12/15/06

420 The Human Duplicators

(1965, SciFi, color)

It’s the blind leading the bland.

Rating: ***1/2

In a nutshell:

Fragile androids commit minor burglaries in an extraterrestrial plot to conquer the earth.

Summary:

Specially designed to dry his ceramic android hair.Aboard his festively decorated spaceship, spaceman Kolos (Richard Kiel of James Bond and Eegah fame) receives invasion instructions from his identical multicolored overlords. He beams down to earth and takes over the gaudy estate of eccentric cyberneticist Dr. Dornheimer and his lovely blind niece Lisa.

Later, a respected scientist breaks into his own motel-like laboratory to steal standard electronic equipment. He charges guards, breaks down doors, and takes bullets in a rather unscientist-like manner. The confused Feds find his body later, at the bottom of a ravine near Dornheimer’s estate.

Being somewhat slow on the uptake, Federal Agent Martin takes his own sweet expository time questioning Dr. Dornheimer, talking to his boss (Hugh Beaumont of Leave it to Beaver), and wining and dining his obnoxious Jersey girlfriend before he decides to search the estate. Inside he finds a cornucopia of vacuum tubes and ceramic body parts, perfect for creating an army of killer androids.

Lisa stumbles onto him first and warns him to leave before it’s too late. Of course he ignores her. He happens across Dornheimer and his beautiful assistants building an android of a Chinese scientist. Since he hasn’t bothered to hide in any way, they see him and take him captive. Dornheimer and Kolos make a copy of him and send it out to steal more materials.

The android Martin blows off his Jersey girlfriend and runs off to Washington for another heist. The Jersey girlfriend follows him into an electronics supply depot and realizes something’s wrong when starts shooting at her. She alerts the guards, who give chase. He gets his ceramic arm ripped off by a heavy security door and runs away.

Back at the estate, several things happen at once. The identical multicolored overlords take Kolos to task for not duplicating Lisa and destroying the original. Kolos refuses to obey. Lisa slips a bit of wire in a fake coin to the real Agent Martin, to help him escape from the dungeon. The evil android Dr. Dornheimer rebels and takes Kolos prisoner with his army of evil android butlers. He imprisons Lisa as well and prepares to duplicate her.

Martin finally escapes from his cell. The real Dr. Dornheimer gives him instructions on how to defeat the androids—for some reason it involves shining a spotlight in their eyes. This confuses the army of butlers who are still piling onto the enraged Kolos. They start fighting and smashing each other’s ceramic heads.

Android Dornheimer escapes with Martin in pursuit. The evil one-armed android Martin arrives, but apparently he didn’t get the “rebel against Kolos” memo. He fights android Dornheimer until both their ceramic heads explode. Kolos, having defeated the remaining butlers, carries the comatose Lisa upstairs while the cops arrive. He delivers a tearful speech about how he will be destroyed for his failure, but it doesn’t matter—he’s just realized that he’s an android too! He beams back up to his disco spaceship just in time for the movie to end.

Introduction:

Great.  Now I can't stop imagining June Cleaver in Saran wrap.The ‘Bots suggest how Joel can improve them. Gypsy wants another eye and a fin. Crow wants more capacity to love. Tom has several sketches, including: All-Terrain Assault Tom (just like it sounds, only bigger), Ron Cellwall (a Tom-shaped robot virus), Don Stouffer (a Tom-shaped hotel), and Moist Tom (again, just like it sounds).

Host Segment One:

The Mads have invented something really wacky, but they can’t stop laughing long enough to tell us what it is. Joel has invented the beanie chopper, a propeller beanie with huge helicopter blades and an engine. Tom and Crow are very disappointed when it doesn’t send him flying through the ceiling. Down in Deep 13, the Mads pause for breath long enough to demonstrate the William Conrad Fridge Alert, which sounds an alarm if William Conrad ever raids your fridge. They laugh some more.

Host Segment Two:

Joel and the ‘Bots make spaceship models out of ordinary household items. Gypsy has taped together a bunch of shapeless garbage. Tom has cut the end off a Clorox bottle to make a spaceship that looks like a rock salt scoop. Crow has built a perfect scale model of the Satellite of Love.

Host Segment Three:

Tom Servo has made dozens of duplicates of himself, which wander around the SOL. When Joel starts to chastise him, Tom orders them to attack. They ignore him. They attack Crow instead, after Joel has dragged Tom off for punishment.

Host Segment Four:

A very grouchy Hugh Beaumont arrives at the SOL, ramming them with his ship over and over again to get their attention. He grouses about his rotten home life and his wife’s incessant baking. He calms down enough to dispense some homespun fatherly advice and wanders away.

Host Segment Five:

Tom and Crow have something to tell Joel. Crow hems and haws about it and eventually faints. Tom finally comes out of the closet and admits his secret to the world—he’s a robot, and so is Crow. Joel confides that he has known all along. Down in Deep 13, the Mads still can’t stop laughing. William Conrad stops by to raid their fridge, provoking even more hilarity.

Stinger:

The ceramic butler melee.

Thoughts:

Richard Kiel, in an early and more articulate role.Richard Kiel is a much better actor when he doesn’t have to deliver lines. He grunts, groans, and growls convincingly enough for any traditionally hulking henchman, but as an evil mastermind, he just doesn’t cut it. Also, why did they have to go on such an obvious crime spree for basic electronics? Even the Feds in the movie admitted that nothing terribly secret was stolen. Dornheimer looked rich. Couldn’t he have just sent an android to Radio Shack with a couple of twenties? Also, why is Dornheimer so rich? Who funds his work? Do the people who give him grants know how much he spends on medieval dungeons and gaudy antiques? And vacuum tubes for brains? Do you switch them on and then wait for several minutes before they’ll work properly? Also, how can a ceramic robot (whose head shatters when he falls down) punch his way through a steel door? And what about Scarecrow’s brain?

The host segments work well. This is not the first instance of multiple Toms on the show, but it’s the first large-scale instance. The suggested ‘Bot Mods were pretty cool, as were the spaceship models. The Hugh Beaumont sketch isn’t as funny as the last one (in Episode 208) but it’s still pretty good, especially when Hugh rants about how his wife never greets him at the door wearing high heels and saran wrap anymore. Tom and Crow parody Kolos’ last tearful speech of the film perfectly when they assume that an admission of robothood would be roughly equivalent to an admission of homosexuality. William Conrad is not all that funny, but listening to the Mads laugh so much is.

The film segments are pretty good too. Kolos’ spaceship is dominated by a wrinkled, glittery thing that Tom calls “Liberace’s brain.” After Kolos wanders through Dornheimer’s painfully gaudy estate to wave his hand in front of Lisa’s face, Crow says, “Oh, she’s blind. That explains the decorating.” In the elaborate android creation sequence, the various awkward stages of construction cause Joel to say, “I sing the body pathetic.” It’s an above average episode. I’d watch it again.