as you think a Roger Corman movie would be, though he didn’t direct it. There’s not much to say about this boring movie beyond any of that.

However, I know about Roger Corman thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000, as several of his movies were subjects of the now famous riffing experiments decimated by Joel, Mike, and the bots. I wrote, and then deleted, an explanation of the show, and why some episodes/movies with commentary might be more popular than others. Who cares? Go HERE to learn more about the show if you don’t know about it, or if you wanna fall down that rabbit hole for details you might’ve missed about the episodes or even MST3K’s development.

I used to love episodes like The Creeping Terror and Master Ninja and Cave Dwellers but I don’t rewatch those as much (by rewatch, I mean ‘have on in the background while I draw or some other activity’). Thanks to the internet (from Netflix to Youtube to Rifftrax to MST3K’s Kickstarter), I’m able to see some episodes I wasn’t able to get from tape trading in the 90’s, or just hadn’t watched over and over like with Manos or Mitchell or Eegah. So I thought I’d write about 10 of these episodes that I don’t think get as much love as the ones I’ve mentioned in this paragraph. Or maybe they do. Look, if you read this far and like MST3K but haven’t seen much of it, can you just scroll through this list I made and maybe check out the episodes? C’mon, it’ll be fun.

Also, no particular order of favoritism or airing. And, nothing to do with the “shorts” if there are any. There’s plenty of honorable mentions…as in, if I mentioned it, it’s just as worth checking out.

414 Tormented

Maybe fans remember this as a tribute to Vertigo in the sense that there’s a tall building and people keep falling off of it. Unlike Vertigo, known for its amazing and colorful cinematography, Tormented is in black and white, and thus the comparison ends with the people-falling-off-buildings thing. I don’t even know if that was something that the filmmakers were going for. The protagonist is haunted by his dead mistress that he didn’t save, and the guilt shows more and more in front of his fiance and her family and he’s also like twice his future wife’s age. The riffing is great, mostly whenever Joel & The Bots start talking as the side characters in the movie.

307 Daddy-O

A supposedly young adult gets mixed up with a shady club owner while investigating the death of his weaselly best friend. It’s a crime story but with big jazzy rock n roll numbers the 40 year old kids are into, I guess. Great sketches highlight a dumb plot with lovably dumb characters, including the Maltese Falcon inspired villain who happily over-reasons the hero’s (incorrect) motivations to work for them during the film. “Well, it’s natural that he’s curious about the death of his bestie,” he tells the suspicious henchman, “but the hero of this film will happily continue to deliver drugs for our illegal operation without further question.” Yeah…no.

108 The Slime People

This movie has a bit of an Omega Man feel in it that doesn’t get fully addressed: a goofy 50’s family unit of a scientist & his daughters runs into age appropriate dating material in a walled off city attacked slime people. And there’s also roving bands of desperate survivors, regular people turning on their fellow man in the midst of being held captive by monsters. If they don’t have the budget for monster costumes, where did they get the money for extras? Anyway, basic 8th grade science saves the day, just like in Season 8’s Horror Of Party Beach (817). I’m still concerned about the complete breakdown of society, who don’t want to band together to fight off the monsters as a unit, leaving it just to the dad and his weird Full House scenario. Season 1 riffing is a big jump from KTMA near-ad-libbing, but nowhere near as tight as displayed in the upcoming seasons. That’s my opinion, but as far as quality of movie and (or versus) quality of riffing, The Slime People and The Crawling Hand have aged the best.

409 The Indestructible Man

Here’s a crime caper with a sci-fi monster element to get the kids into the theaters and away from the Perry Mason or whatever they were watching on TV at the time. Lon Cheney Jr is a mobster on death row who refuses to give up the whereabouts of his gang’s loot, and vows to strike back from beyond the grave. What luck, because he would be the first person to ever come back to life, and in a boring forgettable way as a normal guy (not dressed in a wolf costume) he goes on a killing spree. What makes the movie/episode is the tough as nails detective who has to track Lon Cheney’s ‘indestructible’ corpse around, so yeah you get a boring monster movie but it’s got 50’s cops & robbers talking 50’s cops & robbers-ese, so that’s pretty hilarious. As is the riffing. The Amazing Transparent Man (623) is another episode that features an impossible sci-fi event being used for day to day crime, so give that one a view as well.

509 The Girl In Lover’s Lane

Like I Accuse My Parents (507) before it, The Girl In Lover’s Lane has a mixed up kid who wanders from the mansion roof over his head, and into darker territory. But unlike 507, and very like High School Big Shot (618) after it, it’s filled with pain and hate and a message that there’s no hope for some people. What is the point of this movie, even? Doofus teen leaves home, falls in with a train hopping drifter. They end up in a small town and are instantly targeted by the small town hoods. Everyone in the town is either a victim of despair or preying on the vices of those in despair. A girl falls in love with the drifter, and gets him a job, and he treats her like dirt. She gets killed by the town creep and though justice is eventually served, the rich kid offers to take the stupid mean drifter home with him because…why? Anyway, these movies are all cautionary tales of the time for teens but I can’t see how. Thanks to Mad Men, we all know now that people weren’t that uptight if heaven forbid a crack showed up in the facade. The murder of The Girl In Lover’s Lane is pretty pointless in the plot of the film or with the development of the characters, so Joel & The Bots let them have it.

801 Revenge Of The Creature

I don’t know that this is an obscure or lesser known or lesser loved episode…it was the first of MST3K’s highly publicized switch to a new network. It’s just not available on any streaming service, possibly because it’s Universal Studios’ “The Creature From The Black Lagoon” character in the movie, and Universal wants to keep a lid on that character? It’s on the 25th DVD collection, so you have to get it with 3 other episodes (not a biggie). Point is, it’s not available to be streamed at this point (I couldn’t buy it to be streamed or downloaded on Amazon either). Which is sad, because aside from a new beginning for Mike & The bots, with skits highlighting their bizarre surroundings, the sci-fi monster movie is perfect for their riffing…which is on point throughout.

603 The Dead Talk Back

This is just a weird talky crime movie where a cop supposedly respects the opinion and efforts of a lunatic pseudoscientist in their attempt to catch the murderer of some lady. The riffing is pretty good, and there’s a great sketch where the bots get a radio set up to talk to some famous dead people, but the movie itself is just odd. The cop narrates the pseudoscientist narrating the cast and the plot and how they’re going to catch the murderer. I missed this one the first time around in my tape trading days. I’ve watched it a few times and I can’t tell you anything about it but I also have no qualms about watching it again, so the jokes must help a lot.

205 Rocket Attack USA

This episode is probably best known for being the first with what would be a standard for future episodes (a tag featuring a weird moment from the movie with no commentary from the MST3K crew), but I like this one a lot for A. the incompetence of the hero, because he fails and it leads to war, and B. the sketches, which focus on 50’s cold war paranoia. The plot of this and Invasion USA (602) are probably some kind of cautionary tales for Americans…I guess? It’s more obvious with Invasion USA (which has a great short). Here, it’s just like…why make this movie if the main character goes and tries to stop a bomb and doesn’t? It’s not like he was his own reason to fail, that he had some kind of literary character flaw that caused him to fail.

1007 Track Of The Moon Beast

This is a terrible 70’s monster movie where something awful happens to the lead, and he becomes a monster, and everyone tries to give him the benefit of the doubt or help him in some new age 70’s way. They all fail as he goes on a killing spree. It’s just a flat out stupid movie and the riffing is great.

817 The Horror Of Party Beach

I already mentioned it along with The Slime People but it gets its own entry here because the surf band is surprisingly enjoyable, and the town is pretty blase about the carnage. Like, at LEAST a dozen high school or college age girls are MURDERED by monsters in one night, and the next day or so our heroes are at a sock hop or whatever. At least they’re a little sad about dancing away the blues.

Honorable Mentions

609 The Skydivers & 621 The Beast Of Yucca Flats

The Skydivers is probably one of the better known MST3K episodes because it introduces the world to what must have been a forgotten fim legacy of director Coleman Francis, whose filmography never fully explains to the world of cinema why he ever wanted to capture images on film. Maybe he assumed, very incorrectly, that there was a minimalism movement of film buffs who appreciate the amount of work the viewer has to do to associate scenes with preceding scenes. The Beast Of Yucca Flats might not be as well known despite starring Tor Johnson but it does have this insane narration that might serve as commentary of the state of the world and how the plot might come down to the need for some undercover military snipers to possibly gun down an innocent family to capture a mutated scientist rampaging through the desert. I may have read the scene wrong, which is a possibility, but I swear that the dad of the family unit wedged into this plot actually is convinced that he and his wife have to flee and their kids are expendable and already lost. Only after does he go back into the desert to look for his kids…I think? The riffing in both of these are great, especially The Skydivers, but they must’ve had a hard time making it through and putting these together.

808 The She Creature

A snoozily boring monster movie. I can barely recall that there’s a monster here. There might even be intersecting love triangles between a scientist and a wealthy socialite and the subject of a supposedly entertaining hypnotist act. The other triangle is between the hypnotist, the hypnotist’s subject, and the scientist… also there’s a literal monster that materializes elsewhere outside of the home and murders people. This is before Super Mario Bros, so people would pay money to sit in a drawing room and watch some guy in a tux hypnotize a woman and he could do this as a residency show? That’s the part I never get about many of these monster movies. Like if you capture King Kong, but you don’t have the budget for extras to film in a hall, so all you can do is charge 10 people every night in some old lady’s mansion. What’s great about this episode is a skit where Mike reads from the hero’s acting how-to book, which is how not to act in a scene.

There you go, some of my favorite lesser-known (?) MST3K episodes. Let me know on the social medias which of their experiments were your favorites.

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