One paragraph won’t cut it. Mystery Science Theater 3000 washed into my life at exactly the right time. Cave Dwellers (1984), Pod People (1983), Hercules Against The Moon Men (1964), Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966). That order framed my young MSTie experience. The intoxication of Cave Dwellers, the heart of Pod People, the fun of Moon Men, the pain of Manos. The four seasons of my fandom. The quartet encompassed the entirety of why I depended on the show and for distinct reasons.
Cave Dwellers is my first and what opened the door. The inventions, the robots, sitting and skewering a movie, the silhouettes, the host segments, the jokes, the entire force of it convinced me of what the power of laughter could give especially to a 13 year old with no friends. Ator, That Mean John Saxon-Type Guy, The Dull Old Man, Willie Nelson. The context made every morsel come alive and breathe. The flashbacks, Stately Wayne Manor, the handglider, the absurdity of bad flicks soothed my soul and converted me to a true believer.
Pod People skirted to the feels of childhood. A slasher, a tale of friendship, the packaging overwrites the story and the two-step of the mashup blurts signals in either image. Thus two Trumpys, two narratives, and two movies. Teasing over Movie A, Movie B, Movie C, and Movie D for Dumb imprinted immediately in me. “Pepperidge Farm Remembers…”, “With a name like Smuckers, it’s got to be good”, “In Cars…” “In Cars…”, “Trumpy, you can do stupid things.” My anguish of early life found voice in Pod People and what MST3K did with it. A poignant serenade of good things coming to an end, transition, contradiction, and the mixed feelings of positive and negative in what we endure and what we love rings true and is the beating heart of A Clown In The Sky.
Hercules Against The Moon Men furthered the form in the inception of Deep Hurting as a state of consciousness engendered in a scene or whole film. “Sandstorm…” “Sandstorm…” The tease of suffering ahead and the baited breath waiting for it became much of the show. “Pizza… Pizza…”, “War comes to the land of Dairy Queen”, “Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, it’s off to death we go!” The lark of the meat grinder and savoring the joy mixes into the reality of watching bad movies. Reaching critical mass, they panic. They lose their cool. Only to regain it again. Yet the process extended how it worked and helped me to follow them. Adaptation, not making the same mistake, enjoying what you do, these flavor how we combat adversity and fit where we find ourselves. A lesson to live by.
Manos: The Hands of Fate is Skynet becoming self-aware. Sandstorm: The Movie in other words. A warning, a short, then hell breaks loose and our friends must overcome it. Joke by joke and skit by skit, they scratch and claw at the air and at the movie as they survive the No-Win Scenario and succeed. They have the last laugh and so do we but not without cost. The toll? The movie is with us always much like The Master, Torgo, and the memory of seeing it. It never goes away and never will. We’ve been changed by it and it too has been changed by us. A forgotten film no more.
These four experiments informed how I dealt with everything else and combined as I viewed Mitchell (1975) in 1993. Wonderment, soul, silliness, heartbreak, Mitchell was all of these. Joe Don Baker, the seventies in living color, the mayhem of baby oil, and the departure of our beloved host. Existence across the spectrum is visible in each moment and the episode summed up “a guy named Joel” and this program better ever before. It stands as a peak of then and now. Not a bunch of MSTs match toe to toe with Mitchell and that is a tribute to Mitchell, the writers, what was happening, lightning in the bottle, and Joel’s journey from KTMA to here. This was our last ride till Season 13 with the father of MST and it hasn’t lost a beat. Monticello, Audited, Daktari Stool, 2001: A Gypsy Odyssey, Worried and Alone, Hamdingers, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao. “Hey look, a sex film”, “Mittens? An action film called Mittens?”, “Joe Don Baker is Mittens.” “Why would anyone want to do this with Mitchell, Joel?” or “My My My MY GOD!!!”?