SERIES OVERVIEW: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return (2017)

SERIES OVERVIEW: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return (2017)

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return

This review might seem a bit out of nowhere for a horror site, but Mystery Science Theater 3000 is something near and dear to the hearts of many hardcore horror fans simply because we’ve all had to suffer through bad movies with our friends.
We’ve all been there, particularly if you lived through the video rental era. You’d wander the aisles for upwards of an hour, reading the backs of boxes, looking for the perfect movie to watch. You would grab a pizza and a few refreshing cold beverages, get home, pop in the movie and immediately be disappointed with your carefully selected choice of films. It happens, but you’d suffer through it anyway, because money was spent and you weren’t about to let that crappy movie win.
I’m a bit shocked that some of the people I watched movies with back then are still my friends considering how many bad movies I made them watch. At this point I would like to formally apologize to my friend John for making him suffer through all those dreadful movies. Notice I said that I would LIKE to apologize; I’m not actually going to because those memories are some of the best of my formative years.
Which brings me to my point. Mystery Science Theater 3000 isn’t just a movie watching experience; it’s more like a bonding experience. You feel a kinship, not just with the host and his companions, but with everyone who has ever suffered through a bad movie.
I’ll admit that when I first heard that Joel Hodgson was trying to reboot Mystery Science Theater 3000, I was skeptical. As much as I loved the show, I really didn’t think it was still relevant in today’s society of 140-character Twitter humor, Fail Army videos, and tasteless memes. That, and the fact that it’s closing on 20 years since the show appeared on television.
Surprisingly, the new incarnation is every bit as good as the older version. Mind you, it’s not the same show. It’s the next step in the progression of the show. An evolution. Everything about it is new. It’s much more polished with better visuals in some areas, and the old school, homemade feel in others.
Kinga Forrester and Max aka TV's Son of TV's Frank / Fair use doctrine.The story plays out the same way as the old one. Evil mad scientists Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day), and her assistant, TV’s Son of TV’s Frank, aka Max (Patton Oswalt), trap some poor, likable dope — Jonah Heston (Jonah Ray) — on the far side of the moon and force him to watch bad movies with his robot pals.
Even though Day and Oswalt do a great job as the new “Mads”, I don’t think their characters are fully developed at this point. They seem almost TOO competent compared to Clayton and Pearl Forrester. And while both are colorful and entertaining, they seem a bit generic. As a big fan of both, I’m hoping that both can embrace their respective roles and make them unique and interesting characters in future seasons.
Jonah and the bots / Fair use doctrine.Jonah Ray does a superb job filling the shoes of the hosts before him. No small feat. (Get it? Shoes, Feet. HaHaHaHa!) considering that Joel Hodgson and Mike Nelson had two distinctly different styles. He’s not just filling the shoes in though, he’s doing a great job of making the role his own. And although the voices of Crow and Tom Servo have changed slightly, Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn pick up almost seamlessly from Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy regarding the character and delivery of their respective robots.
The riffing in the theater segments is fast and concise right out of the gate, with lots of references to current events as well as throwbacks to some of the classic episodes. Just like the old show, the diverse range of topics give the new shows a great amount of re-watchability.
The host segments are lively and fun, although it’s easy to tell that Ray, Yount, and Vaughn haven’t quite mastered their on-screen chemistry. That sort of thing will come together over time, though.
Also, the addition of some big-name celebrities and a few familiar old faces dropping by on occasion gives the viewers an added treat. I’d tell you a few right now, but it’s more fun to be surprised by it.
Overall, it’s a faithful continuation of the series if you’re an old fan of the show, and it’s a great introduction if you’re a newbie.
Posted by Richard Francis in MOVIE REVIEWS, TELEVISION REVIEWS, 0 comments
EDITORIAL: 6 Horror Movies That The New MST3K Crew Needs to Tackle

EDITORIAL: 6 Horror Movies That The New MST3K Crew Needs to Tackle

Fans of bad cinema can rejoice because the new season of MST3K is upon us. Here is my list of movies Jonah and the bots can rip a new one. Also don’t take offense if we mention a movie you like; it’s all in good fun. In fact, a lot of these are favorites of mine (minus The Outing), and, as the theme song goes, “it’s just a show you should really just relax”.
We’ve got movie sign!

6. Blood Rage (1987)

06_MST3K_Blood Rage (1987) / Fair use doctrine.True, MST3K never really tackled the slasher genre in the past but couldn’t you picture the incredibly campy, sleazy and fun of late 80s Blood Rage as an episode? I mean actress Louise Lasser boozing it up, not to mention the scene in which she sits spread eagle by the fridge, binge eating would have the guys rolling! Drive-In Massacre is another film that would easily bridge the slasher-MST3K divide.

5. The Prey (1984)

05_MST3K_The Prey (1984) / Fair use doctrine.An older, low budget, slice and dice movie about six wide eyed campers getting picked off by a mysterious killer. Bad acting, bad production values, and a so-so story would equal MST3K gold.

4. Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987)

04_MST3K_Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987) / Fair use doctrine.Seeing how the original crew did Jon Mikl Thor’s Zombie Nightmare it only seems fitting that the new guys tackle Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare a wonderfully bad film that is enjoyable in its own right. Of course, the infamous shower scene will have to get axed, but it would be worth it to see how the guys react to Thor’s spiked underwear and glam rock makeup as well as a whole host of laughable monsters. Truly a classic episode in the making. Seeing how Thor himself is a fan of the show, a cameo might even be possible.

3. Creep (1995)

03_MST3K_Creep (1995) / Fair use doctrine.This shot on video “epic” by director Tim Ritter has all the elements for a great episode. Its amazingly awful in all departments yet it still retains enough “so bad its great” charm that would make this perfect for the riffed treatment. I could also see Ritter’s Killing Spree riffed, but, honestly, Creep just has something extra special. Maybe it’s the hacked together plot, the cringe worthy acting or random things like a close up of a fly…Whatever it is I`d love to see it featured.

2. The Outing aka The Lamp (1987)

]02_MST3K_The Outing (1987) / Fair use doctrine.I reviewed this PAINFULLY bad late 80s horror film for my upcoming film guide, and I couldn’t help but wish I had Mike or Joel or now Jonah and the bots could have helped me through the trauma. The Outing is a lame duck mishmash of horror and drama that fails on every level. Never heard of it? Well, neither had I until Scream Factory (Shout Factory) released it on DVD and later Blu.

1. Troll 2 (1990)

01_MST3K_Troll 2 / Fair use doctrine.The one, the only, the infamously bad Troll 2 should be, NO, needs to be featured on an episode. Sure we got a Rifftrax from Mike, Kevin, and Bill to slake our thirst, but truly this is a job for the good folks at the SOL. In fact, I think that with the right jokes, this could easily be the new crew’s Manos (Joel era) or Werewolf (Mike era). I can just imagine the epic skits that could go with it.
Honorable Mentions: The Giant Claw, Black Roses, Scalps, Troll, Ghostkeeper, and Robo Vampire (yes, that movie really exists).
Posted by Mike Vaughn in EDITORIALS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
THIS JUST IN: Manos Returns

THIS JUST IN: Manos Returns

The Master Is Back

Manos Returns

By Woofer McWooferson

Manos: The Hands of Fate - Portrait of The Master. Fair use doctrine.

Portrait of The Master by Tom Neyman


Most people probably know the 1966 horror film Manos: The Hands of Fate thanks to the folks at Best Brains and Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K). For those few who do not know what Manos is, here’s the IMDb summary:

A family gets lost on the road and stumbles upon a hidden, underground, devil-worshiping cult led by the fearsome Master and his servant Torgo.

And here’s the original theatrical trailer:

Born of a wager and created by insurance (later fertilizer) salesman turned writer, director, producer, and actor Harold P. Warren, Manos was plagued with difficulties throughout the shoot and post-production. Some of these difficulties were:

  • Warren shot only two takes of each scene, assuring the cast that post-production Hollywood magic would fix any errors.
  • The hand-held camera used to shoot the entire film could only record 32 seconds at a time.
  • Because of the limited lighting available, a scene where two police officers set out to investigate something has them take only two steps toward it before returning to their cruiser.
  • Since the film was shot without sound, all lines were later dubbed by two men and one woman. The result put Jackey Neyman Jones, who played the little girl Debbie, in tears when she first heard her “voice”.
  • Tom Neyman, who played the Master, and John Reynolds, who played Torgo, designed and built the legs for Torgo, the satyr-like caretaker of the Master’s Lodge of Sins.
  • Post-production editing took roughly 3 to 4 hours and, consequently, did not fix all the things Warren promised it would.

Cult Status

Manos MST3K screenshot - TV's Frank (Frank Coniff), Torgo (Mike Nelson), and Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) from episode 424 of MST3K. Fair use doctrine.

TV’s Frank (Frank Coniff), Torgo (Mike Nelson), and Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) from episode 424 of MST3K

Manos ultimately achieved widespread fame and cult status after being riffed in episode 424 of MST3K on January 30, 1993, by Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson) and his bots, Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy) and Crow (Trace Beaulieu). The Manos episode was so popular, that the Rifftrax crew  also took aim at it in 2012. For those unfamiliar, Rifftrax also takes aim at movies and television, but releases an audio to sync up with the viewer’s own copy of the item being riffed, enabling a much broader selection of riffable entertainment. Rifftrax  consists of MST3K alumni Michael J. Nelson (who hosted after Robins left and who was head writer from 1990 – 99), Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett (who played Brain Guy and who took over the voice of Crow after Beaulieu left),


A year before the Rifftrax treatment, Ben Solovey, a Florida State film school graduate, uncovered the original 16mm Ektachrome workprint of Manos in a collection of 16 mm films. Solovey soon took to Kickstarter to finance the film’s restoration and preservation with an eye to releasing it on Blu-ray and raised $48,000. As a tip of the hat to the original, Solovey allowed a 90% finished print to premiere at the El Paso Plaza Theatre, which is located near the theater which hosted the grand premiere of the original Manos in 1966.

The newly restored Blu-ray was released on October 13, 2015, and included an unrestored version as a bonus feature.

The Return of The Master

Currently, there is a sequel in works courtesy of Jackey Neyman Jones, director Tonjia Atomic, cinematographer Joe Sherlock, and the many fans who donated to the Kickstarter campaign to help get the project on its feet. Jones is the real life daughter of Tom Neyman, who also painted the Master’s portrait and designed the costumes, and Jacqueline Neyman, who was the makeup artist for Manos and who also made the costumes. As Debbie, Jackey Neyman Jones was the screen daughter of Michael (Hal Warren), the hapless protagonist. Neyman’s own dog, Shanka, played the devil dog from the Valley Lodge, the Master’s Lodge of Sins. You might say that Manos: The Hands of Fate was a bit of a family affair for Jackey, so it is appropriate that she helms the upcoming sequel Manos Returns.

Jackey Neyman Jones and Tom Neyman of Manos: The Hands of Fate and Manos Returns. Image Jackey Neyman Jones.

Jackey Neyman Jones and Tom Neyman of Manos: The Hands of Fate and Manos Returns

The latest word on Manos Returns is that filming has finished, which puts it quite fittingly in post-production as the original Manos: The Hands of Fate approaches its 50th anniversary.

According to the Facebook page:

MANOS Returns is a tongue-in-cheek return to Valley Lodge. It follows a a group of young, would-be filmmakers who learn their favorite movie, Manos: The Hands of Fate, was based on a true story. They set out to visit the site of the events that inspired the original and of course they find more than they bargained for. MANOS Returns will feature many of the characters from the original MANOS, but the tone is much lighter.

Jones, her father, and Diane Adelson all reprise their roles in Manos Returns, and fans of the original are already getting the popcorn and sodas ready for their Manos Returns parties.

Manos Returns - Cast and crew. Image Jackey Neyman Jones.

Cast and crew behind the scenes of Manos Returns: Joseph Cole, Darlene Darwin, Manuel Ruiz, Mark Jones, Rachel Jackson, Jackey Raye Neyman Jones, Nuria Aguilar, Tonjia Atomic, X Tina Pezzo, Christopher Barnes, Tyler James Kong, Bryan Jennings and Greg Tally.

Are you ready for Manos Returns? While we wait, check out their website and Facebook page, and let House of Tortured Souls know what you think. If you’ve never seen Manos: The Hands of Fate, you can watch the MST3K version (complete with annotations) on the official MST3K YouTube Channel:

As always, we’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

Manos Returns - Jackey dons The Master's robe. Image Jackey Neyman Jones.

Manos Returns – Jackey dons The Master’s robe

Posted by Woofer McWooferson in HORROR NEWS, 1 comment

MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): The Screaming Skull (1958)

The (Steaming) Screaming Skull

A Review of The Screaming Skull on Its Own and as a Classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode

By Woofer McWooferson

Screaming Skull
Director: Alex Nicol; Writer: John Kneubuhl; Stars: John Hudson, Peggy Webber, Russ Conway, Alex Nicol; Rating: Unrated; Run Time: 68 min; Genre: Horror, Thriller ; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 1958

Horror movies have been around since the beginning of cinema and have evolved along with it. That which is considered terrifying for one generation may be laughable to another. True gems mature with age, their appeal never being lost from generation to generation. Gaudy baubles become rich fodder for riffing. The (Steaming) Screaming Skull is one of the great gaudy baubles of the 50s, boring and drab on its own, but a real delight when viewed through the lens of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K).

The plot is rather typical: newlyweds Eric (John Hudson) and Jenni (Peggy Webber) arrive at the ancestral home of the husband’s late wife where Jenni begins to see and hear things that make her doubt her sanity. Suspicion quickly falls on Mickey (Alex Nichol, who also directed), the slow gardener who was more than fond of Eric’s first wife Marion.

Although the movie begins slowly, the pace never picks up, and the movie plods along to the bitter end. I remember this one scaring the life out of me when I was six. I crouched behind my father’s chair so that the skull could not see me as I peeked around to watch the movie from the safety of my hiding spot. The titular skull shows up throughout the film, both in actuality as well as spectrally from the camera’s point of view. The viewer is led to believe that the latter are manifestations of the wife’s subconscious as she falls further and further from sanity.

According to trivia on the page, the movie is based on a novel of the same name by Francis Marion Crawford, but it is not credited as such. Crawford’s novel is said to be inspired by the “screaming skull” on display at Bettiscomb Manor, Dorset, England.

The Screaming Skull debuted on August 29, 1998 (season 10, episode 12) of MST3K. Due to its short run time, the film is preceded by a Gumby short entitled Robot Rumpus – a fact that is not lost on the ‘bots. The MST3K treatment is flawless, beginning with their disappointment that the movie begins with a disclaimer that anyone who dies of fright will get a free coffin but there is no word of a coffin if someone dies of boredom. As Mike (Michael J. Nelson), Crow (Bill Corbett), and Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy) riff their way through the slow torture that is The Screaming Skull, viewers are treated to some of their best assessments (“This should be called Screaming semicolon Skull” -Mike) and host segments that leave little doubt as to their opinion of this steaming pile of… skulls.

The Screaming Skull is classified as both horror and thriller, but the only real horror is the chalky blandness of the performances and the only thrill is that MST3K riffed it.

3/10 claws on its own, two for the amazing Huntington Hartford Estate and one for its ability to scare 6-year-olds in the 1950s and 60s.

8/10 claws for the MST3K treatment

Posted by Woofer McWooferson in MOVIE REVIEWS, 0 comments