Wednesday, December 14, 2011

MST3K: Episode K09 - Phase IV

For some reason, I decided to watch all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. I was wondering why, but as best as I can tell, the reasons are listed here and here.

Episode K09: Phase IV

First aired: KTMA on 15 January 1989

All of the KTMA episodes that are available are from over-the-air recordings done in 1989. Sometimes the quality isn't all that great. Jim Mallon, who owns Mystery Science Theater 3000, says he has the tapes from the KTMA shows, but there appear to be no plans to release them. So, we are stuck with what we're stuck with.

Mad Scientists in their lair
In these early episodes, when they finally introduced the Mad Scientists who are running the experiment on Joel, the "lair" of the scientists is shown in a skewed angle, much like as done in the old Batman episodes.

Though the skewed angles was a common device before Batman, I first became aware of that during the '60s TV show, when I was a kid. I've since seen it used in all kinds of earlier films (some good, some bad), but I always think about Batman.

The Mads don't have a turtle movie to send, so they send an ant movie instead. While I'm relieved that it won't be a turtle, I was hoping they could find a way to include a couple of hot Japanese she-villains. Instead, the she-villain is an ant. The 20-year-old Lynne Frederick, who shows up about 20 minutes in, plays the hot Japanese she-villain. Only she's not a villain. Or Japanese. But, she's British, and that's close enough.

Joel is trampled by Cambot
When "Movie Sign" hits, this is the first time that Joel runs directly through the doors and gets run over by Cambot in the process.

The recording I have for this episode is a little dark, and sometimes, it's hard to make out bits of it. I suspect it would be harder to make things out if the movie was black-and-white, so there's that much for which to be grateful. Still, bits are hard to see at times.

The movie was directed by Saul Bass, who did a lot of famous movie title sequences in the '50s and '60s, including the Hitchcock classics North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Psycho. It's actually an okay movie, not a horribly bad film. About half the film looks like a nature documentary because, well, it has a lot of sequences that were shot by Ken Middleham, who was cinematographer for some National Geographic films in the '60s.

L-R: Davenport, Frederick, & Murphy
The acting isn't bad. Michael Murphy, Nigel Davenport, and Lynne Frederick are good actors. Sad note about Lynne Frederick: she stopped acting after her husband, Peter Sellers, died. She became addicted to alcohol and drugs and drank herself to death in 1994, at age 39.

The ending of this movie is one of those trippy, 1970s kind of endings. Being made in 1974 helps. About the ending (*SPOILER ALERT*) I think the ants won. It's almost like they started filming it and didn't have the ending written.

Or, worse, they did, and this is what they had in mind the whole time.

There is a report that Bass was unhappy with post-production edits the studio made. I've heard his original ending was worse.

The ending host segment was a better ending, even though it never ended:

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