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Featured VOD Review: MST3K: Season 11

April 17th, 2017

MST3K: Season 11 - Watch on Netflix: Video on Demand

MST3K

There were rumors about MST3K being revived for a while, but it wasn’t until the Kickstarter materialized that I really thought it would make a comeback. I was one of nearly 50,000 backers who have been patiently waiting more than a year for the revival to start airing. On Friday, all 14 episodes of the show debuted on Netflix. I’m going to review the first four episodes of the show for two reasons. Firstly, the creators recommended not binging on the show. Secondly, it matches the old DVD reviews I’ve done.

The Movie

  1. Experiment 1101: Reptilicus - 1961

    The series begins with introductions to the new cast of characters. Jonah Heston is a space pilot at Gizmonic Institute. He’s returning to Earth with a record load of meteors... wouldn’t they be asteroids? They are only meteors when they enter a planet’s atmosphere. Before Jonah can get back to Earth, he gets a distress call and he’s determined to help. Unfortunately, it’s a trap. Kinga Forrester and her assistant, TV’s Son of TV’s Frank, have set a trap, because they need a new test subject, as they are continuing the experiments their forefathers started. ... Or two fathers, to be more accurate. Jonah is locked away in the Satellite of Love with his four robot friends, Cambot, Gypsy, Tom Servo, and Crow.

    The first episode features a Danish monster movie, Reptilicus. A copper miner finds the frozen tail of an ancient reptile and takes it to a scientists to learn what it was. It is accidentally thawed and soon begins to regenerate itself. The scientists decide to stick it in a giant pool and fill it with nutrient fluid and see what it grows into. It grows into an unconvincing papier-mâché monster.

    This movie is perfect for MST3K. It’s a big monster movie with poor special effects, bad acting, and a really bizarre comedy relief character. It is entertainingly bad, which is a key aspect to look for in a target movie. If a movie is bad in a dull way, it is harder to find parts to riff and the energy level sags.

    The host skits in this episode include the invention exchange, albeit a one-sided exchange. On a side note, how has no one mass-produced this invention yet? There is also a song about monsters that are found in various countries. Crow clones Tom Servo in the second break, while fan letters are read in the third break. Finally, Jonah creates a small model city for Gypsy to destroy.

  2. Experiment 1102: Cry Wilderness - 1987

    A young boy, Paul, met Bigfoot one summer and the next school year gets a psychic message from the big guy telling him his father is in danger. He runs away from school and hitchhikes to the Pacific Northwest ... Side note: The movie is a family film and early on has its main character, a child, hitchhike to get to his dad. Talk about a bad role model for kids. Meanwhile, the kid’s father, a forest ranger, has been tracking a strange unknown animal for weeks. The sheriff and the mayor want this thing dead and the mayor, who is rich, even hired a big game hunter to shoot it dead. When the boy gets there, he is a magnet for getting into trouble.

    This movie doesn’t have the same energy as the first one did, as too much of the movie is too much animals, not enough plot. They actually mention this in one of the host skits. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a great choice for them to riff. There is some really bad acting and some curious choices were made during the production of the film. It doesn’t have quite the same energy.

    The host skits start with invention exchange and the Carvel Ice Cream Cake Clock. If you don’t follow Patton Oswalt on Twitter, then you might not get the full effect of this joke. In the second skit, the robots pretend to be playful raccoons. Jonah tries to explain why the plot to animal ratio is way off, while later we get some cameos from past stars of the show. From 1:28:16 to 1:28:21 of this episode is the greatest moment in the history of MST3K. That’s when my name is on screen in the list of Kickstarter backers.

  3. Experiment 1103: The Time Travelers - 1964

    A Sci-fi movie about a group of scientists who are trying to create a machine that can look into the past or future, but accidentally create a time portal which takes them 107 years into the future, a post-apocalyptic future. Their machine is damaged and they have deal with the future humans to try and get back to their time. Meanwhile, the future humans are trying to leave Earth, as it is a dead planet. Fortunately, they have found a new planet just a few light years away.

    The first Sci-fi movie to be targeted by the MST3K revival. Not only is it a Sci-fi film, it is a Sci-fi film with a message... and a spa scene that wouldn’t be out of place in an Anime series. There is plenty to mock here and the genre is a nice change of pace. On a side note, this is the only film of the first four episodes I would be willing to watch without the riffing.

    Host skits include an invention exchange, Gypsy leading a Time Portal safety drill, and Jonah creates some impressive robots only to have Crow and Tom Servo destroy them with baseball bats. We also get another Cameo and those are always fun.

  4. Experiment 1104: Avalanche - 1978

    A disaster movie produced by Roger Corman and starring Rock Hudson, Mia Farrow, as well as Steve Franken, who was in the previous movie. Rock Hudson stars as the owner of a ski resort and Mia Farrow is his ex-wife. He’s paid a bunch of athletes to come to his resort in order to get publicity. ... The movie is called Avalanche, so you know the good times won’t last.

    This is the biggest film from the four episodes I’m reviewing today. It is actually big enough to be in our database. It is also the first disaster movie, which is a genre that is ripe for the MST3K treatment, once the action gets going. It does start a little slow, although that is a strong source of humor.

    The host skits start with Mad Bots, a Mad Men parody. The invention exchange has movie poster fonts. Jonah tries to explain to the bots why Rock Hudon’s character isn’t a good romantic role model. We have another cameo when Neil Patrick Harris shows up. We get a nearly unending list of names for intentional B-movie disaster flicks. Finally, Gypsy puts on a show.

I was concerned that the revival of MST3K wouldn’t live up to the original series. There have been more than a few revivals I was looking forward to seeing that left me disappointed. I really tried to keep my expectations in check, even while getting really excited as the release date neared. With that in mind, I’m really happy with the new MST3K the four episodes I’ve watched so far are all well above average for the series as a whole. Remember, there were nearly 200 episodes produced during the show’s original run, so it would take something special to instantly be in the top 10% of those shows. There are some improvements from the original show. The pacing of the jokes is a lot faster and the production values have improved. I’m also loving the new cast and writers.

I’m sure there are some who will be upset with the new cast, as there are some who hate any and all change, but after four episodes, I’m ready to call the new season a success.

The Verdict

If you weren’t able to support the MST3K Kickstarter, but were a fan of the original show, then Season 11 is absolutely worth checking out. I would argue that it is worth getting Netflix to watch it on Video on Demand right now. There will be a DVD / Blu-ray produced, but I’m not sure if they will be for Kickstarter Backers only and it could be quite a wait.

Filed under: Video Review, Mia Farrow, Roger Corman, Neil Patrick Harris, Rock Hudson, Patton Oswalt, Steve Franken, Jonah Ray, Baron Vaughn, Felicia Day