I have been compiling this very list for DECADES. Surprisingly, only a handful of my picks have actually made it onto Rifftrax, The Mads, or Season 12/13. (Though I’m pleased as punch, Gamera vs Jiger will be making an appearance in the Gizmoplex) Without further adieu, let me introduce you to your Deep Hurting All-Star Line-Up:
1 — The Man Without a Body (1958) - The most riffable movie I’ve ever seen. The plot involves a dying industrialist tycoon who decides the only cure for his inoperable brain tumor is to have a brain transplant (luckily there’s a doctor in England who specializes in transplanting dead monkey brains into the skulls of other slightly less-dead monkeys.) But no ordinary replacement brain will do. After a motivational walk through Madame Tusseaud’s wax museum, he insists upon having the brain of Nostradamus … because he thinks it’ll give him super powers… somehow. So he hires a drunk surgeon to fly to Paris, dig up his 400 year old corpse, and steal the head it for him. And it just gets crazier from there. Where else are you going to see a tycoon demanding stock tips from a rotting severed head in a petri dish and a third-act monster that looks like the Burger King mascot got his head stuck inside a hotel mini-fridge? Not quite sure of the copyright status, but most of W. Lee Wilder’s other films are in the public domain, so it’s probably pretty cheap if it isn’t free.
Lovely restored HD print: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8WDHWbghn4
#2 — Terror Beneath the Sea (1966) This movie is a bizarre Japanese/American/German co-production with a surprisingly diverse cast (one of those films where everybody speaks their own language and gets dubbed later) starring Sonny Chiba, who MSTies will recognize as “Space Chief” from Invasion of the Neptune Men , long before he became a martial arts legend and costar of Quentin Tarantino movies. It’s an odd mashup of Toho-esque rubber monster suits and your standard cheap Italian James Bond rip-off spy movie, with a script only marginally more coherent than ‘Mighty Jack.’
The plot basically involves your typical handsome investigative reporter who’s invited to sit in on a demonstration of the Navy’s latest top secret underwater missile project (somebody really needs to explain to the military what “top secret” means) along with his perfectly hair-helmeted photographer and possible love interest, though this being the 60’s their Asian male/white female romance is kept strictly platonic. During the demonstration, they briefly see a mysterious shape pass in front of the camera for a few seconds, and instead of assuming it’s just a piece of seaweed or some other random piece of floating ocean garbage, they instantly jump to the conclusion that it was some sort of sea monster responsible for sabotaging the project …which against all odds, actually turns out to be the correct hypothesis.
These monsters look like cross-eyed silver spray-painted Sleestaks (but are referred to as “water cyborgs”) under the control of a dollar store Blofeld in wrap-around sunglasses who has his very own secret underwater lair, from which he’s been sending his army of cybernetic fish people to abduct the world’s top scientists in order to force them build more cybernetic fish people (it’s a vicious cycle.) His eventual goal is to convert the entire human race into cyborg fish slaves… in order to achieve world peace. These “water cyborgs” have the strength of 10 men, but prefer to just shoot people in the chest using handguns fitted with silencers. Also, they are all controlled from a single oversized washing machine dial labeled “Work - Rest - Fight”, which invariably gets broken and stuck in the “Fight” position during a convoluted model sequence where the bad guys somehow manage to shoot their own underwater base with a missile (don’t ask) causing the cyborgs to go haywire and start attacking everybody in sight.
This movie is in the public domain and I don’t know how, but the print looks absolutely gorgeous. It’s easily the best looking public domain movie I’ve ever seen. It ticks all the boxes for maximum riffability, though because it’s dubbed, a lot of the expositionary dialogue does get mashed together with smaller than normal gaps in-between lines for inserting riffs. It’s not a constant thing; some scenes are run-on dialogue heavy but others are just the cast pulling various faces and making those “uhhh” “ahhh” “ohhh” reaction noises that seem to be a staple of every badly dubbed Japanese monster movie.
HD Print: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLKXsS_Qjrw
#3 — The Cyclops (1957) - The last of the classic 50’s Bert I. Gordon pictures left unriffed. Probably because the guys were sick and tired of riffing on the same terrible stock footage recycled from ‘King Dinosaur.’
#4 — The Devil’s Eight (1969) - This is the movie Ross Hagan made back to back with ‘Sidehackers.’ It’s a shameless rip-off of ‘The Dirty Dozen,’ where a federal agent decides to take down the criminal empire of a couple of moonshiners (who apparently have more money and influence than the Mafia) so he gets the brilliant idea of enlisting the help of a local chain gang because… uhh… reasons. This movie contains almost as much stupid as ‘Sidehackers’ and ‘The Hellcats,’ but is thankfully less rapey.
#5 — Dimension 5 (1966) - An ultra cheesy time travel spy movie from the same brilliant minds who brought you ‘The Human Duplicators’ and ‘Women of the Prehistoric Planet.’ This one stars Jeffrey Hunter, the original Captain Pike from Star Trek (actually, a few Star Trek guest actors pop up in this one) and Oddjob from ‘Goldfinger’ (who wasn’t paid enough to stand.) The whole thing appears to have been filmed on approximately the same budget as an episode of ‘Time Tunnel’ and routinely forgets that it’s hero has the ability to go back in time just by cinching up his time travel belt. There may not be a “hikeeba” in this one, but one of the movie’s support thugs somehow manages to bear an uncanny resemblance to both Tor Johnson and Dom Deluise, if that’s a selling point.
Okay print, but there’s a higher quality restored version up on Amazon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EimxJAcoU8
#6 — War of the Robots (1978) - Not to be confused with ‘Robot Wars’, which Joel has already confirmed will be riffed, this one features Antonio Sabato (better known to MSTies as Toblerone from ‘Escape 2000’) wearing an orange pleather jumpsuit and fighting “robots” in blonde Prince Valliant wigs in the third in a not-quite-connected trilogy of terrible Italian ‘Star Wars’ rip-off movies. And boy howdy, I’m not kidding about the rip-off part. There are all manner of terrible sub-Battlestar Galactica level “aliens”, goofy hairstyles, “laser sword” fights, and the entire 3rd act is one long protracted space battle, but instead of a trench run on the Death Star you get Toblerone and a couple of other guys in knock-off X-wing pilot helmets sitting in some dark nether-void that’s supposed to be a cockpit killing the the same flying saucer models over and over again, while an unrelated triangle shoots some circles on some kid’s vectrex. The director also apparently decided the best way to hide their crappy sets was by shooting every scene they could in maximum close-up, so get used to seeing a lot of Antonio Sabato’s swarthy grinning slab-o-face. I think 90% of the budget went into providing ridiculous wigs and space suits, and the remaining 10% into tooth whitener to keep Antonio’s choppers absolutely flawless at all times. Not only is this one of the most unashamedly cheesy sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen, it’s also fully in the public domain.
Okay print, but there are better commercial DVD copies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gb7rNA8rjCY
#7 — Latitude Zero (1970) - Another one for the probably public domain pile.
Latitude Zero (1970) is one of those odd American/Japanese co-production where everybody spoke their own language and got dubbed later on, which is supposedly in the public domain because the rights were co-owned between Toho Studios in Japan, and Four Star Productions in America, who went bankrupt, and the rights got held up in legal red tape for decades, and then allowed to expire.
It’s got Joseph Cotten as a flamboyantly kerchiefed submarine captain (who’s career appears to have taken a nose dive after ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘The Third Man’), Cesar Romero as a scheming mad scientist named Malic with a hidden fortress on Blood Rock Island, and a similarly nonsensical plot for global domination involving abducted scientists, secret formulas, warring submarines (i.e. lots of Toho model shots), and generically mutated henchmen. Only in this case, the henchmen are Bat Men instead of Fish People (poor Cesar Romero should have known better than to mess around with bats) a few giant rats, and a manticore (incorrectly referred to as a griffon) which Malic literally creates because he just happens to have both a lion and a condor lying around and decides it would be a really good idea to fuse the two together and surgically implant the brain of a submarine captain who “failed him for the last time.” Understandably, this does not go according to plan.
#8 — The Gypsy Moon (1954) One of the earlier Rocky Jones “movies.” Don’t worry, Winky and Bobby are still just as punchable as you remember. This is also the “movie” that introduces us to John Banner and BOOPIE!
#9 — Battle of the Worlds (1961) Another Public Domain movie that I’m amazed that I’m amazed never got used on MST3K because it’s a perfect storm of overacted non-action, cookie cutter characters, made cheaply in Italy production values, theremin music, and a pre-Star Trek era vision of mankind’s exciting future where everything is rocket-powered and usually preceded with the word “Space.”
Plot-wise, it’s actually a bit similar to Crash of the Moons , in that a “rogue planet” enters the solar system, and appears to be on a collision course with Earth, and only a curmudgeony Claude Rains (who looks like he would be right at home swatting at imaginary elves with Grandpa on the front porch) is smart enough to realize the planet is under alien control, and the only way they can stop it is by leading an expedition to the mysterious planet and shutting down it’s computer-controlled flying saucer defense fleet, so they can “safely” nuke it from orbit.
Oh, it also contains the greatest F. U. epitaph in cinema history as Rains’ character refuses to leave the about-to-be-nuked planet because of SCIENCE! (which he seems absolutely ecstatic about), and as survivors watch an old man explode from the safety of their rocket ship, the Commander woodenly delivers the immortal line “Poor Benson—if they’d opened up his chest, they’d find a formula… where his heart should have been.” Cut to a shot of Benson’s little dog waiting patiently by the window for him to return home. Fade to black. And now you have that depressing Futurama episode stuck in your head for the rest of the afternoon. You’re welcome.
#10 — Night Fright (1967) I’m not going to lie, this one is pretty rough. As in somewhere between ‘Attack of the the Eye Creatures’ and ‘Monster A-Go Go’ level bad. I can totally see it being one of those films that they watched for MST3K and immediately dismissed. It’s another one of those “Oh crap, we forgot to make a monster, just slap a paper mache mask on a rented gorilla costume and call it good” films that were so prevalent in the 60’s. It also stars John Agar, and there’s a huge chunk of the movie that’s just random extras out in the woods shaking their hinders while some guy noodles around on a guitar. But it’s got plenty of POV cam monster peeping on necking teens (all played by actors in their 40’s), dumb ass cops, not-so-subtle product placement, blue-for-night filming, mom’s station wagon filling in for a police vehicle. All the ingredients needed for a perfect MST3K smoothee.
#11 — Golden Needles (1974) Joe Don Baker stars in a kung-fu remake of ‘The Maltese Falcon.’ No, I’m not making that up. Also Burgess Meridith plays the bad guy, and at one point they got Jim Kelly to wander onto set and perform a fight scene and then wander off again. (He gets second billing, by the way.) If ‘Walking Tall’ was the movie that made Joe Don Baker’s acting career, this was arguably the movie that broke it. You haven’t been properly blooded as a MST3K host until you’ve riffed a Joe Don Baker movie, and despite the mention of “pleasure and sexual prowess” in the trailer, this movie is purely in the PG-13 category. Fair warning, there is a tiny bit of male hinder nudity (thankfully, not Joe Don’s) in one sequence, so Jonah or Emily may have to open up an umbrella for a few seconds.
#12 — Sting of Death (1964) Not to be confused with the Boris Karloff movie of the same name. Somehow, the director of ‘Wild Rebels’ got Neil Sedaka to compose a “hit single” called ‘Do the Jelly’ for this “bullied mad scientist builds an underwater lair and turns himself into a killer jellyfish” movie filmed on location in the Florida everglades. It stars absolutely nobody (I checked IMDB, the main character had a bit part on Flipper, and you’ll recognize the villain from ‘Wild Rebels’) and looks like it was made on the same weekend as ‘The Blood Waters of Doctor Z’ for about 1/10th of the budget. Honestly, if this gets riffed, it may actually be the worst monster in MST3K movie history. It is clearly and without question just a guy in a wet suit with an inflated plastic garbage bag over his head. Strangely, while the monster and underwater lair set are both laughably horrible, the cinematography is actually fairly competent, and it’s got to be the most puritanical teen-sploitation film I’ve ever seen, as every single female character bizarrely decides to do all their swimming fully clothed. (Though there is one shower scene where you can sort of see a tiny bit of female butt and a hint of breast through the glass door. I’m just going to assume this was purely accidental, or more obvious on the restored print, since the director seems to have gone out of his way to ensure no other female fleshy bits are seen anywhere else in the movie)
Here’s a decent quality print of the entire movie, but you can find an even better one on BluRay as part of the “William Grefé collection” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT656nJn3PI
#13 — Puss in Boots (1961) Perhaps you’ve heard of a fellow by the name of K. Gordon Murray who brought you the little cinematic gem called ‘Santa Claus?’ (also ‘The Christmas that Almost Wasn’t’ and ‘Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy’) Well, ‘Puss in Boots’ is another pants-crapping insane childrens’ matinee movie imported from Mexico, recut and redubbed by Murray, with random musical numbers added in for good measure. If anything, this movie may be even crazier than ‘Santa Claus’ since the titular character is a midget wearing a nightmare-inducing cat costume who clearly should not be allowed to handle sharp instruments (or regular instruments either, for that matter.) Note: I have a copy of the “Murray Cut” of this movie that I got from one of those cheap public domain movie distributors, but the sound is horrible with an audible hiss present throughout most the movie. Since I haven’t seen it posted online, I’m hoping that there’s a better quality version out there somewhere for someone with the right connections.