In celebration of the upcoming eleventh season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, CNET reports Netflix will release twenty episodes from the first ten seasons starting tomorrow. The list spans the breadth of the series’ characters and the types of cheesy films test subjects Joel Robinson, Mike Nelson and their robot pals had to endure, but five stand out as must-watch episodes for fans and newcomers alike.
- “Manos” The Hands of Fate: The granddaddy of all MST3K episodes. When writer Frank Coniff — charged with previewing possible films to riff on — found “Manos” in a list of titles available to the series, he never expected it would launch a rabid cult around the production and its trash auteur Harold P. Warren. In fact, he pleaded for forgiveness in his recently published book, Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever. But for good or ill, “Manos” reveals just how bad a movie can get and how hard it can be for the creators of MST3K to suffer for their art. In fact, here’s a warning: despite it’s fan-favorite status, “Manos” is not an entry level outing. It’s punishing stillness threatens to break Joel and the Bots, so perhaps try one of these others before making a date with Torgo and the Master.
- Teenagers from Outer Space: Another masterwork from a filmmaker with cloudy vision, director Tom Graeff, the film was intended to launch the career of star David Love. Instead, it became a delightful season four episode of MST3K and plays to the strengths of the well-honed riff machine the cast and writers of the series had become by that point. A number of running gags — including the infamous shout of “TOR-CHA!” — and a gentle, if doofy, storyline make this episode a great introduction for newcomers.
- Pumaman: With the powers of a Pumaman — or “Pyumaman,” depending who says it — a Doctor Strange cosplayer manages to befuddle a vinyl-wearing Donald Pleasence in a seemingly unintentional send-up of superhero tropes. Not befuddled are Mike Nelson and the Bots, who use the inept tone changes and shockingly bad flying effects to the utmost comedic effect. Arguably the best episode of the series’ time on the SciFi Channel if not for the next episode on this list.
- Space Mutiny: C-Grade action star Reb Brown plays a security chief on a colony ship which looks suspiciously like the original Battlestar Galactica. But when the mission is threaten by a group of aliens who look like back-up dancers for Vanity, Reb bursts into action, shooting and shouting his way to a confusing conclusion. This episode is notable for a long list of goofy action star names Mike and Bots apply to Brown, including classics like “Big McLargeHuge” and “Flint IronStag.”
- Zombie Nightmare: Perhaps an outlier on this list, Zombie Nightmare offers newcomers to the series a quick primer in just about every classic MST3K trope. It has oily characters, an ill-defined monster, a minor character with too much character and recognizable stars like Batman 66‘s Adam West and Wayne’s World‘s Tia Carrere. It also features tracks from bands like Motorhead and Girlschool. For the riffers, it means some killer jokes about Canada, the “acting” of future director Shawn Levy, West’s claim to fame, and the boy detective assigned to hunt down star Jon-Mikil Thor.
Of course, none of the films on the Netflix list are duds. Well, maybe Catalina Caper. But each captures the spirit of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and offers a great way to get new viewers hooked ahead of Season 11’s debut on April 14th. The remaining titles are:
The Giant Gila Monster
Hercules Against The Moon Men
Horrors Of Spider Island
I Accuse My Parents
Merlin’s Shop Of Mystical Wonders
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians
Think there’s something missing? Mad that Warrior of the Lost World didn’t get a name-check? Just relax and post your favorites in the comments below.