12/9/06

211 First Spaceship on Venus

(1960, SciFi, color)

We are the planet of novelty items!

Rating: *1/2

In a nutshell:

A cryptic message from the planet Venus prompts a multinational expedition.

Summary:

Today's the day the teddy bears go to Venus.Large font opening credits announce the title and actors in the movie, and then are sucked into space before we can finish reading them. Newsreel announcers tell us that near the turn of the century (around 1900, that is) an asteroid exploded over Siberia. Later, in 1985, it turns out it was not an asteroid, but spaceship from Venus. These announcers, intercut with the lecture of an important big-haired guy, explain that they discovered a piece of the spaceship in the Gobi Desert: a magnetic spool with information from Venus of one kind or another. Experts from around the globe fly in to investigate.

Their attempts to contact Venus and ask politely if they’ve lost a spaceship fail, so they pack up all the experts, the spool, and their toothy robot-tank onto a spaceship and send them out to investigate. These experts include, but are not limited to: the big-haired guy, an American pilot, a Chinese linguist, a lady Japanese doctor, an African communications expert, and three to six gray-haired Eastern Europeans.

Lacking a plausible reason to continue the Newsreel Announcers, they switch over to a blonde newscaster lady, who painstakingly goes over the launch process with us while the whole crew gets naked to take a nap under a rotating flatscreen monitor. Bunches of people with random letters on their clothing show up to see them off.

Now that they lack newsreel announcers and newscasters, they switch over to the American Pilot, who narrates the rest of the film into his toothbrush. Halfway there, they finally stumble upon the key to decoding the spool. Turns out the Venusians were planning to invade and exterminate all life on Earth. Deciding that this information isn’t important enough to share with folks back home, they press on anyway. The rest of the journey includes an asteroid field, a space walk, a bunch of chess games, and some footage of them drinking their meals out of shampoo bottles.

When they finally land of Venus, it’s an irradiated wreck. They pick up some little bouncy cricket robots (Venusian multimedia storage devices), and find a giant glowing golf ball. They follow power lines leading from the golf ball to a city of half-melted building skeletons. They find the master computer of the whole planet, and then kick a rock into a bubbling puddle.

It turns out this was a bad idea, because some sentient ooze gets mad at them and chases them up a melted building. They shoot the ooze just as it’s about to bury them, and it retreats.

It turns out shooting it was an even worse idea, because this turns the golf ball red and starts a radioactive hurricane that threatens to destroy them all. While they figure this out, the toothy robot goes insane and runs over the big-haired guy. They take him in for emergency surgery, and the African and the Chinese linguist go out to fiddle with the master computer. When they get there something punctures the linguist’s space suit. While he slowly expires, the African guy climbs down in the computer and flips a switch or something, changing the giant golf ball to a friendlier color.

It turns out this was a really horrible idea. Reversing the red golf ball process also reverses the gravity of the planet, hurling all foreign spacecraft back out into space. This means that the African gets abandoned, the linguist dies without help, and the American (who was heading back to rescue them in a shuttle) gets pushed out into space and will die because his craft lacks interplanetary range.

Meanwhile, the letter people welcome our surviving heroes back to earth, where they deliver touching eulogies for the lost crewmen.

Introduction:

Bad movie + faulty sarcasm sequencer = chaos.Joel cranks Tom’s sarcasm sequencer way up, and then torques it way back down again. Finally, they settle on a “random” setting. Tom gets really sarcastic about unfunny prop comic, Gallagher.

Host Segment One:

Joel invents “Junk Drawer Helper,” which is just a bag of useless random stuff, used to start a junk drawer. The Mads go through their own junk drawer while TV’s Frank does bad impressions. Dr. Forrester finds comedian Abe Vigoda at the bottom.

Host Segment Two:

Tom and Crow invent a shiny robot that speaks in foam. It spits foam all over the place, filling the entire satellite.

Host Segment Three:

A space gorilla interrupts Tom and Crow while they do a rendition of The Match Game. It scares them, and doesn’t leave until Tom sings it an odd little song about his incarcerated mother.

Host Segment Four:

Tom does an infomercial for Klack Foods, a line of weird and often disgusting food products that include Relish Parfaits and Crud Puppies.

Host Segment Five:

Crow doesn’t think the movie was really all that bad, but Tom gets more and more sarcastic about it until his head explodes. They read letters. Down in Deep 13, Frank scratches his chin while Dr. Forrester barfs endlessly into the junk drawer.

Stinger:

The letter people wave goodbye.

Thoughts:

A slimmer, hotter space-faring teddy bear.I agree with Crow in host segment five, when he said that the movie wasn’t really all that bad. I also agree with him when he said, during the last movie segment, “Any interest I had for them getting safely off the planet has been completely erased by a miasma of boring technical stuff.”

The film’s definitely hard SciFi, in that the focus was more on the technology than on the characters, like Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Granted, 2001 was a much better film. But from what I saw, the longer East German cut of the film (hopefully with subtitles instead of that horrible dubbing) might have compared more favorably. Of course, regardless of quality, hard SciFi films in general are stiflingly dull.

The foam-speaking robot was kind of funny, but only marginally related to the film. The rest of the host segments were well performed, but rather non sequitur. All of them consist of various funny ideas, almost wholly unconnected and presented in random order. Abe Vigoda? Why?

There are some funny lines, especially regarding that goofy little robot and the little jumping Venusian archive constructs. The stupid-looking take-off suits with their little ear molds prompt Tom’s funny song, “Today’s the day the teddy bears go to Venus.” Mostly, however, the episode doesn’t quite work. Not because the individual elements aren’t funny. I just don’t think that hard SciFi and MST3K go together in the same way that, though you may like relish and parfaits separately, you wouldn’t like a relish parfait.