MST3K: Last of the Wild Horses (1994)
Director: Kevin Murphy
Starring: Mike Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff and Jim Mallon

The Plot: In the not-too-distant future, Mike Nelson (Michael J. Nelson) is abducted by his boss at Gizmonic institute and shot into outer space. This boss of his, Dr. Forrester, then sends Mike the very worst movies that he can find in order to document his reactions. Mike, who has two robot friends named Crow and Tom Servo, does his best to improve this bad situation by having a good time and riffing on the movies. Our film today, Last of the Wild Horses, revolves around a wandering drifter named Duke. Although the plot is fairly meandering and hard to keep up with, essentially Duke finds himself involved with the life of a wealthy rancher. This wealthy rancher has developed a rivalry with some folks in town, and a conspiracy is soon at work to deprive this wealthy rancher of his assets. The rancher has a lovely granddaughter who immediately falls for Duke, but when her grandfather is killed it seems that the local townspeople are dead-set on blaming Duke. This instigates a battle between factions, but will justice be upheld? And will the crew of the Satellite of Love manage to sit through this stinker with their dignity intact?

The Review
Although it didn’t prove to be a particularly bad episode, Gunslinger showed that it was hard to take a black and white western and make it into a laugh riot. Even with the crew of the Satellite of Love trying to lampoon it, this proved to be a difficult premise. However, the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew are never ones to shy away from a challenge, and with Last of the Wild Horses the crew stand up and accept their challenge head-on. Another Mike Nelson episode from the MST3K Vol. XXIII boxset, Last of the Wild Horses manages to veer away from the pack and make a name for itself in a number of key ways. The most notable reasons come from a subplot that is explored during the first half of the episode, but I will get into that more a little later. As it is, Last of the Wild Horses is an episode that for all purposes shouldn’t work. The movie is a wee bit on the boring side, the plot seems a little difficult to follow, and once again: this is a black and white western. This is a movie that might have worked on its own, due to the nostalgic vibe that these classic pieces of Americana sometimes emanate, but rarely are they fun to pick apart. Yet, Mike and the bots somehow manage to take these odds and turn them on their head. While Last of the Wild Horses may never be considered the finest hour in this show’s history – it ultimately proves to be a rather entertaining little piece of MST3K history.

If you are going to talk about this episode, you have to talk about the host segments. Within most episodes, host segments are usually treated as an aside to all of the zaniness happening within the movie theater segments, but this is one of the few instances where the host segments heavily factor into what goes on in the theater. This episode marks one of the few times where someone other than Mike, Joel, Tom Servo or Crow actually do any riffing within the theater segments. Making a fun companion piece with The Castle of Fu Manchu, where we watched as Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank fumbled their attempts at riffing, in the early part of this episode we actually get to see what these two can really do! When Dr. Forrester and Frank are thrown into the theater, as our characters enter a bizarro-world where Mike is in charge and Forrester & Frank are the ones being experimented on, we actually see their wit on display. Frank Condiff shows off his skills as a riffer, and their segment turns out to be quite spectacular. The host segments that set all of this up are equally as humorous, however, because we get to see the evil version of Mike both sporting a classic “evil guy goatee” ala Star Trek and we also see him sporting a gold lame vest. Could things be any better?

Like the movie itself, this episode starts out relatively dry. The riffing is there, but nothing seems too substantial. However, as the movie progresses the gang seems to get on target. By the conclusion, the riffing builds to a very strong crescendo. During the final thirty minutes, I was so into the episode that I actually hoped that the episode would keep going! Although it takes forever to get to this point, once we finally arrive, everything seems worth it. The playing around with the various personalities and cast members during the first third of the movie probably helped with the strange accent to this episode. This also seemed to limit some of the running gags that this show is so well known for. Although there are general themes running throughout each segment, the stingers aren’t allowed to be as sharp. Still, everything seems worthwhile because the cast members are very much on the ball and the delivery seems all the more sharp because of the format. Knowing how this would mess with the feng shui of the episode, it seems as if the crew made sure that their riffs were consistent and of a high quality. Although this won’t be a episode that enters into any top-10 lists, it is certainly a fun way to spend some time with the cast of the Satellite of Love.

Unfortunately, there are numerous things going on with Last of the Wild Horses that prevents it from being anything great. The majority of these things come from the lackluster movie itself. Featuring a soundtrack that is mixed incredibly low, a great deal of the dialogue seems obscured while watching the movie. It all seems so dim that viewers may actually have a hard time making out the zingers or understanding many of the jokes. An unfortunate circumstance, because the remarks certainly seem to be quite witty. Although I wish this were the only problem found in Last of the Wild Horses, that does not prove to be the case. From the generally cheap aesthetic values of the movie to its drifting narrative, Last of the Wild Horses is far from a riveting piece of genre cinema. At best, it is a time waster. Normally that would make it a proper candidate for the MST3K treatment, of course, but this is an instance where the movie is usually too boring to hold the audience’s attention for very long. Thankfully the episode proves to be interesting, and nowhere near as monotonous as the movie, but this is certainly something that the MST3K crew have to battle against. Although the faded dialogue is certainly an issue for me, I believe that the jokes and the movie find their rhythm and there isn’t a big issue to be found here. Although it may not knock down any doors, this is a fun experiment for the crew and a funny episode.

The Conclusion
As with the rest of the entries on the set, this isn’t a perfect MST3K episode. Not even a perfect example of the series. However, if you are accustomed to the show, this is grand entertainment. Nothing is quite as relaxing as sitting down with a fun episode of MST3K. No better way to spend an evening than with Mike/Joel and the bots! This episode gets a three out of five.