What’s the MST3K episode that you watch when you really are needing a reliable dose of laughter? The episode, or episodes, that really “delivers,” over and over?
The title that comes to mind that always gets me cracking up, even when things are looking pretty bleak, is “The Incredible Melting Man.” It’s so crammed with great riffs and observations- Mike and the Bots are in top form, and there’s the sub-plot of “Earth Vs. Soup” and its depiction of Hollywood shallowness. This episode inspires the kind of laughter where it starts to hurt, as I’m laughing through it pretty much non-stop.
I remember when the movie came out. I was a kid, a tomboy who loved Godzilla, and all things science fiction. My buddies at school were going to see the Incredible Melting Man, and reporting gleefully about how disgusting (in a fun way) it was. I, however, was forbidden to see it. So, though it is puerile, part of my enjoyment of this film is that I can watch it… whenever I feel like it.
If I’m feeling down, I put on Melting Man, and I am soon dissolving in helpless laughter. This movie is so terrible! It is non-stop RIDICULOUS, every step of the way. The process of the creation of the Melting Man is totally ridiculous, the nurse running inexplicably through a very long warehouse of some kind is ridiculous (why is she suddenly there?) There is one other inexplicably set in a warehouse scene, like the one where Dr. Ted Nelson joylessly shares the news of his wife’s pregnancy, as he and his companion sail along on some kind of— warehouse conveyance thing. Huh? “When do you think the people that work here are coming back?”
The dynamic between Ted Nelson and his wife just kills me. It’s just so bizarre. The crackers scene- oh man… It makes me wonder- why this dynamic? These two married people seem to barely tolerate each other. They must have met at an EST camp seminar in Big Sur, on the afternoon where everybody proudly practiced honing their ability to never be wrong, above the booming Pacific. The minutia of their lives is proudly paraded across the screen, and Mike and the Bots serve up a feast of riffs on it all (“STEVE had CRACKERS.”) And Ted Nelson is the Melting Man’s friend? He doesn’t appear to be genuinely concerned about the poor guy, who is “only a little” radioactive. In fact, he seems annoyed that the growly, turkey-leg eating General constantly checks on him to ensure he’s keeping track of Mr. Melt.
The whole movie is so Seventies, which I love. The awful decor, the bad bell-bottomed leisure suits, the “Denim Theater” mom, the giant woven moth wall hanging. Everybody appears to be on something, and that’s before the doctor injects his pregnant wife so the baby can discover “the joys of goofballs.” The wife’s creepy laughing freak out over the cat somehow opening the refrigerator door, grabbing the milk bottle, and throwing the bottle on the floor- this strange response of hers is pre-injection. As with other characters, the milk scene seems designed to make her less likable. Maybe that’s the point. Because pretty much EVERYBODY seems to become more and more unlikable as the movie churns on.
More ridiculousness: the sequence with the stoned couple coming home to their double-wide, where an absurd amount of screen time is devoted to the young woman’s community theater primal screaming. (Maybe the screaming actress had blackmail material on the casting director?) The “Welcome Back, Kotter” references- the Cat Stevens photographer- and that’s Rainbeaux Smith, biting her nails in the back of the car in the off-screen mauling scene. She also turned in a good-natured performance as the rather clueless Kathy in another one of my favorite episodes, “Laserblast.” (I never knew she sang backup vocals on a couple of Joan Jett’s albums.)
And oh man- the sequence with the old people. This particular ridiculousness is so funny. It’s so surreal! Tom’s “did they switch reels on us?” and Crow’s “What is HAPPENING?!!” sums it up. The thought of those two rather sweet old folks bringing Ted and his wife a “rubber novelty” as a gift-! And yeah- old people are always pulling over in the moonlight to steal lemons. Ridiculous.
After awhile, it starts to seem as if the “sanest” character in the film is the slightly radioactive guy who is staggering around melting, parts of him dropping off, who is randomly murdering people. At least he was exposed to a force that MADE him that awful. What’s everyone else’s excuse?
Crow’s bemused and disgusted “He just threw himself up!” and the title character being scraped off of the asphalt and dropped into a garbage can- what a classically bad way to end a movie. It was a very moist film, to be sure.
Though it’s hard to choose, another never fails episode is “Gamera vs. Guiron” (Cornjob, Duluth-accented space babes, 50 year old child, “Hello!” “Thank you.” “Hello?” “Thank you!”), ”Laserblast” and “Prince of Space” and “Eegah”- and— I guess there are a lot of “sure fire” episodes.
For a Film Crew episode, it’s “Hollywood After Dark.” Rue McClanahan stripping is pure John Waters weirdness. Cinematic Titanic- “The Alien Factor” is tied with “East Meets Watts.” For Rifftrax it might be “Ice Cream Bunny;” also “A Talking Cat!?!” is pretty great. I haven’t seen all the episodes of the “new” MST3K, but I want to, as I really like the new show. If I had to pick a go-to among episodes I have seen, it would be “Reptilicus,” though “At the Earth’s Core” is also pretty great. I can’t wait to see more new episodes. My budget won’t allow it right now, but if I could, I would immediately zoom over to the Gizmoplex, and buy everything I could get my eyeballs on.
Anyway- what’s an episode that you put on when you need to laugh a lot- and fast?