Have you ever seen the following movies: Manos: The Hands of Fate, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, or Attack of the the Eye Creatures (sic)? If so, there really should be some kind of virtual secret handshake for moments like these, because that very likely means that you, like I, am a devotee of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the 1980s- to 1990s-era American television show that fed us a diet of cinematic howlers, mediated by two wisecracking robots and their human friend. If you’ve been hoping that some day it would come back, it has! In Russia, under the name Project Popcorn.

The original depicted the plight of Joel, later replaced by Mike, both janitors at Gizmonics Institute sent into space against their will by the institute’s evil Dr. Forrester, who forces them to watch terrible movies and monitors their brain activity.

The Russian version stars spaceship-marooned Stepa Samokatov and his puppet pals, Fidel (a penguin) and Ketchup (a dog). Stepa’s brain is studied by the evil Professor Zamishlavkin (although Stepa has apparently volunteered to be a test subject to make some cash).

Looking through a fan forum, I gather that there were only one or two of these made, and that it’s likely a homemade production. Its “FBI warning” reads: “This program is designed for private viewing with beer and chips in the company of friends.”

I haven’t watched an episode yet, but the non-russophones on the fansite say it’s funny even across a language barrier.

A few fans were outraged by this blatant copying, but most thought it good fun. I don’t know what the creators of MST3K think of Project Popcorn, but I can guess: each of their episodes ended with the written message, “Keep circulating the tapes.”

Barbara Frye

Barbara Frye is Transitions Online’s managing editor. Email: barbara.frye@tol.org

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