Saturday, October 9, 2010

S03E05 - Stranded in Space


An astronaut is returning back to Earth when his ship undergoes a catastrophic failure that sends him and the ship reeling. When he awakens, he finds himself on what he initially believes to be Earth but quickly discovers is a completely different planet: Terra, a twin planet opposite Earth. With Terra under the control of a ruthless government known as the Perfect Order, he tries to figure out a way off Terra so he can return home before he is captured and killed for his disruptive presence.

Movie Review

Compared to some of the previous dreck that has appeared on MST3K, this episode's offering, a made-for-TV movie called Stranded in Space (originally entitled The Stranger) is not that bad. In fact, I dare say it's mildly entertaining, at least to a point. Unfortunately, that doesn't save the movie entirely from itself, as it still displays the familiar poor production values, flat acting, and flimsy plot characteristic of bad movies, only this time on the budget of a TV special.

The basic idea behind Stranded in Space is mildly clever, if a bit contrived. The idea of an astronaut getting stranded on a planet similar to Earth's except for several key differences is an intriguing one that could be entertaining if well written. Unfortunately, this movie left out the "well written" part. The biggest pill to swallow is that the alien planet, Terra, is in the same orbit as Earth around the sun, except it is completely opposite it. How the astronaut's ship managed to get lost enough to reach Terra is a big pill to swallow, not to mention Earth's astronomers somehow missing an entire planet sitting conveniently Earth's own orbit (the farthest planet, Pluto, was discovered in 1930, for god's sake!). And even if that pill is swallowed, there still has to be more room to swallow the idea that Terra is like a mirror world to Earth, with most inhabitants being left-handed and all the continents forming exactly the same, but mirrored. Oh, but Terra has three moons to Earth's one; I guess something had to be alien on this "alien" planet.

And boy, do they try their best to look alien (note the sarcasm) on Terra. Everything on Terra looks exactly like the Earthly 1970s with a few small touches here to make sure people remember that they are watching a distant planet instead of Earth. Of course, I can understand what the creators were going for - Terra is exactly like Earth, only mirrored in some ways and run by a totalitarian government called the Perfect Order - but the cheap production values really go a long way to making suspension of belief difficult. Many of the sets in this movie look like they were ripped directly from 70s TV sitcoms, and the number of Chrysler cars rolling throughout does make one wonder how Plymouth managed to get a production plant on a distant alien world.

Aside from the TV-budget effects, there is really nothing else of interest to discuss with this bland piece of cardboard of a film. The acting is flimsy and unmemorable, the plot is typical TV pulp, and the characters are broadly painted stereotypes with little motivation beyond contrivances. The only thing really of note is the ending, which is the expected setup for a TV series that never materialized after this "pilot" movie, and even then it's barely worth discussing. Admittedly the premise of an "alien" astronaut on the run from an evil world government and trying to get back home could make for an interesting series, but judging by how bland everything is in this movie, the world was likely better off not seeing the results of a failed Fugitive meets Logan's Run series.

MST3K Review

After the disappointment of Gamera vs Barugon, Joel and the bots returned to form in this episode. It doesn't approach the level of greatness of the first three episodes of season three, but the riffs were much better this time around than the previous episode and more consistently funny. Not a classic episode, but definitely entertaining.

Stinger Review

Admittedly, I'm a little puzzled by the selection of this stinger, in which the protagonist of the film is struck by a peeved woman while the two of them are sitting in a car. A woman hitting a guy isn't inherently weird, and the way she hit him wasn't that bizarre, either. Unfortunately, the movie is so generic that this was likely the best thing that Best Brains could've used, so I can't really fault them for choosing it.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

S03E04 - Gamera vs. Barugon


A gang of treasure hunters travels to the South Pacific to search for a cave where a giant opal was hidden years earlier. The natives that guard the cave warn them not to take anything, but the giant opal is found and taken back to Japan. On the way, the opal hatches to reveal that it is in fact an egg containing Barugon, a monstrous lizard, which immediately goes on a rampage across the country. To make matters worse, Gamera has escaped from the rocket he had been sealed in and has returned to Earth.

Movie Review

Agh! A Gamera movie! Keep it away! Keep it away! Don't let Kenny speak, please...oh, Kenny isn't in this movie? That's excellent news, because it means the quality of the film is automatically bumped up by several points. Unfortunately, it still doesn't fix some major flaws with this film that prevent it from being silly but enjoyable flick in the vein of Godzilla vs. Megalon.

As alluded to in the previous paragraph, Kenny is joyfully absent in this installment in Daiei's ripoff of Toho's famous giant lizard. In fact, Gamera vs. Barugon is apparently the only film in the series that doesn't feature any annoying kids running around, making it more "adult" than the other films. However, the movie is still rife with issues aside from an irritating kid protagonist, one of the biggest being it can hardly be called a Gamera film. I mean, since when is the titular creature in the movie only present for a grand total of ten minutes of screen time?

Yes, the giant turtle shows up in a few scenes at the movie's beginning, briefly in the movie's middle, and then in the eponymous brawl at the end. Aside from that, Gamera vs. Barugon's story is about a group of jewel thieves, a South Pacific tribe, and their interactions with the giant monster Barugon, who should really have the top billing in the movie since he appears far more than Gamera. In fact, Gamera's appearance in the movie feels shoehorned, as if the movie makers decided that the people vs. Barugon conflict wasn't good enough and said, "Screw it, put Gamera in." And that's just what happens right at the end: when all hope is lost Gamera appears, defeats Barugon, and then that's the end of the conflict. Whoopee.

Special mention has to be made of Barugon here, since he is the primary monster featured in this movie. Another Daiei ripoff (this time of Toho's similar Baragon monster), Barugon is a giant lizard that can shoot cold from its tongue and a deadly rainbow from the scales on its back. This itself isn't worth discussing, since this is a kaiju flick, after all, but the suit used for Barugon is incredibly bad. The lizard's back legs are especially fake-looking, since they don't look like lizard legs at all but human legs - it's actually sad to see the human actor in the Barugon suit crawl on his hands and knees so obviously.

Beyond the fact that this Gamera movie is really not a Gamera movie and the other monster looks terrible, there really isn't that much else to say about this movie. The dubbing is, as expected, terrible. The human side of the story is contrived and dull with a bland love interest forced in. The lone highlight from the human portion of the tale comes from when the bad guy gets eaten by Barugon, though it's hardly enough to offset the rest of the dullness. And the final monster fight is barely worth the five minutes that it lasts and actually ends up being more boring that Gamera's lone rampage through Japan in the first film Gamera.

Though Gamera vs. Barugon doesn't have the vile Kenny or his ilk, it remains a bland piece of cinema with little going for it and doesn't even have the goofy charm of some other kaiju films.

MST3K Review

After three straight home runs this season, there was bound to be a strike in the episode quality eventually, and this movie ends up being that strike. While the jokes are funny and amusing, the writing and delivery isn't up to part with the previous episodes and the riffing comes across as muted. Perhaps having another Gamera film riffed so closely after the first one had drained Joel and the bots' creativity, which had happened with the season two Godzilla flicks. Though the riffing isn't as disappointing as that found in Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, it's still not up to the standards that the show has set up so far.

Stinger Review

For this film's stinger, a scene involving one of the opal hunters laughing crazily is selected. A bit of a disappointing selection, as it isn't really that memorable despite being a little awkwardly presented. A better stinger may have been the scene where the main girl protagonist sucks blood out of her male companion's arm wound, an act that looks entirely non-innocent with the selected camera angle.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

S03E03 - Pod People


Near a remote house up in the mountains, an alien crashes into the ground and brings with her a nest of eggs. All but one egg is destroyed by a poacher, prompting the mother alien to go on a rampage. A young boy from the nearby house investigates the crash site and finds the egg, which he brings home. The egg hatches into an alien that the boy tries to raise out of sight from his mother and uncle. But the mother alien is still looking for revenge, whether it's against poachers, band members camping in the mountains for the weekend, or the secluded home's inhabitants.

Movie Review

Originally a Spanish film called Los Nuevos Extraterrestres, this quirky little film was meant to be an evil alien flick when it was first conceived. But thanks to the recent success of the movie E.T., several major changes were made to mimic the latter film's friendly alien meeting a young boy. The result is an uneven and convoluted mess that has no idea what it's trying to be and fails to tell a coherent story.

As in Gamera before it (Kenny!), the biggest problem with this film is with the scenes of the young boy who befriends the recently hatched alien. The scenes with the boy are obviously shoehorned in to get that E.T. vibe, and they come across as uninteresting and saccharine as a result (the boy's terrible dub voice doesn't help matters either). If the whole point of the film were the boy looking after the child alien, then it wouldn't be so bad, but that's certainly not the case here. Instead, they come across as gimmicky and unnecessary, meant only to show a young boy interact with a "cute" alien that can do bizarre things. The scenes go for enchanting but end up being annoying.

The rest of the movie doesn't fare better. While the boy-alien scenes are meant to be some kind of sweet friendship story, the rest of the film plays out like a bad movie monster flick in which the mother of the child alien hunts down other humans who destroyed her eggs. The tone of these scenes clashes painfully with the boy/child alien segments, giving the impression that at least two different movies are running simultaneously.

The characters in this mishmash don't help matters. Outside the annoying kid, the other human characters are composed of the kid's family, a few poachers, and members of a band on a camping trip. The band members' part of the movie appears to be the primary set of scenes (or at least before the E.T.-esque scenes were forced in), and yet they are some of the most underdeveloped characters in the film, mostly because there are so many of them. One by one they die throughout the movie, and their lasting impression goes no farther than Band Member #. The only two band members who survive by film's end is one of the thoroughly unmemorable female members and the main singer who, by all accounts, is an asshole with no character development (meaning he remains an asshole at the end. Our hero!).

Story failure and underdeveloped characters aside, another fault of the movie is its score. Unlike the generic and haphazard orchestral scores of other terrible movies, Pod People goes for a "spiritual" vibe by using generic New Age music. And I'm not talking about Yanni-type New Age (despite what Joel says); I'm talking about 2002-type New Age, the kind where random keys and long-held notes are the norm. It's so bad that it's enough to put people to sleep, if the boring film plot didn't do that already.

If there's one thing that this movie didn't botch, it was the least in the sense that they don't look like obvious rubber suits. Sure, the aliens do look silly in that they appear as bipedal anteaters, but they're convincing enough.

The movie obviously fails in its bid to become the next E.T. or even the dreadful Mac and Me, thanks to a schizophrenic script, uninteresting characters, and snore-inducing music. Some enjoyment might be derived from some of the film's cheese, if one can stay awake long enough to see if.

MST3K Review

Continuing the streak of fantastic episodes, Joel and the bots hit another home run with Pod People. Some some scenes are tighter than others, the overall episode is well written with some excellent riffs, managing to overcome the sleep-inducing pacing of the film. The highlight of the riffing is undoubtedly Crow's impression of the eponymous character from The Elephant Man for the child alien, using it to brilliant comic effect. And thanks to the lack of Kenny, this movie immediately jumps to the best episode of the third season so far.

Stinger Review

Was there any other choice but this one? In a scene near the beginning of the movie, after a song had been recorded in the studio, a studio man asks the singer what he thought of the session. The singer smiles and holds up the okay sign, before frowning and uttering, "It's stinks." It's so delightfully goofy because it seems like it's trying to be a defining moment in the film. Well, it certainly became a catchphrase, but not in the way the film makers originally intended.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

S03E02 - Gamera


While trying to cross American airspace with nuclear payloads, Soviet bombers are shot down by American fighter planes and crash into the ice below. The resulting nuclear explosions awakens a monstrous and giant turtle called Gamera, who destroys a Japanese research ship before heading to Japan and beginning a rampage of destruction. The world's scientists try to figure out a way of combating this terrible threat before all of the world succumbs to Gamera's wrath.

Movie Review

In response to the enormous success of Toho's Godzilla franchise, Japanese movie company Daiei created a kaiju monster franchise to call their own. That monster was Gamera, the giant monster turtle. Okay, not the most threatening monster around (no matter how much the University of Maryland wants us to "fear the turtle"), but the actual Gamera monster is pretty well designed. Such a shame that Gamera's first, self-titled film couldn't say the same.

This film is bad. Bad, bad, bad. And the worst thing is that it didn't have to turn out that way. The overall story of Gamera is actually fairly generic: monster is awoken by atomic blast, goes on rampage in Tokyo. Pretty standard stuff as far as monster films go. It's also given one of those terrible dubs that Japanese live-action films always seem to get, though it's certainly not the absolute worst. The production values? Not bad, especially for the 1960s. No, these factors aren't what make this film so wretched. One factor and one factor alone pushes this movie from mediocre to atrocious.


Holy hell, Kenny is the worst character this side of the protagonist in Moon Zero Two. In fact, he's even worse in that he is completely unnecessary and horrendously annoying. If he is the reason that kaiju films often include superfluous kids in their productions, then Gamera deserves all the scorn it can receive. This little brat destroys the film from the inside out, taking the film's potential to be decent and turning it in the direction of loathsome. Yes, he is that bad.

I mean, for starters, the kid is utterly retarded. He happens to be a lover of turtles, which marks one of the film's most ridiculous coincidences. His home is attacked by the giant turtle Gamera, and instead of staying with his family, he runs to the top of a damned lighthouse, which gets pulverized by Gamera. But the giant turtle, in its worst moment in the film, saves Kenny from death (why he does this is never explained). After that, Kenny thinks Gamera is a "friend of children" and spends the rest of the movie pining after the turtle, claiming that he is not bad all while Gamera kills thousands during his rampage on Tokyo. And his tendency to insert himself in every important moment is eye-clawingly horrid. Kenny should not be encouraged for his behavior, he should be smacked upside the head! Repeatedly!

Sadly, Kenny is not the only annoying character in this film (though none can leap over the high bar that Kenny has set). After Gamera attacks a Japanese research ship (and kills everyone on board, Kenny!), the three crew surviving crew members who were off the ship at the time - a professor, his daughter, and a reporter - spend the rest of the movie wandering around like blank-eyed mannequins rather than characters. The professor is a generic "science" professor whose expertise is never revealed, but because he survived Gamera's first attack he is considered a leading authority on the monster and is able to command Japan's army. His daughter is the Japanese stereotype of a submissive woman who does absolutely nothing but look pretty and cast her eyes down when she's shy. And the reporter is an irritating bozo who only follows the other two around because he's smitten with the daughter in the film's required forced romance.

Outside of these characters, there really isn't that much else to find at fault with Gamera...well, okay, perhaps just one. Gamera the creature is actually a fairly well designed monster for the most part...except for one thing. When he flies, he does is in the most ridiculous way possible: he fires jet engine-like fire bursts out of his shell's leg holes and spins around like a Frisbee. Putting aside kaiju film's tendencies for occasional silliness...who ever thought this would be a good idea?

Really, I wouldn't have hated Gamera with a fiery passion if it weren't for Kenny. If he were excised from the film, it would be upgraded from the atrocious mess it is now to a standard mediocre mess. But with the little brat, this movie is one of the most irritating shown on MST3K thus far.

MST3K Review

Thankfully, though, Joel and the bots put up with Kenny and his antics well enough to eviscerate this film to hell and back. The riffs were sharp and merciless with great timing from beginning to end. There was even a bit of self-referential humor when, while Gamera is being shot into space by a rocket, the bots taunt Joel with the MST3K theme song. A thoroughly enjoyable episode that's a definite high point of season three so far.

Stinger Review

I'm sooooooo glad that they chose not to go with any of Kenny's idiocy for the stinger (can you tell I hate Kenny yet?). Instead they went with a weird moment near the film's end when an Eskimo bids farewell to the film's protagonists. The way the poorly dubbed Eskimo utters "bye" so awkwardly and then stares off into space like he did something wrong is just beautifully bizarre.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

S03E01 - Cave Dwellers


Long ago, during ancient and barbaric times, a mystic discovered a great power source that can be used as a terrible weapon if it should ever all into the wrong hands. Before he can properly deal with it, a savage army led by a ruthless warlord invades his castle. The mystic sends his daughter in search of Ator, a great warrior whom the mystic had tutored years ago. Now Ator, his trusty companion, and his mentor's daughter must set out to save the mystic before the power source is found by the warlord.

Movie Review

After watching this piece of dreck, Joel and the bots proclaim it to be the worst movie that the Mads have ever shown the SOL crew. Personally, I don't agree that it is that big of a cinematic abortion, not when train wrecks like The Mad Monster, Robot Monster, and King Dinosaur exist. Still, Cave Dwellers is a treasure trove of stock fantasy cliches and tropes, all made worse by some lazy story writing and lazier production values.

The second of a trilogy of films made to capitalize on the success of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Conan films, Cave Dwellers is pretty much a standard run of the mill sword and sorcery flick with no attempt to be clever or interesting. Laziness permeates every frame of this movie, from the set pieces to the performances to the writing. Even the film title itself is a lazy name, as the titular cave dwellers are even barely in the movie all that much (of course, one can blame the English adapters of this Italian film for changing Ator l'invincibile's original name). And that laziness also extends to several poor shots in which modern things like sunglasses, handrails, and and tire tracks can easily be seen in such an "ancient" time.

Perhaps the most grating moments in this film, outside of the aforementioned laziness, are the performances, especially the mystic and the warlord who capture him. They both seem to have gone to the William Shatner School of Acting and continuously...punctuate their speaking with...pauses that sense at all. One person talking like this is enough, but two is just aggravating. The other characters just give bland performances typically seen in low budget fantasy flicks, meaning they're not worth discussing in the slightest.

Then there's the story, which is laughably bad. The MacGuffin of the story, the Nexus (that terrible power source) is barely even mentioned in the movie except in the beginning and at the end, and even at the end it might as well have never even existed. A brief but poorly written flashback describes Ator's previous movie, and after that it's off to the races of the cliche fantasy epic travel sequence, in which Ator must travel from his cave "at the ends of the earth" to the mystic's castle to save his mentor. Somehow the film glosses over the fact that the daughter arrives at Ator's cave fairly quickly and yet the journey back to the castle takes much longer, even going through a lengthy cave (with cave dwellers, even!) and through a snake cult's territory. It's more or less Robot Holocast Syndrome: journeys between two points differ greatly depending on who goes on them.

Despite the obvious low budget of this sword and sorcery flick, there are some decent moments here and there. The most memorable was when Ator was fighting a giant snake that looked fairly believable, though the poor lighting likely contributed to the effect. But there are also dozens of incredibly silly moments, like when Ator leaps from behind a rock and somehow creates an explosion at his feet. Also the warlord's evil magician claims to be all powerful, but the movie never makes clear exactly what his spell does (only that he did it, which we never really see). And then there's the hang glider...a bloody modern hang glider in ancient times. And could the film makers have at least tried to keep things consistent by not adding what look like samurai warriors into the battles?

So again, Joel and the bots are entitled to their opinion, but Cave Dwellers is nowhere near the worst movie they have ever seen. It's not quite as entertaining as the goofy Robot Holocaust and is plagued by generic decisions everywhere, but it still has its moments and is very watchable in its own way.

MST3K Review

After the bad taste of the second season finale, the Best Brains crew returns with a much better effort for the start of the third season. A lot of strong riffs were found in this one, and the watchability of the movie also contributed to the enjoyment factor. I honestly don't know why the movie scarred the SOL inhabitants so badly, but as the theme song says, it's just a show, I should really just relax.

Stinger Review

"Thong...the fish is ready." Perhaps not the most thrilling or memorable of stingers, but still quite a goofy moment in the show, especially with the way that Ator moves when he speaks. Interestingly enough, unless a cut was made that I'm not aware of, the stinger merged two scenes (Ator's speaking of the line and his companion Thong fishing in the river) that weren't together before. Personally, I don't see the need for it, since Ator's line was silly enough to carry the stinger; no need to end it with Thong grabbing fish with his bare hands.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

S02E13 - Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster


When a ship is lost at sea during a storm, one of the passengers' brother refuses to believe he is dead and steals a yacht with two of his friends and a bank robber to search for him. On the way, the ship is destroyed and finds itself on an island controlled by a renegade military outfit that is enslaving a local tribe to manufacture heavy water. The island is also guarded by a giant shrimp monster that prowls its waters. As the stranded group plots to save the islanders and destroy the army, they also discover a familiar face sleeping on the island: Godzilla.

Movie Review

Finally, after so many anti-nuclear screed films, we get a movie that, while involving nuclear weapons in some way, isn't trying to hit us over the head with how terrible nuclear weapons are. The downside? Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster is an absolute garbage of a film with none of the charm of the previous MST3K'd Godzilla flick.

I've said for many previous MST3K films that the plot is a convoluted mess, but this film really tries to push that idea to new heights. Sure, the film isn't entirely incomprehensible, but it has no idea what it wants to be. Is it a Godzilla movie, or is it a movie about four schmucks rescuing islanders from an enslaving evil army? The contrast between the two plot threads is jarring, and the lack of any coherency makes this movie a chore to sit through.

The film isn't even much of a Godzilla movie, really. I mean, sure, it stars the big guy and all, but he plays a bit part compared to the dull island rescue plot involving a secret evil army and tribal natives that worship the giant moth Mothra. Unlike Godzilla vs. Megalon, where the whole point of the story was for Godzilla to save the world from Megalon's destruction, Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster really only lets Godzilla fight a giant shrimp monster whose presence is superfluous at best. Oh, and he does end up fighting the evil army, but the focus remains firmly on the four mainlanders and their mission to rescue the islanders. Godzilla just happened to be in the neighborhood. As a result, Godzilla's fights are meh at best, with none of the enjoyable goofiness of the previous film's major monster brawl. Oh, it was satisfying to see Godzilla rip the claws off the giant shrimp, but outside of that it was a bunch of close camera shots and flailing arms that make for a pretty unexciting fight.

As for the human characters, the one pro that can be stated is that there are no annoying children, unlike the wretchedly dubbed boy in the previous film. Still, that doesn't mean the adults in this flick fare that much better. Too many "main" characters appear in this movie, and they're given very little time to actually act or grow as characters. This wouldn't be too much of a problem in a Godzilla flick if, you know, Godzilla was actually the focus of the movie, but since the big guy isn't, then our protagonists are screwed from the get-go. And adding additional protagonists along the way only muddles matters even more.

And the story itself is a garbled piece of throat phlegm, filled with dozens of ideas that would likely make awesome plots by themselves but make a rotten soup when forced together like in this movie. Everything from the missing brother subplot to the evil army making heavy water to the giant shrimp patrolling the island waters to the tribe that happens to worship Mothra just falls together into an unsatisfying stew of a story. Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster was, apparently, originally meant as a vehicle for King Kong rather than Godzilla (which certainly explains the tacky scene of the great lizard becoming smitten with one of the tribal women), which explains the level of quality they were shooting for in this movie if they were that disinterested in adjusting the plot.

In all, a completely unsatisfying Godzilla movie and a terrible movie in general. It's not completely unwatchable, but it's not memorable, either.

MST3K Review

It seems that having two Godzilla movies back to back was not a good idea, because Joel and the bots sounded drained of wittiness in this flick. All of the awesome lines in the previous movie were missing from this one, resulting in a few lull stretches and not as many great riffs. Definitely not the worst episode in the series, but not a memorable one, either.

Stinger Review

And to punctuate the blandness of this episode, we get the series' worst stinger so far. A bunch of islanders suddenly kneeling down and bowing? How is this supposed to be bizarre? Granted, there don't appear to be that many stinger-esque moments in this flick, but surely they could've picked something better than this one. Terrible, terrible choice to end the second season.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

S02E12 - Godzilla vs. Megalon


Nuclear tests being performed underwater have resulted in the destruction of a third of Seatopia, an underground civilization that was sent beneath the earth thousands of years ago. In retaliation, Seatopia sends several agents to Earth's surface to capture the robot of a scientist and use it to lead the monster Megalon on a destructive rampage across the land. Only Godzilla can combat this menace and restore peace to the world.

Movie Review

Yet another anti-nuclear film makes its way onto the screens of MST3K, but this one is a bit more interesting than previous films in that this one features Japanese icon Godzilla, that lovable allegory for nuclear weapons that happens to be a giant rampaging lizard. Granted, the subtlety of the original Godzilla movie's stance on nuclear war has somewhat been diminished over the years as the movies became more and more about giant monsters fighting other giant monsters. And while Godzilla vs. Megalon does feature some slight commentary on nuclear testing, no one really cares when one can watch a giant lizard and robot battle two giant evil monsters.

There is a story to be found in this movie, but it's complete fluff and barely worth worry about. The anti-nuclear sentiment is isolated in segments about the "enemy" in this flick, an underworld kingdom called Seatopia who had 1/3 of their population wiped out by underwater nuclear tests. Outside of that, the plot involves two scientists (I think) and a young annoying boy (because tokusatsu kaiju films always have children) in some ridiculous side plot about a robot one of the scientists built. Its only purpose is to provide backstory for Jet Jaguar, the scientist's robot that will eventually help fight alongside Godzilla. And anytime you see the human characters on screen, you will just beg for the movie to skip straight to the giant monsters.

Because this is a kaiju flick, and giant monsters battling it out is where it is at! Not content with just the eponymous Godzilla and Megalon, the film also throws in the aforementioned Jet Jaguar and a monster from a previous Godzilla flick called Gigan. The climactic battle that they pull of is...well, ridiculous! Kaiju flicks can get pretty silly at times, but it's unlikely they'll ever be as silly as the fight seen in this film. The monsters jump around and bounce into the air like preschool kids on a sugar high, and they do things like high five each other and shake hands. And watching Megalon and Gigan scrape their hands together like they're clapping or preparing for a fight...hilarious! It's completely stupid, but it's also incredibly entertaining, which makes the fight a must see.

The rest of the movie, despite not having the same charm as the monster fight, is still bewilderingly entertaining as well. Car chases that make no sense, toys and house decorations that obviously made by mad men, military that lets a civilian take charge of an operation, a robot that grows into a giant because it "programs" itself to do's all hilariously bad and yet oddly compelling. Alas, despite all the wacky goofiness, the characters are annoying as hell. Forget the atrocious dubbing, the characters' personalities are blank slates with itemized and phoned-in traits. The young boy, especially, is incredibly irritating (and did I say forget the atrocious dubbing? I lied. His voice is horrible!).

There are, of course, a few good reasons for why this movie is such a mess. First, it was originally intended to be a movie staring the robot Jet Jaguar, but Godzilla was added because the film makers felt the robot couldn't carry the film by himself. Second, the film was shot in a span of three weeks, which is still better than a Bert I. Gordon film but is still incredibly rushed. And finally...Godzilla is a good guy! Why is Godzilla a good guy? He was a bad guy in the original film, but by this one (his thirteenth film) he's become a good guy who comes at the beck and call of a toy robot. Why? I'm guessing the answer might lie in previous films I have not seen, but still, why?

In the end, despite its convoluted story and ridiculous monster fighting antics, Godzilla vs. Megalon is actually a really entertaining film, if only because of the silliness. The highlight, of course, is the giant monster fight, but there is some merit to be found in the rest of the movie (when that stupid kid isn't talking, of course).

MST3K Review

Several people have said that this movie is one of the best film in the entire MST3K series. While I don't entirely agree with that, I do agree that it is one of the highlights of Season 2 and one of the best episodes in the series thus far. The riffs were sharp and well delivered, and they got especially witty when the giant monsters started their epic brawl. A silly but watchable movie made even better by some great joke delivery by Joel and the bots.

Also, while I'm not really interested in reviewing the host segments for reasons previously stated, the Orville Redenbacher skit was one of the funniest things I've seen in the show to date.

Stinger Review

All of the brilliant cheese in this film...and they choose this as the stinger? Godzilla leaping off a cliff and canon-balling into the ocean below? Granted, it does look a little silly, but it's nowhere near on the bizarre level of some previous stingers we've seen. A much better stinger would've been Godzilla's flying kick into Megalon as he was being held by Jet Jaguar, a kick so ridiculous that it was done twice in the movie (not to mention it was more than short enough to work as a stinger). An incredible episode that went out on an anticlimactic note with such a disappointing stinger.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

S02E11 - First Spaceship on Venus


The finding of a strange alien recording device leads to the discovery that alien life exists on the planet Venus. When contact signals sent to Venus are not answered, a crew of astronauts and scientists fly in a rocketship with the intention of landing on Venus to establish contact with these aliens. But on the journey to the inner planet, it is discovered that the recording device's actual message contains a dark secret, and their arrival on the planet itself reveals an even worse discovery.

Movie Review

What is it with these anti-nuclear films on MST3K? Were they just unlucky in their selection of these films, or do they find it interesting to continuously mock films with such hamfisted messages? Or perhaps it's because most films of this type are simply awful, as is the case with First Spaceship on Venus.

Okay, that's not entirely fair. This film, while not a good film, isn't an atrocious one either. It's nowhere near the caliber of, say, Bert I. Gordon's abominations, and it does have its own charm. Like other previous films on this show like Project Moonbase and Moon Zero Two, some effort is put into establishing some realism with spaceflight. While not entirely correct, it's not insulting, either. And the plot isn't a complete waste of time, either. In fact, it's one of the more interesting plots to so far air on this show. Given some better writing and some polish, it could've been a keeper.

But, as with other bad films, small things get in the way and add up to a negative experience. For starters, the interesting plot has several ridiculous moments in it that destroy any believability it might've had. Also, the movie is plagued not only by terrible characters, but an abundance of them. Seriously, there are far too many characters in this film, ensuring that most of them don't get enough adequate screen time to be memorable. Oh, some effort to add depth to some characters is attempted here and there, but it almost always comes off as forced and cheesy.

And then there's the dubbing. Yes, the dubbing. Originally a German film entitled The Silent Star, this movie features some wooden dub voices that either overact or underact - there is no in between. The film is also a victim of classic American editing: apparently the English version of the film was shorted drastically from its original German version, cutting out several story moments and removing characterization (and thinning it even more). One can suspect that the film was edited upon watching it, as several noticeable splices in the film are noticeable throughout, causing some erratic jumping in scenery. Not the original movie's fault, admittedly, but also not something in its favor.

If there's one positive that the movie can crow about, it's its visuals. Especially for a movie made in 1960, First Spaceship on Venus has a fairly good set design throughout, one that doesn't look like cheap sets a la Women of the Prehistoric Planet. Unfortunately, a lot of the goodwill is destroyed thanks to one particular set piece: a talking robot built by one of the many unmemorable characters. Portrayed as a smart machine and companion, his voice is so grating that one prays for him to leave a scene for fear of hearing him talk. The ridiculous plot thread about giving him a heart doesn't exactly help endear him, either.

Being an anti-nuclear screed, the movie does try to demonstrate the dangers of nuclear war, similar to previous movies on MST3K. The means of getting that message across is similar to that of Rocketship X-M's, though with a bit more complexity. Even so, its good intentions are crushed by the atrocious writing near the end, while also using three unmemorable characters who died at the film's climax essentially as sentimentality props. Better writing could've made it more effective, but as mentioned, this film does not have good writing.

While not a contender for worst movie of all time, First Spaceship on Venus is still a terrible film that sadly missed out on its potential.

MST3K Review

This isn't my favorite episode of season two. There are some very good riffs to be found here, especially at the end where the plot details and becomes ridiculous, but the quality of the jokes to be found don't reach the pinnacle of some of the more enjoyable episodes found in this season. Definitely not as bad as The Hellcats, but not as good as King Dinosaur, either.

Stinger Review

This stinger puzzles me, and not for the usual reasons. The stinger takes a moment in the film when a large group of rocketship grounds crew wave goodbye collectively to the ship's pilots. The only odd thing about this scene is that all of the crew members are wearing letters on their clothing, which was never fully explained in the film (though is likely some kind of task designation system). While weird, the sight of dozens of people waving goodbye while wearing giant letters on their clothing doesn't seem that big of a stinger candidate to me. It seems like this one needs to be taken out of context to really be bizarre, which seems to defeat the purpose of the stinger in the first place.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

S02E10 - King Dinosaur


Short: A reckless driver is killed in a traffic accident and is taken to heaven, where he faces a judge for all of his automobile and pedestrian crimes. His guardian angel during his time on earth describes his reckless behavior in detail.

Film: A strange new planet entered the solar system, so a rocketship carrying a team of four scientists is sent to land on the new world and discover whether it is inhabitable. Upon landing there, the scientists discover that the planet is very similar to their own, with Earth-like vegetation and animals. They also discover other, more dangerous species during their journey, including a terrible creature once thought extinct.

Movie Review

This episode of MST3K marks the very first "short" of the series that isn't from a serial, and the short selected, X Marks the Spot, is a doozy. One of hundreds of thousands of corporate, educational, and government shorts made between the 1930s and 1960s, this short takes the serious subject of traffic safety and dresses it up in a ridiculous short story.

It's never easy to make an educational film that's interesting to the general public. Someone just straight-talking into a camera about rules and regulations makes for a very boring video, even one that's only about twenty minutes long. So it's understandable that the message could be better conveyed if wrapped in a fictional narrative. However, such a tactic can backfire if said narrative is executed poorly, since any weight of the intended subject matter disappears under a layer of cheese.

And X Marks the Spot is dripping with cheese. It tries to treat the subject of auto and pedestrian accidents with reverence, but using a guardian angel who cracks jokes and who shifts frequently between lighthearted and serious is frequently jarring. And all of the dialogue is the type of dialogue found frequently in both films and shorts such as this back in those days: stilted, unnatural, and silly.

The cherry on top comes at the end, when the judge of the case against the dead reckless driver turns over deliberation of the man's verdict to the audience. This is the short's way of reminding the audience of all the information demonstrated, and asks them to remember their own driving habits before considering condemning the man for his poor driving. While done with good intentions, it only makes the short tacky.

In short (heh), this is a refreshing change from all the serials shown in earlier episodes, as it offers a glimpse into the world of American life and how others tried to shape it. And it's part one of one, meaning no future parts to wear out their welcome.

And now for the movie itself, King Dinosaur. This movie is actually the fourth movie shown on MST3K that was directed by a prolific B-movie director called Bert I. Gordon. His earlier "masterpieces" were Rocketship X-M, Jungle Goddess, and rock, Lost Continent, and while all of those films were atrocious pieces of cinema, King Dinosaur manages to outdo them by being the worst of them all (so far).

The story isn't even a story, it' a setting: four scientists use a rocketship to fly to a new planet called Nova in the solar system, and stuff happens. Like many other films that have a thin plot, this movie's so-called story is more like a vacation video without any real narrative. The scientists arrive on the planet, and they go places, meeting animals along the way. Does this sound like an interesting "plot" at all? Things only get "interesting" when they scientists encounter more dangerous animals, like a crocodile and then a "dinosaur," and even this doesn't really qualify as a plot as much as a random encounter. Only at the end does the film tack on some kind of explanation for their actions, and it's half-assed at best, completely lazy at worst.

Speaking of lazy, there is certainly no effort put into the writing in this film. There are two male scientists and two female scientists on the expedition, and while the film's introduction does introduce all of them by their professions instead of generic "science professor" (I'm looking at you, Slime People), on the planet they quickly revert to their sexist stereotypes. The men become the strong protectors and the women become the weak damsels in need of protection. At least there was only one forced coupling in the group instead of two.

And what of the eponymous King Dinosaur? It turns out to be a giant iguana with horns glued to its head. Also incredibly, the scientists mistake it as a Tyrannosaurus Rex (or something resembling it, which even then is stretching it), which stretches the credibility of the film to its breaking point. Beyond the iguana, the movie liberally uses stock footage for much of its padding sequences, from atomic research tests to wild animal documentaries to nuclear bomb tests. It's not hard to believe that nearly half of the entire movie feels like it came from some other movie.

Oh, and special mention must be made of the ending. After encountering the King Dinosaur, the four scientists run to get off the island where they found it. Before they run, however, the leave a nuclear bomb and start its timer. Why? Because it's apparently a good time to use it. They escape the island safely and take cover (behind a small hill, heh) before the bomb explodes and obliterates the island where they found the dinosaur. And the blew him up because...they didn't like it?

And what does one scientist say after the blast? "We did it. We brought civilization to Nova." Either the film makers were in on how bad this film was, or this line was uttered without any irony. If the latter part is true, then holy hell, they really screwed the ending up big time! Was it meant as a subtle anti-nuclear tract, which every movie seemed to be doing around this time? Even if so, it still doesn't explain why they decided to nuke the island instead of just run away.

King Dinosaur is apparently Gordon's first movie ever, and it really shows. The films he would make later are marginally better, but then again, having one toothpick shoved up your fingernails is marginally better than two.

MST3K Review

This episode had some really good riffing throughout. While not entirely a classic episode, the jokes were strong and the energy was apparent throughout. The short itself proved to be a smashing success, allowing Joel and the bots to focus on a one-shot instead of stretch things out over a couple parts like with a serial. And the movie also brought out some good jokes from beginning to end, making this one of the stronger episodes of season two so far.

Stinger Review

For the episode's stinger, I would've elected to go with the scientist saying without irony, after the nuclear blast, that they had brought civilization to the planet. But since this likely wouldn't have fit, the selected stinger suffices. A showcase for Bert I. Gordon's horrendous editing, it shows a woman screaming into the camera before cutting to a man staggering in an open field and then collapsing (with no accompanying scream). The jarring jump cut doesn't even make much sense in context, making it a perfect ending scene for the episode.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

S02E09 - The Hellcats


While investigate a crime boss that uses a biker gang to run drugs for him, a detective is killed by one of the crime boss's lackeys. The detective's brother, a sergeant in the army, later returns from active duty and learns of his brother death. Vowing revenge against the crime boss, the sergeant goes undercover with his brother's fiancee as a biking couple to join the Hellcats, the biker gang that the crime boss employs for his drug runs.

Movie Review

The third biker film that MST3K aired in its second season, The Hellcats proves to be the worst of the lot. Yes, even worse than The Sidehackers, the film that broke its generic story with a hideous rape sequence. How does this movie pull of such a magnificent feat? Heavy instances of padding and a thoroughly muddled story certainly contribute, as well as some thoroughly uninteresting characters.

Perhaps the biggest problem that Hellcats has is that it has no idea what kind of story it wants to tell. Does it want to tell a revenge tale about a marine trying to find who killed his detective brother? Or does it want to focus on a biker gang's illicit lifestyle? This movie has no idea what it wants to focus on, so it creates an uneven mishmash of both ideas. And even then the movie has no idea how to properly flesh out the narrative of any of the two, so it falls back on the trope that the remaining run time can be padded with unnecessary picnics and extended shots of motorcycles. While the padding isn't as bad as some previous films on this show, it's still egregious.

And the little bit of actual plot that can be found amidst the padding? Almost incomprehensible. Oh, yes, the overall story idea can be followed well enough, but the way it is executed is head-scratching. How did the marine and his brother's girlfriend infiltrate the gang so easily? Why did the biker gang's girlfriend choose the latter to ride with her on a drug run after knowing her for such a short time? Hell, why did she fall in love with the former so quickly? These are just a few of the nagging questions that remain after this mess of a film finishes with its prerequisite indie rock song no one has ever heard of.

And let's not forget about the characters, which might as well be represented by cardboard cutouts. The marine is played by Ross Hagen, who has the dubious "honor" of also being the lead in Sidehackers, and he is just as gruff and unlikable in Hellcats. His companion, his brother's girlfriend, at least isn't a blond bimbo who can't take care of herself, but she still does little beyond getting caught and acting tough with generic girl power. The bikers are the typical morons that make you question how they have eluded the police for so long, and the main villains - the crime lord and his henchmen - are stereotypes (they killed the crime lord's girlfriend for no reason, for Christ's sake!). At least there was no annoying comic relief this time around.

Overall, Hellcats is a complete waste of time in every regard, and the reason that there's so little to say about it is because it's too bland to really merit any kind of serious thought. Again, it is worse than Sidehackers, which is quite a feat.

MST3K Review

Yikes! What happened here? Usually over the course of an MST3K episode, there are at least several moments here and there that save an episode without a strong riffing script, but for this episode such moments were very few and far between. Apparently most of the Best Brains staff were out of town when this episode was being written, which explains why the jokes are not up to the usual wittiness that the second season has established. In fact, if it weren't for the smooth flow of the riffs, this episode could've fit right in with season one. It's still a moderately enjoyable episode, but definitely one of the worst in the series so far, definitely on par with the equally forgettable The Mad Monster.

Stinger Review

The stinger seems to have the same lack of effort as the episode's riffing, since it's more "huh?" than bizarre. In the stinger, we see the aftermath of a trumpeter being tossed into a river: his screams at his friends incomprehensibly before running out of the river. The lack of clarity in his words (try to make out any word other than "human," I dare you) is likely the reason for its selection as a stinger, but a man screaming something incoherent is not itself bizarre, just an example of poor sound quality. I'm not sure what other scene could've been selected as the stinger, but this one doesn't really do it for me, especially compared to the previous episodes' stingers.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

S02E08 - Lost Continent


An experimental nuclear rocket somehow veered off course during an important experimental launch and crash lands somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. A couple of Air Force pilots, a mechanic, and several scientists are sent on a mission to see if they can retrieve it. During their search they find themselves on an island emitting a strange radiation, and after climbing the island's massive mountain they discover they have landed in a lost world.

Movie Review

Rock climbing. Rock climbing rock climbing rock climbing rock climbing. Rock climbing rock climbing rock climbing? Rock climbing rock climbing rock climbing rock climbing rock climbing rock climbing! Rock. Climbing.

Okay, so the first paragraph may be dabbling in a bit of hyperbole, but there is a reason why this film is infamous for a particular portion involving, yep, rock climbing. Remember how I said that The Ring of Terror was one of the worst examples of padding that I have ever seen? Well, Lost Continent doesn't quite get to that level, but it certainly exploits the proud B-movie tradition of film padding as much as it inhumanely can.

First of all, what kind of plot would require this kind of extensive padding? Well, how about a blatant ripoff of The Lost World, with dinosaurs existing where humans do not go? The concept itself is not absurd (much), but some of the additional plot devices, like a nuclear rocket happening to crash on the island and some tacked on anti-nuclear screeds, do stretch the limits of believability one has to endure. Even so, one would think a decent story could be derived for this kind of setting, even one based on a previous story, right?

Wrong! Oh, so wrong. After the crashing of the nuclear rocket (with reused footage from Rocketship X-M, interestingly enough), the film takes its sweet time actually getting to the island with some characterization that ultimately adds nothing of value to the story, and then takes its sweet time getting to the actual lost part of the lost continent (i.e., the peak of the island's giant mountain). So how do they accomplish this lengthy padding? With rock climbing. Twenty minutes of rock climbing. True, there are some pauses here and there for some unnecessary exposition, but for twenty full minutes the audience is forced to endure watching the characters make their way up the mountain with boring shot after shot after shot of rock climbing. Again, it doesn't reach Ring of Terror's level of absurdly unnecessary story, but it's still an endurance test to watch people do something that adds nothing to the plot.

And even after the end of the rock climbing sequence, the film still pads the story with meaningless encounters and lots and lots of walking through obvious jungle sets. This film is so determined not to show anything related to the actual plot that it's a complete chore to sit through. And adding to that chore are the film's characters, or the hollow caricatures that are meant to represent the characters. From the heroic pilot who cannot trust others to the painfully unfunny comic relief to the laughably stereotypical scientists, no one stands out as interesting in this film. Oh, sure, some semblance of actual character development is made late in the film, but it's flimsy at best and insultingly shallow at worst.

So is there anything good that can be said about this movie? Well, some of the effects shots showing dinosaurs looked all right, but those can be attributed to the movie One Million B.C., movie makers' favorite source of dinosaur stock footage in the 1950s, so it's not exactly a compliment. Oh, but here's something that he movie should be complimented on: they killed the annoying comic relief character, and thanks to some screwed up editing, none of the characters offered any kind of mourning or eulogy for him. So there's that, at least...

For a movie shot over the course of eleven days, Lost Continent isn't a completely worthless result (kind of like Rocketship X-M), but its negatives far outweigh its positives. And rock more rock climbing...please...

MST3K Review

This isn't one of MST3K's strongest episodes riffing-wise, but it does have some good gems that are enough to elevate it a little higher than average. Many of these gems are found, predictably, in the infamous rock-climbing sequence. You can hear the frustration in Joel and the bots' voices as they are forced to endure one of the most agonizing twenty minute segments of film shown in the series thus far. There are some other moments outside this sequence as well, but Lost Continent will forever be defined by rock climbing.

Rock climbing.

Stinger Review

After an unexpected stinger break in Wild Rebels, the stinger returns here with an incredibly weird conversation moment. One of the characters, talking with one of the scientists, says a string of sentences that seem unrelated to each other and respond to unanswered words by the silent "doc." The way he delivers these words makes these unnaturally flowing sentences even more awkward. Like The Ring of Terror, it's not the most memorable of stingers, but unless Best Brains crams the entire rock climbing sequence in, there's nothing else available in this film.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

S02E07 - Wild Rebels


After a fiery crash at a race track sends his entire livelihood up in smoke, a race car driver seeks a new way of life, only to accidentally fall into the company of a biker gang. Known to the police as local robbers but always managing to escape prosecution due to lack of evidence, the biker gang sees the driver as their new wheel man and hope to use his talents in their biggest heist yet.

Movie Review

Well, at least Wild Rebels did not make the same mistake that The Sidehackers did and name itself after the sport that it showcases at the beginning. Beyond that, the film doesn't do much else right, but I have to say that this is not that bad of a movie. Rather, it is merely incredibly generic, showcasing barely any creativity or unique thought from beginning to end.

With both being (essentially) biker films, it's difficult not to compare Wild Rebels to Sidehackers, which aired only a few episodes prior in the second season. And there are a lot of similarities between the two: deranged biker gangs with insane leaders, a bland and unlikable protagonist, a sport superfluously attached to the protagonist to give the illusion of depth, a shallow love interest...and those are just the obvious similarities. If there's any major difference between the two, it's that Rebels doesn't resort to the shock tactic of a brutal rape sequence.

In addition to Sidehackers, the movie also shares a few common moments with another season two episode, Catalina Caper, in that it likes to pad the film with dance scenes and terrible music. Sure, these moments do not appear as frequently as in Catalina Caper, but their presence is jarring enough to disrupt any flow in the paper thin story.

But is there really anything in this film that stands out, that gives it some semblance of a personality? Well, the biker gang, while ridiculously cliched, is also a bit bizarre. The leader speaks like an English major constantly consulting a thesaurus, which is movie logic for suggesting he is somehow intelligent. The two other male members are idiots in their own special ways, and yet the all-intelligent leader sees nothing wrong with them. And the girl...well, she likes to hump anything that moves, apparently, and her silly addiction to committing crime for "kicks" is nothing more than a flimsy excuse for lazy writing.

Oh, and I have to give props to the score composer who came up with the typewriter-esque song that plays whenever the gang commits one of their heists. Why? Because it's insanely goofy, which fits these moronic bikers to a T. Sadly, that's the only notable film score piece in the entire movie, as all the other songs, vocal or otherwise, are either unmemorable or horrible.

I hate writing about these types of movies, because they give so little to really work with. Wild Rebels is nowhere near the worst film ever made, but its lack of effort and poor craftsmanship make it little more than a generic piece of cinema destined for the trash heap. And in any case, it's still better than The Sidehackers.

MST3K Review

After two fun episodes, Joel and the bots seem to be on cruise control with episode, as the jokes didn't hit the high level of quality as often as before. Perhaps the film's status as a not-bad-but-not-good movie didn't give them much to work with. Yes, there were some excellent laugh out loud moments, but they were not as frequent as I would've preferred.

Regardless, the folks of MST3K seem to be comfortable in their more rapid-fire method of delivery in their riffs, which means it only takes one truly bad movie for them to find their mojo once more.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

S02E06 - The Ring of Terror


Short: After failing to kill his adversary, the mad scientist rescues his captured chauffeur from the police and maintains a bit of a lower profile, though he does share the secret of his emerging power with his assistant-chauffeur. Meanwhile, the heroes continue to work on an antidote for the mad scientist's strange paralyzing formula while dealing with a spy ring that hopes to steal the scientist's creations for themselves.

Film: A graveyard keeper narrates to his cat the sad tale of a young man who supposedly knew no fear. A promising medical student who showed no signs of fear at anything - snakes, cadaver dissections, etc. - his courage will be tested at a fraternity initiation that looks to tap into a dark secret he has kept from almost everyone he knows.

Movie Review

Unlike the last time, The Phantom Creeps doesn't skimp with the cliche in its cliffhanger ending resolution: our hero manages to escape from the car just before it barrels off the cliff. After that...well, who the hell cares? A complete mess of a narrative in the second episode, the third episode is even worse, showing front and center the writers' inability to care about structure, plot, or anything interesting.

We still only care about one character, the mad scientist, and that's because he has the good fortune of being played by Bela Lugosi. And we still have no good idea where the story is going, as new plot points are introduced while others are left hanging. Some might call it complexity, but for a serial series like this, simplicity is preferred, especially when one tries to crap a good story into such a relatively short window of time. The opposite was true in Radar Men from the Moon, where the story was padded beyond belief. Here, ridiculous plot point upon ridiculous plot point is shoved into the story without concern for its overall effect on the narrative, making it suffer as a result (not to mention boring).

Apparently this third episode of The Phantom Creeps is the last one shown on MST3K, which I think is for the best. Let it be snuffed out quickly rather than painfully extend its death a la Commando Cody's serial shorts from season 1.

As for the movie...egads! What a wretched piece of cinema this movie is! The Ring of Terror shouldn't even be called a movie, even though it meets the basic requirements (more or less). What this movie really is, however, is a TV episode. A thinly stretched TV episode. A TV episode of what, you may ask? Let's find out and postulate.

The movie starts out with a framing device, an old man who is the keeper of a graveyard telling a story to his cat about one of the graves. It's the owner of this grave whose story he tells, and it's this story that takes over the bulk of the film. What happens is one of the biggest offenders of padding I've ever witnessed in a movie. The movie, I'm guessing, is meant to be some kind of horror story, but the only "horror" takes place at the very end with scattered "jump scares" here and there that are more comical than terrifying. Everything else is just an extended back story for the protagonist, a medical student who has a reputation among his friends for not being afraid of anything.

And oh, god, how horribly unnecessary the back story is. It tries its hardest to build up the main character's history, but all it really does it slow the film down to a crawl as it struggles to find anything relevant to the final big moment. You could likely excise 80% of the film and you'd still have a coherent story - that is how bad the padding is here. And the eponymous Ring of Terror? It appears a couple times briefly about halfway through the story, and then briefly again at the end. But its appearance is so laughably superfluous that I'm thinking it was put there just so the filmmakers could name the film something other than "Boring Medical Student Who Dies At the End From Fright."

Oh, and let's talk about the medical student...or students, I should say. Every student in this film is nowhere near college age, and watching a bunch of adults acting like teenagers is hilariously awkward. Outside of this, though, every "teenager" (including the protagonist) is forgettable. Oh, wait, scratch that, not all of them. There are a couple of overweight characters whose weight and constant eating is a running gag throughout the film. Now, I'm okay with fat jokes for the most part, but the filmmakers were unusually cruel to these two, especially in portraying them as pigs that eat all the time. But I suppose they had to pad the film with something other than uninteresting discussions about our hero's bravery.

Can I talk about padding again? Because really, there's nothing else to talk about this stretched out premise. Let me count the ways that this film pads the run time of this cinematic abomination: 1) show how brave our hero is by making him kill a snake; 2) show the two fat people dancing awkwardly; 3) show a professor demonstrate an autopsy...for faaaaaaaaar too long; 4) manufacture some conflict between the hero and his girlfriend about his work to become a doctor; 5) show people we don't care about go through their fraternity initiations; 6) make the hero walk through the cemetery and mausoleum for (again) faaaaaaaaar too long before he finally reaches the film's climax.

And for what? I'll tell you what: a Snopes article. Yes, an urban legend ending. Remember the famous hook on a car door urban legend? Well, Ring of Terror decides to one up that and show our hero dying by being frightened of a hand that supposedly reaches out to grab him. All that buildup...for this. What a waste of celluloid.

This shouldn't be a movie. It shouldn't. It should really be a TV episode for a series, like Tales from the Crypt, only the framing device storyteller is an old guy with a cat and the horror story is a bland recreation of an urban legend. Come to think of it, that's a terrible idea, which likely explains why it was made into a film to begin with.

MST3K Review

While the riffing was not as good as Rocket Attack USA, Joel and the bots had a lot of fun with this episode, especially regarding the elderly "teenagers" of the movie. There were a few noticeable lagging patches here and there, but overall it was an enjoyable bout of riffing. The short didn't get as much attention, though, likely because Best Brains was growing sick and tired of The Phantom Creeps. And honestly, who could blame them?

Stinger Review

Instead of going for the low punch and poking fun at many of the fat people jokes in the film, the stinger instead opts for one of the "teenagers" spouting a bizarre line reading of the phrase, "Weird? Yeah, I guess that is the word for it. Weird." The isolating camera shot only makes it more awkward. Not the most memorable of stingers, but from a movie this dull, it's the best they could've found, I suppose.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

S02E05 - Rocket Attack USA


Short: After successfully faking his death, the mad scientist is unsuccessful in retrieving his wife and instead accidentally kills her. Convinced that his enemies are at fault for her death, he makes moves to utilize his inventions to gain revenge. But those who oppose him still seek to find the secret to his discoveries before they fall into the wrong hands.

Film: Tensions between the USA and Soviet Russia are at a fever pitch, and it is believed that a nuclear war is approaching. With the recent launch of Sputnik, America fears that a nuclear strike from Russia is imminent and sends a spy to Russia in order to learn more. When he discovers that Russia plans on firing a nuclear missile, he quickly sets out to stop it. But can he destroy it in time?

Movie Review

I must say...I am very surprised. Surprised that in the second episode of The Phantom Creeps, the cliffhanger was not resolved how I imagined it. Instead of the protagonists bailing out of the plane with parachutes at the last minute, they are still inside the plane when it crashes, with the crash actually killing one of them (the mad scientist's wife). Unfortunately, it also introduces the absurdity that the other protagonist survives the plane crash with nary a scratch on him, so perhaps predictability would've been the best route here.

Outside of this aversion of cliche, The Phantom Creeps is terrible, perhaps even worse than Radar Men from the Moon. Okay, perhaps not that bad, but it still has numerous problems. Outside of the overacting (poor Bela Lugosi), the plot is a tangled mess. It seems that the writers for this serial series had no idea what kind of story they wanted, so they simply sat down at their typewriters, began typing, and never stopped. There seems to be no genuine motivation behind these characters' actions, just generic reasoning and blind acceptance.

And the characters...what characters? Outside of Bela Lugosi, who is sadly nothing more than a caricature here, none of the actors give anything even close to a motivated performance. They all seem as bored as I did while watching this, and they leave no impression about themselves. Hell, I can't even remember any of their names five minutes after the short's cliffhanger, which is the predictable car-run-off-the-road stunt pulled by Commando Cody (twice!). And this time, I doubt they will give any surprises.

And now for the movie...or is it really a movie? I've identified several films on MST3K before that I don't consider to be real movies, but Rocket Attack USA shows those symptoms more strongly than any other film I've seen so far on this show. This isn't a movie more than it is a propaganda piece. Instead of a plot, we get precariously strung together skits that try to resemble a plot. Now, this kind of editing may have worked if they had done it all the way through the film (it still would've been bad, but at least it would've showed some competence), but things are completely derailed in the last portion of the film that shows this movie's true intentions.

What am I talking about? First, let's discuss the portion of the film that could, in one sense, be considered a movie. Even this section of the film is stretching the definition, as it's not so much a narrative as it is a collection of segments stitched together by narrations. The story practically jumps from narration to scene to narration to scene, from overview of things to focused story and back again. It's incredibly jarring, giving the viewer no time to get attached to any of the characters, who might as well be played by finger puppets.

The story told between the narrations could've been potentially intriguing - a spy story told within the backdrop of the Cold War - but instead it's a painful bore. It's only near the end when there's anything resembling something interesting, and even then it's poorly executed. The story also ends on a very down note (from the US's point of view, at least), with both of the main characters killed without completing their mission. Normally that would be the end of such matters, right?

Not at all, because as soon as this narrative ends, the film tacks on the most overblown piece of propaganda this side of "Reefer Madness". In an effort to scare the audience about the dangers of nuclear war, the final handful of scenes in Rocket Attack USA show several idyllic scenes of Americana before Russia launches its nuclear missile at New York City, sending people into a panic as they scramble for shelter. The last scene is that of the missile actually striking the city, killing millions, and the narrator pleading with the audience not to make this scene "the end" in real life, or something.

Coupled with a painfully disjointed story, this propaganda piece completely destroys any narrative in the film. It could've likely worked better as a stand alone short, although its kitsch would still be painfully obvious today, but as part of the film's actual story, it fails miserably in adding anything to the movie as a whole.

Notice that I haven't really discussed any other aspect of this film, like the acting, the direction, the dialogue, etc.? That's because the ridiculous nature of this film's patchwork story overshadows everything else. Sure, I could mention the acting is predictably wooden, there is a shoe-horned love scene between two of the protagonists, and the characters often make mind-numbingly stupid decisions, but none of that is even worth mentioning compared to Rocket Attack's pathetic narrative.

In short, a completely worthless of piece of cinema that should only be watched by those who desire a full-length 1950s era propaganda piece.

MST3K Review

Damn, now this is what MST3K is all about. From the very beginning (the short) to the very end (the propaganda portion of the film), Joel and the bots were firing on all cylinders. Riffs came left and right with no mercy, and their timing was impeccable. Contrasted against season 1 episodes and even the first few episodes of season 2, this episode hit all the right notes and never let up. A classic episode of season two, as well as the series as a whole.

Stinger Review

For the first time in the series, MST3K introduces the stinger, that beloved short scene from the film that plays at the very end of the credits. Selected as the most bizarre and goofiest moment of the movie, the stinger is meant to end each episode on a final laugh without any help from Joel and the bots, to show that the movie often doesn't need to be riffed to be humiliated.

For the first stinger, Best Brains couldn't have selected a better stinger than the scene of the blind man walking nonchalantly down a street as air raid sirens blare, only to woodenly cry out "help me" when someone runs past him. It's so badly acted and so awkwardly directed that it doesn't make sense no matter what the context is. In other words, the perfect stinger.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

S02E04 - Catalina Caper


A priceless Chinese scroll is stolen from a museum, and the thieves make their way to the beaches of Santa Catalina Island in California. There, a group of teenagers on vacation become mixed up in a deadly game of international theft as the scroll lures several people toward it. While the mystery goes on, beach parties are held aplenty.

Movie Review

For the first time, MST3K provides us with a comedy in a film that was trying to be funny, as opposed to unintentionally being funny. So of course, since Catalina Caper is on this show, it fails miserably in any attempt at being funny. Oh, it's funny in some ways, but not in the way the film makers intended, I'm sure.

The first thing that becomes apparent upon watching this movie is that it isn't really trying to be a movie but a showcase for young girls in bikinis. Released near the end of the beach party film craze, Catalina Caper makes no bones (or does it? *ba-dum-tish*) about its agenda. In over half the scenes in the film there are young girls wearing next to nothing and shaking their moneymakers to cheesy dance music. Are they necessary to the plot? Of course not, but they're there for a reason, and everyone knows what that reason is.

In addition to the T&A, there are songs. Horrible, horrible songs sung by either local bands or a real singer with no shame, i.e., Little Richard. While Richard's song is a bland piece of dreck that hardly damages his actual musical career, the other songs are hideous tunes that only a local band could come up with. I hope the bands in this film got paid well for the advertising here, because their horribleness will live on for eternity now.

And I'm not even counting the opening song, a mushy piece of pap called "Never Steal Anything Wet" sung over a cartoon intro reminiscent of Moon Zero Two and (yep) The Pink Panther. Again, this film doesn't have the benefit of Henry Mancini doing the score, but at least Catalina Caper's opening tune is more tolerable than the blaring choirs of Moon Zero Two.

Now for the comedy...but what comedy? The only funny moments in this movie come from unintended ridiculousness, and the moments that are meant to be funny fall flat on their face...literally. Much of the failure here has to do with the two characters designated as the comedy relief. The first, one of the thieves named Larry, is a doofus with the brain of an eel, and his idiocy and cowardice is somehow meant to be amusing but ends up annoying. The second, an insurance investigator called Fingers O'Toole, is worse. Apparently, he is meant to be the Peter Sellers of this film, but he has none of Sellers' charisma or talent. Every fifteen minutes or so the film cuts to a shot of Fingers being a clumsy oaf: tripping over gangplanks, dropping his briefcase into the ocean, using a fishing pole to accidentally remove a girl's bikini top, awkwardly riding a skateboard...he's a nonstop pratfall. And he isn't funny. At all. He has no comedic time and his exaggerated actions are just silly and unnatural. His catchphrase is "I don't believe it," and I don't either.

Outside of the alleged comedy, there are several things wrong with this film. Naturally, with this being a beach party flick, the women are treated as nothing more than accessories. But there's an even more bizarre thing wrong with this flick: the complete lack of minorities (outside of Little Richard, of course). Trying to find anyone that isn't white is like playing Where's Waldo?, and while it's refreshing not to see any minority stereotypes like in Jungle Goddess, not seeing any minorities at all while all the white folks resemble Hitler Youth is kind of unsettling.

And what about the story? Ee gads, they really didn't seem to care about it, did they? Oh, it makes sense, but it's still a convoluted mess made up of coincidences, conveniences, and contrivances. The film seems to see itself as a mystery caper, but there is no mystery: we know who stole the scroll, and we know what the thieves ultimate plan is. The only thing we don't know (but can easily guess) is the identify of Fingers, and his idiotic pratfalls make him too annoying to care about. No, there is no mystery here, just a lot of poorly written scenes to (ironically) pad out the film so the real padding (the hot half-naked girls) can eat up more screen time in between. The final few minutes of the film do try to resolve things, but do so too quickly for a satisfying payoff. But considering this film's true purpose, would anyone really be that disappointed?

It's amazing how, when it comes to bad movies, the serious movies are usually unintentionally funny and the comedies are unintentionally unfunny. Catalina Caper is no exception.

MST3K Review

This being the first comedy film riffed by Joel and the bots, their style of jokes is noticeably different than their usual fare. Some have pointed out the inherent difficulties in trying to make funny a film that has already tried (and failed) to be funny, and I can see where they're coming from. There are some good strong riffs in this movie (one in particular being my favorite of the series so far*), many of the riffs focus on the movie trying to be funny and fake-laughing at the poor attempts at humor, then wondering why the previous scene was meant to be funny. Talking about why a movie fails to be funny isn't funny in itself, unfortunately, but I suppose there's little one can do with such painful attempts at humor.

*A woman is getting changed behind a rock, and a boy on the other side of the rock has his back to the rock. Says Crow, "Looks like he's stuck between a rock and a hard place."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

S02E03 - Jungle Goddess


Short: A mad scientist plans on using his latest inventions - a giant robot and a newly discovered formula that can place people in a state of suspended animation - to become rich and/or rule the world, but his wife and a scientist who once worked with him plan to stop him by informing the government of his inventions. Undeterred, the mad scientist fakes his death and starts planning his means of covering his lie up.

Film: An arrogant pilot and his friend fly their plane to the continent of Africa to search for a crashed plane that carried the female heiress of a rich mogul, hoping to obtain a reward in exchange for her whereabouts. Upon landing near the site of a crashed plane, they are taken captive by a local tribe, where they discover that the heiress is alive and is considered a goddess by the tribesmen.

Movie Review

Another season, another serial short series. This time, instead of dull action of Commando Cody's Radar Men from the Moon, we get The Phantom Creeps, starring Bela Lugosi in yet another typecast role. Bela plays a mad scientist (big surprise) who wishes to use his inventions to (what else?) take over the world. Or is it get rich by selling his evil inventions to evil governments? I'm not exactly clear on his motivation, but then again, with writing this obtuse, neither is this serial short.

Because this serial is as generic as they come, many of the same tired cliches and tropes are employed here. We have the giant robot that's slow and lumbering and yet is expected to be a deadly threat on a battlefield (see also: The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy). We have Bela Lugosi hamming it up with his thick accent as a mad scientist with no clear motivation except vague sinister intention (see also: The Corpse Vanishes*). We get poorly defined protagonists who offer no screen presence and are utterly forgettable (see also: The Mad Monster). In addition, this serial episode ends on a cliffhanger that I swear is identical to two - count 'em, two - cliffhangers in Radar Men from the Moon. This serial isn't just generic, it's downright lazy.

*Is it just me, or does Bela like doing projects with the naming scheme "The [NOUN] [PRESENT TENSE VERB]"?

About the only thing worth talking about in this serial are the mad scientist's inventions, if only to highlight how ridiculous they are. The first one shown is a giant metal robot which, as mentioned, is meant to be a destructive weapon in great numbers in a war zone but moves so laughably slowly that the enemy would die from laughter before the mechanical thing got anywhere near them. The goofy-looking head only makes it look less threatening. The second invention is even more silly, and it's a spider-like creature that is "attracted" to a small disk that looks like a communion wafer. Upon reaching the wafer, the spider explodes and...I can't believe I'm writing this...and causes any living thing it touches to be placed in suspended animation. If that doesn't sound patently absurd, I don't know what is. But hey, this serial is running with this idea, so let's see where they take it in the next episode, where the heroes escape the plane crash with parachutes, I'm sure.

And now for the feature film, Jungle Goddess, the movie that does one thing and one thing well, and that's stereotypes. A preposterous artifact of the late 1940s, this film should be studied if only to show that yes, people once held these views without irony or shame (if, of course, a better print than the one that Best Brains have is found, preferably one that doesn't look like the sun is burning everything to a white crisp). From women to Africans to whites, no stereotype is left unturned in this piece of schlock.

The story itself is paper-thin: an arrogant pilot convinces his partner (a pre-Superman George Reeves) to help him search for a plane carrying the daughter of a Dutch millionaire that crashed before World War II. Upon finding the plane in the jungles of Africa, they are captured by a primitive tribe and find that the heiress is now worshiped as a god by the tribe. The arrogant pilot is to be put to death for killing a tribesman with his gun (of course), but the jungle goddess wishes to return home, so she hatches a plan to escape with the two pilots. Sexism and racism ensue.

Let's look at the racism first. Naturally, the movie takes place in Africa. Just...Africa. No need to name a country, since Africa is one big country, right? And of course the tribe is a typical Hollywood African tribe, where non-white actors dress in silly costumes and yell vaguely African dialects like savages. It would be comical if people back then didn't take these portrayals seriously. And I haven't even mentioned the tribesmen obviously seeing a white woman as a goddess (because white is better than black!), or the doting servant woman who's as thick as a brick, or the evil witchdoctor who wishes to control the tribe himself. Why should I bother mentioning these things, when they're pretty much par for the course!

The "white devils," or the male pilots, don't fare much better. Their racism is a lot more subtler than the exaggerated portrayal of the African tribesmen, though their actions make it clear that they see themselves as superior. The most hilarious example of their bigotry is when they discover that the land near the tribe possesses a radioactive element that is worth a lot of money. What is the purpose of this plot device? Nothing except that the white men can be rich when they return back to civilization and tell everyone about this untapped reservoir. Apparently, that ranch in Colorado is more important than the livelihood of the tribesmen.

Finally, the women portrayed in this flick are the typical weak, pathetic creatures that early cinema likes to indulge in. Funnily enough, there are only two women in the entire movie: the goddess and her servant. The latter is a stereotypical ignorant black girl who needs her white master to be someone important. The former is a girl who is meant to look tough (she's the goddess of a tribe with a witchdoctor who hates her, after all) but is so weak she ends up twisting her ankle upon leaving the village with the two pilots. Sexism at its best. Geez...

Normally I would by now point out something worthwhile about the film, but honestly there is nothing at all decent in this movie. The characters are flat, the story is barely there, and the stereotypes are too obnoxious to ignore. It's not as bad as The Mad Monster, but it is still a wretched piece of cinema that, outside of curiosity on how low Hollywood's standards sunk, deserves to be dead and buried.

MST3K Review

I liked this episode, for some reason. Many of the riffs weren't as good as some past episode, but many other riffs were gut-bustingly funny. At the least, I laughed out loud more times during Jungle Goddess than I did during The Sidehackers. Even the accompanying short got some laughs out of me, primarily thanks to Joel and the bots' overdone Bela Lugosi impersonations. I'm not sure how long it will take for those impressions to grow old, but at least for this episode, they did their job.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

S02E02 - The Sidehackers


A member of a sidehacker racing team becomes familiar with a traveling biker entertainment gang when the gang's leader needs his bike fixed. The hot-tempered gang leader tries to convince the sidehacker to join his group, but to no effect. When the sidehacker later on turns down the advances of the gang leader's girlfriend, a horrible lie leads to the sidehacker's idyllic life being shattered and seeking revenge against the ones who had destroyed everything.

Movie Review

What kind of film were they trying to make here? That was the question that ran through my mind as The Sidehackers unfolded, mostly in the latter half of the film. The movie's title would indicate that this is some kind of sports film, but the movie itself says otherwise. Of course, if the film itself is good, then that would excuse that kind of disconnect between title and film, but the overall result presented here is not something to be proud of.

As mentioned above, one would think Sidehackers was a film about the eponymous sport of motorcycles with side carts (the so-called "sidehacks"). But the sport plays very little of a role in the story, if any. In fact, its only use is to pad the movie's run time, and boy, does it pad. The sidehacking races just go on and on and on with absolutely no relation to the narrative other than a flimsy reason to tie the protagonist and antagonist together. And the sidehacker bike's appearance at film's end also serves no purpose other than to remind the viewers that the movie is named after a niche sport.

Outside of these races, the movie is a generic biker film that tries to one up other biker films with unsettling brutality. Said brutality is, of course, the deaths of the two main females, particularly the girlfriend of the film's protagonist. In a set of scenes that are jarring compared to the rest of the film, the hero's girlfriend is viciously raped (no nudity, but little is held back) and strung up on the ceiling after she is killed. The villain's own girlfriend, who is abused throughout the film, ends up getting choked by the villain during a fit of madness. To say this film is misogynistic is putting it lightly.

And let's not forget about the characters themselves, who inhabit a set of personalities that try to have depth but end up over the top. The prime example of this is the movie's villain, JC, who chews enough scenery to make a whole new film; if not for the rape scene, he would make this movie hilarious. The hero tries to hard to be a gruff hard-ass with a soft spot in his heart, and the two girlfriends, despite their polarizing characters, still end up portrayed as attachments to their male counterparts. The only truly annoying character is one that appears near film's end and who burns his hideousness into the audience's minds with his terrible joke-telling. Everyone else in the movie doesn't have anything interesting to truly distinguish them.

In short, the film fails at being a sports film and fails at being a good film in general. Outside of the sidehacking, the generic biker narrative is completely uninteresting beyond an unnecessary rape sequence. Some people might choose to elevate it a little because of its interesting decision to go with a nihilistic ending, but that only makes a terrible film a miserable one.

MST3K Review

With the "season shock" between seasons one and two finished, now I can judge MST3K's episodes on their own merits, and while The Sidehackers does offer some good riffs, it isn't one of the strongest episodes in the series. This episode actually became infamous because before this film, Best Brains would never watch a movie before writing their riffs; they always wrote their jokes while watching a movie for the first time. The brutal rape scene in Sidehackers convinced them to change that policy and watch a movie in its entirety before committing to using it in the show. The movie's nihilism streak, coupled with the rape scenes that they had to excise, likely contributed to the riffing's overall subdued feeling.

On a positive note, I did enjoy the one riff done by Cambot, the bot only seen in the show's opening. The parody on the EPSN sports tracker was brilliant.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

S02E01 - Rocketship X-M


A group of astronauts board the Rocketship X-M for the Earth's first manned voyage to the moon. On the way, disaster strikes as the engines malfunction, forcing the crew to reconfigure their fuel balances. Their on-the-fly calculations accidentally end up sending the hapless astronauts to an entirely different place than they had intended, leading to them discovering a horrific past for one of the solar system's planets.

Movie Review

This movie is boring. That word pretty much can sum up the entire film, but since I'd like to make a bit more effort than that, I shall. Still, one cannot deny that most of this film is filled with tedium that would make Project Moonbase proud. Even with the recognizable and entertaining Lloyd Bridges starring, Rocketship X-M fails to tell an engaging story, from beginning to its patently absurd ending.

Likely the biggest contributor to the story's failings is that there isn't much of a story to begin with. In what seems to be a recurring problem with movies on this show, the story is a paper-thin premise stretched well beyond its ability to tell an engaging narrative. Hence, the first half of the film, if not more, fills each scene with padded exposition and faux drama that end up doing nothing to move the story forward. Almost two-thirds of the movie deal with the crew talking to reporters on the ground, the ship taking off, the rocketship breaking down, the crew reconfiguring its fuel, and putting the recalibrated fuel into effect, something that could've been done in a much smaller time frame.

The second half of the film (or is it the final third?) is where the story goes from padded to ridiculous. In an attempt to slap an anti-nuclear war message onto the film, the astronauts miss landing on the moon and instead find themselves on Mars, where they witness an advanced civilization that has become "primitive" due to nuclear war. The idea of a rocketship "missing" the moon and somehow finding themselves on Mars, as well as the heavy-handed moral, is absurd enough that it detracts from the movie's finale, in which the remainder of the ship crash and die upon returning to Earth. The silly final speech by the mission chief doesn't help matters, either.

If there is one positive I can give this film, however, it is its marked attempt at realism. Shot several years before the first moon landing, Rocketship X-M nevertheless does a decent job at portraying space travel. Sure, not all attempts succeed; for example, meteors flying past the rocket make whooshing sounds in airless space, the crew treats its liftoff in the same manner of trying to catch a departing bus, and there's no way to defend the absurdity of the rocket somehow missing the moon and finding Mars. However, the film does deserve some credit for trying to portray varying degrees of gravity, and though the fuel reconfiguration scene is painfully dull, it does show the usefulness of actual scientists.

Unfortunately, the latter scene also demonstrates that familiar monster in films of this era: sexism. One female scientist is part of the crew, and when she and the chief male scientist attempt to recalculate the fuel, the male scientist overrides her calculations. When she objects then apologizes, the male says nonchalantly, "For what, for momentarily being a woman?" This sexism rears its head once again when the woman relays her fears about the fuel mixture, and the male quips about her "woman's intuition." But, in an interesting twist, the sexism is averted when the woman proves to be correct in her fears, although this aversion is far more subtle than the actual display of sexism.

Additionally, the characters are nothing to write home about. Lloyd Bridges seems to be the only one who attempts to give his character anything resembling a personality, and he still ends up being more annoying (though not as annoying as the Texas astronaut whose whole character is predictably defined by his home state). The female scientist does try to be more than the passing love interest, though the film gives her nothing to work with, and the head astronaut/chauvinist is too predictable to be anything more than a given set of tropes. All other characters offer nothing memorable over the course of the film.

Perhaps the final nail in the coffin of Rocketship X-M is this piece of trivia regarding its production: in an effort to beat the delayed picture Destination Moon to theaters, X-M was made over a span of a grand total of 18 days. While it's certainly impressive that they managed to get some semblance of a movie out of those near three weeks, the results are still nothing to crow about and make it an interesting but unmemorable artifact of cinema.

MST3K Review

Wow. Just, wow.

First of all, let's talk about the MST3K show itself. I don't discuss the host segments that occur between the movie because, quite frankly, they're not my cup of tea. I know a lot of people see these host segments as part of the show's charm, and I did see a lot of great segments back in season one. However, for me, the main attraction is and has always been the feature film and its riffs, and that is where I judge an episode's strength. The host segments, if anything, are a bonus for me.

With that said, the show has certainly upgraded from the previous season to season two. A cleaner look, more polished segments, and the introduction (and loss) of a couple characters. One newcomer here is Frank Conniff, who plays TV's Frank and Dr. Forrester's newest assistant. Why? Because Josh Weinstein (Dr. Erhardt) has left the show. And that also means Tom Servo, voiced by Josh, gets a new voice...and it's the familiar (to me) Kevin Murphy. By now I've gotten used to Trace Beaulieu voicing Crow instead of Bill Corbett, but I could never really get used to Josh as Servo. He did nothing wrong - in fact it did the best he ever could - but for some reason Tom's voice was always the most jarring, though this might've had to do with the fact that his jokes often fell flat the most. Kevin, on the other hand, is a much more vibrant voice for Tom, and though this has much to do with my familiarity with Kevin's voice, it is clear to see that he is an improvement over Josh.

And now for the After watching the relative looseness of the first season, the first episode of season two was like night and day. Gone is the lighthearted and almost sloppy feeling that plagued many season one episodes; replacing it is a rehearsed performance by Joel and the bots that flows much more smoothly. And while Rocketship X-M is not exactly a classic episode in the show, it is a gem compared to season one and contained some strong riffs that really benefited from the more planned performances.

In many ways, this was the perfect means of re-introducing us to MST3K and its new overall look and feel, as well as make us look forward to the next episode in the series.