?It’s common knowledge that the more disturbing, unpleasant, and generally painful to watch a movie is, the more fun we loyal MSTies will have watching Joel, Mike and the ‘Bots strive to endure it. And there’s nothing that makes a flick insufferable quite like an awful, profoundly disturbing, utterly repugnant character. Because of their awfulness, these individuals often go on to become semi-legendary within the MST3K universe, popping up in host segments, getting quoted in future episodes, and achieving a level of fame (or infamy, at least) their horrible roles and atrocious acting alone could never have brought them.
This list is by no means comprehensive; after 10 seasons of the show, loathsome performances abound, and despicable characters are a dime a dozen, so I did my best to narrow it down to the most “fondly” remembered and “colorful” characters possible. Some characters were left off for being merely silly and annoying, like Droppo from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians; others, like hillbilly troglodyte Crenshaw from Boggy Creek II, were too “over the top” in their unpleasantness to really be worth the bother of including.
But that still left nine fictional personalities, each of which would easily justify the eradication of our species were they real.
NOTE: Before we begin, I’d like to give an Honorable Mention to the entire cast of Hobgoblins. There’s only character in this film I didn’t want to see die horribly was the kid at the beginning with the Walkman….AND HE’S THE ONLY ONE THEY KILL! Damn you, Hobgoblins!
9) Mikey, Teenage Strangler
I swear, looking at this kid, one single question repeats itself constantly within my mind: “Does it HURT to be you?”
Mikey (John Humphries) is the spazzoid younger brother of Teenage Strangler’s protagonist Jimmy, the misunderstood bad boy who the police believe is involved in a series of murders due to his criminal record. When a bicycle gets stolen, Jimmy took the rap for Mikey, and Jimmy had to wear a scarlet “A” for the rest of his life (more or less). In the movie, Mikey whines and squints and grimaces his way through every scene, looking for all the world as though mere existence is an excruciatingly painful effort. Certainly watching him is.
Still, there’s something to be said when your film’s titular character is actually a creepy, skeevy, molest-y old janitor who throttles adolescent girls to death… and he’s not the most unpleasant member of the cast.
8) Kester, Giant Spider Invasion
Meet Dan Kester of Giant Spider Invasion (he’s the gent in the pajamas with the gun). Up until I wrote this list, I had no idea what his name was, and just thought of him as “Gross Cheesehead Guy” (the film takes place in Wisconsin, and it’s chock-full of MST-endorsed Cheesehead-bashing which, as a native of the Chicago suburbs, I wholeheartedly agree with). Kester spends the majority of the film in stained long johns that cling lovingly to his revoltingly shaped physique. His performance consists of sodomizing the English language with his redneck gibberish, cheating on his wife (the only person in the film drunker than him), and having galactically upsetting “quality time” with his daughter… or niece… or sister… the film’s kinda fuzzy on exact relationships between characters. It was Kester’s repugnance that caused Crow to opine “This movie hates us, doesn’t it?”
The punchline? Kester was portrayed by the late Robert Easton; one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed dialogue coaches and an expert in dialects, known in the industry as “The Man of a Thousand Voices.” Furthermore, he was a literal genius — in the ’40s, he was on a radio show called Quiz Kids featuring a group of gifted, trivia-savvy youngsters. He was a member of Phi Eta Sigma, the famous scholastic honor society. Before his death just a month ago, Mr. Easton’s last job in Hollywood was in 2006 coaching Forrest Whittaker in Ugandan dialect for his role as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. Wow.
7) Mr. B. Natural
The closest thing to a “female” character to make this list (watch the ‘Bots debate after the short, and draw your own conclusions), “Mister” B is a bizarre muse-like being summoned forth from the Abyss by seriously disturbed preteen Buzz. The creature’s job is apparently helping lame kids become “cool” by convincing them to beg their parents for Brass instruments… specifically those made by C.G. Conn Ltd., the company that produced this slice of Hell as essentially history’s most batshit infomercial.
The unsettlingly attractive Mr. B is portrayed here by former showgirl Betty Luster, and portrayed again by MST3K alum (and wife of Mike Nelson) Bridget Jones during the 1993 Turkey Day showing of Night of the Blood Beast.
6) Tom, Eegah!
Back in the ’50s, movie producer Arch Hall, Sr. attempted to pimp out his son and his unfortunate face as the next Frankie Avalon-esque teen idol cash cow. The thoroughly unpleasant Eegah! (described in The Amazing Colossal Episode Guide as “Manos: The Musical”) is the most infamous of these ill-advised attempts. Just look at the poor bastard –Tom Servo nails it when he refers to Arch Jr. as “Cabbage Patch Elvis.” Still, one must grudgingly admire the vision of Mr. Hall; he was annoying us with greasy, orange-skinned people with no talent decades before Jersey Shore aired.
5) Mike, Attack of the (the) Eye Creatures
Monumentally idiotic alien invasion flick Attack of the (the) Eye Creatures is nothing short of a smorgasbord of truly nauseating characters, and as much as I’d enjoy smacking the bejeezus out of the perverted Army guy who spends all day (or night… there’s no noticeable difference in this piece of shit) using government technology to spy on necking teens, oily drifter Mike (Chet Davis) is ever so slightly more repellent. Particularly in the scenes where we see him in his drab, depressing flophouse room wearing a really upsetting striped sweater-dress thing. Words don’t do him justice — see for yourself at about 37:38, if you dare.
4) Mickey, The Screaming Skull
If you’ll recall, I praised (as far as you can praise an MST3K flick) The Screaming Skull a few months back in my list of great MST3K episodes for Halloween viewing as a relatively watchable ’50s horror film. I particularly gave props to Director Alex Nicol’s portrayal of disturbed gardener/peeper extraordinaire Mickey. Well, while I maintain that it was a decent performance, it doesn’t change the fact that Mickey himself is skin-crawlingly unpleasant: It’s like Lenny from Of Mice and Men and Torgo had a baby, and that baby learned to talk by watching Snagglepuss cartoons and Emo Phillips’ stand-up routine.
“My, my, MY GOD!!!!!” Now we’re getting into the big leagues of loathsome characterizations! Joe Don Baker is Mitchell, less a human being than some sort of horrible biological construct fueled by cheap beer and gravy. This abomination is supposedly a cop, but even with suspension of disbelief in gear it’s impossible to imagine a police force anywhere that would accept him. Besides, he spends more time drinking, banging hookers, drinking, yelling at children, and drinking than he does fighting crime or investigating anything. This, by the way, was Joel’s last episode… and I’d hop into an escape pod inside a box marked “Hamdingers” after watching it, too! The quote that begins this entry is the ‘Bots’ reaction to the most horrible sex scene ever committed to celluloid… seriously, Caligula is family fare compared to the vile perversion captured here. Check out 5:29 if morbid curiosity is overwhelming you — but do it on an empty stomach.
2) Watney, Outlaw
There are some gentle souls out there who sincerely believe they could never wish harm upon another human being, and that no matter how awful a person is, they would be content to “live and let live.” I’d like to introduce such individuals to Professor Watney Smith (Russel Savadier), “star” of Outlaw, a.k.a. Outlaw of Gor (yes, based on those Gor novels).
It’s literally impossible to not want to see this man suffer the worst tortures imaginable. Watch him near the beginning of the vid at the bar — he’s be the person who appears at 0:43 and looks like he could conceivably be named Watney — and I’ll wager within 10 seconds (15, if you’re a Buddhist) you’ll be imagining him stretched on a rack with a car battery hooked to… well, you get the point. Watney is the thoroughly repellent sidekick of Tarl Cabot, the equally dumb but far less awful hero of the movie. Without Watney and his wretchedness, this film might have been a relatively benign “swords and sandals” flick, but it was not be. Watney is unappealing in every way conceivable… and a few invented exclusively for him.
1) Torgo, Manos: The Hands of Fate
There simply could not be anyone else at the top of a list of upsetting MST3K characters. Torgo has become the single most popular MST3K movie personality, showing up in multiple host segments (played perfectly by Mike Nelson), even coming down from Sidekick Heaven to spirit TV’s Frank away to his greater reward as Torgo the White.
Really, what can I say about Torgo? Well, he has less social skills than Mitchell, and even less of a way with the ladies than Mickey from The Screaming Skull, mostly because Torgo is willing to go for the non-consensual fondle over simply peeping (although he does plenty of that, too). He has massive thighs, that make him walk like he just filled his britches. He’s both a shitty housekeeper and servant, giving the Master a bit of sass when he returns — but not in a noble way, just in a “please stop hoarding all the unconscious pretty girls” way. He’s so unpleasant he actually comes full circle and becomes somewhat sympathetic — almost endearing. Yeah he’s creepy and sketchy and looks like he has the kind of B.O. you can literally taste, but we love him anyway!
Not to mention that John Reynolds, who portrayed him, is easily the best actor in the film (though being the best actor in Manos is a lot like being the tallest building in Wichita). He might have actually had a future had he not committed suicide at 25, just before Manos was released. It’s rumored that the leg braces he wore as Torgo (source of the famous “big thighs”, though intended to look like goat legs) led to a painkiller addiction which contributed to his eventual suicide — thus leading some to claim that Manos literally killed him. But if it’s any consolation, thanks to MST3K, Mr. Reynolds will live forever — and Torgo will disturb and discomfit audiences for generations to come!