1/31/07

913 Quest of the Delta Knights

(1993, Fantasy-Sword & Sorcery, color)

I’m coming!

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

An androgynous middle-schooler must find the lost technology of Atlantis.

Summary:

His hat is the least fruity thing about him.Let us travel back in time to the reign of The Mannerjay (Olivia Hussey), a sultry dominatrix who rules the whole of medieval Europe with an oiled leather fist. Her goals are vague but evil; mostly they involve sending her feathery henchman, Lord Vultare (David Warner), to rave about spies and slaughter caravans of peasants more or less at random. One such caravan includes a muffin-hatted child named Travis (Corbin Allred) or “T” as he prefers to be called. Vultare’s Viking/Gypsy/Saxon warriors wound T and sell him into slavery. The opening credits cycle through the interminable slave market scenes, during which we meet high-chested fellow slave Thena, who helps T ward off the market’s larger and hairier denizens.

T is brought to the auction stand, but no one wants to buy a crippled girl/boy. Finally the town beggar, Baydool (David Warner…again) takes pity and buys him at a steep discount. He tends the boy’s wounds and gradually gains his trust with a false beard and a pot full of urine (sadly, I did not make that up). Finally, he teaches T to be a beggar like him. T’s begging skills are paltry at first, but eventually he learns to prance around like an idiot. Passers-by pay him to stop, and soon his daily take exceeds that of his master.

Now it’s time for the dramatic revelation—Baydool is actually an agent of the Delta Knights, a secret organization rather vaguely dedicated to the forces of good. There’s some stuff about a prophecy and a flashback or two about a famous Greek (recast in this film as an ancient Atlantean defense contractor) but I didn’t really follow it, owing to the fact that it’s convoluted gibberish. The upshot is that T is the “Chosen One” of prophecy, foretold as the one who will find the lost storehouse of Archimedes. Which will be, you know, good for the world or something.

Naturally, The Mannerjay will oppose them at every turn, so T must be trained in the traditional weapons of a Delta Knight—the flintlock, the blowgun, and the stick. Baydool dies near the beginning of a barrage of short subplots that involve a stolen map, an unsuccessful prison break, the reemergence of Thena as a brothel worker (who somehow recognizes T as male and hits on him despite the fact that he’s practically prepubescent), and the acquisition of an arrogant, rock-stupid sidekick named Leonardo Da Vinci.

Sigh.

You’d think they’d get back to the main plot now, but no. The landslide of non sequitur subplots rumbles onward with the capture and rescue of Thena for no apparent reason; an acrimonious love triangle; and a nonsensical escapade with the forest acrobats of Prince Jump Jugs (sadly, I did not make that one up either) who somehow identifies Thena as his long-lost princess sister and welcomes her back to his forest kingdom. She settles into a princess costume of even greater constrictive buoyancy than her prostitute costume and bids the boys farewell.

Bigger, deeper sigh.

Now that all the subplot silliness is over, T and Leonardo can concentrate on finding the lost storehouse, which they finally succeed in doing after a scrutinizing the prophesy for one last scrap of convoluted gibberish. They wander into an old mine filled with half-hearted booby traps, eventually discovering a room containing blueprints, models and crystals, many of which look suspiciously like Leonardo Da Vinci’s later work. And did I mention that Lord Vultare has been right behind them this whole time? Because apparently he has. He and his Elizabethan/Arabic/Cossack minions follow T through the passageway and take possession of the storehouse. Vultare gets excited and starts twisting crystal knobs at random. A vague Atlantean superweapon goes off, killing one guard and forcing the others to flee. T and Leonardo escape through a side tunnel, fight off the Moorish/Pict/Hun soldiers, and collapse the cave system with some handy explosives. Thena shows up to shoot the last guard; T mumbles some conciliatory gibberish about how “the world isn’t ready;” and they all wander off into the sunset.

Introduction:

Pearl takes the hot seat for a spin.Mike accidentally left Crow out in a hailstorm. Gypsy hauls away the hail-damaged Crow and gives Mike a loaner Crow. Loaner Crow isn’t much of a conversationalist, and he emits huge clouds of oddly colored steam, but he has a rockin’ sound system. Mike and Tom tell loaner Crow to shut up while they listen to his radio.

Host Segment One:

The newly repaired Crow returns to send Loaner Crow back to Gypsy. Apparently some other guy’s Crow was run over by a semi, and his services are needed again. Down in Castle Forrester, Pearl calls for Mike’s semi-annual checkup. Mike responds that despite some minor anxiety about bottle caps, he has been feeling extraordinary well lately. “Why!” Pearl cries. “I work my fingers to the bone trying to make you miserable…” She switches places and costumes with Mike to see if she can discover the problem. This leads to her spending the first film segment in the theater.

Host Segment Two:

Pearl has finished her calculations and is ready to return to Castle Forrester, especially eager to escape the aggressively affectionate ‘Bots. (They love her for giving them an aged mint from the bottom of her purse during the first film segment.) Down in Castle Forrester, Mike, Bobo and Brain Guy smoke cigars and drink beer while they trade good-natured insults and talk about Pearl behind her back. Pearl finally gets their attention, and Brain Guy switches Mike and Pearl once more.

Host Segment Three:

Mike introduces Sir Thomas Neville Servo’s Consort of the Middle Ages Just After the Plague Singers. A quartet of Servos in Elizabethan garb sings a madrigal about the Delta Knights, including such phrases as, “They look really good in fake hair,” and “I’m proud to declare I like pie.” Mike tries to usher them off stage when their next song turns filthy.

Host Segment Four:

A mobbed-up Leonardo Da Vinci arrives via his famous flying machine to declare that the young man portraying him is a mook. “And I’m not a mook,” he says. “I just want you to know that.” Tom infuriates him with a series of innocuous questions about where he lives, what he does now, and how he’s managed to stay alive for so long. Mike intervenes before Leo can whip some sort of Servo-killing device out from under his robes.

Host Segment Five:

The ‘Bots have built a shrine to Pearl; they return to their memories of the mint-giving incident over and over again. Mike helps them come to grips with their loss. Down in Castle Forrester, the Delta Knights have booked Castle Forrester’s main hall for their annual pancake breakfast. “Good news!” declares one. “Thanks to this year’s pancake breakfast, we’ve raised enough money for next year’s pancake breakfast!” They celebrate by pelting the guests with hard candy.

Stinger:

One of the forest acrobats shouts, “I’m coming!” after taking a few too many hits from a helium-filled bong.

Thoughts:

Pearl serves up a huge, steaming dish of her homemade, country style pain.This movie was created according to the “big pile of stuff” school of filmmaking. Whatever we’ve got lying around, let’s just toss it in. Vikings? Sure. Elizabethan courtiers? Great. Sultans? Gypsies? Southern belles? Floppy hats? Feathery capes? Unnaturally contorted breasts? New Jersey accents? (Actually, that one was kind of funny. Mad About You’s Richard Kind plays Voltare’s befuddled wizard in one of the best parts of the film.) Olivia Hussey? David Warner? How on earth did we get David Warner in this movie? David Warner of Time Bandits, Freakazoid, and Forgotten Realms: Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn? (I don’t know why I only remember him in those three roles when he’s played supporting characters in numerous seminal, influential films like Tom Jones and Straw Dogs. You now have my permission to question my taste.) Now let’s see, we don’t have any castles available, so let’s use a 19th century Mexican barracks made out of adobe. Shoot the exterior scenes at night and no one will know the difference, right? Now what have we forgotten? Oh, yes! Leonardo Da Vinci! Just to mix things up, let’s make him an irritating moron.

Actually, what they forgot was plot. Oh, there’s one in there—Archimedes, the “Chosen One,” and all that—but when I try to sum it up in one sentence, it comes out like this: “A mincing child of indeterminate gender, a creepy plagiarist, and a high-born nymphomaniac prostitute accomplish absolutely nothing through a series of meaningless adventures.” The whole thing smacks of something a group of three to six fourteen-year-olds would make up as they went along at a tabletop gaming session. It ends about that abruptly, too.

(The host’s mom pops her head around the door to call, “Seven-thirty, boys! Time to break it up!” The kid who’s role-playing T remembers that the latest Bruce Campbell fantasy adventure show starts at eight, so he stuffs his twenty-sided die and his painted miniatures into his backpack as fast as he can. “I-blow-up-the-storehouse-‘cause-the-world’s-not-ready-bye!” he yells while he pounds up the basement steps to run home.)

As fans, critics, and viewers in general we’re always more forgiving of the genres we love, and as a fantasy enthusiast I might almost have forgiven this film if not for that ending. I don’t mind so much that it was arbitrary and clichéd—those two adjectives describe nearly the entire film, after all—it’s just that it effectively renders their entire quest completely and utterly without consequences. The Delta Knights do not take advantage of the Atlantean technology. The Mannerjay still rules all of Europe with an oiled leather fist. The David Warner characters die, but that’s one lost on each side, so they balance each other out. (Besides, judging by their skills and accomplishments, both Baydool and Vultare strike me as easily replaceable.) Granted, it’s implied that Leonardo will eventually go on to claim all of Archimedes’ best ideas as his own, thus lifting the known world out of the dark ages, but this is an alternate universe where all the amalgamated countries and time periods of Europe have been squeezed into southern Sonoma County, so I refuse to believe that this opportunistic slimeball version of the famous Italian will ever amount to anything.

And speaking of Vinci’s most famous native, the best host segment features Bill Corbett interpreting Leonardo as a touchy and violent Mafioso. Corbett seems to be channeling Joe Pesci as he picks his friends and enemies more or less at random, interpreting his chosen enemies’ most harmless statements as mortal insults. I laughed hardest when Leonardo explained his longevity by proclaiming, “I watch my back; I stay alive.” The ‘Bots slavish devotion to Pearl is all right, but the best part of the switching places sequence is Mike’s bonding session with Bobo and Brain Guy, during which the phrase, “Ask your girlfriend,” is employed a number of times with varying degrees of appropriateness. The rest of the host segments work well too: The beater Crow is a neat idea, the pancake breakfast is amusing, and the Sir Thomas Neville Servo etc. Singers prove once again that Kevin Murphy has a fantastic singing voice.

We’ve never heard a woman’s voice in the theater for the film segments before* so Pearl’s comments are a little jarring at first. Still, she gets off some good jibes, such as, ““His underwear and his hat are interchangeable,” referring to the slave auctioneer’s costume. Later, as Baydool asks T his name in a series of languages, Crow says, “Je m’appelle Bite Me.” When Voltare’s multicultural thugs ride after him into the night, Mike says, “Sir, are we Saxons or Vikings.... what are we? Let’s settle on that.” When T and company ride away after finishing one of the less lucid subplots, Tom says, “Well, the movie’s lost me. It’s lost me, and it’s trotting off without me.” The movie has a lot of motion and color, the commentary is mostly funny, and the host segments are decent, but the arbitrary, disorienting qualities of the film seem to rub off on the show as a whole. It’s a big, bright mess of an episode that will end with you scratching your head as you ask, “What, if anything, just happened?”

*Well, except for Gypsy in Hercules and the Captive Women (Episode 412), but she’s an arbitrarily female robot voiced by a man, so she doesn’t count.

Read More......

912 The Screaming Skull

(1958, Horror, b&w), with:

A Gumby Adventure: Robot Rumpus
(1956, Children, color)

The producers feel they must offer a free coffin if you die of fright while viewing the Screaming Skull!

Rating: **

In a nutshell:

Short: Gumby learns a valuable lesson after causing a lot of accidental property damage.
Film: A man uses a skull to drive his new wife to a nervous breakdown.

Short Summary:

Gumby only eats white food.In Robot Rumpus, Gumby (famed in song and story, as seen on TV) and his orange horse pal Pokey kick back in the kitchen, demanding milk. When Gumby’s ridge-chested mother wants to know why they aren’t out doing the yard work, he points out the window to a team of hard-working robots. Mother thinks the use of robot labor is a grand idea, and gives her son crackers to go with his milk.

But then something goes wrong. The garden robot starts hoeing down flowers. The garbage robot starts to disassemble the garage. The painting robot scrawls graffiti on the house. The lawnmowing robot pushes his mower through the front wall, across the house, and out the back wall. Mother glares disapprovingly at her son and calls her toupee-clad husband Gumbo for help.

By the time Gumbo’s fire truck arrives, the robots have lifted the entire house from its foundations to rock it back and forth. Gumbo rushes from robot to robot, flipping the on/off switches on their backs. When he checks inside the house, he finds Gumby, Pokey, and Mother all rolled into a single clay ball in a corner of the kitchen. Gumbo is captured by another robot while they untangle themselves. It reactivates the other robots, forcing Gumbo and Gumby turn them all off again.

Finally, only the strongest, wiliest robot remains. Gumbo moves in for the kill, but it hurls a wrench through his soft body before throwing the hapless clay fireman onto the roof of a neighboring house. Gumby rescues his dad with a ladder truck, and then eviscerates the last robot with a commandeered steam shovel. Gumby is forced to repair all the robot damage by hand, while a robot’s severed head is hung above the garage as a grim reminder of his failure.

Film Summary:

The Screaming Skull reaches its climax in shocking horror! Thrill as a manic-depressive bride hears screaming and sees skulls on the property of her creepy husband’s deceased first wife—a woman who, naturally, died under suspicious circumstances. Gasp in no surprise whatsoever when we discover it is actually the sinister husband trying to drive his rich new wife to suicide, and not (as the filmmakers try quite unsuccessfully to convince us) the kind but simple gardener. Groan in boredom and irritation when it turns out the house is haunted by a possessed skull after all. Sigh in relief as the first wife’s murderous head bone exacts deadly revenge on her killer, effectively ending the film.

I’d like to give you more details, but it turns out there aren’t any.

Introduction:

It must be the feast of St. Penguinian.Tom has become a beautiful butterfly, with gossamer wings, antennae, a party favor proboscis, and a delicate, slender body. He describes transformation in unnecessary detail, lingering uncomfortably over the “soft front parts of the pupae.” Mike feeds him nectar.

Host Segment One:

Tom has lost his wings in an industrial accident, gained all his weight back from binging on junk food, and accidentally shrunk his antenna to the point of invisibility. At least he still has his party favor proboscis. Down in Castle Forrester, Pearl et alia have dressed in penguin costumes. They demand to know why Mike et alia have not done so as well. Mike and the ‘Bots hurry into whatever costumes they can find, with Mike as a dog, Crow as a sheep, and Tom as a reindeer. Turns out it was all a hoax to make Mike and the ‘Bots look ridiculous. Pearl and her cohorts celebrate the success of their prank—until Mike points out how much time and money it took them to pull off a practical joke that required the extended use of several stupid-looking penguin costumes.

Host Segment Two:

Tom and Crow have created a whimsical Claymation world, detailing the adventures of those lovable clay lumps, Bolis and Horseflop. They make Mike move the characters as these two carry on a “campaign of terror and savagery” against replicas of their own robot selves. When Mike puts a stop to it, Tom cries, “This is how it is in the real world… Horrid lumps of discharge destroy beautiful, innocent robots with impunity!” Mike calms them down with the promise of Dizzy Grizzlies.

Host Segment Three:

The producers of The Screaming Skull have promised a free coffin to anyone who dies of fright while watching their film, so Tom calls them up claiming to have a friend who has died during the viewing. He has second thoughts while the operator dutifully takes down his information, but doesn’t admit it’s all a scam until she has already sent the coffin. Quoth Mike, “You guys should try thinking of pranks that don't involve lying about the dead.” “You think of one,” Crow replies.

Host Segment Four:

Crow paints his head like a skull and mounts it to the desk, shrieking eerily when Mike comes in. Mike shrieks back while he batters Crow’s head with a bag of chips, a baseball bat, and finally a bag of golf clubs. Screaming all the while, he tests a number of different clubs for heft and balance before settling on his favorite Big Bertha driver.

Host Segment Five:

Tom’s coffin arrives; he has to admit that no one has actually died and send it back. He maxes out Mike’s credit card to pay for shipping both ways. Down in Castle Forrester, Bobo has put on an ape suit and tries to pull the costume prank again. On Pearl’s orders, Brain Guy shrinks him to size of a marmoset.

Stinger:

The creepy husband throws a stool at his dead first wife.

Thoughts:

Killer skull or red herring?Okay, so Gumby is nude, lopsided, and hairless. Pokey is nude too, but has a mane. Gumbo is nude and presumably hairless, but covers his nakedness with either a toupee or a matador’s cap. This leaves Mother as the only one with both hair and clothing. So what’s the dress code here? The most obvious conclusion is that only women can wear clothes, but Gumbo’s hairpiece/beret scuttles that theory. On further speculation, my guess is that Gumby-world clothing requires a license, like cars in the real world. Gumby will finally get to wear shorts when he’s old enough to take the clothing test. Pokey can wear a mane under the terms of his learner’s permit. Gumbo lost his license for full clothing when he got drunk one night and ran his brand new polo shirt into a tree. The weekend job at the fire department is only part of his community service—on weekdays he has to visit middle schools to warn students about the dangers of mixing of alcohol and clothing accessories. Remember kids, don’t drink and dress!

Moving on to this episode in particular, what’s the message supposed to be? I know it’s just a cartoon, but think about it—these days, all shows for the younger age groups have some kind of moral, even if it’s only something like “please share,” or “be kind,” or “niceness is nice.” Is this episode trying to teach the young Billys and Bettys of the world that all underprivileged sources of manual labor will eventually turn on their employers? If the robots insurgency had led to a utopian socialist robot paradise, I would call it a Marxist allegory, but it didn’t; Gumby et al. turn the revolutionaries into scrap. Okay then…it’s trying to teach our little Juanitos and LaChondras that malcontents from the lower classes must be put down with extreme prejudice? Adorable Guillaume and precious Brunhilda need to know that we must not rely on lesser beings if we are to survive? It’s a racist allegory, right? Am I reading too much into this?

And now, I will simulate the experience of watching The Screaming Skull. ......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Thank you, and good night!

Maybe it’s just the blank daze induced by the utterly empty film, but the only host segments that do anything for me at all are the first costume sketch and the “Crow as skull” sketch, and even those were just vaguely amusing. No wait, I quite liked sketch about the Gumby short; hearing the ‘Bots wax eloquent on any subject is always good for a laugh or two. On the other hand, Tom’s butterfly transformation is just odd, and the coffin subplot wasn’t that funny either. There isn’t much to the shrinking scene at the end. It looks completely, totally, and unequivocally fake—so much so that at first I wasn’t quite sure why Bobo had suddenly moved to the back of the room. Just because it’s cheesy doesn’t mean it has to be bad, though. It could have been the set up for something hilarious, but the segment just shrinks him and ends with no attempts at any further jokes. Maybe the empty haze of the film affected the folks at Best Brains as well.

The commentary to the Gumby short is hilarious. When the garbage robot starts to disassemble the garage, Crow says, “Habitat against humanity.” When a robot projectile leaves a wrench-shaped hole in Gumbo, Mike puts words in Gumby’s mouth, “You can throw things through Dad! I’m going to get an anvil!” When we see a robot’s severed head above the garage, Tom makes retching noises and cries, “This is worse than Seven!” Unfortunately the short ends after only six minutes, and we start the long, eventless slog through the barren film. By necessity, ninety percent of the commentary during The Screaming Scull refers to the fact that nothing is happening, as in Tom’s, “They have two servings of tension that they’re trying to serve to seven people;” and Crow’s, “Remember folks, if you die of boredom, you do not get a free coffin. Sorry;” and Mike’s, “They made a tiny bit of movie and just put the rest in a box filled with foam peanuts.” It’s to their credit that most of these comments are funny, but you can only throw insults into the void for so long before you realize this whole system works better when there’s actually something out there to insult. If the Gumby short was available separately (say, in a collection of shorts or something), this episode would get one of the rare Zero Stars ratings, but Robot Rumpus is six of the funniest minutes ever to appear on the show. It’s worth repeated viewings, so long as you turn it off before The Screaming Skull can begin.

Read More......

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.

Read More......

910 The Final Sacrifice

(1990, Horror, color)

Rowsdower?

Rating: ****

In a nutshell:

A foolishly named drunk and his paternally conflicted stowaway battle an evil cult.

Summary:

Rowsdower?Once upon a time, in the wilds of Canada, majestic herds of beefy men in black Mexican wrestler masks ran through the snowy woods, their machetes gleaming in the moonlight. Their quarry: another beefy man, seen only from a distance among badly focused trees. Their leader: a thin, bug-eyed gentleman with dark, curly tresses spilling over the collar of his long black trench coat. Another unidentified man in a red Mexican wrestler mask laboriously loads a rifle. A shot rings out. The opening credits roll. Seven years later...

Noodly teen Troy MacGreggor visits his father’s grave, and vows to discover what happened to him. To this end, he breaks into a trunk in the attic to search through his father’s old belongings, much to the consternation of his loving Auntie Grandma. Among other things, Troy finds a nonsensical treasure map, a portrait photo, and a letter to his father’s partner, Mike Pipper. Apparently, Dad MacGreggor and Mike Pipper were archeologists of some note until they ran across the remnants of the mighty Ziox Civilization, an ancient death cult of lumpy Canadians.

Masked cultists surround the house the very next morning while Auntie Grandma is away. The thin, bug-eyed gentleman bursts in through the newly chainsawed door. (His long tresses have given way to close-cropped hair with a splash of white shoe polish at each temple to indicate the passage of time). Conveniently (a close cousin of the word somehow; I’ll use it often in this summary) the bug-eyed man knows of the map’s discovery. Troy must hand it over...or die! Troy escapes through the basement and outruns several large cultist vehicles on his ten-speed before jumping into the back of a moving pickup truck.

The battered truck predictably breaks down a few miles down the road, and Our Hero emerges from the cab to find Troy huddled among the empty beer bottles and dirty laundry. They bond as they fix the truck with flannel and whiskey, and Our Lumpy Hero introduces himself to the beleaguered teen. Quoth he, “Rowsdower. Zap Rowsdower.”

They get along amiably enough until Rowsdower stops at a gas station payphone to report his stowaway to the local Mounties. While he’s thus occupied, Troy spots a car full of crazed cultists with submachine guns approaching from afar. He starts the truck and drives away. Rowsdower gives chase and manages to leap into the truck bed before it pulls out of reach. They scuttle the pursuing vehicle with a crate of empties.

Rowsdower presumably takes over driving duties, and the truck breaks down again shortly thereafter. They camp out in the wilderness for the night, and have a tender discussion about the evil cult on their tail. Rowsdower conveniently knows all about the Ziox cult, their bug-eyed leader Satoris, and his evil plans to rule the world. Next morning the truck still won’t start; Rowsdower sends Troy to get some water before they start hiking towards the nearest town. Troy soon gets distracted by three large stones in a row. Conveniently, this is one of the landmarks from his father’s ancient map. He and Rowsdower follow the incomprehensible markings to a hole in the ground, filled with papier-mâché masks of evil cartoon characters. Troy finds one of his father’s notebooks at the scene. He uses it to decipher more of the map, while Rowsdower gets captured by cultists.

Standard capturer-capturee banter between Satoris and Rowsdower reveals Rowsdower’s status as a former member of the cult. (Yes, earlier in the film Troy conveniently stowed away with an estranged Ziox ex-cultist, i.e. the only one who could help him.) Rowsdower escapes shortly afterwards in a muddy and confusing action sequence. He finds Troy, and they hide in the basement of a backwoods garbage house. Fortunately, the cultists only search the first floor. Troy and Rowsdower emerge to find the house inhabited from the attic as well.

Conveniently the hairy squatter is none other than Dad’s old partner, Mike Pipper. (Imagine an unwashed, malnourished version of the late Jim Henson with the voice of Yosemite Sam.) Pipper helps Troy finish interpreting the map, and tells them the tale of the majestic city of Ziox. In ancient times, their God punished them for idol worship by sinking their city into the wilds of Canada. The survivors and their descendants were doomed to wander the earth as bloodthirsty cultists. The only way to undo the curse would be to destroy the idol, but though he’s searched for years, Pipper has never been able to find it. Rowsdower fills in the other side of the story: If Satoris finds the idol, and makes a final sacrifice to it, it will grant him an army of invincible warriors, allowing him to rule the world! Later, Pipper takes Troy aside to explain Rowsdower’s former association with the cult, and suggest that perhaps Rowsdower was the one who killed Dad MacGreggor.

After a nightmarish dream sequence, Rowsdower wakes to find Troy has been kidnapped by cultists. (Which begs the question, why didn’t the cult just finish them all off in their sleep? Oh well.) Satoris has conveniently found the idol without their help, and will sacrifice Troy to it in pursuit of world domination. Oh, but first he has to wait for Rowsdower to get there, because he knows his villain etiquette and can’t start the evil festivities without first crushing his lumpiest rival. Rowsdower and Satoris fight with the torches and grappling hooks that seem to litter the idyllic Canadian countryside, while the idol (actually a papier-mâché bull head on a stick) looks on. During the expository fight banter it comes out that Rowsdower was meant to kill Dad MacGreggor, but he refused at the last moment. This forced Satoris to kill him instead, and prompted Rowsdower’s exile from the cult. Satoris knocks down Rowsdower and is about to deliver the killing blow, but Troy frees himself with a pocketknife and shoots Satoris in the back. This causes the bug-eyed cultist to burst into flames, which causes the idol to fall over, which causes the ancient city of Ziox to rise up from the ground, which causes all the other cultists to remove their Mexican wrestler masks and, with their miniature city, ascend to Ziox heaven. Troy and Rowsdower fix their pickup and ride off into the sunset.

Introduction:

Dagnabbit!Mike and the ‘Bots receive notice from Gypsy that the power will go out for a few moments. “No looting this time,” Mike warns. The lights go out. Crashes are heard. The lights come back on. Crow has broken into his own room and stolen his own TV, while Tom has hurled a mannequin through Mike’s window and stolen his recycling. Crow plans ahead. “If it goes out again, I’m going to grab my blender.”

Host Segment One:

Pearl determines to take over the world one person at a time. First on the list is a Mr. Todd Gunderson, but not even the whiniest of pleas will convince him to submit to the will of Pearl. Next up is Tom Servo. Quoth he, “Sorry baby, nobody rules the Tom-Monster.” “Your defenses are impenetrable,” Pearl cries, and sends him back to the Satellite of Love.

Host Segment Two:

Mountie Tom interrupts Mike and Crow’s Canada-bashing session to sing a song in praise of our northern neighbors. Mike and Crow add less-than-complimentary verses of their own. Tom decides to give Canada-bashing a shot and takes it way too far. “Just where the hell does Canada get off sharing a border / with countries far superior to it...” Mike puts a stop to it before Tom can get obscene.

Host Segment Three:

Bobo contracts Hockey Hair from a bad can of Canadian bacon, and passes the highly contagious disease on to everyone else but Mike. Apparently Mike had Hockey Hair for a number of years in his youth, and when you get it once you can never catch it again.

Host Segment Four:

It seems Mike’s immunity to Hockey Hair has left him vulnerable to Grizzled Old Prospector Syndrome, which involves pipe-smoking, copious facial hair, and the tendency to use expletives like “Consarnit!” In trying to determine the disease’s cause, the ‘Bots ask Mike if he’s kissed any prospectors lately. Mike thinks about it, and there was this one guy...but no, that was a surly truck farmer. “Durn fine kisser, though!”

Host Segment Five:

Tom and Crow don black hoods and carry machetes to start a death cult of their own. When Mike asks, they describe their unholy rituals as involving the baking of muffins and the watching of Ally McBeal, though sometimes they will also view taped reruns of Sisters. Freaky. Down in Castle Forrester, Pearl tries to bribe a man named Carl into submission. The Traveler’s Group calls with a better offer just before Carl can capitulate.

Stinger:

Quoth Troy, “Rowsdower?”

Thoughts:

I hates that rabbit.Simply typing out the name “Zap Rowsdower” does not do it justice. Sure, it looks stupid; it just doesn’t look stupid enough. To get the full effect, you need to hear it spoken aloud. No, no, not by you. You have far too nice a speaking voice. I can hear the disbelief in your tone, a kind of “who in their right mind would name a child that?” effect you could get just as easily by saying “Apple Martin-Paltrow” or “Moon Unit Zappa.” No, “Zap Rowsdower” is a very special name, and it requires very special treatment. First, you need a thirteen-year-old boy. Borrow one if you don’t have one yourself. (They’re not hard to find. In fact, it should be fairly easy to persuade someone to pay you to take one off her hands for a while.) Be careful not to get anything too masculine. The skinnier the better—you want a boy who will wear a ski jacket to hide his lack of shoulders even in the summer. A nasal squeak helps, but it’s best to find one whose voice is just starting to crack. Now make fun of his favorite movie/novel/television show while you beat him up until he cries. (If you have the authority to do so, you can revoke his Internet privileges for a week to give his whining that little extra kick.) Now ask him to say, “Zap Rowsdower.” There. You hear that? That isn’t just a stupid name. That is the most pathetically idiotic name ever conceived in the history of cinema. Now give the poor boy some action figures and a pizza, thank him for his cooperation, and send him home. Or, if you prefer not to antagonize a potential future multi-billionaire software magnate, you could just watch The Final Sacrifice and wince at each of the thirty-some-odd times actor Christian Malcolm addresses his costar’s character by name.

The Final Sacrifice reminds me an awful lot of the Season Six snorefest, Last of the Wild Horses. Not because it has a horse in it, but because the plot hinges on a lengthy series of unlikely coincidences, the removal of any one of which would immediately bring the movie to a screeching halt.

Or does it? Looking closer at this low budget Canadian turkey reveals that what originally appears to the casual viewer as slipshod storytelling is actually the subtle manifestation of an entire level of divine intervention. Of course I am referring to the Ziox Pantheon. How does Satoris know that Troy has found his father’s map, and why didn’t he show up during any of the prior seven years when it was moldering, unclaimed, in the attic? Because his dark idol (we will call him Non-Glutinous, Bovine God of Tall Sticks) could not reveal it to his followers until Troy had wakened him by gazing upon his unholy symbol. While fleeing beefy wrestlers, why did Troy climb into the vehicle of a sympathetic former cult member? Of course it was due to the machinations of the benevolent Ziox deity Marconi, God of Three-Ton Radios and Other Finicky Appliances, who arranged for Rowsdower’s truck to break down just long enough for Troy to find him. No doubt Marconi was also responsible for causing the truck to break down again right next to a landmark depicted on Troy’s ancient map. How did Satoris find the idol, even when Dad MacGreggor’s map and the power of Non-Glutinous could not help him? Naturally, it was due to the help of Porcine, Trickster God of Speech Impediments, who always plays both sides against the middle. Rowsdower’s serendipitous grappling hook weapon must also have been placed by the yawning prankster deity. Now that I think about it, the conveniently well-informed and well-placed Mike Pipper is probably none other than Porcine himself, in mortal guise...

What? Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t make any of this up. No need to. It’s all right there in the movie itself, if you look hard enough. Really.

My favorite sketch of this episode is the Canada song in host segment two. It starts off amusing, builds to funny, and then ends up hilarious when Tom takes his Canada-bashing too far. The Hockey Hair/Grizzled Old Prospector Syndrome sketches are a close second, and Pearl’s ineffectual attempts to take over individual people work well also. (And, boy, they’ve watered down her character from the evil competence of the Comedy Central era. All that wormhole surfing must have shorted out something in her mind). Also, if Tom could just ask, I would simply give him my recycling. If he throws that mannequin through my window one more time, I’m taking it away and not giving it back…

The film segments are hilarious, largely thanks to the Satellite crew’s mockery of our pathetically unheroic heroes. Unflattering shots of Rowsdower’s jeans while pushing his filthy, broken-down truck out of the mud are enhanced with Mike’s comment, “Children and pregnant women should not watch this scene. In fact, no one should watch any of these scenes.” After frequent repetition of the ancient civilization’s name, Crow says, “Ziox™: Now with Lapitiphamin.” When the toothpick model of Ziox rises from the earth and ascends to heaven, Tom says, “Not actually a lost city; it’s just unclaimed.” Also included are numerous comments about Dad MacGreggor’s vague resemblance to actor/football player Larry Csonka, and a gut-bustingly funny sequence during the end credits when Crow tries to pitch The Final Sacrifice to Mike as a weekly television show. The commentary is quotable and rapid-fire all the way through, and the host segments are first-rate. This is one of the best episodes in the run of the show.

Read More......

909 Gorgo

(1961, Horror-Giant Critter, color)

McRoar! O’Growl!

Rating: ***1/2

In a nutshell:

Godzilla’s Gaelic cousin stomps all over London.

Summary:

Godzirra!Ocean salvager Joe works hard to recover something vague from the bottom of the sea while his partner Sam (William Sylvester of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame, in his third MST3K appearance) nervously watches the stormy horizon. Joe makes it back on board just in time to see a volcano form a new island a short distance away. A huge tidal wave bears down on their ship as they frantically struggle to hold the wheel...

...and they all survive, with only minor damage to their vessel. They limp into the harbor at Nara Island, off the coast of Ireland, to make repairs. The shifty harbormaster provides fresh water and demands that they leave immediately. This rouses Joe’s suspicions, so he and Sam spy on the incomprehensible locals while they search for a pair of missing salvage divers. One of the divers surfaces near them, dead with fright; they pry open his hand to find ancient Viking gold.

The locals go out hunting for what they suppose to be a diver-killing shark; one of them throws a harpoon at a likely looking shape in the water only to see it rise, protruding from the head of a huge Japanese trademark violation. The rapacious rubber monster stomps all over their boats until Joe and Sam get the bright idea to throw pieces of bonfire at it. The barrage of burning wood scares it back into the deeps.

The next day, Joe and Sam use the existence of the monster and their knowledge of the illegal treasure salvage operation to blackmail the harbormaster. The harbormaster reluctantly gives a large bribe in gold to pay Sam and Joe for removal of the beast. Joe goes down in a bathysphere to act as a lure. Sam and his crew net the monster and haul it on deck before it can eat Joe.

Ignoring the claims of the Irish government and the dire warnings of their stowaway monster child Sean, Joe and Sam sail to London, where they have been offered a lucrative contract with a provocatively named sideshow entertainer called Dorkin. They name the monster Gorgo and set him up in a giant cage at Battersea Park, where they herd hordes of gawking Londoners past him every day.

Soon, the Irish scientists in charge of studying Gorgo call Sam and Joe to warn them that the creature they’ve captured is only a baby. Sam is perturbed, but Joe refuses to listen. The Royal Admiralty shrugs off the alarming new findings as well, even as Gorgo’s impossibly huge mommy surfaces at Nara Island, crushes the Irish settlement there, and follows a phosphorus trail through the water all the way up the Thames to Battersea. Boats capsize, tanks are crushed, and landmarks are destroyed as people rush madly through the streets to avoid the amphibious monster’s scaly feet. The military makes a last-ditch attempt to fry the enormous intruder with all the voltage available in London. They fail, and Gorgo is rescued. Mother and baby return to the sea.

Introduction:

Nothing to be done...Crow discovers his lacrosse net head is the perfect nesting place for the Spix’s Macaw when one of them has lays an egg on his noggin. Mike wonders how he didn’t notice this before. Quoth Crow, “Well, I was aware of some activity...” A macaw squawks offscreen, and another egg drops into Crow’s head.

Host Segment One:

Crow pulls a gun on a gang of vicious weasels who are trying to steal his eggs. Down in Castle Forrester, Brain Guy and Bobo amuse themselves with arm-wrestling while Pearl is away. Every contest ends with Bobo hurling Brain Guy across the room. Pearl calls from a Los Angeles meeting with noted film critic Leonard Maltin. Quoth Pearl, “What [film] do you recommend, Roger?” Maltin recommends Gorgo, the British version of Godzilla. Up in the Satellite of Love, Crow’s macaw eggs are taken away by Egg Protective Services after he makes an omelet in front of them. The alarm for Movie Sign sounds, and they run to the theater as Tom cries, “Curse you, Maltin!”

Host Segment Two:

Given the harbormaster’s resemblance to absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett, Mike and the ‘Bots decide to lampoon Mr. Beckett’s most famous work by putting on a little play called Waiting for Gorgot. Tom and Servo engage in existential, non sequitur dialogue until Mike (as Gorgo) shows up to eat them both. Cambot lays it on thick at the end with two curtain calls worth of canned applause.

Host Segment Three:

Mike brings out the William Sylvester Edition of Trivial Pursuit. The game quickly ends when both ‘Bots concede. They don’t know anything about William Sylvester (star of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Devil Doll, Riding with Death, and this movie) and they don’t really care to learn.

Host Segment Four:

The nanite circus comes to town! They have a freak show, acrobats who do death-defying feats “a full fifty microns above center ring,” and Nate the Clown!! It only costs a quarter to attend!!! Mike forgets about their difference in scale and accidentally crushes the entire circus with the entrance fee. “Clown killer!” Tom accuses.

Host Segment Five:

Tom and Crow have borrowed a significant sum from The Mob to make a calendar of the babes and beefcakes from the movie Gorgo. They fill the male version of the calendar quite easily, but complete lack of female characters makes the girly version difficult. Mike saves their bacon by guiding them through the various crowd scenes to find a pair of female extras, soon to be (or in the process of being) crushed to death by falling buildings and giant, reptilian feet. Down in Los Angeles, Pearl and Leonard Maltin confer over what film they should send next. Perhaps something that costars Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts.

Stinger:

Quoth the Irish fisherman, “Cad a dhéanfaimid anois!”

Thoughts:

I bet his first name is either 'Peter' or 'Richard'.Note: According to imdb.com, the Gaelic phrase uttered by the fisherman in the stinger means, “What shall we do now?” Apparently, this is what the islanders said every time the director asked them to speak Gaelic on screen, whether it made sense in context or not.

Chalk up another movie in the category of “Not that good but not that bad either.” The film’s main problem is that it’s unoriginal; if you’ve ever seen Godzilla, or any other Japanese monster movie for that matter, you’ve already seen this one. It’s got everything required by the genre: greedy industrialists, island natives, fragile scale models of famous landmarks, military stock footage, a large and easily panicked populace... Ah well, at least it’s in English. There’s even a child named Kenny, er, Sean, who cheers for the monsters even through the worst of their destructive rampage. Sorry kid, I know we took the creature out of its natural habitat, tampered in God’s domain, and all that jazz, but you just can’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy about the monster family reunion after the demolition of Piccadilly Circus, the Tower Bridge, and Big Ben, not to mention the thousands of lives lost in the senseless carnage. Perhaps I’d feel better about it if I was Irish.

You need some prior knowledge of the works of Samuel Beckett to “get” host segment two, but even a passing familiarity with Waiting for Godot ought to be enough to make you laugh your socks off during the Satellite crew’s send-up of that absurdist classic. (If you’ve never heard of Samuel Beckett and cryptic nonsense is your thing, go ahead and look up the rest of his works as well. I dare you.) Film critic Leonard Maltin appears as the second of two celebrity guests to ever appear on the show. He’s not portraying anyone but himself, and hawks his film guide shamelessly, but you can tell he’s having fun, and is a very good sport about being called names like “Siskel” and “Roger.” The Spix’s Macaw sketches and the William Sylvester sketch are decently amusing. The nanite circus is appropriately bizarre, and their ultimate fate is perfect.

The film segments are a lot of fun. Much of the merriment is from songs and references to songs, beginning with Tom’s version of Danny Boy, “Oh, the Gor / the Gor is Going / from Gor to Gor.” After the anticlimactic tidal wave, Crow sings his own version of Lightfoot's Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald: “They got into port / Everyone was okay / They went out for lunch and felt better.” Near the end, Tom sings a version of the Barney theme song: “I crush you / You get crushed.” Of course, the name “Dorkin” is good for all kinds of vague innuendo during the circus scenes. It’s a decent movie, well-mocked, with one fantastic host segment and the rest above average. It’s worth multiple viewings.

Read More......

908 The Touch of Satan

(1971, Horror, color)

This is where the fish lives.

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

A young man falls in love with an immortal witch.

Summary:

She's hundreds of years young.An aged crone skewers an avuncular farmer with a hayfork. A few weeks later, a young man named Jodie brushes off the malapropian warnings of a prophetic gas station attendant to drive his Maverick through the interminable opening credits. He stops for lunch at a pond, where he meets the lovely Melissa. She invites him back to her family’s walnut ranch for supper.

At the ranch house, he meets middle-aged couple Luther and Molly, whom he presumes to be Melissa’s parents. After supper he walks with Melissa, who convinces him to stay the night. Later, the aged farmer-skewering crone creeps into the guest room to scare the willies out of him.

The next day, he takes Melissa grocery shopping, during which she off-handedly confesses to being a witch. He does not believe her, so she takes him to her witch shack. Before she can conjure anything impressive enough to convince him, she has a sudden feeling of foreboding. They rush back to the ranch house.

A random sheriff has come to the ranch to search for evidence of farmer-cide. He finds the discarded bloody hayfork tangled up in a fence, but the aged crone stabs him to death with a hay hook before he can report his findings. Jodie and Melissa arrive just in time to see her finish the deed. Luther chains Jodie in the barn while he and Molly dispose of the body.

Later, Jodie has been released, and consents to stay another night while Melissa tries to explain. She uses her witch powers to show him a vision/flashback/dream sequence of her pre-witch youth. Many years ago, a laconically angry mob arrived at the ranch house to kill her father and burn her sister Lucinda as a witch. In desperation, Melissa gave her soul to the devil to save Lucinda. But Lucinda really was a bloodthirsty witch, who aged into a murderous burn-scarred crone over the subsequent century. Melissa remained young and beautiful, but was cursed to watch over her violent sister forever after.

Jodie comes to see Melissa at the witch shack, and has almost accepted this supernatural account when Lucinda breaks out of her room to attack him. He knocks over a hurricane lamp as he flees, and Melissa locks her sister in the shack while it burns. Jodie leaves the next morning, but returns almost immediately to confess his undying love for Melissa. They make love, which somehow saves her from the devil, who takes back her eternal youth. She ages into a withered crone. Jodie gives his soul to the devil to make her young again.

Introduction:

Is Crow in league with the unholy powers of hell, or is he made of molybdenum?  Probably both.Tom and Crow dress in winter garb to sing, “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” Mike admits he has no wassail to give them, so the ‘Bots launch into the second verse. “If the person who you sing to can’t provide the wassail / You are entitled to his debit card and PIN number / Love and joy come to you / Unless you can’t provide the wassail / Then severe financial penalties will come unto you / Then severe financial penalties to you.”

Host Segment One:

Mike prevents the misuse of his debit card with canned wassail, much to the ‘Bots’ disappointment. Down in Castle Forrester, Pearl has gone away, leaving Bobo and Brain Guy with a babysitter. Babysitter Steffi bullies Brain Guy (whom she calls Brian) into playing with letter blocks and disciplines Bobo for chewing her slippers. She calls up Mike, Tom, and Crow (whom she calls Cow) to tell them about their movie.

Host Segment Two:

Mike tries his hand at walnut ranching and immediately becomes filthy and drenched in sweat. Meanwhile, Tom dons a white suit and pith helmet; he sips a martini while farming pecans.

Host Segment Three:

Crow has Mike pile rocks on his chest. It causes him no pain, which leads him to believe he is a witch. Mike disagrees, opining that Crow feels no pain because he’s made of Molybdenum. Mike goes on to note the difficulty of proving a negative; Crow could just as easily ask him to prove he’s not a frog. Crow immediately convinces himself that he’s a frog. “Ribbit,” he says.

Host Segment Four:

Tom introduces Mike to his aged, murderous grandmother, and leaves Mike to fend off the white-haired Grandma Servo’s vicious hayfork attacks.

Host Segment Five:

Crow sells his soul to Satan, hoping to receive vast, otherworldly powers. Mike reads over the contract and points out Crow’s error—he has, in fact, sold his soul to Stan. They call Stan to reverse the deal, but Stan apologetically explains he’s already resold Crow’s soul to Citicorp. Quoth Crow, “I am going to have to make so many phone calls to get my soul back.” Down in Castle Forrester, Brain Guy suffers through story-time, occasionally stopping Steffi’s reading to decry Sam-I-Am’s bizarrely insistent behavior. Steffi gives him a blankey, binky, and teddy bear and sends him to bed. Bobo tries to comment from the inside of his pet taxi. Quoth Steffi, “No! No bark!” Bobo tries to explain that he is not barking, but is, in fact, talking. This earns him a rolled-up newspaper to the face.

Stinger:

Melissa says, “This is where the fish lives.”

Thoughts:

Grandma Shrunken Apple Head.Okay, I know the title of the movie is “The Touch of Satan,” but I’m curious: where does God fit into this kind of theology? Like the aphorism about always picking up both ends of the stick, you can’t admit to one without acknowledging the existence of the other. The Touch of Satan makes us listen to Amazing Grace at least four times, so we know the film allows for a Higher Power, but how does it manifest Him? With that sleepy, murderous lynch mob? Are we meant to believe that Our Lord has sanctioned the use of deadly force against the innocent father in His zeal to rid the world of bloodthirsty witches? I mean, granted, some Christians are narrow-minded zealots who use their faith as an excuse for the commission of heinous acts, but this isn’t The Crucible. This movie doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is—a religious horror flick. Both its protagonists are basically good people who, at different times, see someone they love in dire trouble, and the first person they turn to is the devil? It’s a point that bugs me, not just for this film, but all its brothers and sisters across the various mediums. The religious horror genre as a whole reduces God to a spectator, while implying that Satan and his followers are the only ones left in the world who are capable of miracles. Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits is a very, very odd fantasy film that pits a little boy and a crew of time-traveling dwarves against the Evil One, but I respect it on the basis that the Supreme Being (played by Sir Ralph Richardson) steps in to kick Satan’s derriere the instant he oversteps his bounds.

Leaving my pet peeves aside, it’s not that bad a film. This brings on my standard caveat that it’s not that good a film either, but then, good films don’t find their way onto this show. It has an engrossing story that borrows more than a little from the works of H.P. Lovecraft (substituting its own strange version of Christianity for that author’s fixation with demonic extraterrestrials) and works its own curious little mood, a gradually sickening sense of dread that it manages to build right up until the brief end credits. The word “gradually” also describes the movie’s downfall. The pace is consistently slow; I’m not sure how it’s possible to have more pauses between lines than actual lines of dialog, but somehow the actors manage it. Even the lynch mob is casual to the point of dispirited. This feature-length film would have worked much better as a short story.

The babysitter storyline in the host segments works very well. It continues several trends in the host segments, most notably implying that even the semi-omnipotent Brain Guy is lost without Pearl telling him what to do, and that Bobo, for all his education and experience, is no better than a pet. My favorite bit is Brain Guy’s tirade against Sam-I-Am, whom he describes as “so bloody repetitive I could scream.” Beez McKeever does a decent job as Steffi, but, like so many of those guest stars on the Muppet Show, she gets a little lost among the manic antics of the show’s regular performers. The introduction is great as well; the rewording of the popular Christmas carol is inexplicable, but expertly handled.

The tremendous silent gaps in the various conversations give the Satellite crew plenty of time for commentary in the film segments, and they do their best to fill the spaces. When Melissa tells Jodi about her walnut ranch, Tom asks, “How many head of walnut do you have?” Later, as Jodie and Melissa walk together through soft-focus fields while tender piano incidental music plays, Crow says, “Hallmark Hall of Fame presents: The Touch of Satan.” Near the end, as Jodie’s predicament becomes clear, Mike says, “My mom had a little saying: It’s just as easy to fall in love with a girl who’s not possessed by the devil.” Ultimately, the film lacks the substance to hold up the mockery the Satellite crew heaps upon it, and in the final film segment Mike and the ‘Bots are reduced to speculating about the possible length of each pause as it happens. It’s a good, funny episode, if you have the patience for it.

Read More......

1/30/07

907 Hobgoblins

(1988, Horror-ish/Comedy-esque, color)

Can you catch venereal disease from a movie?

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

An assistant security guard must save the world from extraterrestrial plush toys.

Summary:

Four people with every reason in the world to avoid one another.The initial scenes take place at a Hollywood studio in the middle of the night. An elderly security guard (McCreedy) rambles about his days in the military while his young assistant (name unknown, I will call him Mr. Expendable) turns up his walkman and plays air guitar. McCreedy is called away, leaving Mr. Expendable to continue the rounds alone. He happens upon a previously unknown film vault and decides to peek inside. (It’s behind three heavy doors, one of which is more than a foot thick, but none of them are locked.) Inside he hears the scuffling and chattering of unseen creatures. Suddenly, he’s on stage in front of millions of adoring sound effects. He poses, struts, and dances to a Hard Rock anthem. Then he falls over dead. McCreedy rushes in, sees Mr. Expendable’s bloodstained corpse, and backs out again, shutting all three doors behind him. The opening credits roll...

...and McCreedy has hired a new assistant. The eager young Kevin tours the empty studio with him, and receives an emphatic warning against entering a certain film vault. Kevin agrees and finishes his shift. He goes home to meet his frigid, uptight girlfriend Amy, her promiscuous, spandex-clad friend Daphne, and a spazzy young man in pink hot pants named Kyle. The fifth member of this disparate group arrives shortly thereafter—the libidinous, chunk-headed Nick. He’s just returned from a two-month tour of duty, and is eager to impress the young ladies with his newly acquired combat skills. Amy forces Kevin to accept Nick’s challenge, so he and Nick spar on the front lawn with garden implements. Nick predictably wins; he takes Daphne into his van for a vehicle-shaking post-fight celebration while Amy berates Kevin for his inability to defeat an Army veteran with a hoe. The dispirited Kevin returns to work.

At the studio guardhouse, McCreedy’s useless, rambling advice on Kevin’s situation is interrupted by a cartoonishly stealthy prowler. McCreedy goes in first, only to be taken captive by the knife-wielding ne’er-do-well. Kevin follows and drives the interloper away with a starter pistol. They split up to make sure the trespasser has left the premises, and Kevin somehow wanders through all three (still unlocked) heavy doors that guard the forbidden film vault. McCreedy stops him before he can go inside, but an undetermined number of ugly, hairy little creatures escape. Four of the eponymous hobgoblins seize control of a golf cart and try to run them down. (Hobgoblins will die by the dozen in later scenes, but we will never see more than four of them at once, and there will always, always be at least four of them left. I suspect this is due to a limited supply of sinister hand puppets.) The hobgoblins escape the studio lot to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting city.

When pressed for an explanation, McCreedy reluctantly flashes back to thirty years ago, when the little monsters first arrived from outer space. Near the beginning of his security guard career at that time, McCreedy allowed them to live in the film vault, only to discover these creatures can destroy people by making their wildest fantasies come true. No one would believe his warnings, so he shut them in the vault and dedicated himself to guarding the creatures for ever after. He charges Kevin to find and destroy them before sunrise, or else...something vague will happen.

Of course, out of all possible destinations in the Los Angeles area, the monsters head directly to Kevin’s house, where Amy, Daphne, and Kyle dance the night away. One of the creatures imitates the distinctive horn of Nick’s van. Daphne runs outside to meet him, and the hobgoblin attacks. She wrestles with the plush monster, rolling around on the dead front lawn until she can throw it off and kill it with a hoe. She runs back inside, but the monsters attack her there as well. Nick arrives and sees them struggling for their very lives, and assumes that they’re doing a kinky new dance. Eventually they convince him to help defeat the monsters and they all flee the house, shutting the little fiends inside. Nick is about to blow them all up with a handy grenade (the Army Reserve apparently lets you take them home) when Kevin arrives to stop him. He somehow locks them all in Nick’s van. Everyone heads into the house for a well-deserved rest.

While they’re resting, Kyle begins to feel a certain urge, so he sneaks into the back room to call his favorite phone sex operator. And, wouldn’t you know it, the hobgoblins have opposable thumbs, and are thus able to unlock and open the van doors from inside. One of them creeps up next to Kyle and summons a fantasy version of the phone sex operator. She, in turn, lures Kyle out to a make-out spot near the top of a cliff. Fortunately for him, Kevin has followed him out and destroyed the hobgoblin before the ersatz operator can push his car all the way over. The car falls over anyway, and inexplicably turns into a different make of car before it explodes in an obligatory fireball. Kevin and Kyle (who got out before his car took the plunge) return to Kevin’s house to wrestle another hobgoblin before they go back inside.

Inside, they find Nick and Daphne, but no Amy. Fortunately, she told Daphne where she was going. Unfortunately, the place in question is one Club Scum, an elementary school cafeteria decorated rather unconvincingly to look like a beatnik club/biker bar/strip lounge. The main denizens seem to be the hairy doorman Road Rash, the beehive-coiffed waitress Pixie, and the Cabaret-refugee M.C. A loud band sings about a Pig Licker (Pig Liquor?), and then Amy comes on stage to strip. Yes, this is her deadly fantasy, made possible by the ugly plush hand puppets from outer space. Kevin tries to snap her out of it, but his efforts are fruitless until another hobgoblin takes over Nick. Apparently, Nick’s fantasy is to open fire on innocent civilians. Kevin and Kyle take advantage of the confusion to kill hobgoblins left and right while Daphne tries to convince an imaginary drill sergeant to make Nick stop his rampage. Eventually all but four (at least) of the hobgoblins die, Amy snaps out of her partially clothed delusion, and Nick blows himself up with one of his own grenades.

The survivors follow the remaining creatures back to the studio vault, where Kevin meets his own fantasy—to beat someone up in front of his girlfriend. He spars with an imaginary version of the prowler from the beginning. The fantasy thug pulls a gun but promptly vanishes when McCreedy kills the hobgoblin who summoned him into being. McCreedy blows up the vault with the remaining hobgoblins inside.

In the denouement, Amy decides to go “all the way” with Kevin while Kyle makes overtures to Daphne. Daphne seems receptive at first, but rejects Kyle upon the arrival of Nick, who survived the grenade incident with a minor sunburn. He and Daphne make the van shake again while McCreedy calls up his boss to gloat. Kyle interrupts the call to ask if he can use the phone.

Introduction:

Those warning labels aren't strongly worded enough.Following the lead of singer/songwriter Robert Palmer, Mike and the ‘Bots accidentally turn each other on. They agree that, in the future, they must be much more careful to avoid involuntary on-turning.

Host Segment One:

Out of spite, Tom turns on Crow on purpose. Down in Castle Forrester, Pearl says, “You couldn’t turn me on if you were a dozen Girardos and Fabios in tight leather pants.” She pauses to savor this mental image before she sends the Satellite crew a couch, with the admonition not to jump on it or get it dirty. Mike and the ‘Bots don pajamas and jump to their hearts’ content, squirting juice boxes while Crow turns upside down to kick his legs. Pearl gets mad at them and sends a movie.

Host Segment Two:

To counteract the film’s misogynist tone, Crow has made a documentary called Let’s Talk Women. Turns out he has very little experience with women, and the documentary spends most of its time wondering whether or not they really exist. Much is made of footage portraying a sandwich-eating Mike, “who, experts believe, is not a woman.”

Host Segment Three:

Crow has set up a crisis hotline for people who have suffered while watching the movie Hobgoblins. His first caller is Professor Bobo, who seeks support for a forbidden love outside his species. Careful over-the-shoulder shots seem to imply he means Pearl, but at the end of his confession he holds up a picture of a chimpanzee named Emily. By that time, Crow has long since hung up in disgust.

Host Segment Four:

This one actually starts at the end of the preceding film segment. Mike and the ‘Bots sneak out of the theater early, replacing themselves with cardboard cutouts that make generic prerecorded comments. Out at the desk, other cardboard cutouts sing a lame, repetitive song about the movie. Pearl recognizes something is wrong, but can’t quite put her finger on it. She calls in Bobo and Brain Guy to help. Bobo thinks the song is great, while Brain Guy instantly sees through the ruse. One of the cutouts falls over, forcing Mike and his cohorts to return. Pearl sends them back into the theater.

Host Segment Five:

Tom uses the time machine to go back to 1988 and kick Hobgoblins auteur Rick Sloane in the shins, thereby preventing the movie from being made. Reading from Rick Sloane’s autobiography, however, Crow discovers Tom’s actions in fact had the opposite effect; Rick Sloane describes his inspiration for the film as a “stout red automaton kicking me in the shins.” Tom wants to kill Sloane for calling him stout, but Mike restrains him. Quoth he, “Time to get a child lock on the time machine.” Down in Castle Forrester, Pearl continues to scold Mike and the ‘Bots about her newly recovered couch while Bobo and Brain Guy jump on it with buckets full of grape juice and seal coat. Pearl blows them up.

Stinger:

Four ugly hand puppets drive a golf cart.

Thoughts:

$0.99 for the set of four at a local thrift store.Auteur Rick Sloane didn’t just ignore the application of logic and continuity to his film; it seems as if he actively avoided common sense. Not once does a character ever do anything for any reason other than “the script told me to,” and we are left to invent more plausible motivations ourselves. How, exactly, did Mr. Expendable die? My guess: the microphone stand was electrified. Given the wildly disparate temperaments of the protagonists, and the fact that they all clearly loathe each other, why do they all hang around Kevin’s house twenty-four hours a day? My guess: an eccentric millionaire has willed them each a small fortune, provided they never leave each other’s company for a whole year. Why on earth would McCreedy have wasted thirty years of his life guarding an unlocked vault filled with murderous aliens if he had the means to destroy them all along? My guess: having discovered his own immunity to the creatures’ mind-powers early on, he plans to unleash them on the world at large and thus induce an alien hand puppet Armageddon if his demands are not met. Their accidental release came ahead of schedule (before he could think of any demands) and he was forced to have them hunted down. The explosion at the end was a ruse; he actually stashed the remaining four creatures in a different vault, to save them for another day. The car bomb he installed in Nick’s van will kill Kevin in his friends when they try to go home. The newly liberated Amy will die a virgin to protect his secret until he is ready to show the world he means business... Or maybe McCreedy is just a poor, stupid old jerk who never thought of just killing the creatures until now. This is the same poor, stupid jerk to whom it never occurs to lock any of the three heavy doors that guard his most dangerous secret, so either explanation is equally plausible.

I’ve never heard the song Mike and the ‘Bots reference in the introductory host segment, but I assume it’s popular. The funniest thing about the sketch is that no one ever treats “turning someone on” as sexual act until Pearl’s shuddering eye-roll at the end. The couch sequences and the cardboard cutout sketch are amusing, and Bobo’s confession is odd but funny, but my favorite sketch is Crow’s documentary on women. It’s like every speculative documentary you ever saw about Bigfoot, but with a blurry photograph of a human female in a fur coat standing in for the standard photographic non-evidence of Sasquatch.

The movie depicted in the film segments is completely confident that it is hilarious and sexy, but is largely scuttled by the forced attempts at comedy and constant, quease-inducing innuendo. Mike and the ‘Bots gamely attempt to mock the material given them, and actually succeed for several sequences late in the film, but even they can’t manage to drag Hobgoblins entirely out of the gutter. Grossed out by the innuendo early in the film, Tom makes heaving noises and says, “Mike, if I run out of vomit, can I use some of yours?” Club Scum has a very funny sequence where all three Satellite crew members try to identify the words sung by visiting band—ideas include Pig Sticker, Pig Kicker, Kid Snicker, and Fish Picker. Another good bit comes when Tom sets up a cardboard head during the closing credits to represent Rick Sloane, and gets him to admit that he a) was high on crack when he made the film, b) is a total idiot, and c) has replaced his brains with rat droppings. Near the end, Crow sums up the film by noting, “Daphne is a slut, and Amy wasn’t any fun until she became a slut.” In spite of the good parts, this message will stick to your tongue like an oily, nauseous aftertaste for hours after the closing credits finish. I wouldn’t recommend seeing this episode more than once.

Read More......

906 The Space Children

(1958, SciFi-Religious, b&w), with:

Century 21 Calling...
(1962, Educational-Industrial, color)

That’s all that’s left of St. Matthew’s original screen play.

Rating: **

In a nutshell:

Short: Perky teens experience the telephone technology of the future.
Film: A telepathic Blob from Heaven uses a gang of children to sabotage the military.

Short Summary:

The couple from Once Upon a Honeymoon (Episode 701) in their earlier, blonder years.In Century 21 Calling, a young blond couple rides the monorail to the Seattle World’s Fair, where they fondle a number of foreign visitors as they frolic through the exhibits. Eventually they make their way to a pavilion that displays that greatest of technological gifts, the telephone. They listen with passionate delight as big-haired women read cue cards and demonstrate such upcoming features as pagers, speed dialers, autodialers, touchtone phones, call forwarding, call waiting, and conference calls. Why, the telephones of the future will even water the dogs, preheat the oven, and turn on the air conditioner for you. Overcome with happiness, the starry-eyed couple ascends the Space Needle to listen to the stirring telephone theme song of the future.

Film Summary:

In The Space Children, the Brewster family journeys over barren beach dunes because the father, Dave, has been transferred to a military base to work on a rocket called The Thunderer. This rocket will deliver a nuclear device into orbit, where it will hang like the Sword of Damocles, waiting for instructions to swoop down and vaporize a city of our nation’s choice.

The Brewsters move into a tiny trailer park with a bunch of other vaguely defined rocket specialists and their families. While their manic-depressive mother obsesses about sand, the Brewster boys, Bud and Ken, meet Edie Johnson and her co-children. They take a look at the rocket and then frolic on the beach. Soon they meet a misshapen Blob that has just cruised in from the Celestial Realms Above. It proves Its friendly intentions by smiting the largest child’s abusive alcoholic stepfather (Russell Johnson, a.k.a. The Professor from Gilligan’s Isle). Then It issues telepathic instructions to Bud; he becomes the Blob’s prophet, with all the other children as his disciples.

Dave discovers the Blob’s intentions (to destroy the Thunderer) and tries to warn the military, but the Blob gives Bud the power to strike his father down. Dave swoons before he can deliver the warning. Edie’s genocidal father (played by Jackie Coogan in short shorts) also faints when he discovers the Blob’s cave. The other children use their Blob-given powers as well, cutting off telephonic communications, crashing fuel trucks, and slipping through the rather lax security to sabotage the rocket before it can go off. The Thunderer explodes during an attempted launch, and Blob’s spell is broken. The adults rush down the Blob’s hiding place to demand an explanation.

Bud and the other children meet them at the cave and explain that Blobs have been using children to sabotage nuclear rockets all over the world, because the adults weren’t ready to do it themselves. Everyone acknowledges the wisdom of this as the pulsating Blob ascends back to the Glorious Throne on High. A verse from the Gospel of St. Matthew closes the film in lieu of credits.

Introduction:

I'd kiss Tom too, but only if he paid me.Tom has opened a kissing booth, with all kind of kisses on sale. After some discussion, Mike selects a dry, perfunctory grandma kiss. “No tongue,” Tom warns, adding that he doesn’t have one. Tom charges Mike $49.99 for the grandparental affection, but Mike complains that the kiss, though dry and perfunctory, seemed more aunt-like than grandma-like.

Host Segment One:

Tom makes out with himself for practice. He is interrupted by a phone technician, who has installed three handsets and a PA system. Pearl calls them on the PA; Mike answers his phone as instructed, and Pearl explains that she has sent them these phones to take over the world through more efficient officing. The phone system goes haywire when they try to get Bobo, Brain Guy, Tom, and Crow on the line as well.

Host Segment Two:

Mike dons a blue cardigan and pantomimes the aggressively chipper young man from the short. Tom and Crow demolish him with a wrecking ball.

Host Segment Three:

Mike tries to launch a model rocket, but it won’t fire. He goes to inspect it, calling “Don’t turn it on,” over his shoulder. The rocket explodes. Down in Castle Forrester, Pearl decides she has a monkey, so why not build a space program around that monkey? They build a full-sized rocket and put Bobo in the centrifuge to prepare him for his journey into space. Brain Guy forgets to add the pin that holds the carriage to the centrifuge, causing Bobo to fly over their heads. Up in the Satellite of Love, Tom walks past a charred and blackened Mike. “Oh,” he says. “Don’t turn it on.”

Host Segment Four:

“Fashion means Coogan,” Crow declares. Driven mad by the film’s portrayal of Jackie Coogan in tiny swim trunks, Crow has prepared sketches for a number of other outfits the former Uncle Fester could have worn, each one more revealing than the last.

Host Segment Five:

Mike and the ‘Bots receive a visitation from the holy anti-nuclear Blob. Tom makes excuses and goes to dismantle his neutron device while Crow asks, “Get you a beer, Holy Blob?” The Blob answers in the affirmative. Down in Castle Forrester, Pearl and Brain Guy launch their rocket into space. Unfortunately, Bobo wandered out for a Three Musketeers during the launch sequence and forgot to get back in. With no one to steer it, the rocket turns in its course and destroys the castle.

Stinger:

The abusive alcoholic stepfather’s vacant stare.

Thoughts:

The Lord works in mysterious and often disgusting ways.Almost all of the wondrous telephonic conveniences described by the short have come to pass in one form or another, except for the part where people turn on their air conditioners and ovens and sprinklers by phone. I suspect the concept of conservation hadn’t yet fully penetrated our national culture. Why would you want to cool an empty house? Also, if you just put the sprinklers on timers, you won’t have to remember to call at all. Safety is another issue. Like flying cars, the technology exists; we just don’t trust people with it. (I have a recurring nightmare of waking one night, showered in dust and debris, staring up at the pair of headlights protruding from my ceiling. Flying cars won’t happen until they can fly themselves, and even then enterprising contractors will specialize in roof armor and make millions.) Why would anyone want to turn on an oven while still four hours from home? If your vehicle breaks and you forget to call and turn it off, your house burns down. Maybe the houses next door as well. That’d make you popular in the neighborhood.

You may recall that Our Lord once said something to the effect of “harm a child and you’d be better off with a millstone around your neck.” You may also recall how His Holy Blob used the children to further Its violent, peacekeeping goals, and wonder how It could justify such actions. Be of good cheer, my Brothers and Sisters, and let not your hearts be troubled with doubt. The rationalization...er, explanation is simple. You see, the Holy Blob doesn’t have a neck at all, and thus can endanger Its age-challenged protégés with impunity. We see this in the following excerpt from the Gospel of St. Bud, Chapter Five:

3. Hey kid, thinketh the Blob at the Chosen Bud, Holy Prophet of the Blob. Can you sneak past some heavily armed guards and loosen some O-Rings for me?
4. “Choose another,” sayeth Bud, “for I am too young to do thy squishy, glowing bidding.”
5. Just go, the Blob replyeth. I need vague justification for a scripture at the end.
6. “But thou seemst to be pretty powerful,” Bud answereth. “Canst thou not just do it thyself?”
7. Watch this, sayeth the Blob, and It killeth a handy stepdad. That could have been your dad. That could have been you. Now get moving. Don’t forget to split a steering rod and threaten your parents on the way there.
8. “I’m going,” sayeth Bud. “Thou don’t-est have to make a federal case out of it. Jeez.”
9. The Lord works in mysterious ways, kid, sayeth the Blob, whether it be through storm, or fire, or still, small voice, or murderous, telepathic Lump.

Think upon these words of wisdom, my Brethren, and be edified.

My favorite host segment is the Holy Blob’s visit to the Satellite of Love. Tom’s indignation at having to get rid of his neutron device and Crow’s willingness to kick back and drink beer with his Celestial Visitor make it funny viewing. Tom’s kissing booth is my second favorite; as usual, Servo misses the point of human intimacy. My least favorite is the Jackie Coogan fashion sketch, which is probably meant to be creepy, and succeeds. Pearl’s rocket sketches are competently amusing, and the goofy nerd laugh is a nice touch.

The film segments have some fun moments. Tom comments on the overacting youngsters with, “We’re young and perky, so get the hell out of our way!” During the travel sequence at the beginning, Crow says, “These monorail engineers have a one-track mind.” When a phone call activates the sprinkler system, driving away the neighbor’s dogs, Crow says, “How do you like it when the lawn piddles on you?” In the movie, Dave Brewster’s constantly blank face inspires Mike’s comment, “He has a real screen absence.” The children’s stereotypical frolicking inspires Tom to sing, “Hey, hey, we’re the Children. People say we Children around. But we’re too busy Childrening...” After the facility director delivers a long, confusing metaphor comparing a scientist to a deep sea diver, Mike says, “I think I just got the bends from that analogy.” Also, Bud’s desperately depressed mother inspires many, many comments about the invading sand. The short’s fun to watch, but the film drags down the commentary with its hopeless dreariness. Watch Century 21 Calling as much as you like, but if I were you, I’d only watch The Space Children once.

Read More......