30 June 2006

MST3K (108)

108 - The Slime People (w/ Radar Men from the Moon, Chapter Six: Hills of Death) - Something's probably really wrong if your horror movie is attempting to make the coming of the dew point a scary moment. This is not to say that fog can’t be spooky. I bet John Carpenter, Stephen King and Keiichiro Toyama have all seen this movie and said to themselves "Wow, it won't be hard to do better than that." The problem here is that the rubber-suited titular creatures required so much darned fog to look halfway decent that you could hardly see what was going on. The last twenty minutes of the movie are a blur or shapes and sounds, resembling what I imagine the world looks like to my wife before she puts her contacts in.

JatB were particularly off this week with the riffing, which made the movie harder to sit through. With ample bad acting and goofy monsters, I was expecting more. I actually cracked myself up by making my own mental riffs during JatB's many silent moments. I did laugh out loud at one line, courtesy of Joel, during Commando Trashcan Head: "There's nothing like being in a gunfight with 600 lbs. of high-test nitro rocket fuel on your back." So true, brother.

What was the deal with people jumping out of moving cars? It happened three (!) times in the Cody episode and once in the movie itself. Is that why no one wore seatbelts back then? (5/10)

film d. Robert Hutton (1963)
short d. Fred C. Brannon (1952)
mst p. Jim Mallon (13 Jan 1990?)

28 June 2006

OLR: Superman Returns: An IMAX 3D Experience (2006)

One of the best super hero films, despite the anticlimatic ending. (8/10)

d. Bryan Singer

OLR: Superman II (1980)

Giving up his powers in order to bonk Lois isn't terribly Superman-like, but Zod rules. (7/10)

d. Richard Lester & Richard Donner

OLR: Superman: The Movie: Director's Cut (1978)

One of the best super hero films, despite the incredibly lazy ending. (8/10)

d. Richard Donner

26 June 2006

Guest MST3K: 107

Oh yes, Robot Monster. I remember watching this episode when it aired on the Comedy Channel back in the day. I recall thinking that this was one of the most ponderous, dreary, ridiculous wastes of cinema space I had ever seen. I wasn't really in a big hurry to watch it again even Mistied, to be honest. Still, it had been years since I've seen this episode, and I decided to watch with as open a mind as possible.

Well, it was dreadful as I remembered. I wasn't all that tired when I started to watch this episode, but I felt exhausted just a few minutes into it (the double serving of Cody didn't help matters any). Even the Billion Bubble Machine (properly mentioned in the credits) and the inexplicable scenes of alligators with fans taped to their backs wrestling one another just can't save a movie that features a fat guy in a gorilla suit wearing a diving helmet. Worse, the movie seems to take itself seriously!

In the first segment, Joel pretty much explains the premise of the show. I haven't seen many of the season 1 episode for several years, and I don't recall if he did this alot in the first season. Made me wonder if they were getting a bunch of "what the heck are you doing?! " letters. The invention exchange didn't really grab me this time around. I did laugh at the segment where Servo threatens to kill Joel Ro-man style, only to be whacked a couple of times with a chair. Those robots pals sure end up taking alot of abuse!

I also liked how JatBs started out complaining about the repetitious nature of the Cody shorts. And they got two of them this episode! No wonder the robots tried to escape during the second short.

All in all, not my favorite episode. I was dead drained tired when I got done watching it. At least I got a good night's sleep from it!

My 3 favorite riffs:
(during a lab fight)
I told you, we're not going to round pi to 4!

Claudia Barret from the comedy team "Grin and Barret"

(a scene shows the Billion Bubble Machine doing its Bubble Thing)
We're only up to half a billion bubbles so far. I've been counting.

OLR: Look, Up in the Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman (2006)

About as comprehensive as you can get condensing 68 years into 110 minutes. (8/10)

d. Kevin Burns

25 June 2006

MST3K (107)

107 - Robot Monster (w/ Radar Men from the Moon, Chapter Four: Flight to Destruction + Radar Men from the Moon, Chapter Five: Murder Car) - It took a post-apocalyptic, earth-conquering, cave-dwelling, bubble-obsessed monkey-robot to do it, but the guys hit their first one out of the park. There was more than enough material coming from the movie for JatB to work with, and they do. The dopy walking music they provide for the Ro-Man's numerous walking scenes was great. "They taste like chicken to each other" (twice) got an out loud laugh from both of us (twice). I think I'm going to need to buy the non-MST version of this film, just to see if it's as unbelievably weird as it was here.

The hosts segments were repeat-free, referred to the movie and were very funny. That's just the way I like 'em. The segment in which Joel bonks Servo over the head with a break-away chair was unexpected and slapstick-hilarious. Also great was the nonsense-filled surrealism sketch. "I've seen Dali paintings that make more sense than this movie."

The double-dose of Commando Trashcan Head was the only downer. The rocket-man series seems to be stalled and now involves repeated assaults on lab scientists. It'd have been nice to have more Monkey Robot-Head instead. Crow and I had some synergy again in the second short, though. "He flies better than Superman," he quips in "Murder Car." Hey, that's just what I said!

I've gotten ahead of schedule, so time for a break. It's Superman week, anyhoo. (8/10)

film d. Phil Tucker (1953)
shorts d. Fred C. Brannon (1952)
mst p. Jim Mallon (6 Jan 1990?)

[watched with Chef Gregory Jay]

24 June 2006

MST3K (106)

106 - The Crawling Hand - Ah, official DVDs are so nice. No glitched DVD-Rs to worry about. No bad editing of commercials. No VHS artifacts from 17-year-old tapes. I can see why this was, until recently, the only season 1 episode Rhino had released. It's a better introductory episode than 101 is, with Joel introducing the premise and the Mads in the first host segment. They also, finally, complete the bridge set by adding the long-missing button console. No more table slappin' for Joel.

We get another KTMA repeat with the bowling / robot free will host segment. I wonder if there are any KTMA repeats in season 2, or if seasons 1 and 3 are the only ones affected? And, was the giant hand that spooked Crow the same that grabbed Joel in K21? I did like JatB's imitations of Bill Shatner being strangled. They also throw in the very first "I thought you were Dale?" jokes to boot in that one.

This is the first episode that someone else has watched all the way through with me. This one was recommended over 102-105 as the best to watch with a friend. Not torturing someone else with the tedious 103 or 105 was definitely the correct move, but 102 -- with its extremely goofy story -- might've worked out OK as well. At any rate, my friend laughed at the jokes in this ep even more than I did. He did have to ask what was wrong with Servo's voice, though. (6/10)

film d. Herbert L. Strock (1963)
mst p. Jim Mallon (30 Dec 1989?)

[watched with Chef Gregory Jay]

OLR: Sin City (2005)

Marv is a modern saint. (9/10)

d. Frank Miller & Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino

OLR: Bill Hicks: Relentless (1993)

Bill Hicks was a modern prophet. (8/10)

d. Chris Bould

23 June 2006

MST3K (105)

105 - The Corpse Vanishes (w/ Radar Men from the Moon, Chapter Three: Bridge of Death) - Poor Bela Lugosi. The man's first movie happens to be a horror picture where he defines an entire mythological species for several generations of fans, which immediately dooms him to mad scientist and hunchback roles for the rest of his life. This Lugosi film began promising. It was very dark: brides are dropping dead left and right on their wedding days and their corpses are being stolen. Beyond that, there's only a bitchy countess, a very long basement scene and some creeps watching people sleep to fill in the remainder.

The guys repeat more KTMA host segments in this show. The game of tag, Crow as a barber and the "chiro-gyro" from the KTMA credits all make an appearance. The barber sketch was vastly improved over its previous incarnation. Crow, Servo and Joel amp up the down-home chatty barbershop aspect. The picture Crow paints of the 200-clown accident on the highway was a thousand times more horrifying/funny than anything in the horror movie they were watching.

Other than the visibility issue with overscan, I think the main reason the silhouettes are so much bigger than they were during the KTMA episodes is that it gives Joel greater reach to play with the screen. He was jumping out of his seat constantly this week. He even, as a courtesy to the actors on screen, brought along a pair of brooms to dust the characters' suits. Fun stuff and thoughtful too.

What about episode 104 you might be wondering? I'll tackle that subject when I get there. (6/10)

film d. Wallace Fox (1942)
short d. Fred C. Brannon (1952)
mst p. Jim Mallon (23 Dec 1989?)

[not that anyone cares, but this was my 500th movie since I started keeping track 19 Dec 2003. Woo! One movie per 1.8 days.]

Marx (closing thoughts)

Their career in cinema only spanned 20 years, but the Marx Bros. packed some mighty durable comedy into it. For me, their films fell neatly into three groupings:

Excellent Bros.

Still Funny Bros.

The Bros. Fail

I think the movie I will probably re-watch first will be At the Circus. In it, you've got your Margaret Dumont, you've got your circus freaks, and you've got a stuffy orchestra being set adrift in the ocean. There ain't much not to love there.

22 June 2006

MST3K (103)

103 - The Mad Monster (w/ Radar Men from the Moon, Chapter Two: Molten Terror) - I like bad movies. I have a book autographed by Lloyd Kaufman. I own the Leprechaun box set. As far as I'm concerned, there is only one unforgivable movie sin: making a boring movie. If that's the moral metric, this film is burning in the seventh circle of Hell right about now. Crow accurately summed the picture up: "plodding." Perhaps they were in a rush to capitalize on the previous year's hit, The Wolf Man, but what they ended up producing gives She-Wolf of London a run for its money for worst werewolf film ever made.

Even if the riffing were up to par -- and it's not; too much silence -- I don't think JatB could've saved this one. This is probably just a bad choice for the show. Two of the host segments are also repeats, using recycled KTMA material. I guess that answers my question from 101: they did not think this was a continuation of that series. The remaining host segments, luckily, are quite good. I think Crow looks great with Servo's body. And, I love the host segments in which the bots question their father figure about the confusing aspects of the movie they're watching. If a werewolf changes back into a human while eating people, is he a cannibal? Great questions.

Servo: "If they would've shown him diving out of the way last time, I wouldn't have spent the week worrying about him." I've always wondered about the famous serial cliffhanger copouts. Now I know: they just make stuff up to get the hero out of the impossible jam from the previous episode. I still think Commando Trashcan Head is cool. Molten lava rushing down the cave at him? How can he possible survive this time?

I do have to get behind the Mad Monster scientist's original idea. The man wants to create an army of werewolves to fight Nazis in WWII. That is friggin' brilliant. If someone wants to film that movie or make that video game, I am first in line. (5/10)

film d. Sam Newfield (1942)
short d. Fred C. Brannon (1952)
mst p. Jim Mallon (16 Dec 1989?)

Marx (1949)

1949 - Love Happy - More of a simulation of a Marx Bros. comedy than the real McCoy. Sure, all three of the Bros. are in the picture and they inhabit basically the same characters that they normally do. Yep, there's a greedy bad gal as an antagonist and some needy good folks who could use a hand. But, some things just aren't right.

It seems clear that Groucho had to be dragged into this film kicking and screaming. He probably has less than ten minutes of screen time and seems to exist in his own bubble for the majority of the movie. He doesn't encounter a character from the main story until 85 minutes in. This is more of a "The Two Marx Brothers" movie than the typical trio.

However, it's really just the Harpo Marx show. I thought I'd love a movie that was Harpo-centric. He's my favorite brother and I usually can't get enough of him. This film has shown me that Harpo's best when you look forward to his next appearance. When he's onscreen all of the time, his antics lose their impact.

One would've thought that a movie written by Harpo himself and a former Looney Tunes director might be excellent. Unfortunately, this wasn't so, though the film isn't without its good points. I liked the historically interesting chase under the neon billboards. Torturing the mute Harpo to try to get him to speak was a dark, but funny idea. And, Marilyn Monroe was indeed beautiful for the two seconds she was onscreen. (5/10)

d. David Miller & Leo McCarey

MST3K (102)

102 - The Robot vs the Aztec Mummy (w/ Radar Men from the Moon, Chapter One: Moon Rocket) - "Where the hell is the robot?" I kept asking myself for nigh 90 minutes. Finally, with less than ten minutes to go, the robot is revealed. The human-headed, kneeless freak is taken to the crypt where the Aztec mummy sleeps. There, they do what appears to be a bad waltz. Five seconds later, the mummy tears the robot apart. What a tease, the title of this movie is! Where's my lawyer?

Speaking of teasing, after a month of seeing them in the credits of the KTMA episodes, the Demon Dogs finally make an appearance. I guess I'm not a fan. I'd rather that they hadn't occupied every single host segment. JatB even repeat one gag in two different segments (a robot gets silly-stringed / peed on by the dogs). I was surprised and I thought it was pretty cool when one of the dogs shows up suddenly in the theater to chase JatB out at the end of the movie.

We also had the first short ever in this ep. I liked Commando Cody (did they mean Commander? Commando's not really a title or a first name, is it?). His flying effects were better than George Reeves' and he gets to do battle with portly moon men. Though, JatB were correct: the man looks to be wearing a trashcan on his head.

The riffing is much improved over 101 and I found myself chuckling just as much as I'd expect to during the course of a regular cable episode. They’re settled in their new pad now, so it must have been easier to concentrate on just the humor this time. (6/10)

film d. Rafael Portillo & Manuel San Fernando (1958)
short d. Fred C. Brannon (1952)
mst p. Jim Mallon (9 Dec 1989?)

21 June 2006

Marx (1946)

1946 - A Night in Casablanca - After a five year absence, the Bros. are back. The film begins very dark, with a Hitchcockian murder in an exotic locale. Then, out of the blue, Harpo appears. "Say, what do you think you're doing? Holding up the building?" He was, and a giant building collapses when the policeman hauls him away. That's what the entire film is like. The darkness of a Nazi war criminal trying to escape to South America with stolen wealth is defeated by the light-hearted antics of the Bros.

This picture contains the best, by far, game of charades between Chico and Harpo of any of their films. Harpo shines also during his "duel" with the Nazi stooge, his blowing bubbles of water and smoke at Beatrice, and his excellent harp tune dedicated to a painting of a beautiful woman. Plus, he finally has someone hold his leg again, after many films. Hallelujah!

The action hero ending to the film, where the Bros. chase and board and airplane using a truck, seems a bit out of place in their pantheon of movies. Despite their slightly advancing age at this point, I bought it. They kept the action light, bonking Nazis on the head and crashing the plane back in the jail they just escaped from.

A huge improvement over the previous few MGM films and a nice slice of fun to boot. (8/10)

d. Archie Mayo

20 June 2006

MST3K (101)

101 - The Crawling Eye - Hello, The Comedy Channel. Things start off a little rough in the new place. Mysteriously, there's no button panel on the desk, so Joel slaps the table for some reason when the movie sign comes on. Gypsy's mouth is incredibly loud. The print of the movie is wretched, even for MST standards. There's an annoying "pencil sharpener" sound in the background a lot that drove me nuts. They had a scant six months between K21 and this show to make a deal with HBO, form BBI, move into new digs, build all-new sets, rebuild the bots and hire a T.G.I. Friday's waiter as head writer, so a bumpy ride is to be expected.

You can certainly tell that the riffing is scripted now. There's a lot less of it than in the free-wheeling K21. JatB also politely wait for the dialogue in the movie to die down before speaking themselves. This is nice, as it allows you to follow the movie plot and listen to the jokes at the same time, which was something you often couldn't do during the KTMA shows. I think I detected Josh trying to improvise, anyway, as he seems to step on Trace's lines a few times.

The scripted riffing also changes the types of jokes they make a little. One example that comes to mind is when the scientist, who happens to look like an older Groucho Marx, speaks on the phone. Servo quips, "It's Harpo." This is not a laugh out-loud joke, but it is deceptively deep. Harpo never spoke on camera. The thought that Groucho could have a phone conversation with him put a smile on my face. This is the type of clever comment that would be difficult to come up with off the cuff.

I was a bit confused by this first episode. No one introduced themselves. JatB and the Mads just dove into the episode. A new viewer would've had to wait for the credits to find out what the Mads' names were (which rendered Dr. Forrester's joke early in the show about liking Forrest Tucker's name meaningless). At the time, did they see this as a continuation of the KTMA series? Or, did they just want to pretend that Joel had been experimented on for a very long time before the audience ever got to join in the fun?

So this is where the Richard Basehart thing comes from! (5/10)

film d. Quentin Lawrence (1958)
mst p. Jim Mallon (18 Nov 1989)

Guest OLR: Vérités et mensonges (1974)

Even calling it the greatest documentary of all time is understating it. (9/10)

d. Orson Welles

MST3K (season KTMA closing thoughts)

Goodbye, season KTMA. I will miss your down-home flavor. Wishing a young fan a happy birthday in response to his voicemail is a host segment that will never be topped. I will miss the flubs, from the sneezing and falling over to Joel accidentally saying something that sounds worse than what he meant. I won't miss the lack of a script so much. I think the improvisation leads to more bad puns, comment loops and dead spots than should really be there.

My favorite episode for this season was K21. The riffing is the most consistent out of this set of shows. It also has solid host segments that were reminiscent of those that come later. The movie was not so great, but that's what the riffing was there for. I was glad to see JatB leave on a strong note. Humor-wise, they are definitely ready to make the jump to a national audience. All they need are some bot upgrades, a spiffier set and some slightly better theme song lyrics. K06, K10, K12, K18 and K20 were also in my top tier of KTMA episodes.

My favorite movie, however, was SST- Death Flight. I dunno, I just liked it. I'd happily watch it unMSTed in a year or so. I also liked Gamera vs Gaos, Gamera vs Zigra, Humanoid Woman, Fugitive Alien, and The Last Chase. After Humanoid Woman, in particular, I feel like a stronger person. That foam, man.

My least favorite episodes were K05 (Servo and Crow missing), K14 (bad movie + bad riffing), K15 (bad movie + really bad riffing), K17 (Joel missing). As you can tell from the spread of these episodes, the season was pretty uneven. The guys didn't just make an ascent into comedic greatest as they got more practice in. I can almost understand why they refuse to release any of these on home video. Still, I think a couple of them could hold their own as the bonus disc in a 4-disc Rhino set. I'd really like to see, at least, the host segments for K01. I'm curious as to how Joel introduced everything.

I wonder how many disappointed fans there were when the show never returned to KTMA-23? Everyone thought that MST3K was just on a hiatus and would be back in the fall. Even the final newsletter of the season pleads for people to write KTMA about bringing the show back. Suddenly, they switched gears and began making shows for a small cable channel. I know we didn't have the Comedy Channel, or even cable, back in 1989. I'd assume a lot of MST Info Club members were in the same boat. That must have been disappointing. I bet there are even some old codger MST3K fans who say the show jumped the shark between seasons 0 and 1! "Bah, things were better in my day. You'd always know the time it was and how cold the Twin Cities were when MST was good."

Me, I'm happy. I know it only gets better from here.

The Numbers

Total Length
1 day, 5 hours, 57 minutes, 49 seconds
(100 min average for 18 episodes)

Years Spanned
(1974 average)

Time to Watch
33 days
Time to Broadcast Originally
176 days

Total Sandy Frank Films
10 (56%)
Total TV Episodes/TV Movies
6 (33%)
Episodes with Missing Riffers
K05, K06, K12, K17, 1/2-K18 (31%)
Black and White to Color Ratio

19 June 2006

MST3K (K21)

K21 - The Legend of the Dinosaurs - Wow, JatB were rockin' and rollin' this week. The riffs kept a-coming, yet were refreshingly light on filler. The host segments were also great, even if they were out-of-order. "Joel is Dead," "Fire-Breathing T-Rex," "Sitcom Simulation" and the fun "Giant Kid Grabs Joel" were all funny, creative and, for once, more than 5 seconds long.

It was appropriate to end the KTMA shows with a Sandy Frank film ("Never trust a man with two first names... especially if the first one's a woman's."). Shockingly, the movie didn't make too much sense and was hard to follow. But, at least it wasn't two TV episodes stitched together. The titular dinosaur has about 10 seconds of screen time for the first 90 minutes of the movie. Without him, things drag. As will happen often in the future, the constant riffing helped me survive the slowness of the film. And, geez, Joel's absolutely right: every song is just wrong for the scene it plays over. It's like the movie was taken over by a lithium-drinking P-Funk cover band.

One moment in the theater gave me a bigger laugh than anything in the previous 17 episodes. A man attempts to empty an O2 tank and then slaps his girlfriend. Joel quips, "Finish the job, man." He was referring to the tank, but it came across like he was cheering for more domestic abuse. "Oh man, I'm sorry," he says, as everyone cracks up and Joel puts his head in his hands. Servo replies, "After 20 weeks, Joel Hodgson snapped a twig." Ah, a great, unscripted moment. I was chuckling for minutes afterwards. This type of things will be missed.

I wasn't before today, but now I'm sad to be leaving the KTMA era. This episode was fun and just like what I think MST3K is in my mind. (7/10)

film d. Junji Kurata (1977)
mst d. Vince Rodriguez (28 May 1989)

MST3K (K20)

K20 - The Last Chase - Wait a minute. I like road trip movies. I like post-apocalyptic movies. Together, they've got to be two great tastes that taste great together, right? Even with a jet and a racecar playing chicken (!), the movie wasn't as tasty as it should've been.

I think this is mostly due to the utter lack of danger in the American wasteland Lee Majors drives across. Sure, there's a fighter jet following him, but we all know -- and JatB even comment on it -- that the Penguin's not going to do anything Lee. Early in Lee's trip, a group of armed hunters block the road. They look like the type of dangerous hombres you might find on a post-civilization highway. He just drives around them. Later on, soldiers set up a roadblock. The kid makes some pop cans explode and Lee just drives around them. The best the movie has to offer is a whole bunch of scenes of bureaucrats pushing buttons in a dour command center, apparently in control of millions of remote cameras and one cactus-hating laser.

Still, I like road trips through post-apocalypses and I liked this movie. This, even despite the Battlefield Earth flashback when Lee siphons 25-year-old regular gasoline into his racecar and expects it to run. What else are you gonna do? You've gotta have a jet and racecar playing chicken later on.

The riffing for this episode was KTMA-standard. A couple times, JatB get caught in loops commenting on each other's comments. Joel even has to shush everyone a few times so that we have a chance to hear some movie dialogue. It was also a good way to stop increasingly unfunny trains of improv.

Hey, a new "set" for the Mads! It looks like the TV station's storage cages in the basement (Deep 1?). They seem more playful in their new digs. Dr. F performs his first torturous experiment on a co-worker by trying to create cold fusion / Bromo Seltzer bubbles in Dr. E's mouth. Trace has a ball with it and fully lets his inner mad scientist out. I think he's ready for cable. (6/10)

film d. Martyn Burke (1980)
mst d. Vince Rodriguez (21 May 1989)

[Rhino's Vol. 10 on August 8th. Man, that's speedy. Hopefully, it'll be episodes > 302 so all 4 discs'll get a spin in this here marathon.]

18 June 2006

Guest OLR: Grand Theft Auto (1977)

I'd rather watch The Sugarland Express or the last 25 minutes of What's Up, Doc? (4/10)

d. Ron Howard

OLR: Friday the 13th Part 3: 3D (1982)

That dude's eyeball popped right out of his head and out of the screen! (7/10)

d. Steve Miner

[watched in field sequential 3-D]

OLR: Red Dawn (1984)

Sorry Rambo, but this Ronald Reagan fever-dream is the ultimate Cold War movie. (7/10)

d. John Milius

[i think a relative of mine worked on the film. sweet.]

17 June 2006

Marx (1941)

1941 - The Big Store - As always, it's nice to have Margaret Dumont back. Even with her impeccable straight woman routine, this film was merely a serviceable Marx Bros. picture. Maybe I wasn't in the proper frame of mind, but it seemed like the Bros. weren't quite as funny this time out as they normally are.

The musical numbers are so lengthy and large in this film, I'd probably categorize it more as a musical and less as a comedy. Even Groucho's song is huge, with dozens of dancing backup singers and giant, moving sets. I did greatly enjoy Harpo's trio with two copies of himself. Not surprisingly, the man can play a decent fiddle. By the way, what was wrong with the lady who sang "Rock-a-Bye Baby"? She sang a jazzy version of this lullaby with an incredibly bizarre stone face. Was that a "hip" style of singing in 1941?

Why did the bad guy bonk Tommy on the head in a packed elevator? He was supposed to be trying to kill him. Not only did he not even hit him hard enough to knock him out, he tries to do it in a place with no room to maneuver. More than a few plot points didn't quite make sense, despite the story being nearly identical to the last half-dozen films.

My favorite line: "What other hobbies have you got?" said by Groucho when a couple walks in with their twelve kids. You've got love how he always managed to get around the Code when necessary. (6/10)

d. Charles Reisner

16 June 2006

OLR: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

A colorful, bent, Casio-keyboard-fueled world wrapped around a basic "life's lessons learned" tale. (7/10)

d. Wes Anderson

MST3K (K19)

K19 - The Hanger 18 - Government conspiracy, a decapitated astronaut, a crashed UFO with alien corpses inside, an extra-terrestrial origin of man… this movie should've rocked. Somehow, despite all of these benefits and with the Old Man from A Christmas Story, the movie falls flat on its face. One problem is that they had a ton of interesting sci-fi stuff that they wanted to shove into the movie, but they also had a truckload of political intrigue, chase scenes, and sneaking around they also needed to squeeze in. The action plot elements ate up most of the time and left little for the sci-fi elements. The ending of the movie, in particular, felt weird and rushed.

The guys are little subdued with the riffing. Joel especially seems a little out of it. Crow asks him a question in theater, but Joel is apparently spacing at that time and doesn't answer until Servo prompts him. Servo attempts, in Josh's typical style, to fill in the silence as best as he can. As usual, this results in a lot of so-so comments comprising of puns and observations. However, my biggest laugh of the ep was courtesy of the ol' gumball head. One scene has scalpel-wielding scientists standing over an alien in an operating room. Servo quips, "see if he wakes up if you cut into him." Mean, but I laughed out loud.

One of the host segments made me glad that the big reset button is coming up in three episodes. In it, Crow is acting like a toddler who just learned the questions "Why?" and "So?" as Joel attempts to explain to him why getting hit by malt liquor-sized meteors is a bad thing. One of the negatives about dying Joel brings up is that Crow won't get any more "mid-morning pleasure stimulation." Wha? I realize that Joel's up there on the SOL all alone, with only the inhuman embrace of a robot to warm him on lonely nights… but, c'mon. I don't need to know, much less picture, that! Only slightly less disturbing is when, a half-hour later in the theater, Joel comments that his nipples are "more pouty" than the dead alien. Joel really needs to build himself a nice holodeck and relax Riker-style. (5/10)

film d. James L. Conway (1980)
mst d. ?? (14 May 1989)

15 June 2006

Guest MST3K: K19

Hangar 18. Kojack and a Dick Van Patten look alike take on a government conspiracy regarding aliens. I just gotta love a movie that features NASA's state of the art Pong technology.

I had to deal with another annoying glitch with another of my DVDs, this one with the sound randomly fading out for a half seconds time. Not often enough to keep me from following the action, just a bit jarring. I did get my copies on the cheap, so I guess it's not that surprising. Perhaps one day when I am richer I'll see if I can upgrade to better copies. This episode also made me wonder how much did the guys know about the movie before hand in these early days? Joel comments that made for TV movies look different, Josh corrects him that it wasn't. This sounded like a real exchange of information to me rather than a joke of some kind.

So, was this the shortest first host segment ever? Joel says the name of the movie and dashes into movie sign. I did like learning in the second segment that Joel's left handed, like me! Too bad the video was random freezing frequently now making it hard to follow the dialog. I did catch that Joel was trying to explain to Crow why it would be bad if Joel suffocates. "No more mid mornings pleasure stimulations."? "Get my belt!"? Life on the SOL was different before they went to cable, I guess. I wonder who the lucky sap who becomes the 1000th fan club member and wins the demon dog is. I guess we'll find out in the next episode.

Favorite riffs:

(Some guy at NASA asks astronauts if they have checked their LX switches.)
Crow: Hey Joel, did you check our LX switches?
(long pause)
Servo: Joel?
Joel: Ya?
Servo: Did you?
Joel: No.
Servo: Uh-oh.

(General Morrison: What do you got?
Pilot: I- I don't know!)
Servo: Rabies.

(screen shows shots of earth the aliens have taken)
Crow: Great alien holiday snaps.

14 June 2006

Guest MST3K: K18

Ah, The Million Eyes of Su-Muru. A bunch of women, some blond, angry about something or the other and on a random killing spree in China. And Frankie Avalon and his buddy Mr. West has to stop them. Or something like that. The musical score seemed oddly enthusiastic, though Mr. Avalon never does bust into song (though his character at one point wonders if he should). A dead girl in bed is played for laughs. Rich with random kissing and torture scenes, and smarmy dialog that isn't nearly as clever as it thinks it is.

I haven't seen the episode before this one, but there was a bit of a recap to clue me that the bots locked Joel outside the the ship naked, or nearly so. The mads are uncharacteristically nice enough to let him back in. I have to say, though, I was a more than a bit disappointed when Joel made it back into the SOL in his jumpsuit, not his BVD's as they implied he might.

The host segments seemed better to me than most of the other KTMAs I've seen. I liked the segment which I thought was going to a trial of the bots for locking Joel out of the ship, but rather degenerated into a raging pun-athon. Excuse me while I kiss this guy! Joel's version of the Theme Song, Unplugged version was also neat. And I found it interesting that at this point, the fan club already has 900 members. Considering that this show at this point is just being shown on one market in the upper Midwest on a lower tier channel, I'm impressed that it already attracted enough fans that were motivated enough to actually write in.

The theater segments were also pretty good. I've always liked it when Joel or Mike "interacts" with the movie, in this case by turning up the controls on a car's dashboard. The riffing was pretty solid, especially at the start, though even when Servo leaves it doesn't exactly slow to a crawl. Trace seems to come more into his own on the riffing when Josh leaves the theater segments. Josh seems better to me at the improvisational style, being faster and more aggressive in his comedic styling. I can see why going to scripted shows was better for MST's overall quality, but I can also see why someone with Josh's skills might have been unhappy with the change.

Some riffs I laughed at:

(Credits): Dubbing editor? I thought Frankie Avalon was fully versed in English.

(At one point where Joel is trying to get Crow to appreciate a joke he's made): Laugh at it Crow, he's pretty upset with us. (Referencing the incident where the bots locked Joel out of the ship).

(An Eye of Su deals with Mr. West while wearing a formless dress in an hospital setting):
She's a patient!

(During a Beaches of Normandy style attack on the shores of Su's Island): Good idea! Hide behind a rubber raft. There's nothing bullets hate more. Natural enemies.


13 June 2006

MST3K (K18)

K18 - The Million Eyes of Sumuru - I laughed out loud more during this ep than any of the previous KTMAs. JatB were in the groove during the first half of the movie. They were popping off riffs so frequently, I hadn't a clue what the plot of the movie was supposed to be. Crow, in particular, was funnier than he has been this entire season. I could hear the bot he is to become in the jokes he told. Crow and I even had some synergy this time. When JatB try to guess what three Chinese characters on a background wall say, I immediately thought "Eat at Joe's," which was the gold bot's choice as well (Joel: "No tickee, no shirtee." Servo: "Stop. Drop. Roll.").

In the middle of the movie, Servo left to "bake brownies for the Pinewood Derby." I guess this is appropriate: now each of the guys has been missing from the theater at least once. Unfortunately, Servo took much of the riff-energy with him. Joel and Crow by themselves never get back up to the quality of the first half of the movie.

It was nice to have a non-TV movie, non-Sandy Frank film to watch for a change. Plus, it was one of those goofy 60s movies that reminds me of later MST seasons. The film was hard to follow, but I think that was just because it was a poor choice as an MST episode. There was an awful lot exposition during the beginning that was obscured by riffs. Also not helpful was the video transfer guy's handiwork. He must have decided that panning & scanning was for dweebs, and simply left the video transfer camera centered in the middle of the widescreen film frame. We get a lot of nice shots of doors and curtains with half-faces on the sides, much to both my and Crow's annoyance.

Hey, I didn't know Joel could play the guitar?

Man, what the hell happened to Servo during the five-week break? The poor bot is now sporting fresh, red duct tape holding his torso to his hoverskirt. Despite this kludge, he's leaning dangerously forwards like a 90-year-old woman with a bad back. Adding to his misery, the string control for his mouth broke for the final host segment. Geez. Lucky the guy only has to survive three more eps. (6/10)

film d. Lindsay Shonteff (1967)
mst d. Todd Ziegler (7 May 1989)

12 June 2006

MST3K (K17)

K17 - Time of the Apes - (aka Saru no Gundan: "Episode 1" + Saru no Gundan: "Episode 26") Kinda like Robin and Alfred fighting crime while Batman's MIA. That's the feeling I got from this ep, where an inexplicably nude Joel is floating in space outside of the SOL. Was that a Hulk Hogan action figure?

Even compared to the other two-riffer shows (K06 & K12), the riffing was pretty poor. Servo was overly reliant on monkey puns and neither bot had too much to say. Each bot did get exactly one laugh out of me despite this. Servo: "We almost got a cool shot there," when a low-angle camera almost gives us a glimpse up the main female character's shirt. As a heterosexual male, that happened to be almost exactly the thought floating through my own mind at the time. I love when I have an MST match like that. I also liked Crow's quip, when the humans are departing from His Excellency, that "they're going to open up an electrolysis salon." It was the perfect time to say something like that.

I liked the host segment in which the bots try to fool us with an old clip of Joel. In fact, that clip was more of a treat than they could've known, as it was from the MIA K01. I also dug the "that wasn't really the host segment" trick they pulled after that. It actually mirrored the end of the movie in a way.

I think Sandy Frank might have been onto something genius here. Taking the first and final episodes from a TV series originally broadcast in another language and created by an entirely different culture and smushing them together creates something Buñuel would've slit his own eyeballs for. I could've done with a little less enthusiasm on the part of the English voice actors, however. It seems like the last half-hour of movie consisted of four people yelling at the top of their lungs. I still have a headache. (4/10)

film d. Atsuo Okunaka & Kiyo Sumi Fukazawa (1974)
mst d. Vince Rodriguez (2 Apr 1989)

Guest MST3K: K16

This movie might be called "City on Fire", but one of my first impressions of it is that it should have been called "How Not to make a Smoothie". I took this as a good sign, since not so many of the KMTA episodes have made me laugh within the first five minutes. Letsee, avocado, eggs (with shells), booze, cream, and according to Joel, "Detergent?". Turns out I was right; there were several times that I found myself laughing during this show.

This is a tedious example of a cheap disaster movie that features no likable characters or sense of suspense. The riffing is much faster paced than in some of the previous KTMAs I've seen. I got the feeling that they guys had just come out of a staff meeting where they all agreed that they needed punch it up a bit. Josh does step on Joel's and Trace's comments fairly often, but Joel does some interrupting as well. "Hey, we're beginning to annoy ourselves. Cool!" Trace notes at one point. I think this is just a function of the episodes being ad libbed rather than scripted. All the guys are trying to get a many riffs out just off the top of their heads with no real guidance in their timing. It's no surprise to me that they trip over each other.

I find myself being increasingly impressed with the comedic skills of JatBs the more I watch the KTMAs. Yes, they are much less polished than the episodes that follow on cable. But the fact that they work as well as they do under the circumstances highlights in inherent natural talent of the gang of Best Brains. Despite the fact that the copy I have had an annoying glitch that caused the sound to fade in and out in places, I really enjoyed this episode.


11 June 2006

OLR: Orwell Rolls in His Grave (2004)

Mostly talking heads and nothing that surprised me two years later. (6/10)

d. Robert Kane Pappas

10 June 2006

Marx (1940)

1940 - Go West - I like westerns. I like the Marx Bros. This film should've been great. I was looking forward to it. Somehow, however, the film was less than what it should've been.

The scene in which the three Bros. first meet might be a good indicator of why this is. It is essentially a re-working of the "tutti fruiti" scene from A Day at the Races and one of those rare scenes where someone gets the better of Groucho. The gag in Races cleverly builds: you need a code book for the tipsheet, then you need a codebook for the codebook, etc. In West, the gag just repeats itself: Groucho sells Harpo worthless piece of Western wear, Harpo and Chico scam him out of $9 in change. In the former, you can't wait to see what other goofy requirement Chico comes up with that Groucho will be forced to buy. In the latter, you just wait for the scene to end.

Even in the Old West, Chico and Harpo both manage to find their signature instruments. Like A Day at the Races, Harpo finds his harp within another object. This time he plays a Native American blanket in the process of being weaved. I thought this working prop was nicely constructed. It had me fooled and the song Harpo played on it sounded great.

The chase sequence with the steam train was impressive. They have the thing going off the rails and pushing houses around, while the Bros. run on top of it. It was exciting and funny enough to almost make up for the previous scenes. Still, I miss Margaret Dumont. (6/10)

d. Edward Buzzell

09 June 2006

MST3K (K16)

K16 - City on Fire - Well, more like One Street in a Canadian Movie Lot on Fire, but close enough for a TV movie. Shelly Winters and Leslie Neilsen in a disaster movie together? Man, I love The Poseidon Adventure! Alas, this flick wasn't fit to shine Mrs. Rosen's swimming medal. It was also a criminal waste of a very old-looking Henry Fonda. On a positive note, I haven't seen so many stunt men on fire in a while.

The riffing was as good as it ever has been this season. The guys don't have too many quiet periods and all three of them get a number of good lines in. However, Josh continues to annoy by interrupting both Joel and Trace's jokes. Joel and Trace constantly had to re-start their jokes in this ep when they had the misfortune to begin speaking at the same time Josh did.

One of the host segments also features the first of Joel's inventions (unless K01-K03 had some?). It's an anti-theft purse that bursts into flames. It's nice to see a host segment that ties into the movie. I like those.

Just from a technical perspective, this is a good show to illustrate the differences in the production of a UHF MST and a cable MST. The audio for Servo in the episode was terrible. Josh's voice would often be far too quiet to hear and then suddenly revert back to normal volume. About 10% of his riffs this time out were inaudible to me. I notice that their regular audio guy was the director this time. I'm thinking he was spending too much time trying to figure out how to direct and not enough time with his ears in the headphones. As well, there were numerous flubs inside the theater that a cable-era director would've yelled "Cut!" for. Both Josh and Trace sneeze flemily into their mics and, at one point, Trace looses his grip on Crow and the poor bot falls off-screen. JatB cover these events well, but I don't remember any such goofs making it into the cable shows I've seen.

"Put the doobage out." Joel: making it hard for teachers to show MST in class since 1989.

If I've learned anything today, it's: never offer a better job to a psycho maintenance man without making sure the fire insurance is up-to-date. (5/10)

film d. Alvin Rakoff (1978)
mst d. Todd Ziegler (19 Mar 1989)

Guest OLR: Equus (1977)

Who would have thought, a Hollywood film about having sex with horses. (7/10)

d. Sidney Lumet

08 June 2006

MST3K (K15)

K15 - Superdome - Crow nailed it: this TV movie about the Superbowl without any actual football in it is "a real snooze-fest." It's filled with melodrama about characters you never really care about and is paced painfully slow. A little editing could've really helped the latter problem, but I think the producers just needed to fill a 2-hour TV timeslot.

The end credits proudly declare that this movie was filmed on location in New Orleans, but you can hardly tell. There's an obligatory shot or two of Bourbon Street and the soundtrack is crammed full of New Orleans-style jazz, but most of the film takes place in a hotel. It could've been shot on any soundstage in Hollywood, for all we know. We do get some exterior and interior shots of the football-free Superdome. However, at this point in time, these just dredge up memories of recently witnessed human misery.

In the middle of the movie, after a long period of silence by JatB, Joel says "I just can't say anything funny about this." Yep. This is one of the episodes where the weakness of improvising all of the riffs while watching a movie for the very first time shows. They didn't score too many laugh with me this round at all, and you could feel the guys struggling to come up with stuff to say.

I liked the framing device for the host segments, in which Servo writes a letter (on a typewriter!) to his "uncle." I just wished they hadn't gotten lazy and used old segments from prior shows, though we do get a glimpse of one of the bits from a missing ep.

Speaking of missing bits, special thanks go out to Amethyst for preserving the final host segment of this show (nice drawing, by the way!). (4/10)

film d. Jerry Jameson (1978)
mst d. ?? (12 Mar 1989)

07 June 2006

OLR: Road House (1989)

Sure, the plot can't bear a lot of scrutiny, but 80s machismo films rule. (7/10)

d. Rowdy Herrington

06 June 2006

OLR: Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

A tad cheezy now, but, man, this scared the hell out of me as a kid. (7/10)

d. Jack Clayton

[watched after returning from Hell]

Guest OLR: Running on Empty (1988)

As usual, made watchable by River Phoenix (6/10)

d. Sidney Lumet

05 June 2006

MST3K (K14)

K14 - Mighty Jack - (aka Maitei Jyakku: "Episode 1" + Maitei Jyakku: "Episode 13") You have to wonder how well these things are translated. Maybe Sandy Frank was just Farking with people? The evil bad guys capture some "VIP" named Atari and think they can trade him for the mighty Mighty Jack? Was that really the plan? The German guy Fritz was really supposed to be the Japanese guy's son? The freeze gun creates ice that "never melts"?

Not a terribly exciting movie. There's some cool scenes involving missiles exploding on an Arctic secret base. There's a hilarious, oft-repeated shot of Ernst Blofeld's Japanese counterpart maniacally laughing with his kitty. Outside of that, I only remember endless scenes of people holding other people hostage with guns and freeze rays.

Better riffing would've helped ease the pain. The riffing in this episode was a bit sparse and not much of it hit my funny bone. Hopefully, all of those missed opportunities will be caught in 314. Though, you have to grin when Crow mentions that one of the characters looks like Frank Conniff. There's a joke no one would've ever gotten had Josh not quit later on. (4/10)

film d. Kazuko Mitsoti (1968)
mst p. Jim Mallon (26 Feb 1989)

04 June 2006

Marx (1939)

1939 - At the Circus - Considering this and A Day at the Races, I think I can safely ignore the "common knowledge" that the post-Paramount Marx films weren't any good. This film is pure fun. I loved the setting, the songs, the gags and the wild ending.

A circus troop is a great place for the Bros. to play around in. You can have giraffes licking Margaret Dumont (and Groucho taking credit). You can watch Peerless Pauline and Groucho having an upside-down tête-à-tête. You can laugh at a hysterical investigation by Chico and Harpo in the tiny room of a little person. At the circus, the Bros. can terrorize a poor, sleeping strongman. And, Groucho can croon about a tattooed lady named Lydia. It's a great setting and the Bros. take advantage of it.

I noticed that Groucho appears to have donned a wig for this film. It struck me as odd at first, as it isn't particularly real-looking. Then I remembered that Harpo has always worn one, and the hair styles are a part of the Bros.' characters costumes.

I think Harpo's harp song in this film was my favorite thus far. There's a shot in the middle of it that I found fascinating. It showed Harpo's face from a low angle, through the strings. His eyes were closed and his face was fixed in an expression of pure intensity. It's clear that Harpo the Id and Harpo the serious musician were two different characters. (8/10)

d. Edward Buzzell

MST3K (K13)

K13 - SST- Death Flight - Good movie, terrible episode. This is a perfect example of the type of movie not to pick for an MST3K episode. For one, the movie was actually good. It was tense, well-acted and contained an interesting moral quandary. I found it entirely engrossing. Such films you would not generally deem MST fodder. As well, the movie was very dialogue-heavy. Whenever JatB would attempt a riff, they would inevitably talk over the movie characters. Worse, rather than seeking a laugh from them, I found this annoying and wished they'd stop. For the first time ever, I was more interested in what the movie characters were saying than any jokes JatB had to offer. There was also not much for them to make fun of. The best they could do was mention the past or future jobs of the largely TV show-based cast. But, I liked seeing Ginger, the Penguin, Q, Mr. Brady and that game show host guy acting together.

The first host segment was bizarre. There was something off about Trace's delivery. I kept waiting for Dr. F to deliver the punch line after winning all of that money. I thought he might be mad with Dr. E for encouraging him to go out with a transvestite in the last episode. I was expecting him to do something to Dr. E in the TV's Frank-style of torture. It wasn't so. It was just weird and not funny.

We did get the first batch of Still Store letters, which means the voicemail thing is likely dead forever. Ah well. Letters are cute in their own way. (5/10)

film d. David Lowell (1977)
mst p. Jim Mallon (19 Feb 1989)

02 June 2006

MST3K (K12)

K12 - Fugitive Alien - (aka Sutâurufu: "Episode 1" + Sutâurufu: "Episode 2") This would easily have been the best KTMA ever, were it not another "Trace is missing" episode. Had Crow been in the theater, the theater segments would've been just like any of the average cable episodes. Without him, things still go fairly well. The riffing is pretty steady and Joel and Servo seem to have a grand old time. Josh gets Joel to crack up more than once and they perform many duets together. Most memorable was the extended parody of the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever."

If I were a Twin Cities UHF addict in 1989, this is the episode during which I would've become a full-on Joel fan. In particular, when the mussed-haired, sleepy-eyed Joel breaks into his "Fugitive Alien" song with absolutely no shred of embarrassment or self-consciousness, I would've realized what kind of unique talent we had standing next to those puppets.

I thought the movie itself was keen, as well. I'm looking forward to re-watching it and seeing the sequel. Sure, it was heavily influenced by Star Wars, as JatB point out several times, but it was SW with kooky Japanese charm. Remember: never kill someone with your same name.

"Luke Skywalker liked peyote." I just had to get that K12 quote in here for random Google searches to pick up. (6/10)

film d. Minoru Kanaya & Kiyosumi Kuzakawa (1978)
mst d. Vince Rodriguez (5 Feb 1989)

OLR: McLibel (2005)

I'm sympathetic, but the film was unfocused and close to lifeless. (5/10)

d. Franny Armstrong & Ken Loach