MST3K and bad movies in general

Even though the show has been off the air for some time, I always pull out my dvds and a few old VHS tapes to get my Mystery Science theater 3000 kick. Recently I recieved a box set in the mail which included "Overdrawn at the Memory Bank" and ***“Space Mutiny”. ***I prefer Joel to Mike, but still I was cracking up at those episodes. But watching those movies I realized that there is no way I could ever sit through them without Mike and the 'bots riffing away. That made me wonder…how the hell did those movies ever get made?

I mean, especially Space Mutiny? It was incredibly bad! How could anyone create a piece of crap like that and think it was even worthy of being released? People say that ***“Manos: The Hands of Fate” ***is one of the worst MST3k’d movies, but Manos, as stupid as it was made more sense than Space Mutiny. I don’t want to post any spoliers for people who might not have seen it, but seriously, it made me want to slap everyone that was in that movie. The best parts of it were the outer space scenes and they were stock footage from the original Battlestar Galactica! (I will concede that the movie was made in the late 80’s so the filmmakers probably thought no one would remember BSG)

"Overdrawn at the Memory bank" just didn’t make sense. Did the fat guy rule the world or just the company? (Mikes line of “To Wendy’s” when the fat guy is in the limo had me crying) Why was the main character “different” from everyone else? If this world was supposed to be some kind of cyberpunk dystopia it sure was a bright cheery one. Who the heck thought this would be a good movie, even for PBS? Did Raoul Julia need the money that bad?

There are plenty of really bad movies on MST3K or not, but movies like the ones I mentioned baffle me. I once wrote an online review for ***Iron Thunder ***(a really, really bad cheap movie with Richard Hatch!) and the director actually emailed me to tell me how I was wrong about his movie being bad. I wish I still had a copy of it. Because I don’t see how anyone can defend crappy movies like that or others…especially people that are supposed to know what they’re doing. (Like I replied to that guy, “I’ve never baked a cake but I know when one tastes like shit”. )

So what movies do you consider the worst you’ve ever seen? I kind of think of movies in these kinds of examples…

*Bad, but I can sit through it, and enjoy on some level: *
Rest Stop. Bad movie, kind of stupid, but makes a teeny bit of sense in its own little universe where the laws of common sense don’t directly apply. There are plenty of “horror” movies that fit into that category.

Awful. I can’t actually make it through this movie. May cause brain damage:
**The Doom Generation. **
Never made it through more than 20 to 30 minutes in this crime against humanity. I actually wanted to hire hitmen to wipe out anyone involved in it.
**The Breed. **
Made no sense. Was extremely stupid. Will make you want to raze eastern Europe.
So bad its good.
Omega Doom was one of the dumbest, cheapest, stupidest movies I’ve seen. Rutger hauer owes everyone an apology for it. But its so dumb, its almost fun to watch. A lot of b hooror movies fall into this, only because they often have hot chicks (who can’t act, but…) in them. If it was never on MST3K it should have been. (If memory serves it was an Albert Pyun directed movie and other than The Sword and the Sorceror…which falls into the So bad its good category for me…his movies are mostly unwatchable.)

This is a topic of continual fascination to me, which is probably a bad thing. I think the big problems are usually: people not knowing how to turn their ideas into a watchable story, lack of experience, and lack of knowledge of what people find interesting. In some MST3K movies, you can see what the filmmakers (“Can we have a rule that films have to be made by film makers”) were trying to do or at least thought they were trying to do. Overdrawn is a dystopian story about a technological world where blah blah blah, fighting for freedom, human creativity over authority, yada yada yada. But it doesn’t work because everything in the movie is ridiculous, particularly the cheap-looking production, the big cheat with the password, and- ah, hell, if I start listing the flaws I’ll never stop. It’s one of my very favorite MST3K episodes; that one and Space Mutiny have to be the ones I’ve watched the most.

People are great at deluding themselves, which is made easier when you don’t know what you’re doing in the first place so you aren’t aware you’ve done it all wrong. And after you’ve made the movie you’re trying to recoup the costs by releasing it.

The classic “so bad it’s good” movie is Plan 9 from Outer Space. If you get a crowd of people together and heckle this movie, you can’t have a bad time. Cardboard gravestones, scenes that switch from day to night at random, an airplane cockpit with no steering, a cop scratching his head with his gun, the super-cheap spaceships… there are some very boring scenes, but if you stick with it (or get a few drinks in you), you can’t not enjoy it. And then there’s the dialogue, which for humor and weirdness leaves almost every other instance of bad movie dialogue in the dust.

If you haven’t seen Reefer Madness, particularly with Mike Nelson’s commentary, you should.

But don’t watch anything by Coleman Francis, who even in MST form is painfully bad. And for me, personally, I try to avoid any bad '80s movie - MST’s Hobgoblins is a great example, but Weird Science is another one I just loathe. There’s something about bad movies from the '80s - the mix of puerile attempts at being profane and edgy, the way they age, even the clothes - that just makes me feel sick.

With films like Overdrawn, the low-budget losers that just generally stink, I think it’s a process of things going off the rails little by little: We have a part of a good script, but no budget, so we skimp on the effects and the actors and try to work on the script between shoots but, hey, we’re behind schedule so the script has to be rushed and the remaining effects shots are too expensive now so the script has to be cut outright… well, it’s in the can. Let’s just forget it ever happened.

The second kind of bad film is like Reefer Madness, where the whole premise is so stupid even a much better treatment could only hurt the result by making it less charming. (It’s important to note that with the right audience a film like this can be hailed as a masterpiece, and with the right budget and crew they can become classics in their own right: Triumph of the Will, Birth of a Nation, and possibly a few others)

The final kind is like Plan 9 and Manos, which both have workable plot ideas swimming around in them and otherwise can ape a decent movie. A more talented crew with perhaps a taste more money could have raised both of them to the level of a merely bad B-movie. However, their main problem was the fact they were helmed by people with no reasonable idea about what makes a movie good, interesting, or even watchable: Manos suffers from pacing problems no cogent mind could have created, and Plan 9 has dialogue that goes beyond the tin-eared to the brain-damaged.

Right. Manos was made by a fertilizer salesman trying to win a bet, for crying out loud. (Even worse, the bet was about making a cheap-but-good horror movie.) Technically, artistically and in any other way, he didn’t know what he was doing.

Hey, you’re not the only one fascinated with bad movies. I used to be obsessed with them, writing amatuer reviews online. It was a hobby of mine.

There was nothing right in OatMB. Even if you count the fact that it was made when computer technology wasn’t common for people to really understand, it was insane. YMMV, but my biggest gripe with the movie was that it didn’t really make this dystopia look dystopian. The entire plot hinged on the fact that the hero got in trouble for watching “cinemas” (movies, like Casablanca…well, the only one we saw him watch was Casablanca…as Mike and the 'Bots pointed out never mention a good movie in the middle of your crappy movie)but you know, people would get in trouble for that in our world!

Oh, wait! they’re sending him to be “doppled”…well, the movie set this up as something people do for recreation…so basically they’re sending him on a vacation for being a lousy worker…and apparently it wasn’t mandatory since he says “I don’t have to do this!”. You go, boy.

Aaargh…you’ve seen it, so you know what I mean…this future dystopia wasn’t dystopian. Goofy, yeah, but not dystopian. And the cheapest Doctor Who sets from the 70’s looked better than the future sets in OatMB.

Space Mutiny was just bad.

Yeah, but consider Space Mutiny…which has the only redeeming quality of being on MST3K. The plot made little sense. The alien chicks with the 80’s hair and Robert Palmer video suits dancing about would have pissed me off if not for the riffing. The movie was filmed in a warehouse or something that looked nothing like a spaceship…it looked like a factory. Everyone knew who the bad guy was but no one did anything about it. I mean, how can he hide? He’s trapped on the same ship with everyone else! Add to that his evil plan made absolutely no sense!

I can only think that Reb Brown and John Phillip Law needed the money. Not that either one of them were going to win an award for acting, but come on…a 12 year old could look at the script and say “Man, this is stupid!”. I don’t know who wrote, produced or directed that flick, but they deserve every cruel thing said about it. I used to see it in a video store I went to a few years back and never rented it. Boy, am I glad. I might have punched the clerk in the face when I returned it.

The problem with Plan 9 and Ed Wood mvies in general is that they’ve been made fun of so much that its almost not fun to do anymore for me. Reefer Madness, I saw on TV lng time ago. I remember falling alseep so fast i don’t actually remember much of it. .

80’s horror movies? hell, they’re both fun to make of, and shit to be ashamed about if you were around in the 80’s. I was, and it pains me too, to look at some of them. Mostly because I remember actually owning clothes like the ones you see in some of them. The problem with the 80’s horror movies is that there really wasn’t any horror in any of them. they all had roughly the same plot and characters too. I can write an outline for an 80’s horror movie right now, without really thinking too much about it. Watch:

A group of horny teenagers go on a fishing trip to a cabin in a small town. Preferably the cabin is owned by one of the kids families, so that kid would be the “rich” one. So all you need is the girl that is realy nice and pretty and has a good heart. She’ll live at the end. Throw in the rich girl who is really a bitch, her boyfriend who is a doofus jock that is so unlikeable you’ll wonder how he even has friends, the dork that likes the nice girl but is a dorky nerd, and the slightly overweight girl. Optional cannon fodder are the obligatory 80’s black kid. he’ll die first because minorities never survive in 80’s horror flicks, except for Night of the Demons." (which was made in the 90’s I believe). What the kids don’t know is the cabin is near an ancient indian burial ground/ genetic or nuclear research facility/ crazy house/ the site of a crashlanded UFO/ the site of a grisly murder and the murderer has somehow become a ghost/undead/vampire.

One movie I saw in the early 90’s that ended up on MST3K (I haven’t seen the episode but I saw that they did riff on it) was The Pumaman. I found an old VHS tape of it in the barracks one night and my buddies and I watched it. Man, we laughed about that crummy movie.

You have to ask how movies get made at all.
Having produced, directed, and gotten a radio show on the air, I now have infinite respect for Ed Wood, Jr. I understand the legendary (did he ever exist?) Hollywood producer who applauded at the end of each screening of a film because the damned thing actually got made. Mobilizing the people, material, and money needed to make an actual film and get at least most of your vision on the screen and then actually distributed to an audience is such a miracle that I’m constantly amazxed it occurs. It’s the way that some people can’t believe in evolution, because it seems unlikely that all those complex parts could actually come together to act as a coordinated whole.
Of course, there are forces acting to get movies into theaters and on the air, as well. Distributors and TV stations have an inexhaustible maw that must be filled. The problem is that the maw isn’t very discriminating. So the wonder is that anything worth watch, anything not cliche-filled, gets made. For all their awfulness, Robot Monster and Plan Nine from Outer Space are still watchable and in a perverse way entertaining. Not so, say, Creature of Destruction, the really bad, sloppy remake of The She Creature, which was already bottom-of-the-barrel to begin with.
That’s a good place to start. Creature of Destruction, like Zontar the TRhing from Venus and Invasion of the the Eye Creatures were part of a made-for-TV package, made lackadaisically by Larry Buchanan for not a lot of money, and all retreads of already awful 1950s monster films. They needed the movies to fill out a time slot. That’s it. Zontar has a cooler name, and the advantage of John Agar, but the original, It Conquered the World, is a better flick overall – and it’s awful. But it has Lee Van Cleef and Peter Graves and Beverly Garland and Jonathan Haze and monsters by Paul Blaisdell, and it vwas all directed by Roger Corman. It was entertaining, at least. ICTW, in its stead, was made by Roger Corman to make money, not to flesh out some artistic vision. Corman had bragged that he never made a movie that lost money. This was just another in a series of quickies to fill the bill for a Saturday NIght date at the Bijou. It’s hard to think that people didn’t know these were awful – but they filled the time. Heck, back then, these were like TV shows on independent networks.
After you watch enough of these you begin to see yourself in the director/producer’s shoes, and marvelling how well they could suggest things with a minuscule effects budget. Okay – so the Gargons in Teenagers from Outer Space are just lobster silhouettes – it was moderately creative for an almost zero budget in a way-pre-CGI era. At least it waasn’t a guy in a rubber suit. I’m more interested in the way Bert I/ Gordon suggested that teenagers were in a cave in Earth Vs. the Spider – the kids are shot against a black background, with either a glass painting of stalactites or matted in stalactites. They were nowhere near a cave, but the scene strongly suggests it at practically zero cost, and I’ll bet you never noticed the effect. Pure low-budget artistry.

As for Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, I STILL can’t figure that one out. It was based on a decent story, starred Raul Julia, and it was made by PBS!! They had done a decent job with Ursula K. LeGuin’s Lathe of Heaven years earlier. How did they manage to screw this one up so badly? They rewrotre the story to death, making it almost entirely different from its source.

If you’re going to talk about bad movies, I can’t help but think of The Ring of Terror. That one’s so bad even the MST3K guys couldn’t make it watchable.

Thats not the only to screw up a cheap movie. One of my biggest pet peeves when I used to write amatuer reviews were movies that somehow featured the miltary, but got nothing right. Not because I am military, or that they might have made the miltary look bad, but because they were just plain stupid when they didn’t have to be. Supernaturals was a movie with Nichelle “Lt. Uhura” Nichols as a drill sergeant. They got every simple detail about it wrong. Iron Thunder was another one. They couldn’t even get uniforms right. But these are simple things. The film makers could have asked a freakin’ local recruiter about it. You can get uniforms dirt cheap at an Army Navy surplus store. Half of the thins they got wrong were available on the internet. (The Iron Thunder guy that emailed me…I sent him a link to the field manual of rank and uniforms back then because it was right there! Geez, dde, it was your movie…did you research anything)

Keep in mind I’d feel the same way about any movie that does stuff like that. If you’re going to make a movie about a say, DEA agents, firemen, cops or hell, even bakers you might want to try to get the basic stuff right. I don’t know jack about what most pilots do everyday, but if were going to make a movie about an airport I’d ask some questions and research it a bit before just tossing out what I think they do all day.

Manos was a really bad movie that has one saving grace…Torgo! He was hilarious. Actually, nothing in Manos made a lot of sense.

nut i’ll watch it before I ever watch Doom generation. that movie made me physically ill.

Oh, I know, and thank goodness for that. I meant in particular I spend a lot of time considering how movies go wrong, but maybe that’s a natural outgrowth of seeing a lot of movies like this.

A good point. The story of being lost in a computer has been done a lot of times, but has it ever been done worse? And you’re right about what happens in this one- it looks like a lame future, but the conflict isn’t exactly epic. Fingal just doesn’t like his boring job, and so what? A big corporation runs everything (gee, I wonder why PBS backed this movie!) and I guess they’re greedy, boo, but his rebellion over something that’s barely a punishment makes the movie into kind of a hissy fit.
Overdrawn gets some special credits in my book for Bad Future Lingo. Everything has a bad technological name in that movie.

Yeah, that’s why I mentioned people deluding themselves. Unless it was a Producers situation, a lot of people had to be kidding themselves to think anybody wanted to see any part of this movie.

Introducing new people to the movie is a lot of fun, though. If you see Plan 9 with a crowd that’s seen it a lot of times, it gets dull (same problem as Rocky Horror - a lot of scripted comments and only a little improvisation). But new people, even if they know the movie by reputation? I find they can’t believe someone really made a movie like this. It’s the same way the OP is having to movies that, while terrible, were at least made by people with some semblance of professionalism.
Other than Plan 9 I think the only Wood movie I’ve seen was The Violent Years, and the MST version made no impression on me.

You ought to see Glen or Glenda. Stock footage, cross-dressing, transexualism, Bela Lugosi…it’s something to behold, inclulding what has to be Wood’s genuine cry from the heart about tolerance for transvestites.

Calmeacham, I understand that it is no small endeavor to get a movie made. Most of the bad movies I rail against I do so in good fun. But some of them really do stink.

Ed Wood’s movies? Yeah, they’re bad.They’re funny bad though so you can almost forgive the badness.

Space Mutiny? No, it was bad, bad bad! If they had budget problems and all that, it still doesn’t matter. the movie just plain sucked. Its only entertainment value is being bale to mock it.

…and big budget flicks can suck too. I will never forgive the filmmakers of the Avengers. Geez, that movie sucked so bad I was mad at my wife for wanting to see it. Or heaven help me, Batman and Robin. I would have walked out of the theater, but again, my wife wanted to stay until the end. Either way I still hold a grudge against anyone that was in it. …and don’t get me started on the americanized “Godzilla”. any 1960’s rubber suit godzilla is worth ten times more than that one.

How can they not know they’re making a bad film? There’s lots of ways. On a movie set, everything looks fakey and dumb no matter how good it will look on film. So someone like Ed Wood just might not be able to determine how bad a set really is. Also, a lot of people (again, like Ed) think that suspension of disbelief will go a lot further than it can. “The plane has no windows. Yeah but the folks will be looking at the pilots, so it doesn’t matter.”

Low budgets can make a director create a bad film against his will. The famous Reanimation of the dead woman in Space Mutiny could have happened because the shots were edited together long, long after all the shooting was done and there was no money to replace the shot. The city wall set of Troy was destroyed by a hurricane and they had to spend millions to rebuild it for just one or two last shots. Think Roger Corman could have done that?

Like others have mentioned, some directors were motivated by art, others by money. Corman and Gordon could have made a decent film, but that was not the market niche they aimed for. In fact, Corman and Gordon did make pretty decent films for their budget and market niche. The fact that they were cheesy was usually due to the plot and acting rather than production values.

Let’s compare Ed Wood, Bert I, and Corman. Ed really really wanted to make great cinematic art, but was just not any good at writing scripts and too poor/incompetant to put them on film effectively. Bert seemed to want to make “cool” flicks and showed better skills but seemed to accept that his work was not “A” material. Corman, on the other hand, seemed to be purely mercenary. He’d make a good film if it was possible within the budget. But otherwise, if a mistake didn’t ruin the shot, it stayed in. Gunslinger had one of those, where the riders obviously get their cue to move forward after the camera started shooting.

Read the “behing the scenes” stories of what happens when movies get made. Heinlein wrote about what happened when they were making Destination Moon, based on his book “Rocket Ship Galileo”.
Or, on the internet you can find the story of the making of The Puppet masters, based on another Heinlein novel. When I saw it I complained of how poor an adaptation it was. But it could have been worse, and almost was. FAR worse.

I’ve been holding a Bad Film Festival at my house every year since well before MST3K ever existed, so I have a deep love and appreciation of Bad Films. I’ll give Ed Wood and Robot Monster this – at least their films aren’t boring – they’re entertainingly bad. The real crime is when a film bores you.

I’ve attended some of these (not at Cal’s house) and this really is an important distinction. A bad, dull movie - and a bad comedy in particular - and come to think of it, a bad musical comedy is worse still - can be really excruciating. With Robot Monster, you get a guy in an ape suit with a fishbowl on his head working some mysterious communicator console that blows bubbles. You don’t see that every day.

For sheer “So bad it’s actually good” movies, you can’t beat a bit of Bollywood Sci-Fi. I wish I could give you some names, but there was a whole series of them on Channel 4 recently, and every one I saw had me in laugh-out-loud hysterics at times. Now that probably wasn’t the desired effect of them, but still, you takes what you can git.:slight_smile:

And in 3D, no less – that really makes the Bubble-Blowing Communicator work, you know.

If you’re not watching Robot Monster in 3D, go to a different Bad Film Party.

People can be incredibly blind to the flaws in their own creative work. Take a look at vanity press novels, or any random poem at The writers are absolutely certain that their work is terrific and all they need to do is show it to the world and they’ll be major successes.

I’ve seen this in writing groups. The one that really sticks in my mind was an author who wrote a chapter that had the entire critique group absolutely disgusted by it. I tried to figure out exactly why it was so disgusting and explain to him how he could rewrite it so that it would work. But he ignored everyone and basically said that the reason we didn’t like the scene with his hero was gleefully raping a corpse (with the full approval of the author and the expected approval of the reader) was that we weren’t ready for the gritty reality of everyday life.

In films, there’s also the influence of money. Many bad films were made because of the feeling that this type of film was popular and, even if it was terrible, it could make money if you keep the budget down. And it can be true: even terrible films like Plan 9 are doing quite well in DVD sales.

I hate to admit it, but i’ve never seen Robot Monster.

So bad they’re good movies are great, though. the best are ones you saw and liked as a kid, though like MegaForce. Now, I didn’t see it back when it was released…I wanted to, but it was only at the local theater for a short time. Back in the late 90’s I found a VHS copy of it in a bargain bin. Good Googley Goo it is a stupid movie! I seriously wish they had an MST3K episode for it.

I’m glad i missed it as a kid. It would have been bad for me.

One year at DragonCon, Megaforce was the subject of MST night. We had a LOT of fun with that one.