MST3K for kids?
September 25, 2011 8:58 PM   Subscribe

What are the best Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes... for kids? Jokes based on 1980s pop culture don't really work for people born in 2002.

What MST3K episodes are the most appealing for an eight-year-old kid? The movie Joel or Mike watches needs to be somewhat entertaining for children on its own. Goofy is good. Scary is bad.
posted by The corpse in the library to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
When I was 12, Puma Man cracked me up like nothing else ever. Because he has all of the powers of an ordinary puma, like flight, and x-ray vision!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:06 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

They just released a box set of the Gamera MST3K episodes and kids love giant rubbery monster movies (don't they? I know I couldn't get enough Godzilla) and if they know what's good for them, they'll love the Tibby song.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:16 PM on September 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

I would say Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, but if I remember right the female lead is posing nude but for a few strategically placed branches at one point. The jokes about the Big Brother character ("to Wendy's!") are probably funny to all ages, and some of the more ridiculous lingo and posturing might be pretty funny to older kids.

Pod People has that great scene in the recording studio (and the following goofy skit parodying the unintelligible lyrics), and it's in DVD set with Cave Dwellers, which might also cast a broader net.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:18 PM on September 25, 2011

On that note, some of the shorts (which are released together on discs in the earlier DVD box sets) are pretty silly and might appeal to kids who have caught onto that sort of thing from cartoons.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:19 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Space Mutiny has all the jokes about the hero's name (Big McLargehuge) and the car chase that reaches speeds of 3.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:20 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Space Mutiny does have that greenhouse sex scene, though, and the scenes with the... druid women might be too weird for a kid.
posted by Judith Butlerian Jihad at 9:23 PM on September 25, 2011

Seems like the Japanese films might work well - Invasion of the Neptune Men or whichever Gamera it was that my mother and I caught on cable access late one night and could never find again. I know it was MST3k now, but we thought we had imagined it for quite some time. Turns out Kevin Sorbo's Hercules was also a real thing.
posted by maryr at 9:31 PM on September 25, 2011

Teenagers From Outer Space was certainly meant to be scary when it was made, but it's goofy as heck. There are some human skeletons, and at the very least a silhouette of a MONSTER which was really just a crayfish or something.

You may also want to consider Mighty Jack and Fugitive Alien.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 9:32 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Pod People. I still have fond memories of Trumpy. lol
posted by Polgara at 9:38 PM on September 25, 2011

Thirding Pod People. "Trumpy! You can do stupid things!"
posted by Bromius at 9:41 PM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

My 8-year-old likes the Gamera episodes. I think the big sword-and-sorcery epics would be okay, like The Sword and the Dragon, and The Day the Earth Froze. If you go with the latter, maybe skip the short that runs beforehand, hilarious though it is. (For the record: it is the "Here Comes the Circus" short, and you might not want to have to explain the "they're doing it clown-style!" joke.) Maybe "Cave Dwellers" would work too? IIRC there's nothing too suggestive in that one.
posted by Janta at 9:45 PM on September 25, 2011

Seconding Puma Man (in which the villain can't properly pronounce the word "puma") and Pod People (featuring bottom-of-the-barrel stop-motion!)
posted by vorfeed at 10:06 PM on September 25, 2011

Totally Pod People.

Also, I loved Mitchell and all the shorts when I was a kid. (okay, I still like them)

But the best of all was (drumroll)...


Best ever.

(I was 8-12 during MST3K's more prolifiic period and I seriously loved it, even if I didn't get most of the jokes)
posted by guster4lovers at 10:07 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Manos: The Hands Of Fate

(it's bad.... reallly bad)
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 10:20 PM on September 25, 2011

The upcoming Volume 22 collection also features Time of the Apes, a no-frills borrowing of Planet of the Apes brought over by our good friend Sandy Frank. You might also try finding Godzilla vs. Megalon, which is not the best Godzilla film but was aimed at a younger audience. (Much like the aforementioned Gamera films.)
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:33 PM on September 25, 2011

Gah, didn't close my emphasis tag. Sorry about that!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:35 PM on September 25, 2011

I think an eight-year-old would lose interest in Manos pretty quickly....even with the riffing it's a pretty boring movie. When I was a kid most monster movies scared me, but for some reason I really liked Beginning of the End when I saw it on Creature Feature or whatever. And the Peter Graves Enrolls at the University of Minnesota skit cracks me up every time I see it.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:54 PM on September 25, 2011

Yeah, I don't think even a MST-ied Manos would appeal to kids. It's just too slow, and "out there."

Pod People and Teenagers from Outer Space are good suggestions.

I always liked Cave Dwellers, and it would appeal to an 8-year old boy at least (even Crow gets kind of excited at the action scenes). As would Master Ninja.

But I'm surprised no one mentioned "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians." I think that's the clear answer, although that should perhaps be saved for the holiday season. (And yes, I'm partial to the Joel era).
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:58 PM on September 25, 2011

Seconding Santa Claus conquers the Martians. Even if some of the riffs go over their heads, they might just be entertained by the movie itself.
posted by Gordafarin at 1:15 AM on September 26, 2011

The Day The Earth Froze is pretty ridiculous in its own right. Plus it starts with a short about the circus.
posted by Mchelly at 3:56 AM on September 26, 2011

The other Santa Claus movie would be good for kids, I think.
posted by JanetLand at 5:25 AM on September 26, 2011

You may also want to consider Mighty Jack and Fugitive Alien.

He Triiiieeed to kill me with a forklift!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:13 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Prince of Space! I like it very much!
posted by mimi at 6:20 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing The Day The Earth Froze. One of my favorites. Sampo!
posted by orrnyereg at 6:32 AM on September 26, 2011

Puma Man, Fugitive Alien I and II, the two Santa movies, all great suggestions. Jack Frost and all the aforementioned Russo-Finnish co-productions should be good also.

i'd eschew Time of the Apes, Manos, and Mighty Jack--they're very hard to focus on. Master Ninja--depends. It's also often slow. but there's a gerbil. Overdrawn is just messed-up, and most of its humor (imo) comes from how much it fails to emulate filmmaking conventions; maybe wait til age 12 or so?

Pod People's probably a good one. It has a couple blue moments, but nothing extreme. It also has a couple scary moments. Mainly, though, they're stupid moments.
posted by fetamelter at 6:35 AM on September 26, 2011

I think the ones that already have kids or young characters in them would be good--Prince of Space, Invasion of the Neptune Men, Jack Frost, maybe Gorgo, maybe Quest of the Delta Knights, maybe Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders. Any collection of shorts strongly recommended--lots of nerdy 50's shorts about good hygiene that I think the right kid would find amusing all on their own.

And on the topic of shorts you may want to look at the more recent stuff being done by the MST3K guys at Rifftrax. The Christmas shorts are high-larious and are probably what we'll use to introduce our little guy to the idea of "people on TV making fun of what's on TV".
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:38 AM on September 26, 2011

Little Perthuz is a bit older (10), but I find the ones he laughs most uproariously at are the Hercules vs. X ones. Plenty of poorly-directed action and costumes ripe for mockery ("Hi, I'm a candy bar!") We started "The Blood Waters of Dr. Z" over the weekend and while the movie was insufferably bad, he laughed nearly nonstop.

My personal feeling as a dad is this: MST3K, even with the occasional sex joke or dated reference, is still tamer than what's on any given channel right now. The jokes tend to come quickly enough that the occasional masturbation or sex joke is ignored in favor of the nearly inevitable comment on what the actors are wearing. Kiddo knows he can ask about the jokes he doesn't get and he'll get an honest but sometimes vague answer. If I'd introduced him to them at 8, I probably would have stuck more with creature-features and horror movies (because he sees scarier stuff on Doctor Who and what the hell, on Spongebob for that matter), but by the time he hit 10 I'd consider it all fair game.
posted by Perthuz at 7:07 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't remember the name of the episode or anything about it other than it took place on a walnut farm. I was a kid when I watched it and remember loving it, though obviously little detail. I think it started with a Gumby short that I also loved seeing them make fun of. (I watched it back in the day when it was on Sci-fi, if it helps narrow things down.)
posted by shortyJBot at 7:55 AM on September 26, 2011

Seconding tchemgrrl's RiffTrax suggestion. Same concept as MST3K, but for new/popular movies. Some older references, but a lot of topical stuff as well. Iron Man and The Matrix were good, as was Twilight (it was the only way I was going to watch that movie).
posted by melissasaurus at 7:58 AM on September 26, 2011

I remember especially enjoying Horrors of Spider Island as a kid. "There you are, Georgia!" "Right above Florida!" had me cracking up for months.

Eegah is an all-time favorite of mine which I think might appeal to a kid. There are a few sex jokes, but they're so oblique I think a kid who didn't get them would just shrug them off.
posted by milk white peacock at 8:53 AM on September 26, 2011

There's going to be a lot of cultural awareness jokes in MST3K that an eight year old is never going to get but there are obscure cold war jokes in Rocky and Bullwinkle I don't get even today. It's not like every drop of water in the hose has to get on you for you to get wet. Also, even if you were there, thoroughly steeped in 80's pop culture, MST3K had plenty of special obscure knowledge jokes in it. (Including a reference to an obscure used record shop in Minneapolis and the local SCA group.)

I'd look more at the movies they're doing than I would the jokes. There are some, particularly some of the really bad psychodrama, that are a hard slog even with a guy and his robot helping you through.

Another thought - there is a MST3K cannon - things that come back again and again. Sometimes it's minor but if you haven't seen Manos, it's not going to make a lot of sense when Torgo the White shows up to assume TV's Frank into Second Banana Heaven.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:18 AM on September 26, 2011

Many MST3K episodes are up on Netflix Streaming now, including 5 episodes with Gamera.
posted by aristan at 9:22 AM on September 26, 2011

Yes, Gamera episodes, definitely.
posted by stleric at 1:58 PM on September 26, 2011

I believe you're thinking about this backwards. Jokes that are based on pop cultural references are a good way to start to learn about our history. Ok, our pop history, but it's still a way to stimulate their curiosity. Kids always want to know why Mom and Dad are laughing.

The good news is with wikipedia, imdb, and google, it's even easier that ever to figure out who Joe Don Baker was.
posted by chairface at 5:01 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I watched the show as a teen in the '90s, and it would be interesting to discover the source of a reference many years later. Sort of like listening to the Beatles for the first time and recognizing some songs from commercials (unfortunately). And it'd be kind of embarrassing to find out you'd laughed at an MST riff that was actually a reference, and not a joke in and of itself.

And I don't recall there being too many unsubtle sex jokes (that may have changed near the end), although the bots were partial to the insult "dickweed," which I was always surprised was allowed even on cable.

Oh, I thought of another possible suggestion... The Amazing Colossal Man.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 8:46 PM on September 26, 2011

Another chime for Prince of Space - probably my favorite episode, or close to.
posted by wittgenstein at 7:23 AM on September 27, 2011

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