This month’s PlayList is dedicated to Mystery Science Theatre 3000, a Minneapolis television show which broadcasted commentaries on 198 obscure films between 1988 and 1999. Now uploaded onto the internet by the show’s dedicated fans, the irreverent MST3K versions have given many films an unexpected new lease of life. Where else could you see work of the dubious calibre of 1966’s Manos, The Hands of Fate, an astonishingly amateurish horror film from 1966 featuring the less than terrifying duo of Manos, who resembles Frank Zappa dressed as Denis the Menace, and his unintentionally comical sidekick Torgo, a man with knees the size of watermelons?

Without synchronised sound or any kind of coherent storyline, Manos has a strange, dreamlike quality that David Lynch would later make his own. Yet among the drive-in fodder (Squirm, The Giant Spider Invasion, Track of the Moonbeast) there are a few real cinematic gems which transcend the MST3K rough-housing process. Known as ‘The Walt Disney of the Soviet Union’, Russian director Aleksandr Ptushko was a stop-motion genius, his epic The Day the Earth Froze and Aleksandr Rou’s Jack Frost talking bears, two-headed dragons and heroines with more muscles than their heroes.

Not far enough from the beaten track for you? Carry On star Bernard Bresslaw turns up in Moon Zero Two (pictured), a Hammer space Western from 1969 that defies both science and belief ( Or why not check out a stark German black and white television version of Hamlet, with Maximillian Schell as the prince, and Paul Verhoeven as a gravedigger. And curiosity value alone is reason enough to watch 1979 organ-donor thriller The Clonus Horror, which was deliberately buried to conceal the fact that Michael Bay’s über-flop The Island appears to have been copied from it, scene by scene. Go on, seek out a diamond in the rough.

(Eddie Harrison)

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