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Mystery Science Theater Turns 20 165

Posted by timothy
from the snark-embodied dept.
RimmerExperience writes "Hard to believe that Mystery Science Theater 3000 is 20 years old. This NY Times article provides a brief synopsis from the humble but inspired beginnings in a Midwest TV studio, to the making of MST3K: The Movie, to what the creators are up to today. It's interesting that the original creators are still involved in MST3K-style riffing in some way. So if you are looking for your traditional Turkey Day fix, plug in your old VHS, tune into BitTorrent or check out their current projects — Riff Trax (Mike Nelson) or Cinematic Titanic (Joel & Trace). Keep circulating the tapes, er, MPEGs."
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Mystery Science Theater Turns 20

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  • by Corpuscavernosa (996139) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @01:54PM (#25723227)
    [Hidaka and his Eskimo hosts observe fighter jets pursuing another jet.]

    Dr. Hidaka: The war even comes to this Eskimo village. Soon there won't be any peace anywhere.

    [Cut to a ship cutting through the ice.]

    Joel: There's nothing more tragic than a war in an Eskimo village.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I don't remember which movie it was, but I recall the opening sequence of an old B&W movie where they showed the a map to let the audience know where the action was taking place. The caption under the map in large, dramatic letters was... "ASIA".

      The sarcastic comment was, "Well, that narrows it down."

    • I loved Gemera!

      Gamera is really neat!
      Gamera is full of turtle meat!

      "What happened to my hair?"
      "The space aliens did it. They're cannibals!"
      "They ate my hair!"

  • Quickly now children, download them all before they make satire illegal. Wait... my phone's ringing. Hello? What? Oh. Hey guys, I have an announcement to make... Satire is now illegal. The lawyers are calling it a "collection of derivative works" and that it "damages the brand identity". Just kidding. For now. O_o

    • Satire is now illegal. The lawyers are calling it a "collection of derivative works" and that it "damages the brand identity".

      The lawyers called back. Satire is not totally illegal, but according to the new "Fairness Doctrine", all satire has to be balanced with equal time to opposing viewpoints.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Then it started gettting creepy. Does anyone else notice that the riffs seem to coincide with things that are happening in your life?

    Just too coincidental for me. Especially after smoking weed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @01:57PM (#25723265)

    Big McLargehuge!

  • MST3K - ahh, highschool. There was an older show, (on HBO?) I suddenly remember, Where they had comedians sitting on barstools in front of a studio audience, doing much the same - but live. Mostly to old B&W detective stories and mysteries, rather than bad sci-fi/fantasy. Anyone remember the name?

    --

    Keep One Eye Open on Craiglist.com - Search hundreds of communities from one place with one click [bigattichouse.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by isfry (101853)

      Ah yes I think you are thinking of Mad Movies.

    • Cheech and Chong did the same thing in "It Came From Hollywood!" as well, specifically to The Giant Mantis (Look out, it's the attack of the 50 foot chicken wing!) and Reefer Madness.

    • That would've been "Whose Line Is It Anyways?". They actually did a large variety of improv setups, but that was one of them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Actually, I hate to give him this credit, but the earliest example I am aware of doing something in a SOMEWHAT similar vein as MST was Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily.

      (though I am sure someone else will pipe in with something earlier ans no one hit the perfect recipe for this like Joel did)

  • ...but it has the emotional development of a 13-year old. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

  • by phrackwulf (589741) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @02:05PM (#25723387) Homepage

    "I want to decide who lives and who dies!"

    • Oh yes, easily my fav MST line ever (and there are so many close competitors...)

      ***I*** want to decide who posts on Slashdot and who is banished to kuro5hin.

      Probably a fate worse than death

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @02:05PM (#25723389) Journal
    Shout! Factory has come out with a Box Set [amazon.com] to mark this occasion, with four new movies and a bunch of extras. I already ordered mine and am thoroughly enjoying Werewolf (1996) complete with Joe Estevez [imdb.com], Emilio's uncle and Martin Sheen's brother. Oh do they rail him for his B-Rated movies in that classic. That DVD alone is worth this box set!
    • by Knara (9377)

      I think you mean "Werewelf", yaniglotchy... you know, that which runs about on all fours from place to place? Nothing better than a werewolf movie set in the american southwest where the actors are all from eastern europe.

      The Sci-Fi channel era had a few Joe Estevez gems. In "Soul Taker" he plays an Angel of Death. Dunno if that one is available on video or not.

      • I think you mean "Werewelf", yaniglotchy... you know, that which runs about on all fours from place to place? Nothing better than a werewolf movie set in the american southwest where the actors are all from eastern europe.

        The Sci-Fi channel era had a few Joe Estevez gems. In "Soul Taker" he plays an Angel of Death. Dunno if that one is available on video or not.

        Not yet, though I have it on VHS and watch it regularly. It also has Robert Z'Dar (OH Z'NO!) also of Future War fame--you know, the catcher's mitt with eyes [youtube.com]? I think I nearly urinated myself 8 times during Soul Taker.

        "You'll never get the smell of Hardee's out of that car."

        "Where does that guy even keep all his acorns?"

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Knara (9377)

          Yeah, some of the SciFi channel eps I consider to be the pinnacle of Best Brains production, mostly because once Joel was out the way, the jokes got edgier and the skits finally strayed from the (classic, but wearing at the edges) Deep 13 stuff. (though the latter was more due to moving to SciFi I guess).

          In any event, the tone of the humor on SciFi was much more to my liking than the frequently relatively "safer" humor of the Comedy Central days. I often explain it as being: Joel was a father figure to th

          • by Tetsujin (103070)

            Yeah, some of the SciFi channel eps I consider to be the pinnacle of Best Brains production, mostly because once Joel was out the way, the jokes got edgier and the skits finally strayed from the (classic, but wearing at the edges) Deep 13 stuff. (though the latter was more due to moving to SciFi I guess).

            I don't know - I thought the constant changes of locale in early season 8 had potential, but the more their settings settled down the more stagnant it got, IMO.

            Mind you, I'm not gonna argue that the Deep 13 days were perfect - or better, even - except they did have Trace up through the end of season 7 and his was a tough act to follow.

            • by Knara (9377)

              Well, that was kinda the thing for me. Pearl was a lot more interesting once she left Deep 13. I wouldn't have wanted to see anyone try to follow up Trace in that setting. I personally quite enjoyed Castle Forrester, myself :D

    • by iluvcapra (782887) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @03:58PM (#25724891)

      True stories:

      • Kieth Bilderbeck, the composer of Wereworlf (or Arizona Werewolf as it was called in production) is a friend of mine and is quite proud of his contribution.
      • I have worked on a few shows with Steve Kempster, who, before becoming Trevor Rabin's recording engineer among other more notable credits, recorded the end credit song for Space Mutiny. I once asked him about it and he nearly demanded that I never mention it again.
      • A few editors I worked with recently on High School Musical 3 had credits as assistants on Alien from LA. At the time they knew it was kindof goofy, but they really appreciated the director's vision and thought it was very Terry Gilliam-esque.

      I love this town! It's easy to ridicule these films, and I love MST, but the really interesting stories are from how these films get made in the first place, and the fact that people often pour their hearts into the work, and they themselves may be very talented but other factors simply doom the thing.

      Not to defend Golan-Globus of course. The last few Rhino box sets had interviews with actual cast and crew from some of the films on the DVD, and I really treasure these, as it gives me some perspective on my job. It's like a hacker reading about the Tech Model Railroad Club.

      Sorry it's OT, just thought I'd share.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        A few editors I worked with recently on High School Musical 3 had credits as assistants on Alien from LA. At the time they knew it was kindof goofy, but they really appreciated the director's vision and thought it was very Terry Gilliam-esque.

        Which, Alien from LA or High School Musical 3?

  • "Attack of The Eye Creatures" and the TV premiere of the ninja show "The Master".

    I know Joel got off the ship by stranding Mike, but did Mike ever make it off the satellite of love?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by eldavojohn (898314) *

      "Attack of The Eye Creatures" and the TV premiere of the ninja show "The Master".

      I know Joel got off the ship by stranding Mike, but did Mike ever make it off the satellite of love?

      SPOILER ALERT!

      In Danger:Diabolik [mst3kinfo.com], the very last episode, they do make it back to earth in a crash landing. The funniest part is Tom Servo blowing up all the extra Tom Servos they've accumulated over the years. At the end, the three share a one-bedroom apartment and settle into eat popcorn and--you guessed it--riff on a cheesy movie on TV. Speculation: Someone told me that that was the first movie they had ever riffed before but I can't verify it and I don't think that's true with the KTMA episodes.

      • It was indeed "The Crawling Eye" they are watching in Mike's apartment at the end of episode 1013 ("Danger: Diabolik"). That was the first cable episode (i.e., episode 101). Jim Mallon and the Best Brains prefer to pretend the KTMA episodes never happened. For the first half or so of the season, I'm inclined to agree. However, it would be sweet if they made a DVD out of the host segments from the KTMA season, many of which very really good.

        The summary mentioned Rifftrax and Cinema Titanic, both of which

    • "Attack of The Eye Creatures" and the TV premiere of the ninja show "The Master".

      You mean Attack of the the Eye Creatures. They had a typo in the title of the film. "They just didn't care."

      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        My favorite "they just didn't care" moment was in Cave Dwellers, when Tom Servo was re-playing the film at the end of the movie. In one scene, there's a producer or something in the middle of a shot of cavemen, and Tom Servo says something like this:

        "In the caveman fight scene, this caveman in the back is wearing fashionable sunglasses! Who's that in the Foster-Grants? OGG!"

        But yes, Attack of The The Eye Creatures was awesome. The other movie with a typo was either "The Head that Wouldn't Die" or "The Brain

  • Semi-OT I know, but if you haven't seen "Whatever, Martha!", make a point of looking it up. Martha Stewart's daughter and a friend of hers sit and watch old tapes of the Martha Stewart show and make snarky comments - it reminds me exactly of MST3K - think MST3K meets Martha Stewart. It's a scream!

    "Who frames labels in a linen closet?"
    "Some flamer framed them."

    "How does she keep a straight face?"
    "She's thinking how much fun it will be to scream at the crew when the segment's over."

    etc.
    • Semi-OT I know, but if you haven't seen "Whatever, Martha!", make a point of looking it up. Martha Stewart's daughter and a friend of hers sit and watch old tapes of the Martha Stewart show and make snarky comments - it reminds me exactly of MST3K - think MST3K meets Martha Stewart.

      Is this the "recommend shows inspired by MST3K" section of the thread?

      If so, I endorse tracking down some digital copies of "Cheap Seats", which ran for a few seasons on ESPN Classics. The premise: tape librarians Randy and Jaso

  • by aredubya74 (266988) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @02:16PM (#25723531)

    Yes, even better than Manos. Manos is more horrible to behold, but Prince of Space is funny from start to finish, and hits every key sci-fi demo - B&W, bad SFX, awkward costuming, dubbed from Japanese to some weird form of Brooklyn tough guy accent ("I like it VERY MUCH!"), great callbacks (Krankor's laugh, "your weapons are useless against me", bumbling scientists). It was a cinematic goldmine, ably plundered by Mike and the Bots.

    • by Knara (9377)

      There's no doubt that Prince of Space was more funny than Manos, simply because Manos was god awful.

      The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies [imdb.com] was far, far worse, though.

      ("let's use bare hands!")

    • Yes, even better than Manos. Manos is more horrible to behold, but Prince of Space is funny from start to finish

      What's that? What did you say?

      (Ah, literal translation of Japanese idioms...)

      My favorite was at the end, when Phantom is sending the scientists to their overly-elaborate deaths...

      "Each of you will board a space capsule."
      "What?"
      Servo: "Oh, for crying out loud... EACH OF YOU WILL BOARD A SPACE CAPSULE!"

      Of course, "I'll throw my doll at you!" was great, too...

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      In deciding the best MST3K ep ever, there is only one name to know. Greatness, thy name is Mitchell, the long flabby arm of the law! Butter, alcoholism, and incompetence never produced a more entertaining member of the law enforcement profession.
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      And his stalwart companion, Duke of Puddles!

      More seriously, Prince of Space and Invasion of the Neptune Men are my favorite episodes, I think. What were the Japanese thinking, showing those to kids?

      BTW, I've tried researching it (lazily, on the Internet), but does anybody have *any* information on the Hitler Building? What the heck was the deal? Why was it still Hitler-themed years after the war ended? You'd think the American GIs would pull that that facade.

  • Push the button, Frank.
    • by Tetsujin (103070)

      Push the button, Frank.

      Thank you!

      (In retrospect, I like Larry better than Frank.)

      • I think "Who's the better evil sidekick" is even worse than "Who's the better host." As far as nerdy debates, I mean.

        (Mike is funnier.)
        • by Tetsujin (103070)

          I think "Who's the better evil sidekick" is even worse than "Who's the better host." As far as nerdy debates, I mean.

          <shrug> I'm not interested in trying to tell people what to think about the matter, really. I just think Larry (and Josh, in general) seems to be a bit underrated IMO.

          Plus I wanted to make it clear, in case people didn't get it, that I was saying "Thank You" as a reference to the first-season catch-phrase, rather than thanking Notquitecajun for his post. :)

          P.S.: YOUR MOTHER FLOSSES IN HELL! GAAAAAAAA!

  • by qoncept (599709)
    I still like sitting down and making fun of a movie with friends a lot more than watching another group of friends do it.
  • by einer (459199)

    Something I loved from my childhood is 20 years old.... am I old?

  • My votes are for:

    • Mitchell
    • Skydivers
    • The Brain that Wouldn't Die ("Jan in the Pan")
    • The Wild World of Batwomen
    • The Beginning of the End
    • Teenagers in Outer Space

    myke

    • Seconded. Since I already see a mention of "Prince of Space" above, I suggest:

      • Overdrawn at the Memory Bank
        Which might actually have been a pretty good sci-fi film if it had made the slightest bit of sense.
      • Puma Man
        Worst. Superhero. Ever.
      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        The best concept (and worst execution) has to go to "Parts: the Clonus Horror."

        The modern action flick "The Island" is based on the same premise, in fact the writer of Parts even sued IIRC. It's kind of a shame that the movie *could* be great, bringing up philosophical and ethical issues, yet one production of it was all-around terrible, and the other just focused on explosions and action scenes.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Tough one. Here are my nominations that haven't been mentioned:
      - The Cave Dwellers
      - The Mole People
      - Manos The Hands of Fate

      And let's not leave out some classic short films:
      - Mr B Natural
      - Hired!
      - A Date With Your Family

      • by dr_dank (472072)

        And let's not leave out some classic short films:
        - Mr B Natural
        - Hired!
        - A Date With Your Family

        Great riffs to be found in all of these!

        Mr B: You can bet I was in the garden with Mr. & Mrs. Adam!
        Crow: You were the snake...
        Mr B: Knew your father, I did!
        Joel: Hey, you leave my father out of this!

        Tom Servo: Hired part II, laid off!

        Tom Servo: A date with your family, the Woody Allen Story!
        Mike: I like my family as a friend!

    • Thank you for mentioning "Teenagers". The only way I'd watch that without it having riffs is... WITH TORTURE!!!!

    • by MacBrave (247640)

      * Warrior of the Lost World

      "MegaWeapon"

    • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians - "Open up your hearts and let the Patrick Swayze Christmas in" - A Christmas classic, so popular the movie itself got aired on TBS a few years later
      Cave Dwellers - it typifies all the early 80's Conan knockoffs
      Pod People - "Good, He's the best"..."It Stinks"
      Mitchell - "Mitchell"
      Sidehackers - "Side hacking is the thing to do..."

      BTW Season 3 was amazing
    • All good choices, but no love for "Girl in Gold Boots"? I love when the Regis looking "heavy" just magically appears in the middle of the shot in the diner.

  • died at 11 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Deanalator (806515) <pierce403@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @02:37PM (#25723887) Homepage

    MST3k didn't turn 20, it died at 11.

    The Simpsons recently turned 20, and Meet the Press just turned 61.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @03:49PM (#25724807) Journal

      MST3k didn't turn 20, it died at 11.

      The Simpsons recently turned 20

      Yeah, but it died at 8.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        God, I wish I had mod points for you.
  • TFA seems to imply that this was something unique. However, I remember the old Thicke of the Night (Alan Thicke's late night talk show, from back when everybody had one in the early 80's), had a regular bit where about 4 or 5 comedians got together and did the same thing. The only real difference was that it was only a few minutes instead of the duration of an entire B movie. Well...that and nobody was pretending to be a robot.

    Since I'm probably the only person still alive who witnessed this, I guess it's s

  • ...if a radio program we had in Denver in the Seventies contributed any inspiration to MST3K.

    It was created by students at the U of Denver and called High Street -- a double entendre on the street address of the school and the default condition of the participants.

    It ran at 10 PM Fridays, simultaneously with the evening movie on Channel 2, a non-network TV station. You were instructed to turn on the movie with the sound off, and High Street would supply the dialogue.

    The guys were insanely creative. The

  • Not all movies lent themselves well to being made fun of. There's a special kind of awful that lets you make fun of it thoroughly from beginning to end.

    Some of my favorites through and through:
    1. Attack of the the Eye Creatures
    2. Pod People
    3. Manos, Hands of Fate (some say it was too bad to be funny, I say it was just bad enough)
    4. Warrior of the Lost World (Megaweapon!)
    5. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (probably my all-time favorite)
    6. Creepy Mexican Santa Movie
    7. Beginning of the End (the one with the

  • Just to chime in:

    Each year I go to one of the most popular riffing festivals: B-Fest! It's held at Northwestern University near Chicago, and it's a BLAST! 24 hours of a whole theater FULL of people riffing on stuff. There's the annual Plan 9 showing, and all sorts of shenanigans.

    Riffing is alive and well, and not just being done by the MST3K crew. Rifftrax is even offering people their own chance to riff through iRiffs.

  • by hack slash (1064002) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @05:59PM (#25726493)
    I only discovered MST3k from the internet and people talking about it, so I did some searching, downloaded a couple of shows and was instantly hooked...then downloaded [i]everything[/i] I could and thoroughly enjoyed most of it.
    Probably what's more funny is that I own some of the VHS's of the sci-fi films they ripped into so it was a delight to watch them with the SOL crew.

    Two of my favourite episodes are "Overdrawn at the Memory Bank" and "Space Mutiny" (I have the original VHS, they cut the MST3k version, no boobies!)


    What are people's reccomendations of episodes to introduce friends to?
  • by Tetsujin (103070) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @01:25PM (#25735385) Homepage Journal

    "The blood of Uranus can NEVER be healed!"
    "EWWWW!"

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