12/15/06

404 Teenagers From Outer Space

(1959, Teen/SciFi/Horror-Giant Critter, b&w)

The high court may well sentence you to TORTURE!

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

An extraterrestrial teen saves the world from giant, man-eating lobsters.

Summary:

Not that way.  The guy with the rod puppet is about fifteen feet in the other direction.Jumpsuited alien teens land their flying saucer in the desert. A little dog runs up to greet them and quickly gets disintegrated by the first guy out of the ship. The trigger-happy alien teen (called Thor) helps his fellows unload audio equipment. They talk loudly about how they’re “testing the planet” for its suitability to grow their “Gargon herds.”

Alien teen Derek finds a license tag in the little dog’s skeletal remains and pulls a ray gun on the crew. He delivers a little speech that provides the background of their race (separated from their families at birth, old and infirm are executed, etc., etc.) the gist of which is that the dog tag proves the existence of intelligent life on the earth, so they shouldn’t turn the horrible Gargons loose on them.

The elderly teen spaceship captain easily disarms him and threatens him with TORTURE! They bring out a Gargon (actually a lobster hand puppet) to see how it reacts. It wiggles around, which is a good thing, I guess, so they chain it in a cave and get ready to leave. Derek gets away while they’re fiddling with the Gargon, but they can’t shoot him—in the meantime, the captain has learned that he’s actually the son of their leader. He leaves the homicidal Thor to hunt him down while they head back to their home planet for more Gargons.

Derek walks to a nearby town, where he follows the directions of a friendly gas station attendant to the dog’s owners, the wide-eyed space cadet Betty and her avuncular grandpa. While the slow-tongued Derek tries to spit out that his crewmates disintegrated their dog, they rent him a room for nothing, give him clothes, and invite him to go swimming. By the time he finally tells Betty that her dog is dead, they’re at the pool party trying to force swim trunks on him. She runs off with him to view the remains of her beloved pet.

Meanwhile, Thor has been following Derek, leaving a trail of skeletons behind him. A comedy (tragedy?) of errors ensues, wherein Betty and Derek go from place to place, telling each person they visit where they’re going next. Thor always comes a few minutes later to disintegrate that person, until finally Derek and Betty find out what’s going on and flee to the police station. Thor forces Betty’s grandpa to drive him there and they all have a shootout on the steps of city hall. Thor is wounded, so he takes Derek and Betty hostage and forces them to take him to a doctor. He lets slip about Derek’s noble heritage and the impending arrival of the Gargon herd before passing out during surgery. Derek and company escape, but an oblivious nurse arrives and patches up the murderous Thor. He takes her hostage and has her drive him out to the cave with the Gargon in it.

Meanwhile, curious newspapermen have gone to investigate the cave, where the now-enormous Gargon eats one of them. The surviving reporter flees the scene with Thor in hot pursuit. The terrified nurse leaps from the car to safety while Thor’s car plunges off a cliff. Not dead yet, Thor is captured and taken to the hospital while Derek and Betty search the wreck for his disintegrator pistol. They smooch awkwardly until the Gargon finds them. Betty runs back to the car while Derek finds the pistol under a rock. It doesn’t work, so they drive away.

Derek repairs the pistol and hooks it up to some power lines, where he fries the rampaging Gargon. Knowing that his evil father will soon return with more Gargons, he rescues Thor from the hospital and pretends to not care about earthlings anymore. When the spaceship comes back to guide the Gargons to the earth, he locks himself in the ship and forces them all to crash land on top of him. Having sacrificed his life to save the earth, his benevolent visage looks down from alien heaven to deliver a final farewell.

Introduction:

Be still my heart.Joel retrains Tom and Crow by giving them each mild but memorable shocks every time one of them says “NBC Movie of the Week.” They trick Joel into saying it, and he is forced to electrocute himself. Quoth he, “I taste copper.”

Host Segment One:

Tom and Crow have invented the scratch’n’sniff report card, so that parents will remember what school was like while reviewing their child’s bad grades. Dr. Forrester has invented Rescusi-Annie, a ventriloquist doll made from a CPR practice dummy. She has a seizure during Dr. Forrester’s ventriloquist act. He administers CPR while he describes the movie. TV’s Frank calls 911 while drinking water.

Host Segment Two:

Joel and the ‘Bots do a segment called “Reel to Real,” comparing a number of unrealistic situations in the movie to what would happen in real life. For example, in the movie, the old man and his beautiful teenage daughter offer Derek a place to stay at no charge, while in real life he would probably be living in a refrigerator box.

Host Segment Three:

Joel and the ‘Bots jettison a bunch of movie theater snacks into space, aiming for a floating trashcan. They sing a peppy tune about not littering in the theater.

Host Segment Four:

A really cool spaceship with flames and skulls visits the Satellite, spinning donuts out in space. They try to contact the driver, but can only find a bad skeleton marionette.

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots model a series outfits decorated with various colors of duct tape. The session ends with a photo of the provocatively posed Crow, lying on a fur rug in the altogether. They read some letters. Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester takes Rescusi-Annie out to dinner, forcing TV’s Frank to play waiter. Quoth Frank, “Help me!”

Stinger:

The high court may well sentence you to TORTURE!

Thoughts:

Duct tape gas station attendant fashion from beyond the stars.This has got to be one of the lowest-rent giant critter films I’ve ever seen. The monster starts out as a lobster hand puppet, and thereafter is only shown in silhouette. Apparently an enterprising special effects guy realized that in order to make the silhouette grow larger, all he needed to do was move the hand puppet closer to the film projector. They didn’t bother to make their own props either. The planet-testing apparatus is clearly labeled as a multi-channel mixer, the disintegrator pistols say “Buck Rogers” on them, and the aliens wore gas station uniforms decorated with duct tape. The acting is universally horrible, stumbling awkwardly over a stilted script that’s never heard of such a thing as “contractions.” Derek seems to have an I.Q. lower than room temperature, and Betty always seems to be on the verge of saying, “I am so high right now.”

You have to have seen City Limits to properly appreciate the “NBC Movie of the Week” gag in the introductory segment. My favorite host segment was the modeling session for the duct tape fashion show. I’m not really sure if Crow was supposed to be nude at the end or not. He may have had duct tape bikini briefs on, but I didn’t have time to inspect his robot crotch too closely, and it didn’t seem important enough to rewind for closer inspection.

The film segments mostly make fun of the “really old teenagers from outer space” (Crow), and the various over-acting and non-acting styles of the characters. Tom always makes muffled screaming noises whenever a car trunk is featured in close-up, and Crow yells, “It’s a rock lobster!” while Derek tries to defend himself from the rampaging Gargon with some of the local geology. Watching this episode reminded me of eating a box of Wheat Thins. They’re light, crispy, and not unpleasant, but not particularly flavorful.