1/12/07

808 The She-Creature

(1956, Horror, b&w)

I’m not in this scene.

Rating: *

In a nutshell:

An evil hypnotist enslaves a young woman’s lobster-ish psychic manifestation.

Summary:

If his eyes were visible, we'd all be soooo hypnotized right now.An oily man with a thin mustache wanders a murky beach. Echo-effect narration identifies him as Dr. Carlo Lombardi, evil hypnotist extraordinaire. He follows some giant, webbed footprints into a beach home and gloats over a murdered family’s broken furniture.

The neighborhood dog leads the taciturn Dr. Ted Erickson, heroic psychic researcher extraordinaire, and his shapely admirer Dorothy to the scene of the crime. Erickson sees Lombardi’s hasty exit and later identifies him for the police. Lombardi waxes evangelical about soul transference and past life regression to a sour-faced detective while his lovely young assistant Andrea goes out walking with Erickson. She breaks off the date when she sees a horrifying vision of Lombardi’s huge oily face. Later, Lombardi puts her in a trance, using her to call forth a buxom humanoid lobster spirit from the sea. The D-cupped crustacean murders a snooping carnie.

Wealthy tycoon Timothy (Dorothy’s father, in case you were interested) sees the newspaper headlines about Lombardi’s predictions. He decides to build him into a spiritualist icon and skim off a large percentage of the lecture fees and book sales. He springs Lombardi from jail for an unfailingly boring command performance at his mansion, during which the greasy mentalist puts Andrea under hypnosis and interrogates her about her past lives. During the show, the full-figured sea monster emerges once more to threaten the partygoers, but fails to kill the suspicious Erickson as ordered.

In the many lengthy scenes that follow, Dr. Erickson brushes off Dorothy to canoodle with Andrea, while Lombardi bullies Timothy into letting him stay at the mansion a little while longer, while the sour-faced detective hangs around and whines. Finally, the whole cast gets together again at Timothy’s mansion for another boring performance, during which Andrea struggles unsuccessfully to prevent the She-Lobster from rising. It murders the sour-faced detective and Timothy, but rather than kill Erickson, it turns on Lombardi. Lombardi releases Andrea from his hypnotic spell with his dying breath, and they all live happily ever after. Well, except for the murder victims. And Dorothy, who loses her father and her boyfriend, ending up with an abusive alcoholic on the rebound.

Introduction:

When preparing to dissect someone, it's considered polite to first ask their advice.Crow has accidentally melted himself while attempting to tone his metallic musculature. Mike arrives to point out that he’s using a thawmaster, not a thighmaster. Tom walks in with a frozen pot roast tied to a piece of exercise equipment, complaining that his thawmaster does not work as advertised. Mike gently corrects him as well.

Host Segment One:

Strapped to a table, Bobo offers the Observers advice on how best to dissect him. Pearl is locked in an invisible box; if the Satellite Crew will just help her escape, she promises never to send them a bad movie ever again. Mike has the nanites break the Observer’s tractor beam hold on the Satellite, distracting two of the Observers. Pearl lures the third into her cell with a wild tale about a sick invisible man, and holds his brain hostage with a hairpin. She interrupts the ensuing shouting match to break her promise. Mike and the ‘Bots try to escape, but the Observers have scrambled the navigational system. Misunderstanding Mike’s instruction to “take care of the problem,” the nanites demolish the planet. “Here comes Mike: Destroyer of Worlds!” raves Crow.

Host Segment Two:

Crow has invented the Tickle-Me Carlo Lombardi doll, a hug-sized bundle of creepy, hypnotic joy. It chuckles menacingly when Mike tickles it. Then its sticky surface refuses to release Mike’s hands. Eventually, Mike collapses to the floor, locked in a death struggle with the murderous toy.

Host Segment Three:

Back in the deep space Volkswagen, Pearl and Bobo have picked up Observer, morose over the loss of his homeworld. Bobo commiserates—Mike destroyed his planet too, after all. Pearl tries to lead them in a rousing chorus of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to lift their spirits, but Bobo’s far too stupid to understand the concept of a round. They blow a tire, and despite Pearl’s insistence that it doesn’t matter in space, Bobo gets out to have a look. He falls to the surface of an unexplored planet below.

Host Segment Four:

Mike rehearses the acting techniques found in the new textbook Do Not Act, by Lance Fuller (Dr. Ted Erickson in the movie). He does scenes from various famous plays and films, including The Odd Couple and Schindler’s List, but he can’t manage to suppress all eye contact and emotion. He finally masters Fuller’s non-acting method with an unemotional scene taken from Kevin Costner’s Waterworld. “My boat,” he deadpans.

Host Segment Five:

Mike and the ‘Bots try to figure out what the question mark at the end of the film was supposed to mean. Eventually it occurs to them that, with the Observers gone, they might be able to escape Pearl. Unfortunately, Pearl has rather easily cowed the last Observer into submission by pouring Cheez-Its on his brain. He holds the Satellite captive with his mind, thus ensuring that the movie-watching experiment will continue unabated.

Stinger:

Bobo lies helpless on the alien planet’s surface.

Thoughts:

My murderous psychic manifestation looks more like Ron Perlman.No one ever bothers to tell us what Dr. Erickson is supposed to be, or in what context he studies psychics. “Well-respected man of science” gets thrown at us, but what kind? If he has a Ph.D., then he’s a psychologist, and is thus qualified to listen to them drone for hours on end about their inner children. If he has an M.D., then he’s a psychiatrist, and is thus qualified to prescribe them chemical tranquility. If he’s studying the cultural environment that creates and fosters psychics, then he’s a sociologist, and is thus qualified to provide misleading sound bites on the subject to their local news stations. “Psychic researcher” gets thrown at us as well, but I contend that there is no such thing—unless, of course, taking blurry photographs and listening to Art Bell counts as research. Granted, you can do a Google search and come up with more than half a million results. A Google search will also find organizations of blood-drinking fetishists seeking donations of bodily fluids, but that doesn’t mean there’s such a thing as vampires.

Sorry, I got distracted there for a moment. This is the second film this season about past life regression, and though there are theories on the subject that some people take seriously, this one doesn’t even come near the solar system that contains Planet Credibility. Even the most fanatic proponents of paranormal phenomenon would probably balk at claiming an astral projection can take the form of a giant, murderous crustacean…

What’s that you say? It’s just a movie? Well, okay. You’re right, I guess…

Movie-wise, the only guy who does anything right is Chester Morris as Carlo Lombardi, who portrays our oily antagonist with nauseating effectiveness. Everyone else seems so dispirited about their casting in the film. Lance Fuller as Dr. Ted Erickson is especially flat, but even the goofy ethnic servants come off halfhearted. Also, the characters almost never look at each other; they’re always staring off camera, their eyes flickering back and forth in a distracted manner. Are they reading cue cards? Are the seagulls stealing from craft services? Are the grips drag racing with the camera dollies? What’s going on back there that’s so interesting? Can I watch too?

This is the second of three episodes where Mike accidentally destroys a planet (the others are The Deadly Mantis and Riding With Death, respectively), and this time it’s not through his own stupidity, but the nanites’. Of course everyone blames him anyway. Aside from this important moment in MST3K continuity, there’s not much to recommend here. My favorite segment deals with Mike’s attempt at Lance Fuller’s non-acting method. My least favorite is the thighmaster/thawmaster confusion. The others, though mostly well executed, didn’t really do anything for me. Thankfully, this is the last episode where we see an addendum to the host segments in lieu of a stinger.

The film segments have some good moments. Lance Fuller’s aggressive non-acting leads Mike to say, “Sorry, I’m not in this scene,” whenever someone talks at him. Tom shouts, “Sleep!” whenever Lombardi tries to stare someone down, and his misshapen, oily face causes Crow to remark, “The role of Carlo Lombardi will be played by a lump of melted wax.” Ultimately, the whole movie is so frustrating that Mike says, “If I ever wanted to throw a movie into a stump grinder, this was the one.” It’s a dull, gray, pointless movie with several funny comments about how dull, gray, and pointless it is, but I don’t feel that’s enough to recommend it. I probably won’t watch it again.