12/15/06

421 Monster A-Go-Go

(1965, Horror/SciFi, b&w), with:

Circus On Ice
(1959, Educational-Newsreel, b&w)

There was no giant, no monster, no thing called Douglas to be followed.

Rating: 1/2*

In a nutshell:

Short: Tutued ice skaters reenact various ecological tragedies.
Film: An irradiated astronaut spreads death and destruction—or does he?

Short Summary:

In Circus on Ice, a standard fifties narrator regales us with tales of the Toronto Skating Club while they dance madly about—on ice! Women in striped leotards call themselves zebras and skate in elaborate circles around a red-suited woman with a whip—on ice! A famous figure skater dresses as a fawn and does an interpretive dance of its brutal death at the hands of callous hunters—on ice! Ballerinas twirl and chorus girls kick—on ice!

Film Summary:

There was no this guy.In Monster A-Go-Go, what sounds like the same standard narrator accompanies us every step of the way, warning us of every monster attack and plot twist (except the ending) well before each one happens.

A battered piece of space capsule lands in a deserted field. A helicopter pilot arrives first, and wins a horrific death by radiation as his prize. Meanwhile, an unidentified man and woman tell another woman something vague about someone with an even vaguer relationship to her. She accompanies them to the landing site. Other vague and random murders occur shortly afterwards, including an overfriendly drunken boyfriend and a helpful trucker.

Scientists and military officers talk to and about each other. Finally one of them gets strangled/burned by a tall man with nobbly burn marks on his face. In what is perhaps the first extended bit of intelligible dialogue in the film, we learn that the irradiated killer is the astronaut from the capsule, and he’s big and murderous because he had an overdose of experimental anti-radiation medicine.

The scientist who gave him the overdose (who, as it turns out, is the astronaut’s brother) can describe the symptoms exactly, apparently because that’s how it turned out in animal testing as well. This begs the question, why did he administer so much of it to the astronaut? Further discoveries and mishaps lead the people in the laboratory to another, more urgent question: why has he been hiding his giant, irradiated astronaut brother in the lab for weeks without telling any one? The scientist offers a very simple defense on both counts—he’s an idiot.

The idiot scientist, it turns out, has also been administering an antidote in very small doses, and acts very surprised when the astronaut develops an immunity to the antidote rather than getting better. The astronaut breaks out of the lab and heads towards Chicago.

Firemen and policemen surround the city with Geiger counters. Eventually, they herd the errant spaceman into a sewer tunnel. A plucky military officer and his sidekick don radiation suits and go in after him, armed with all the antidote and firepower they can carry, determined to resolve the matter one way or the other.

Suddenly, none of it ever happened. It turns out the astronaut was rescued “alive, well, and of normal size some eight thousand miles away.” The narrator gives us some bullcrap about the line between science fiction and fact being very thin, and then tries to make this blatantly false statement justify the abrupt reversal of everything we’ve seen up this point.

Introduction:

Don't worry Crow; I get you.Tom and Crow are making cheese, stirring the vats with Joel’s sneakers for some reason. Tom explains the cheese-making process, while Crow goes on about cheese’s economic advantages.

Host Segment One:

Joel is upset that they’ve ruined his sneakers. Quoth Crow, “You sound really cheesed.” Dr. Forrester challenges them to action figure-making contest, with Frank as the judge. Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank have created Johnny Longtorso (He’s long!). Each body part is sold separately (including the ultra-realistic action batch), making an eight-dollar piece of plastic cost more than three hundred dollars total. The ‘Bots have whipped up a few non-violent action figures. Tom has created Action Oxford, a figure of the famous fifteenth century earl. It exudes enigmatic sadness. Crow has done a figure of Woodscrew Tapeworm, who fits into the plastic bowels of other action figures. Gypsy has created an action figure of athlete Wilma Rudolph. Frank declares Dr. Forrester and himself the winners.

Host Segment Two:

Gypsy interrupts Crow’s model shipbuilding to say that she just doesn’t “get” him. Crow explains himself at length until she realizes that she “gets” him after all—it’s Tom she doesn’t get. When informed of this, Tom says, “Nobody does, baby. I’m the wind.”

Host Segment Three:

Joel and Tom play catch, quickly turning it into a game of keep-away-from-Crow. Crow swats the ball down and grabs it in his lacrosse-net head, but it’s no good; Joel and Tom just get another ball.

Host Segment Four:

Joel offers Tom and Crow the opportunity to ask him any question about the universe. Quoth Tom and Crow, “What is the deal with the Piña Colada song?” Joel tries to explain about Rupert Holmes capitalizing on popular trends for a successful song, but the ‘Bots can only harp on the various problems involved with answering personal ads while already in a committed relationship.

Host Segment Five:

Fresh from the punishingly bad ending of a punishingly bad movie, Joel gives the distraught Tom a crown and robe, declaring him a happy king. He gives Crow a jester’s cap and a scepter topped with a small, capped version of his own head and knights him Sir Giggles von Laughs-A-Lot, charged to make sure that Tom stays a happy king. They each try to think of a good thing about the movie. Crow is glad that he couldn’t hear the dialogue. Tom points out that no one involved with this movie went on to do anything else.

Stinger:

The large, irradiated, nobbly-faced guy.

Thoughts:

Another guy of which there was no him.Were the pointless deaths of helpless woodland creatures really considered appropriate subject matter for family entertainment in the fifties? Disney released Bambi some years before that, but there was a lot more to the story than the just the death of his mother. The whole arc of the ice ballet was: Fawn romps playfully. Fawn runs away. Fawn thrashes around in dying agony. I imagine myself in the audience with my daughters on either side of me, tugging at my sleeves, asking me to tell them what’s going on. At least the other skaters didn’t do an interpretative dance of the skinning, packaging, and serving of the fawn at the family barbeque.

Monster A-Go-Go is an important episode simply for the slightly misquoted line, “There was no monster,” which has grown to rival “Hi-keeba” from Women of the Prehistoric Planet among MST3K inside jokes. The SOL crew will now throw this line at the screen in nearly every episode hereafter, whenever ending just doesn’t make sense. That’s fairly often.

In The Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, Paul Chaplin calls this movie “officially the worst film we ever did.” I agree and disagree. From his point of view, I can see that this movie would be maddening to watch in its original form. You can’t hear the dialogue. The characters run around doing bizarre and boring things for no apparent reason. The ending is so excruciatingly non sequitur that it even puts Roger Corman’s Teenage Caveman to shame.

On the other hand, stuff happens in this movie. Boring, incomprehensible stuff, but stuff, nonetheless. From my point of view, all the movie needs is stuff to mock and time to mock it in. In spite of the near total absence of coherent film, the SOL crew manages to cobble together a number of funny jokes about the alleged action. It is a tribute to their will and comedic abilities that the end result is—if not as hilarious as Cave Dwellers or Godzilla vs. Megalon—at least marginally funny.

None of the host segments have anything to do with the film, and considering the quality of the film, that’s probably a good thing. The cheese sketch was probably more comprehensible to residents of Wisconsin than the rest of the non-cheese-state-dwelling public, but I liked the action figures, the “I don’t get you,” sketch, and the Piña Colada sketch. The keep-away sketch seemed kind of pointless. My favorite was at the end, where Joel does his best to impersonate Mr. B Natural to keep Tom and Crow’s spirits up. Tom’s wrong when he says that no one involved with this film ever went on to do anything else. Episode 810 is The Giant Spider Invasion, another film from the oeuvre of Monster A-Go-Go director, Bill Rebane.

Joel and the ‘Bots manage to get some good jokes out during the film segments.
As the fawn/skater lies dying, the ‘Bots shout, “Venison!” Listening to the very tinny radio conversation with the doomed helicopter pilot, Crow instructs him to, “Take the kazoo out of your mouth.” During the last scenes when fire trucks ride through what looks like a parking garage, someone says, “If I didn’t know better, I’d say this were [sic] a security camera.” Despite the utter awfulness of the film, I laughed enough to make watching it worthwhile. I probably won’t watch it again, though.