22 December 2006

MST3K (602)

602 - Invasion USA (w/ A Date with Your Family) - "This makes me pine for Red Dawn." Me too, Servo. Me too. The 25% of this film that wasn't WWII stock footage was pretty engaging, actually. I'll take this piece of Cold War propaganda over the ridiculous Rocket Attack U.S.A. any day.

One bit I don't understand: why couldn't they say "Soviet Union" in this movie? It's always "the Enemy" or "the Communists." There's no doubt that it was that particular political power doing the invading, coming through Alaska as they did. Were the filmmakers afraid that, in addition to inflating American jingoism, they might also piss off the Russians and make the Cold War warmer? That's kinda arrogant for such a cheap-o film, ain't it?

"Hey, I like my family... as a friend!" I've said it before: I'm glad it isn't the 1950s anymore. Wow, were there ever a lot of rules for eating dinner back then. It was also, apparently, a terrifying event. Implicit during the entire meal: "don't tick Daddy off." What would happen were his ire raised, I can only imagine.

"The dinner table is no place for discontent." Both the short and the movie had some of the best riffing since Outlaw. I was afraid people in the offices around here were going to stop by and ask me why I was laughing out loud so much.

What a disappointment. The two Lois Lanes, though they strangely both had the same job as travel agents, were only in the movie for 3 seconds. It was implied in Crow's geeky host segment in his graph of the two Loises, but I'll say it straight and on the record: Phyllis was best. This, despite her unfortunate 'fro in this flick.

Sweet Data, another senseless robot murder. Not again! Not again! First there was the XT-5000, the delightful bot who spoke only the language of foam. He disappeared without a trace. Then there was Minksy, the kindly bot who only had best wishes for everyone. His life was snuffed out by Joel. In this episode, the cycle of violence continues. Clearly imitating their father Joel, Crow and Servo commit boticide most foul. I could only watch in powerless terror as they destroyed Mike's first son, the gentle Destroyer bot. Why? Why?

"They bomb our nation's hobos." (8/10)

film d. Alfred E. Green (1952)
short d. Edward G. Simmel (1950)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (23 Jul 1994)

[watched at work using my laptop. slow time during the holidays is great.]

21 December 2006

MST3K (601)

601 - Girls Town - The umbilicus is certainly no hexfield viewscreen. When that essential component of the SOL was introduced, we were treated to -- still -- one of the funniest hexfield appearances ever. In this season premiere, the umbilicus generates a boring set of host segments from the Mads and a tired pie-in-the-face gag. I can't really see how it'll be too useful for the show in the future. Was there a great need for Mike and the Mads to swap physical objects? I suppose I'll find out.

The "Honor System" host segment almost seemed like a leftover from the Joel era. In it, Mike brings his snack tray out from hiding and declares that bots can have one piece of candy per day on their honor. Servo eats the entire tray offscreen, of course. It felt like a classic "Papa Joel" segment, with the human trying to teach the bots a lesson as if they were children. I think the Brains are still trying to figure out Mike's relationship with the bots.

"Bet they're all on the same cycle at Girls Town." Crow, gross... Anyway, I was happy to find myself laughing at the riffing after the mediocre season finale yesterday. It helps, I think, to have a load of actors and characters begging to be razzed. The bubble-chinned Mel Tormé, the torpedo-chested Mamie Van Doren, the impossibly wussy Paul Anka and the coo-coo-crazy chick that's in love with him all fuel some great riffing.

Look at all of the writers listed in the credits now. I wonder why they hired all of the new faces? I really can't tell the difference between the writing in this episode as compared to similarly humorous ones from season five. Did they need to fill out a softball team?

"You'll have to check those at the desk." (7/10)

film d. Charles F. Haas (1959)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (16 Jul 1994)

MST3K (season five closing thoughts)

Goodbye, season five.

After 5 years of steady improvement, the show falters just a bit. According to the average of all of my ratings, I liked this season less than the previous two. This feels correct. There were a more than a few episodes this year that I will more than likely never watch again. Yet, season five is the only season with two 9-rated episodes in it so far, including the only episode to win a TV award. Interesting year, this was.

The slight decrease in average episode quality is understandable. The year saw the hugest, biggest cast change possible for the show. I'm very impressed that the guys made it through this major mid-year transition with such ease. Mike effortlessly steps into the role as master of MSTie ceremonies. He's so good at this job that I can say I wasn't missing Joel all that much by the time 524 came to town.

Other than the Joel-Mike switchover, this season marked a few milestones for me. It contains both the temporal and episode midpoints in this marathon of mine. Watching 3 or 4 of these things per week and blogging about it is quite a time-eater. It felt great to survive to the halfway point. It was also the first time that I ever managed to watch an entire episode on the MST3K high-holiday of Turkey Day. That wasn't easy at all.

Season six will be interesting. I think I've only seen two of the (Rhino-released) episodes from that year, so it'll be all new to me. I'm really looking forward to 604. After watching Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare, I'm a confirmed Thor fan. I also can't wait to see 611, which I gather is the "parallel universe" episode. That should be fun. I'll also find out whether Frank's last episode is as great as Joel's? From today until February, season six it is.

The Numbers

Total Length
36 hours, 57 minutes, 51 seconds
(92 min average for 24 episodes)
(13 min average for 1 special)

Years Spanned
(1963 average)

Shorts Years Spanned
(1954 average)

Time to Watch
44 days
Time to Broadcast Originally
204 days

Turkey Day Episodes
9 (38%)
505, 507, 512, 513, 514, 517 (25 Nov 1993)
503, 511, 512 (24 Nov 1994)
512, 519 (23 Nov 1995)
MST Hour Episodes
3 (13%)
504, 505, 507
Teens Gone Wild
507, 509, 514, 522, 523 (21%)
Total Episodes with Joel's Goatee
--- (0%) [Joel, what happened this year?]
Crappy Italian Movies Purporting to Take Place Partially in My Home State
504 (4%)
Black and White to Color Ratio

20 December 2006

MST3K (524)

524 - 12 to the Moon (w/ Design for Dreaming) - Though as a piece of cinema it isn't fit to shine Rocketship X-M's shoes, I have to admire the progressive -- for the era -- ideas in this flick. Seven years before Star Trek, it features a diverse crew exploring space with the intent of declaring the Moon international territory. Even more impressive than this, just three years after the Red Scare, the film features a sympathetic character from the Soviet Union who soundly rejects the evil Frenchman's treacherous offer. Plus, they accurately guessed the name of the first manned craft to land on the Moon. None of this is enough to save the movie, but it's interesting nevertheless.

Now, why in the hell did the Moon People freeze Earth? We'd just given them a pair of cats (and a pair of humans) and taken off for home just like they asked. What's the problem, guys? I suspect that, in an ill-advised effort to feel useful, the Asian lady just pretended to know how to read the Moon People language and made up everything. Their script really didn't look like any earthbound oriental language. Even if it were related, given language's ability to mutate into mutual unintelligible dialects within even one little country on Earth, I sincerely doubt she'd be able to understand the Moon People's version of Chinese. Or am I reading too much into this?

As far as the MST3K crew's contribution to this episode, I wasn't impressed with that either. I feel like they're on autopilot lately. Technically, everything seems to be executed just fine. The riffing is plentiful and appears to be cleverly written. They're just not pushing the humor button in my brain as much with the past few episodes.

The host segments from this episode just had to be shown at Mike Nelson and Bridget Jones' wedding. Bridget dancing around the bridge like a spaz in her Nuveena costume with Mike singing to her in a deep, operatic voice is just the thing for the family to pull out in order to embarrass the couple. I can imagine the DJ at the reception, imagining that he's clever, shouting into his mic during the couple's first dance: "Do the Nuveena, Bridget!"

"Clown suit by Bargin Clown® of Hollywood." (6/10)

film d. David Bradley (1960)
short d. William Beaudine (1956)
mst d. Jim Mallon (5 Feb 1994)

19 December 2006

MST3K (523)

523 - Village of the Giants - Holy cow! B.I.G., master of the intended-to-be-serious giant monster flicks of the 1950s, dives headfirst into the style and sensibilities of the '60s. I'm not likely to forget his 3-hour-long scene in which the newly giant-ized teens dance in slow-mo to psychedelic music.

This is one of the rare episodes that I enjoyed the host segments more than any of the riffing. The riffing didn't manage to get me to laugh out loud even once. The density of the commenting was high. There was good variety to the things they had to say. I'm not sure what went wrong. It could be that the movie was sufficiently goofy enough on its own and didn't need any help from snarky silhouettes. Not helping is the laugh that Crow has begun using to laugh at his own jokes. I don't mind when Servo does it -- he keeps his chuckles short, low and respectful. Crow's, on the other hand, is kind of like a higher-pitched Hawkeye laugh.

No riffs about "Mickey"? C'mon, guys! Toni Basil, the one-hit wonder, was the redhead who distracted the giants with her interpretive dance.

I normally dislike it when all of the host segments follow a continuing story. I usually argue that I'd prefer the crapshoot of random segments. I take that back. The storyline of Frank getting laid off from Deep 13 was great. I was looking forward to the next segment as soon as the previous one had ended. I'm a huge fan of Frank, anyway, which undoubtedly increased my appreciation of the segments. Normally, we only get 3 seconds of guy per episode.

Mike was better than ever as Torgo, Frank's replacement. Mike has Torgo's signature tics and voice mannerism down better than even the great John Reynolds. I had no idea that there were more Mike-as-Torgo appearances after 508. What a treat! I hope he makes more surprise visits.

"There were sanitation problems." (7/10)

film d. Bert I. Gordon (1965)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (22 Jan 1994)

MST3K (522)

522 - Teen-Age Crime Wave - Living Room: The Movie. This is definitely the dullest of the juvenile delinquent films we've had so far. Lots of Bible readin', phone callin', and standin' 'round with guns. Not one person was offered a recording contract. Imagine.

Mrs. Kernunrex was in the room for a portion of the episode. She: "Is this a much later episode?" Me: "No, it's the one right after the one we watched." She: "Oh, their comments are so much funnier." I don't know about that. I think she was just more awake today. Maybe the riffing during this one had slightly more "pure funny" comments as opposed to references, which would appeal to her more. The riffing was pretty standard for this point in the show to me. Or maybe I'm the one not awake?

Some of the host segments seemed to be lacking something. The "Doughy Guys" song never really broke into a true MST3K-style tune. It also could've used some visual aids. In the Joel era, we would've at least had some colored pencil drawings on cardboard to illustrate the doughy guys of the song. Instead, we just get a scrolling list. The "Mythos" parody of a Mentos commercial was probably a lot fresher back in 1994. At this point, the proportion of Mentos parodies to real Mentos commercials I've seen is around 20:1. I was hoping the guys might have an extra joke or two to spice this particular parody up, but all they had were some clever lyrics.

The movie and host segments were too short for the 92-minute slice of Comedy Central programming they had to fill, so the guys pulled out an old trick. I still think the first time we had a never-ending series of false starts for the end credits was funnier. This is probably only because of the novelty of the idea two years ago; clearly, Frank dressed in tights and screaming in pain should be the more hilarious of the two. I wonder if Frank still has that costume?

"I'm afraid you're going down, kitten. Hard." (6/10)

film d. Fred F. Sears (1955)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (15 Jan 1994)

13 December 2006

MST3K (521)

521 - Santa Claus - It's the second (and final) special Christmas episode of the series. I like that I got to watch it at the appropriate time of year. I'm in the mood to watch Christmas movies anyway, so one wrapped inside of an MST3K episode sounds particularly delicious. The big question is: which one was better? During future Decembers, am I going to pull out Santa Claus Conquers the Martians or this episode? I gave 321 the very same numerical rating that I ended up giving 521. If forced to choose, I'd have to say that I slightly prefer 321 over 521. The Martian stuff is just too bizarre not to love and there's just way too much international singing at the beginning of this movie.

This was the first episode I ever got Mrs. Kernunrex to watch with me. Well, she was awake for 2/3rds of it, anyway. Whenever I'd suggest watching an ep before this, she'd just groan. This time, I sold it as "a Christmas movie that was also a MST3K episode." That seemed to work. She appeared to enjoy it, chuckling just as much as I did. We both laughed loudly at the utterly insane "cackling, mechanical reindeer" scene. She also commented about how clever the lyrics to the theme song of the show were, which is something I just take for granted at this point.

It's a Christmas musical bonanza, with three of the host segments dedicated to songs. This is appropriate, seeing as how most Christmas specials on TV are musicals. The prologue segment features a hilariously tragic attempt at a carol. I love it when the bots go to pieces. The first host segment features Santa Kläws performing "Whispering Christmas Warrior." Mike and the bots put together a spookily accurate representation of an '80s new wave band. This segment also displays the most camera movement I've seen in the show so far. Usually the most we'll get is a zoom, but they pulled out all of the stops to imitate the camera gyrations of a music video in this one. The third host segment features a successful attempt at a carol, the all-inclusive "Merry Christmas - If That's O.K.", which Mike unsurprisingly sings beautifully.

The Brains read my mind. All throughout the movie, I kept thinking "wow, I'd like the see Santa kick Pitch's ass." Wish granted. Thanks Paul Chaplin and Kevin Murphy for making my dream come true!

"Well, he was here alright. This is definitely Santa scat." (7/10)

film d. René Cardona & K. Gordon Murray (1959)
mst d. Jim Mallon (24 Dec 1993)

11 December 2006

MST3K (520)

520 - Radar Secret Service (w/ Last Clear Chance) - A terribly boring movie welded to not-great host segments makes for, hopefully, the worst episode of the season. As Kevin Murphy said in the ACEG, the movie is "like an episode of Commando Cody without the action." Worse, I found it impossible to keep anybody straight. All of the main characters are similar-looking white guys wearing gray suits and gray hats who stand around a lot. The two female characters are blondes with upswept hairdos who wear similar dark dresses. Everyone drives big, black cars. Everyone pulls revolvers on everyone else at one point or another. Everyone says the word "radar" a lot. Speaking of that part of the EM spectrum, even the extreme goofiness inherent in watching propaganda promoting radio detection and ranging wasn't worth the pain of the rest of the film.

You can always tell that the guys are really bored with a movie when they insert unrelated conversation into the riffing. In this episode, they kept going back to discussing the characters from Welcome Back, Kotter.

The host segments didn't generate any laughs for me, either. Outside of Crow imitating the engineer from the short ("When will they learn?") and wearing underwear on his head, I didn't find much of interest here. Hypno Helio Static Stasis is no Rock Climbing and certainly no Deep Hurting. Mike poking himself in the eye with lint is OK, I suppose. I'm not a fan of the high school reunion parody, maybe because I just skipped my own ten year reunion and don't have a frame of reference for such things. The Quinn Martin Park segment was another one of those segments aimed at the generation that preceded mine. I didn't recognize most of the character actors in the park, nor am I really sure who Quinn Martin is. It looks like he was a TV producer from before I was born.

The only worthwhile piece of this episode was the short. It's a classic auto safety film with the obligatory deadly ending. Due to its earnest seriousness, it's more entertaining than the similarly themed X Marks the Spot. This also allows for plenty of funny riffing. "Gee, lady, sorry about your boyfriend. So you wanna have a drink? Maybe at the bar car over there?" That poor, kindly police officer. Not thirty seconds after he spends three hours lecturing little Alan about all of the terrible things that can happen on the road, the kids slams into a train. Not a really efficient use of tax payer money, was it?

"It has no time to stop for you corn shucking crackers." (5/10)

film d. Sam Newfield (1950)
short d. Robert Carlisle (1959)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (18 Dec 1993)

09 December 2006

OLR: Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (1980)

The new scenes with Brando and Reeve are excellent and it has a less goofy edit, but suffers from the traditional Superman movie weak ending. (8/10)

d. Richard Donner & Richard Lester

OLR: Lifeforce (1985)

Too much time is spent in the confines of the Space Research Center, but the hottest space vampire in the galaxy helps make up for that. (6/10)

d. Tobe Hooper

03 December 2006

OLR: The Santa Clause (1994)

The large sections about divorce and custody battles clearly bored my six-year-old niece, but the Santa stuff was neat. (6/10)

d. John Pasquin

[watched at Brother-in-Law's house using an Xbox]

01 December 2006

MST3K (519)

519 - Outlaw - I was curious and now I know. This episode won the 1993 Peabody Award for Outstanding Quality Programming because it's damned funny. I'm glad I saved this one to watch with a friend. We both enjoyed some hearty laughter after watching what we both considered to be a depressing documentary.

Not knowing anything about this episode (other than the award), the Mitchell-level riffing was a pleasant surprise. Ground stabbing, '80s hair, hinders everywhere, Jack Palance with neat hats and one of the most annoying characters in MST3K history give the guys plenty of material to work with. I also think this episode would make for a great double feature with Cave Dwellers, which is another strong show with a very similar movie.

"I'm supposed to be some kind of freaking wizard." This line, from the "Palance on Palance" host segment, had us both cracking up long after the segment had finished. After watching Jack parade around in his silly outfits for the entire movie, this was the perfect window in his likely state of mind about the part. I almost never laugh this hard at a joke from a host segment. I'm going to insert this line into conversations tomorrow to make my friend re-crack-up over it.

I liked most of the host segments in this episode, in fact. The "Tubular Boobular" song was incredibly well-written, funny and expertly performed. The quick montage of "buffalo shots" in the final host segment was, clearly, the only logical item to comment upon after surviving the intense rumpage of the movie. Frank, dressed as a Roman, and Dr. F, dressed as a caveman, dancing together was a delicious bit of silliness reminiscent of the host segments from Pod People.

Wow. Two all-time favorite episodes in one season: one with Joel and the other with Mike. Way to conquer the difficult host replacement thing, guys!

"Cabot!" (9/10)

film d. John "Bud" Cardos (1987)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (11 Dec 1993)

[watched with Chef Gregory Jay after traveling through a helluva winter storm]

OLR: An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

I found the graphs the most interesting bit; I can't see how I could possibly share Gore's optimism. (8/10)

d. Davis Guggenheim

[watched with Chef Gregory Jay]

OLR: Alone in the Wilderness (2003)

The ingenuity Dick Proenneke displays is amazing and we're lucky he decided to film himself, though many great stories from the book are left out. (9/10)

d. Bob Swerer Jr. & Dick Proenneke

[watched with Chef Gregory Jay]

29 November 2006

MST3K (518)

518 - The Atomic Brain (w/ Discussion Problems in Group Living: What About Juvenile Delinquency) - If anything, MST3K is a great lesson in recent history. From the short in this episode and the movie in 514, I've learned that the youth gangs of four to five decades ago wore homemade, felt patches on their jackets. Not only did these patches require the assistance of said delinquents' mothers to be sewn on, they made it easy for parents and authority figures to identify them in the event of a crime. Such nice boys! From this short and episode 415, I've also learned that a tap on your bumper from a car full of these kids is a warning of either impending violence or an imminent singing audition. That's a 50-50 chance. Stay alert!

What is it with the transplant horror? First The Brain That Wouldn't Die and now this (and also Eyes Without a Face). Did something important in this field happen during this time? That's it, I need to do a little 'net research... All right. The first successful organ transplant happened in 1954. That was a boring kidney swap between identical twins. All of the exciting stuff, like hearts and lungs, happened after these three movies were made. Hmm. I guess that kidney thing was enough to ignite the imaginations bad screenwriters everywhere. I suppose the idea of having another human being's body part in you is pretty weird. Too bad no one ever made a good horror movie on the subject.

I sense the eminent demise of the invention exchange. Though Joel got lazy with them on occasion, Mike has not so far. Dressing the bots up as the Mads, though very funny, is not anywhere near an invention. That's fine. I liked this segment better than an invention, anyway. It was deceptively deep, too. We've got Trace Beaulieu playing Crow, who's playing Trace Beaulieu doing a bad imitation of Dr. Clayton Forrester and he's talking to Trace Beaulieu playing Dr. Clayton Forrester, who's playing Trace Beaulieu doing a bad imitation of Crow. Whoa. I see circles.

I think Magic Voice had her own host segment once before this episode, but I can't remember in which one. Her segment in this round was perfect. The narrator of this movie was one of the sleaziest disembodied film voices ever and he really needed a good telling-off. "I only met you a few seconds ago, but you're really yucky."

I found the riffing during the short to very funny. This was one of the best educational shorts so far, I think. The humor during the movie itself just didn't work as well. The guys seemed to be really energetic and into it today, but I didn't find myself laughing as much as I did during the short. Instead, I found myself fighting the snoozes again. For a movie involving cat-activated nuclear destructions, nude ladies in brain transplant chambers and a human dog, it repeatedly failed to capture my attention away from dreamland.

"You're gonna miss the soup of the day, jerk!" (6/10)

film d. Joseph Mascelli (1964)
short d. Herk Harvey (1955)
mst d. Jim Mallon (4 Dec 1993)

23 November 2006

MST3K (517)

517 - Beginning of the End - I'd rather there were Turkey Day marathons still being broadcast on TV. It'd be nice just to be able to flip to a channel throughout the day and have an episode in progress. Forcing an MST3K DVD episode into Thanksgiving Day is hard, especially when you're the only one interested in watching it. It was difficult to hear anything between the din of the family conversing in the other room and the requests for me to "turn it down" (the movie sign siren is not a popular sound effect...). I have a feeling there was some kind of sports-game going on that I preventing people from watching as well. Ah well. I made it. I watched this episode on its 13th birthday, which is also Mystery Science Theater 3000's 18th birthday. Happy Birthday, both!

The episode itself isn't one of my favorites. It's one of those that have a "snooze danger" attached due to the dullness of the film. I don't think the riffs are enough to save it. This is one of the earliest Rhino DVDs ever released, but this is only the second time I've seen the episode. I'm not keen on Crow's "Peter Graves" segment, even though I've been a fan of this series of host segments since Earth vs. Soup. I'm just not familiar enough with Peter Graves to find Crow's imitation funny. It's also a one-note joke that quickly becomes tiresome. I think the final host segment, which features rubber grasshoppers crawling on the fanmail postcards, just demonstrates that the Brains don't know what to do with this bit of the show anymore.

I did like the host segment in which Mike unexpectedly calls the Mads and catches them having a girls' night. And, I was not aware of the fact that grasshoppers and locusts were different animals. Thanks, Servo!

So is Mary Jo the new Mike? Now that Mike's serving fulltime duty as the host, he can't be the go-to guy for hexfield viewscreen appearances. Mary Jo popped up as the infamous Jan in the Pan in 513 and now she's back as some sort of wrong-number-dialing white trash lady. I've got no objections; she's funny. Are HFVS appearances a prerequisite to replacing a departing main character?

Like B.I.G.'s other giant bug epic, the special effects really aren't that bad. Ignoring the grasshoppers crawling on the postcards, the photography of those critters was nice. They often actually looked big, which is more than I can say for The Giant Gila Monster's shooting.

Jeez. So, not only does Chicago pour all kinds of industrial crap into our lake system, now they're drowning giant grasshoppers in it. Thanks a lot, jerks. I can only imagine the mountainous jam of locusts stuck underneath the Bridge at the Straights of Mackinac. And the stench! Gah. They should'a let the nuke solve the problem.

Time for a break. In order to reach TD93 and this episode in time for the real-life Thanksgiving, I got myself way, way ahead of schedule. I'm due for around two weeks off from MST3K. That might be nice. It's a lot of work to watch an episode and post about it every single day.

"Hey, I'm vindicated! How many dead?" (6/10)

film d. Bert I. Gordon (1957)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (25 Nov 1993)

[watched at Brother-in-Law's house using an Xbox]

MST3K (TD93)

Turkey Day '93 - I'm sure the fans that got to go to Debbie Tobin's MST3K costume soirée thirteen years ago had a lot of fun. For them, it was the premiere of Mike's first episode. That must've been interesting: watching that controversial show with a group of fans so dedicated that they made their own costumes and flocked hundreds of miles to this thing. For those of us not in on the fun, however, this is a disappointing Turkey Day. The knowledge that we could've had more segments from the Brains if Comedy Central hadn't been so cheap sort of dampens any goodwill I might've had for this year's offering.

I think that the lineup of episodes is my favorite of all six of the Turkey Days. I'm not a big fan of Crash of Moons or Fugitive Alien II, but all of the other episodes are solidly humorous.

24 Nov 1993
18:00 505 - The Magic Voyage of Sinbad
20:00 423 - Bride of the Monster
22:00 424 - Manos: The Hands of Fate
25 Nov 1993
00:00 422 - The Day the Earth Froze
02:00 318 - Star Force: Fugitive Alien II
04:00 308 - Gamera vs Gaos
06:00 313 - Earth vs the Spider
08:00 319 - War of the Colossal Beast
10:00 507 - I Accuse My Parents
12:00 417 - Crash of Moons
14:00 412 - Hercules and the Captive Women
16:00 420 - The Human Duplicators
18:00 512 - Mitchell
20:00 513 - The Brain That Wouln't Die
22:00 517 - Beginning of the End
23:59 514 - Teen-Age Strangler

Comedy Central also filmed bumpers with the fans for more episodes than those above. It seems like they didn't finalize the marathon lineup until the very last minute. Other potential candidates were 401 - Space Travelers, 402 - The Giant Gila Monster, 403 - City Limits and 405 - Being from Another Planet.

Even though the bumpers for this Turkey Day aren't my favorite, it was fun to watch them on the actual, for-real Turkey Day. I don't think the other people in the house really understood why I was watching these episode intros filled with be-costumed geeks, but they were busy making food and working on a bathroom addition to notice much.

Is it wrong to find the female Joel at the costume party attractive?

"Joel appears to me to be fairly sleepy. Um, he's funny, but he's just got that Garfield, half-eyed look, whereas Mike seems to be more energetic. I expect to see a lot of energy and humor coming out from Mike." (5/10)

cc d. ?? (24-25 Nov 1993)

[watched at Brother-in-Law's house using an Xbox and an HD LCD TV (not that this helped this DVD conversion of hazy, second-generation VHS)]

MST3K (516)

516 - Alien from L.A. - This is the most recent film MST3K has tackled yet. It's strange to think that this movie was brand new when the KTMA season premiered. It's also strange to think that a mishmash of Jules Verne, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Labyrinth and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome would be the vehicle to a launch a supermodel's acting career, but here it is. And, it's nice to see Thom Matthews getting himself some solid, post-The Return of the Living Dead work as Kathy Ireland's subterranean boyfriend. Good on yah, mate.

"Well, it was 'round about that time that old Kathy Ireland went a-burrowing for safety deep in the bowels of the earth." Nice riffing in this one. The movie provides plenty of bizarre sights and sounds (that voice!) to comment on. A special medal of honor goes to the writers for coming up with an effective method for defeating the incredibly long credits. There is no way they could've sustained the usual "make fun of people's names" thing during those. I guess I'm glad to find that I did not recognize, nor have seen many of, the chick flicks that Mike and Servo use as barbs in their war of words.

Favorite moment: Mike trying and failing to do the "heel click" thing whilst singing "My Wild Irish Ireland." I'll have to keep this episode in mind as a St. Patrick's Day activity in the future.

"The whole room smells like my eyes." (7/10)

film d. Albert Pyun (1988)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (20 Nov 1993)

[watched at Brother-in-Law's house using an Xbox 360]

21 November 2006

MST3K (515)

515 - The Wild Wild World of Batwoman (w/ Discussion Problems in Group Living: Cheating) - It's been a while since a bad movie has actually made me angry. Hey, Batwoman, you're not funny! Not one bit! I know you thought you were being campy and kitschy like the '60s TV series you stole your main character from, but you only succeeded in making me roll my eyes, frown, and eventually swear under my breath. The eponymous character with her faux-Adam West seriousness, the brainwashed cult of Batgirls (cast from a recently closed strip club, no less), the obligatory bad go-go dancing and the offensive babbling that was supposed to be Chinese all make me want to break something.

The short was great and really dark for something to show children. There was no redemption for little Johnny. His cheating made him a pariah at school, tormented by bodiless ghosts at home. Coming from the director of the excellent Carnival of Souls, this isn't too out of line with Herk Harvey's future work. The riffing during the short was strong, as expected. These things have to be second nature to the crew at this point. Crow can do his "whiny kid" voice, Servo can insert comments about the kid's pact with the Devil and everything is alright.

Like Servo's date with Gypsy in 503, all of the host segments in this episode tell the sad story of Crow's cheating. I'm still not a fan when this happens. Compared to the last episode which featured Mike's funny impression of Mikey and Mike singing, these continuity-bound segments just don't hold up. Servo wanting to execute Crow for cheating is funny, as is Crow's apology speech -- and at least it all ties in with the short -- but I still crave surprise and variety in my host segments.

"For the first time, Johnny feels real power." (6/10)

film d. Jerry Warren (1966)
short d. Herk Harvey (1952)
mst d. Jim Mallon (13 Nov 1993)

20 November 2006

MST3K (514)

514 - Teen-Age Strangler (w/ Is This Love?) - Homemade, small town films like this are the best. Yep, the acting, directing, lighting, cinematography, soundtrack and story are all terrible. It doesn't matter. This is one of those movies, as mentioned in the ACEG, that culls "talent" from the local population. I'm envious. I would love to get a small town on board to make a horror movie (though, clearly, the title Coven is already taken). Ben Parker lived the dream.

Mike's first short. I can't say I detect much difference between this and the recent and final short with Joel. Making fun of these ancient social protocol training films will probably go on about the same no matter who's in the middle seat.

Now that we've got the obligatory introductory episode out of the way, it's on to the real stuff. When it comes to host segments, the real stuff is a mixed bag in this episode. The first host segment has aged terribly. Of the list of celebrity couples they mentioned, I struggled to remember 1) who they were 2) if they were a couple back in 1993 or if the joke was that they'd already broken up. Yick. Guys, leave the People magazine references in the supermarket checkout where they belong.

The remaining host segments finally reveal the real Mike that I'm used to from later seasons. In the second host segment, he "raps" with the bots, who are on the verge of a gang war. Though not a particularly funny segment, it neatly establishes that Mike has a big brother-type relationship with Crow and Tom, different from Joel's paternal role. In the third, Mike gets to use those comedic acting chops that he'd previously flexed only inside of the hexfield viewscreen. He's hilarious as Mikey, the impossibly wimpy kid from the movie. In the final host segment, Mike sings his first song as host. As the writer or co-writer of just about every song in the show prior to this, it's nice to see him finally get a chance to perform his own work.

"If I could just smell a few cushions, I'd be happy." (7/10)

film d. Ben Parker (1965)
short d. Paul H. Landis (1957)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (7 Nov 1993)

19 November 2006

MST3K (513)

513 - The Brain That Wouldn't Die - For the time, this is a surprisingly gory and messed-up movie. The part at the end when the pinheaded Frankenstein bites a piece of the doctor's neck out and spits it on the ground reminded me more of '70s zombie movies. This is a weird hybrid horror flick. It has the tired mad scientist schtick popular in the 1950s mixed with the sleaziness, cannibalism and mutilation of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Interesting. It also explores the same theme -- unethical body part transplantation -- as Eyes Without a Face, which was made in the same year. I wonder if there were some major breakthroughs in transplant surgery that year? Horror movies tend to use the fears of the day (hence, the torture-horror theme we're in right now).

We've suddenly got a new host, theme song, and door sequence. This is a huge change in the middle of a season. I also note that there was no mention of the J-word in this episode, though the "none of these are for me" comment about the letters was close. This was a wise choice. Given the fanbase at the time, not poking the Joel-shaped wound with a stick was a good plan. The episode, in general, was also really benign and relaxed. The bots love Mike. Dr. F's punishment for Mike not answering the Mads' call immediately was to make him go first in the invention exchange, which Mike doesn't mind. His invention is nice and practical, too. Jan in the Pan, when she visits after the movie, is a really nice gal who's happy now. Everything is nice. I can almost feel the writers tiptoeing through this transition.

The riffing was a little reserved as well. I didn't find myself laughing at all during this show. I'm not exactly sure why. I think the riff frequency was a little lighter than normal. Mike seems to have less to say that the two bots, but that may be my imagination. It could be that I just need to get (re-)used to Mike's style of riffing. Crow and Servo were humming along, the same as ever.

The bots pre-train Mike for this experiment by making him watch Night of the Lepus and The Beast of Yucca Flats. I wonder if they're remember this when they get to episode 621 next year? Poor Mike has to watch that movie twice?

Speaking of Mike, given the wealth of post-MST3K riffing he's been doing, I've put together the sequel for this little project.

"I'm a doctor. I'd like to lop your head off." (6/10)

film d. Joseph Green (1960)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (30 Oct 1993)

OLR: Eyes Without a Face (1960)

Great composition, but the story it frames is just mad scientist ho-hummery. (6/10)

d. Georges Franju

OLR: The Thing (1982)

The best sci-fi-horror movie ever made. (10/10)

d. John Carpenter

18 November 2006

MST3K (512)

512 - Mitchell - I've watched this episode more than any other in the series. There isn't a friend I have that I haven't shown this episode to and they've all cried tears of laughter with me as we watched it. It's an excellent choice for Joel to ride off into the sunset with. "Is that Linda Evans!?" said with disgust by the father of one of my friends as he walked into the room during the sex scene.

Showing this episode to friends did illustrate flaw in this otherwise excellent show. The host segments completely kill the comedic momentum of the riffs. Not being fans of the series, my friends never cared about Gypsy's quest to save Joel or the need to explain Joel's departure and replacement. And, to be honest, the host segments in this particular episode are probably -- due to their utilitarian origins, no doubt -- the least funny of the entire series so far. They're a buzzkill and I could always sense the disappointment in the room when they started. What I should do is make a host segment-free version for such occasions in the future.

The funniest riffing in this episode is done in my favorite style. Whenever JatB create a persona for one of the movie's characters, it always generates excellent jokes. The out-of-shape, panting, constantly hungry, alcoholic, not-too-bright personality they imbue into Mitchell makes this episode what it is. Pure comedy. Obscure references optional.

Joel's last word: "Goodbye!" Depending on how you count it, Joel was trapped on the Satellite of Love for 1795 days (4 years, 11 months) and watched 107 movies (98 unique movies) and 36 shorts, or he was trapped for 1436 days (3 years, 11 months, 6 days) and watched 86 movies and 36 shorts. Either way, that's a long haul. I'm going to miss him. I loved his paternal relationship with the bots. I loved his goofy sense of humor and his sleepy-eyed delivery. I loved the sense of morality he brought to the show. He's the papa of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the next six months-worth of episodes just won't be the same without him.

Well, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao has been put in the Netflix queue. This is the real name of Joel's favorite movie and goodbye plaque source The Circus of Dr. Lao. It's in line there right next to his other favorite movie Colossus: The Forbin Project. It's the least I can do. Thanks Joel for all the laughs.

♪"Mitchell! Mitchell! (your eye on the sammich) / Mitchell! (heart's poundin') / Mitchell! (vein's cloggin') / Mitchell!"♪ (9/10)

film d. Andrew V. McLaglen (1975)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (23 Oct 1993)

17 November 2006

MST3K (511)

511 - Gunslinger - "Do you want to make people's heads explode? Sure, we all do." I am a huge Cronenberg fan, so even though "The Scanner Planner" isn't much of an invention -- it's more of a psychic technique -- I always enjoy a rare reference to my favorite director. "You tried to make my head explode, you freaked-out maniac!" Dr. F's face while scanning is a beautiful sight. If I could have one little prop from the show, it would be Dr. F's fake book with the artistic tribute to Michael Ironside on the cover. Also, I had no idea the "Brain Guy noise" was originally "Dr. F's scanner noise." Makes sense.

I'm never going to be a Roger Corman fan. This time, I was dozing during the extended Rose-Cain conversation in the middle of the movie, even though I started this ep in the afternoon and it was nowhere near bedtime. Corman just has that affect on my biology; JatB can't even stop it.

Joel read his very last fan letter today. This one was from France. As they usually do, they only read a piece of the letter. In the section they left off, the writer complains about the "Special Thanks to All MSTies Coast-to-Coast" credit. They, being fans living in Europe, felt it should say "All MSTies Around the World." I think BBI actually takes that suggestion to heart in the future. It remained "Coast-to-Coast" in this episode, which undoubtedly generated a few tears amongst the MST3KFCoSF.

I watched all of the host segments a second time after the credits rolled, paying special attention to Joel. Some people out there claim that you can see... something... indicating that he isn't happy. I don't see anything there. Perhaps the "Coffin Sketch" host segment is confusing to people. Besides the low lighting that accentuated all of the lines in Joel's face, he also tried to keep his face appropriately "funeral solemn" when he wasn't talking in this segment. These two factors combine to give him a sad look for most of the sketch. It is about coffins, after all. The only real difference I noticed in this episode is that he calls the bots "honey" quite a lot. Maybe he was already anticipating missing his little puppet creations?

"Gut-shot the schoolmarm. Sorry!" (6/10)

film d. Roger Corman (1956)
mst d. Joel Hodgson (9 Oct 1993)

16 November 2006

MST3K (510)

510 - The Painted Hills (w/ Body Care and Grooming) - "Don't trust people. They'll only hurt you." Joel's very last short. With its awkward mid-century advice on dressing and skincare, it's a quintessential MST3K short for him to go out on. While not Mr. B-quality, it was full of solid laughs. And, I'm with Crow. I'd take the sloppy coed over the neat-n-clean one any day. The enormous amount of time saved not waiting for her to get ready before going out would be completely worth the occasional snicker at those uneven socks (gasp!).

I much appreciated the restraint the guys displayed. Not once in the entire episode did they roll out the tired "Lassie Translation" joke. I've heard "What's that Lassie? Timmy's trapped in a well?" more times in my life than necessary. Thank you, Joel, Crow and Tom. Thank you.

"Lassie is back and she's pissed." No kidding. This is a surprisingly dark film for being a family-friendly film made in the 1950s. Counting the off-screen death of Tommy's father, The Painted Hills has a body count equal to that of Freddy's Dead. I'm still more scared of Freddy, but facing a growling, high-strung border collie at the edge of a snowy cliff is close.

It occurred to me that this is one type of film that we haven't seen in the show so far: the western. Strangely, the next episode also looks to be of that genre. I like westerns a lot and they seem to be good material for the guys. Given the period dress, there's plenty of appearance jokes to be made. I was waiting for and was not disappointed when the guys compared white-bearded Jonathan to Kenny Rogers.

I'm now temporally halfway through this project: 182 days down, 183 to go. It's going fast. The older you get, the shorter one year seems. It's disturbing, but it makes sense. When I entered school, one year was 1/5th of my entire lifespan. Now it's only 1/30th.

"Grooming is between you and the Lord God." (7/10)

film d. Harold F. Kress (1951)
short d. ?? (1947)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (26 Sep 1993)

15 November 2006

MST3K (509)

509 - The Girl in Lovers Lane - Well, that's a bit of a bummer. It's goofy, but I was pulling for those two crazy kids. Maybe Big Stupid wasn't really likable, but lonely waitress Carrie was endearing, if only because she was the only non-prostitute in the entire town. Then again, I'm also a fan of character actor Jack Elam and I'm bummer he didn't get more screen time in this flick. I don't know what to think.

The fitting appellation Big Stupid, the naiveté they build into Danny's character, "shut up, Danny," and helpful identification of all of the "weird areas" we get into made for some fine riffing. I haven't laughed as much since 501. Outside of the depressing ending, this was the perfect type of movie for the guys to chew on. The pair of idiot main characters were seemingly created for the guys to put funny lines into their mouths.

"The Train Song" is probably the best song the guys have come up with yet. Musically it owes a lot to "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash, which is not surprising as that song begins "I hear the train a comin'..." That would also explain why I like the MST version, fan of the Man in Black that I am. I think this is the straw that broke the bot's back. I'm gonna have to order those Clowns in the Sky CDs.

"What, are you gonna give kids poop?" (8/10)

film d. Charles R. Rondeau (1959)
mst d. Joel Hodgson (18 Sep 1993)

MST3K (508)

508 - Operation Double 007 - Wow, James Bond's brother! Waitaminute... they call him Neil Connery in the movie, but that's the actor's real name. Shouldn't his last name be Bond in the film? Or is James Bond just a secret agent name and M's favorite agent's real name is Sean Connery? At any rate, it's clear I will need to track down the real DVD for this flick. Who knew my Bond collection was incomplete and that I was missing the movie that properly belongs before You Only Live Twice? How can I possibly follow the Bond storyline without knowing what 007's brother was up to during this period? (It is kind of cool that I watched this episode on the very same day Bond 21 opened in its native England.)

Another dubbed movie, another ninety minutes spent utterly lost. I still have no idea what the atomic carpeting factory staffed by blind Arabs had to do with anything. I did note that Largo / Beta managed to invent the very same weapon that the giant vegetable in It Conquered the World invented. All of that's not too important, as the riffing in this experiment was strong enough to carrying the movie.

Best inter-episode continuity ever. When Torgo interrupts Frank's accordion performance to deliver the pops he'd left in the car back in 424, I was dying. Let's see, that was 8 episodes ago but back in a previous season. In real time, it took Torgo seven and a half months to walk to his car and back, or 225 days. Awesome.

♪"Their cars broke. / Their horses / will poop on the parking lot."♪ (7/10)

film d. Alberto De Martino (1967)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (11 Sep 1993)

13 November 2006

MST3K (507)

507 - I Accuse My Parents (w/ The Truck Farmer (Second Edition)) - Though it was good-n-funny, I barely listened to the riffing during the short. I found the short itself fascinating. It's a nice little piece of petrochemical farming propaganda from fifty-two years ago. I'd pay good money to see James Howard Kunstler foam at the mouth while watching this.

Joel's whiteboard diagram in one of the host segments attempted to answer the question, by why accuse his parents? The embarrassing drunkenness of Jimmy's parents may explain the lies and, if I'm imagining his mom's pregnancy correctly, his stupidity. It doesn't explain his financial troubles, which were really the source of his downfall. His parents were constantly dumping money into his hands. Why get a job selling shoes, let alone a second one with the mob? All he had to see was stand around in his foyer in the vicinity of a parent to earn date money. Then again, this probably falls under the stupidity thing. Poor, dumb kid.

I remember there was some sort of junk drawer-related invention in 211. We seem to be on a streak of vague-ish repeats of past ideas lately. I suppose this is inevitable given that this is the 102rd episode of the series. Most shows would be long-canceled by now.

Joel's facial expressions, wig and evolving pencil-thin mustache during the "Gypsy Sings" host segment were great. He reminded me a little of Harpo Marx there. All four characters did a great job of recreating that scene from the film, duplicating the hustle and bustle of the club with their limited resources. Jim Mallon's not the greatest with the lip syncing of Gypsy, but that's a huge puppet to control.

Suddenly, I'm hungry for a hamburger sammich.

"She's got a closet full of dead shoe salesmen!" (7/10)

film d. Sam Newfield (1944)
short d. ?? (1954)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (4 Sep 1993)

MST3K (506)

506 - Eegah - The face of nepotism: it isn't pretty. You have to hand it to Arch Hall Sr., though. He could've used his real name in the film credits. Instead, he used a fake name to make sure the attention would be focused on his son. It makes it look like Jr. was actually cast for his talent. Very clever and what a dad!

Sunday was a long day. By the time I got around to popping this disc in, I was pretty tired. I could barely keep my eyes open for most of the episode. Luckily, this is one I know I've already seen before. Like many people, I would imagine, this is the very first episode of MST3K (along with 513) that I ever actually owned. More than six years ago, Rhino started releasing these things on disc. That's probably the length of time between my last viewing of this episode and yesterday's. I found that I'd completely forgotten every single host segment, but I had a pretty good memory of the movie. That seems normal.

Wow, a way-old blast from the past. The invention that Joel creates to freeze Crow to absolute zero seems suspiciously similar to the olden days of K05 when Crow was frozen as a Christmas tree. Luckily, this modern freezing was only temporary and Crow was able to join Joel and Servo in the theater. This is the second KTMA reference we've had recently. Interesting.

Is this the start of the extreme tortures of TV's Frank? Draining all of his blood and replacing it with antifreeze seemed a little gorey for the show. Maybe that's why this was my favorite invention in a very long time? Poor, pale-faced Frank walking around in a daze with a radiator grill bolted into his chest was worth some out-loud laughing.

The device that would contort Joel's face into Arch Hall Jr.'s visage was brilliant.

The middle of this episode also marked my halfway point in this project. After the credits rolled, I had 98 done and 97 to go. It's going by pretty quickly, though my push to reach Turkey Day '93 by Turkey Day '06 is hard. This is the tenth episode I've watched in a row without a break and I have ten more days of the same before I arrive at the proper place. I supposed the entire month of November is my personal Turkey Month Marathon.

"Sorry about my face." (7/10)

film d. Arch Hall Sr. [as Nicholas Merriwether] (1962)
mst d. Joel Hodgson (28 Aug 1993)

11 November 2006

MST3K (505)

505 - The Magic Voyage of Sinbad - Another lazy Saturday, another colorful fairy tale from Aleksandr Ptushko. These films from Russia/Scandinavia are great. They're so different from what I normally watch: epics from half a century ago filmed by a different culture culled from fairy tales I've never heard. They're also quite different from MST3K's normal fair. These films are not low-budget, sloppy productions made to show at a drive-in theater for a couple of weeks. It's obvious quite a bit of money and energy went into them back in the day. They're pretty much the closest this show could get to riffing on, say, The Wizard of Oz.

Narrator: "Sinbad wandered to the edge of the Magic Sea." Servo: "And had a magic BM." Nice riffing, similar to what we were seeing all through season 4. I am disappointed that they obviously cut out a big chunk of the goofy underwater musical section. The guys could've done a lot, I'm sure, with more footage of the puppet octopus and catfish dancing around to Sinbad's stylings.

My favorite part of the episode: when Crow faints when Joel's catfish puppet talks to him. "It knows what I'm thinking! Get out of my head!" Whatever Crow freaks out over nothing, as he did with the scary basement in 405, it's hilarious. Also interesting during this final host segment is the fact that Joel, with his puppet, playfully plays with Gypsy. There goes my conspiracy theory.

"I have Lyuberia. It's eating into my embouchure." (7/10)

film d. Aleksandr Ptushko [as Alfred Posco] (1953)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (14 Aug 1993)

10 November 2006

MST3K (504)

504 - Secret Agent Super Dragon - I don't know what it is about dubbed movies in MST3K, but I find them universally impossible to follow. I had no idea what the plot of this flick was for a very long time. I finally pieced together that it had something to do with drugging people to take over the world, even if that doesn't make too much sense.

The funniest part of this episode, to me, came from the movie and not the riffing. Fremont, Michigan? Home of the Gerber baby food plant? What the hell? What, did the dubbing guys throw a dart at a US map or something? Super Dragon's fellow agent crashed into a river on Canyon Road in Fremont. Either he was driving a King Midget and fell into a ditch, or the topography of Northern Michigan has changed significantly since 1966. And, a bunch of college kids were the test subjects of the Synchron-2 drug? Maybe that would explain why there's no college at all in the town today? I should tell my in-laws about this. I bet they had no idea they live only few miles from the "Super Dragon College Massacre of 1966."

No mention of the XT-5000? Aw, how could Crow and Servo forget their first son? In this episode, they give life to Minksy, the super-annoying but colorful robot ("I am the atomic-powered robot. Please give my best wishes to everybody."). He is soon callously murdered by Grandfather Joel in an apparent "accident." I can only assume the same fate befell poor XT-5000, as we haven't heard from this gentle being who spoke only in foam since 211. Why, Joel, why?

This set of host segments is more my style. We start out with some great acting from Frank in the invention exchange as he fails as a stand-up comedian even with a computerized audience. Following that is Minsky, a song with Joel getting full-on goofy again, another in the "Crow's Scripts" series and some fatherly advice from Joel to the bots about why spies use puns after murder. A nice, well-rounded selection. I note, with interest, that Gypsy does not appear at all in the host segments... and Joel appears to be in a better mood than he has been lately. Hmm.

The end of this episode marks the exact halfway point in the series. From K01 to 504, there are 99 episodes and from 505 to 1013 there are 98 episodes and 1 movie. With only 8 more to go, Joel just barely got more episodes in than Mike, though Mike appeared in all 6 of the specials.

This episode is also the last for which I will be watching The Mystery Science Theater Hour segments. This is the last episode for which fan copies of the segments are available, anyway. I couldn't recommend watching these things to any but the nuttiest of MST3K fans. There's not a lot to them. Each half of an episode gets a very brief intro and outro by Mike dressed in his Jack Perkins outfit. They're not particularly funny, though Mike does an excellent job -- as always -- in this role. In fact, the only parts of these that I really liked were the credits. Instead of fading to black, the credits scroll over a dimmed MSTH set. It's always fun to watch what the silhouette of Mike/Jack will do. For some reason, it's hilarious when he pretends to trip over the set and a bunch of stage hands have to run out and help him up.

"Delicious fruit flavor burst right through his skull." (7/10)

film d. Giorgio Ferroni [as Calvin J. Padget] (1966)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (7 Aug 1993)

09 November 2006

MST3K (503)

503 - Swamp Diamonds (w/ What to Do on a Date) - Roger Corman's very first directing job. You know, I don't think the man ever grew as a director. This first outing has the same weak script and extensive padding seen in his later films It Conquered the World and Viking Women. I know in certain circles people love his movies on an ironic level, but they're not working for me. The padding is torture, man. Give me B.I.G. any day of the week.

The riffing feels reserved lately. Compared to the rat-a-tat-tat style in this season's opener, it seems like the guys have run out of energy. Is it because of my favorite paranoid theory -- the Jim-Joel Wars -- or this just a normal lull in an average season? I'll need more episodes to figure that one out.

They're also playing around with the form and content of the host segments these days. Last ep had the strange Match Game parody. This time, we're given continuity. All four of the post-invention exchange host segments tie into Servo's date with Gypsy. While the mild cliffhanger-light feeling at the end of each is interesting, I think I prefer a random host segment as a break from the film. I like a surprise: a song, some goofiness or a visitor will always work for me.

"Kay's worked on the kill floor. She knows where to deliver the blow." (6/10)

film d. Roger Corman (1955)
short d. Ted Peshak (1951)
mst d. Joel Hodgson (31 Jul 1993)

08 November 2006

MST3K (502)

502 - Hercules - Ow, ow, ow! It really looked like Frank took a crack on the head during the invention exchange. I'm sure that Dr. F's portable desk wasn't really made out of wood, but -- yeesh -- that looked like it hurt. If anything, the Best Brain guys are far better with the fake hitting thing than the ridiculous fights seen in the last movie.

I'm disappointed that there was no reference to the funeral from the last Herc episode. The guys were so excited to be done with them forever and here's another one. Shouldn't that get a response? I don't think the Mads' experiment is working very well at this point.

Compared to the sequels we've watched previously, this first Hercules film is terrible. It's barely even a Hercules movie at all. Herc spends a significant amount of time powerless and off-screen on a ship while other people have fun with Amazons. This really should've been called Jason and the Argonauts, as that's the story being told. Well, that's close to the story being told. I'm fairly sure -- I'd have to look it up -- that there weren't any dinosaurs in the original myth.

Crow's bizarre one man production of an episode of Match Game was a risk for a host segment. I don't think it succeeded. Luckily, I'm familiar with this slice of '70s kitsch courtesy of the Game Show Network. Still didn't find the host segment particularly funny. Nor did I enjoy any of them this time around.

Reading too much into things: Joel seems kinda bummed in the final host segment. In character, he asks the bots to get him some soup, but he really looks less than energetic. I wonder exactly when Joel decided to leave the show?

"Hey, my turd bag's full over here. Could you empty this thing?" (6/10)

film d. Pietro Francisci (1958)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (17 Jul 1993)

07 November 2006

MST3K (501)

501 - Warrior of the Lost World - "Look! It's a graduation photo and he's dreaming of Fred Williamson." Rapid-fire riffing ensures plenty of laughs for this episode. The guys attack the subject matter with more energy than I've seen lately. There was an impressive lack of silence in their commentary, culminating in Servo's tour-de-force at the end of the movie in which he names every single person in an entire bleacher section. In the tradition of Cave Dwellers, this was a stellar start to the season.

The riffing that had tears coming from the corners of my eyes was the section dedicated to Megaweapon. Dear, sweet Megaweapon. When Megaweapon runs over that damned jive-talking motorcycle... that was the happiest moment in my recent life. I was cheering right along with the guys. I was thrilled and not entirely unsurprised when an entire host segment was dedicated to "the most interesting character in the movie." Real stand up guy.

I'm also a fan of the "Things to Do Post-Apocalypse" host segment. Normally, the "list of funny things"-style host segments aren't my favorite, but I have a particular affinity for the subject matter after reading The Stand a few too many times.

Gypsy: "Hey, why aren't you in your super-charged cycle?" Joel: "Oh, shut up! Just shut up!" Thus begins the wildly speculative reading-way-too-much-into-it analysis of any interactions between Joel and Gypsy during host segments. This was, indeed, the only contact between the two during the twelfth episode before Joel takes a hike. Pretend anger, or was Joel telling Jim to "just shut up" about his ideas for the future of the show? Aww, I can't even convince me of that. Joel doesn't have a mean bone in his body.

"Oh, now he's the mayor of Loserville." (8/10)

film d. David Worth & Fred Williamson [as David Worth] (1983)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (24 Jul 1993)

MST3K (season four closing thoughts)

Goodbye, season four.

I know I say this every year, but season four is the best year the show has had so far. What stood out this time around was the consistency. There were very few episodes that I didn't care for. The vast majority of them were what I think of as MST-standard: well-written riffing surrounding a bad-but-fun movie peppered with creative host segments. Standout episodes for me were Being from Another Planet, Attack of the Giant Leeches, Hercules Against the Moon Men, The Beatniks and Manos: The Hands of Fate. Manos, unsurprisingly, is my pick for best of the season.

Season four was not without its trip-ups. It took seventeen episodes before BBI finally figured out that serials and soaps were not a substitute for a good short. Sometimes -- and this is a complaint only someone watching these things in order can have -- the repeated riffs the guys get hooked on get a little annoying. I was about to tear out clumps of hair every time they used the "Jim Henson's --- Babies" joke. A problem that will never go away is the occasional poor movie choice. I'm still scarred from Monster A-Go Go.

The Mystery Science Machine seems to be operating so well right now, I'm actually a little nervous about the fact that the show is due to be scrambled next season. I'm very curious to see if I can detect any of Joel's discontent in the next twelve episodes. Does he look like he doesn't want to be there? When he shares a scene with Gypsy, is he less animated working with his nemesis Jim Mallon? Gunslinger is the last episode that Joel directs. Will he keep certain takes in the final product that reveal all is not well? And, after he leaves, how long is it going to take to get up to the level of quality seen in season 4? Is the last half of season 5 a lost cause? I'll soon know the answer to all of these questions and more as "A Year on the Satellite of Love" continues.

The Numbers

Total Length
37 hours, 24 minutes, 10 seconds
(92 min average for 24 episodes)
(18 min average for 2 specials)

Years Spanned
(1962 average)

Shorts Years Spanned
(1949 average)

Time to Watch
45 days
Time to Broadcast Originally
239 days

Turkey Day Episodes
16 (67%)
401, 402, 403, 404, 408, 411, 415, 416, TIM (26 Nov 1992)
412, 417, 420, 422, 423, 424 (25 Nov 1993)
402, 407, 422 (24 Nov 1994)
424 (23 Nov 1995)
MST Hour Episodes
13 (54%)
401, 402, 404, 408, 410, 411, 414, 415, 417, 418, 420, 422, 424
Fantasies of Days Long Past
408, 410, 411, 412, 422 (21%)
Total Episodes with Joel's Goatee
410 (4%)
Black and White to Color Ratio

06 November 2006

MST3K (424)

424 - Manos: The Hands of Fate (w/ Hired! Part II) - Season four ends on a strong note. This is exactly the type of bad movie to pick for the show. Though it shares an incoherent script, extremely bad production values and terrible acting with Monster A-Go Go, it exchanges the string of pointless and boring scenes with much more interesting fare. Lady wrestling, a monster with giant knees, Freddie Mercury worshipping a demon named after a body part, search radiuses that extended mere inches, and beautiful shots of the Texas countryside are all bad movie gold in Manos.

The riffing was very funny. I always like it when Crow picks a character to imitate throughout the film. This time he picked Torgo and he employed a perfect copy of his stuttering voice to insert humor into Torgo's lines. There was also a bevy of flaws and nonsense for the guys to comment on, which adds to the fun. My one complaint would be that the riffing was a little sparser that I would have liked. Had it been denser, this episode would've easily equaled Pod People.

John Reynolds was a great actor. No, seriously. He was given Torgo, a stock Igor-type character, to play and he turned it into something memorable. Never has such a twitchy-awkward-leering creep graced the screen before or since. Sure, the whole satyr thing didn't come across very clearly. Blame it on Hal. If we'd gotten a shot of Torgo's goat feet -- which Reynolds actually made himself -- we might've got it. Reynolds' true brilliance shines during that scene in which he tries to hit on Margaret. Here, he distills every awkward interaction all of us geeks have ever had with members of the opposite sex. The stuttering, the shaking, the bad touches... it's all there. And, hey, the man was so good he got his own theme song, for Pete's sake.

Torgo is also my favorite MST3K character. In this episode, Mike shows up dressed as the satyr himself during the final host segment. It's impossible not to laugh has he shuffles in Torgo's patented walk, slowly delivering a pizza to the Mads as his theme song plays. After, Torgo trying to caress Frank's hair put me over the edge into full-blown guffaws. I think I have next year's Halloween costume already picked out.

"Every frame of this movie looks like someone's last known photograph." (8/10)

film d. Hal Warren (1966)
short p. Jamison Handy (1940)
mst d. Joel Hodgson (30 Jan 1993)

05 November 2006

MST3K (423)

423 - Bride of the Monster (w/ Hired! Part I) - I can't think of anything really off with this episode, but I just didn't find myself laughing much. This may not be the episode's fault. I had to stop the show in the middle due to a bad DVD-R. Tip: never, ever buy Fujifilm DVD-Rs (so far, I've never had trouble with Taiyo Yuden discs). This disc was so bad, the new dual layer burners in both my PC and my Mac couldn't rip it. I had to crack out Old Faithful -- the original DVD-R drive that came with my Mac -- to extract the data. This hour and half detour of frustration probably didn't help my experience of this episode.

This is the first Ed Wood movie I've ever seen. It wasn't that bad. The stock footage, the rubber snake, the bad stand-ins, and the beanbag chair octopus were fun. I'm thinking the "Worst Director Ever" tag is more of a loving nickname rather than a criticism. People enjoy his movies in an ironic way because of the unintentional bad acting and poor production values, but they do enjoy them. That's something that can never be said for Bill Rebane's monstrosity.

This movie is a MST3K reunion show of sorts. We've got Tor Johnson from The Unearthly, Bela Lugosi from The Corpse Vanishes and The Phantom Creeps, George Becwar from War of the Colossal Beast, and the nine-fingered Harvey B. Dunn from Teenagers from Outer Space. I bet this is a record, discounting sequels and Master Ninjas, of course.

Speaking of things we've seen before, Willie the Waffle, the wonderful, whimsical, wisecracking waffle springs into action to describe the horror of a world without ads. A Case of Spring Fever is still six years in the future for the guys, much as this apparently bothers them. Servo helpfully points out that this costume is from episode 317. What no one mentioned is that the device to see into Crow's mind during the dream host segment was seen way, way back in episode K19. In that show, Joel uses a device to watch Crow's first memory. We haven't had a KTMA repeat in a really long time. I think this one was probably accidental, though.

"You know, I thought being killed by an octopus was supposed to be peaceful." (6/10)

film d. Edward D. Wood Jr. (1955)
short p. Jamison Handy (1940)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (23 Jan 1993)