This article originally ran on Den of Geek UK.
Turn down your lights (where applicable) – Mystery Science Theater 3000 is making a comeback. The series poking fun at bad movies from the comfort of a satellite several miles above the Earth ran for eleven years from 1988-1999, and creator Joel Hodgson has been raising funds to resume the experiment via Kickstarter. The new episodes will star The Nerdist’s Jonah Ray as the hapless human, with the internet’s Felicia Day down to play the evil scientist torturing Jonah with cheesy B-movie and Patton Oswalt performing henchman duties.
As we write this, six new episodes have been funded. However, Hodgson is hoping to reach $5.5 million and fund a full series of 12 new episodes, so if you’re interested in backing the return of a cult legend you can find the Kickstarter page – with a full range of cool pledge rewards – at bringbackmst3k.com.
If you’re new to this whole MST3K business, but want to find out more, here are five classic episodes we’d recommend to get you started…
Season Three, Episode 21: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Christmas is nearly upon us, so what better place to start than with the slice of festive cheer that is Santa Claus Conquers the Martians? This 1964 classic B-movie sees a group of Martians travel to the North Pole to kidnap Santa Claus after watching an interview with him on KID-TV. Will Santa manage to defeat – or conquer – the alien menace? Who can say.
MST3K spinoffs Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic have both re-riffed this film over the years, but they’ll never top the original episode, which was famous for introducing MSTies everywhere to the cultural phenomenon of a “Patrick Swayze Christmas.”
Season Four, Episode 24: Manos: The Hands of Fate
Manos: The Hands of Fate is perfect for those of you who want to leap right in at the deep end of bad film riffing. It’s regularly cited as one of the – if not the – worst movies of all time. The writing, the acting, the direction – nothing about this film is of a releasable standard (“Every frame of this movie looks like someone’s last known photo,” quips Joel early on). And yet there’s something oddly charming about this 1966 tale of a family who choose the wrong place to make an overnight stop, which was written, directed, and produced by fertilizer salesman Hal Warren as the result of a bet with a friend.
Manos is something of a cult in itself – a remastered Blu-Ray of the film has just been released thanks to the efforts of fans, who raised nearly $50,000 in a Kickstarter campaign.
Season Six, Episode 4: Zombie Nightmare
If you’re looking for a huge slice of 80s cheese featuring a couple of familiar faces, look no further than 1986’s Zombie Nightmare, starring former Batman Adam West as a cynical moustachioed police captain, and the subject of many a ‘Schwing!’ Wayne’s World actress Tia Carrere. To cap it off, the titular zombie of the piece (yes, there’s only one zombie in the nightmare – The Walking Dead, this isn’t) is played by the body-building frontman of Canadian heavy metal group Thor, Jon Mikl Thor, who contributed most of the incidental music. All in all, Zombie Nightmare is one of the more watchable crap movies chosen by MST3K over the years.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (This Island Earth)
Easily the most accessible installment of MST3K is Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, produced between the sixth and seventh seasons and released by Gramercy Pictures in 1996. There are three reasons for this: firstly, being a national cinema release, it doesn’t assume any prior knowledge of the show, so there’s an explanation and re-establishing of the basic premise. Secondly, the film avoids making some of the more obscure references that might prove off-putting to newcomers during the riffing segments. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the subject of the film – 1955’s This Island Earth – isn’t that bad; it’s far more cheesy than it is terrible, and as such, makes for a perfect gateway to the show.
Sadly, MST3K: The Movie isn’t freely available like the others on this list, though if you’ve enjoyed them, you should support the official releases at mst3k.com.
Season Eight, Episode 20: Space Mutiny
Do you like the original Battlestar Galactica and scenes of people being thrown over guard rails to their death? If your answer to both of those questions is ‘yes,’ then Space Mutiny is for you. Made in 1988, this South African sci-fi film borrowed all of its exterior footage wholesale from Galactica (a fact MST3K’s writers later chastised themselves for not noticing while writing this episode) to tell the story of, well, a mutiny in space.
If nothing else, the experience is worth it for the steady stream of names used by Mike and the Bots to describe the film’s beefcake of a protagonist, including Blast Hardcheese, Hack Blowfist, and Punch Rockgroin.
The MST3K Kickstarter ends on December 12th. For updates, rewards and all other details, visit bringbackmst3k.com.