This past week, during the MST3K Turkey Day Marathon, they announced all 13 of the films that would be riffed on MST3K Season 13, which I backed on Kickstarter. I have a few thoughts on the picks.
As a reminder, the MST3K Season 13 lineup is
- Santo in The Treasure of Dracula
- Robot Wars
- Beyond Atlantis
- Doctor Mordrid
- Demon Squad
- Gamera vs. Jiger
- The Bat Woman
- The Million Eyes of Sumuru
- HG Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come
- The Mask 3D
- The Bubble
- The Christmas Dragon
First off, in what is for me one of the big ones, we have a Gamera film. We hadn’t had a Gamera film riffed on the show for quite some time, and while we had some Kaiju films in the Netflix seasons – Yongary and Reptilicus – we had never really gotten a return of either of the big two Japanese Kaiju to the show. I’m also particularly excited for this as well, as earlier riffs of Japanese films had unfortunate habits of getting into a degree Orientalism or Japanaphobia. Whether this was in the form of the Gamera song having lyrics meant to evoke failed Japanese attempts by non-native English speakers to translate Japanese dialog into English, or quips about “Violent Porn Cartoons” in Prince of Space and Invasion of the Neptune Men. The Netflix seasons felt like they had the sense to step away from that particular variety of humor.
Similarly, with Santo in the Treasure of Dracula, we’re getting another Santo film, after years of the Santo movies not being available in the US at all, and with some of the classic episodes riffing on Santo films, but with El Santo’s Mexican origins being wiped from the work. I can hope that the new series can poke fun at the camp and cheese of the original works, but while also recognizing that El Santo is Kind of a Big Deal, particularly for non-white audiences, and will respect that. On the same line, The Million Eyes of Sumuru is a Hammer Films adaptation of a Sax Rohmer Yellow Peril novel with a woman as the antagonist instead of a guy (as was the case with Castle of Fu Manchu), and considering how they were able to comedically call out toxic masculinity with the lead in Avalanche, I trust they’ll do likewise with this film.
Where I worry is with the kids films – specifically Munchie and The Christmas Dragon. To be frank, with the exception of Cry Wilderness, a lot of the kids films from the MST3K revival never quite worked for me. Kids movies on MST3K have worked when they’ve been something like Pod People, where the films are arguably aimed for kids, but there is a bunch of material under the surface that’s just a little too dark. Not that I think kids can’t handle dark stuff, but when films take those risks, there’s a stronger sense of humor to them and it feels like there’s more to bite into for riffing. On their own, bad kids films come across like bad comedies, their failure is because they aren’t funny. The Christmas Dragon appears to take itself seriously enough that it should be okay – but Munchie feels like it leans too hard on the wacky, based on the trailer. Hopefully, I’m wrong.
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