krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Heading through the fifth episode of each season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I've entered the "Sci-Fi Channel era" with "The Thing That Couldn't Die." ("Couldn't die or wouldn't die?" "Shouldn't?") Before beginning to rewatch this episode, I had been wondering if this was right where the lengthy string of black and white Universal 1950s movies that led off the eighth season started wearing out their welcome. However, as the episode rolled on I found myself getting caught up little by little in it, and it wound up pretty enjoyable.

The movie is set on some sort of guest ranch somewhere in the American Southwest (although the "riffers" take notice of one establishing shot to wonder just how close it is to Los Angeles), with some small diversion provided as things open as the comely niece of the ranch's owner goes dowsing for water. ("Why can't I just bend spoons with my mind like everyone else?") When she finds something else, though, the avaricious in a colourful, endearing way Aunt Flavia gets her big dumb ranch hand Mike to dig up a chest, which the bland vacationing archaeologist-type Gordon wants to look into. After gifting Jessica with a protective pendant she dowsed out of a "trade rat" nest under a tree ("There's no trade rat, but there is a registered artisan rat."), Gordon heads off to find another, older (or just an) archaeologist to properly open the chest. In the meantime, though, the creepy in a colourful, endearing way ranch hand Gideon has convinced Mike to pry the chest open, only to find a somewhat leathery severed head, the eyes of which open...

The head takes control of Mike and Gideon gets killed, and it turns out the head is from some sort of evil Englishman who just happened to have been beheaded in the area centuries ago by his strangely dressed companions ("So are they conquistadors, leprechauns..." "So how much of North America did the elves colonise?") as seen by Jessica in a vision after wandering around outside in her nightgown. ("I dreamed I was in a Hollywood movie. And I was the star of that movie!") The head gets Mike shot by the police, but that's all right, because he's now taken control of the vacationing artist's model Linda, who had previously taken pity on Jessica's displeasure with her aunt's interest in something "evil" and let her share her guest bed. ("Dear movie, thank you so much for this scene!") Finally, Gordon unwittingly gets the pendant off Jessica, and the head promptly takes control of her; you can tell because she promptly changes from the low-necked white dresses she'd been wearing before to a black one. ("She looks more like a somewhat racy nun than evil.") Everyone exhumes the headless body of the evil guy, who promptly puts his head back on his shoulders and is now able to talk again, but as it turns out he's not that hard to take care of... ("Take over the world; right, he can't even take over a Colonial Wrangler!")

As I said before, the "riffing" seems to add up over the length of the movie, including such amusing side notes as being able to speak for a decapitated head who, in this case at least, can't talk so long as he doesn't have lungs and implying there's something going on between Aunt Flavia and the older archaeologist brought into the movie. The "host segments" are somewhat disconnected from the movie, but quite fun, beginning with Tom Servo being funded by Crow to produce "fearless art that does not hold back in its relentless attack on Crow" and then going on to the planet of the "Observers," who are a take on the familiar science fiction concept of "mentally superior beings" but somehow not quite really as impressive as they keep saying they are. It's perhaps of slight interest that the Observer played by Bill Corbett, who became Pearl Forrester's second minion, isn't quite as important in this episode as the other two, one of who observes Mike. To round things off, Crow produces his very own Civil War documentary.

May 2017

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