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Goodbye Sci-Fi

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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Weekend Discussion Thread: Movies that Symbolized their Decade

Alert reader “Son of Peanut” suggests:

I’m watching “Avalanche” as I write this and thinking about how this might be the most stereotypically “’70s-ish” of all the ’70s movies the show has riffed. The hair, clothes, decor, music, setting, story – all creating a time capsule of the era, at least for me.
What other MST3K movies define their decades for you?

I’m gonna go with “The Brute Man” for the ’40s, since the Creeper is clearly a metaphor for Hitler…

What’s your pick?

48 Replies to “Weekend Discussion Thread: Movies that Symbolized their Decade”

  1. DarkGrandmaofDeath says:

    Catalina Caper is THE 1960s movie. Take the whole format – a silly plot involving “teens” vs. adults during a lame heist, plus all the musical numbers, dancing, attempts at humor, and bikinis, and you have the general sense of what the 60s were all about (at least to studio executives who didn’t really get the young people, but knew how to slap a movie together to pander to a specific audience).

       12 likes

  2. goalieboy82 says:

    Monster a Go Go:
    but there was no movie that symbolized their decade.

       4 likes

  3. I unfortunately lived through the entire 70’s decade. So for me, no Mst movie symbolizes this gaudy era more than Riding with Death. The tv movie actors, goofy styles, ugly cars. Even the trucker, CB radio fascination. Its all here except for the avacado colored appliances.

       17 likes

  4. Sitting Duck says:

    The Forties: I Accuse My Parents

    The Fifties: The Violent Years

    The Sixties: The Time Travelers (when science fiction movies took a more pessimistic turn)

    The Seventies: Mitchell

    The Eighties: Outlaw

    The Nineties: Future War

       8 likes

  5. duke of puddles says:

    i will go with ‘Zombie Nightmare’ for the eighties. i’m not real sure of the decade as it was made in Canada and well…

       11 likes

  6. Yeti of Great Danger says:

    Kudos to “Son of Peanut” for this excellent WDT! Each post I read, I say, “You’re right! No, you’re right!” Here are my humble offerings:

    1950s: Girls Town — half the time I can’t even understand their swingin’ ’50s slang

    1960s: The Horror of Party Beach — radioactive sludge, bikinis, lotsa parties, lotsa teens, sorta decent band

    1970s: San Francisco International — but like one of the ‘bots said, I wish it had been in color (in case someone here takes me literally, of course the joke is that the “stylish” colors of the ’70s were basically a million shades of drab). I think the whole decade is summed up in the riff, “The answer, my friend, is blow it out your ass.”

    1980s: Hobgoblins — “It’s the ’80s! Do a lot of coke and vote for Ronald Reagan!”

       21 likes

  7. Kenneth Morgan says:

    They didn’t do too many movies from the 30’s, but “The Corpse Vanishes” certainly symbolizes the decade. The plucky girl reporter, the wisecracking older sidekick, the crusty editor, the casual chauvinism, the screaming headlines.

    That movie was from the 30’s, right?

       7 likes

  8. skrag2112 says:

    ‘Angel’s Revenge’ is enriched, weaponized late 1970s.
    ‘Danger Diabolik’ is pure 1960s James Bond phychedelia.
    ‘A Date With Your Parents’ is so 1950s it makes ‘Leave It To Beaver’ look like ‘Married With Children’.

       17 likes

  9. Sitting Duck says:

    Kenneth Morgan:
    They didn’t do too many movies from the 30’s, but “The Corpse Vanishes” certainly symbolizes the decade.The plucky girl reporter, the wisecracking older sidekick, the crusty editor, the casual chauvinism, the screaming headlines.

    That movie was from the 30’s, right?

    It’s listed as 1942. But plucky girl reporters are just as much a Forties thing.

       4 likes

  10. Yeti of Great Danger says:

    Kenneth Morgan:
    They didn’t do too many movies from the 30’s, but “The Corpse Vanishes” certainly symbolizes the decade.The plucky girl reporter, the wisecracking older sidekick, the crusty editor, the casual chauvinism, the screaming headlines.

    That movie was from the 30’s, right?

    As Sitting Duck said, released in 1942, but certainly had many leftover tropes from the ’30s.

    If anyone hasn’t had enough coffee this morning and wishes, “Golly gee whiz, I wish there was a convenient list of movies by year/decade,” here ya go: http://mst3k.wikia.com/wiki/Episodes_by_Year

       4 likes

  11. Mibbitmaker says:

    “San Francisco International” perfectly encapsulates the year 1970: ’70s kind of production (TV movie), but with its still-kinda-the-late-’60s showing (the “establishment” figure complaining of a “violent” hippie (the Weather Underground running rampant at the time).

    The obvious mid-late ’60s movies include all the biker-type films (Sidehackers, The Wild Rebels, The Hellcats, Girl in Gold Boots, etc.) with lots of groovy, psychedelic imagery and Music. Iconic enough for a weekend theme of MST3K watching.

    And, of course, “Red Zone Cuba” is a vivid portrayal of the very topical Bay of Pigs invasion… in 1966. Did I say vivid? I meant to say “not even close”!

    (this topic is right up my alley – and I guess we all know how painful that can be!)

       6 likes

  12. jay says:

    Moon Zero Two –

    It came out in 1969 and although it is set in the “future” everything about it screams Sixties. The dancer’s outfits, the furniture, the rampant misogyny, even the “spaceships” are ripoffs of the Apollo lander.

       11 likes

  13. And 80’s? 80’s was Golan/Globus, and they don’t get MORE Cannon-80’s than “Alien From LA”.
    When a Sports Illustrated supermodel gets top billing in a movie, and Australians are Cool, you know it’s late Reagan-era.

    The 80’s-Network-TV of the Master Ninja movies can’t even compete.

    Sampo
    I’m gonna go with “The Brute Man” for the ’40s, since the Creeper is clearly a metaphor for Hitler…

    (I, er, take it you’re being Facetious, like the young kids today, unless you’ve had a film class that made you watch “M”, “Testament of Dr. Mabuse”, or a number of other 20’s-30’s German films that would curl your hair with creepy prophetic “metaphor”…)

    jay:
    Moon Zero Two –
    It came out in 1969 and although it is set in the “future” everything about it screams Sixties.The dancer’s outfits, the furniture, the rampant misogyny, even the “spaceships” are ripoffs of the Apollo lander.

    And the wacky Russian sidekick. It was still that big a joke back then, even in the “What happened to the Space Race?” cartoon opening.

    As for real on-the-scene late-50’s/early-60’s Cold War paranoia, though…Rocket Attack USA or Invasion USA?
    One was a deliberate lobbyist PSA, the other was just general sermonizing for the common folk, and both just as silly. If we have to go with historical artifact, I’d give the edge point to Invasion.

    Mibbitmaker:
    “San Francisco International” perfectly encapsulates the year 1970: ’70s kind of production (TV movie), but with its still-kinda-the-late-’60s showing (the “establishment” figure complaining of a “violent” hippie (the Weather Underground running rampant at the time).

    Yes, apart from all the gleeful pokes at Poor Divorced-Kid Planejacker, I kept wondering why the particular Mike-era love for this generic bit of 70’s TV-movie fluff, if not for the one scene (yeah, how many is he in?) of the Made-For-TV Hippie, who, of course, was a completely accurate representation for the mainstream whitebread audience at the time.

    But M&tB high-school-nostalgia jokes aside, it’s still not QUITE as pure undistilled 70’s as the desert, pickup trucks and post-Smokey sheriffs of Laserblast. Take it from another old survivor.

    And while Avalanche is the good pure-70’s of Netflix S11, is it actually more 70’s than the pure-70’s of Starcrash?

       1 likes

  14. jay says:

    The Incredible Melting Man (70s version) –

    Comet TV is currently showing a Seventies remake of Melting Man. I did not know there was one. If ever there was a movie that should NOT have been remade Melting Man is it, but this version had bell bottom pants and patent leather boots (on the men) and the in-space flashbacks showed a cheap Apollo capsule knockoff. I can’t tell you anything more about it because I turned it off after ten minutes out of a sense of self preservation.

       6 likes

  15. SteveWithAQ says:

    I think I can safely say that no movie better represents seveighties Americitalia than Devil Fish.

       8 likes

  16. edwardminges says:

    Daddy-O, absolutely. There’s a lot of other goofs, but clothes, hair, language, even a lot about the cars is too, too right.

    BTW–Bruce Green (“Sorry, fella”) is given as Jack McClure in the credits. For a long time, imdb showed him as having only one other credit, in Friendly Persuasion. Recently, they picked him up as Tipp McClure, with 32 roles over twenty years. His last role–well, get your copy of Cinematic Titanic’s “Rattlers.” HE’S THE PLUMBER WHO COMES TO FIX THE BATHTUB.

       5 likes

  17. mando3b says:

    I agree with everyone’s choices, and am only irked that I didn’t get online sooner to post them myself. The thing is, ALL MST movies are cheesy, in part, because they can’t rise above the cliches of the era in which they were made. Either there’s not enough candlepower in the crew to come up with a couple of original ideas, or else they’re consciously trying to cash in on whatever is currently relevant. In any case, I bet someone who hadn’t seen these films but knew something of the history of cinema could guess the year all of them were made after five or ten minutes. All that being said, is there anything more instantaneously dateable than ’70s-era made-for-TV movies?!

    As I’ve mentioned before, I taught Russian language and lit for a living for many years, and for me, nothing screams “popular Soviet 60s/70s cinema” like the Russo-Finnish Troika + 1: remarkably faithful to the original fairy tales (up to a point), high production values, quality actors, but everything just a little . . . too-too: whimsy a bit too whimsical, a heroine just a bit too virtuous, production numbers just a touch over the top, comic relief that goes on a bit too long, a sound track that never lets up, a nasty stepsister that looks too much like Tom Petty . . .

       12 likes

  18. RedZoneTuba says:

    Scott Armstrong:
    I unfortunately lived through the entire 70’s decade. So for me, no Mst movie symbolizes this gaudy era more than Riding with Death. The tv movie actors, goofy styles, ugly cars. Even the trucker, CB radio fascination. Its all here except for the avacado colored appliances.

    I came here to nominate this one too. To add to the above list:
    – Turkeys, turkey everywhere
    – High-waisted pantsuits (“Abby is some gal!”)
    – “Novelty songs” (Jim “I don’t like spiders and snakes” Stafford)
    – Gas mileage secrets being kept from us
    – Fade-away jerk handshake
    – New England Journalists!!

       11 likes

  19. Ray Dunakin says:

    To me it’s interesting, in an irritating kind of way, that so many movies from the 60s and 70s LOOK like they were shot for TV, even when they weren’t. Avalanche is a classic example — it looks exactly like a typical 70s made-for-tv movie, yet it’s not.

       4 likes

  20. Ray Dunakin:
    To me it’s interesting, in an irritating kind of way, that so many movies from the 60s and 70s LOOK like they were shot for TV, even when they weren’t. Avalanche is a classic example — it looks exactly like a typical 70s made-for-tv movie, yet it’s not.

    Cheap, with “B” list actors (a movie “Love Boat”).

       2 likes

  21. Son of Peanut says:

    Thanks for using my question this week.

    For me, it’s tough to get more 80s than Space Mutiny (even if it does use recycled footage from the late 70s). Seeing Doctor Lady in her workout gear dancing to techno music is pretty definitive.

    Crow: “You and your 80s!”
    Tom: “Your precious 80s!”
    Crow: “You know it would’ve kept being the 70s if not for you!”

       8 likes

  22. Ray Dunakin says:

    Mike “ex-genius” Kelley: Cheap, with “B” list actors (a movie “Love Boat”).

    The lighting has a lot to do with it. Very flat, kind of over-lit.

       2 likes

  23. I also nominate RIDING WITH DEATH, and like Scott Armstrong I lived through the seventies (although I was pretty little at the beginning of the decade — I was six!). And you can tell that the thing was made during the latter half of the decade (if only barely), when everyone in Hollywood must have been high and figured everyone else was high, too, especially viewers. So when Carl stands there patting his pliers against his hand in that really cheesy bad-guy kind of way (after tampering with the brakes on Ben Murphy’s rig), you have to wonder, was there a bad guy planted at EVERY gas station just waiting for Ben Murphy to stop? Somehow that doesn’t seem like a good investment, even if the Murray Slaughter look-alike is going to walk a way with “TEN MIL[lion dollars].” But the writers figured everyone was high like they were, so they didn’t care. Heck, NOBODY cared in the seventies (we were all high!), and this slack-butt show proves it!

       12 likes

  24. Farmland says:

    Nothing screams EIGHTIES!!!! quite like Hobgoblins.

    And no, that’s not a compliment.

       14 likes

  25. jklope4 says:

    Since others have said my decade choices (Catalina Caper, Avalanche, Zombie Nightmare), I’d like to nominate my favorite decade-based riff: “It’s the 80s! Do a lot of coke and vote for Ronald Reagan!”

       1 likes

  26. Farmland:
    Nothing screams EIGHTIES!!!! quite like Hobgoblins.

    And no, that’s not a compliment.

    I was gonna say HOBGOBLINS too because we DID A LOT OF COKE AND VOTED FOR RONALD REAGAN!

       6 likes

  27. Watch-out-for-Snakes: I was gonna say HOBGOBLINS too because we DID A LOT OF COKE AND VOTED FOR RONALD REAGAN!

    (You have to wonder about a line written by guys in their 40’s that sounds like it was written by kids who weren’t even alive in the 80’s…)

       1 likes

  28. Terry the Sensitive Knight says:

    Sitting Duck: The Forties: I Accuse My Parents

    This one’s much more of a 30s movie. It is in fact, the oldest movie ever riffed by MST3K

       2 likes

  29. The Touch of Satan is the both the most ‘70s movie on MST3K and has the right kind of creepiness that only a movie from the ‘70s could have. Squirm is close, but The Touch of Satan has something special.

       6 likes

  30. Red Zone Cuba captures the essence of the early 1960s. Bad dialogue, grainy B&W film, poor continuity, ineptly planned coups, creepy diners with frog legs on a barn side menu.

       5 likes

  31. Johnny Drama says:

    For me, movies only represent the fake versions of the decades they hail from. Amplifying only the most extreme fads and trends of their time, they are only slightly accurate reflections of their period. And yet, they are all that’s left of that time, as well. We are left with what the film makers envisioned and wished the actual decades were like.
    So no movie on MST3K reflects a decade accurately for me. I can’t speak for the years I wasn’t around, but the MSTied movies of the 70s and up are merely a facsimile of the reality. But of course these movies don’t accurately reflect their time; if they did, they’d be too good for MST3K!
    Beast of Yucca Flats reminds me of the 80s for various reasons. I suspect the desert didn’t change much over 20 years (and longer than that!)

       1 likes

  32. edwardminges says:

    In the “Incredible Melting Man,” Ted and Judy Nelson’s living room is the absolute-Zen-master evocation of 1977. EVERYTHING you always wanted to know about 1977 is right here, in this movie. If you had to take a three-hour test for half your grade on 1977, just looking at a still of 1:31:30 in “The Incredible Melting Man” for thirty seconds would send you out the door with a guaranteed “A”.

       5 likes

  33. Sampo says:

    jay: I’m gonna go with “The Brute Man” for the ’40s, since the Creeper is clearly a metaphor for Hitler…

    (I, er, take it you’re being Facetious,

    Oh I don’t know if I’m being capital-letter Facetious (for which I think you need to apply for a permit), but I am certainly being lower-case facetious. Actually I would agree with Yeti of Great Danger that “I Accuse My Parents” is the ultimate 40s movie.

       5 likes

  34. Yeti of Great Danger says:

    Sampo: Oh I don’t know if I’m being capital-letter Facetious (for which I think you need to apply for a permit), but I am certainly being lower-case facetious. Actually I would agree with Yeti of Great Danger that “I Accuse My Parents” is the ultimate 40s movie.

    Thanks for the agreement, but it was Sitting Duck who suggested “I Accuse My Parents” for the ’40s movie. That’s cool; I find myself constantly agreeing with Sitting Duck on this site. I didn’t offer a 1940s symbolic movie, so now I’m gonna say “The Last of the Wild Horses.” It was everything we loved about ’40s Westerns, except for its bad acting, bad directing, goofs, and boredom.

       2 likes

  35. Lawgiver says:

    “Riding with Death” is a good one for the 70s, but so is the second half of “Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders”. The hairstyles, the clothing, the decor all scream 1970s.

       3 likes

  36. Terry the Sensitive Knight says:

    I still say that “I Accuse My Parents” has a definite 30s vibe, similar to Marx Bros. movies or Three Stooges shorts

       2 likes

  37. Sitting Duck says:

    Terry the Sensitive Knight: This one’s much more of a 30s movie. It is in fact, the oldest movie ever riffed by MST3K

    Except it’s not. As can be seen here, I Accuse My Parents is from 1945 while both The Mad Monster and The Corpse Vanishes are from 1942.

       0 likes

  38. Sitting Duck says:

    D’oh! The I Accuse My Parents year should be 1944. But my point still stands.

       0 likes

  39. jay says:

    Hired – Parts One and Two

    It was 1941 just before we got into the war and America was finally coming out of the Great Depression. Selling cars door to door must have made sense then. American cars such as Chevrolet were so uniform in mechanical configuration and performance that a salesman could turn any small engineering improvement into a big selling point. “The new Chevrolet has ultra refined, all babbitt metal bushings!”, for example.
    Did you notice how the men went out on the porch after dinner to sit and cool off while “The Mrs.” made them lemonade and then went back into the sweltering kitchen to clean up? Did you pick up on the complete lack of powerpoints in the salesman on-the-job training? Well, it was the Forties.

       9 likes

  40. Sampo: Oh I don’t know if I’m being capital-letter Facetious (for which I think you need to apply for a permit), but I am certainly being lower-case facetious.

    No, you were being pretty capital-F. ;)

    (Srsly, if you want “metaphor”, check out the documentary “From Caligari to Hitler”, which outlines just about everything we should have been noticing in German films for twelve years–
    Like in Testament/Mabuse, where a criminal mastermind dies in prison after writing his autobiography, and anyone who reads the book mysteriously seems to be possessed by the mad genius’s ghost to go out and continue his crimes for him…Nope, no hidden metaphors there.)

    Actually I would agree with Yeti of Great Danger that “I Accuse My Parents” is the ultimate 40s movie.

    I wouldn’t say Accuse was THE all-time 40’s movie since they haven’t done that many, but it was certainly wartime and post-war 40’s in the same way that Bing Crosby’s “Going My Way” movies were:
    The public had spent the whole 30’s hypocritically trying to be pious, patriotic and trying not to get into WWII without being outright jerks about it–And during the war, and after into the Korean 50’s, the same frustration, mixed with the handwringing about how terrible it was with our boys overseas, created this idea that if we would all just start going to church again, our Family Values alone would strengthen American identity, solve those terrible post-Depression headlines of crime, divorce or decadence, and shame the rest of the world into just leaving us alone as a role model again.
    (Any church, not just the 80’s Red-state ones, just that there were more Catholics in the cities and more Protestants in the suburbs. And no Jews, of course.)

    Notice that Accuse’s message is not only to pay more attention to your kids to keep them out of crime and delinquency, but that what did the trick was the warm, lovable fry cook…And what’s HIS secret to “curing” a Good Kid Gone Wrong? (With capital letters, denoting a species.)

    By the time we were into the mid-to-late 50’s of “What About Juvenile Delinquency?”, we weren’t as sure, we just knew it wasn’t the good responsible suburban parents’ fault.

       0 likes

  41. Several mentions of “Avalanche,” which I agree with 350%. You know a movie is symbolic of a decade when it’s a) a decade you lived through and b) it’s wince-inducing. The big party scene in “Avalanche” was as painful as the big party scene in “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” except that you KNOW “Avalanche” wasn’t trying to be funny.

    However.

    Is it just me, or is “Avalanche” the ONLY one of the last season’s movies that really fell into this category?

       3 likes

  42. Dr. Batch says:

    Quest of the Delta Knights perfectly embodies the 1480’s.

       17 likes

  43. Torgover says:

    50s: The Phantom Planet. Nothing like having white guys from America being better at being anything than the natives of another planet to be the 50s. The 50s and Avatar.
    60s: Kitten With a Whip: Hippies, a square, naive senator being put upon by them and sexy Ann-Margret.
    70s: Riding With Death: Bell bottoms, corduroy, flowery shirts and Jim Stafford.
    80s: Zombie Nightmare: 80’s metal soundtrack, 80s hair, 80’s clothes all throughout.
    90s: Future War: Kickboxing, a 90’s anti-hero.

       5 likes

  44. Clint Keene says:

    Mitchell informed how I view the 70s. I was born in the 70s but don’t remember it well.

       3 likes

  45. H says:

    At The Earth’s Core was on Comet this afternoon and it struck me just how 70’s it is.

       3 likes

  46. Joseph Klemm says:

    Farmland:
    Nothing screams EIGHTIES!!!! quite like Hobgoblins.

    And no, that’s not a compliment.

    Definitely agree, as this film depicts a lot of the sleazier moments of that decade (i.e. the fashions, sex hotlines, studios attempting to follow in the success of Gremlins).

    Meanwhile, I see Girl in Gold Boots as a representation of the late 1960’s, with the go go dancing, the montage of 1967 LA, the drug culture, and the Vietnam War (in particular, the unpopular opinion that some people had to the point where they’d dodge the draft).

       7 likes

  47. goalieboy82 says:

    off topic, but i google Sandy Frank and found his birthdate. its July 11th 1929 (its now on google) and wikipedia (before it just said, 1928/1929)

       0 likes

  48. goalieboy82 says:

    goalieboy82:
    off topic, but i google Sandy Frank and found his birthdate.its July 11th 1929 (its now on google) and wikipedia (before it just said, 1928/1929)

    and this just crossed my mind, i wonder if Sandy Frank died. since a few weeks ago, his birthday wasn’t on Wikipedia or Google.

       0 likes

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