Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) have long claimed Thanksgiving as a day for their show, dating back to turkey-day marathons on previous channels. With Netflix successfully rebooting the series, they delivered a brand-new experience to fans this past weekend of six new episodes designed to be binged in what was called as "The Gauntlet."
Jonah and the 'bots riffed their way through 80's cheesefest Mac and Me, mockbuster Atlantic Rim, Roger Corman underwater "adventure" Lords of the Deep, Lee Majors and Amazonian pirhana chewing the scenery in Killer Fish, ponderous sci-fi 70's flick The Day Time Ended, and barbarian schlock Ator The Fighting Eagle.
This is a binge definitely worth doing and if you can run through all six films in a row, you are a true champ! Let's run down each one down and we'll give them a rating by using our incredibly scientific… Bleeding Cool 0-5 Turkeys Scale!
Mac and Me
This movie is just plain weird. I feel like an old man remembering this coming out in theaters, and even more of a nerd knowing about the decade-long troll Paul Rudd has played with Conan O'Brien every time he comes on the show involving (the above) infamous scene from the E.T. rip-off. Highlights from the episode include multiple riffs on McDonald's and Coke's corporate sponsorship of the film, references to X-Men, Pulp Fiction, and Animaniacs. Oh, and they try to wrap-up the "cliffhanger" ending of Season 1, but "repeat to yourself it's just a show, I should really just relax" because it doesn't make a lick of sense. (3 -1/2 Turkeys)
Did you know there's an entire subgenre of movies that try to make you think they're the blockbusters we love? Well, here's this pile of crap about giant CG robots fighting monsters. It's terrible, and at least a third of the movie is definitely not stock footage of the US Navy and veteran character actor Graham Greene clearly just picking up a paycheck while he yells at people for no reason. The jokes are really fun here, especially when Crow and Tom Servo break out their own mech suits to sing new classic song "Get In Your Mech!" Like with Mac and Me, it felt like this was an easy film to pick on– possibly because it is so adjacent to what we already watch. So it works just slightly less well than some of the other films here, but is altogether quite fun. (3 and a 1/2 Turkeys)
Lords of the Deep
"It's like if James Cameron made The Abyss over a weekend with stuff from the 99 cent store!" So says Max, TV's Son of TV's Frank – and boy is he right. The roasts are hot and the quips fast and furious, but the dullness of this movie makes it harder to have a long-lasting impression. This is fun in the moment, but probably the most forgettable of "The Gauntlet" films. (2 Turkeys)
The Day Time Ended
This is it: the apex of the binge. You will not find a weirder movie this season or a more satisfying riff. I'm not sure how to even describe the plot of this one: a family on a remote ranch and something maybe aliens I'm not sure and weird robots and UFOs and stop-motion creatures. Luckily two thirds of the way through the film, Jonah and the 'bots sing a song inspired by The Music Man about how movies go out of control when they have too many concepts. It's sheer genius. The film? Not so much. But if you only watch one of these new episodes, make it this one. This episode also begins a three-episode arc storyline of the return of Dr. Eckhardt. He and Kinga search for an original master of the song "Idiot Control Now" so they can play it while they scatter the ashes of Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank. (5 Turkeys)
Lee Majors stars in this film about jewel thieves who have their treasure protected by deadly piranha! There's sudden but inevitable betrayal! An angry fish! This episode also has the best invention exchange, with Jonah and the 'bots proposing "Alchemy Glue" that works based on magic, while Kinga and Max give us a time-travel oven that will always make sure your turkey comes out roasted just right. But the killer fish? Not nearly as well done… (3 Turkeys)
Ator The Fighting Eagle
In the first ten minutes you have an "orphan baby of prophecy" being adopted, growing up, and deciding it wants to marry its sister – but it's ok because she's not really its sister! Did I mention an attack on the wedding by a raiding party – and a cute baby bear cub?!? This movie is bananas! It's also the perfect final course to this ridiculous binge run – and it all ends in a glorious call-back to one of the best MST3K moments of all time: "Mr. B Natural." (4 Turkeys)
So did you make it through the full gauntlet? Did you have a favorite moment in this new mini-season? Any guesses what the cliffhanger surprise ending means? Any suggestions for recent "turkeys" the gang can riff on?
Jump in the comments and let's talk!