1/2/07

612 The Starfighters

(1966, Drama-Political, color)

Flying a plan is like making love.


Rating: 1/2*

In a nutshell:

Apparently, certain kinds of planes can refuel while flying.

Summary:

Contains no actual stars or fighters.Air Force pilot trainees learn to refuel their fighters in flight. Tension mounts as each and every one of them fill their tanks in turn. One of them has a little trouble finding the nozzle, taking the suspense almost to the breaking point.

Back on the ground, the air base Colonel tells the Major that all his trainees are being reassigned. He will have some new recruits, including Witkowski (future politician Bob Dornan), York (his goofy friend), and Lyons (the married one). We listen in awe while the Major describes their new planes in excruciating technical detail, and then takes them up for an implied training mission.

Stock footage training missions occupy most of the rest of the film, including mock bombing runs, flying in formation, and, of course, more refueling. Potential danger is purported to exist around every corner, like when Witkowski’s instruments tell him his landing gear has failed (it hasn’t; he lands safely) and when a terrible storm threatens to wipe out an ill-fated training mission (they lose one plane, but everyone escapes completely unharmed).

Interspersed is a tepid romance between Witkowski and a crunchy-haired corn detassler from Iowa, and many, many phone calls from Witkowski’s interfering congressman father. Eventually the Iowa girl agrees to wait for Witkowski until he returns from his European assignment, while the congressman father subplot peters out without resolution. The movie ends with a poolside demonstration of an inflatable flight uniform called a “poopie suit,” followed by endless scenes of their takeoff to Europe.

Introduction:

How many Servos does it take to screw in a lightbulb?Crow shows off his computer, describing its specifications in great detail. Tom reads over his shoulder while Crow unsuccessfully attempts to log onto the information superhighway.

Host Segment One:

Crow tries to reach technical support, but he’s left on hold. Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank have cranial ports, connected at the forehead by a coiled telephone cord. They try to connect their minds, but Mike interrupts to sell them COWBOY MIKE’S [insert multiple gunshot sound effects here] RICOCHET BARBEQUE SAUCE! Quoth they, “It’s bold!” Dr. Forrester tries some, but it’s not as bold as he expected. Mike and the ‘Bots entice him with their new extra bold flavor. Quoth Tom, “So bold, it’s not recommended for human consumption!”

Host Segment Two:

Crow is still on hold, so he and Tom reenact the refueling sequence that took up most of the first film segment. He’s just managed to maneuver his beak into Tom’s hoverskirt when technical support finally answers. He struggles to get free, but the support technician has hung up by the time he can get to the phone.

Host Segment Three:

General Tom and General Crow summon Mike and hold him down while they debrief him. Mike struggles, but in the end Crow triumphantly holds his briefs aloft. Quoth Mike, “How did you get those off through my jumpsuit?”

Host Segment Four:

Mike introduces the United Servo Academy Men’s Chorus. A gathering of Tom Servo duplicates belts out a choral salute to our brave Air Force pilots, cycling all the way through every possible rhyme for the word “sky” several times before devolving into musical quotes from other songs. Though Mike offers his gratitude and attempts to dismiss them, they immediately launch into a boisterous rendition of Mademoiselle from Armentieres.

Host Segment Five:

Crow finally succeeds in logging onto the information superhighway. He joins a game of Boogers with a guy called Frodo, who logs off as soon as he starts losing. They ask Dr. Forrester to be Crow’s new Boogers partner, but he can’t. He’s too busy accessing Frank’s brain via the cranial port. Dr. Forrester “thinks” Frank into pushing the button.

Stinger:

The married pilot takes an elbow in the gut from his wife.

Thoughts:

Puttin' that man in his place.Most films try to make me feel something. This is not the first movie I’ve been able summarize in four paragraphs. Manos and Space Travelers spring to mind, but both these slow-moving films have plots that try to instill in me a sense of dread (Manos) and heroism (Space Travelers). It’s not the first movie I’ve seen that contains eighty-five percent stock footage, but Invasion USA at least tries to depict a terrifying invasion. It’s not the first movie I’ve seen that evoked no emotional response from me at all. I mean Stranded in Space and Code Name: Diamondhead, of course, at least those movies attempt to engage my interest with sexy fascist Hawaiian spies from outer space (I think). In fact, all the movies previously depicted in MST3K try (and, more often than not, fail) to make me to feel something, even if it’s something stupid, like how cool it would be to ride a giant, fire-breathing turtle. Which would actually be pretty cool, now that I think about it…

This film doesn’t try. It’s stock footage of flying, with some interspersed scenes of pilots talking about flying. Just the technical details of flying, mind you. These people don’t seem to take any real pleasure or displeasure in what they do. There are a few attempts at drama, but these are less than half-hearted. Every setback they encounter gets automatically solved without any effort on their part. And then it ends, with no resolution in sight. How can there be, since nothing ever happens that would require resolution?

I love the host segments. Even though the computer specifications listed by Crow don’t sound all that impressive nine years after the fact, you can tell he takes pride in a relatively powerful machine. I can hear my wife’s voice in Tom’s query, “And this makes you happy?” and my own in Crow’s indignant reply, “Yes!” The refueling sequence is every bit as pointless in the second host segment as it is in the film, though the bots make it funnier and not quite as boring. Seeing Crow push his face into Tom’s uplifted hoverskirt is more than a little creepy. The folks at Best Brains layer Kevin Murphy’s voice on top of itself many, many times for the United Servo Academy Men’s Chorus, and the result sounds fantastic. The debriefing sequence is funny and short, but my favorite segment is the commercial for COWBOY MIKE’S RICOCHET [insert multiple gunshot sound effects here] BARBEQUE SAUCE! Watching their large foam cowboy hats fly off during the gunshot sound effects makes the entire episode worth the price of admission.

A word of warning: the film segments contain more sexual commentary than all the previous episodes put together. There’s nothing graphic, but a plethora of double entendres spill out while the planes refuel in mid-flight. Since stock footage of planes refueling takes up most of the film, that’s a lot of double entendres. Other comments have to do with the numerous unnecessary scenes, such as, “The cutting room floor was remarkably clean,” (Crow), while some address the inappropriate incidental music, such as, “It’s a volatile mixture of hot munitions and cool jazz,” (also Crow). Mike sums it neatly up near the end when he says, “There’s more nothing in this movie than in any other movie we’ve seen.” If you get your hands on a copy of this episode, I suggest you watch Mike try on a Western accent to shriek about barbeque sauce, and then switch to a better episode before the film can begin.