Wednesday, February 15, 2012

MST3K: Episode 303 - Pod People

I'm watching all the episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in order. More about this here. It began here.

Episode 303: Pod People

First aired: Comedy Central on 15 June 1991
Availability: iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Amazon DVD (Volume 2), Rhino (Volume 2/out of print),

I missed the title of this movie for years
This is one of those "classic" episodes of MST3K. Lots of things went together to give this episode that kind of status.

It aired early in the Comedy Central years -- in the first year after the merger between The Comedy Channel and HA! -- and was in the rerun rotation as long just about as any episode. It was aired by Comedy Central at least 27 times before it was released on VHS in 1996. And, it was one of the first episodes released for sale on DVD, as part of the multi-pack Volume 2.

This is an example of the chicken and the egg. Was it released so early because it was a classic? Was it aired so many times because it was a classic? Or was it made a classic because it was aired so often and released so early?

"Zestfully dead"
And, like the chicken and the egg, the answer is a little of both. This episode has so many good or memorable moments -- not just in the Host Segments, the riffing on the movie, and in the movie itself -- that, when combined with those factors that caused it to be seen so often by so many people, it all came together.

Now, about me including "the movie itself" in the "good or memorable" section. The movie isn't good. But it is memorable. It was only after MST3K went off the air that I actually saw the entire movie. I often missed the first part of it, where the alien ship crashed and the poacher smashed the eggs. And, when I saw the name of the episode (Pod People) listed, I never put it with this movie. To me, this was "the movie with the Pee-Wee's Playhouse scene."

This was one of the few Joel episodes that I remember, and was, perhaps, the first Joel episode ... maybe even the first MST3K episode ... that I saw.

Not Randy Owen from Alabama, but an incredible likeness
Only after I purchased this episode did I see it all from start to finish and realize the name of "the movie with the Pee-Wee's Playhouse scene."

There is lots of bad in this episode, but it's all in the movie. The riffing is top notch. The Host Segments are all enjoyable.

The movie itself is bad. It tries to be too many things and does them all poorly. For all its flaws, it has one of the best instances of dubbing on a foreign film that I've seen.

For the longest time, I didn't realize the film was Spanish. I though it was a U.S. film, and that the instances where the voices didn't exactly match the lips were instances where it was edited for TV. For instance, where the singer says "it stinks," it's obvious that's not what he said. I though it was something a little stronger he said, and it was "cleaned up" for TV.

Making music?Making fun of making music
And, yes, the kids voice was all wrong, but I thought it was a poorly made film and they redubbed the voice to overcome some technical flaw. Much of the rest of the dubbing of English over the Spanish soundtrack was well done, actually, when all this time I thought it was a technically poor English language film.

He's got Bette David eyes
Okay, sure, the characters had a Eurotrash look to them. But, in the 1980s, a lot of films looked that way. Heck, a lot of people walking down American city streets had a Eurotrash look, so the look of the characters isn't a giveaway. But, this was a Spanish film, and I missed it.

Oh, what's the movie about? Which one? The alien horror film involving poachers (one looked like the lead singer of Alabama and another looked like not Leslie Neilsen, but another actor that had bit roles on a lot of shows, usually as a corrupt Senator or evil CEO) and a vengeful mother alien? The horror/slasher film about the young singers and groupies on a weekend in the woods? Or the friendly alien and kid movie where the kid is raising an alien in his bedroom? It's like there were three different scripts thrown together. And, that's pretty much what happened.

It was supposed to be Film A (alien horror) but the studio wanted to capitalize on E.T., so Film C (friendly alien & the kid) was thrown in. And, they were stitched together by Film B (horror/slasher). Or something like that.

Return of "Special Guest Villians"
They all die in the end, except the little alien (the big alien buys the farm), the kid, Mom, and the unlikable singer and one of his girlfriends. It should have had a sadder ending.

Oh, the alien is left alone in the woods unable to care for itself, so there's that.

As I said, the riffing was great. I particularly loved the John (Joseph) Merrick voice Crow used when the little alien, Trumpy, looked at all the pets in the boys room.

Tom Servo used the riff "even The Fog didn't have this much fog." I had heard it before, and thought it was still funny. I was trying to figure out which episode this was reused from. Turns out it wasn't from any episodes. I had used it in my writeup of Episode 108: The Slime People. Maybe this episode is where I got that from. And all this time, I thought I had made it up.

One other thing: they had removed the misspelling of "villains" in the closing credits. The credits are back, and misspelled. I assume that's a gag and not an error. But, I could be wrong.

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