Ranking Every MST3K Episode, From Worst to Best

Comedy Lists Best Mst3k Episodes
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115. Ep. 614, San Francisco International, 1970

Movie pain meter: Low
Best riff: As a priest adjusts a jaunty fedora: “...and that’s why the savior is a tramp, yeah!”

There’s something about San Francisco International that feels profoundly un-MST3k … perhaps because it’s the rare film you can’t pigeonhole into any MST3k-appropriate genre, but regardless, it helps this episode stand out in a strange way. It’s actually a “TV movie” of sorts, being the feature-length pilot episode of a TV show about the misadventures of an airport/flight tower staff. The entire thing is a relentless barrage of wacky subplots—in this one film, you have a hoax involving runway conditions, a team of criminals trying to pull off a huge heist, and a young boy who steals a plane off the runway for reasons involving his divorced parents. There’s so much going on the entire time that Mike and the Bots can barely keep up, spinning riffs about the ineffectual and smarmy airport staff and the uninspiring facial features of our leads. The film is in color, but it’s that washed-out, earth-toney form of ‘70s TV, and absolutely everything is a shade of yellow, tan and brown. Or to quote Servo: “Even the sky is brown in this movie.”

114. Ep. 811, Parts: The Clonus Horror, 1979

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “This scene was lit by an Indiglo watch.”

Parts: The Clonus Horror can qualify as one of only a couple of times when a movie shown on MST3k was actually ripped off by a future film—in this case, 2005’s The Island with Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, which more or less stole it wholesale to the point that they were successfully sued by the Clonus writers. But in short: Community of clones who are used as body parts for the societal elite find out their purpose and revolt. The film is yet another opportunity in the MST3k timeline for Crow to break out his well-honed Peter Graves impersonation, not missing a beat in the transition from Trace to Bill Corbett, and they naturally trample all over the legacy of the Biography host, who plays a corrupt politician endorsing clone hijinks. There’s very little actual “horror” to be had here, as the film is more of a mystery/suspense picture, but I’d just like to add that the Barbara Walters-esque soft focus/bright lights makes me feel like I have cataracts every time I watch it.

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113. Ep. 906, The Space Children, 1958, /w Century 21 Calling

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “We brought you a nondescript B actor just as you asked, oh powerful jelly brain.”

This is a weird little ‘50s sci-fi yarn, and one that I suppose thought it had a valuable lesson to teach us all about the perils of nuclear war. Like a dime store version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, it’s about aliens that come to Earth in the form of giant balls of goo/brains and then use their powers to take over the minds of children and sabotage scientists who are working on weapons of mass destruction. The episode is notable for a veritable menagerie of guest stars—Jackie Coogan, Mr. Drysdale from The Beverly Hillbillies and even The Professor from Gilligan’s Island, who is playing amusingly and melodramatically against type as an abusive, drunken father. Mike and the Bots zero in on the kids in particular, questioning why one of them repeatedly manifests “a Flemish accent.” The short, meanwhile, is a solid if not spectacular trip to the Seattle World’s Fair, where we marvel at the wonder of telephone machines. Did you know that they can be used to place calls to other telephones???

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112. Ep. 912, The Screaming Skull, 1957, /w Gumby Robot Rumpus

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: Crow: “It’s like they have two servings of tension that they’re trying to stretch out for seven people.”

Now you’ll know, the next time it comes up at trivia: “Did Mystery Science Theater ever feature a Gumby short?” The answer of course is “Yes, Robot Rumpus,” and man is it some weird, wild stuff; one of the only animated sequences to ever appear on the show. The feature film, meanwhile, has a serious, almost Universal horror-like tone, and honestly is more or less competent despite offering the gimmick of “free burial services” to anyone who dies of fright while watching. It’s about a neurotic, anxious woman who moves to a crumbling manor house with her new husband, only to suspect that she’s being haunted by the ghost of his dead wife. The highlight is “Mickey,” the antisocial and bumbling gardener, who was actually played by the film’s director! It’s a very low-key film, sort of a low-rent version of The Innocents, but Mike and the Bots make it eminently watchable by ripping on Mickey and the complete lack of marital passion between the utterly wooden newlyweds.

111. Ep. 206, Ring of Terror, 1962, /w The Phantom Creeps, Part 3

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: Crow as a professor: “Ah ha, oh to be 40 again.”

Dear god, this film is dark, and I mean “dark” as in “you cannot see anything in this film.” It’s an absolute testament to the strength of the writers that they somehow got a pretty good episode out of Ring of Terror, because watching it makes you feel like the rods and cones of your eyes have gone seriously askew. The story concerns a “young” medical student who died of fright while getting caught up in some macabre hazing rituals, and much of the humor is derived from the fact that this guy and his friends are nowhere in the ballpark of “young.” In fact, protagonist George E. Mather was 42 YEARS OLD when this film was released, and he’s playing a college student, so Joel and the Bots naturally rip into him with jokes about his physical well-being and grey hair. In an odd inversion, the Phantom Creeps short is actually shown at the END of this episode instead of the beginning, which I personally think really messes up the flow of the episode. The last thing you want after surviving a film the quality of Ring of Terror is to be presented with some bonus Phantom Creeps.

110. Ep. 308, Gamera vs. Gyaos, 1967

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: As Gamera stuffs a reporter in his mouth: “Welcome to this week’s edition of Eat the Press.”

Gamera vs. Gyaos (sometimes also spelled “Gaos”) is a pretty perfect summation of the entire Gamera series in general: Monster vs. Monster, Gamera is “friend to children” despite the fact that he regularly destroys entire cities, and it features a very precocious, very annoying child running around like a chicken with his head cut off throughout. Check, check and check. The monster this time is Gyaos, a recurring Gamera enemy that can’t quite seem to decide if it’s a giant bat or pterodactyl, but either way: Laser breath. Much of the riffing and humor is derived from the resident lumpy child Eichii, who Joel and the Bots naturally rename “Itchy.” It’s middle-of-the-road as far as the Gamera series is concerned, with too many scenes of boring adults conversing in board rooms about how to deal with the monsters, but I must give it massive props for the brilliant “Gameradammerung” opera play on words. Inspired.

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109. Ep. 213, Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, 1966

Movie pain meter: Low
Best riff: Character: “All we can do now is wait for lightning!” Servo: “Or Godot, whoever shows up first.”

The Godzilla films on MST3k always bring the cheesy fun you hunger for, and this one is no exception. It’s another one of those episodes that might have been even better if it came along in a later season when the riffing had sharpened further, but the film is pretty damn funny all on its own. “Ebirah” is the titular sea monster, nothing more than a giant lobster with a penchant for hurling rubbery boulders at our hero, Big G. There are terrorists, other giant monsters, including what I believe is supposed to be a huge condor, and even a Mothra appearance to cap everything off. The human portions of the story, of course, are as endlessly dull as they tend to be in any Godzilla movie, which brings the riffing down a little bit with it. Still, I sort of love this episode for the “Godzilla Genealogy Bop” song, a bass-driven ode to the monster’s curious (and fictional) family tree, which includes the likes of Ron Perlman and Steve Gutenberg.

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108. Ep. 1105, The Beast of Hollow Mountain, 1956

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “I came here to kick butt and chew bubblegum, and bubblegum hasn’t been invented yet!”

No movie in season 11 has more whiplash-inducing tonal swings than The Beast of Hollow Mountain, or a more insane reveal than suddenly sticking a T-Rex into a Mexican cattle ranching drama after more than an hour of pointless meandering has elapsed. Beyond the hilarity of that reveal, everything you need to know about this movie’s miscalculations can be perfectly summed up by the Mexican laborer comic relief character: An alcoholic who needs to be cared for by his young son because he drinks to forget the tragic passing of his wife. Uproarious! Where else do you get to play a grieving, alcoholic single father for laughs? Says Jonah: “So this is what became of the Most Interesting Man in the World.” Immediately after, we get one of this season’s better call-backs to a oft-cited MST3K running joke, “Jim Henson’s Magnum P.I. Babies,” in reference to one of the Mexican kids and his oddly anachronistic Hawaiian shirt. Many jests are subsequently directed at the wiggly-tongued dinosaur throughout the final 15 minutes, but I really cracked up at the supremely unexpected reference to the doggedly persistent paperboy from 1985’s Better off Dead: “I want my two dollars!”

107. Ep. 818, Devil Doll, 1964

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “We have a permit to film in the hallway, and dammit, we’re gonna use it.”

A dark, grimy, truly meanspirited film, Devil Doll assaults the senses with a general vibe that everyone involved with the production wanted nothing but terrible things for the unfortunate souls sitting in the audience. It’s just an angry, pissed-off movie that takes a Twilight Zone-esque premise about a ventriloquist and his possibly living doll and fills it with crankiness. It’s both hilarious and disconcertingly awkward the way The Great Vorelli taunts and abuses his doll in the course of his act, but it leads to howlingly funny riffs about “Hugo” the doll’s desires for booze and especially ham. The host segments, meanwhile, feature the return of the devilish Pitch from the Mexican Santa Claus film in episode 521, who turns Servo into a garish-looking, living Toaster Strudel for the entire final segment of the episode. The riffing in general is very strong in this one; it’s only the movie’s ugliness and taxing nature that brings it down a bit in the rankings.

106. Ep. 316, Gamera vs. Zigra, 1971

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “I don’t think you should have a paunch, when you’re six.”

Our quest into the heart of Gamera Country continues with Gamera vs. Zigra. This one bears more than a little resemblance to Gamera vs. Gyaos, except instead of a flying monster, this one is aquatic, and brought to Earth by a race of easily defeatable aliens whose craft looks a bit like a bowl full of jelly beans. The scenes with Gamera fighting Zigra and the ones featuring not one but TWO nosy children (it’s always kids, in the Gamera films) are the movie’s highlights, whereas the interminable sequences inside the submarine remind one uncomfortably of the worst bits of Mighty Jack, which gets referenced by name. I got a kick out of some of the clever, dirtier humor, as when Joel observes that “Gamera’s never seen a mohel” when he repeatedly retracts his head into his shell. Pretty cheeky, Mr. Robinson.

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105. Ep. 1005, Blood Waters of Dr. Z, 1971

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “This movie was the winner of the Cannes Palme d’Huh? award”

Blood Waters is a pug-fugly slice of monster movie, all dull, earthy colors and poorly articulated fish-man suits. I love the central mad scientist character, who manages to surmise that turning himself into a fish monster will somehow aid him in “ruling the world” down the line—this seems profoundly unlikely, if you ask me. The film opens with some hilarious narration from said scientist on “Sargassum, the weed of deceit,” which becomes a running gag throughout. I love Crow’s parody of that narration in the first host segment, using a Bill Corbett voice that sounds suspiciously similar to Krankor from Prince of Space. The film actually reminds one a bit of The Creeping Terror in terms of its technical incompetence and cheap, rushed feeling—that, or a particularly bad episode of original series Star Trek, because the fish monster looks quite a bit like the Gorn battling Kirk during the final confrontation with this film’s sheriff. It definitely ranks among the worse monster costumes in MST3k history.

104. Ep. 501, Warrior of the Lost World, 1983

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: When first seeing Robert Ginty: “He looks like he’s had some Novocain.”

There might not be a more purely punchable face in MST3k history than that of Warrior of the Lost World star Robert Ginty. The star of TV’s The Paper Chase, as is repeatedly referenced in the film, he just has a permanent expression of boredom that makes you want to clobber him. I’m sorry! But it’s true. The makeup of this film—post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-style action flick with Donald Pleasence and Fred Williamson—makes it sound like supreme MST3k material, but the results are only good rather than superb, likely because the film is so dull, fuzzy and unengaging. It does have some very high points, though—particularly the arrival of MEGAWEAPON, the all-out assault dump truck with which the Bots become immediately infatuated. It might be the only time in MST3k history that a “visitor” to the SOL is an inanimate object, but I think we can all agree with Tom that Megaweapon is “a real class act.” That, and it’s always fun to see Donald Pleasence ham it up in his signature manner.

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103. Ep. 602, Invasion U.S.A., 1952, /w A Date With Your Family

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “Just keep coming down until you’re not in the sky any more, don’t you know how to land?!?”

Another entry in the “terrible movie, great short” canon, it’s hard to know what to do with Invasion U.S.A.. The episode is a dull, dreary war movie that isn’t nearly as fun as you’d expect a Soviet invasion of the U.S.A. to be—especially one that turns out to be a mass hallucination brought on by hypnotism in the end! The jokes sputter a little bit, but at least it’s not Red Zone Cuba or something. On the other hand, A Date With Your Family happens to be one of the greatest shorts in MST3k history, and reason enough to put on this episode all on its own. A “seething cauldron of angst” and societal snubbing around the dinner table, it’s packed with one brilliant riff after another detailing the familial strife of Father, Mother, Brother, Sister and Junior. There’s Brother, who has “a tight psychological grip” on Junior, and “runs a boy-cleaning service on the side.” There’s Mother, who makes sure to adequately butter the salad. And of course there’s Father, the patriarch in charge of making sure Junior doesn’t experience any unnecessary feelings, because “emotions are for ethnic people.” It’s one of the funniest 10 minutes in the entire run of the show.

102. Ep. 208, Lost Continent, 1951

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: Character: “Let’s take a 15-minute break.” Servo: “But keep the cameras rolling!”

ROCK CLIMBING, folks. Lost Continent feels like an important moment in MST3k development, perhaps the first time in the show when Joel and the Bots were challenged with a sequence so painful that it drove them nearly to the brink, in much the same way as the “deep hurting” sandstorm from Hercules Against the Moon Men. This time, though, it’s interminable, never-ending ROCK CLIMBING segments in a cheesy sci-fi film about a team of scientists exploring a prehistoric planet. The cast is a who’s-who of MST3k regulars, from Leave it to Beaver’s Hugh Beaumont to Sid “little monkey boy” Melton, all of whom are thoroughly (and rightfully) dismissed by the crew. Monkey Boy is eventually savaged by a stop-motion dinosaur, but good luck remembering anything other than the 30 minutes of ROCK CLIMBING afterward. I do love the sketch at the end of the episode, where a resigned Joel gives a lecture on how producer Robert Lippert discovered the concept of film padding in this movie via “mind-numbingly excessive mountain climbing scenes.” Your appreciation for the episode will very much depend on how funny you find the ROCK CLIMBING material.

101. Ep. 510, The Painted Hills, 1951, /w Body Care and Grooming

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: Narrator: “Ah, spring …” Crow: “Filthy, shameful spring.”

Did you know that MST3k once did a Lassie movie? Because they totally did a Lassie movie, only he goes by “Shep” in this one. It’s a humdrum, overly wholesome film that tends to get under my skin and irritate me for some reason—I think it’s the washed-out colors and annoying child’s voice. The story revolves around gold prospectors, one of whom owns Lassie, but he’s then betrayed and killed by his partner after striking it rich. Lassie must then avenge his master’s death and protect a young kid, in true Lassie fashion. The jokes at the expense of Jonathan, the grizzled old prospector archetype, are pretty solid, but the true star of the show in this episode is the short, Body Care and Grooming. Another classic ‘50s educational video in the mold of Are You Ready for Marriage?, it’s loaded with one side-splitting riff after another. At one point, the condescending narrator looks a woman up and down and says “You’re not exactly the type to make this guy behave like a human being.” It’s absolutely outrageous misogyny on display, which makes for superlative riffing.

100. Ep. 302, Gamera, 1965

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: Character: “It has the power to convert organic material to inorganic material.” Joel: “Like McDonald’s?”

The giant turtle flick that started them all, it’s the very first appearance of Gamera, friend to all children. Well, maybe not ALL children—as usual in this one he seems to have no particular aversion to destroying cities that are presumably filled with children, but he does form a friendship of some kind with the turtle-obsessed and possibly deranged tyke known as Kenny. Their weird relationship, with Kenny constantly apologizing for and defending Gamera’s monsterism, inspires a bulk of the riffing. The episode is the source of so many Gamera call-backs that follow, including the Gamera theme song (“Gamera is really neat, Gamera is filled with meat, we’ve been eating Gamera!”) that gets fleshed out more significantly in the sequels to follow. As with Gojira, the Japanese original is a little bit more serious and heavy handed than the more colorful sequels, but even so, it’s very silly stuff. The government actually succeeds in sending the giant turtle away on a rocket to Mars at the end, but obviously this doesn’t manage to keep him away from Earth for long. Pet turtle Tibby is not so lucky, to Tom’s great dismay.

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99. Ep. 905, The Deadly Bees, 1966

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “The flashback is as long as the movie should have been.”

Stuffy and exceedingly British, The Deadly Bees is slow and dull, but at least looks crisp and is easily understood, which helps in cognition/understanding the riffs. It’s about a pop singer who escapes into the countryside for “relaxation” and just so happens to end up near a scientist who is experimenting with days to corral his honeybee hives … to kill! There are portions that drag a bit, contrasted with hilarious segments that hinge on weird bits of British dialog. The scene after the old woman asks if a protagonist has “seen the dog’s meat” is a riot. But by far my favorite thing about The Deadly Bees is the film’s closing moments, when an unknown British gentleman in a bowler hat strides slowly up toward the screen while carnival-like pipe music plays and the SOL crew slowly freaks out. It’s one of the weirdest film endings I’ve ever seen, and the reactions of the riffers are golden. As Crow says: “Alright, start smoochin’ movie, what the hell is this?” Or Tom: “So, is there a credit that says ‘Guy at the end’?”

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98. Ep. 420, The Human Duplicators, 1965

Movie pain meter: Low
Best riff: “Consolidated Film Industries, a subsidiary of ConHugeCo!”

The first appearance of “Jaws” himself, Richard Kiel, who also played the title character of Eegah in the better-known episode of the same name. The 7-foot actor plays an alien named Kolos here, who comes to Earth in order to create a bunch of android pod people to replace prominent Earthlings. The riffers can’t help but zero in on him, doing spiffy impressions of his inhumanly deep, gravelly voice throughout. The terrible special effects are particularly amusing as well—one wonders how the “duplicated” folks could possibly have been expected to blend into society when any feather touch will cave in their plaster skulls. Also in the movie: Hugh Beaumont, who appears in The Mole People and famously in Lost Continent. Mike makes a cameo in a side-splitting host segment as a particularly pissed-off, aging version of Beaumont/Ward Cleaver, who has clearly turned bitter with age. Random observation: Mike appears in considerably more sketches in the Joel era than I ever realized. For five seasons, he was probably their most valuable bit-player before he became host.

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97. Ep. 1007, Track of the Moon Beast, 1976

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: Mike, as police officers stare blankly into space: “Things sure are happening over in that direction.”

Try this opening on for size: A scientist is hit in the head by a tiny bit of meteor, which lodges in his skull. Perhaps it’s a film about his slow path to recovery and growth as a person as he confronts ableism? Nope! Instead, the chunk of space rock in his noggin somehow makes him transform into a killer lizard-man—but only when the moon is full, because sure, why not? It’s a bit of an ugly picture, but you’ve got to love the supporting characters, especially the native American known as “Johnny Longbow.” That’s his actual name in the film, not a pet name given to him by Mike and the Bots. Much fun is had at the expense of Johnny Longbow’s infamous “stew,” and at the inanity of a plot where it’s eventually revealed that unchecked monsterism will eventually cause the protagonist to explode. Plus, there’s the classic host segment wherein Mike examines the pseudo history of the film’s “band that played ‘California Lady’” in the style of a VH1 Behind the Music episode, detailing the destruction of “the fish-lipped guy,” “the eskimo” and “the friendly-lookin’ backup singer.”

96. Ep. 408, Hercules Unchained, 1959

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “Hardly any animals were hurt in the making of this film.”

Steeve Reeves, greatest of the Hercs! Or at least he’s my favorite of the Hercs, anyway. This movie is a meandering tale, akin to Hercules and the Captive Women in the sense that it’s a little hard to know what the hell is going on most of the time. Herc is tricked into drinking from the “waters of forgetfulness,” and promptly forgets who he is and why he’s stronger than all other mortal men. Jokes revolve around typical sources of humor—bathmat loin cloths, incomprehensible plotting and the general lack of intelligence in every incarnation of Hercules. I get a kick out of the Bots pestering Joel for more information on Herc’s sex life, only for a sheepish Joel to insist that he’s only “visiting” the nice woman who brainwashed him to “tell secrets.” Also appearing: Mike again, perfectly playing a musclebound, reminiscing Steve Reeves who pines for the good old days of wearing a loin cloth and drinking cheap Italian wine.

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95. Ep. 320, The Unearthly, /w Posture Pals and Appreciating Our Parents

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: John Carradine: “Dr. Ivan’s told me a great deal about you.” Joel: “And what he didn’t tell me, the photos will reveal.”

A painfully cheap, blue-tinted morass of failed horror, that’s the world of The Unearthly. Still, I can’t deny the positives: Tor Johnson, John Carradine and not one but two solid shorts. Both Posture Pals and Appreciating Our Parents receive A+ riffings, cynically picking apart the conformist pressures of ‘50s-era elementary school and home life. They’re not afraid to go dark, as in the jokes about the boy who stands crooked, “just like his Dad on a Friday night.” Meanwhile, The Unearthly is slow and ugly as sin, but I can’t resist the excellent Tor impersonations in particular. This is an actor who legitimately delivers lines like “Time for go to bed,” so no potential riff dialog is too silly to put in his mouth, from “Tor make bundt cake” to “Would you like to see the dessert tray?” Kevin Murphy in particular absolutely nails the deep but breathless way that Tor speaks. Any time he’s on screen, the episodes becomes extremely entertaining, even if it’s slow in other moments. Also, Crow’s priceless riff: “My Dinner With Andre had more locations than this movie!”

94. Ep. 807, Terror From the Year 5000, 1958

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “Filmed in glorious black, and … slightly less black!”

A somewhat underrated episode that I’ve rarely seen mentioned, Terror From the Year 5000 combines a fairly competent ‘50s sci-fi premise with some sharp riffing. I actually think the idea is sort of cool—a scientist creates a time portal of sorts and then makes some very basic contact with the “year 5000” by sending through and receiving trinkets and artifacts. His betraying, impatient assistant, on the other hand, brings through a being from that era, and the titular “terror” begins, turning the film into more of a monster movie. There’s some great dialog riffing between the scientist and his bitter secretary, but things really kick into high gear once we get a look at the monster. It’s another one of the worst monster costumes ever featured on MST3k—basically a small woman with a pinched face, wearing a diving suit that is covered with rhinestones. Or as Crow says, “She comes from the planet of highway shoulder markers.”

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93. Ep. 422 The Day the Earth Froze, 1959, /w Here Comes the Circus

Movie pain meter: Low
Best riff: “It’s Thomas Edison, with his electric child!”

Not to be confused with The Day the Earth Stood Still, this is The Day the Earth Froze! This is the first entry on the list from MST3k’s so-called Russo-Finnish fantasy film cycle, which also includes the likes of Jack Frost and The Sword and the Dragon. As a group, they tend to be quite colorful, easy to watch, goofy and occasionally nightmare-inducing, showcasing the somewhat bizarre sensibilities of a foreign entertainment market that we as Americans know next to nothing about. The Day the Earth Froze draws upon Finnish mythology and fairy tales to spin a zany story about the sun being stolen out of the sky by a wicked witch. The characters are broad and cartoonish, and Joel and the Bots seem to revel in their naivete and innocence, and the quest for the “SAMPO!” But wait, there’s more! We also get an excellent invention exchange of “martial arts snacks,” including the Chuck Norris-inspired “Octogobstopper,” and a great short, Here Comes the Circus, that has much in common with another one of the show’s best, Johnny at the Fair. Joel lambasts the bots throughout for getting “too dark” in their humor, but naturally he can’t resist joining in by the end.

92. Ep. 307, Daddy-O, 1958, /w Alphabet Antics

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “It doesn’t matter how slow I go; I’ll catch him. See, my son is the editor.”

There’s a whole lot of MST3k episodes that feel front-loaded and tend to sort of peter out by the end, but Daddy-O is one of the rare ones that seems more like the reverse—it gets stronger as it goes on. The Alphabet Antics short is a little simplistic, but the movie is pretty amusing, about a greasy musician/fast car-driver who gets roped into solving a mystery and making some drug runs for the mob. The villains in this episode are fantastic: You’ve got an “enforcer” tough guy in coke bottle glasses whose vision is so bad that he can’t even drive himself, and meanwhile his boss, the portly Bruno Ve Sota, inspires a running gag of “butter”-related riffs that just get funnier and funnier over time. There’s also some solid sketch work, including the “Hike Up Your Pants” song, but the most unique thing in the episode is the very end, when “the button” breaks in Deep 13. Try as they might to end the episode, Frank and Dr. F keep re-starting the end credits over and over and over. It’s a very unique, unexpected gag, even if you’ve been watching the show for years.

91. Ep. 902, The Phantom Planet, 1961

Movie pain meter: Medium
Best riff: “Well maybe if they didn’t disguise the planet as a chicken nugget, the dogs wouldn’t attack it.”

I always think of this kind of black-and-white spacefaring yarn as the archetypal sort of movie that was riffed during the Joel era of MST3k, but there’s a few in this vein among the Mike episodes as well. The Phantom Planet is both silly and introspective; it takes itself considerably more seriously than anyone in the audience could possibly have matched. The tone is immediately set by the dopey astronaut who waxes poetic that “the wisest and best is to fix our attention on the good and beautiful,” which is a vintage MST3k line in its earnest badness. Campy special effects hold us over during the rocketry scenes, until eventually we meet a race of tiny aliens who are having problems with another race of aliens, who you know are evil because they look like humpbacked dog monsters. There’s typical romantic entanglements with silk-garbed “alien” women, and it’s all in good fun. Highlight: Anything involving the “combat rod,” a wishbone-shaped stick that the aliens use to compete in inane gladiatorial games.

90. Ep. 423, Bride of the Monster, 1955, /w Hired! Part 1

Movie pain meter: High
Best riff: “You know, this is Bela’s best scene, and he’s not even in it!”

Ed Wood, huzzah! The best known Wood film featured on MST3k was this immediate precursor to Plan 9, Bride of the Monster. As in Plan 9, the film features the legendary, weathered presence of Bela Lugosi, this time as a mad scientist, plus the bumbly, rumbly visage of Tor Johnson. Oh, the conversations that Ed and Tor must have enjoyed! It’s a low-rent horror film about Lugosi experimenting on people in an attempt to give them “the strength of 20 men,” but things predictably go wrong. The acting is atrocious, full of weirdo Ed Wood character actors, which gives Joel and the Bots plenty of ammunition. I particularly love the scene at the end when Lugosi becomes a superpowered atomic mutant, and he’s clearly being played by a different actor in huge platform shoes to make him taller. There’s also a short, the entertaining ode to car salesmanship known as Hired! Part 1. It’s not quite as side-splitting as Part 2 is, but it’s still a minor classic in its own right.