1/31/07

911 Devil Fish

(1984, Horror, color)

I knnnnnooooowwww!

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

Androgynous bottle-blond Italians hunt a shark/octopus hybrid off the coast of Florida.

Summary:

Our magnificent appliance master hero in action.Something vague with tentacles devours a pair of gabby retirees on a boat. The opening titles flash past. Marine biologist Dr. Stella Dickens is playing with her dolphins when they suddenly go berserk. At sea, her colleague Dr. Bob Hogan holds on for dear life while a creepy sound nearly capsizes his research vessel. The opening titles flash past again, just in case we missed them the first time.

Later, the rail-thin Stella and the boozy Bob compare notes and decide to investigate. Of course they cannot succeed without the help of the Greatest Appliance Repairman of All Time: Peter! (Or Pee-Dah, as they call him in this film). Peter is leaving on vacation, but Stella flashes her bony thighs, and the electrical savant agrees to stay up all night constructing the specialized sea-monster-hunting equipment they will need.

In the meantime, marine geneticist Dr. Davis makes out with his employer’s wife, while a random sexy woman looks on. The tiny-mustached local sheriff discovers the partial remains of a gabby retiree and shows them to Bob for some reason. Later, the random sexy woman is murdered by a flat-faced assassin. Then the flat-faced assassin beats up Peter and smashes his monster-hunting equipment in the middle of the night.

This doesn’t seem to be much of a setback, though, since Peter and his sexy assistant Sondra are out on Bob’s boat the next day, helping Bob and Stella track down the monster. They discover something vague but exciting and call in yet another world-renowned twenty-something supermodel scientist, Dr. Janet Bates. Janet thinks it might be an ancient shark surviving into the present day. She delivers a lecture to that effect, and they all go back to sea. All except Sondra, who gets murdered by the flat-faced assassin.

Peter and Stella wander away to investigate sabotage of some sort, but get distracted and make love instead. Meanwhile, the tentacle monster attacks the boat. It eats Bob, but spares Janet after she hacks off one of its tentacles with a hatchet. They consult with the sheriff, Dr. Davis, and his employer Dr. West and head back out to sea while the Coast Guard assembles its Anti-Tentacle Monster Unit. While hunting, the trio of Peter, Stella, and Janet are attacked simultaneously by the monster and the flat-faced assassin. After much confusion and the underwater flailing of many limbs and tentacles, Janet and the flat-faced assassin are killed.

Meanwhile, marine geneticist Dr. West stumbles on the truth: his wife has been cheating on him with his subordinate Dr. Davis, who, incidentally, has created a giant shark/octopus hybrid with which he plans to rule the world! (I think. Davis explains his nefarious plan only in the broadest of terms. Most of his obligatory villain speech consists of ecological platitudes. “Our future is in the sea!” he cries with a sinister leer.) Meanwhile, Peter and Stella have somehow connected the flat-faced assassin back to Davis, and convinced the sheriff to charge in and gun him down. They arrest the cheating wife, while her cuckolded husband adds another complication: The monster reproduces asexually, and within eight hours it will explode into several hundred other monsters. (Again, I’m guessing here. At this point the already murky plot turns nearly opaque.)

Using his magnificent appliance repair prowess, Peter cobbles together a machine to imitate the (asexual) monster’s mating call. He lures it into the Everglades, where a Coast Guard suicide squad waits to burn it down. Later, Stella asks Peter if she can join him on vacation. He agrees, and she asks, “Where are we going?” “To the mountains,” he replies, and they share a hearty laugh.

Introduction:

Someone's been fiddling with the intensity levels on the Italian filter.Mike warns us all that his identity has been stripped from him by a shadowy government organization, and that he will do anything to get it back. Tom and Crow arrive to calm him down. They found his wallet; it was in his room all along. Mike is suspicious until he sees it contains his familiar photo of Mark Spitz.

Host Segment One:

A cruise line has accidentally printed Castle Forrester’s phone number in one of their ads, so Pearl decides to charge tourists for a cruise in her castle. She takes the first couple on board and then puts to sea before the rest of the passengers can arrive. (Mike asks how a castle can put to sea, but his question is ignored.) Given a tray of ice cubes, Mike and the ‘Bots are instructed to carve ice sculptures for the guests. Tom makes an abstract artistic statement by placing his cubes in a glass of gin and tonic. Mike takes a torch welder to his, with predicable results. Crow carves an enormous replica of Michelangelo’s David. Down in Castle Forrester, the couple wants to go on deck. Pearl, Bobo, and Brain Guy wobble back and forth while they explain that the sea is too rough. They all need to sit down and watch a movie while they wait for the storm to pass.

Host Segment Two:

Disappointed by the insipid behavior of the dolphins in the film, Mike and the ‘Bots call Sea World and ask for Blowie the Dolphin. Quoth Crow, “If you’re so smart, how come you don’t speak English and play the drums?” A dolphin warship appears nearby and opens fire. Mike apologizes profusely and the warship leaves. They conclude that dolphins are “smart but touchy.”

Host Segment Three:

Pearl sends an electrician to do some repairs on the Satellite of Love. Inspired by Dr. Bob Hogan’s condescending opinion of electricians, Mike makes fun of him. The electrician summons the dolphin warship, which opens fire until Mike apologizes again.

Host Segment Four:

The tourists express confusion over the host segments. Most of the time they’re watching Italians pretending to be Americans, but that other guy and those robots—are they Italian too? In order to reduce her guests’ confusion on this issue, Pearl installs a filter on Cambot to make the Satellite dwellers appear more Italian. The lowest setting is called “Vague Stereotypes,” and portrays Mike and the ‘Bots with trendy European clothing. Bobo turns it up a notch; the “Broad Stereotypes” setting adds huge mustaches, sunglasses, and wild curly hair. Pearl and Bobo fight over the filter, eventually setting it “Broad Caricatures.” This turns Tom into a painter, Mike into a pizza chef, and Crow into a gondolier.

Host Segment Five:

Crow marvels at the genius of combining a shark with an octopus, and thinks of other possible hybrids, such as poodle/flies and snail/parrots. He asks Tom for input, who suggests that Crow combine a “lick” and a “me.” Down in Castle Forrester, Bobo gives a welcome speech to their guests at the beginning of dinner. “As captain of this castle, and by castle I mean ship…” His attempts to hoard all the breakfast cereal turn violent, and Pearl is forced use the tranquilizer gun.

Stinger:

Quoth Janet, “It’s right underneath us!” “I knnnnnooooowwww!” Bob replies.

Thoughts:

I knnnnoooooooooooowwwwwww!Italians pretending to be Americans…blah, blah, blah…impenetrable plot with occasionally impenetrable accents…etc., etc., etc…underclothed and oversexed…rapeta, rapeta. We’ve discussed this all before. Let’s talk about Stella. Given her sparse costuming, pouting demeanor, and participation in one of the sex scenes, I can only assume that the filmmakers meant for us to find her alluring. And, indeed, the potential is there—the framework, if you will, on which attractiveness could be hung. In her current state, however, her appearance is more alarming than arousing. I’m not a doctor, nor could I be considered an expert in female physiology, but when I see a woman whose ribs protrude further than her bosoms*, I get a little concerned for her physical well being.

And speaking of things physical, this is the second MST3K episode where the folk at Best Brains find it necessary to use some form of obstruction to cover up explicit nudity. (The first was City Limits, in case you were wondering.) Most of our heroes remain only partially—but for the most part modestly—clothed throughout the film, but a low-angle shot of our favorite appliance wizard as he ascends a ship ladder puts to rest the niggling question of “boxers or briefs,” at least as it applies to Pee-Dah. (The answer is: “Neither.”) Fortunately, an MST3K logo has been digitally added to shield us from anything that might be peeking out of his swim trunks.

Distracting as this pair may be, the most distracting character by far is the film editor. No, he doesn’t appear onscreen. Rather, he makes his presence felt by reducing otherwise cohesive sequences into random series of nonsensical vignettes. Scenes go on at the same time as other scenes with no rhyme or reason. One moment Bob has his headphones on, then Stella is swimming, then there’s something with Davis or the flat-faced assassin, and then back to Bob again, drinking a beer. The second love scene actually shows the same scene twice, switching back and forth a few seconds in time, sometimes superimposed on itself. It’s like the editor cut the film into tiny pieces, threw them all into a box, and gave the whole thing a good shake. With addition of an easy-listening softcore soundtrack and use of fades instead of jump cuts, he attains a mellow but queasy dreamlike atmosphere more easily attained through the simultaneous use of Sudafed and Nyquil.

The cruise ship sketches are nonsensical but serviceable, and the dolphin and electrician sketches are obvious but amusing, but the real reason to watch this episode is the Italian filter sketch. Just watching Mike and the ‘Bots as Bobo gradually increases the stereotype level is hilarious. Is it okay to laugh so hard at cultural insensitivity of this magnitude? Does the sketch’s self-awareness mean I don’t have to feel guilty? I hope so!

The film segments have some good lines. One of Tom’s first comments is, “Just because you can edit doesn’t mean you should.” Upon subsequently meeting Stella, he says, “I didn’t know humans could survive without flesh.” After numerous underwater shots of the opaque blue sea, Crow names the film, “Two Thousand Flushes: The Movie.” Films with lengthy end credits always get us something special from the Satellite crew. This time, when Peter and Stella’s hearty laugh at the end is frozen throughout the end credits, Crow and Tom laugh for them for several minutes until the film finally ends. Ultimately, the awful editing sinks the whole movie, commentary and all, leaving Mike and the ‘Bots just as lost as we are. It’s worth seeing at least once, though, if only for the Italian Filter sketch and what jokes the Satellite crew can manage before the entire thing slips below the waterline.

*Usually when I write something this hyperbolic, you can safely assume that, to some extent, I’ve exaggerated for comedic effect. Not this time. Not even a little bit.