(1984, Action-Television, color)
He’s speaking in tongues!
In a nutshell:
A ninja master and his gerbil-toting pupil fight evil in a custom Chevy van.
In the first episode, um, half of the movie, Max (the mush-mouthed, gerbil-keeping Timothy Van Patten) enters a dirt bike race with a bike that he’s had in the back of his van all along. A pretty union organizer girl from the nearby cannery beats him. She’s in trouble with the evil cannery owner who, of course, doesn’t like union organizers and, also of course, secretly murdered her brother.
Various shenanigans and goings-on ensue, including: a crane accident involving the rescue of a pinned worker with a giant ninja shuriken, an obligatory bar fight, and a couple of rousing but unintelligible speeches in support of the union. The union forms, much to the chagrin of the evil owner. He and his thugs car chase Max and McAlister (Lee Van Cleef as the Master Ninja) twice. They escape once on the dirt bike, but get caught later in the van. McAlister plays dead by using that old ninja trick of stopping his heart, while Max runs off to warn the union girl.
They get captured trying to escape, and then taken out to an abandoned graveyard for execution and burial. McAlister wakes up as they’re putting him the ground and grabs the evil owner’s leg, generally scaring the willies out of everyone. After a dark and confusing shovel fight, everyone’s okay, the bad guys go to jail, and Max says an unintelligible but presumably tender goodbye to his union-organizing sweetheart.
In the second episode, um, half of the movie, Max rescues a girl from a speeding car, since he happens to be flying by on a collapsible airplane that he’s had in the back of his van all along. She breathlessly explains that she’s the daughter of a wealthy senator, and invites them to a garden party with various ambassadors and terrorists in disguise. The bloodthirsty but well-spoken terrorists fly off with the daughter, her senator father, and a number of other presumably important people.
British super-spy Mallory (George Lazenby of James Bond infamy) tags one of the terrorist helicopters with a tracking device and follows them in his super-spy car to their hideout, inconspicuously located directly beneath the giant letters spelling out “Hollywood” on the hill. McAlister and Max get arrested for being ninjas at the scene of a crime. The CIA enlists their help to rescue the hostages, since I guess they don’t have any ninjas of their own.
After a pointless run-in with one of McAlister’s pesky ninja colleagues, he and Mallory break into the hideout and run madly about. Mallory gets captured almost instantly, allowing McAllister to run madly about in a somewhat stealthier manner. Max glides in on his collapsible airplane and rescues the Senator’s daughter from getting raped. They meet up with McAlister and rescue everyone else. Max rams his way out of the front gate in a moving van full of rescued hostages, while McAlister rescues Mallory from his vaguely European nemesis. Max kisses the girl, and they hit the road again.
Joel and the ‘Bots do some improv for Gypsy. At their urging she provides them with a place (cream of wheat) something to do (Peter Gabriel) and a celebrity (anger). The result is embarrassingly short. Quoth Tom, “You negated me!”
Host Segment One:
Crow is insulted that they would treat him as a hedgehog when he was clearly improvising a potato. The Mads have invented the fast buffet, which is healthy and slimming because the food goes past Frank on a conveyer belt much faster than he can eat it. Joel has invented the Gerbilsphere II, a self-contained gerbil cage that probably requires a twenty-pound gerbil to run the hamster wheel.
Host Segment Two:
The ‘Bots design custom vans. Tom’s would have a side bar and a waterbed. Crow’s would have an ergonomically designed desk with shelves for his reference material, and a portrait of himself on a Harley Davidson painted on the exterior. Gypsy’s would have Richard Basehart ventriloquist dummies stacked like cordwood.
Host Segment Three:
Joel and Gypsy hold up a flag while Crow dresses up as General Timothy Van Patten to deliver a rousing, but wholly unintelligible speech.
Host Segment Four:
Tom has been programmed to pair fictional detectives with appropriate pets. Apparently, Matlock would have raised mealworms for money.
Host Segment Five:
Quoth Joel, “Let bygones be bygones and has-beens be has-beens.” He’s invented a Lee Van Cleef dress-up doll that drastically reduces in size when you put it in a ninja hood. Tom fantasizes about Lee Van Cleef in a pirate costume. Down in Deep 13, Frank pleads for the return of his favorite TV show, The Second Hundred Years. Dr. Forrester crushes his skull with an anvil.
Lee Van Cleef fondles his, um, gerbil.
There weren’t any martial arts in the first movie, and you won’t see any this time around either—just a lot of gun-toting terrorists and thugs throwing punches. Everyone but the British and Lee Van Cleef has terrible diction. If the character’s not wearing fatigues, an evening jacket, or a ninja cowl, you might as well just forget about trying to understand what they’re saying. George Lazenby guest stars in the second episode *ahem* half of the film, slumming after his one-shot turn as James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The host segments are serviceable. I liked all the references to improvisation games, but it would be pretty much lost on anyone who hasn’t attended an improv group and/or acting classes before. Likewise, the General Timothy Van Patten sketch won’t make sense to anyone who hasn’t seen George C. Scott’s famous film portrayal of General Patton. I’ve never seen The Second Hundred Years, but apparently the guy who played the CIA chief was in it.
The film segments have some funny quips in them, mostly about Timothy Van Patten’s bad diction, including “They must have gone to speech class together” (Crow, referring to Max greeting his unintelligible biker friend) and “He’s speaking in tongues” (also Crow, referring to Max’s passionate union speech in the church). When the union girl’s house gets trashed and defaced by some Bill Keane-esque graffiti, Tom exclaims, “Little Billy did it!” When the pesky former ninja student pulls out his ninja claws, Joel calls them, “Bruce Lee press-on nails.” If you want to make fun of some brainless, martial-arts-less, eighties action fare, then this is the episode for you. It’s worth a night’s entertainment.
(1984, Action-Television, color)