Monday, June 1, 2015

MST3K Shorts

I'm a huge fan of the 90s cult show Mystery Science Theater 3000. The basic gist of the show is that an ordinary guy (Joel Robinson or Mike Nelson, played by Joel Hodgson and Michael J. Nelson, respectively) gets launched into space and forced to watch movies ranging from cheesy to downright terrible aboard what is known as the Satellite Of Love. While watching, the guy riffs, wisecracks, and generally makes fun of the movie du jour with two robots (Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot) aiding him. It's hard to talk about the history of the show when you're trying to introduce it to someone, since it's gone through quite a few cast and format changes over the years it's been on the air.

It's also hard to know what episode to use as a good starting point for the show. However, I feel that a good starting point is through the shorts that are shown before certain movies, since they're not as long as the films but are a good introduction to what riffing entails.

A little note, by the way, Tom Servo is sitting on the left, Joel or Mike is in the center, and Crow is sitting on the right. There, hope we've avoided some potential confusion with that.

So anyway, here's a selection of some of my personal favorites when it comes to shorts:

A Case Of Spring Fever
From: 1012- Squirm

This was my personal introduction to the show as well as the final short that was featured on the show. It involves this poor dope who wishes that he never has to deal with springs again, only to accidentally summon Coily The Spring Sprite (who I swear is voiced by Pinto Clovig) who grants his wish. Realizing that a world without springs would, well, kinda suck, he takes back his wish and proceeds to preach about his newfound wisdom about springs.

Mr. B Natural
From: 319- War Of The Colossal Beast

Easily the most famous of the MST3K shorts for one reason: Mr. B Natural (who is played by a woman) and his/her incredible flamboyance. So anyways, the sexually androgynous spirit of music helps this nerdy boy learn about musical education and the benefit of the right instruments.

Gumby In: Robot Rumpus
From: 912- The Screaming Skull

As someone who was a fan of Gumby growing up, I really enjoyed this riffing and it makes me wish that the crew riffed on more animated shorts. In this outing, Gumby gets robots to do his lawn work but they run amuck, so he has to stop them. The ending traumatized the bots so much that they viciously attacked the short later on in the episode.

Body Care And Grooming
From: 510- The Painted Hills

The last short featuring Joel before he left the show, this PSA going over body care for adolescents manages to get some fun riffing from the guys.

Keeping Clean And Neat
From: 613- The Sinister Urge

Man, if people of the 50s were really THIS obsessed with cleanliness and neatness, it makes me glad to be a child of the 90s! Anyways, another PSA for body care with some more fun riffing.

Johnny At The Fair
From: 419- The Rebel Set

This little kid ditches his parents at the Canadian National Expedition and proceeds to explore the sights and sounds. We get some hilariously dark riffing from Joel and the Bots in the process.

From: 515- The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman

Ya gotta love whenever someone makes a PSA designed to scar viewers and make the subject seem like the worst possible thing imaginable. A school boy manages to cheat his way to the top, but when he's caught, he's ostracized and it seems like his life is practically ruined. The dark lighting and atmosphere certainly doesn't help matters either. During this movie's host segments, (which occur in between the movie so as to provide breaks for the characters) Mike and the bots satirized this short mercilessly.

Circus On Ice
From: 421- Monster A Go-Go

Monster A Go-Go is easily the worst thing that was ever riffed on MST3K, but at least it had a delightfully dark riffing of a short to be paired up with. I wasn't sure how long Disney has been on ice, (sources say 1981 was when it first started,) but apparently somebody decided to make a circus themed ice show long before and, from the looks of it, the final result didn't blend well.

Alphabet Antics
From: 307- Daddy-O

Leave it to the guys on the Satellite Of Love to get a lot of mileage out of a whimsical and often unusual alphabet themed short for children.

Aquatic Wizards
From: 315- Teenage Caveman

An announcer tries to flaunt the marvels of water skiing. Joel and the bots proceed to mock it.

Catching Trouble
From: 315- Teenage Caveman

Hoo golly, this one is pretty damn uncomfortable. It doesn't stop Joel and the bots from coming up with some hilarious riffs, but man, if you hate animal abuse, this might be kinda hard to sit through. So anyways, this spineless creep named Ross torments snakes, a bobcat and two bear cubs before capturing them and selling them to the zoo, and it's exploited in the worst way possible. Even Joel and the bots acknowledge just how wrong it all is.

But to help cope with the above short, here was the host segment that followed right after it, where Joel, Tom and Crow proceed to give Ross a taste of his own medicine.

MST3K- Catching Ross

Uncle Jim's Dairy Farm
From: 607- Bloodlust

A couple of city kids spend the summer at their uncle's farm. I love how Mike, Tom and Crow try to make it seem like the kids' time at the farm is absolutely miserable and that they're even missing out on some things back home.

A Date With Your Family
From: 602- Invasion U.S.A.

Ah, more 50's wholesomeness. Let's watch Mike and the bots tear apart the outdated and questionable ethics of having dinner with the family.

Last Clear Chance
From: 520- Radar Secret Service

This short on traffic safety, particularly around railroad tracks, is one of those shorts that actually managed to outshine the film that it was paired with.

The Truck Farmer
From: 507- I Accuse My Parents

This short involving modern (at least modern at that time) farming techniques gets some glorious riffing from Joel and the bots.

Progress Island USA
From: 621- The Beast Of Yucca Flats

A short travel documentary that's clearly from the 70s promoting Puerto Rico and all it has to offer. The riffing is funny, of course, but one thing I will give the short is that I do love the music they used for it.

Until next time, keep circulating the tapes (or video links, or whatever.)

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