31 May 2007

OLR: Life and Debt (2001)

I fear what the final chapter of this globalization novel will be (I really could've used subtitles). (7/10)

d. Stephanie Black

29 May 2007

OLR: Jaws (1975)

Hooper's unique in this genre, in that, despite being a scientist, he's right there with the hero-cop and crusty-captain trying to kill poor old Bruce. (8/10)

d. Steven Spielberg

28 May 2007

OLR: Slither (2006)

There's a lot to admire in this Living Dead/Blob/Body Snatchers mishmash, but it just wasn't as fun as the TV commercials had lead me to believe. (7/10)

d. James Gunn

OLR: Masters of Horror: "Pelts" (2006)

Great character actors and old school gore effects without much of a story to back them. (7/10)

d. Dario Argento

25 May 2007

Star Trek: TOS 1.18: "The Squire of Gothos"

Was this the original "all powerful alien turns out to be a child" story, or was this a well-established sub-sub-genre of sci-fi by this time? It's hard to tell from this distance and you never know with the original Trek.

I dig that Trelane has a salt monster trophy from "The Man Trap," even if it doesn't fit his 19th century decor.

yr: 2267
sd: 2124.5
ad: 12 Jan 1967

24 May 2007

MST3K (closing thoughts)

One year ago, I asked in my opening thoughts: "Does MST3K have legs? Will it be funny in the future? Or, when I try to show episodes to my future kids in 2018, will they force me to turn it off?" The answer: yes and no. What I suspected before beginning this project turned out to be true: MST3K was an uneven show. As I watched the episodes in production order, I noticed that it wasn't uncommon for one of the best to be followed by one of the worst. Before watching any of the episodes I hadn't seen before -- which was most of them -- I never knew if I was going to be laughing loudly or fighting sleepiness. A graph of my ratings for each episode shows the seismic-like peaks and valleys of my opinion of the show's run. The x-axis is the episode number (1-195, AKA K04-1013) and the y-axis is my rating.

Ratings for each MST3K episode

As a general rule, the show improved over time. The black, angled line is the trend in my ratings. Starting around a rating of 6, the show ended somewhere north of 7. Still, later seasons were in no way immune to bad episodes, even if the later shows were less of a comedy crap-shoot.

But, will the show be funny in the future? It already is the future, as far as a show canceled nearly eight years ago that began life nearly two decades ago is concerned. As I found it funny more often than not, the short answer would be: yes, it's funny in the future.

The long answer: likely less humorous as more years go by. The show's reliance on pop cultural references will slowly make a portion of the jokes incomprehensible to future viewers. Any references lost to the viewer are essentially holes in the riffing. This can have a serious impact on how funny an entire episode seems to you. I found that the best MST3K episodes would get some comedy momentum going. The episode would build from belly laugh to belly laugh, never letting too much time pass before another good zinger arrived. If enough of those zingers were references to decades-old pop culture that merely whizzed over your head, you're going to lose that momentum of laughter. You'll end up spending as much time scratching your head in puzzlement as you will laughing. That's not generally what people crave when viewing comedy.

I'm not saying that the show should've been created reference-free. It would've never had gained its cult following without its references. Obscure references that fans caught made them feel special. "Wow, they know about that? They're like me!" This was an important part of the show's early popularity, as seen in the interviews with fans in the This is MST3K special.

At any rate, my sense is that the show became less dependent on references as it went on. Many of Joel's episodes would upset me by harping on unrelated-to-the-movie famous people, or toys from the 1960s I can't possibly have fond memories of, or riffs about seldom-rerun TV shows canceled long before I was born. Mike's episodes didn't have this problem as often. In the interview with Mike and Kevin found on the 1003 disc in Rhino's Volume 5 set, Mike states that they really tried to keep the comedy as timeless as possible. I'm guessing his influence in this matter increased significantly after Joel's departure. My feeling is that the Sci-Fi era episodes will be more watchable to the crazy kids of 2018 than the Comedy Central ones.

Then again, I could just be sensitive to things "not of my time." This graph shows my average rating for each season in yellow, and the average year for the movies used in each season in purple. Outside of the KTMA shows, there's a disturbing correspondence between the average newness of a season's movies and the average highness of my ratings.

Average rating vs average year per MST3K season

In my defense, before discovering MST3K, the bad movies of the 1970s and 1980s were always my favorite. I watched countless Troma and Full Moon movies in my youth and would often rent (or buy) movies purely because they had a stupid title. Perhaps like Boomers, who revel in the rubber-suited, visible-zipper monsters movies of their '50s youths, bad movies from the '70s and '80s are nostalgic comfort food for me.

Below is a graph showing how many episodes I watched per week. My schedule was relatively simple: I needed to watch 4 episodes per week for three weeks and then watch 3 episodes in the fourth week. Repeat that thirteen times and add one last episode to complete the series. In reality, I only managed to do this for first four weeks and the last five. Other than that, I was either trying to get ahead in time for a specific event, or slacking off.

Number of MST3K episodes watched per week

Keeping at this thing until the very end wasn't as easy as it may sound. Watching 3.75 episodes per week doesn't sound like much, but, added up, the entire process ate into my free time quite a bit. Each episode was a little more than 1.5 hours long. After the episode, I would read its entry in the ACEG and then start writing my blog post. As pathetic as it sounds, it would often take me close to an hour to get one of these bits of fluff written and formatted. On a typical day in which I would watch an episode after getting home from work, I'd find it to be 8pm (and dark out, in the winter) by the time I was done... if I was lucky enough not to run into a dead DVD-R. Towards the end, I began watching episodes during lunch "hour" at work. This was probably the only way I was able to finish; I was plain sick of donating 2.5 hours of my free time to this thing every other day.

Undoubtedly, the slow but inevitable slide this project made from "play" to "work" affected my enjoyment of certain episodes. Some that I gave low ratings to I'll certainly give another shot; I haven't closed the book on too many of them, despite what I may have said here. But not for a while.

I was going to follow this project up with a more relaxed "MST4K Chronocinethon." In that, I was going to watch Mike's Legend Films commentaries, Star Wait, Cheap Seats, and all of the RiffTrax and Film Crew releases. That ain't gonna happen anymore. I'm all riffed out at the moment. As well, Mike's RiffTrax releases are coming out way too damned often. I just don't have the energy to buy the track, buy/rent the DVD, rip the DVD, convert the track and the audio from the DVD to WAV, carefully merge the track with the audio from the DVD, render the resulting audio file, convert it to AC3, throw it all in DVD Studio and burn a DVD-R -- all once a week. I can't be dedicating that much time to such a thing at this point in my life.

Also, I hate to admit, I don't think I'm really behind the idea of "more riffing from the MST3K guys!" anymore. Even before I read this interview with Trace Beaulieu by Quick Stop Entertainment, I'd come to a similar conclusion about the idea:
QS: How do you view things like Mike’s RiffTrax project, or The Film Crew? Have you ever felt the urge to do something like that again?

BEAULIEU: Not riffing. Not movie mocking or anything like that. Joel and Josh and I did a little thing… what was it… Star Wait… And we were riffing on footage that a guy had shot of these Star Wars fans waiting for the movie to open. At first it was kind of weird being back with Joel and Josh and mocking something. That had its own strangeness to it. But I realized that without that character, I really didn’t have a reason to mock anything. I actually kinda like stuff. People have talked about, “Oh, you know you should do that again.” It’s like, “Well we did it.” I mean, that’s kind of why I left, was like, “I got it. I did that thing already.” And I haven’t seen what Mike and those guys have done.
Again, I hate to say it, but a part of me kind of feels bad for Mike. I feel like this talented comedian has gotten himself stuck on the SOL all over again. He's already done that. He's already been there. The ending of 1013 was supposed to be funny, not a curse. I feel like Mike's been typecast as "that movie riffer guy" and this is the only creative avenue open to him. I dunno. Maybe I'm way off and riffing movies again is like going home for him. I guess I'd just rather see the guy working on new and different projects with that creative noggin' of his, is all.

And, finally, what of my answer to the eternally controversial question: which host was better? Easy. It's Joel.

This may seem like an odd choice, given all the praise I've heaped on the Sci-Fi era and Mr. Nelson above. Before starting this project, I was much more familiar with the Sci-Fi episodes. Those, I had been taping from the reruns and watching randomly. That's the era I was most comfortable with going into this thing. Looking back, my ratings for the Mike seasons were generally higher than those for Joel years. Of the 7 episodes I rated a nine (my highest MST3K rating), I gave 5 of those Mike shows. Mike's clearly a better actor, too, with a confident screen presence and impeccable comedic timing.

But, none of that really matters when picking a favorite. I just liked Joel's personality better. His credo says it all: "I'm weird and that results in creativity." Joel was bursting at the seams with ideas. He was the invention exchange man from the Gizmonic Institute. He gave us rainy day ipecacs and mixed drink recipes. He showed us what the bridge would look like underwater. He brought props into the theater and interacted with the screen. Who can ever forget "Joey the Lemur"?

I also like the less-than-polished aspect of Joel's show. In Joel's MST3K, Crow's net would randomly fall off and they'd roll with it. People could sneeze and balloons could pop and it wouldn't matter. The camera was simply pointed straight at the SOL's brightly lit bridge. No neon colors or fancy Dutch angles. It was what it was: a low-budget puppet show with bad movies and goofy sketches.

It was Joel, I'm sure, who was responsible for early MST3K's down-home feel. The KTMA episodes had the entertaining and intimate voicemails from fans. No host segment in the cable era could ever beat the one from K06 when a kid called to invite Joel and the bots to his birthday party and Joel responded by putting up a happy birthday banner on the SOL. The voicemail was eventually converted into fanmail, but those had their own charm. Joel would show drawings and photos people would send in, read their letters, answer their questions and hold contests to name a character from a movie or think of other ways to kill a giant monster. The show wasn't just this thing created in a vacuum by ascetic monks; it was just a couple of states away in Minnesota and you could write 'em a letter if you wanted.

Plainly put, Joel was MST3K's spirit. In the years that followed his departure, the show became more polished and the writing of the riffing improved, but it also lost some of its warmth.

My favorite episode for each season:

KTMA: The Legend of the Dinosaurs
The guys were at the top of their unscripted game by the time this episode aired, their final show for TV-23. It's funnier and easier to watch than nearly every season one episode to follow it.

One: Robot Holocaust
Having one fewer episodes of a crappy serial to bog it down, this ep just edges out 107 as my pick for the first cable season. A mush-mouthed villainess and a robot lobster were great grist for Joel and the bots' riff mill.

Two: Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster
The only giant monster movie I really liked, perhaps due to its lack of annoying children. Joel's "Space Madness" host segment is one of the best of the series.

Three: Pod People
The near-perfect marriage of a ridiculous movie with spot-on riffing and a bucket full of hilarious host segments. Joel's best.

Four: Manos: The Hands of Fate
Not a terribly original pick, but this episode is an example of MST3K at its best: it has the power to make an unwatchable movie watchable (something they tried and failed with during the Coleman Francis flicks). Also, Torgo is Mike's all-time best character (even counting Mike Nelson).

Five: Outlaw
An award-winning episode for a reason. I think the "Tubular Boobular" song may be my favorite from the show.

Six: The Creeping Terror
MST3K was made for this movie: an alien piece of carpet stalks and eats teenagers while occasionally having carnal relations with an auto. One of those great-bad movies that MST3K brought to my attention.

Seven: Laserblast
My kind of movie: a low-budget, '80s sci-fi/horror flick involving Charles Band. It also made for a great (almost) final episode for the show.

Eight: Space Mutiny
Hijinks aboard a spaceship/boiler room involving a multi-named, muscle-bound fraidy cat and a guy trying to push his face out of its skin. Mike's best.

Nine: Werewolf
It's real hard to go wrong with a Joe Estevez vehicle. Count the different werewolf makes for added fun.

Ten: Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders
Ernest Borgnine scaring his grandson with tales of murdered pets, abusive husbands and an old man in dire need of a shave and a haircut.

The Final Numbers
Total Length
13 days, 1 hour, 33 minutes, 30 seconds
(94 min average for 195 episodes)
(29 min average for 18 specials)
(3.6% of a year)

Years Spanned
(1966 average)

Shorts Years Spanned
(1951 average)

Time to Watch
365 days
Time to Broadcast Originally
3941 days

Total Episodes with Joel's Goatee
207, 208, 209, 307, 410, 1001 (3.1%)
Crow and Tom's Dead Brothers
XT-5000, Minsky, Destroyer
Name the Vegetable Guy
Name that Cool Thing We Never Showed Flying Outside of the SOL
Other Ways to Snuff Gaos
Kenny, What Gives?

Other Kinds of Nunchucks
What's a Sampo?
Black and White to Color Ratio

Joel vs. Mike
1795 days (4 years, 11 months) vs. 2109 days (5 years, 9 months, 10 days)
107 movies (98 unique), 36 shorts vs. 91 movies, 23 shorts

KTMA vs. The Comedy Channel / Comedy Central vs. Sci-Fi Channel
1 season vs. 7 seasons vs. 3 seasons
21 movies, 0 shorts vs. 128 movies, 56 shorts vs. 48 movies, 3 shorts
21 movies/year vs. 18 movies/year vs. 16 movies/year
1973 average vs. 1963 average vs. 1971 average
none vs. 5 Turkey Days vs. 1 pseudo-Turkey Day
none vs. 1 awards special vs. 3 awards specials

S'long, MST3K! Thanks for the year of laughs.

21 May 2007

Star Trek: TOS 1.17: "Shore Leave"

They're really going to regret being so nice to humans. Once word gets out about the magical amusement planet, it's going to look like an overcrowded version of Second Life. Shame, really.

yr: 2267
sd: 3025.3
ad: 29 Dec 1966

20 May 2007

OLR: Ernest Goes to Jail (1990)

Probably the least effective anti-death penalty movie ever made (I want ElectroMan powers!). (6/10)

d. John R. Cherry III

19 May 2007

OLR: Children of Men (2006)

Beautifully photographed and powerful enough to choke up a couple of 30-year-old cynical guys hanging out away from their wives for the weekend (a second viewing may reveal it worth a 10/10). (9/10)

d. Alfonso Cuarón

OLR: Masters of Horror: "Homecoming" (2005)

Probably too era-specific to function for very much longer as a parody of any interest. (7/10)

d. Joe Dante

17 May 2007

MST3K (season ten closing thoughts)

Goodbye, season ten.

Jason in a comment said that he thinks the crew found out about their cancellation during 1004. I can see it. The first three episodes of the season were very strong. I was hoping to see the show go out at a full gallop. When 1004 hit: averageville for the rest of the year. It was a bit disappointing, but understandable all the same.

I think this season's host segments were probably the worst of the entire series. Though, even to the very end I still looked forward to the break from the movie they provided, next to none of them ever got me to laugh. Also throughout the season, they kept throwing out implications that Brain Guy was secretly gay. I guess that -- given his prissy accent -- I can see how that idea came about. Still, this doesn't seem like MST3Kish humor to me (especially the host segment with the rest stop condoms from 1011). Then again, that tack worked pretty well for two entire characters on Arrested Development.

I really liked the movie selection for this year, though. Cheezy, 1950s-style horror movies were kept to a bare minimum of one. There was a return to the late-1960s troubled youth genre, which we hadn't seen in years. One episode was a daring experiment, which I appreciated. All but four movies were horror/sci-fi films from the '70s, '80s and '90s: my very favorite decades for bad movies. It was the season of MST3K riffing on the type of crap the Sci-Fi Channel normally plays late at night, anyway. In a strange way, that brings the show full circle to its roots at KTMA where they did exactly the same thing.

Next: closing thoughts for the whole series. But, first, I need a few days of distance. Luckily, camping this weekend will provide that.

The Numbers

Total Length
21 hours, 9 minutes, 55 seconds
(92 min average for 13 episodes)
(77 min average for 1 special)

Years Spanned
(1977 average)

Shorts Years Spanned

Time to Watch
24 days
Time to Broadcast Originally
161 days

Attack of the Giant Chin
1001, 1004 (15%)
Attack of the Were-
-fish 1005, -mooninite 1007, -bat 1010, -spider 1011, -worm 1012 (38%)
Black and White to Color Ratio


The Last Dance - Raw - And raw it is. This is just Jim's camcorder footage of the shooting of 1013. While we get to see tons of Best Brains that we've never seen before (interns closing the theater doors from behind the set, the famous lunch service, etc.), it's also quite tedious at times. It's a Poopie 3 made of just one episode. See Bill flub a line! See him flub it again! And again! See Kevin call cut!

In other words, it could've used some editing to become "slightly cooked." Cut it down, add in some interviews with the cast after they've wrapped and this would've been a nice little documentary about the end of an era. Instead, it feels more like a post-cancellation cash-in.

It was on the right track when it was behind-the-scenes. Showing Kevin being encased in a monkey mask or him expertly threading a new head on a Servo puppet were the most interesting types of bits. Take after take of host segments I've just seen… not so much.

And, is this what I think it is?

Around the 1 hour mark in the tape, it sounds like -- under his breath but still caught by the camera microphone -- Jim says "show your chest" to Beez (who has her back to him). Am I hearing it wrong? Maybe it was someone else in the background giving instructions to one of the actors on set? If not -- yeesh.

"Special thanks to Eli for being in the trench" (6/10)

mst d. Jim Mallon (Holiday 1999)

MST3K (1013)

1013 - Diabolik - "Well, I'm sorry if you're offended by my random murders." I'm sorry, but I wasn't on Diabolik's side for this one, no matter the intensions of the filmmakers. He was kind of a jerk. I was rooting for dumb-as-nails Ginko the whole way, cool as it may or may not be to roll around in money with a naked girl. Still, it was better than Agent for H.A.R.M., the only other Sci-Fi era movie vaguely in the same genre.

The riffing was pretty much on par for season 10. I didn't detect any extra humorosity injected into the goings-on for this special episode. The host segments were just some tying-things-up goings-on; not terribly special. I think I probably agree with some fans out there that 706 made for a better final episode. Though, I do like the fact that Mike and bots got back to Earth after so many years.

The final host segment, in which Mike and the bots find themselves with nothing better to do than watch The Crawling Eye in their shared apartment, turned out to be prophetic. With their RiffTraxes and their The Film Crewes, Mike, Kevin and Bill are essentially sitting on a couch and watching bad movies all over again. I'll write about that more, later.

Kevin-as-Tom's last word: "Hmm." Kevin-as-Bobo's last word: "(monkey noises)." Bill-as-Crow's last word: "it." Bill-as-Brain Guy's last word: "way." Mike's last word: "in." Mike was trapped on the Satellite of Love for 2109 days (5 years, 9 months, 10 days) and watched 91 movies and 23 shorts. Pearl's last word: "am." Pearl Forrester tortured the residents of the SOL for 919 days (2 years, 6 months, 8 days) and forced them to watch 48 movies and 3 shorts.

"You smell like a tire store." (7/10)

film d. Mario Bava (1967)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (8 Aug 1999)

16 May 2007

Star Trek: TOS 1.16: "The Menagerie, Part II"

That "only death penalty left on the books" thing is bothersome for such a supposedly enlightened future. The planet and aliens aren't anywhere bad enough to warrant such a thing. The Talosians rejected our species as worthwhile to keep around... there isn't much of a danger in going there post-Pike. If they were worried we were going to learn their power of illusion and destroy ourselves, the Talosians can simply refuse to talk to us about it. Killing people for stepping foot on one particular piece of rock doesn't seem to be in the spirit of freedom and exploration.

Still not as bad as Spock smiling at the plants.

yr: 2267
sd: 3013.1
ad: 24 Nov 1966

15 May 2007

MST3K (1012)

1012 - Squirm (w/ A Case of Spring Fever) - "No springs! *bwee-bwoo*" The last very last short of the series and it's a good one. They've been waiting to do this short for 8 years now. I'm glad they squeezed it in at the last minute. It feels like ages and ages since the last, real educational short. Industrial shorts are fine, but these mini-films created to illuminate the minds of children are the best. This one is particularly psychotic. Even discounting the bizarre cosmology of the piece -- "Where does Coily fit into God's plan for us?" -- the fact the more than half of the short is the post-Coily old man endlessly preaching the wonders of springs to his friend makes it strange enough. Was this a huge problem with the youth of 1940? Did they not like springs for some reason? Was the spring industry in trouble should a generation grow up disdaining their necessary, vital product? I can only assume this is the case. With that said, enjoy The Simpsons parody involving the importance of the 30th element:

Squirm is pretty cool. Give it to the filmmakers: no one ever thought to make a horror movie about earthworms before. That a "live bait" stop in the backwoods of the South could be a place of horror: brilliant. Then again, I'm partial to films set in the country starring decidedly non-movie star-like people.

It seems to me that Servo dressed up and spoke like a southern belle once before. I know that there's twice been really tall things on the bridge of the SOL before Crow wore his enormous platform shoes in this episode. Mike's really, really big hair and Crow's mile high pie come to mind. It's the second-to-last episode. Go with what kinda worked before, I guess.

"So, one clod says one thing and the whole world pays?" (7/10)

film d. Jeff Lieberman (1976)
short p. Jamison Handy (1940)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (1 Aug 1999)

14 May 2007

MST3K (1011)

1011 - Horrors of Spider Island - Hey, a werespider. Never seen one of them before. Kinda looks like a really blocky guy wearing monkey gloves and a discarded wolfman mask. Even worse, in long shots it kinda just looks like a guy without a shirt on. Ah well, the titular horrors were not really the point of the movie, were they? Ahem. Titular. *cough*

"Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh… I'm impotent." I still have the sense that the riffing is slowing down in these final few episodes. This episode was funnier than the last, but only a little. But, at least we got a Torgo reference ("He has Torgo area."). Been a while for one of those. And, fortunately for the show, Crow's favorite website nakedwrestlinggiantesses.com doesn't exist (yet). Phew.

Wow, a late-era Sci-Fi host segment that I actually enjoyed quite a bit… and it involved the Castle Forrester crew? Impossible! Yes, Mike imitating manly man Gary from the movie, using his uncrossed and crossed legs to judge the dance performances of the earnest Bobo, Brain Guy and Pearl, got some good laughing out of me. Yeesh, Brain Guy is not a handsome woman at all. That bra strap… *shudder*

"All right, now watch how a man screams in horror." (7/10)

film d. Fritz Böttger [as Jaime Nolan] (1960)
mst d. Michael J. Nelson (25 Jul 1999)

Star Trek: TOS 1.15: "The Menagerie, Part I"

A great way to get some use out of that footage from the unaired pilot. Interesting to note Pike's crack about not being used to having women on the bridge was cut, but Spock's uncharacteristic smile over the singing plants was not. Gene tried to clean up the old version of the ST universe a bit, I guess.

Man, they just got done trying to court martial Kirk, too. The whole crew's getting a lot of use out of their SF Academy "Space Law 101" course lately.

yr: 2267
sd: 3012.4
ad: 17 Nov 1966

12 May 2007

OLR: Deathbed (2002)

Derivative and dull; never, ever hire an actress for this kind of movie who has a "no nudity" clause in her contract. (4/10)

d. Danny Draven

Guest OLR: Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)

Watching him relive it makes it all the more worthwhile. (8/10)

d. Werner Herzog

11 May 2007

MST3K (1010)

1010 - It Lives by Night - Usually I like these types of a movies. Low-budget horror from the 1970s? A scientist who goes too far versus a redneck sheriff? A werebat? Never seen one of them before… that like a vampire? Sign me up! Meh, the results were not quite as exciting as I might have imagined. One trouble spot was Dr. Werebat's lack of acting chops. His facial expressions during his "rabies" convulsions were so incredibly lame they couldn't even qualify as "unintentionally hilarious." He sort of walked through the film half-expressionless and half in the grip of some nasty constipation. Another downfall was the meandering, go-nowhere plot. There was a half-hearted stab at some Philip K. Dick-style "is it real?" stuff with Mrs. Werebat claiming her husband was having drug-induced hallucinations. That might've been interesting, but it wasn't sold very well at all.

The riffing only managed to elicit weak smiles on my part. This felt like an auto-pilot episode to me. Sure, there were individual lines that might have been funny, but they never got any humor-momentum going. As is typical of late, the host segments aren't worth mentioning (though I do think Mike looks good with a 'stache, even though he already tried that look a couple years ago). Am I running out of energy or are they? Or both?

Little free advertising for local business, eh there guys?

"You know, if I'm ever asked to do a love scene with someone turning into a bat, I'll do it, but only if it's tastefully done." (6/10)

film d. Jerry Jameson (1974)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (18 Jul 1999)

09 May 2007

MST3K (1009)

1009 - Hamlet: Prinz von Dänemark - I was prepared to be bored out of my mind by this one. Generally considered to be one of the worst episodes of the entire cable series, it's also, arguably, the very highest of brow for subject matter on any of the show's experiments. Based on a 16th century play by the English language's most famous ambassador, Hamlet is wordy. Really wordy. It was hard to foresee how the guys were going to squeeze funny words of their own in there.

They managed. The riffing was noticeable lighter -- due to the heavy dialogue of the movie -- than normal, but they kept up a steady pace. Still, it took me about 50 minutes before I got it and began to crack smiles and chuckle. This is not a normal episode. You need to readjust your expectations and watch it differently than a regular MST3K show. Many of the riffs require that you pay attention to -- or are at least familiar with -- the Bard's play. However, the crew didn't suffocate the episode with Hamlet-specific riffs. There were plenty of fart jokes and "Before you die, does my palm smell like Cheetos?" type cracks to go around as well. It helped me, also, that I enjoyed watching the play itself again (guilty: English lit major here).

The choice of a dreary version of a 400-year-old work of literature was a risk for the show. It seems to have failed for them in most people's opinions. But, hey, they did nigh-200 shows over a decade. A little experimentation is good. What the hell? They're going down in flames in four episodes, anyway. Have some fun with the format.

"But it's cherry-flavored kids' poison! He should love it!" (7/10)

film d. Franz Peter Wirth (1961)
mst d. Michael J. Nelson (27 Jun 1999)

08 May 2007

MST3K (1008)

1008 - Final Justice - It wasn't Mitchell, but it wasn't for lack of trying by the crew. They even brought back a riff from that infamous episode: "I'm so confused and hungry" (in addition to the numerous out of breath / hungry / heart attack riffs similar to those in 512). For some reason, this episode wasn't quite as funny as that previous Joe Don outing. Perhaps Joe Don's character isn't quite as funny as Mitchell? His Texas sheriff doesn't yell at any kids, toe himself a beer while having sex with a prostitute or parade about in a variety of bad '70s suits.

I actually enjoyed this film on its own. I think throwing a none-too-smart, ultra-violent Texas policeman into a European country was a concept worth exploring. Joe Don was an excellent casting choice to play said none-too-smart, trigger-happy lawman. Seeing him run around a tiny island country acting like a jackass was fun.

I betcha the crew got more hatemail from Malta than they did from Canada. Hehe: "…witless, tight-shirted clouds of B.O." and "…puking hairy-necked freaks" indeed.

"If I die, I want to be buried next to the Sizzler." (7/10)

film d. Greydon Clark (1984)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (20 Jun 1999)

06 May 2007

OLR: The Punisher: Extended Cut (2004)

The new subplot was not really worth it. (7/10)

d. Jonathan Hensleigh

OLR: Masters of Horror: "Dance of the Dead" (2005)

We both agreed: better than Land of the Dead. (8/10)

d. Tobe Hooper

05 May 2007

Star Trek: TOS 1.14: "Court Martial"

Note to future hackers: don't screw with Spock's chess program while editing video to frame someone.

yr: 2267
sd: 2947.3
ad: 2 Feb 1967

04 May 2007

MST3K (1007)

1007 - Track of the Moon Beast - It was the middle of the afternoon and I could barely keep my eyes open. This late-'70s monster movie was almost retro in its rubber-suited-monster tedium. There's a few frames more in the gore shots and a few more inches of buttcheek exposed in the love interest, but otherwise this would've fit in on a double-bill with The Giant Gila Monster back in the day.

The riffing didn't do much to keep me awake, either. Laughs were rare. I did like the guys' obsession with Johnny-Longbow's stew recipe. Completely untouched in the commentary: the barely hidden homoerotic subtext to Paul and Johnny-Longbow's relationship.

Wow: the first new part of the SOL seen since The Movie. Well, it looks like they simply threw Mike's bed in the corner of the bridge set and covered the walls with some posters (Clint Eastwood and PaRappa the Rapper). Still, that's kind of exciting. The host segments are rarely worth mentioning these days, otherwise.

Man, am I hungry for some stew now.

"Tomorrow we'll be laughing about your killings." (6/10)

film d. Richard Ashe (1976)
mst d. Michael J. Nelson (13 Jun 1999)

Guest OLR: Spider-Man 3 (2007)

We have officially entered barely watchable soap opera territory. (5/10)

d. Sam Raimi

02 May 2007

MST3K (1006)

1006 - Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues... - I liked the part of the film on the river. With the warm weather finally holding, maybe this is just reflective of my desire to go on a canoe trip. I think that part of the film held some potential. If they'd just started the film there, this could've been a kind of Deliverance with both rednecks and bigfeet as the monsters in the woods. Old Man Crenshaw's just about the coolest character yet seen in a MST3K episode. I think I'll rent some other Charles B. Pierce flicks just to see what he did with ole Jimmy Clem in them.

"Dr. Batch. This fall." The riffing was serviceable. Like the last episode, it seemed to lack the energy and density of earlier shows in the season. I wonder when the crew found out that they were canceled? I can see that having a depressive affect on the show's production.

We haven't had a song in a while. Brain Guy's "song" was fairly clever. Like a classic, storytellin'-style country song, it begins with a really long introductory dialogue spoking in a down-home, folksy manner. The song itself consists of just one line: "There's a creature who lives in the swamp," after which Brain Guy abruptly stops his a-singin' and a-pickin'. Funny, though I kinda liked the song and would've liked to hear the complete version.

"It's a poop emergency. She snaps into action." (7/10)

film d. Charles B. Pierce (1983)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (9 May 1999)

01 May 2007

Star Trek: TOS 1.13: "The Galileo Seven"

I'm with Spock on this one. What's with the fascination with risking your life to bury dead bodies? Escape the planet of the walking carpets first, mourn later. Geez.

yr: 2267
sd: 2821.5
ad: 5 Jan 1967

MST3K (1005)

1005 - Blood Waters of Dr. Z - Like a lot of movies from this era, the entire film seems to be created from shades of brown. Muted and dull, the color palette only helps to accentuate the meandering plotlessness of a movie about a guy dressed as a humanoid catfish. Without Mike and the bots, this would be torture nearing the Manos ballpark.

With the bots on our side, the episode ain't bad. The majority of the film is spent watching Catfishman wander around Florida, not saying a word. The guys fill this void by creating a pathetic personality for the fishguy. He attacks pinball machines when angry, can barelyget move beyond the "oops" of killing the bikinigirl, and likes to spend his free time cleaning the underside of the ocean. It wasn't nearly as funny as the fastidious gourmet personality create for Trumpy, but it got the job done.

I can't believe there were no "drawn butter" riffs in this one, though. Guys, what happened?

"He's learned to modulate his flatulence." (7/10)

film d. Don Barton & Arnold Stevens [as Don Barton] (1972)
mst d. Michael J. Nelson (2 May 1999)