12/14/06

320 The Unearthly

(1957, Horror-Mad Science, b&w), with:

Posture Pals
(1952, Educational, b&w), and:

Appreciating Our Parents
(1950, Educational, b&w)

Time for go to bed.

Rating: *

In a nutshell:

Short #1: Four children team up to win the school’s most coveted prizes for posture.
Short #2: Slacker boy Tommy spies on his parents and learns to appreciate them more.
Film: A mad scientist kidnaps neurotics and subjects them to hideous gland experiments

Short Summaries:

...an Alfred Hitchcock production.In Posture Pals, elementary school teacher Ms. Martin takes a whole class period to emphasize how one should sit and stand. She draws silhouettes of every child and declares that the four kids with the best posture will be crowned the posture king, queen, prince, and princess of the school. She stays after class to give special posture help to the four most interested students. These students hang out together for the next few weeks, keeping each other sitting and standing straight through gentle reminders, defaced property, and insulting drawings. No one is surprised when they eventually win the royal titles of good posture.

In Appreciating Our Parents, poor bewildered Tommy sits in his neat and tidy room, wondering how it got so clean after he went to a lot of trouble to get it messy that morning. His dad comes home and gives him his allowance, but it’s not enough for Tommy. After bedtime, he goes downstairs to ask for a raise. He finds his parents doing the dishes, but does not interrupt them. Instead he listens at the door while they each go over all the things they did that day. Their endless complaining piques his sympathy, so he goes back to bed and resolves to make do with the allowance he already receives and to clean his own room from now on.

Film Summary:

In The Unearthly, a mad scientist named Dr. Conway masquerades as a psychiatrist while experimenting with synthetic sausage glands in search of eternal youth. He runs a boarding house/psychiatric hospital with Dr. Gilchrist (his lovely young assistant), and Lobo (his enormous slobbering henchman) using the patients as test subjects. His patients include lovely young women Grace and Natalie, scenery-chewing lunatic Danny, and the mostly comatose Jedrow.

One night, suspected killer Mark Houston gets caught on Dr. Conway’s grounds, and the doctor offers to give him sanctuary in exchange for the opportunity to experiment on him. A preparatory experiment on Natalie goes wrong, turning her face into leathery tree bark. While Lobo tries to bury Jedrow alive, Mark organizes Danny and Grace for an escape attempt. Dr. Conway catches them and decides to try his next experiment on Grace while Lobo takes Mark and Danny to the cellar for disposal. Danny tells Lobo a fairy tale about Ferdinand the Bull and gets himself killed, allowing Mark to escape and call the police.

When the cops arrive it turns out that Mark is a cop himself, pretending to be a suspected killer in order to catch Dr. Conway. Mark rescues Grace, the police arrest Dr. Gilchrist and Lobo, and the recently exhumed Jedrow stabs Dr. Conway and dies. Mark and Grace fall in love, and the police chief finds a basement full of hairy mutants.

Introduction:

It's not considered funny until someone gets seriously hurt.The ‘Bots make an “unstaged” funny home video for the popular TV show by dressing Crow as a three-year-old girl, setting him on top of a box of pajamas, and then lighting the whole thing on fire.

Host Segment One:

Joel and the ‘Bots watch the funny home video and console the horribly burned Crow. Dr. Forrester has invented a variety of “Hard Pills to Swallow,” including the fishhook tablet, a time-release capsule containing a live gerbil, and a life-sized Flintstone Chewable. Joel has invented a variety of celebrity household products including the Emilio EstePez and the Jackie Mason Jar.

Host Segment Two:

Tom narrates a montage of slides, showing how much Gypsy does for them on the Satellite of Love. He concludes that the ungrateful Crow is “nothing but dirt between the toes of an evil troll.”

Host Segment Three:

Using the “Video Toaster” (basically just the same screenshot from the film over and over again, heavily modified with magic markers) Tom and Crow show Tor Johnson (Lobo in the film) as Macbeth, as both Felix and Oscar in The Odd Couple, and as all the characters in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Host Segment Four:

Tom and Crow gather pieces from all their old board games and make one big game based on the movie. Unfortunately they can never play it, as every little action on the part of a player or movie character causes them to lose one turn.

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots read a letter and talk in incomprehensible fifties gangster jargon. TV’s Frank joins in, causing Dr. Forrester to threaten him with a long string of odd criminal euphemisms for death.

Stinger:

Lobo solemnly announces, “Time for go to bed.”

Thoughts:

Starring all earth-bound actors.I guess good posture is healthy, but how much time did they really need to spend on it in school? An occasional “sit up straight” from the teacher probably would have been enough. The “Appreciating Our Parents” short was probably more useful, since, let’s face it, kids are fairly self-centered. The moral of the story seems to be: don’t complain about your lot in life, kids—your parents have it worse.

Most of the acting in The Unearthly is interesting and energetic, but the hackneyed plot and dialogue, along with the horrible, horrible editing, make it painful viewing. You will never, at any time, know where any character is located in relation to any other character unless they are framed together in the same shot. The blocking’s bad too. In one scene, Dr. Conway sits on a different piece of furniture for every spoken line of dialogue, for no apparent reason. At the end, when all the conscious and surviving cast members gather in the living room for the denouement, Mark runs off to find the comatose Grace, a cop leads the captured Lobo away in handcuffs, and another cop leads the police chief down to the basement to look at mutants. This leaves the supposedly captured Dr. Gilchrist standing alone, waiting for the first cop to come back and take her away, I guess.

I enjoyed all of the host segments, though the Gypsy/Crow version of “Appreciating Our Parents” was the only one that made me laugh out loud. Tom’s fast-paced narration of Crow’s unworthiness was well done. I think this is the first episode where we get to see Gypsy as a technical genius, in charge of the rest of the ship. Sure it’s been mentioned before, but this is the first time we’ve seen it. The funniest home videos sketch, the inventions, the gangster talk sketch, and the video toaster were all fairly amusing.

In the face of exceptionally bad source material, Joel and the ‘Bots provide enough timely quips to make the film segments watchable. When one of the girls slouches in Posture Pals, her masculine-faced mother reminds her to sit up straight, prompting Joel to say, “Thanks Mom/Dad.” When Tommy dresses in a little bow tie and sits motionlessly between his parents in Appreciating Our Parents, Joel says, “You work the jaw, I’ll do the voice.” During The Unearthly, after a character descends the same staircase for the tenth or eleventh time in a row, Crow says, “My Dinner With Andre had more locations than this film.” The shorts are bland and the film is painful, but Satellite Crew makes it funny enough to rate at least one viewing.