Short: The ABCs are presented through a series of short film segments that correspond to each letter of the alphabet.
Movie: A truck driver and amateur racer meets a feisty young woman who challenges him to a drag race. During this race, his best friend is killed and he is initially blamed for it. When he is cleared of the charge, he and the young woman seek to find out the cause of his friend's death by infiltrating a new nightclub.
Before diving into the droopy antics that is Daddy-O, this episode of MST3K starts off with antics of a different kind: the alphabet kind. In the short film Alphabet Antics, a woman narrator takes us through each letter of the alphabet by showing off a short film segment related (often tangibly) to each letter. While not as terrible as most of the previous films or shorts shown on MST3K, this short is so inherently goofy and pointless that one wonders who exactly it was made for. Perhaps it had been meant for school children to watch in class, or had it once been attached to movies meant for younger viewers?
Whatever the reason, the movie is certainly peculiar, as well as at times poorly executed. As typical for something likely aimed at a young audience, the narrator speaks in rhymes as she narrates the scenes and their corresponding letter, but her rhymes make no sense and have no inherent consistency. Granted, children of a young age would likely not care, but why not put forth at least some effort? Also, some of the letters were really stretching their relation to certain scenes. The letter I, for instance, was for "In" and accompanied by a shot of the White House. Why? Because when the President is inside the White House, he is "in," and when he's not "in," he's out. And the pelicans were saddled with the letter Q for "queer, queer pelicans" (one of the most notable words whose definitions have changed in recent times).
Also, aside from some apparent animal mistreatment, there was also one instant of apparent racism where, for the letter B, a group of stereotypical African bushmen were rowing a "boat." Yeah, I don't get it either.
In any case, this is one of the more harmless, if silly pieces of film that has graced MST3K's projection screen, which is more than I can say for the feature film, Daddy-O. Now, to be fair, Daddy-O isn't that bad of a film. It's not a good film, but it's not as bad as a lot of the dreck that has come before it on this show. However, it is an indecisive film, having the same problem as Sidehackers in that it doesn't know what kind of movie it wants to be (without the jarring rape sequence, thankfully). Does it want to be a racing film? Or a mystery film? Perhaps an action film? No one can tell, and neither can the movie, which makes for a very uneven watching experience.
One of the biggest problems is the forced chemistry between the two leads, the male racer (played by accordion legend Dick Contino) and the female upstart. They try so, so hard to have some kind of stormy yet slowly tempering relationship between them from the moment they meet, but it just doesn't work. The moments they switch from "I hate you" to "I don't hate anymore" to "I love you" come out of nowhere and feel like neon signs signaling bad writing. Like in many movies of this ilk, the romance is completely unnecessary and just weighs the film down. If one good thing can be said about the romance, it is nowhere near as bad as the one found in The Corpse Vanishes, but that's the only thing.
Aside from the romance, the story is nothing to write home about, just the standard story of illegal deeds being investigated by jerks with hearts of gold and the police doing absolutely nothing. Oddly enough, the movie seems as uninterested in the plot as the audience does, as it seems to forget about it until near the end during a forced exposition scene. The final third is a bunch of action scenes strung together, and the editing department apparently has no experience with such types of films, as these scenes are disjointed. Several characters also appear and disappear without warning, though the impression they leave is so small no one apparently cares about them leaving.
So is there anything good about this film? Maybe the score, which was the first film score done by the legendary John Williams. Though the music lacks the iconic melody lines that has made Williams famous and thus isn't all that memorable, the music is a lot better than the stock music and random sound effects used in many other B-movies. If this movie is the price to pay for Williams' work to follow, then so be it.
All in all, not a bad film, just an uninteresting one.
Apparently whatever drugs Joel and the bots used to get the brilliant riffs from the previous episode were in short supply for this episode, as this one ranks as one of their weaker efforts. Nowhere near as bad as The Mad Monster and The Hellcats, but also not up to par with some of their best riffs. There were some strong jokes her and there, and by the end they seemed to have found a good groove in places, but there were too many lags throughout to really rank it in the upper hierarchy of episodes. Interestingly, the short had better riffs than the actual film riffs. The ending scenes of the Mads struggling to fix the credits was funnier than the film riffs, in fact.
Going along with the episode's "okay but no more" feeling, the stinger has approximately the same quality. The scene is of the brainless and near-blind thug telling the hero "Couldn't help you if I wanted to, fella. Gym policy." A bizarre line made even more bizarre by the guy's facial expression make this a decent stinger, though it feels a little hollow compared to some of the better stingers in previous episodes.