12/15/06

417 Crash of the Moons

(1954, SciFi-Television, b&w), with:

General Hospital
(1963, Drama-Television, b&w)

Booby!

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

Short: Includes a depressing party, an argument, and an adulterous make-out session.
Film: The inhabitants of various planets are saved by Rocky Jones, Space Ranger!

Short Summary:

The General Hospital short picks up where the previous segment left off: at a depressing engagement party. The abandoned fiancé gets a call that her husband-to-be has been detained by a medical emergency, so the rival party-giving doctor gives her a ride home, shouts something emphatically unintelligible, and then sticks his tongue down her throat.

Film Summary:

We know noTHINGK!In this week’s exciting episode of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger! the brilliant but erratic (read: incompetent) Dr. Newton has taken space honey Vena and her diminutive sidekick Bobby to a space station that will pass between a pair of orbiting moons. They prank call Rocky, who quickly realizes Dr. Newton’s fatal error—the moons have an atmospheric link that will destroy the space station as it passes between them. Dr. Newton is suitably contrite, but contrition won’t save them from the deadly avalanche of sliding office furniture. Rocky and his lusty sidekick Winky [insert obligatory snicker here] anchor their spaceship to the station’s side and push it out of harm’s way.

Shaken by his miscalculations, Dr. Newton extrapolates the moons’ trajectory, and discovers that it will collide with a totalitarian planet ruled by the low-cut villainess Cleolantra. Despite the glaring hole in his previous calculations, everyone believes him and heads down to warn the moon’s inhabitants.

The doomed moon’s lightning-clad ruler (John Banner, famous as Sergeant Schultz of Hogan’s Heroes) greets each member of Rocky’s crew by shouting bizarre compliments at the top of his lungs (Booby!). He loudly bemoans the fate of his planet while his infant son wails interminably in the other room. They leave Newton, Vena, and Bobby to organize the moon’s evacuation while Rocky and Winky run off to warn Cleolantra. They send out numerous calls, but I guess the planet has a habit of collectively leaving its phone off the hook. The only one who hears their warning is Trinka, a curious pseudo-revolutionary with a weakness for pagoda-shaped dresses and illicit ham radios.

Her husband, Atlansan, is captain of Cleolantra’s guard. He turns her in for espionage before she can warn anyone. Rocky lands but is quickly gassed and imprisoned after delivering his warning. Cleolantra and Atlansan go to destroy the moon so that it can’t crash into their planet.

Uneasy about destroying an inhabited moon, Atlansan deliberately leaves Trinka’s cell unlocked before he leaves. She rescues Rocky and they take off in pursuit, disabling the enemy rocket before it can destroy the moon. Once the moon has been evacuated, Rocky lets them try to destroy it again. They fail miserably, so Cleolantra reluctantly allows her own planet to be evacuated. They watch as the planets collide and explode in a shower of sparks.

Introduction:

Under the Gyp-Gyp-Gypsy moon...Joel tries to teach Tom to do macramé. Crow shows up selling grit door to door. Not the magazine, just true grit, i.e. dirt. He also tries to sell them insurance and hand-made candles.

Host Segment One:

The Mads have invented Deep 13 Nutty Choco Paste, the toothpaste that rots your teeth. Joel has invented the Rock and Wreck, an electric guitar that can be reassembled after being smashed into the stage floor. Frank puts the toothpaste tube to his lips and guzzles.

Host Segment Two:

Tom and Crow sing a love ballad called “Gypsy Moon” to Gypsy, each trying to woo her in turn. Gypsy replies that she will have neither of them. “Strollin’ hand in hand under the Gyp-Gyp-Gypsy Moon!”

Host Segment Three:

Joel and the ‘Bots have invented the John Banner-gram, where you can send the overexuberant Pole to greet a friend of your choice. Their fingers slip on the keyboard and they accidentally send a number of other celebrities with similar-sounding names, e.g. a John Byner-gram. For some reason, the only place they can be sent is Denver.

Host Segment Four:

Joel and the ‘Bots read through Crow’s latest space opera teleplay. It consists almost entirely of made up words, with lines such as: “Man the Colangadangadang!”

Host Segment Five:

Someone has sent the Satellite of Love a Banner-gram. They endure John Banner’s forceful compliments for only a few minutes before they use the Banner-gram controller to send him down to Deep 13. He drones on and on to Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank while the credits roll past.

Stinger:

John Banner mangles Bobby’s name.

Thoughts:

Space farmers, lock up your space daughters, 'cause Winky's on the prowl.Lots of organ, fuzzy dialogue, and worried nurses. What more can I say about General Hospital? At least this episode ended with some kissing, though it looked more like a rape than a love scene. Maybe I would have been romantically touched if I had understood what they were saying, but I doubt it.

Imagine that you are at a party. Imagine that alcohol is plentiful at this party. Imagine that your largest, jolliest acquaintance is drunk out of his or her gourd at this party, and has cornered you to regale you with tales of your greatness. In fact there seems to be no end to your greatness, as your acquaintance struggles through an alcoholic stupor to find suitable adjectives, similes, and metaphors to describe it adequately. (If you’re a non-drinker like me, you’ve learned to park far, far away from the house so that you won’t have to pry your way into the unending stream of lubricated compliments and ask the drunken raconteur to move his or her car, but I digress.) Now imagine that this friend has a Polish accent, and you’ve pretty well nailed John Banner’s role in this movie. I’m not implying that John Banner was drunk while filming; I think the people who wrote his lines just might have taken care of that for him.

At the end, everyone smiles as if some valuable lesson has been learned, but I can’t figure out what that lesson was supposed to be. Even Cleolantra is revealed as a friendly, reasonable person, despite her previous attempt to murder an entire planetary population in cold blood. Also, I want to know how a pair of inhabited planets that wander from solar system to solar system manages to keep from freezing to death between suns. I think it’s a large enough issue that it can’t be considered nitpicking.

The host segments are good. Crow’s teleplay illustrates a foolproof way to write science fiction—just write something ordinary and replace most of the words with meaningless futuristic jargon. The Gypsy Moon ballad probably needed a little work (I couldn’t understand what Gypsy was singing half the time) but it was still pretty funny. Mike Nelson does an excellent John Banner impression, mercilessly complimenting everyone in sight.

There are some good quips in the film segments. When the interloping doctor makes vaguely complimentary and condescending remark, Tom says, “You wiped your feet on the doormat of my heart.” During the interminable low-tech scenes of retreating spaceships the entire SOL crew belts out, “Pigs in Space!” When Rocky cheerfully accepts Cleolantra’s invitation to wait for her in what is clearly a padded prison cell, Tom says, “I’m feeling stupid today.” It’s a fun, competently mocked film, well worth at least one viewing.