12/26/06

515 The Wild Wild World of Batwoman

(1966, Comedy-Crime/SciFi, b&w), with:

Cheating
(1952, Educational, b&w)

They just put a bunch of movies in the blender and hit the mix button.

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

Short: Johnny is ostracized by his peers when he’s caught cheating.
Film: Dancing girls, magic soup, and an atomic hearing aid…oh dear…

Short Summary:

Cheating is bad.  Richard Basehart is good.In Cheating, Johnny waits by the phone in a darkened hall, while a tall grandfather clock ticks loudly over him. He was caught cheating, you see, and his fellow student council members are meeting even now to decide his fate. The narrator goes back to cover the events leading up to his fall from grace, the factors of which include a willing friend, being pressed for time, and a love for hamburgers. Through it all, Johnny wavers between the thrill of getting away with something and his feelings of guilt, often underscored by accusatory visions of his teacher’s disembodied head. The verdict comes in; Johnny’s been ejected from the student council. The short leaves us with a few questions about Johnny’s path to sin and the possible responsibility of others to rehabilitate him.

Film Summary:

The Wild Wild World of Batwoman starts with a trio of hot young women taking a complicated oath of loyalty to a mysterious entity known as *drumroll* Batwoman. It involves yogurt, a wrist radio, and a lawyer-like recitation of Batwoman’s private legal code. Later, a man is mugged and killed in a dark alley while other young women look on. Nothing comes of either scene.

The movie really starts when a pair of hoods named Bruno and Tiger goes into a nightclub where all of Batwoman’s hard-partying Batgirls gather to wildly shake their groove thangs. They drug and kidnap one of them while the others dance on. She wakes up in their car and turns on her wrist radio while questioning her captors about their destination. Bruno figures out what she’s doing (eventually) and mocks Batwoman over the radio. Batwoman issues dire warnings back to him while the Batgirl bites his arm.

Bruno, Tiger, and the Batgirl arrive at the secret lair, where they meet the strangely accented Dr. Neon and his feral assistant Heathcliff. Their boss, the masked and caped Rat Fink, calls them up to congratulate them on their mission, and to deliver some vague instructions.

Meanwhile, Batwoman (a fur-and-leotard-clad woman in dense feathery headgear, some costume jewelry the size of doorknobs, and a D.C. trademark violation painted on her cleavage) calls a meeting of her Batgirls (a bunch of scantily clad models who apparently spend all day at her house skipping rope for the…um…interesting effect it causes). They gather in the living room, snuggle together on the couch, and begin their ceremonial recitation of the entire Batgirl legal code. Fortunately, Rat Fink interrupts them by demanding that they steal an atomic-powered hearing aid in exchange for the kidnapped Batgirl’s freedom. Batwoman agrees, but only if she can see the captive first.

She’s whisked away to the secret lair where Dr. Neon reveals his latest invention—a pill that, when dissolved in soup, causes uncontrollable happiness and dancing. He offers Batwoman one, but she refuses. Later, while Rat Fink is making more demands by closed-circuit TV/Mirror, Neon tries to slip it into her chocolate milk. Batwoman notices and switches drinks with him. Neon starts dancing uncontrollably, while Batwoman beats up Bruno and Tiger, grabs her errant Batgirl, and escapes.

Meanwhile, Batwoman has warned the hearing aid’s manufacturers, Jim Flanigan and J.B. Christian of the Ayjax Development Corporation, of the plot against their invention. There are a number of subplots here about the patent office, thirty days to destroy the device, a bitterly contested horseshoe, and the ability to listen in on any phone conversation in the world, but they don’t make any sense and don’t lead to anything anyway. The long and short of it is that Batwoman is hired to protect the hearing aid. Her bevy of Batgirls stands guard over the hearing-aid vault with guns, while Batwoman goes down to the cafeteria with Jim. Bruno, Tiger, and Neon come in with the happy pill soup. They dress as the Marx Brothers and distribute it to everyone. Everyone dances obliviously away while Rat Fink’s henchmen make off with the device and recapture the originally kidnapped Batgirl.

Furious and desperate, Batwoman turns to the spirits of the dead for advice. She holds a séance and locates a helpful but slow-talking spirit, but they get constantly interrupted by an obnoxious ghost that shouts faux Chinese. Nothing comes of this subplot either. They give up and search the coastline instead, where the Batgirls make out with surfers and dance at beach parties in an effort to find Rat Fink’s hideout. Rat Fink kidnaps them all one by one.

Bruno, Neon, and Heathcliff make their way down to the secret lair through a barrage of Mole People footage. Tiger follows a ways behind, leading the captured Batgirl on a leash. They’ve hit it off; she insults him repeatedly while teaching him to dance. Down in the lab, Rat Fink is just revealing his insidious plan to mate the captive Batgirls with the Mole People when Batwoman and Jim Flanigan barge in with the leashed Batgirl and the newly reformed Tiger. They release the other Batgirls and are about to unmask Rat Fink when he turns on his duplicating machine. Soon there are dozens of Rat Finks running around to a peppy banjo beat. Batwoman finally turns off the machine (and the music) and captures Rat Fink. They unmask him and, lo and behold, he’s J.B. Christian, who invented the hearing aid in the first place. He gives a number of reasons for using them to steal his own invention (none of which make any sense) and then Heathcliff accidentally blows everyone up.

But they’re all okay. They wake up on the beach, where Heathcliff suddenly turns smart. It turns out he was turned stupid by one of Neon’s prior experiments and…never mind. It’s another pointless subplot. Everyone goes back to Batwoman’s mansion to skip rope and dance by the pool while reciting the Batgirl legal code. Tiger falls into the pool, Heathcliff turns stupid again, and the Batgirls shake their groove thangs while Batwoman shakes her head in disgust and walks out of frame.

Introduction:

...it's about how everything you touch, you destroy...Mike is a blackjack dealer. Tom wants to stick before he has any cards. Gypsy offers to spit on some dice. Crow repeatedly asks Mike to hit.

Host Segment One:

Crow is still telling Mike to hit; by now he’s built up a pile that includes several decks’ worth of cards. Down in Deep 13, TV’s Frank has invented the atomic hair dryer. He puts it over Dr. Forrester’s noggin and hides behind some lead shielding. A flash of light and some radioactive smoke later, Dr. Forrester’s hair has become a mushroom-cloud-shaped dreadlock that sets off Geiger counters. Up in the Satellite of Love, Mike and the ‘Bots have invented the Razor-Back—a giant razor that removes all your back hair at once.

Host Segment Two:

Mike assigns essays to the ‘Bots, addressing the questions posed at the end of the Cheating short. Everyone will get some Hostess Snowballs if they do. Crow also wants to be boss of the ship for a month and have Tom wash his underpants. Tom protests that Crow doesn’t wear underpants.

Host Segment Three:

Tom has brought piles of books that he’s written on the subject of cheating. It turns out most of it is research and footnotes. His entire report addresses the short’s question, was it fair for Johnny to use his friend like that? Quoth Tom, “No.” Gypsy’s report is simple. Quoth she, “Cheating is Bad. Richard Basehart is good.” Crow tries to get out of his turn, but is forced to go anyway. Quoth he, “Cheating is bad. Richard Basehart is good.”

Host Segment Four:

Mike, Tom, and Gypsy have a meeting to decide what to do about Crow’s cheating. Gypsy and Tom are vocal in their desire to punish him. Mike was thinking more along the lines of not giving him any Hostess Snowballs. Crow shows up in a Marx Brothers mustache to offer them some soup.

Host Segment Five:

Crow is offered a chance to defend himself. He delivers a long oratory about his life of selfless service, and forgives everyone involved. He has to be reminded to apologize. Quoth he, “In an otherwise exemplary life, I have cheated. And when you cheat, you make an ‘eat’ out of ‘c’ and ‘h.’ I’m sorry.” They all eat Hostess Snowballs and read a letter. Down in Deep 13, Frank flees the lab when Dr. Forrester finally gets a mirror. Dr. Forrester likes what he sees, but overbalances when he tries to stand. He falls on the button.

Stinger:

The captive Batgirl bites Bruno.

Thoughts:

Batgirls aren't venomous, but their mouths are often filled with nasty bacteria.The short has to be one of the most depressing things they’ve ever shown on MST3K. Johnny’s whole life is ruined, apparently. Not that he didn’t deserve it—the filthy cheat. Otherwise, it thoughtfully, if somewhat drearily addresses a common school problem that exists today, something not many of these so-called “educational” shorts do.

It’s always interesting when the Satellite crew mocks a film that’s already supposed to be a comedy. At least, I think it’s supposed to be a comedy. It’s also supposed to be a whodunit, a superhero film, a heist film, a mad scientist movie, and a beach party film. It’s certainly the goofiest film they’ve ever done, but I suppose that in order to be a comedy, you occasionally have to attempt some sort of joke. This has all the set pieces of an adventure comedy (stupid outfits, silly names, a number of nonsensical plots) but the dialog is all so boring. Much of it is simply recitation of the Batgirl pledge of allegiance. “We—the girls who are dedicated to Batwoman—take our oath with all sincerity…” The filmmakers shouldn’t have hired their contract attorney to write the script.

Wisely, the host segments almost ignore the film entirely (the plot is so impenetrable it defies parody) to focus on Cheating. Crow’s fall from grace, the meeting about his behavior and his subsequent non-apology make for an excellent parody of the events in the short. Dr. Forrester’s mushroom-cloud hair makes for good fun as well. I also really liked the blackjack game at the beginning.

The commentary in both the film and the short are funny, but go along different lines. The short’s commentary is more traditional. When there’s a close-up of a chiming clock, Mike booms out, “Ebenezer Scrooge!” When the narrator berates Johnny for his illicit behavior, Crow adds, “Mother Teresa called. She hates you.” The film is such a strange combination of bland dialog, weird visuals, and nonsensical plot that conventional mockery just isn’t possible. At one point Crow notes, “They just put a bunch of movies in a blender and hit the mix button.” Later, when we see Batwoman, he says, “Chaka Khan would be ashamed to dress like her.” When we see a woman in a colorless dress with a single black stripe, he notes, “She’s wearing a gownless evening strap.” It’s a decently funny episode, and worth watching just to see the goofiest thing ever committed to film—and “committed” is probably the most appropriate word in this case.