Talking Pulp: MST3K – A Love Story

joel-hodgson-mst3kMystery Science Theater 3000 is coming back soon, thanks to a lot of avid fans that threw in on Kickstarter and Netflix, for giving it a new home. Never have I been more excited about a show’s resurrection than when this was announced.

MST3K was a staple in my diet through my teen years and I still watch it pretty regularly, despite its cancellation way back in 1999. It gave me a decade of joy when it was on the airwaves and an additional decade and a half since it disappeared.

In fact, I still have dozens of VHS tapes full of MST3K episodes. Unfortunately, I do not have a working VCR anymore but you can find 80-to-90 percent of the episodes on YouTube and Hulu for free. Amazon also offers some through their video-on-demand service.

I didn’t discover the show until its third year on national television, as I didn’t get Comedy Central in my area until then.

I was flipping channels with my cousin, late at night, while we were having a weekend sleep over. We stumbled across a bizarre kaiju film that made Godzilla look like a James Cameron movie. There was a dumpy looking iguana creature with a rhinoceros horn that had a Q-tip tongue that sprayed freezing gas. He also had a killer rainbow that shot out of his back like a Skittles commercial.

The episode was the fourth of the third season; it was Gamera vs. Barugon. It is still one of my all-time favorite episodes, simply because I grew to love Gamera films through MST3K and because it always reminds me of that first time seeing the show. My cousin and I laughed our asses off at Joel, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot’s commentary. I remember my mother waking up a bit miffed, telling us to turn it down and be quiet. It was hard to be quiet and my mom would have to deal with this for years to come.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 didn’t introduce me to my love of cheesy and crappy movies, that already existed. What it did, was it gave me an outlet to enjoy them even more. I quickly learned that I wasn’t alone in my bizarre appreciation for the film industry’s strange and dark hidden corners. Now I had these friends, who would show up in my home weekly and rip these cinematic turkeys.

The show was lighthearted, witty and amusing. The jokes were actually very intelligent and even if I didn’t get all the references at the age of a middle school student, many of them clicked later in life. Plus, MST3K made the odd things I was into, seem pretty cool.

At that age, my cousins, my friends and I, always tried to stay up all night. The goal was to never sleep. On those futile weekly missions, I discovered two of my all-time favorite loves, MST3K on Comedy Central and Monstervision with Joe Bob Briggs on TNT. I loved the movies that these cable shows brought to me every weekend. If it wasn’t for them, most of these pictures would have remained lost and undiscovered by later generations.

As an even younger kid, I rented everything I could at the mom and pop video stores of the 1980s. I absolutely loved movies, regardless of their quality, honestly. If it had a horror, science fiction or bad ass action theme, I watched it. Those store clerks didn’t care how old I was and that is one of the reasons as to why growing up in the 80s was absolutely fantastic. It also birthed a lot of great friendships with cool older store clerks, as well as allowing me to meet other kids looking for similar movies.

In the 90s, MST3K brought the video store home. Sure, I still rented lots of things but I now had access to a seemingly endless supply of films that those video stores didn’t even know existed. It inspired me to delve deeper, to find the weirdest shit I could actually get my hands on. It made me love the hunt and it made me appreciate the art of filmmaking at all its levels.

Had MST3K never existed, I’d probably still love movies. However, I don’t think they’d have retained their magic or still felt as special. An episode of MST3K was an education in filmmaking. I learned more from listening to the commentary of Joel Hodgson, Mike Nelson and the ‘Bots than I did anywhere else.

The truth is, many of the films that they riffed, actually aren’t as horrible as you might think. Sure, they are all easy targets, in one way or another, but I’ve come to adore many of the films I discovered because of MST3K.

People who read my blog Cinespiria have probably come to realize that I review a lot of the same films that MST3K has covered throughout the years. How could I not? Everyone knows the great classic films of history but few know the films that MST3K featured. Some were gems lost in the sands of time, dusted off and presented to a new generation. Others were piles of shit that should have stayed buried, but those movies are still fun to see for all the reasons that make them bad. Granted, there are some truly dreadful motion pictures out there that should never see the light of day again but the crew of MST3K did a good job of finding the right sort of movies to feature.

So now that the show is returning, the thing I most anticipate is the list of films they are going to feature in their eleventh (really, twelfth) season. I have ideas of what should make the cut and I can’t wait to see if films I have long wished riffed by MST3K will finally be showcased.

And for those who may not have noticed, if I review a film that has appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000, I always tag it with MST3K. This way people know that a riffed version of the movie exists. And the best part, is that you can find most episodes on Hulu or YouTube.

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