12/26/06

520 Radar Secret Service

(1950, Drama-Crime/SciFi, b&w), with:

Last Clear Chance
(1959, Educational-Industrial, color)

Why don’t they look, Ralph? Why don’t they look?

Rating: **


In a nutshell:

Short: A freewheeling youngster’s bad driving gets him killed by an innocent train.
Film: Government agents recover stolen uranium, thanks to RADAR!

Short Summary:

Psycho cop is on the job.In Standard Cautionary Tale Beginning #3, Last Clear Chance opens with a funeral, narrated by a bitter Idaho Highway Patrolman named Hal. He flashes back to tell us the story of the Dixons—a farm family with a pair of sons, including one reckless college boy (Frank, Jr.) and one awkward teenager (Alan). Alan has just received his driver’s license in the mail, and is eager to try it out on the road when Hal shows up to give him a long safety presentation that seems to focus mainly on the dangers of driving near trains. Having sat patiently through this railroad-subsidized lecture, Alan finally gets to take his dad’s ancient truck on the highway, closely followed by the reckless Frank Jr. and his girlfriend Betty. They pass him and turn to wave, stubbornly refusing to look where they’re driving even as Alan frantically signals them to stop. Frank, Jr. runs into a train and dies, while the engineers sadly shake their heads and wonder, “Why don’t they look?”

Film Summary:

Radar Secret Service opens with a montage of stock footage, purporting that we won World War II thanks only to RADAR! Later, this marvelous invention is further developed to do a number of amazing things including long-distance metal detection, commercial fishing, and traffic control. An entire government agency is built around it, vowing to uphold liberty and justice only through the use of RADAR!

Next we start a plot (of sorts) in which a sympathetic waitress hands a piece of paper to an evil woman who cheats on her gangster boyfriend with a high-level terrorist/arms dealer (I think). The waitress’ sympathetic boyfriend is a member of the evil woman’s boyfriend’s gang, which begs the question, why are they going through all the hassle of the cloak and dagger middlemen?

There are so many double-crosses in this picture, I couldn’t keep track of them all. First of all, the paper details the shipment of uranium across the country in an unmarked van. The gang steals it, but quickly gets spotted by RADAR, which acts both as a long-distance Geiger counter and moving television camera. RADAR agents in an unmarked car (well, unmarked except for the large round RADAR antenna on the roof) follow them and the sympathetic gangster gets left behind. When the gang leader refuses to bail him out of jail or cut him in on the take, the sympathetic waitress girlfriend quickly turns against her unsavory cohorts.

The gang leader moves small quantities of uranium across the country (hounded all the while by the agents of RADAR) while his evil girlfriend cheats on him with the terrorist/arms dealer. Eventually, two gang members die in a sabotaged car and the terrorist/arms dealer sets a trap for the rest of them, but the RADAR patrol catches up to make arrests before the doubles can finish their crossing. The wounded gang leader escapes and heads back to his girlfriend’s house for revenge, but gets shot dead for his trouble. The terrorist/arms dealer and the evil woman are about to escape but the sympathetic waitress delays them at gunpoint until the minions of RADAR can arrive to save the day. The bad guys are captured, the good guys reign triumphant, and it’s all thanks to RADAR!

Introduction:

Why don't they look, Earl?Mike is performing Crow’s regularly scheduled maintenance checkup, covering him in clamps. Quoth he, “I have no idea what I’m doing.” He accidentally turns Crow into Arnold Horshack of Welcome Back, Kotter.

Host Segment One:

Gypsy fixes Crow, while Tom narrowly avoids being turned into Epstein. Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester has invited a guest speaker, Dr. Frankenkeister (TV’s Frank with a bushy false beard and a bad Russian accent) to explain Hypno Helio Static Stasis, now with special secret ingredient, X-4. His description is vague, but it seems to suggest a process that induces madness and eventual catatonia through the viewing of films where nothing really happens. Up in the Satellite of Love, Mike has strung together all the sheets in the Satellite (along with Crow’s underoos, Gypsy’s bra, and Tom’s pantyhose) to make a rope long enough to climb back down to earth.

Host Segment Two:

State Trooper Tom delivers a long safety lecture while Mike accidentally pokes himself in the eye with a sandwich, a lint trap, and a hot plate. Quoth Crow, “Why don’t they look?”

Host Segment Three:

The ‘Bots try to simulate Mike’s 10-year high school reunion, taking on the roles of some of that setting’s more pathetic denizens.

Host Segment Four:

Mike and Crow have gone mad with Hypno Helio Static Stasis. They come up with the idea for a Quinn Martin Nature Preserve to house such actors as Robert Stack, Karl Malden, and Pat Hingle. Tom tries to bring them out of their delusion.

Host Segment Five:

Mike and the ‘Bots claim victory over Hypno Helio Static Stasis through the use of Ecstato Euphoro Fun, with special secret ingredient Hinder-90. Dr. Forrester vows to overcome them in the imaginary concept arms race, but succumbs to the potent Hinder-90 and skips away laughing, arm-in-arm with TV’s Frank.

Stinger:

A relieved maid shrieks out her gratitude.

Thoughts:

No one will ever suspect that they belong to the forces of RADAR.Watch out for trains. No really—watch out for trains. Because if you don’t, a borderline psychotic cop will track you down and tell you graphic tales of gruesome traffic accidents while you try to choke down a picnic lunch with your family. Watch out for trains.

Radar Secret Service was made by people with less than a vague idea of what RADAR actually is and how it works. The things that RADAR is supposed to do are so laughably divorced from reality that you could insert any noun in its place and it would make the same amount of sense. For example: A POP-UP TOASTER is the perfect tool for any government agency seeking to stamp out crime. For one thing, THE SOLID GOLD DANCERS can beam out across the city and take a television quality image of anything within miles of the STRING CHEESE antenna. MY LITTLE SISTER LAUREL can also detect schools of fish in Alaska, while simultaneously determining the identity and quality of various substances buried far beneath the surface of the earth. Not only that, but boxy handheld POKEMON units and melon-shaped, car-mounted EYEBROW PENCIL units are available to act as radio transmitters, Geiger counters, and metal detectors for the fast-talking government agent on the go. Yes, the world can rest easy, knowing that the law enforcement of the future will be guided by the power of FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE.

Sid Melton (a.k.a. Little Monkey Boy) is in this movie as one of the gangsters, but he doesn’t really do anything but demand pills and bubble gum. He inexplicably disappears before people start dying at the end. Sam Newfield directed—he’s also responsible for The Mad Monster and I Accuse My Parents. He’s most famous for directing The Terror of Tiny Town, a musical western comedy cast entirely with dwarves. Unfortunately, this film is not included in the MST3K canon.

This appears to be the first national broadcast episode of MST3K not to include an invention exchange. I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t been looking for the place they stopped doing it. Instead we get an imaginary arms race and an escape rope made of underoos, which works just as well, if not better. I know where Crow wears his underoos (all over himself, as he is perfectly willing to demonstrate) but I find myself wondering where Tom puts his pantyhose, and how Gypsy wears a bra. Trooper Tom’s safety lecture is hilarious, but the high school reunion and the Quinn Martin Nature Preserve are a little tedious. I’m still chuckling at the word, “Hinder-90.”

In the film segments, Last Clear Chance is one of the funniest shorts you’ll ever see, mostly because of Mike and the ‘Bot’s narration. When Alan shows Hal his driver’s license, Mike says, “You’re not a black female!” While Hal rather tediously and lengthily explains why a train is never at fault in an accident, Mike says, “Trains are blameless, holy creatures.” While Frank, Jr. refuses to look forward while driving, Tom says, “Never, under any circumstances, should you drive with your butt cheeks.” The film doesn’t fare quite so well. Fortunately, there was only one reference to Gary Burghoff (Corporal “Radar” O’Reilly of M*A*S*H) and they get it out of the way early. There was a potential to exclaim “Thanks to RADAR!” after every line, but the movie pre-empts them by doing that itself most of the time. There are a few good lines, such as when Tom refers to a pair of gangsters in a car as “Thelma and Luigi,” and when the sympathetic waitress asks a RADAR cop what she needs to do, Mike replies, “Dress as a leopard and sing La Traviata,” but mostly they’re just trying to figure out what on earth is going on. It’s worth watching for the short, but worth avoiding for the film that follows it.