Film Corner: MST3K Season 5 (Part 2)

Previously published on my Patreon.

Most of you know that I'm disabled and can only work part-time. Every other day of my life I spend laid up in bed (or going to run disability-related errands like doctor appointments and pharmacy visits and then laying in bed) which can get pretty boring without something to watch or listen to or do. As a consequence, I've seen a lot of Mystery Science Theater, my favorite show of all time. But have I watched them in order? I have not. Until now.

And we're starting with Mike's first appearance because I'm a rebel like that. (We'll cover the rest of Season 5 in a later Part 1.)

Season 5 (1993–94)

Mitchell (512)
[Amazon Video; subtitled] This is the last Joel episode before he flees in a crate of hamdingers and Mike is hired (and then fired... into space!) as a temp. I've watched this movie at least a dozen times and I still don't understand it. Michell is a cranky sleepy cop... whom none of the other cops like him because they're dirty... and Michell isn't dirty... except for when he is... look, it's complicated. The riffs are lovely and this one is seminal enough to the MST3K library that it's a must-watch. 5 stars.

The Brain That Wouldn't Die (513)
[Rhino Single DVD; not subtitled] This is Mike's first episode as host and he comes out of the gate strong. Lots of good riffs on this one, but the grim subject matter (scientist stalks hot women seeking a body-host for his dead fiancee's brain) makes repeated viewings less fun--plus, the pacing isn't exactly enthralling as he repeatedly fails to corner a series of likely victims. 4 stars and a shower afterwards to scrub off all your skin.

Teen-Age Strangler (514)
[Rhino Volume 10.2; not subtitled] This one is just boring; not really worth the riffs and hard to pay attention to. The strangler isn't a teenager and doesn't really confine himself to teenagers so the title is baffling (the bots point this out at the end and it's such a relief when they're as confused as the viewer). Nor is this one of those "teen criminals!" moral panic films which provide such amusing fodder for several episodes in the series. The movie is just... here, free-floating without a genre or a point. 2 stars, a bland unflavored cracker in need of something interesting spread on it.

The Wild Wild World of Batwoman (515)
[Amazon Video; subtitled] Oh man, this one is surreal. You need to understand going in that this isn't the Batwoman of the DC universe but instead a deliberate knockoff on the Bat/Ant/Spider-person theme and the movie is about a crime-fighting vampire. I say you "need to understand" because outside of a few baffling references to blood, this will never be made clear and you'll be left wondering when DC's Barbara decided to collect a coven of girls. The plot is incomprehensible and it helps to know that it was basically being constantly re-written mid-production based on various mercurial whims of the powers which made the film. 2 stars.

Alien from L.A. (516)
[Amazon Video; subtitled] What if science fictiony space apocalypse Mad Max... but underground... searching for a missing father... with Kathy Ireland...? This one has to be seen to be believed and manages to be a relatively entertaining movie in addition to the excellent riffs. Several points don't exactly make sense, but you didn't come to MST3K for logical consistency. Kathy dumps her crappy boyfriend in the end and Mike sings a catchy love ballad. 4 stars.

Beginning of the End (517)
[Amazon Video; subtitled] This is an old one and the special effects are *hilarious*. Are those paper cutouts of grasshoppers superimposed on the scenery to make them look like radioactive giants? Yes? I think so? You have to watch just because you can't look away. 3 stars.

The Atomic Brain (518)
[Amazon Video; subtitled] Another movie about science putting brains in the bodies of pretty young women, apparently a popular horror trope of the black-and-white film era. Decent film made better with excellent riffs; Mike and the bots get the giggles over the actresses trying and failing to hold onto various "foreign" accents. 4 stars.

Outlaw (Outlaw of Gor) (519)
[Amazon Video; subtitled] They made a Gor movie where the hero frees all the slaves of Gor. THEY MADE A GOR MOVIE WHERE THE HERO FREES ALL THE SLAVES OF GOR. Do you understand how much that delights the little troll that lives in my heart? That's like making an Ayn Rand movie where the hero invents social safety nets and destroys capitalism and blows up trains. I will never stop laughing. This is a good B-movie of the "why don't we make terrible fantasy movies like this anymore" era and I will defend it to my fuzzy fantasy go-go booted death. 5 stars.

Radar Secret Service (520)
[Amazon Video; subtitled] You know you're in for pain when the Mads promise deep hurting. So many unanswered questions with this movie. Why did they cast two nearly identical blond women for two different subplots which only merge near the end, certain to cause confusion? Why is radar repeatedly hyped up to the audience like an item being sold on a late-night shopping channel? Was there a time in our nation's history when radar needed to be marketed to the public? 2 stars.

Santa Claus (521)
[Amazon Video; subtitled] One of the most beloved of the MST3K franchise, docked a star only because the RiffTrax Live version is longer and better. If you have to choose between versions, pick up the RiffTrax one for the full unedited cut. Surreal nightmare fuel from start to finish. 4 stars and may god have mercy on our souls.

Teen-Age Crime Wave (522)
[Shout Factory Volume 33; not subtitled] A teenage Bonnie and Clyde wanna-be pair take a tragically innocent teenager hostage and commit home invasion on nice elderly god-fearing folks in the country. A standoff ensues with a lot of Bible reading and cigarette smoking until the elderly couple's handsome son returns home from college and fails to be effective. Hilarious in parts, marred by slow pacing and lack of subtitles. 4 stars.

Village of the Giants (523)
[Amazon Video; subtitled] Honey, I shrunk the kids, but backwards and they're delinquent teenagers. A "teenage crime wave" moral panic movie with a gigantism twist so bizarre and unnecessary that one is tempted to speculate that a kink was being indulged in the making of this movie. Good riffs can only do so much to save the viewer from this one. 3 stars.

12 to the Moon (524)
[Shout Factory Volume 35; not subtitled] A somewhat dull "what if aliens didn't like us because we're bad" movie that comes with some strong riffs. Paired with one of the most surreal shorts (on behalf of General Motors) I've ever seen and which is nicely worked into a good ongoing skit about Mike and the hazards of dating mysterious dancing space-ladies. 3 stars.


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