12/9/06

204 Catalina Caper

(1967, Teen Comedy/Musical, color)

Thank you, Tommy Kirk, for making us laugh about love…again.

Rating: ***1/2

In a nutshell:

Young adults in swimsuits throw a lot of parties and recover a stolen scroll.

Summary:

That fish preferred the original title, Never Steal Anything Wet.In Catalina Caper, we lead off with some animated credits that involve a scuba diver, his absurdly proportioned mermaid girlfriend, and a stupid but persistent man-eating fish. Then we go right into a movie that would be impossible to summarize in linear fashion, as it is composed of various plotlines, tenuously connected together by the fact that some of them share characters. In order to better summarize the film, I will list each plot separately and in order.

Plot #1: “The scroll caper.” A Drew Carey wannabe in a stupid crayon hat sneaks clumsily into a museum and removes a valuable ancient scroll. On his way out he trips over and breaks a no doubt equally valuable statue. He does not get caught, as museum security consists of one doughy guard with less than half a brain.

Later, Crayon Hat goes to Catalina to meet up with his bosses, a bumbling pair of criminals whom Joel has dubbed Lockjaw and Trophy Wife. Lockjaw looks like the Professor trying to imitate Mr. Howell, and Trophy Wife’s job is to smile approvingly and forge an unconvincing copy of the scroll. Their plan is to sell the copy of the scroll to an unscrupulous Greek millionaire called Lakopolous and then return the real scroll to the museum, proving that they’re not really bad people, just really stupid ones.

Lakopolous suspects foul play and has his scuba diving flunkies swim out to Lockjaw’s boat to steal the scroll, but they are foiled by Don (Tommy Kirk) and his friend Charlie, who happened to be learning to scuba dive in an adjacent plot (plot #4). With the scroll in an airtight container lost at the bottom of the bay, Lockjaw pretends to throw a scuba party for his suspicious son Tad, Don, Charlie, and their various female counterparts, offering a reward to find the missing scroll case. The thugs attack again, stealing it as soon as it is recovered.

As luck would have it, they steal the phony scroll instead of the real one, and Tad gets his hands on the real scroll. Tad, Don, and Charlie concoct a plot wherein Don struts around in front of Lakopolous’ thugs with the real scroll in his pants, where he is predictably mugged for it. They call the police and beat up the thugs one by one, finally forcing the main thug to swim back to Greece. An insurance investigator (plot #5) tries to arrest Lockjaw, but is forced to let him go when no one can seem to locate the missing scroll.

Later, Tad sneaks into the museum and puts the scroll back into its frame, begging the questions, why has the museum left the empty frame up all this time, and, in light of the recent burglary, why haven’t they upgraded their security from the one doughy guard?

Plot #2 “Creepy Girl.” Callow youth Don is brought out of arid Arizona by his friend Charlie to experience all the pleasures of Catalina. On the ferry out to Catalina, Don slips away and to meet a young lady from an undetermined foreign country who tells him all about her underwater conversations with her fishy friend. Far from being put off by her obvious insanity, Don falls in love with her, only to find out that she’s engaged, and her fiancé is waiting for her on the pier.

Later, in a brief lull between the other plots, Don discovers the Creepy Girl playing topless in the waves. He loans her his windbreaker and helps her find her fiancé on the beach. At this point we discover that the fiancé is a raving psychotic, and one of Lakopolous’ thugs from plot #1. Don wanders away long enough for Creepy Girl to break it off with her fiancé and come find him. She becomes his girl and then this plot goes into hiatus until near the end when she witnesses her now ex-fiancé mugging Don for the scroll from plot #1. At this point Don sagely reminds her, “You were going to marry this creep.”

Plot #3 “Little Richard, et al.” Okay, so this isn’t really a plot, but it took up a lot of the movie. The musicians of the film include the amazing (if somewhat spaced out) musical talents of Little Richard, the less than amazing musical talents of a bunch of guys in Renfest shirts, and a pre-Gloria Estefan wannabe. At one point the pre-Gloria Estefan sings an incomprehensible song about “The Book of Love” which brings together Tad and Charlie’s Groovy Sister, Tina, in plot #4.

Plot #4 “Charlie’s Groovy Sister.” Charlie’s sister Tina is driving a boat when she sees that Charlie and Don have arrived. She celebrates by almost crashing into Lockjaw’s boat from plot #1. Lockjaw’s son Tad prevents her and they all meet. Tina flirts shamelessly with Don and invites him out scuba diving. She teaches him how with Charlie and his three nameless bikini-clad girls (called “bunnies”). Charlie, it seems, is irresistible to women everywhere, though there doesn’t seem to be any reason why. After a momentary brush with plot #1, they all go listen to some performers in plot #3 and then play some beach volleyball.

At this point, Don wanders back into plot #2 with the Creepy Girl. Insanely jealous, Tina throws herself into the ocean, hoping that Don will leave the Creepy Girl to go and rescue her. When the unfunny insurance investigator from plot #5 rescues her instead, she gets mad and slaps everyone in slapping distance. All the other females on the beach follow suit for some reason and the men and women remain at odds until pre-Gloria Estefan brings them back together with a song in plot #3. At this point Tina picks up Tad on the rebound, a fact that she confesses to Don later on, just as he’s about to be mugged in plot #1.

Plot #5 “Fingers O’Toole.” His name is the funniest thing about him. The insurance investigator exists almost entirely separate from every other plot in the movie until the end, spying on Lockjaw while performing unfunny pratfalls over and over again. Mostly he just falls into the water a lot, though he does vomit, rip off a girl’s top by accident, hallucinate about underwater horn players, and rescue Tina in plot #4 as well. He dramatically reveals his identity near the ending, though it’s been painfully obvious what he was doing for the entire film.

Once the various plots have finished, there’s a denouement where Lakopolous sails off and everyone else dances the day away with his or her newly acquired significant other. Since Crayon Hat and Fingers don’t have girls, and Charlie has three, he graciously lends them one girl each.

Introduction:

Keeps the neighbor's kids off your lawn during the summer.Joel has dressed Tom and Crow in footie pajamas and is helping them say their prayers. They pray for every movie and television robot by name.

Host Segment One:

Joel tries to get the ‘Bots to pray for the Mad Scientists. Why? Quoth Joel, “I think they’re watching, and they control my oxygen.” Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank demonstrate the Tank Top, which is basically a strap-on tank, while Joel demonstrates the Tickle Bazooka, which shoots feathers and has a feather duster bayonet.

Host Segment Two:

Joel reminisces about the 60’s. He recalls a bunch of groovy stuff about the tonight show and the rat pack, and then it devolves into a painful memory of how his parents used to humiliate him as a child.

Host Segment Three:

Tom sings of his love for the Creepy Girl, 50’s ballad style. “Will you be mine / before movie sign?"

Host Segment Four:

TV’s Frank throws a Tupperware party for Jerry and Sylvia, the mole people. When Dr. Forrester walks in, Frank locks up and accidentally dumps various sticky substances all over him. Dr. Forrester calms Frank down and then rips his eye out with a melon baller.

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots argue over which plot was the emotional center of the movie. Joel gets mad and breaks his flow chart over the ‘Bot’s heads. They read a letter, and then Dr. Forrester eats Frank’s eyeball.

Thoughts:

Eyes up, Tommy.The first three host segments of this episode are marvelous. The Tickle Bazooka and the disturbingly Freudian Tank Tops are quite funny. Tom belts out an incredible performance of the Creepy Girl song, and Joel’s monologue depiction of the sixties is surprisingly animated. Unfortunately, the last two host segments are long, boring, and pointless.

A representative scene from Catalina Caper takes place in plot #5. In this scene, Fingers walks out the ocean, after having fallen in for the umpteenth time. Hoping anxiously for funny antics of some kind, we wait for something to happen. We wait in vain. Once out of the water, the soaked investigator does a take to the camera, shakes a little water out of his briefcase, and then walks out of frame.

The whole movie is like this. I think the makers of this film just assumed that if they had a bunch of absurd things happen to a bunch of scantily clad kids, that it would be funny. It’s like one of those really long jokes I used to tell my friends just to irritate them, where I’d build and build and build, with no punchline at the end.

I think that the reason this is such a funny episode is because Joel and the ‘Bots always know where to supply the punchline where the movie forgets. Lines like “No shoes, no shirt, no script” by Crow and “Better wear eye protection, there’s a lot of loose ends all flying together at once” by Tom, keep us interested in the marginally interesting action. That combines into one of the funniest episodes in the MST3K canon.