Wednesday, January 18, 2012

MST3K: Episode 113 - The Black Scorpion

Lately, I've been watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. I'm watching all of them. At least, that's the goal. And, I'm watching them in order. More about that here and here.

Episode 113: The Black Scorpion

First aired: The Comedy Channel on 3 February 1990

Trap-door Spider that was cut, along with the entire "Spider Pit Scene," from King Kong. Note the Comedy Channel Labor Day marathon logo.
This is the final 5th and final episode from Season One that's never been released commercially. The other eight (there's one more to cover after this one) have been available commercially, most of them still in print.

The copy I have is from the Comedy Channel Labor Day marathon on September 1, 1990. That is the 3rd airing of this show. This copy has many of the hallmarks of an over-the-air VHS recording, such as color effects when the recording is started and shaky video when words are on the screen.

While this is the last in production code order of Season One, it's not the last one produced, and not the last one aired. We'll cover more on that when we get to that episode.

Another creature cut from King Kong appears in this film.
Despite what Dr. Forrester says, the special effects weren't by Ray Harryhausen, but by the man who taught Ray Harryhausen, Willis O'Brien. He did the effects for the original King Kong, and some sources say that some of the creatures used in this movie utilized some of the same models from the famous "Lost Spider Pit Scene" of King Kong.

Joel again lays out the premise of the show during the opening segment, where they're having a party. They do the duplicate inventions gag during the Invention Exchange. They'll do this gag again.

Speaking of repeating gags, the added applause sound effects every time a character was introduced by another character. That got old fast. This is the second movie where they added sound effects. The other was Episode 102 - The Robot vs the Aztec Mummy. I don't know what they have against Mexican movies.

Something is lost in translation.
Dr. Erhardt says the movie has no recognizable cast. Which is true. Unless you've seen "Creature from the Black Lagoon" or "An Affair to Remember." Richard Denning starred in the former, and had 3rd credit (behind Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr) in the latter. Or, you may remember him from his recurring role as the governor of Hawaii in 69 episodes of Hawaii Five-O.

The film isn't actually all that bad. It's certainly no worse than many other giant critter movies of the same era, and is far superior to most of them. It may have been a better choice to have riffed the 1995 Roger Corman film, "Black Scorpion." Plus that one has Joan Severance in it.

The riffing is still funny. A lot of the riffs weren't directly related to plot holes or bad acting. There were many "generic" riffs, that could have been inserted into just about any movie.

"The line's been bugged."
For example, there was a priest in the film, and, as a result, they had a lot of Bing Crosby riffs along the line of "You know, Gary talked to me that way once. Once."

There was also a scene where the characters were in a Jeep, and Tom Servo did a George C. Scott as Patton riff, "I'm tellin' ya, Brad, I'm gonna get to Messina before Monty."

A couple of my favorite riffs:
  • "And then tragedy struck: we ran out of stock footage."
  • "Edmund Fitzgerald? This must be his wreck."
  • "The line's been bugged."
Josh had Tom Servo do a Dr. Erhardt "Thank you!" as one of his riffs. It's the first self-referencing riff I recall.

Gypsy appears again. This time, she's a scorpion.
After not appearing for most of the season, we see Gypsy again.

I liked this episode. All of the characters were in good form. The Invention Exchange was different, with the Mads not quite themselves, and the duplicate invention. Since this was the first time they pulled that gag, it worked well.

The riffing was good, despite the extensive use of generic riffs. While every episode has these generic riffs, this one seemed to rely more on those than other movies.

This was one of those episodes where you can enjoy the movie -- it's not great, but it's not all that bad -- and enjoy the riffing. A good show, but not a great show.

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