HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: MST3K: THE RETURN (2017)

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MST3K: THE RETURN (2017)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Mystery Science Theater 3000 was created by Joel Hodgson and originally ran for ten seasons from 1988 till 1999 and was a beloved show for movie geeks everywhere, as it playfully skewered some of the worst cult classics and B-movies of all kinds. The format had a working stiff (originally series creator Joel Hodgson and then Mike Nelson) being kidnapped to a satellite in space and forced to watch some of the worst films ever made. The subject and a group of robots would then comment on these films as the series’ villains observed and routinely tried to make things miserable for our heroes. Fans have missed the show since it’s cancellation and were overjoyed to find out that Netflix was reviving it.

Premiering on Netflix streaming this April, the new series follows the same plot with newcomer Jonah (comedian Jonah Ray) being the newest test subject under the watchful evil eye of Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day), daughter of original series villain Dr. Clayton Forrester and Max (Patton Oswalt), otherwise known as The TV Son of TV’s Frank, offspring of original series villain TV’s Frank. There are fourteen new episodes featuring fourteen bad movies to which our hero, along with robots Gypsy, Tom Servo, Crow and Cam-bot, watch and mock while Kinga and Max do their best to make Jonah crazy…all with mostly hilarious results.

The revived series certainly is a welcome return and, for the most part, can be as funny as the original show. As with all the other seasons, there are some strong and hilarious episodes and some which are just OK. The key here is the movies have to provide the crew with something to work with. The funniest episodes of the new season, such as premiere episode Reptilicus, Time Travelers, Starcrash, The Land That Time Forgot and the season finale At The Earth’s Core all provide material that is ripe for commentary and the writers certainly take the ball and run with it. Then there are movies which are just bad, like Cry Wilderness, the first hour of Beast From Hollow Mountain, Wizards of the Lost Kingdom and Carnival Magic, which are so bad that Jonah and the boys struggle through them to keep the comments coming and funny. If the movie they’re watching is boring, there isn’t much the crew can do. Thankfully, the episodes that do work…and more do than don’t…hilariously make up for the few where laughs and fun are scarce. As with the previous seasons, there are movie geek references galore, such as Kinga’s house band looking delightfully like Infra-Man’s skull soldiers and meta references to previous episodes.

The cast are all having a blast and it shows. Jonah Ray is a suitable replacement for the earlier Joel and Mike. He’s a likable lug and fits the part well. Felicia Day is having a blast as Kinga, a cross between Cruella Deville and Veruca Salt. Day knows how to ad camp in just the right amounts and to dial up just enough villainy so Kinga stays a fun bad girl, like her predecessors and doesn’t tip over into unlikable. Patton Oswalt is equally successful as the bumbling Max…who has a crush on Kinga, which she obviously ignores…and is not quite such a bad guy as his boss lady…though he is trying. The robots’ voice actors all do a good job with instilling them with personality, although they are the same characters from the original show, so they don’t have to work as hard to establish themselves like out new leads. There are also cameos from original series characters and actors and some amusing appearances from famous faces such as Mark Hamill and Jerry Seinfeld.

Overall, this is a very happy return for a personal favorite show. The new cast and characters are likable and fit in with the show’s established style and the old format still works and works well when given material ripe for the picking-on. There are a few yawn inducing episodes, when the movie itself is dull and not even funny in the wrong way, but when the movie is the right kind of bad, the episodes measure up to some of the previous series best on equal footing. Welcome back MST3K!…and when can we expect season 12???

EPISODE LIST

(Rating the show by episode instead of the usual overall rating)

  1. Reptilicus – 3 and 1/2 stars
  2. Cry Wilderness – 2 and 1/2 stars
  3. Time Travelers – 3 and 1/2 stars
  4. Avalanche – 2 and 1/2 stars
  5. The Beast of Hollow Mountain – 3 stars…the last 1/2 hour was very funny
  6. Starcrash – 3 and 1/2 stars
  7. The Land That Time Forgot – 3 and 1/2 stars
  8. The Loves Of Hercules – 3 stars
  9. Yongary – 3 and 1/2 stars
  10. Wizards of the Lost Kingdom – 2 and 1/2 stars
  11. Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II – 3 stars
  12. Carnival Magic – 2 and 1/2 stars
  13. The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t – 2 and 1/2 stars
  14. At the Earth’s Core – 3 and 1/2 stars

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA-EASTER EDITION: NIGHT OF THE LEPUS (1972)

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NIGHT OF THE LEPUS (1972)

Night Of The Lepus tells the chuckle inducing story of hormone experiments intended to curb an out of control rabbit population in the Southwest. This ‘solution’ causes not only an increase in size, but heightened aggression and a taste for flesh. Way to go science!

Only in the 70s (ok, maybe the 50s, too) could you have a horror movie about giant carnivorous rabbits. And what makes Lepus so much of a hoot, is just how dead serious this flick is. From the direction by William F. Claxton to the performances by it’s veteran cast, including Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh and a mustache sporting DeForest Kelley, Lepus really tries to present itself as a serious horror flick and that makes it all the more fun. From the slow motion scenes of real rabbits running through miniature sets to the close-ups of obviously fake, blood-soaked prosthetic rabbit claws and teeth, Lepus goes the whole way in trying to convince us to be scared of these adorably vicious giant bunnies. Epic fail! There’s even a guy in a rabbit suit jumping on the helpless victims. Seriously, how can you not love that! Whether they’re growling like mountain lions or chewing up the locals, Lepus is a deliriously fun ‘so bad it’s good’ treat. And there’s even a few scenes of decent gore to properly represent the rabbit induced carnage. If that’s not enough to convince you, hold on to your Easter baskets for the military v.s. monster rabbit showdown at the climax.

A sheer camp delight that has been a favorite since watching it on T.V. as a kid in the 70s! Viewed in the right mindset and with the right beverage, this is a great bit of schlocky 70s entertainment. Rated purely as delightfully entertaining cheese!

-MonsterZero NJ

A solid 3 giant mutant carnivorous bunnies

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HAPPY EASTER from MONSTERZERO NJ

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WINTERBEAST (1992)

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WINTERBEAST (1992)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Winterbeast is a perfect example of just how entertaining a bad movie can be. Flick’s convoluted plot has a snowy mountaintop community being beset by creatures that are actually demons that the Native Americans that once lived on the land have tried to keep at bay. A demon spirit is trying to enter this world through a portal in this area and his stop motion animated minions are gruesomely paving the way. The only thing that stands in it’s path are a couple of local forest rangers (Tim R. Morgan and Mike Magri)…at least I think that’s it.

Written and directed by Christopher Thies, this is a sometimes incoherent flick that is one weird scene after another with this hodgepodge plot about ancient Native American totem poles and demonic creatures the lay siege to a mountain community. The acting is delightfully terrible, the dialogue is amusingly awful and the stop-motion animated creatures and gore are delightfully cheesy. It’s also a bizarre little movie filled with WTF moments, such as the disturbing dance sequence featuring weird local lodge owner, Dave Sheldon (Bob Harlow) in plaid suit and clown mask, no less and a topless cutie being slammed against the side of a house by a stop motion totem pole creature, for no apparent reason…and let’s not forget the giant chicken monster. The editing is choppy and one wonders if director Thies was even on set as there seems to be little in the way of actual direction…though with this hopelessly amateur cast, would it have mattered?

I liked this film a lot, but, of course, for all the wrong reasons. The narrative is barely coherent, some scenes are completely random, the plot is loopy and there are some hilarious WTF sequences. There is a host of cheesy stop-motion animated creatures, some equally cheesy gore and some of the worst acting and dialogue you’ll ever hope to see. It’s also a lot of fun and a perfect example of why so bad can be so good. It made a real fun double feature with Don Dohler’s Alien Factor here in MonsterZero NJ’s lair, if ‘so bad, it’s good’ is your thing!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 scenes that made me giggle!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SANTA CLAUS (1959)

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SANTA CLAUS (1959)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Delightfully bad holiday flick was made in Mexico and dubbed into English making it even worse than it already is. The story has Santa (José Elías Moreno) preparing for Christmas from his workshop in space…yup, that’s right…where he is assisted, not by elves, but by children from every country…apparently Santa is totally fine with child labor. As Santa readies for the one day he comes to Earth, Satan…you also read that right…sends his demon henchman Pitch (José Luis Aguirre) to Earth to corrupt all the children into doing evil and ruining Christmas. Now it’s up to Santa to stop the Devil’s little helper from turning all the good kids bad!

Flick is directed by René Cardona from a scatterbrained script by he and Adolfo Torres Portillo and is simply a weird little movie that is quite amusing in it’s epic badness. Aside from having a child labor force, creepy Santa can also watch children 24/7 with his magic eye, has a key that can open any door, powers of invisibility and can even see into kid’s dreams…stalker much!?…and what’s with the shirtless blacksmith (Ángel Di Stefani) and that lip thing! Not sure I want to know! All the traditional Christmas elements are thrown out the window as Santa has his castle in space, mechanical reindeer and even has Merlin The Magician (Armando Arriola) working for him. From it’s hilariously cheap sets, horrible SPFX and disturbing children’s dream sequences, this is a hysterically awful…and sometimes uncomfortable…attempt at a Christmas movie from our filmmaking friends South Of The Border…and we’d love to know what they were smoking when they came up with this yuletide nonsense. The first half of this cheap flick is spent with Santa observing Pitch’s hi-jinx with his James Bond meets Pee Wee Herman spy equipment, as creepy St. Nick can only come to Earth on Christmas…a restraining order perhaps? We do see Santa scaring three boys out of being naughty, so this is a possibility. The second half is Santa vs Pitch as he tries to bring Christmas to all the boys and girls and Pitch plots with three bad kids to stop him. There is a fairly slow pace, some religious overtones and just overall seems like something out of a drug induced nightmare, far more than a holiday tale of everyone’s favorite jolly fellow…and is entertaining for all the wrong reasons.

Sometimes creepy flick has sentimental nostalgia, as I actually saw this as a teen at a Saturday matinee in the late 70s at the long gone Fairview cinema…hey, there was free popcorn and I took my hot MILF neighbor’s son to score points with his babe of a mom…and it is far funnier now that I am old enough to appreciate camp and unintentional laughs. Back then it was just awful and even my ten year-old charge knew it. Definitely worth a look for a holiday ‘so bad it’s good’ film festival with some brews definitely required as part of the show. Would make a great WTF Christmas double feature with Santa Clause Conquers The Martians!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 hilariously bad Mexican Christmas trees.

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Uh…Santa…what the f%&k is that?…

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS (1964)

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SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS (1964)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

If there ever is a holiday movie that warranted a “What the heck were they thinking?” it’s this one. Ridiculous story finds Martian ruler Kimar (Leonard Hicks), lamenting that the joy-less and robotic Martian society is negatively effecting their children, who are obsessed with watching TV programs from Earth. He comes to the conclusion that the children should experience fun and happiness and the only person who can bring that to the kids of Mars is Santa Claus (John Call). So, Kimar kidnaps Santa, along with two Earth kids, Billy (Victor Stiles) and his sister Betty (Donna Conforti) and brings them to Mars. Once there, the jolly Santa starts to win over the Martians, but the evil Voldar (Vincent Beck) plots to put an end to all this holiday cheer and return Mars to it’s old ways.

Written by Paul L. Jacobson and Glenville Mareth and directed by Nicholas Webster, this is a terrible movie on most levels. The story is ludicrous, the sets and FX are horribly cheap, the acting is terrible and it moves at a snail’s pace for an 80 minute movie. That’s also exactly what makes this flick a twisted yuletide treat, it’s just bad enough to be delightfully entertaining…especially with a healthy helping of holiday spirits while you watch. You sit there just wondering what drugs were passed around during the script writing process and marvel at how seriously the cast and director are taking this nonsense. The actors playing the Martians play it with complete urgency, save Bill McCutcheon as the oafish Dropo and John Call’s Santa comes across as more oblivious and deranged than jolly, as Santa. He seems barely bothered at all that he has been kidnaped to another planet and that certain factions are out to get him there. The dialog is atrocious and a sub-plot of an Earth ship in pursuit to rescue Santa is completely dropped after a scene or two. Where did they wind up?…and why expect any logic from a movie as scatterbrained as this!

At this point this flick is regarded as a camp, “so bad it’s good” classic. And It certainly is a lot of fun for all the wrong reasons. So if you are going to add this to your holiday watch list, make sure there is plenty of egg nog or whatever your favorite holiday beverage is and have a good time with the audacity of it all. Also renown as the first role for singer and actress Pia Zadora as one of Kimar’s children.

3 campy Christmas trees.

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