Friday, June 29, 2012

MST3K: Episode 621 - The Beast of Yucca Flats

I'm watching all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes in order. More about that here and here.

Episode 621: The Beast of Yucca Flats

First aired: Comedy Central on 21 January 1995
Availability: iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Amazon DVD (Volume 18), Shout Factory (Volume 18), Shout Factory (Volume 18), Best Brains (Volume 18)

Tor Johnson plays the Beast. Yucca Flats appears in an uncredited role.
Coleman Francis.

That should be enough to scare off most people.

Tor Johnson.

That should be enough ... well, Tor Johnson is actually pretty cool. Not an indicator of a good movie, but if Tor Johnson is in it, it's probably worth a look, just because he's there.

So, we have a huge negative: a Coleman Francis film. We have a positive: a film with Tor Johnson.

Which one wins?

Well, it's Coleman Francis, so nobody wins.

So, what's The Beast of Yucca Flats all about?

"Why did they call this 'Flats?' I get the 'Yucca' part."
A woman gets out of the shower and is strangled and raped (in that order), then we have an apparent flashback where Russian scientist Tor Johnson defects to the U.S., but is followed by KGB agents, so he runs off and winds up on an atomic testing ground where a big old atom bomb makes a big old boom and turns Tor Johnson into a big old monster, so then he goes around the countryside killing people (and, based on the opening scene, engaging in a little necrophilia), which the police don't like so they go hunting for him using coffee, cigarettes, and airplanes -- this is a Coleman Francis film, after all -- but two kids wander off from their parents so Dad goes looking for them, but the police think the little wormy guy is Tor Johnson so they try to shoot him from an airplane, but eventually all that sorts itself out, the kids are found, and Tor Johnson is gunned down and a bunny nuzzles him. The end.
Proof that Douglas Mellor is no Cary Grant and Coleman Francis is no Alfred Hitchock.Tor Johnson dies, but the little fluffy bunny rabbit hops over and gives him a little nuzzle.
The riffing is great. So there's that. But the movie isn't good. No, sir, it's not good at all. Go watch The Beast of Yucca Flats online now, if you don't believe me. Trust me, you want to see the MST3K version.

The production values are, well, comparable to your average Coleman Francis film. The sound didn't work, so they relied on narration and dubbing in post-production. They covered it by having off-camera, or distant, indistinct characters do most of the talking. Heck, I've done better with a silent hand-held and a cassette tape recorder. Really.

Short film, so it gets a short subject to go along with it. One starring Benjamin Franklin's Shadow. It's called Money Talks, but it's Ben Franklin's Shadow that does most of the talking. Then, as if that wasn't enough, they have another short, about Puerto Rico. Didn't make me want to go.

I didn't enjoy the shorts so much. Some okay riffing. But the movie? Fantastic. Not the movie, but the riffing.

Bad movies. Don't watch them alone. Be sure to bring along your temp and robots.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

MST3K: Episode 620 - Danger!! Death Ray

I'm watching all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes in order. More about that here and here.

Episode 620: Danger!! Death Ray

First aired: Comedy Central on 7 January 1995
Availability: Fan Copy

Two exclamation points means it's really dangerous.
I'm not a big fan of spy movies.

Oh, I've seen all the James Bond movies, but not because I'm a fan of spy movies. I suppose I ought to explain.

I'm not a fan of westerns, but I've seen The Magnificent Seven, Stagecoach, and some of the other classic western films. Some movies extend beyond the genre. Those two westerns are two great examples of that. And, most of the James Bond films are fun films, even though I'm not a fan of spy movies in general.

Okay, I used to watch and enjoy Get Smart, but that was because it was funny and I was young and not because the spy genre is something I really like. Some movies and TV shows are fun to watch because they're entertaining. Being a spy film won't make me want to watch it more. Probably less.

"If Michael Cain and Andre the Giant had a child."
I never saw the movie Danger!! Death Ray before it was a film shown to Mike & the Bots. And, I understand why it was one of the films Dr. Forrester picked to show M&tB. It's bad. Really bad.

And, just like The Magnificent Seven abd Stagecoach extend beyond the category of westerns and are simply great films, Danger!! Death Ray extends beyond its classification as a spy film and firmly establishes itself as a Really Bad Film.

Some scientist build a Death Ray (danger!!) to be used for peaceful purposes only but a bunch of bad guys from KAOS or SPECTRE or somewhere like that kidnap him, so UNCLE or CONTROL or something gets its top agent, Bart Fargo, to put off his vacation and save the world, so he flies to the foreign country of Europe and beds the wife of the head of THRUSH or something, meets an artist check who gets all hot for him, crashes a party and saves the world. The end.
A tub full of spies.Cambot cries.
Not a good film, but lots of good riffing. M&tB seems to loathe the movie as much as I did. If it was shown to me, I'd change the channel, or hope that I'd have a couple of wise-cracking robots and a temp along with me.

Fortunately, I did.

This episode isn't available commercially, and can only be viewed via a fan copy. Maybe one day, it'll be added to the official catalog. Maybe they all will.

One day.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

MST3K: Episode 618 - High School Big Shot

I'm watching all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes in order. More about that here and here.

Episode 618: High School Big Shot

First aired: Comedy Central on 20 December 1994

Starring The Late Tom Pittman.
During the end of Joel's term as host of Mystery Science Theater 3000, there were lots of great episodes. The latter part of Season Four was fantastic, and the first half of Season Five was wonderful.

This is not to say that there weren't some great episodes during Mike's tenure, but the top-tier body of work so far doesn't quite match that similar period of Joel's.

Not Mike's fault. That last season of Joel -- the last half of Season Four and the first half of Season Five -- set a standard that would be hard to live up to, regardless of who was hosting.

On the other hand, when MST3K had a stinker, the one's during Joel's last season were worse than the ones in Mike's first season.

The bully's girlfriend saves The Late Tom Pittman.
So, it sort of balances out. Not quite the highs, but neither the lows. A more balanced show, it seems to me.

That's not a bad thing, mind you. Then why did I mention it? Easy. I thought about it. Now, you have something to think about.

But, don't think too hard about the movie High School Big Shot. It might make your brain hurt. And that's without even realizing that the star of the movie, Tom Pittman, died nearly a year before the film was released.

The Late Tom Pittman is a wimpy high school senior who the bullies pick on, but the big bully's girlfriend acts all sweet on The Late Tom Pittman, but she's just trying to get him to write a term paper so she'll graduate, so he does, but the teacher figures it out and fails her and withdraws his scholarship recommendation for The Late Tom Pittman, meaning he won't get into college but will have to get a job and continue to live with his deadbeat alcoholic dad, but The Late Tom Pittman overhears his boss planning a million-dollar drug purchase, so he decides to steal the money with the help of Cyrano Jones from Star Trek, who cracks safes when he isn't selling tribbles, but the girlfriend betrays The Late Tom Pittman to her boyfriend the bully, and everybody gets killed except those that get arrested, but most are killed. Don't do drugs. The end.

The afterlife is preoccupied with bread delivery.
Ever see the Stanley Kubrick movie, The Killing? It's about a wimpy guy whose wife is cheating on him, so he joins a million-dollar heist, but his wife betrays him to her gangster boyfriend, and everybody gets killed, except those that get arrested.

Not that the movies have anything in common. I just thought I'd mention it.

Lots of good riffing in the movie, and a really weird short about angels and devils with a vested interest in a bread delivery man.

Who knew that bread delivery had such an interest in the Next World? But, now you know. So, be thankful to your bread delivery man. If not for him, the afterlife might be concerned with you. And then think of the trouble you'd be in!

Not a great episode, but a very good one. It's a winner.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

MST3K: Episode 619 - Red Zone Cuba

I'm watching all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes in order. More about that here and here.

Episode 619: Red Zone Cuba

First aired: Comedy Central on 17 December 1994
Availability: iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Amazon DVD (Rhino), Amazon DVD (Shout!), Rhino (Solo DVD/out of print), Shout (Solo DVD), Best Brains

Night Train to Mundo Fine
Two words that will bring fear into the hearts of men: Coleman Francis.

Well, maybe not fear. Unless you're trapped on a spaceship with robots and are the subject of a mad experiment. In that case, you should find a box of hamdingers and make your escape.

Unfortunately for Mike on the Satellite of Love, Joel had already used the escape pod in the box of hamdingers, so he had to watch another Coleman Francis film.

Remember Episode 609: The Skydivers? That was probably the best of the three films Coleman Francis wrote and directed. This one might have been the worst, although in a few days, we'll get to find out for sure.

The entire Bay of Pigs invasion force storms the beach at midnight.
Either way, it has all the hallmarks of a Coleman Francis film.

Airplanes? Check.

Parachutes? Check.

Coffee? Check.

Cigarettes? Check.

Gunning down the villain? Check.

Really lame acting? Check.

Really bad production quality? Check.

Continuity non-existent? Check.

"He ran all the way to hell ... with a penny and a broken cigarette"
Yes, it's another wonderful trip into the mind and talents of Coleman Francis.

Did I say wonderful? Yeah, that's not the word.

However, the rules say that the Mad Scientist sends a really bad movie to the subject of the experiment, so a Coleman Francis movie it is.

Coleman Francis escapes prison and hooks up with a couple of ex-cons who find their way to Cherokee Jack who takes them to the group planning the Bay of Pigs invasion, but they aren't paid like they expect, so they try to escape but are captured and force to participate with the entire invasion force of less than a dozen, but get captured by the Cubans, but escape and fly to Florida where they dump an old man down a well and look up a fellow prisoner's wife, but they get captured at the end, except for Coleman Francis who is shot dead, so the viewers live happily ever after. The end.

How to improve your speech.
The short film -- did I mention there's a short film? It's a Coleman Francis film, and they aren't that long. So, a two-hour episode of MST3K needs to run two hours, and that sometimes means a short film.

Remember the short film in Episode 313: Earth vs the Spider? Well, this is another in the Speech series. No lip and tongue action in this one though.

Although the lower body movements are said to help your speech.

Wait. Lower body movements? Lots of lip and tongue action? Speech can be more exciting than one might think.

Anyway, the episode. Bad film. Odd short. Fun riffing.

It's a winner.

Monday, June 25, 2012

MST3K: Episode 617 - The Sword and the Dragon

I'm watching all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes in order. More about that here and here.

Episode 617: The Sword and the Dragon

First aired: Comedy Central on 3 December 1994

Ilya Muromets
Remember Episode 422: The Day the Earth Froze? And remember Episode 505: The Magic Voyage of Sinbad?

Both films by Aleksandr Ptushko that were heavily re-edited and dubbed for American audiences. And, they weren't improved by the edits. The general feeling is that the films were actually good films and the American edits severely dumbed-down the films.

Not having seen the originals, I can't say how much the edits affected the films, but the versions shown on MST3K were pretty bad.

The original film, Ilya Muromets, was a medieval Russian tale. The Americanized version, The Sword And The Dragon, was pretty much the same story, although a few details changed, and about 12 minutes of running time were removed.

Ilya Muromets and his friends.
Mike & the Bots seems to think the film was Finnish, and, naturally, that led to a tie-in with Ingmar Bergman, who's from Sweden, which isn't Finland. More about that in a moment. Let's talk about this Russian masterpiece.

The giant, Invincor grows old and turns into a mountain, but gives his sword to followers, who give it to Ilya Muromets who can't walk, but is healed when someone gives him water or something, so he goes on a quest to rescue his girlfriend from Tugars, defeating a wind demon along the way, rescues his girlfriend, knocks her up, then heads out to fight more Tugars, but, while he's gone, she gets captured again and her son is carried off and raised by Tugars, all the while Ilya Muromets is betrayed and imprisoned, but is finally cleared and goes off to fight the Tugars, only he ends up fighting his son, but they discover who each other is, so they team up and finally defeat the Tugars, so Ilya Muromets retires from fighting Tugars and leaves his son to carry on his legacy. The end.
It's a joke...... by Ingmar Bergman
The highlight of the show is the 4:22 Joke By Ingmar Bergman Host Segment. It's about 30 seconds long in real life, but, in Ingmar Bergman's world, it takes a bit longer. A really lame joke done to perfection.

We also get to see Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank visited by their neighbors in Deep 12, a couple of girls. It doesn't go well.

A funny episode with some classic bits and a well-riffed film.

Oh, I have a fan copy, but am excited about the commercial release coming in July. I've already ordered it, and can't wait to get the official release.

Okay, I'm an MST3K nerd.

Friday, June 22, 2012

MST3K: Episode 616 - Racket Girls

I'm watching all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes in order. More about that here and here.

Episode 616: Racket Girls

First aired: Comedy Central on 24 November 1994
Availability: iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Amazon (Volume 15), Shout Factory (Volume 15), Best Brains (Volume 15)

It's about rasslin'!

Some folks just love rasslin'.

Now, just so we're clear, there is a difference between wrestling and rasslin'.

One has a long and rich history. The other involves steroid-enhanced men wearing boas and breaking chairs.

In Genesis, when Jacob wrestled the Angel, there were no boas or chairs. At least, not in the versions I've read.

Professional wrestling is more show than sport. And, it's been that way for a long time.

Ladies be rasslin'!
Once upon a time, the outcome of world championships were mostly legit, while most of the other matches had pre-determined outcomes, like today.

This movie, also released as Pin-Down Girl, maintains the myth of professional wrestling -- rasslin' -- being a true sport.

Peaches wants to be a wrestler, so she tries out for Scalli, who's actually running his wrestling promotion as a front for mob activity, since wrestling's so pure and above reproach and all, but Scalli has been skimming money from Mr. Big, who wants his money, so he gets Scalli's bookkeeper to spy for him, all the while Peaches gets a job, but Scalli's previous Number One Girl warns her about Scalli, then Scalli gets a match between Women's World Champion Clara Mortensen, played by Women's World Champion Clara Mortensen, and Mexico Women's Champion Rita Martinez, played by Mexico Women's Champion Rita Martinez, who are each offered money to throw the match but each refuses because wrestling is honest, so they wrestle and Mortensen wins as scripted, and then Scalli runs away with a bunch of money, but the cops catch him and he gets killed, and women's professional wrestling lives happily ever after. The end.

Kissing is fun! Let's get married!Peaches trains!
This episode also features the classic short "Are You Ready For Marriage?"

Actually, the short makes some good points, but is in one of those '50s shorts that you can't help but laugh at. And M&tB do laugh at it.

Oh, and Lisa Leob visits, but that's no treat for M&tB, or for the Mads, either.

Fun episode. One you want to watch again. Or, at least, I did. And did. And will.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

MST3K: Episode 604 - Zombie Nightmare

I'm watching all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes in order. More about that here and here.

Episode 604: Zombie Nightmare

First aired: Comedy Central on 24 November 1994
Availability: iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Amazon (Volume 15), Shout Factory (Volume 15), Best Brains (Volume 15)

Nightmare, indeed.
If you're paying attention to the episode numbers, you've noticed that this is Episode 604, and it's wedged in between Episode 615 and Episode 616.

There's a reason. The MST3K crew was doing a tour of college campus and was using this episode. So, it was held from air until the Thanksgiving Marathon in 1994.

A few other episodes were aired out of production order, too. I haven't found a reason for that, just an explanation of why this one aired so far out of order.

This is one of those where, upon first watching, I totally missed a plot point. Not for the episode, but for the actual movie that Mike & the Bots were watching.

So, where do you want the body?
Okay, I know, there's no real reason to actually pay attention to the movie, just the riffing. But, for some reason, I followed the movie close enough to be considered watching it, but not close enough to catch the connection between two scenes.

Young Tony watches Tony's Dad get killed by a couple of teens when Tony's Dad stops some '60s Teens from raping a Teen Girl, then later is Adult Tony and has a large bat and stops a robbery but is run down by a later group of teens but rather than call an ambulance, the store owner takes Adult Tony's body to Tony's Mom's yard, so Tony's Mom contacts a local Voodoo Priestess who resurrects Adult Tony to take revenge, so all the Tony-killing Teens are murdered by Zombie Tony, along with a Parent of one of the Tony-killing Teens, all the while a Young Detective is trying to solve the grisly murders, but Police Chief Adam West is interfering with the investigation until at the end, when we discover that Police Chief Adam West is one of the '60s Teens who tried to rape the Teen Girl, who grew up to be Voodoo Priestess, which is why Voodoo Priestess had Zombie Tony avenge not only Tony's killing, but Tony's Dad's killing, but Police Chief Adam West kills Voodoo Priestess in the cemetery but before he can kill Young Detective, Tony's Dad comes out of his grave and drags Police Chief Adam West to hell. The end.
Adult Tony and his big bat.Zombie Tony wields a bat.
Now, what plot points did I miss? Well, I never connected Teen Girl with Voodoo Priestess until they told me. And, the whole thing with Police Chief Adam West being one of the '60s Teens caught me off guard. You see, Adam West is 27 years older than Jon Mikl Thor, who played Adult Tony. So, if Young Tony was 10, then '60s Teen would have been 37. Unless Adam West was playing a character about 20 years younger than himself. Or something.
Tia Carrere is in this movie. So, no, it wasn't all bad."So, hell's right there?" "Yes, that's why you should call before you dig."
Anyway, I didn't see it coming, but not in one of those, "Wow, didn't see that coming!" kind of ways, but more of a "What the hell?" kind of way.

M&tB didn't really really mention these odd plot twists. Crow asked "Is that true?" just before Police Chief Adam West confirm the truth, so it was more of a playing with the movie than focusing on the plot point.

Still, things like that are part of what make it a bad movie, and what makes it MST3K fodder.

M&tB had fun with it, and with some goofy Host Segments.

Overall, it was a fun episode.