John: What's so interesting about Chicago?
Tucker: Any town where you steal a million dollars is interesting.
The Rebel Set is a low-budget 1959 crime thriller directed by Gene Fowler Jr. (I Was a Teenage Werewolf).
Three down-on-their-luck beatniks — John Mapes, an aspiring actor; Ray Miller, a failed writer; and "poor little rich boy" George Leland, the neglected son of a famous movie star — are hired by an amoral coffee house proprietor to help pull off an armored car robbery during a rail trip. The heist goes off swimmingly; but afterward, on the train to New York, the conspirators begin dying, one by one.
This film contains examples of:
- The Alcoholic: Miller, the writer, is introduced stone-drunk at a beatnik party.
- Always Murder: Leland's death. This leads to a Xanatos Gambit on Tucker's part; it's fine and good if Leland's staged "suicide" is taken as such, but he's set the evidence up to point to the other henchmen, thus making it easier to get them out of his way."Father" Tucker: What makes you think it was suicide?
Conductor: What else would it be?
"Father" Tucker: Murder?
Conductor: What makes you say that?
"Father" Tucker: This [suicide] note is type-written.
"Father" Tucker: Where's the typewriter?
- Armed Blag: The plan — steal the money, bury the evidence, and get out of town on the train before anyone knows what happened.
- Batman Gambit: Tucker clearly considers himself a master of this.
- He chooses for his accomplices people who are known to be desperate, this way he can easily turn them on each other if they don't turn on each other first, and he's chosen people who he is confident are competent enough to follow his plan but not enough to successfully betray him. Even if there are any left standing at the end, he has crafted himself a reputation as an eccentric but otherwise upright business owner.
- He disguises himself as a priest expecting that this will automatically make anyone investigating the robbery or the murder pass him over. This works to his advantage in the climax when John is chasing him, as the railworkers who intervene side with Tucker because all they know is some guy is beating the tar out of a priest.
- He even lampshades this early in the movie when his lackey compliments his ability to play chess, and Tucker replies that he merely makes a point to play against people he knows are worse than him.
- Beatniks: The early scenes are set in a bar full of them. MST fans were quite happy that the show finally got a movie with actual beatniks, unlike the one that was erroneously called The Beatniks.
- Bittersweet Ending: Tucker is defeated and John is cleared of murder. He still has to answer for his part in the armored car heist. And how is Jeanie supposed to get home? She spent that dollar an hour ago.
- Captain Obvious: The Gossipy Hens get in a good one:Gossipy Hen: Reverend, do you know what I think is responsible for all this crime?
"Father" Tucker: I haven't the foggiest, sister.
Gossipy Hen: The people involved!
- Clear My Name: Due to Tucker's clandestine manipulations, everyone thinks John killed George Leland. The only time any ambiguity creeps in is when Ray Miller disappears (his typewriter was used to create Leland's phony suicide note).
- Dare to Be Badass: Part of Tucker's sales pitch, including a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. ("You're not Beat, you're merely beaten; you're not detached, you're unemployed!")
- The Dragon: Sidney.
- Dumb Blonde: The waitress, Karen. Possibly more gullible than outright dumb; she does know what "adulterate" means (even if she can't quite pronounce it).
- Gossipy Hens: The two old ladies "Father" Tucker befriends on the train. They always have something (negative) to say about everyone and everything, and always seem to be lurking about the fringes of the scene as if snooping.
- Grande Dame: Inverted with the rich, snobby woman who desperately wants to be Beat.
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Discussed. Tucker strictly enforces a drinking ban at his coffee house (i.e. a business with no liquor license) even in a secret meeting plotting a robbery specifically to avert this. His exact phrasing is "I don't believe in breaking small laws".
- Missing Mom: Rita Leland provides her son George with all the Freudian Excuse he could possibly ask for. She does finally decide to (very publically) reconcile with George at the end... while not noticing his corpse being wheeled past her mid-speech.
- The Mountains of Illinois: It's awful hilly just outside Chicago. You keep expecting the Duke boys to come careening around the bend any moment.
- Murder Is the Best Solution. "One less share to dispense, and now Mr. Miller... there'll be still another share less."
- Paper-Thin Disguise: A clean shave and a priest's collar is all Tucker apparently needs to disguise himself as a priest. The episode guide for the MST3K episode notes that the first time the MST3K crew watched the film, it took them all quite a while to realize it was supposed to be a disguise.
- Porky Pig Pronunciation: "Did I see you adulterat... adultering... oh, spiking that Coke?" — although if you listen closely you can hear the actress pronounce "adulterating" correctly both times. It's possible the character could be realizing the dolt she's speaking to probably doesn't know what the word means.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Tucker is surpassingly eloquent. When confiding with his main man Sidney, his dialogue nearly degenerates into an Expospeak Gag.
- Smart People Play Chess: Tucker at the start of the movie. According to him he rarely loses, but only because he makes sure to play against bad chess players — which is why he chooses stupid people to help him with his schemes.
- Stop, or I Will Shoot!: The cops have no qualms about shooting a fleeing man in the back. To be fair, they think he's a murderer.
- Tap on the Head: "Father" Tucker gets in an egregious one on a sentry cop; seriously, he doesn't even use the weighted end of his cane!
- Trick Dialogue: We are introduced to the lead character, John, who is in the midst of a melodramatic argument with an off-camera woman. The woman turns out to be an actress' voice-over on a "learn how to act" record collection.
- The Watson: Sidney seems to be in the film mainly so Tucker can explain "the Alpha and the Omega" of his evil genius.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: With his utility to the plot expended after the heist, Sidney completely vanishes from the film. But hey, someone had to drive the car home.