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Manos, The Hands of Fate (MST3K)

CoverMystery Science Theater 3000 (often abbreviated to MST3K by its rabid fanbase) is a cult classic, created in 1988, and produced by Best Brains Inc. You probably know the basics of this show by now if you're a science fiction fan, but if not, let me lay it down for you.

Creator Joel Hodgson is trapped on a space station along with his robot sidekicks, and forced to watch terrible sci-fi B movies. Joel and his companions, Tom Servo and Crow, provide sarcastic and witty "peanut gallery" commentary on these masterpieces of cinematic trash, as well as equally corny skits in between the showing of these movies, where Joel interacts with his robot puppet friends, trading cheesy entendres and references to obscure sci-fidelica.

Perhaps their most famous feature-length endeavor finds these characters discussing "Manos, The Hands Of Fate" which has been oft rated as "The Worst Movie Of All Time." The horror anti-classic features one of the most colossally stupid and irrelevant plots ever to grace the silver screen. A classic American family of man, wife, daughter and dog encounter a small, remote shack, and its caretaker, a bearded man with deformed knees. Any small bit of logic or sense is quickly jettisoned, leaving the viewer in a mire of confusion and mild disgust. Joel and his robot friends, however, make this a much more entertaining viewing experience, with rapid-fire witticisms, critiques, and obscure to semi-obscure references directed at the cast and crew.

The genius in MST3K lies in our fascination with things that are classically camp. It seems almost an American tradition to love things that are terrible, yet to be winkingly tongue-in-cheek about it. We know it’s awful, yet we play along with a smile. MST3K allows us elitist nerds to retain our sense of superiority while indulging in something blatantly stupid. That’s why it’s such a cult classic.

The show’s weakness lies in its skits between the showing of the said films. The skits are just as cheesy and juvenile as the movies being shown, but there is almost something terrifically meta about it: a cheesy movie about cheesy B-movies. How can one go wrong?


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