Turkey Day, an 'MST3K' tradition
November 24th, 2011
09:41 AM ET

Turkey Day, an 'MST3K' tradition

Thanksgiving has a dual meaning for MSTies, fans of the 1990s cult classic TV series, "Mystery Science Theater 3000," or "MST3K."

The show, which took on some of the worst movies ever, mocking them in real time, was at its heyday from 1991 to 1995 on Comedy Central (and again in 1997 on what was then the Sci-Fi Channel). During that time, MSTies looked forward to an annual "Turkey Day marathon" - Thanksgiving Day programming that featured some of their favorite episodes of MST3K.

Now that many of the show's episodes are available on DVD (which you probably own), we're suggesting the five best, so you can have your own, ultimate Turkey Day marathon:

1. "Manos: The Hands of Fate"

The best-known episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" created a mystique around this low-budget train wreck of a movie when it first aired in 1993.

In 1966, a fertilizer salesman named Harold P. Warren set out to make a horror movie, and the result is a complete disaster which seemingly redefined just how bad a movie could be. The (awful) dialogue is badly dubbed, it's horrendously shot and many of the performances are over the top, to say the least. The characters of the Master and Torgo are cosplayed at conventions to this day.

Much of the story behind the making of the movie, and the "MST3K" cast's memories of it, is in the recently-released special edition DVD from Shout! Factory (there is even the raw version, without Joel and the Bots, if you dare to watch).

2. "Gamera vs. Guiron"

Straight out of Japan, the giant, flying turtle Gamera became fodder for no less than five episodes of "MST3K" (all of which were recently released on DVD). The fourth episode, "Gamera vs. Guiron," may be the most entertaining, if only for the pair of aliens who appear to have been dubbed inexplicably with Southern accents (oh, and they eat children too).

"MST3K" and bad dubbing go hand in hand, but there was something extra special when the crew took on Japanese monster and sci-fi movies from the 1960s (see "Prince of Space" and "Time of the Apes").

Any MSTie worth their salt can sing along with the "Gamera" theme song the way it was interpreted by Joel and the Bots: "Gamera is really neat, Gamera is full of meat, we believe in Gamera!"

3. "The Magic Voyage of Sinbad"

Every good MST3K marathon needs a good palate cleanser to break up the sheer awfulness of the other episodes.

"The Magic Voyage of Sinbad" truly fulfills the theme song' promise of "cheesy movies." The movie is enjoyable on its own terms (much like other wacky entries, "The Day the Earth Froze" and "The Magic Sword").

It's also a great example on how not to handle a classic character from literature.

It's a perfect target for "MST3K," but it's also not so horrible as to be borderline depressing, like a couple of the others on this list.

4. "Zombie Nightmare"

This episode premiered during a Turkey Day marathon, which was hosted by Adam West. West also starred in this movie, overacting all over the place.

It is easily the worst 1980s straight-to-video Canadian movie about voodoo and a zombie, plus it gives geeks a new appreciation for George Romero and Robert Kirkman.

5. "Night of the Blood Beast"

This was the only MST3K episode in which they shot two different versions. There was a version of this episode that premiered during the Turkey Day marathon, which serves as the only MST3K Thanksgiving episode.

Both versions are available on DVD, and the Turkey Day version is notable for introducing Dr. Forrester's mom Pearl (who replaced the departing TV's Frank), and for the gathering of many favorite characters from past MST3K episodes for Thanksgiving dinner in his Deep 13 lair (plus, for no apparent reason, Jack Perkins).

Perkins hitting on "Mr. B Natural" (probably the most famous short film that Joel and the Bots took on) is worth the price of admission, alone.

Enjoy these episodes, MSTies (and newbies to MST3K), and have a happy Turkey Day!

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soundoff (42 Responses)
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    February 28, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  2. o.k.

    Rock climbing.

    November 27, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  3. Myriem

    Pretty sure this is the greatest blog post I have ever stumbled across on CNN.com. The "Turkey Day" marathons hold a special place in my heart.

    November 25, 2011 at 4:13 am |
  4. Bigbob

    Manos and Mitchell are awesome... The Master with Lee Van Cleef was hilarious.

    November 25, 2011 at 3:00 am |
  5. B

    My Votes go to " They saved Hitler's Brain " and "Laser Blast"

    November 25, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  6. Chris

    The Final Sacrifice, Mitchell (of course), Hercules against the Moon Men, Clonus, Quest of the Delta Knights, Cave Dwellers... I could go on and on. And yes, Rifftrax is awesome!

    November 25, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  7. CRooooooooow

    First of all, excellent list. Second of all, I think this is the 1st CNN.com article comment section I've ever read where there wasn't a single negative post against another user. This proves my theory that MST3K fans are real people and those jackalopes on the political comment sections are mouthbreathers.

    November 25, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • Don'tBeACynic

      Irony?

      November 25, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • SofaLofa

      Or that we are all jaded and cynical anyway but over there they try to take us seriously. :)

      November 25, 2011 at 2:33 am |
  8. Janet

    Turkey Day is an added joy to Thanksgiving. And one thing that we should be thankful for is that Legend Films allows Michael J. Nelson, along with Kevin "Tom Servo" Murphy and Bill "Crow T. Robot version 2" Corbett, to do Rifftrax!!!! Rifftrax is just as good as MST3K movies since they are using just released movies on DVD(ie, Thor, The Dark Knight, Halloween(1978)etc). Just hearing their voices is the best thing ever!

    I hope everyone is thankful to Joel Hodson and everyone else involved with MST3K! Keep circulating the tapes!!!!

    November 24, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  9. Neuroscience PhD

    My favorite is "Deathstalker". I still watch it from time to time and giggle at it, 15 years later.

    November 24, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
  10. Joemama

    *sung to the tune of the hymn "We Gather Together":
    "We gaaather together to waaatch cheesy movies
    on Cooooh-medy Central on Thanks-Giving Dayyyy.
    With My-stery Science.*breath* Thea'ter 3000.
    It's thiiiirty straight hours and it's called Turkey Daaayyyyy."
    Hike, hike, hike up your pants. Hike up your pants like I do.

    November 24, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  11. Emelia

    Thanksgiving?
    No, no.
    Let's not limit it to one holiday. It's too awesome for that.
    I mean, I can't even begin to imagine a Christmas without their riff of "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians." <3

    November 24, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  12. Anita Bleaujob

    This is the scene right after the train chase,
    This is the fight, Rocky and Ken,
    He tried to kill him with a forklift...

    November 24, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • HesterP

      Classic. Rocky and Ken!

      November 25, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  13. Steve Brinkhoff

    MST3K made me laugh more often than anything, ever. Pure Genius.

    November 24, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  14. HesterP

    Manos and Mitchell – both slices of awesome. But Space Force: Fugitive Alien II will always hold a special place in my heart. Everyone sing along, "He tried to kill me with a forklift."

    November 24, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  15. Rick Springfield

    Who today didn't go out to Radio Shack and buy an Interocitor after that movie?

    November 24, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  16. Rick Springfield

    I always preferred "This Island Earth."

    "Looks like we've been transported,,, to Branson, Missouri." "Oh, there go the piano lessons." "Fries are up."

    November 24, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  17. Perdita Proust

    Let us not pass by the STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL!!!!!!!

    November 24, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  18. TV's Frank

    THE BEGINNING OF THE END!

    "If you could see my hands right now, you'd be horrified."

    November 24, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Perdita Proust

      Just watched it last night on NETFLIX. :)

      November 24, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  19. bisnono

    What, no "Giant Spider Invasion"?? Who can forget the VW bug with legs and everyone yelling "Go Packers!!"

    November 24, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  20. Seraphim0

    What, no 'Final Sacrifice' or the 'Horrors of Spider Island'?!?

    November 24, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  21. RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

    Let's just all hope and pray that we have seen the last of Mike and his little "robot pals," Gypsy, Tom Servo, Crow and Cambot ("you're on!"). Great jumpin Jupiter, these movies were awful! Cheesy hardly describes how geeky they were. If we're lucky...just maybe...we will never see a reprise. Such an awful thing to inflict on the young–old–uh, any age human being. (NOT!!!!!)

    November 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  22. JF

    Many happy Turkey Days during graduate school were spent soaking in the MST marathon, a great replacement for the old KTLA Twilight Zone marathons of my youth.

    While it's impossible to name a single best episode, Gamera + Manos + Zombie Nightmare is not a bad place to start. Among all the MSTies I've known over the years, and now my kids, Cave Dwellers is the hands-down favorite. Our Turkey Day this year will probably be:

    1. Cave Dwellers
    2. Manos
    3. Ma ma ma ma Mitchell
    4. Hercules vs the Moon Men (hard to choose just one Herc)
    5. Pod People

    November 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • John

      YES! to Cave Dwellers. I'm shocked that didn't make the cut. Another fave is the Giant Gila Monster, which is actually on hulu now.

      November 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  23. Honeychan

    Rifftrax, AKW, Rifftrax! They have done a great job of making fun of the Twilight movies, plus -many- other newer, BAD movies. It's got Mike and the voices of the bots doing the commentary. No, I will NOT get into the debate of "Who was better, Joel or Mike?" They both were fantastic, for different reasons. Yes, I have awesome memories too, of Adam West hosting the Turkey Day Marathon, and he was a perfect choice for it!

    November 24, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Perdita Proust

      I am so grateful I found RiffTrax! Their live events are amazing...such as seals!

      November 24, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Myriem

      I have part of that Adam West Turkey Day marathon on an old vhs tape! It has survived many movies...and the fact that I don't even have a working vcr right now. Great stuff.

      November 25, 2011 at 4:16 am |
  24. AKW

    There needs to be an MST3K reunion for the latest Twilight movie. They would have a field day.

    November 24, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  25. fretlessbass

    Oh, yeah... and that was one of the best shows of all time, but it really started to suck after they changed whoever played Tom Servo.

    November 24, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Steve Brinkhoff

      Exactly – like the Three Stooges with Shemp instead of Curly.

      November 24, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • Aaron

      So, season two? Or perhaps you meant "Crow"...

      November 25, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  26. fretlessbass

    Don't even include a photo of Joel Hodgson one time... rookie!

    November 24, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  27. jenn406

    Mitchell not on the list?! Uh oh!! I loved that show and still think it's hilarious. Manos is on there. Don't forget, the air quotes when you mentions, Manos (pause) "Hands of Fate."

    November 24, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  28. three toes of fury

    awesome article Henry!! i soooo miss the mst turkey day marathons. thanks for the great list for mst watchin today. WE'VE GOT MOVIE SIGN!!!!!

    November 24, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  29. NoTrafficAccidents

    Final Justice > Mitchell

    November 24, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  30. RIckRoll

    MST3000 Needs to come back. I miss it something horrible.

    November 24, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Bob

      RickRoll: You need to be buying some Rifftrax then. MST isn't dead. It's just got a new name.

      November 24, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  31. Henry Hanks

    Yes, great episode indeed. Narrowing it down to five especially for Turkey Day was not an easy task.

    November 24, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  32. BS (A. Whiteman)

    How in the blue HELL can you not include "Mitchell?" Greatest episode hands down. Even if you go on Amazon, it's selling for over $40 new, and Joe Don Baker even tried to sue them for doing it! Manos is great, but Mitchell is in a class of it's own!

    November 24, 2011 at 10:01 am |