Wolfy and Sitting Duck look ahead to MST3K’s 13th season

Last April, Joel Hodgson created a Kickstarter for something he called the Gizmoplex. It was presented as a streaming platform where new Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes could be uploaded, free from the uncertainties that come with a fickle third party who regards the Two Season Rule as sacrosanct. And while the actual number of contributors was less than that of the original Bring Back MST3K campaign, their generosity was greater, as it raked in about six and a half million dollars.
Since then, the Gizmoplex elves have been hard at work, securing movie rights, shooting the episodes, and getting the virtual infrastructure in place. During the Turkey Day Marathon a couple of weeks ago, the movies to be screened were announced. On the off chance you haven’t seen these promos, get thee hence! Now that everyone is on the same page, Sitting Duck and Wolfy will talk about their hopes and fears concerning this new slate of experiments starting on March 4th, 2022.

1301: Santo in the Treasure of Dracula

Sitting Duck: I remember when I was doing my one episode a day marathon of MST3K and found Season 6 to be a slog. Now I’m no Mike hater. It’s just that crime dramas are among my least favorite movies that got screened. And Season 6 had them in spades. Girls Town, The Violent Years, The Sinister Urge, Kitten with a Whip, Racket Girls, High School Big Shot. And let’s not forget the Coleman Francis Trilogy of Despair. It was such a relief to cap it with Samson vs the Vampire Women, with its goofy luchador antics and supernatural tomfoolery. So I’m totally down for more of the same. And this one is going to have time travel and Dracula! Not to mention some hilariously awkward voice acting in the English dub. I’m betting however that we won’t be getting the porny cut made for degenerate Euros who apparently can’t be engaged if there aren’t any wild vampire orgies.

Wolfy: I’ll agree that Samson vs. the Vampire Women was one of the highlights of an otherwise mediocre season of MST3K, so having something that looks extremely similar to that entire premise – a slightly doughy Luchador wrestling superhero who somehow is capable of duking it out with literal vampires – is something to look forward to and a potentially pretty strong start to the new season. This one looks to have all the hallmarks of ’70s-era movie fondue cheese, including a time machine that involves standing in front of a swirly design, incredible hairstyles, and awful practical effects. Consider me excited.

1302: Robot Wars

Sitting Duck: I’ll confess I have little patience with cinephiles who go on about the evils of CGI. Perhaps it’s my inner contrarian at work, but such talk gives the impression of self-important blowhards wanting to exhibit a facsimile of sophistication. Having said that, I do appreciate a well-done practical effect. Say what you will about Charles Band and the films he produces, but David Allen is a master of stop motion and his aliens in Laserblast were by far the best thing about that movie. Though if Justin’s review of Robot Jox is any indication, we may have seen the bulk of Allen’s work in the thirty second promo.

Wolfy: I come from a place of deep affection for both the MechWarrior PC games and the live-action green screen acting of old CD-ROM games (the opening scene of MechWarrior 4 is a personal favorite), so this early ’90s movie all about stop-motion war machines seems tailor-made for my BattleTech-loving FMV acting heart. Obviously, I’m not anticipating the titular robot wars to be any good, but the fact that the whole thing seems to be trying so very, very hard is potentially endearing. Much like those aforementioned opening sequences.

1303: Beyond Atlantis

Sitting Duck: Funny thing. Thanks to an observant poster at the MST3K forum, it was determined that this one would be screened in the upcoming season before the official announcement. A Kickstarter update showed some of the props that would be used. One was a SAT Study Guide: ’70s Dirtbag Edition. The above-mentioned poster recognized Sid Haig’s character on the cover. Since a virtually identical still can be found in the movie’s IMDB photo gallery, it proved to be a solid deduction.

This one probably evokes the most trepidation for me. It’s one of those American/Filipino co-productions from the 1970s, a couple of which I have experienced thanks to RiffTrax. They were Wonder Women and Beast of Yellow Night and, though the riffing was solid, those productions were just so repulsive. In fact, I couldn’t make it all the way through the latter one. Not helping matters is that Beyond Atlantis has been described as a knockoff of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, an overrated “classic” I personally despise. Fingers crossed, then.

Wolfy: Out of all the movies coming in Season 13, this one could probably be one of the worst. I have no knowledge of what to expect, but it also does seem to present itself as highly exploitative and full of mockery of island native cultures. Worse, I am not entirely convinced that the riffing of MST3K could carry me through the whole thing. It’s going to take some extremely solid jokes sticking every single landing for me to get through this episode, I fear.

1304 Munchie

Sitting Duck: The fact that this one is classified as a comedy is worrisome. Catalina Caper was the only true comedy (as opposed to merely having bad comic relief) screened on MST3K, which proved to be an ultimately bad combination. I’m also not fond of child protagonists, another strike against it. Though if the presence of actors with due rent bills interest you, it’s got the voice of Dom DeLuise, the receptionist from WKRP, Pecs & Pulchritude flick cheesecake Monique Gabrielle, and Jennifer Love Hewitt: Jailbait Edition.

Wolfy: Are we really sure we’re ready to work through a creature feature with Dom DeLuise as the starring voice? Like it or not, we’re all going to find out. The fact that Munchie looks like it’s trying to fuse the whimsy of E.T. with the comedic bent of Genie from Disney’s animated film Aladdin could either be a goldmine of riffs or far too difficult to get through without headdesking. I seem to recall this character trope being extremely prevalent around this time, and I have bare little faith in child actors, so consider me unconvinced but at least passing curious.

1305: Doctor Mordrid

Sitting Duck: Seems rather fortuitous that Justin’s review of Doctor Mordrid got posted mere hours before its inclusion in Season 13 was announced. You could say it was weird. I guess that is the word for it. Weird. Though if it’s true that this was originally intended to be a Doctor Strange movie, maybe there’s hope for A Certain Other Budget Minded Marvel Film. Come on, Corman. Make The Terrific Tetrad a thing.

Wolfy: Thanks to Justin’s review of this one, I am extremely excited to witness Doctor Mordrid, aka the Five Below Doctor Strange. This film seems right up MST3K’s alley. It appears to have some of the most delicious ham ever delivered by its actors and just doesn’t seem to care that it’s ripping off its inspiration. In fact, one could probably take this as a love letter to that inspiration. A love letter written in crayon with bad poetry, but a love letter, nonetheless.

1306: Demon Squad

Sitting Duck: There’s been some dissent over the riffing of 21st Century movies, and I sort of understand it. Atlantic Rim was one of the iffier Netflix era experiments. But in this case, I think we have a winner. This is the sort of movie intended for MST3K, where a collection of scrappy misfits far from the toxic environs of Tinsel Town (in this case, Alabama) go and make their own movie.

I’m also loving the fact that it’s going to be an urban fantasy story of the noir subset, like what’s seen in the earlier volumes of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. I honestly believe this could be the Time Chasers of NuMST3K. In fact, I’m sorely tempted to seek it out and watch it unriffed.

Wolfy: What happens when you spend all of your film’s budget on costumes and makeup and not a whole lot on sound equipment? It would appear that we get Demon Squad, a film that looks like it’s trying its best to be imaginative and creative but doesn’t really know what to do with itself. It also seems to be a showcase for a makeup artist’s attempt at talent. I’m anticipating a lot of rips into the movie’s visuals, but hopefully the plot – such as it is – will have lots of meat on its bones for the boys to chew on.

1307: Gamera vs Jiger

Wolfy: MST3K and Gamera films go together like peanut butter and jelly, so color me absolutely on-board for Gamera vs. Jiger, especially as this one looks to be deep into the territory of Gamera being the heroic turtle monster that Japanese children know and love. I’m very glad that this one is in the lineup and have some pretty high hopes, especially since Gamera vs. Zigra is probably one of my top-tier MST3K episodes.

Sitting Duck: Personally, I consider Gamera vs Guiron the zenith of the Showa era Gamera films. Which segues nicely into how Gamera vs Jiger features the triumphant return of everyone’s favorite Asiatic Milhouse Van Houten lookalike, Kon “Cornjob” Omura. Here’s hoping that the riffers will limit themselves to one joke about the unfortunate facial hair he sports. Though as mentioned in my Season 3 review, I’ve already seen this movie through an MST3K fan project on YouTube called MST3K vs Gamera: Round 2. It’s a top-notch production, and I hope won’t end up comparing the two.

1308: The Batwoman

Wolfy: We’ve got another superheroic knockoff and a reason to have a bikini-clad woman get slathered all over the screen all in one film with this one. It’s going to be hard to appreciate how much fun this one is going to be, especially since this one looks like it’s riding the exploitation line once again. There’s also some more professional wrestling going on in this one? What is it with wrestling superheroes? But on point, this might be another weak episode that has me a bit worried. Not quite as worried as Beyond Atlantis, but certainly concerned.

Sitting Duck: My first reaction to seeing the promo was, “Holy Copyright Violation, Batman!” But according to the IMDB entry, Bill Finger and Bob Kane are credited. So apparently it’s kind of sort of legit? As for the wrestling angle, it might help to know that this movie and Santo in the Treasure of Dracula were both directed by René Cardona. Who incidentally is also responsible for that absolutely bonkers Santa Claus movie from the fifth season of MST3K.

Her costume is something else. Of course, costume design for female superheroes often emphasizes the cheesecake factor. But this takes it to another level. The only one I know of to surpass it is Go Nagai’s Kekko Kamen. If you choose to Google image search that term, make sure you do it on an unshared device with no chance of anyone shoulder surfing. You’ll thank me later.

1309: The Million Eyes of Sumuru

Wolfy: It seems like Season 13 is big on the exploit flicks, as this one looks like it’s trying to do a Charlie’s Angels meets James Bond thing as a villainous group of women targets the world’s men according to IMDB. I am extremely uncomfortable with that whole premise even if it is done up in ’60s pastiche; I’m expecting similar chauvinism indicative of that period on top. Maybe the antics will be goofy enough – and the riffing solid enough – to make this one work, but I have some doubts.

Sitting Duck: The first KTMA redo since the third season. It does have a strong whiff of those Lost Civilization of Women movies that were so common in the 1950s. You know, the ones that end with them submitting to the collective libido of the manly expedition which uncovers their existence. Troubling to say the least. But with the presence of Frankie Avalon, the odds of goofiness seem reasonably good.

Fun Fact: Maria Rohm, who portrays Helga in this movie, was the wife of the writer/producer Harry Alan Towers. When they tied the knot, she was 18 and he was 43. Reading that, you probably have this image in your head of a slobbering doughy guy lewdly chuckling as he prepares to deflower a naive ingenue. The photo of Towers in his IMDB profile will do nothing to dispel that visualization. Though they seem to have made it work, as they remained together until his death in 2009.

1310: The Shape of Things to Come

Wolfy: We’ve got a movie that stars sentient skeleton Jack Palance and an apparent disconnect from the book that the movie cites as its inspiration. And here I thought that Will Smith’s popcorn film adaptation of I, Robot was missing the point.

All that said, I think we can all divorce ourselves from the threadbare link between book and film long enough to enjoy some classic sci-fi goofiness that is MST3K’s stock in trade. Also, I have to admit, a lot of the practical effects look really earnest and well done. This promises to be a possible classic for the show. Or at least a middling and entertaining entry.

Sitting Duck: It’s true that this may be the Hup Gomer Wells version of the story. Then again, I never liked the writings of Herbert George Wells, so I couldn’t care less about the lack of fidelity to the source material.

This one absolutely reeks of a Star Wars cash-in, and I’m fine with that. Starcrash was my favorite episode of Season 11, and this looks to be much of the same. I’m particularly digging those robot designs.

1311: The Mask 3D

Wolfy: So they’re riffing a 3D movie? I’m curious how that’s going to work and if viewers are going to be taken along for the three-dimensional ride. Even if we don’t, this horror flick once again looks like it will land solidly in MST3K’s wheelhouse as it’s full of cult horror flick scene eating and a fully silly premise, like a classic episode of The Twilight Zone that overstays its welcome. And hey, even if we don’t get to experience this one in “incredible” 3D, we can at least maybe laugh at the vignettes that try to make the scares pop.

Sitting Duck: Technically, Revenge of the Creature was the first 3-D movie screened on MST3K. However, this episode is intending to employ the movie’s 3-D, as one of the goodies Kickstarter backers will receive is a set of 3-D glasses. Not sure how the non-backers are going to get the full experience.

It also notable for being the first black and white movie to be featured since Horrors of Spider Island. The reason for their previous absence is thanks to Kids These Days, with their loud music and their hula hoops and their HD streaming videos. In a Kickstarter update, Joel had noted how his own kids had trouble engaging in black and white media, and he figured a new generation of fans should be eased into it. There’s also the fact that so many black and white films suited for riffing look like they were dragged across an ill-maintained parking lot.

1312: The Bubble

Wolfy: I am unnaturally eager for this one. It looks like an extremely sloppy attempt at a Stephen King-like tale of a town barely hiding a “dark” secret. That means there is probably going to be lots and lots of overdone acting, which should provide ample food for MST3K to lance in to. Even if the riffing on this one isn’t particularly good, I think even just watching the movie itself will be a hilarious romp. Fingers crossed and hopes high here.

Sitting Duck: For anyone into old-time radio, the writer/director Arch Oboler is an instantly recognizable name. Mostly he’s known for his writing on the horror anthology Lights Out. Though far from perfect (do NOT get me started on “Cat Wife”) and occasionally prone to being pretentious, overall he has had more hits than misses.

You could also say that he was Rod Serling before Rod Serling was Rod Serling. So I’m not that surprised how the promo gives the impression of being a colorized Twilight Zone episode (with “Valley of the Shadow” in particular coming to mind).

1313: The Christmas Dragon

Wolfy: Another one that I am very eager for simply because I have a deep love for overdone fantasy films, especially ones that MST3K showcases. Once again, it’s the earnest and plainly eager attempt at telling some sort of fantastical Christmas story that appeals deeply to me, and I am intensely curious how Christmas and draconic high fantasy come together.

I have a deep feeling that this movie could become an MST3K instant classic. Call it a hunch.

Sitting Duck: Dragons and Christianity are hardly strangers. Look at the legend of St. George and the Dragon. Knights slaying dragons to rescue a fair damsel are a cliché thanks to that tale.

I’m guessing however that this will be akin to Quest of the Delta Knights, in that it’s kind of sort of our past but not really and filled with a boatload of anachronisms. In particular, the young lady pictured above has a definite cosplayer look to her. However, there’s no evidence I could dig up of it being shot at a Renaissance festival.

One comment

  1. It just occurred to me that the statement I made about Revenge of the Creature being the first 3-D movie screened on MST3K is erroneous. It should be Robot Monster.

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