12/6/06

102 Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy

(1958, Horror/Mad Science, b&w), with:

Commando Cody in Radar Men from the Moon: Chapter One, Moon Rocket
(1952, SciFi Serial/Children, b&w)

This is the kind of film you won't put on pause when you leave the room.

Rating: *

In a nutshell:

Short: Commando Cody discovers evil men on the moon.
Film: A good scientist disturbs a mummy while an evil scientist builds a robot.

Short Summary:

Commando Cody in Radar Men from the Moon: Chapter One, Moon Rocket begins with a group of fey, hooded moon men in eye makeup. They hire some low-rent thugs to soften up the earth’s defenses with their atomic ray guns. Commando Cody (a.k.a. Pumpkin Boy) to the rescue! He’s got a flying suit, a goofy helmet, and a really fake spaceship which he flies around while people say things like “Lunarium is an element more powerful than Uranium!” in very serious tones. Cody and crew go to the moon, find an ancient civilization that centuries of astronomers apparently never noticed, and get in numerous fist fights with its inhabitants. In the midst of the mayhem, moon leader Retik aimlessly fires his atomic ray pistol, which apparently takes longer to reload than an old flintlock. The short ends on a cliffhanger when Retik finally reloads and is about to blow Cody to smithereens.

Film Summary:

It's a robot...with a human face...The movie’s main character is Edward, a vaguely sciencey guy who speaks at conferences, hypnotizes his wife, and robs ancient Aztec tombs with his whole family. He also provides dry narration, flatly announcing events in between scenes, making sure that he spoils any kind of surprise or plot twist long before it happens. His wife, Flora, has the job of getting hypnotized and kidnapped many, many times.

In order to prove his theory about past life regression, Edward hypnotizes Flora back to Aztec days, where she has her heart cut out while her lover is buried alive to protect a necklace and a bracelet. They find the tomb, taking along their son, her father, and a strange ubiquitous man who seems to live with them.

(Joel and the ‘Bots quickly christen him “Floyd the Barber” for his mustache and thick glasses, and for the life of me I can’t remember what his character’s real name was supposed to be. His only function is to stand around and nod approvingly every time Edward speaks.)

Anyway, they find the treasure and her past-life lover, who’s now the eponymous Aztec Mummy. They manage to nab the ancient jewelry and escape. (This is not as hard as it sounds, because, though he can’t be harmed, the mummy can only move at the rate of approximately three inches per minute.) Later, the mummy kidnaps Flora. They go back to recover her, blowing up the pyramid while her father sacrifices himself to cover their escape.

This ought to be enough for a movie in and of itself, but it’s actually only the first twenty minutes or so, approximately nineteen minutes of which are narration and another thirty-two minutes of which are the Aztec sacrificial ceremony.

Moving on, a character mentioned briefly in the opening narration is Professor Krupp, another vaguely sciencey guy who’s also into hypnosis and grave robbing, except that he uses his hypnotic, grave-robbing prowess for evil. He wants to get the treasure so that he can use it to finance his plot to build an army of killer robots and take over the world.

Using his nom de guerr, the Bat, he and his favorite henchman Bruno kidnap everybody (even Floyd for some reason) so that Edward can translate something or other written on the necklace. Just as they’re all about to be killed, the Mummy bursts in and disfigures Bruno while throwing the Bat into a handy pit of venomous snakes.

Years of narration later, it turns out that the Bat survived and has hypnotized Flora from afar. Now he hypnotizes and kidnaps her again, takes them out to find the Mummy (who now has the treasure) and then puts her back before she awakes from her trance.

Centuries of narration pass; Edward and Floyd the Barber track down the Bat yet again. There is an enormously long robot creation scene. The Robot (an unabashedly human person inside a cardboard robot suit) is imbued with the special power to set night watchmen on fire, a duty it performs admirably.

The Bat and his barely mobile Robot go after the Mummy, and a painfully slow brawl ensues. Edward, Flora and company arrive to destroy the Bat’s remote Robot control, causing the Robot to lose. The Bat and Bruno wait patiently while it takes the Mummy roughly an hour to cross the room and kill them. The bandage-wrapped protagonist then gathers up his treasures and shuffles off into the night.

Host Segment One:

I usually get demon dogs in my rafters during late winter and early spring.Joel invents a helmet that has an airbag in it, for motorcyclists. Dr. Forrester invents a new security system, which he demonstrates on Dr. Erhardt.

Host Segment Two:

The Satellite of Love is attacked by Demon Dogs, who look like big orange fish skeletons and excrete silly string. Tom Servo goes out to shoo them away, but promptly returns covered in Demon Dog doo.

Host Segment Three:

The king of the Demon Dogs, Enoch, tells the crew of the SOL that they have come because the Satellite resembles a giant dog bone, and that they defecated on Servo because he is “extremely attractive” (i.e., kind of resembles a fire hydrant). Gypsy eats him before he can tell Joel and the ‘Bots how they can make the Demon Dogs leave.

Host Segment Four:

Crow tries to fool the Demon Dogs into thinking he’s Enoch, but fails miserably and returns covered in Demon Dog doo.

Host Segment Five:

Joel throws a ball into space; the Demon Dogs all leave to chase it.

Thoughts:

The Bat seems happier than mere sanity allows.Grave robbing, a man buried alive, an ancient curse, a shambling mummy, a hypnotic mad scientist bent on murder and world domination, a pit of snakes, and a powerful Frankenstein’s Monster-esque robot. With all of this going for it how could this movie go wrong? Of course it’s bad, but with so many clich├ęs packed into one film, one would hope that it could at least have the energy to achieve the transcendent goofiness of some of the later MST3K films (such as Wild Wild World of Batwoman and Blood Waters of Dr. Z). Sadly, this is not the case. This Mexican film is a lot of hopelessly overacted movie clich├ęs filmed in seemingly unrelated flashback segments, connected together by long boring narration sequences. Not even Joel and the ‘Bots could save this one.

On the other hand, the host segments are some of the best in the first season, mostly due to the zany and colorful demon dogs. Commando Cody is also a lot of fun. My favorite part is where Servo cries out “Pumpkin Boy” the first time we see Cody in his goofy helmet. It’s a vintage 50’s serial, where people break furniture over each other’s heads for several minutes at a time without hurting each other. Even when someone is finally knocked unconscious they get up, unhurt, a few minutes later. It’s action packed and extremely silly, mostly because they all take themselves so very seriously. With Joel and the ‘Bots’ sarcastic counterpoint it gets even better.

If you must watch this episode, then watch Commando Cody and then read the newspaper or call your mom through the movie, pausing only to look up for the host segments. You won’t miss anything.