12/12/06

303 Pod People

(1983, SciFi/Horror, color)

It stinks!

Rating: ****

In a nutshell:

Furry, long-nosed aliens befriend a little boy and murder rock-and-roll groupies.

Summary:

We could have figured that out without the shirt.This film has a lot of plots running around, crashing incomprehensibly into each other. In the interest of clarity, I will treat each plot separately, in the order of their appearance.

Movie A: “Growling Renfest Poachers.” Three poachers (an older guy, a stupid bearded guy with a crossbow, and a Norm Abram look-a-like) run around in the woods at night, looking for rare bird eggs. While Older Guy and Crossbow Guy find and pick up the eggs, they send the Whiny Norm Abrams Guy back to the truck for a ladder.

Whiny Norm Abrams Guy sees a meteor crash nearby, and ditches his friends to go investigate. Despite the obviously forbidding red glow coming from the cave-like crater, Norm wanders inside. He finds a bunch of oversized eggs and, for no discernable reason (aside from being violent and stupid by nature), proceeds to break them open. Something offscreen interrupts and kills him.

When Older Guy and Crossbow Guy figure out that Norm has abandoned them, they get understandably peeved. They start the long hike back to town, viewing rangers and wildlife through their sniper scope on the way. Stupid Crossbow Guy tries to kidnap one of the vacuous rock-and-roll groupies from Movie C, only to be thoroughly berated by the wiser Older Guy. They retreat and camp for the night.

An alien that looks like the love child of Alf and Mr. Snufflupagus wanders into their camp. The greedy poachers decide to kidnap and sell it. They invite it closer and try to snare it in a net, but it escapes and kills Older Guy. Crossbow guy shoots it and escapes, only to turn up dead later on in Movie C.

Movie B: “Trumpy, You Can Do Magic Things!” A little kid named Tommy loves to collect “specimens,” i.e. bugs and small animals. He heads out into the woods to find more critters one day when he happens on the glowing cave-like crater from Movie A. Inside, he finds the last unbroken egg and wraps it up to take home. He bumps into Norm’s corpse on the way out, now marked with glowing dots on his forehead.

At home, Tommy wraps up the egg in his blankets and goes to sleep. Awakened by a momentary distraction from Movie C, Tommy goes back to bed to find that his egg has hatched. Inside is a furry little alien, just like the one who killed the poachers in Movie A, only smaller. Tommy names him Trumpy, in honor of his enormous schnoz I guess, and steals cartloads of food from his mother’s well-stocked pantry to feed the hungry little guy. Over the course of the day, Trumpy grows to full size and learns English, explaining his plight (whatever it may be) to Tommy in hand gestures and long distance telescope views. When Tommy tries to teach Trumpy to play simple games, Trumpy uses his telekinetic powers to make things fly around the room, causing goofy, stop-motion-animated mayhem.

After further Movie C distractions, Tommy returns to his room to find Trumpy has wandered off. A few murders later, Trumpy shows up again, explaining in hand and head gestures that it wasn’t him; it was someone who looks just like him. While Tommy accepts this explanation, his parents and the camping rock-and-rollers do not, chasing him into the woods with rifles.

Movie C: “It stinks!” A capricious rock and roll star sings at recording studio. After subjecting us to a long, incomprehensible, and vaguely driving-related little ditty, he lashes out his manager and backup singers, proclaiming, “It stinks!”

Afterwards they plan to go camping, but a groupie the Rocker invited is waiting in the camper. The Rocker’s girlfriend storms off, but the Rocker’s manager goes after her and talks her into putting up with her boyfriend’s boorish behavior, somehow equating his cheating with good PR.

They all head off the mountains. “They all” breaks down as the two guys and four girls, including the Rocker, his manager, their girlfriends, a random slut, and the air-headed groupie. They park beside a stream and hang out around the fire, listening the digital bird sound effects and drinking coffee. The groupie teases the Rocker’s girlfriend until she dumps coffee over her head. The groupie runs off crying into the woods.

After a brief encounter with the Crossbow Guy in Movie A, she runs into the alien, who backhands her over a cliff. Following the screams, the others run to her rescue, scooping her up and carrying her back to the camper.

The only house nearby belongs to an old curmudgeon, his sister, and Tommy from Movie B. The old curmudgeon tells them to get lost, but his sister, Molly, convinces him to let them in. A convenient rockslide cuts off the phones and the roads (but not the electricity) trapping them all in the wilderness.

The curmudgeon and the manager head off to a ranger cabin to use the radio. The groupie dies while they’re gone, revealing glowing dots on her forehead. At the ranger cabin, they find the corpse of the Crossbow Guy from Movie A (glowing dots again) and the alien. The alien kills the manager, but the curmudgeon gets away.

The alien makes it back to the house first, killing the random slut while she’s out in the camper. The manager’s girlfriend takes a shower, but the bathroom she uses has an unlocked door to the outside. Predictably, she soon gets added to the growing pile of alien victims. The curmudgeon gives the alien a load of buckshot in the back while it retreats, then talks the Rocker into going out with him to hunt it down now that it’s wounded. They head out into the fog.

Trumpy shows up from Movie B, and Molly pulls a gun on him. Tommy steps between them, covering Trumpy’s retreat, then runs away with him. Molly and the Rocker’s Girlfriend run after them with rifles. Molly falls down and twists her ankle, while Tommy and Trumpy meet up with the wounded bad alien. The bad alien attacks Tommy, but Trumpy saves him just as the curmudgeon and the Rocker show up. The bad alien kills the curmudgeon and the Rocker kills the bad alien. Tommy sends Trumpy away into the woods, to live on his own. Tommy joins the Rocker, his girlfriend, and Molly (the movie’s only survivors), to wander off hand-in-hand into the foggy woods. The dead alien buries itself, to leave no evidence I guess, and they all live happily ever after.

Introduction:

It stinks.Crow performs a segment from his one-man show, “Robot on the Run,” reciting a long litany of organizations that just go by their initials. Afterwards, Tom delivers an emotional speech that begins, “I was born the son of a Philipino merchant.”

Host Segment One:

Joel invents a guitar chord so complex that it takes two hands to finger, and then explodes when you strum it. The Mads demonstrate a karaoke machine stocked only with public domain songs. Dr. Forrester introduces the movie. “It has nothing to do with pods. It has nothing to do with people. It has everything to do with hurting.”

Host Segment Two:

Joel sings an incomprehensible, vaguely driving-related rock song while Tom, Crow, and Gypsy dress in disco clothes and sing backup. When the Mads ask how he liked it, Joel responds, “It stinks!”

Host Segment Three:

Joel and Crow play some really boring, new age keyboard music while Tom narrates in a hushed William Shatner voice.

Host Segment Four:

Joel cries, “You are magic, aren’t you Trumpy?” Tom and Crow dress in long noses and fur. They make things fly around to goofy music.

Host Segment Five:

Joel dismantles Crow while singing the tender ballad, “Clown in the Sky.” When he asks the Mads what they thought of it, they reply, “It stinks!”

Stinger:

It stinks!

Thoughts:

He can do magic things.Aside from the wonderfully bizarre and complicated introduction, all the host segments are simple, funny, and relate directly to the film, probably making this one of the most accessible episodes they’ve done. In the second host segment they meticulously re-create the recording session from the film. From the bizarre disco outfits, to Joel’s hissy fit, to singing the nonsensical lyrics almost exactly as they sound in the movie, to Frank’s “I’m a Virgin!” t-shirt, they take a ridiculous scene and make it even more ridiculous. The “Music From Some Guys In Space” and “You Can Do Magic Things” sketches speak for themselves. Also, “Clown in the Sky,” has got to be one of the best MST3K songs ever recorded.

The film itself is horrible. All the characters (including Trumpy) are thoroughly unlikable. The three plots I described in the summary happen almost simultaneously, so that you’re never sure whether there’s one monster or two until the end, you never have any idea where anything is taking place, or where anyone is in relation to everyone else (as if you can see any of the exterior shots through the dense, ubiquitous fog). They didn’t even bother to shoot it all during the same season, as the landscape is alternately clear and snowy, then dark and foggy. The only mostly good thing about the film is the dubbing. The only reason you can tell it’s not the original language is the voice of Tommy, which was obviously done by an adult woman.

On a personal note, I had a roommate in college who saw this film as a child. He told me that it was a great film—he even cried at the end. Of course, this is the same guy who proposed to my sister on the first date, then eloped with someone else very shortly after she refused him, but that’s another story. My point is that his aesthetic opinions can’t generally be considered credible (and that I’m glad he’s not my brother-in-law).

In the film segments, Joel and the ‘Bots insert plenty of comments, including Joel’s “You can do stupid things!” in response the stop-motion telekinesis scene. Crow provides the voice of Trumpy, making him compare everything in the world to a potato. Also notable are Tom’s inability to cope with the echo effect used in the bad pop song, Crow’s Scarlet Pimpernel impression, and all kinds of commentary on the new age keyboard music that pervades the entire movie. Good film segments and newbie-friendly host segments make this an excellent starting episode for the uninitiated.