30 March 2007

MST3K (season eight closing thoughts)

Goodbye, season eight.

It was a rough transition at the start. Was it the Sci-Fi Channel that mandated nine 1950s horror movies in a row to kick off the new version of the show? Or did BBI suffer from some poor planning or unlucky rights acquisitions and didn't have much of a choice in the matter? Whatever the reason, I wonder if put off some potential new fans? People who might've tuned in to check out this weird puppet show that SFC saved from oblivion could've gotten worn out quickly from the repetitive movie selection. Then again, I wondered the same thing after the KTMA season did a five-episode Gamera marathon. That didn't really hurt the show's future at all. Then again, the show wasn't canceled just two short years after that.

What's wrong with horror movies from the 1950s? Personally, I dislike them quite a bit. I might go so far as to dub the 1950s as the worst decade for cinematic horror. The transgressive nature of horror just doesn't mesh well with the most repressive decade in our recent history. Sure, sometimes it's interesting to see how filmmakers managed to sneak images and ideas past the censors, but that's not usually enough to survive the sea of "he tampered in God's domain" garbage.

As far as the show is concerned, I think '50s horror movies can work just fine. By their nature, they're goofy and very easy for the guys to riff on. The lack of variety was the only problem with the early part of this season. Had the nine movies been spread out more evenly in the season, I wouldn't have even noticed.

Luckily, the show made up for this poor start in the latter half of the season. Space Mutiny is may end up being my all-time favorite episode. The Giant Spider Invasion was one of those nice, very funny surprises the show unleashes. I'm still not a fan of the '60s Japanese movies, though, same as I felt during season 3.

Having a storyline thread through all of the host segments for every episode was an interesting idea. It could've been a nice change of pace from the regular host segments. However, it just doesn't make any sense given the fact that the show was always rerun out of order. In reruns, this season just seems to be a random mishmash of ancient Rome, a monkey planet, a camping planet and Pearl driving the Widowmaker. These story-bound segments also turned out to be, in general, not quite as good as the free-form host segments from years past. I miss Joel singing "Joey the Lemur" while bouncing a puppet off of the robots' heads, though the Wisconsin cheese factory segment almost makes me forget that.

I'm looking forward to a number of episodes in season 9. I've never seen the infamous Pumaman, Werewolf or The Final Sacrifice before, all of which seem to be fan favorites.

Just seven more weeks and 26 episodes to go. The year is going by fast.

The Numbers

Total Length
34 hours, 50 minutes, 33 seconds
(92 min average for 22 episodes)
(24 min average for 3 specials)

Years Spanned
(1966 average)

Time to Watch
29 days
Time to Broadcast Originally
309 days

Turkey Day Episodes
7 (32%)
801, 807, 808, 809, 810, 811, 812 (27 Nov 1997)
Horror Movies from the 1950s
801, 802, 803, 804, 805, 806, 807, 808, 809 (41%)
Movies Exploring the Evils of Hypnosis
805, 806, 808, 809, 812, 818 (27%)
Black and White to Color Ratio

28 March 2007

MST3K (P!2)

Poopie! II - The first blooper video must have sold well (did the infomercial help?), as this one arrived just two years later. It's a bit strange that it covers just seasons 7 and 8, sort of straddling the Comedy Central-Sci-Fi Channel divide. Watch as Crow's voice changes from Trace to Bill and back again! Also thrown into the mix are a few specials from that era. Here's a listing of what is included.

This one probably should've been renamed some variant of "whiz it down your leg," as this seems to be the favored replacement for "oh, poopie!" when someone messed up. BBI has also decided to censor the word "shit" this time around. Complaints from parents about the first tape's salty language, maybe?

One blooper felt out of place, or at least in need of further explanation. In 701, Pearl makes Dr. F play the trombone for her. As he's playing in the background, Mary Jo bangs on the bell of the instrument with a ruler really hard. You can hear Trace grunt in pain, but he gamely tries to finish the scene. He eventually has to give up as a stream of blood gushes from his lacerated lips. "Ugh, sorry... bleeding..." Not exactly a knee-slapper of a blooper. An epilogue would've been appreciated, presumably showing Mary Jo profusely apologizing, or Trace making a joke or saying "poopie" or something. Something to lighten it up. Else, this should've been left out. I wonder if it's in the truncated version of P!2 that's on the official 514 DVD?

"Am I Claytoning too loud? Is that distracting you?" (7/10)

mst d. Jim Mallon & Trace Beaulieu & Kevin Murphy & Michael J. Nelson (Holiday 1997)

[update: I just fast-forwarded through the edited version. They left the bleeding bit in, much to my surprise. Based on this list of scenes in the original edit, here's what has been cut out of the Vol. 10 DVD version (29/41 clips removed):

  • (820) Space Mutiny (seg. 5)--Bill flubs line
  • (814) Riding With Death (seg. 1)--Mary Jo cracks up
  • (703) Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell (seg. 2)--Crow's eyes get stuck
  • (819) Invasion of the Neptune Men (seg. 1)--Kevin flubs line twice, Jeff not ready 3rd time
  • (705) Escape 2000 (seg. 1)--Tom's head falls off
  • (821) Time Chasers (seg. 5)--Crow's eyes fall out
  • (810) The Giant Spider Invasion (seg. 5)--Crow flubs fall after punch
  • (802) Leech Woman (seg. 2)--Mike flubs line
  • (I01) Infomercial --Mike flubs line
  • (S04) Summer Blockbuster Review--Mary Jo cracks up
  • (809) I was a Teenage Werewolf (seg. 5)--Mary Jo flubs line
  • (808) The She Creature (seg. 1)--Mary Jo cracks up
  • (802) Leech Woman (seg. 5)--Kevin flubs line
  • (I01) Infomercial --Kevin flubs line
  • (817) Horror of Party Beach (seg. 3)--Bill's hood hides face
  • (816) Prince of Space (seg. 1)--Bill can't pull back rope
  • (814) Riding With Death (seg. 5)--medal falls off ribbon
  • (810) The Giant Spider Invasion (seg. 5)--Mike flubs line
  • (805) The Thing that Couldn't Die (seg. 1)--Bill flubs line
  • (701a) Night of the Blood Beast (seg. 5)--Kevin flubs line
  • (701a) Night of the Blood Beast (seg. 5)--laughing at hairball; Trace cracks up
  • (801) The Revenge of the Creature (seg. 5)--Mary Jo cracks up
  • (701) Night of the Blood Beast (seg. 1)--Crow loses trombone
  • (702) The Brute Man (seg. 4)--Crow gets turned around
  • (I01) Infomercial --Mike flubs line
  • (804) The Deadly Mantis (seg. 1)--Mike flubs line
  • (808) The She Creature (seg. 3)--Mary Jo cracks up
  • (703) Deathstalker & Warriors from Hell (seg. 4)--Trace, then Mary Jo crack up
  • (813) Jack Frost (seg. 1)--Bill flubs line
Lots of "Mary Jo cracks up" has been cut, which probably helps the flow of the video a bit. It's disappointing to see all of the bits from Turkey Day '95 removed, though.]

MST3K (822)

822 - Overdrawn at the Memory Bank - Exactly like The Matrix, except without anything remotely cool in it. The similarities between the two movies were interesting, especially towards the end. Both have men who feel like there's something more to life than what their dystopic society offers. They both get arrested for hacking. Both have brain implants allowing them to interface with computers. When interfacing, both become minds separated from their bodies in a virtual world. Both learn that "there is no spoon" and discover how to affect the simulated reality in the computer. Both destroy their enemies after maximizing this power over reality. Both escape the simulated world into reality, reuniting with both their bodies and their lovers. I think Dougie Williams might be able to succeed where crazies have failed.

The writers must be in a nostalgic mood lately. Last episode, they referenced Joel for the first time in years. This episode, they peg a movie character as resembling TV's Frank. It's nice to see that the show will never forget its roots.

I like the way the show is dealing with modern movies' extra-long credits lately. In 821, Brain Guy popped up in a split-screen to talk to Mike and the bots. In this one, Mike calls the Overdrawn at the Memory Bank tech support help line (1-800-SUCK). This is much funnier than trying to figure out how to goof on a scrolling list of names. Still, I wonder why they don't just cut the credits out? After all, they cut plenty of scenes in the middle of these films in order to get them to fit inside of an episode. I wonder if it's professional courtesy or some legal reason for not cutting the credits to help save on time?

The show already has one monkey. We didn't really need two. At least Henry Kissinger was relegated to off-screen tossing of junk. Still, the show got really monkey'd out this episode. Married with the stale PBS parody in the rest of the host segments, and this part of the show is back to being not-great again.

Sorry, I'd dopple into an anteater over a baboon any old day of the week. I already know what being a primate is like. Gimme four legs and a long snout.

"This movie just hates anteaters!" (7/10)

film d. Douglas Williams (1983)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (6 Dec 1997)

27 March 2007

MST3K (821)

821 - Time Chasers - What a pleasant surprise: the host segments were different, funny and something to look forward to. Mike's visits with Pearl, bookending the film, were a great change of pace. They were slow -- the polar opposite of a "crazy Joel" segment from back in the day -- and neighborly. Mike and Pearl chatted like two friends sitting on a porch on a breezy summer night, except with appropriate dialogue changes regarding space, evil and time travel. Beats the hell out of Rome. I liked it.

I also liked Crow's journey into Mike's past. Mike, dressed as a scuzz-bucket complete with bad mustache, mullet and aviator sunglasses, was hilarious as his 1985, cheese factory-working self. Maybe the novelty of a host segment having nothing to do with ancient Rome helped, but the entire ambience of the cheese factory scene was fun. I especially liked Patrick in the background, throwing out a helpful "dude!" when required. I laughed harder than I have during a host segment in quite some time when Mike revealed the name of his band (Sex Factory). We even got the first reference to Joel since Gypsy's Joike sweater from 521 in these segments when Mike's evil brother Eddie mentions a "sleepy-eyed guy" that he replaced. Cool.

"Man, I wet every bit of me." Though I laughed with Mike and the bots at the film, I have to respect it, too. It was directed by a 22/23/24-year-old guy in his local, non-LA/non-Vancouver/non-NY community. He managed to wrangle the participation of some local Revolutionary War re-enactors who were undoubtedly clueless as to what the heck these damned kids were doing with their movie cameras and time machines and whatnot. I'm still not sure how they filmed the "hanging off the airplane wing" stunt. Sure, the main character was a complete moron. You need grant money, so you sell the rights to a time machine to Evil Co.? Uh, how about traveling back in time and investing to make some scratch? Traveling to the future and grabbing some tech to sell in the past? Think, man! Anyway, I liked the movie and admire the effort that went into it.

"You had the misfortune to run into me. I'm a life-wrecking idiot." (8/10)

film d. David Giancola (1993)
mst d. Michael J. Nelson (22 Nov 1997)

MST3K (820)

820 - Space Mutiny - Of the next 28 episodes, there are some I haven't seen. I'd be very surprised if any of those are as funny as this one. I think that might make Space Mutiny my favorite episode of the entire series now. It's hard to imagine a movie more suited to the show than this one. The bad acting, the bad dialogue, the spaceship that seems to be an industrial boiler room attached to a mid-'80s office building... it's almost like David Winters was mystically called to crash two golf carts together in a gigantic explosion so that MST3K could make one of its strongest episodes nine years later.

Some of the strength in the riffing lies with Mike and the bots' repetition of a few jokes. Unlike Pod People's "McCloud!"s, none of the repeated riffs rely on obscure pop culture knowledge and they aren't used enough to turn from funny to annoying. Captain Santa, "Did you sign Shari's card?", hissing whenever the brown-haired lady is onscreen, Ryder's obsession with bodybuilding and Kalgan's attempts to push his skull out of his face are some of my favorites. One hardly needs to mention the recurring manly names the guys make up for Dave Ryder. "Smoke Manmuscle!"

I don't know why, but one riff absolutely kills me every time I watch this one. Space Mutineer: "Gentlemen, it seems that we are all not in agreement." Mike: "I disagree."

As with Mitchell, the host segments in this episode serve as speed bumps to kill the momentum of the humor in the theater segments. Even on a good day, it would be hard for the host segments to compete with this one. The episode does have one of my favorite host segment lines, though. Brain Guy: "He swallowed a woman! He swallowed a woman!"

"Hey you guys, I got my dad's Enforcer for the weekend." (9/10)

film d. David Winters & Neal Sundstrom (1988)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (8 Nov 1997)

25 March 2007

OLR: This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006)

The MPAA sucks, but it seems to me the theater owners, retailers, renters and TV stations who refuse to show, sell, rent or advertise NC-17 or unrated movies are the true enemies of free speech barely even mentioned in this documentary. (6/10)

d. Kirby Dick

23 March 2007

MST3K (819)

819 - Invasion of the Neptune Men - Just like Mike and the bots, Krankor's visit during the third host segment really did cheer me up. Before he arrived to "take over" the SOL, I was ready to peg this episode as the absolute worst of the season. The movie, like Prince of Space before it, is nigh-unbearable children's sci-fi crap from Japan. What this means is that film is composed of equal parts super-precocious children with improbably high-level government access and adults technobabbling while firing stock footage missiles at UFOs. Both make the movie so tedious, even the obviously kitschy Space Chief cannot raise a smile or any interest in the goings on.

The guys' contribution to the movie wasn't helping at all. It felt like 90% of the riffing consisted of jokes about Japanese culture. I get it. They eat weird seafood and place a lot of importance on schooling. You just covered all of this ground during Prince. Get over it and move on, please. The host segments were similarly sub-par. One of them was essentially a remake of Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First" skit. I've seen more than enough reinterpretations of that overrated bit to last me my entire life. I had no desire to watch another.

Krankor's arrival, though, was like magic. Suddenly, my stoney-faced neutral expression cracked into a smile. Mike and the bots throwing the love at a conquering space dictator because he was saving them from a really, really bad movie was pure funny. I think Bill's acting really helped sell the scene. Krankor just seemed so surprised and touched that people liked him.

After Krankor, both the movie and riffing started to pick up. Suddenly, there's tons of cool shots of UFOs blowing the hell out of buildings. I yelled out loud -- eliciting an odd look from my wife, busy driving the car -- when the Hitler building exploded. What the hell was that? Suddenly, the guys are saying things that make me laugh. Yes, he should be called "Lower-Atmosphere Chief," Crow! And where was that guy's record, anyway?

Thank you, Krankor. Sir, you are a miracle worker.

"The significance of twenty-to-one can't be overstated." (6/10)

film d. Koji Ota (1961)
mst d. Michael J. Nelson (11 Oct 1997)

[watched while traveling an average of 75 mph relative to the surface of the Earth]

Star Trek: TOS 1.05: "The Man Trap"

I can see why this episode was picked to air first. The cast has really come together at this point and everyone seems comfortable in their roles. It's got some of that "western in space" flavor Roddenberry was going for with the lone scientist/rancher in the desert having a shootout with space army/marshals. It has a really scary alien monster at the end that freaked me out as a kid. There's a glimpse of some classic Trekian morality as Kirk briefly laments to death of the last of its kind.

You kinda have to wonder what the monster's problem was. Clearly, the critter was intelligent. It could speak in English when in human form and successfully pretended to be various crew persons. One of the reasons a starship arrived on its planet in the first place was to drop off supplies. Why couldn't the thing hold its horses and wait for the giant bags of salt to beam down? To immediately begin feasting on the new arrivals has got to be a record in the annals of bad manners. I'm glad it was phasered to death, the rude bastard.

yr: 2266
sd: 1513.1
ad: 8 Sep 1966

22 March 2007

OLR: The Island (2005)

Like Clonus rewritten by a Hollywood committee and with $10 million in product placement. (6/10)

d. Michael Bay

MST3K (818)

818 - Devil Doll - What is with season 8 and movies about the evils of hypnotism? Fully one third of the episodes so far have had hypnosis subplots: 805, 806, 808, 809, 812 and now this one. I guess it's appropriate fodder for horror movies: the loss of control, playing with human minds, a poorly understood science, etc. I had no idea it was such a big-deal cultural fear. Apparently, it's up there with nuclear power and cloning and guys in hockey masks.

Hey, Pitch came back. He's the very first movie character from the Comedy Central days to stop by. For a while, it looked like they were going to forget their old cast of scamps. There was some attempt to have Ortega from 812 carry that water, it seemed. I'm glad the rules are getting broken. No reason to throw away good stuff. Is there hope for one more visit from Torgo?

Mike: "When does Mr. Lifto come out?" My compliments to the writer who came up with that riff. I'm guessing it wasn't the same person who wrote the joke in the host segment that Crow having lunch with Marilyn Manson was "satanic."

"I'm due for a dimple cleaning." (7/10)

film d. Lindsay Shonteff & Sidney J. Furie [as Lindsay Shonteff] (1963)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (4 Oct 1997)

[finally, after three months, back on schedule]

21 March 2007

OLR: Jesus Camp (2006)

Just letting the nutters speak for themselves was very effective; I would've cut the radio commentator out. (8/10)

d. Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady

20 March 2007

MST3K (817)

817 - The Horror of Party Beach - In rubber-suited, googly-eyed appearance, maybe the titular horrors weren't very special. Their back-story, however, was quite cool. Toxic waste spills around the sunken bones of a sailor. Using the skeleton as a plan and the surrounding sea life as material, this radioactive goo creates a sort of simulacrum of a man made of sea urchins and plankton and the like. I think Del Tenney may just have a case against Alan Moore here. Unfortunately, instead of pondering its place in the universe and discovering that it is some kind of bipedal protector of The Blue, it runs around with some friends and kills teenagers. Speaking of, man, these horrors rack up a teen body count that would put Freddy himself to shame.

Kevin Murphy plays the Roman Callipygeas... Greek for pretty butt. Eww.

I could see the host segment song about sodium coming as soon as it was mentioned in the movie. It's just something the show is going to sing about. It wasn't one of the show's better songs. In an effort to mimic the inane lyrics of the band featured in the movie, the MST "Sodium" song was just the word sodium repeated over and over. I liked the geeky band costumes, though.

"That's a female buttocks, Gary. I don’t see the connection. " (7/10)

film d. Del Tenney (1963)
mst d. Michael J. Nelson (6 Sep 1997)

Star Trek: TOS 1.04: "The Enemy Within"

It only took five episodes to get to the very first transporter accident. The wrath of those infernal machines will extend for at least the next 113 years. I might blame Richard Matheson for that, but I'd rather thank him for the first solid episode of the show. I'm not surprised such a talented writer was the man to establish the essential Kirk-Spock-McCoy triangle.

Evil Kirk: a tour de force performance from one Mr. William Shatner. Thank you, Bill.

yr: 2266
sd: 1672.1
ad: 6 Oct 1966

19 March 2007


1st Annual Mystery Science Theater 3000 Summer Blockbuster Review - That's the way. They took the good idea they had last season and improved upon it. The main flaw with the Little Gold Statue Preview Special was that the bots let the clips from the films play without comment. In this special, they treat the studio-provided promo material as they would any movie on a regular episode. This involves mistaking Milla Jovovich for a clown, pointing out the holes in the plot to Lost World and having a dumb ape laugh uproariously at the really stupid jokes in MIB. Good fun.

It's kind of neat to have the three villains cram into the theater with the bots. I'm impressed with the flawlessness of having Crow and Brain Guy or Servo and Bobo onscreen at the same time. You couldn't even tell that something was amiss. They must have pre-recorded the robot's lines ahead of time? My compliments to the timing of the guest puppeteers.

I'm somewhat amazed to remember that I saw each and every one of these films on the big screen that year:

Ten years later, I have three of these on DVD... but only one on purpose (The Fifth Element, which I like, clown and all).

"If you like injecting LSD into your eyeballs then you'll like this film." (7/10)

mst d. Kevin Murphy (2 Sep 1997)

MST3K (816)

816 - Prince of Space - Boring, boring, boring. I wanted to escape the theater as badly as Crow did by the end of this one. Space guys with silly noses and weird laughs trying to taking over the world may sound like a good time, but it is not. It's not fun at all; it's just tiring. The worst part: there's this sound effect that repeats endlessly on Krankor's spaceship. As there are about 5 hours of scenes on that set, we get to hear "Wee, wee, wee, wee, woo, wooo, wooooooo." repeat around 7.5 billion times. Arrggg!

The riffing didn't help in the least. All the guys have are a bagful of crappy Japanese jokes. Super-violent porn, weird seafood, Godzilla... yeah, yeah. I also have no idea what the "I like that very much" thing was about. Did I miss someone in the movie saying that or is this a reference to some bit of late-'90s pop culture trivia I've forgotten? Also, Crow, what the hell was this: "Yeah, I need those guys like I need another one inch weiner."?

Luckily, the host segments were great this time around. The "getting trapped in a wormhole" idea is perfect for playing around with the show. We got to see Mike, Crow and Servo out of time-sync with each other in rather Lynchian segment. Mike trades places with his alternate universe self, who happens to be a robot/puppet that the robots can't take seriously in the second wormhole segment. In the last and strangest, the SOL turns into a Minnesotan forest. It was quite disconcerting to see Mike and the bots in a woods. Location shooting with MST3K? Who'd'a thunk?

"I'm gon' mess you up. Uh." (6/10)

film d. EijirĂ´ Wakabayashi (1959)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (16 Aug 1997)


The Making of Mystery Science Theater 3000 - Far better than the previous documentary on the show. For one, we actually spend most of the time looking behind-the-scenes, instead of watching a magician throw popcorn in his mouth. We get good looks at the puppeteer pit, behind the theater seats and in the writers' room, plus glimpses of the prop room and the exteriors of the sets. Everyone from Mike to Beez gets an interview (Jim is strangely absent). As an added meta-layer, Mike and bots riff on much of the proceedings. Though I wish it were a longer, this is pretty much the best there is when it comes to MST3K documentaries.

I was impressed that the Comedy Central era was touched upon. You might think that Sci-Fi would shy away from even acknowledging a rival cable network. I suppose they had little to fear. Comedy Central wasn't re-running MST3K anymore, so there wasn't a danger of viewers switching over to watch the classic episodes after being reminded of them here. There wasn't much said about the Comedy Central era, really. There are brief mentions of both Joel and Trace's departures. There are some shots from CC host segments. A handful of the theater clips were also from old episodes, including the iconic shot of the titular creature from 101. This is good. You could hardly take a MST documentary seriously if it were focusing only on the first 14 episodes of the 8th season.

"It's a big, meaty, sort of roast of a face." (7/10)

sf p. Anthony Caleca & Jude Gerard Prest (15 Aug 1997)

MST3K (815)

815 - Agent for H.A.R.M. - This is probably the worst spy movie I've ever seen. You really should know you've got a problem your movie when your super-secret agent spends much of the time dressed in a yellow cardigan sweater. When Agent Chance strangles a bad guy in a van, it's like watching Mr. Rogers commit murder. Weird.

Man, Crow was in the gutter today. He contributed what was probably the dirtiest riff in the show's history in this episode. The Niece: "Are you coming, or do I swim alone?" Crow: "Yes and yes." Shortly after, he quipped, when Adam Chance pulls a bathing suit from a drawer, "Get ready to gift wrap a beautiful package." Later in the movie, he makes Chance say: "I have a condition where I need sex every hour" and "With our reproductive organs" (in response to: "We were just saying goodbye"). Was Bill in between girlfriends at this time, maybe?

Crow also lets loose during one of the host segments. When called to submit video testimony in Mike's trial, he unhelpfully swears like a sailor while doing so. "Hi, I'm Crow T. Robot and I'm here to tell you that Mike is innocent. Mike Nelson is 200% [bleep]ing not guilty."

Surprisingly, Crow's potty mouth was the only thing that got me to laugh during this episode. The overpowering dullness of the film prevented me from getting into the riffing. The host segments were all a part of a continuing storyline, which is something I'm never a fan of. However, I did like the new Bobo that was briefly glimpsed in the third host segment. In it, he deftly demolishes Observer's testimony using his knowledge of pie baking. I like smart Bobo.

"Watch me open the hell outta this door." (6/10)

film d. Gerd Oswald (1966)
mst d. Michael J. Nelson (2 Aug 1997)

18 March 2007

OLR: Shortbus (2006)

Pretty much like every other indie NYC drama I've ever seen, except for the hardcore. (6/10)

d. John Cameron Mitchell

OLR: The Boondock Saints (1999)

Goes down great on St. Paddy's with some Guinness and some Jameson. (8/10)

d. Troy Duffy

OLR: Leprechaun 4 in Space (1996)

The fun absurdities in the final third almost make it worth it. (5/10)

d. Brian Trenchard-Smith

15 March 2007

MST3K (814)

814 - Riding with Death - (aka Gemini Man: "Smithereens" + Gemini Man: "Buffalo Bill Rides Again") It's been years since we've had a "movie" that was really just two episodes of a failed TV series stitched together. These are great. It's an easy way to watch some bad '70s TV that you would've otherwise never encountered. I'd've watched this show had I been alive then. It's all about the mellow experiences of a doofus secret agent who occasionally, when the budget allows, turns invisible to win fistfights. Sounds just as good as the most recent invisible man show.

Strange that, like the last TV-episodes-to-movie episode, there's a reference to Colossus: The Forbin Project in this one. Back then, Joel picked it as his favorite movie. In this episode, footage from Colossus is edited into the movie itself. With all this fuss, I really need to Netflix that one.

And, like the Master Ninjas, I really enjoyed this episode. The riffing was consistently funny and even the host segments were interesting. The Pearl bits, when the "storyline" comes into play, I'm sad to say were useless. All of the bits on the SOL with Mike and the bots were gold, though. Servo as a trucker, Crow as superhero TVGM, the utterly hilarious cut-out of Abby from the movie watching them: it's like a return to free-form, goofy host segments of yore. Good deal. I hope this trend continues.

This episode marked Jim Mallon's last credit as Gypsy. She didn't even appear in this episode, so it appears he retired early. Not a big loss. While Trace was an expert puppeteer with excellent comedic timing -- making the Crow change a hard jolt -- Jim's Gypsy is just a falsetto-voiced purple flapping jaw. I've read that very few people even picked up on the fact that Patrick Brantseg assumed the role in 815. Anyway, this makes it official: every single robot has had a voice change now.

"Man, I could just hear the filth on his glasses." (8/10)

film d. Alan J. Levi & Don McDougall (1976)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (19 Jul 1997)

14 March 2007

MST3K (813)

813 - Jack Frost - I love these Russian and/or Finnish movies. Though this one was made by a different group of people than the previous three, it's just as fun. I can't even imagine an American movie being made in this style. The wild, fairy tale logic of it all is such a treat. I wonder if there's some sort of DVD box set of these things out there?

"Yes, every culture's mythology features the hero chasing a pig-sleigh." Unlike other episodes with movies from this neck of the woods, I enjoyed the riffing in this one. Pointing out Grandpa Frost's extremely dangerous staff, the jokes about what foods to put the mushroom guy on, and the jokes about bear excretory functions in dense tree areas were some of the things that got me to laugh out loud.

Hey, people are actually visiting the hexfield viewscreen again! Amazing. First, Yakov Smirnoff visits, then a butcher from Maine. Erm... someone forgot that it was actually the year 2525 and the Earth has been destroyed and they're way out in the middle of nowhere, I take it. I'm glad. Who cares, it's just a show? Better to have visitors to the SOL. Anyway, sorry, Patrick: Josh was a better bad Soviet comedian than you were. Paul as the butcher was quite funny in the small amount of time he was onscreen, though.

"The world's thrown into chaos: earthquakes, floods... but that's fine. You knit your sock." (8/10)

film d. Aleksandr Rou (1964)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (12 Jul 1997)

13 March 2007

MST3K (812)

812 - The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? - The power of a good title. I'm convinced that the only reason anyone has ever heard of this movie is because the title makes people smile. It's certainly not because of the contents of the film. The film is approximately 95.6% establishing shots, unrelated musical numbers and people running down a beach. The titular creatures really don't show up much in the film. And, they haven't really stopped living, so I don't think they can qualify as zombies. They're more like hypnotized living people with bad facial acid burns. Mixed-up? Sure.

"Uncle Stripper wants you." I didn't laugh at the riffing much at all. I think the dullness of the film brought things down. I also have a lot of trouble enjoying episodes when the movie's sound is bad. This film sounded like it was recorded using See 'n Say ripcord. Everything was muddy and nigh-unintelligible. It's hard to get into a laughing mood when you're expending so much energy try to decipher dialog.

The host segments were much better than the last episode. Instead of being tortured with endless bits involving the space children, we're given segments that actually tie into the movie. The kids are relegated to the first and last segments; the latter shows them disappearing, hopefully, forever. In between, we get the first (off screen) poop throwing gag involving Bobo, Crow and Servo attempting and succeeding to scam $0.50 from Mike, really big hair, and a visit from the movie's Ortega. It's been a long time since a movie character made a visit to the SOL. Ortega is no Torgo, but his segment was fun.

"Lesson: have sex with a fortune telling gypsy if she demands it." (6/10)

film d. Ray Dennis Steckler (1963)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (14 Jun 1997)

12 March 2007

MST3K (811)

811 - Parts: The Clonus Horror - I like this movie on its own. It's one of those bleak, 70s sci-fi flicks like Soylent Green or Silent Running. Yeah, it was clumsy with its moral message. Sure, all of the "good" characters made some incredibly stupid choices at the end of the film. It's still got that neat dystopian feel that I like. I've got the plagiarized modernization coming in the mail from Netflix. I can't wait to compare them.

"Thanks to Ms. Taylor's fourth grade class for transcribing our secret clone notes." The riffing is still strong in this episode. I always like when the pick up on a bit of minutia from the film and run with it. This time, it was the repeated "smoking crotch" riffs for Richard-Clone. Based on a poorly composed shot of him laying next to a smoldering camp fire, the guys created an entirely new venereal disease for him to suffer from.

The host segments are becoming more and more useless. It was slightly amusing to see Mike, Bridget and Paul pretend to be Dorf/children for one segment. For the entire episode, it began to grate more than your typical Edith Ann bit. There's only so many times I feel like watching Bobo get hit in the nuts by Paul's baseball.

The segments are also defanging the potential evil of Pearl. Instead of the full force of her evil being wielded towards the SOL, she keeps getting distracted. If she isn't replaced by a docile pod, she's being forced to play Candyland with space children. Let the lady be free, man.

"Can't smoke chocolate. I know that now." (8/10)

film d. Robert S. Fiveson (1979)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (7 Jun 1997)

11 March 2007

MST3K (810)

810 - The Giant Spider Invasion - I'd be tickled to be able to make a movie like this someday. This is strong praise, considering how much I hate Bill Rebane's first movie, Monster A-Go Go. Need a scientist's lab set? Talk to the local high school. Need actors? Talk to the local rednecks. Need a giant spider? Glue some legs on a Volkswagon Beetle and drive it around. Yep, this is exactly how to make a fun-bad movie. The fact that it was shot just across the lake in familiar Wisconsin is just icing on an eight-legged cake to me.

Now this is the MST3K I like to see. The riffing is incredibly funny and merciless. "A showered person! Thank God!" Being filmed in the head writer's home state, being the first non-1950s movie for the entire year, being filled with a cast of gross characters; all of these things probably re-energized the crew working to make this funny. "Mr. Kester, all your tests are positive." Ah, it felt good to belt out some loud laughs for the first time since last season.

The entertaining riffing exposed a flaw in the Sci-Fi-mandated host segment storylines. What I really wanted from the host segments were some Pod People-style references to the movie to compliment the theater segments. I wanted to see Mike dress as his countryman, the disgusting, back brace-wearing farmer, and do a scene with the bots dressed as spiders. Perhaps a reunion of Spy-Dor (with a replacement lead singer, of course) would have been in order? We last saw them in a host segment from a very similar movie. I'm sure Mike could've written a great song to sing about the characters in this film.

Instead, we had a load of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) goings-on going on. I wasn't really interested. I did enjoy watching the highly caffeinated Crow -- who was trying to stay awake to avoid being replaced by a pod -- nearly have a heart attack. I also liked the fact the Mike really did hit Crow in the face during the final segment, spinning his eye case completely around. The way he tried to fix it when Crow got back up suggests this was a slight oops that was left in. Those are always fun. One segment placed the movie into the continuity of the TV show for the first time ever. In it, Mike and Crow try to determine which of two Servos is the real one. The one who describes his underwear collection -- last and only seen during M01 -- wins.

"Basted with sun-brewed mayonnaise." (9/10)

film d. Bill Rebane (1975)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (31 May 1997)

Star Trek: TOS 1.03: "Mudd's Women"

I suspect the true reason the Venus drug was banned was due to its incredible ability to comb and style hair. No doubt, the pan-galactic barber cabal made sure of this.

yr: 2266
sd: 1329.8
ad: 13 Oct 1966

10 March 2007

MST3K (809)

809 - I Was a Teenage Werewolf - Despite being the ninth frelling horror movie from the 1950s in a row, I was looking forward to this one. It's famous. I've seen clips from it in tons of documentaries covering everything from "the rise of the teenager" to Boomer horror to the E! True Hollywood Story on Michael Landon. It was the movie that scared the crap out of Richie in It. So, it's especially disappointing to discover that it's just one of those tedious horror movies populated by unlikable characters where little of interest happens.

Did the riffing rescue it? Not really. I was up for plenty of dog jokes, but it turns out most of those weren't really that funny. The funniest bit from this episode wasn't even a contribution by the SOL crew. After getting in a fight at school, Teen Wolf explains to the policeman: "People bug me." The policeman replies: "That's right, hide behind jive talk." Wow. Why this hilarious line wasn't the stinger, I have no idea (the line he says immediately after was: "People bug me too.").

Not a big fan of the host segments, either. I hate when making fun of then-current one-hit wonders is used as major joke in a host segment. They last did this in 608 with Mike playing the lead singer from the Crash Test Dummies. This time, he's the lead from Counting Crows. Apparently, he was really repulsive. *Shrug* Sure, whatever. I did like the fact that Servo wore his facehugger through multiple theater segments. The idea that the crew was going to have to make omelets our of and eat the alien eggs stuck to the ship was pretty amusing as well.

On a personal note, this episode first aired on the day I turned 20. I didn't watch it then, so it doesn't really mean anything... but there it is.

"Please don't sniff dad's crotch, ok?" (6/10)

film d. Gene Fowler Jr. (1957)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (19 Apr 1997)

09 March 2007

Star Trek: TOS 1.02: "The Corbomite Maneuver"

You'd think the Federation might train its officers not to freeze with slack-jawed horror every time an alien appears on the viewscreen. One might assume that this would be covered in the "seek out new life" chapter of the textbook, at least.

Clint Howard would go on to do far more important work.

yr: 2266
sd: 1512.2
ad: 11 Nov 1966

08 March 2007

MST3K (808)

808 - The She-Creature - "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic." Replace "man" with "monkey" or "brain guy" and "statistic" with "comedy" and this is the early Sci-Fi era philosophy of the show, apparently. I don't know why, but there is something funny about accidentally destroying an entire plant. Though, Mike's not anywhere near the record of the Arch-Traitor, yet. I wonder if his planet-destroying rampage continues, or if it was just a funny way to get one monkey and one brain guy in Pearl's car?

The riffing directed at Dr. Carlo Lombardi made this '50s movie slightly funnier than its recent predecessors. I liked their approach with this character. This "great" hypnotist walks around onscreen with an arrogance and pencil-thin mustache that beg for riffs. The guys direct their energies to making him seem, in contrast to his demeanor and appearance, mundane. For example, when he is walking around wearing a top hat, they crack jokes suggesting that he's a children's birthday party magician. Perfect.

Wait, so the hypnotist's lady was a carnival groupie? Huh?

"You're a woman, so you deserve no answer to your question." (7/10)

film d. Edward L. Cahn (1956)
mst d. Jim Mallon (5 Apr 1997)

Star Trek: TOS 1.01: "Where No Man Has Gone Before"

Ouch, those metallic contacts look painful. Half the time, the actor playing Mitchell can't even open his eyes all the way. I guess that's a consequence of passing the barrier at the edge of the galaxy (?).

First episode in and Kirk already gets in a fistfight and rips his shirt. Good man.

yr: 2265
sd: 1312.4
ad: 22 Sep 1966

Star Trek: TOS 1.00: "The Cage"

For what is essentially a failed pilot, I thought this was well put together and entertaining. It says a lot about Roddenberry's vision for the show when the very first episode of this space series explores the human mind, rather than the stars. Also: the pulsing vein on the sides of the oh-so-advanced Talosians' heads is classic.

yr: 2254
sd: ?
ad: 4 Oct 1988 (filmed in 1964)

07 March 2007

The Star Trek 726-athon

I'm going to attempt to watch all 726 episodes of Star Trek in order. As I go, I will post my thoughts here.

Unlike my year-long Mystery Science Theater 3000 project, this marathon will be much more relaxed. I won't have a self-imposed time limit. I'll write as much or as little as I feel like about each episode. I don't think I'll bother with numerical ratings. There won't be any fancy pages collecting title screenshots. Instead, each post with simply have the "star trek" label attached at the bottom.

Why do this? It sounds like fun. I can't think of any other moving-picture universe with this much content (well, other than Doctor Who) and every single episode has been released on easy-to-watch DVD. I'm also curious. It'll be interesting to see the concept mutate over four decades. Will Roddenberry's death effect the show immediately, not at all, or diffusely throughout the years? How many time travel episodes will I have to wade through? Will anything be more ridiculous than "Spock's Brain"?

Starting out, my opinion on each of the series:

TOS, I like. It's colorful, silly and serious, progressive and backward, and there's some damned good stories in it.

Of TAS, I have only vague memories. Watching it as a child, I found it oddly reserved compared to my regular, hyperactive 1980s animation.

I was tuned-in for the premiere of TNG and immediately got into it. It modernized the morality established in TOS, put together a great set of characters and told some more damned good stories. It's recently been rerun on two different channels and I keep finding myself watching it when I flip by.

I've probably seen less than five episodes of DS9. The idea of Trek trapped on a space station never appealed to me. Many say this is the best of all the series and I'm interested in finding out if this is true.

VOY was horrible. Judging from the episodes I've seen, this is apparently where Trek jumped the space-shark. I've got a rant or two built-up already for some episodes. Hopefully, it's not as bad as I remember.

ENT was originally broadcast when Farscape was still on the air. In comparison, I found ENT to be stilted, tired and timid. The idea of moving into Trek's past, instead of pushing further into a hopeful future, rubbed me the wrong way. I never made it past the first season.

All of this adds up to 694 live-action shows, 22 cartoons and 10 movies. This should work out to between 500 and 600 hours of red-shirt-dyin', phasers-on-stunnin', anomaly-encounterin', transporter-accidentin' entertainment. If I make it.

06 March 2007

MST3K (807)

807 - Terror from the Year 5000 - There was a seed of a good movie buried in here. When the future people respond to Bob's Phi Beta Kappa key with a plea, written in Greek, for help: that was really interesting. I can see an entirely different movie growing out of that. As well, the first glimpse of the mutant, future lady was actually effectively scary. We don't see her face. Instead, there's just this cat-like, black creature making weird noises in the shadows. Spooky. I was disappointed when they revealed it was just an ugly lady in a leotard.

I'm still not finding the riffing very laughable lately. I'm not sure if it's me or the show. I'm trying to get back on schedule before it becomes too late to catch up, which means watching an episode every day. That starts to get old rather fast and begins to feel like a second job. Still, I feel like the writing has slipped into an autopilot recently. What's with constant abuse of the "I thought you were Dale?" joke?

"When I Held Your Brain in My Arms" was the first excellent song of the Sci-Fi era. I couldn't get used to Mike lip-syncing, though. Mike's a great singer and has never shied away from belting out a tune for the show. His replacement voice was provided by Kevin Murphy, who sang the hell out of the song. He wasn't singing as a robot making fun of a movie; he was singing like a professional. Very nice. The lyrics were a lot of fun, except for one line near the end that just about derails the entire tune. Why did they feel a need to reference a worthless, late-'90s sitcom in an otherwise perfect song about brain anatomy?

Crow just keeps getting older and older. At this rate, he's going to surpass Data's head. Let's see. In the cable era, Crow was essentially born in 1989. Season 8 takes place in 2525. Add in the 11 years he spent hanging out with Mike's family and that makes Crow a spry 547 years young. My compliments to Joel's engineering skills.

"Oh, and your dog called and said to kill your family." (6/10)

film d. Robert J. Gurney Jr. (1958)
mst d. Jim Mallon (15 Mar 1997)

05 March 2007

MST3K (806)

806 - The Undead - In most Roger Corman episodes, the show starts off with a short. In this one, we got really long host segments to fill in the extra time. Bizarrely long segments. The scenes with the Observers seemed to go on forever, with an endless loop of that spooky Observer music playing in the background and nothing but bright white backgrounds no matter where you look. That, or I was dozing.

I did really enjoy a couple of the host segments. In the first host segment, Mike begins trying to explain where the storyline of the show is. At first, I was put off. Is this what the Sci-Fi Channel-mandated host segment storyline means? No longer is the opening theme song sufficient to explain the show, now we need a recap at the start of every episode? Mike and the bots immediately made me forgot about any complaints as they steered the recap into humor. Mike zoning out over memories of his previous job was both funny and scary. "Punched that guy from accounting that one time." Also very enjoyable was Bridget as the witch Livia. She always seems to play guest characters that, with a particular manic energy, magically pop onto the SOL.

Like the cast, I had no idea what was going on in this movie. Part of the problem was the faux-Shakespearian "thee-thou" speak, which, not being employed correctly, made the dialogue almost as hard to follow as the plot. Speaking of, the plot was completely ridiculous. I don't have a problem suspending disbelief for the sake of enjoying a movie, but let's not go crazy. "Psychical"?

"I instantly believe you." (6/10)

film d. Roger Corman (1956)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (8 Mar 1997)

04 March 2007

MST3K (805)

805 - The Thing That Couldn't Die - Another day, another Universal horror movie from the 1950s. More scientists -- this time archaeologists -- releasing more terror upon the world. Yeah, yeah. I will give the movie this: at least it was accurate with the decapitated noggin. In other movies with bodiless heads, the creators tend to forget that a lack of lungs mean a lack of the ability to speak. In this movie, the dried-up head is forced to mouth words at his hypnotized victims in some vague hope that they're all lip readers. They all were.

I like the Observers much better than the planet full of monkeys. This is a bit strange, since the three monkeys and the three Observers are played by the same actors, spewing lines written by themselves. The arrogant, omnipotent Observers have much fresher comedic potential than some monkeys doing monkey things. My favorite bit from this episode was the Observer-spawned Adrienne Barbeau punching out Mike.

The riffing wasn't able to get me to laugh that much this time out. Do the writers need some movie variety as badly as I do? They seem to be running just a little bit out of steam since their strong start on the new network. The earliest season 8 episodes I've seen were 810 and 811. Both I remember being quite funny. Both also happen to be the first movies that aren't horror films from the 1950s. Hopefully, this is meaningless and at least a few of the next four movies improve a bit.

"No, really... if I hadn't left my truss in the room, I'd be down there with you fellers." (6/10)

film d. Will Cowan (1958)
mst d. Jim Mallon (1Mar 1997)

OLR: Masters of Horror: "Pick Me Up" (2005)

Lots of serial killin' fun in the style of an EC comic. (8/10)

d. Larry Cohen

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

The twist was a little silly and some of the acting stilted, but Showtime got the Miike they paid for. (7/10)

d. Takashi Miike

03 March 2007

MST3K (804)

804 - The Deadly Mantis - Gah, I'm getting sick of the '50s Universal horror movies. This is the fourth one in a row. The obedience to the white, male authority figures, the tremendous sexism, everyone wearing gray suits 24-hours a day... it's all wearing thin. And what's the deal with the educational segments starting these things? In the last one, we learned all about different theories on the hollow Earth. In this one, we're educated on the radar fences the US somehow installed in the sovereign country to the north. Both of these preludes are much more interesting than the movies that followed.

This was a particularly boring movie on par with similarly pointless Beginning of the End. The mantis chews some Inuit, planes and buses, is killed by the military, the end. In the middle, there's lots of stock footage and shots of military guys lecturing each other. The lone woman in the movie exists only to scream when the mantis first appears, be leered at by the army and to kiss the main hero. In my head, I can picture a really cool giant insect movie with huge explosions, people getting eaten and a really gooey ending. Unfortunately, this not something that's ever going to appear in these '50s movie for a variety of reasons.

Ah, finally, the host segments catch up to the intro song. Now I see Pearl chasing Mike and the bots through time and space. It didn't make much sense before this episode. I have to admit, I liked Dr. Peanut. Mike's voice is perfect for that character. Still, getting away from monkey Earth will free up the show to explore any ideas they want out in the galaxy. Hopefully, that'll make things more interesting. By the way: thanks a lot for that monkey-buffalo shot, Kevin, in the final host segment. Appreciate it.

"Where'd you stash your thirty foot claw, ma'am?" (6/10)

film d. Nathan Juran (1957)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (22 Feb 1997)

Guest OLR: Zodiac (2007)

Pretty damn good for something that is basically wall-to-wall information. (8/10)

d. David Fincher

02 March 2007

MST3K (803)

803 - The Mole People - Weird. I was just thinking about those things. The all-powerful, glowing eyes that Crow had in the first host segment were actually a pair of bizarre toys I used to have. They're ping pong ball-sized -- a perfect fit for Crow's eye socket -- plastic balls with two small electric leads on the outside. When you place a fingertip on each lead, it would complete a circuit and make the ball both blink red and emit a strange, electronic, modulating noise. Not a week ago, I was pondering these things. What was their purpose? They glow and make annoying sounds. Not really a "toy" to play with. Why just a ball? How about making it into so kind of character to play with? And, where the hell did I get it? I dunno. Anyway, the J&B Novelty Company from Flint, Michigan that Mike claims makes those things definitely does not exist. In fact, nothing quite that fun exists in that broken-down town.

I'm disappointed. Hugh Beaumont was in this movie. Not only that, Hugh Beaumont spent some time climbing a mountain in this movie. No one wanted to mention rock climbing? No one? Worse, Hugh didn't even make a return visit to the hexfield as he did in 420. C'mon! I know that was a different network, but both of these recurring gags are sort of tradition. What a wasted opportunity.

I guess they did kind off-handedly comment on the missing hexfield appearance. Mike briefly appears in the viewscreen as the science guy from the beginning of the movie. Except, the bots really know it's Mike and they call him out on it. Turns out, he's simply broadcasting from the other side of the bridge. It was some good, clean, self-reflexive fun. I hope, however, this isn't their way of saying that Mike's guest appearances as other characters are gone for good. I love those. I don't care that you can easily tell it's just Mike in a costume. He's funny as other people and it doesn't matter.

"Oh, and we need the pan on your head for dessert, sir." (7/10)

film d. Virgil W. Vogel (1956)
mst d. Jim Mallon (15 Feb 1997)

01 March 2007

MST3K (802)

802 - The Leech Woman - Here's a record: there are exactly zero likable characters in this movie. Everyone in the picture is motivated by lust or pride or greed or envy or booze. I'm sure wrath, sloth and gluttony were simply cut for time. I suppose it could function as a handy catalog of everything wrong with our species. Everything from racism to murder to attempting to rob an old lady is covered. I eagerly await the inevitable remake. I can see Paris Hilton as the lead.

I must admit: I never completely understood the comedic value of monkeys. Countless movies and TV shows have relied on the humor of chimpanzees in diapers. I don't get it. Monkeys doing monkey things just aren't funny to me. Yeah, we're also primates and we can see ourselves in them. Whoop-dee-doo. Unfortunately, as their replacement for Deep 13, MST3K taps into this mysterious phenomenon monkey humor. Let's just say I'm not a fan. Maybe if they start cracking some poop-throwing jokes I'll feel better about it.

It's official: this episode has the most annoying end credits of the entire series. The previous winner has been handily unseated by Kevin Murphy's minute-long shout of "JEDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD" in Granny Clampett's voice. I'd almost rather listen "Ventolin" at 50 dB. Ouch.

"Typical British reaction: throw dynamite at the problem." (7/10)

film d. Edward Dein (1959)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (8 Feb 1997)

OLR: Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier (2007)

Misleadingly, it's really the Christie's Star Trek auction documentary, yet I'm a big enough dork to dig it. (6/10)

d. John Logsdon