For as long as there have been performing arts, there have been bad performances, and movies do not escape this truth. It’s bound to happen with the amount of movies being produced every year. For every great movie, there are thirty bad ones. Of course every movie, even a bad one, requires a lot of work from a lot of dedicated people. It’s not necessary for every movie to explore the depths of the human condition. All the audience asks is to be entertained. In the many steps of trying to entertain, a lot can go wrong; from the concept and the script to the actors and the music, all the way down to the editing. The main problem is that there are too many people involved looking to make money or trying to cater to a specific audience. This has led to some true disasters, but every filmmaker deserves respect for at least making something, good or bad.
When an aspiring filmmaker is getting started, making short films for fun, there will always be a horror story in there somewhere. Horror sparks creativity like no other genre. You don’t see someone pulling out the camcorder and calling up any friend that wants to waste a day away to make a period piece about Marie Antoinette. Instead they come up with a crazy idea like an evil toupee that allows you to time travel (Time Toupee). It’s more fun, and that is exactly what makes for a good cheesy horror movie. Of course it’s easier to watch a movie than it is to create one regardless of the quality.
Now whether a movie is considered good or bad is only a matter of opinion. Sure, sometimes the opinion tends to be the same for a lot of people. Halloween is a masterpiece; Plan 9 From Outer Space is schlock, but sometimes Plan 9 is the movie you choose because schlock is more fun. Every once in a while an audience wants to turn their brains off and watch a movie go off the rails. There has always been that audience and there always will be. It’s more fun to experience these movies with your friends. Some of my fondest memories involve watching some of the worst movies my friends and I could find. Discovering a new awful movie like Thankskilling, a talking turkey on a killing spree, and coming up with your own commentary and criticism is a tradition. I know that there are many more like us out there.
Joel Hodgson knew this too. In 1988 Joel and his team created one of the greatest experiments that television had ever seen. The heart of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a man and his two robot friends make fun of bad movies, is so simple that it’s somewhat unbelievable that no one had done this before. I’m not going to get into the history of the show here because that would be a feat that I am not equipped to undertake, especially when the good people at WIRED have written this beautiful and extensive piece, but I do want to shed some light on the necessity of the MST3K.
Joel took what was happening all across America and included everyone in on their jokes. It was as if Joel, Crow, Tom Servo, and later Mike invited you into their living room to show you a movie that was going to be bad, but it was also going to be fun. They carried over the tradition and introduced a whole new generation of young boys and girls to the art of a verbal jab. In terms of comedy, MST3K has become an inspiration. The level of, dare I say genius, has raised the bar for all of us who love watching a bad movie. Everyone can disarm a movie with a sharp quip that will be repeated for as long as you and your friends are together. Luckily for those less than quick friends, the MST3K gang has created countless quotable lines. Occasionally a friend and I will say to each other, “That’ll stop the 400 pound guy that smells pancakes!” (Overdrawn at the Memory Bank) “Can I borrow a cup of shirt?” (Bogey Creek 2),”“You’re Welcome!” (Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders) or so many other great lines.
Although the show has been off the air for quite some time, it seems to be more popular than ever. With more and more people rediscovering the hilarious antics of the crew aboard the Satellite of Love, the filmmakers responsible for these bad movies should be proud and thankful that MST3K has kept their movies alive. They have made the movies more famous than they deserve. This is the necessity of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
There have been countless bad movies that have not been held accountable since the series went off the air. Thankfully (and not news to anyone), Netflix has resurrected the show and will be airing new episodes with a new cast. Joel is still the driving force behind the series, but Jonah Ray, Felicia Day, Patton Oswalt, Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn are welcome addition to the legacy. It’s an exciting time to be a fan or a bad movie.
I want to dedicate this article to the people who have brought so many people countless hours of joy: Joel Hodgson, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff, Bill Corbett, J. Elvis Weinstein, Zap Rowsdower, Big McLargeHuge, Dirk HardPec, Flint IronStag, Crunch ButtSteak, Fist RockBone, Hack BlowFist, Punch RockGroin, Rip SteakFace, Slab SquatThrust, Stump Chunkman, Thick McRunFast and the new crew. I already know it’s going to be great.