Category Archives: MST3K

‘Red Zone Cuba’ & Deep Hurting

I’ve been regularly watching copious amounts of MST3K and its off-shoot projects for over a year now, and I’ve finally hit something of a brick wall: Red Zone Cuba. On three separate occasions, I have fallen asleep while attempting to watch this movie — picking up where I left off on each subsequent attempt. I know how Ed Wood’s films and Manos: The Hands of Fate are frequently put at the top of the “Worst Movie Ever Made” list, but Red Zone Cuba is something far more insidious.

I can literally say absolutely nothing complimentary about this film. Manos and Ed Wood’s oeuvre provide moments of cheesetastic, riotous enjoyment, but not Red Zone Cuba. Everything about it is dull, ugly, brutish, and inept. The dialogue is dull. The cinematagraphy is ugly. The characters are brutish. The editing is inept. The plot is all of those things combined. I’m reasonably certain that Francis Coleman — the writer, director, producer and “star” of this unholy monstrosity — made life hell for everyone who worked on RZC. This is a movie you show to a person you want to end a relationship with, by first telling them it’s your favorite movie of all time and that you’re excited to see their reaction to it as they watch it. There is no amount of riffing from the MST3K crew that sufficiently quells any of the pain that this movie inflicts upon the viewer.

Yet, I will not let this film win. I am stronger than this movie, and I’m going to finish it, no matter how many times I need to resume it from where I last nodded off. It’s a moral imperative.

(Note: I’m not the only person who feels this way about RZC. Check out this 2018 review from Paste, which is part of ranked list of every episode of MST3K made up until that point.)

My 2021 in Books & MST3K

I don’t set reading goals each year like so many of my friends do. Instead, I have a standing, yearly quasi-goal of 20 books per year. Compared to some of the goals I’ve seen some people make, this seems almost ridiculously light. However, I frequently include massive several hundred page anthologies in my annual reading, and I have a host of other time-consuming interests. As a result, most years I find myself reading book #20 sometime in mid-to-late December.  This year was an exception; I only read 15 books, and the last of them was a short novel I completed early on New Year’s Eve.

Despite not striving for a proper goal, in just about any other year I would have viewed this as having ill-used my 2021 free time. Reading 15 books suggests I wasted a little too much time on very unproductive pursuits — such as playing mindless games on my phone. Yet, I didn’t judge that as the case for 2021 because of one giant, wonderful reason: Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Because of the size of my DVD/Blu-ray collection and a variety of other reasons, in 2010 I setup a spreadsheet that lists every single episode/movie, which box set it’s packaged in, the date I last watched the it, and a cumulative count of the number of times I watched each. Until 2020, I typically watched 10-15 episodes a year, and at that rate, it would regularly be several years between rewatches of a particular movie, as I own a complete collection of every episode sold on disc — which is over 180 (each disc contains one movie.) With the exception of episodes I particularly enjoy, this was more than enough time to forget nearly everything about a single movie and the jokes made at its expense.

Then the pandemic started, and like so many other people, comfort television watching become more desirable. I accelerated the pace quickly enough in 2020 to watch 30 for the year. Then, this past spring, I quickened the pace further. However, I wasn’t counting the number of episodes watched as 2021 progressed — not even in a rough estimate manner. Mostly this was because the spreadsheet made determining the cumulative total at any time of the year incredibly easy. Nonetheless, outside of duly tracking my progress, it just wasn’t something I gave any real thought to.

As I entered the last week of December, I my book read count wasn’t anywhere near where I would like it to have been. I considered reading a number of standalone novellas and short novels in a last ditch effort to make the final number for the year at least appear closer to the unofficial goal. In fact, the last book I read for the year, The Great Gatsby, was chosen in part for this very purpose. However, I also knew that I watched a lot more MST3K in a year than I ever had, so on the morning of December 30, I decided to finally find out where I stood.

I had watched 47 episodes. Reading 20 books for the year wasn’t even remotely realistic. Reaching 50 was a ridiculously easily achieved goal, and it was something I had never come close to doing before. In fact, the 30 I watched in 2020 represented the previous all-time high. The decision was the epitome of a no-brainer, and by late afternoon on New Year’s Eve I finished watching “The Final Sacrifice,” which I had chosen because the name sounded appropriate for my last episode of the year.

The truly amazing thing about having watched 80 episodes of MST3K in two years is that according to my spreadsheet, I still own 31 movies I haven’t watched since I started  keeping track 11 years ago. In addition, there is going to be 13 new episodes of the series this year. Combine that with the over 30 additional movies I own that were released by alumni of the original run of MST3K — Cinematic Titanic, Rifftrax, and The Film Crew — I would have to keep up this pace for an additional 18 months to watch all of this “unwatched” material. (I need to note that I didn’t incorporate the CT, RT, and TFC discs into the spreadsheet until a couple weeks ago.)

I don’t know yet what changes, if any, I’ll make in terms of time management this year. I decided not to set a number in regards to MST3K this year, in much the same way I technically don’t set one for books. However, I do think it would be nice to reach both 50 and 20. I just won’t make either number a set goal.

Oh, and the first episode of MST3K for 2022? “Beginning of the End.”

So Close, and Yet So Far

A few days ago, Shout announced that the next collection of original MST3K episodes, MST3K: Volume XXXIX, is very likely to be the last. This makes me a little sad. On one hand, Rhino and Shout managed to secure the rights to release far more episodes on DVD than I imagined possible back when the four-disc collections first hit the stores. On the other, they came so close to issuing all the episodes — after the release of volume 39 only 11* episodes remain unreleased. Unfortunately, those 11 include a few of my all-time favorites: It Conquered the Earth, The Quest of the Delta Knights, and The Amazing Colossal Man.

However, it’s not all that surprising that they couldn’t release all the episodes on disc. Most fans, myself included, knew for a long time that those remaining episodes were going to be damn near impossible for Shout to get the rights for. Simply, either the those who held various rights to the episodes demanded too much money or they just absolutely refused to negotiate in the first place, preferring that the MST3K version of the film never saw official release again. (For those not in the know, Susan Hart is the bane of many die-hard MST3K fans.) Still, it’s not entirely impossible that we won’t see one or two more finally see the light of day — Shout has issued single-disc episodes before and can certainly do so again. It’s my understanding, however, that is also very unlikely.

The melancholy induced by Shout’s announcement is more than compensated for by the return of the show earlier this year. I just hope that the fact Netflix hasn’t made an announcement yet about bringing it back for another season isn’t any cause for concern.

* Technically it’s 12, but since I have the original Volume 10 release as well as the “replacement” disc, my count is 11.