The "Almost" Films of MST3K

So I’ve seen discussion on the absolute worst films that have been riffed, and the ones that you thought weren’t that bad. I started thinking today about the “almost” films – the ones they riffed that were really bad, but that I could also see what the filmmaker was going for and the couple of things that could have been fixed to make it work.

I’ll start – Alien from L.A. There’s a decent idea here and something about the production design really works for me – it’s no worse than many other dystopian/secret world movies I’ve seen. That aspect feels a cut above most MSTied movies. But then that voice…and a script that doesn’t quite no where to go…and it falls apart.

Or parts of Mighty Jack seem interesting and at least somewhat competent. Any others?


I’ll kick in with Bloodlust. Sure, it’s a ripoff of The Most Dangerous Game, but there have been other ripoffs of that story that worked well. I think with better actors (especially the younger actors) and a slightly better script this could have been a pretty good movie.


I’ve said it many times before (although not here) and I’ll say it again. Being from another Planet is far from the worst film they did. I don’t care what Servo claims. It’s not. It’s mediocre and with a few minor tweaks, it actually could work very well. I spent some time once figuring out how to fix it and the main issue is that the motivation of the titular being is all over the map and then the ending is irritating.

As far as the motivation goes, all they have to do is make the being desperate to get home (after all, he’s been lock up for 3,000 years so he’s gonna be crabby). He’s rather ruthless in getting what he wants but once he realizes that these creatures around him were not responsible for his 3,000 year imprisonment, he gathers up his crystals and prepares to head home. They put in some scene where he communicates with Ben Murphy and then, at the end, perhaps, takes him with him back to his planet, ending the movie with a glimpse of his home (obviously setting up a sequel) or else simply that communication with Ben and then he disappears, leaving the humans behind to contemplate what just happened.

And suddenly, it’s a pretty good movie.


Puma Man could be a Marvel Film. It would follow Antonio, a whimpy, whiny Peruvian kid in New York (because it is Marvel, and there really is only one city in the MCU) who gets belts thrown at him by a mystical middle-aged Andean guy named Vidinio. At this point we get to a problem, similar to why there is no real MODOK in the MCU… how could you believably simulate Donald Pleasance without scaring half the audience to death? If they Tarkin-ed the CGI it might make Snoke look like Bradley Cooper! And you have to have Donald Pleasance, or why even bother? It’s like the Fantastic Four: no one really goes to see that bunch of losers, we all go for one reason: Doom.

So act one is belt throwing in New York. Act two is set in various construction sites (around… maybe… London? The Bronx? Italy?), with lots of scene chewing and goon throwing. In act three it turns out Kobras was working with a rebel faction of the Christmas ornament aliens, and Vidinio has been hiding it because he’s pretty much a jerk, and it ends with a huge CGI slugfest between Tony and Kobras at Coney Island. Of course, Vidinio sacrifices himself, Tony and Jane go off into the Andes, a blackened hand pops up out of helicopter wreckage, the end. Mid-credits scene: some new McGuffin pops out of the belt. Post-credits scene: Black Panther laughing for a solid minute.


They’d have to leave the Bronx and head for New Mexico if it was shot there


If Tormented hadn’t made it clear whether Tom Stewart was really being haunted or if it was just in his mind, I think it would have been a pretty good film.


Does The Magic Sword need any refining? Because as a film, it seems like everything you need is -right there.-

Seconded on @FlyingSquid’s take on Tormented.


Of course there’s the Russo-Finnish movies (and Jack Frost, which is wholly Russian I think).

Santa Claus is ridiculous, but the scenes centering around Lupita and her family have genuine pathos, and Lupita herself is adorable and personable.

I admire the willingness to go all-in shown in Overdrawn At The Memory Bank. They’re trying on multiple levels, from their pseudo-Nadsat jargon to the special effects to the cyberpunk storyline to Raul Julia.

Joel himself (in character) said The Magic Sword wasn’t such a bad movie, and I agree. Everyone, but especially Basil Rathbone, brings their all to that one.

Diabolik is a cult movie, it is what it is and it’s very riffable, but they do a great job of selling the amoral bastard lead.

Fugitive Alien and Star Force: Fugitive Alien II seem like they would be fun to watch subbed. I’ve see a couple of episodes without translation, you can tell what’s going on generally if you’ve seen Sandy Frank’s adaptations, and there’s some excellent music that was cut, either by MST or Sandy Frank himself, especially the ending theme! Ah, it took some searching, but here it is!


Moon Zero Two could have been pretty neat if it leaned more into the goofier tone implied by the opening credits.


Yeah I mean, Pumaman is definitely one of the most unique superheros…

(actually he’s kinda a more sane aztec Moon-Knight?)


“Manos”- The Hands of Fate…

Was it a bad film, yes.
But keep in mind they had budget of almost nothing, the fact they were able to make anything at all is impressive.

And John Reynolds owned the role of Torgo, I’ve even come to appreciate those frantic twitches he has… It’s almost like Torgo is struggling to break free of the Master’s control (I know that probably wasn’t the intention, but I do like to interpret it as that)

Wizards of the Lost Kingdom 1 also had some enjoyable moments, (I especially loved Kor the Conqueror, he was kinda like a cool Han Solo type guy.)

I Kinda also like the idea of the incompatant chosen ones so Lost Kingdom 2 is also quite apealing.

Delta Knights would also be kinda cool as maybe like a tv series?


Parts: The Clonus Horror is a film that works and is actually quite horrific, especially if you see some of the scenes cut for broadcast, like Richard discovering the fate of the clones and the nightmares he has of George and Lena, and the final moment is tonally perfect. If given a bigger budget and more well-known stars, the film could have been a decent summer blockbuster on par with a Michael Bay film…oh wait…


I think with a little script reworking and a MUCH bigger budget, Overdrawn at the Memory Bank could have been a really good high concept movie on par with The Matrix. That said…man I really love the cheap PBS feel of the original.


I don’t know much about Moon Knight, but from what I do know that is a pretty solid comparison.

Did you have any (comedic) material on why The Pumamin is so unique? I can think of a few, but I think this is all you!

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I think Viking Women but with a real budget and fewer modified swimsuits as costumes could be a rip-snortin’ good time. Also, no 1950s turnaround halfway through where the title characters got all that way across the water(s) only to immediately defer to Peter Graves Lite as soon as they find him.


Both Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptations from Season 11, The Land That Time Forgot and At the Earth’s Core, are victims of their budgets and effects technology at the time more than anything else. Burroughs had a truly wild imagination, and it’s only in more recent years that movies have been able to create anything close to the creatures and landscapes he described. Also, take out the whole thing with the guy in Land That Time Forgot randomly betraying everyone at the end, which wasn’t in the book so I have no idea what it’s doing there.


I agree with your take on the movie, although I think the younger kids compared to the older kid (the more “wry” kid) played by Robert Reed carried the story. Nothing against RR, but his take on the character was pretty…wry. Maybe it was the dialogue, or something.

I think Killer Shrews could have been a pretty good movie, what with having Goude and Best on one of the title cards…were it not for the actual shrews as depicted on screen.


Time Chasers was really, really close to becoming a bold, incredible romp.


He did! By the time he did his takes on hollow earth and dinosaurs, Arthur Conan Doyle had already written The Lost World and Jules Verne had written Journey To The Center of the Earth before he was born.

The Barsoom novels were I think on the whole more novel: John Carter prefigures Superman (gravity differences make him super-strong and able to leap tall buildings, etc.), e.g., and Synthetic Men of Mars (besides the synthetic men themselves) describes something akin to a freeway for traffic management.


The Screaming Skull is almost a good movie. Well actually, it’s almost a specific good movie. It’s almost Rebecca.