krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
The latest box set of Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVDs has arrived, and I've launched into it with "Lost Continent." ("Lost Continent? I lost my keys once, but that's ridiculous!") Perhaps it was fate that my efforts to get through some other episodes before this set's release worked out so that I last watched "Hercules Against the Moon Men"; it just so happens that in introducing "Deep Hurting," "rock climbing" was referred back to...

Things start off at a military base Joel and the 'bots seem somewhat dismayed to see; it took me a moment to remember the base is stock footage from "Rocketship XM," which would have been more noticeable to someone watching (or working on) the second season as a whole. ("Haven't we seen this before?") An "atomic-powered rocket" ("Oh, look! It's a V2.") is launched on a test flight over the Pacific, but despite being tracked by radar ("He's playing Pong Solitaire." "Now this is a visual representation of a theremin.") it goes out of control and vanishes. Three of the scientists supervising the flight (one of them played by Hugh Beaumont, famous as Ward Cleaver on "Leave it to Beaver") are flown out by a womanising Air Force major (played by Cesar Romero, famous as the Joker on the 1960s "Batman"), his womanising copilot, and an Air Force sergeant (played by Sid Melton, who gets referred to as "monkey boy" by the "riffers"). Their plane is closing on on the rocket when, in passing over an island ("Put your shoes on, kids; we're circling Grandma's."), "radioactivity" forces them down. ("Wow, we landed on a witch. Maybe the film'll be in colour from now on." "Let's form a soccer team and eat each other!")

Two young islanders are left at an otherwise abandoned native village; one of them can inform the team in stilted English that the rocket crashed on top of a suspiciously enormous mountain, scaring everyone else away. Despite having no mountaineering gear save for a rope ("Hey, look at that. They've got their wingtipped climbing Oxfords on."), they start up the mountain, and just keep going. ("No one will be admitted during the breathtaking climbing sequence." "From the director who brought you the earlier stuff, more of the same!") There are a variety of small, easily overcome obstacles along the way, and then the scientist who'd been wearing down on the way up breaks down altogether and drops into the clouds. ("I plummeted to my death and I can't get up?") Finally, though, the five people left make it to the top, and after they're all very impressed by what they see we get to see it too at last: it's another jungle, just like a "lost continent" as Sid Melton says.

Pressing on (a pretty good job's been done in making everyone unshaven and unkempt by now), the team runs across dinosaurs done in actual stop-motion animation, if animation that somehow seems to have a low "frame rate" to me. ("I am not an animal! I'm a rubber model!") Despite the dinosaurs being a sauropod and ceratopidae, known to all youthful fans of dinosaurs as plant-eaters, they all charge the people and have to be shot at. Then, after gunning down a pterosaur to see if it can stretch their supplies, the team just happens to come across the rocket. As the Air Force people drive off the dinosaurs around it, the two remaining scientists manage to salvage its flight recorder, and then Sid Melton gets killed by a dinosaur, never getting the chance to use the parachute he had kept on throughout the movie. The survivors start back down the mountain, but for no particular reason it starts to fall apart. Dodging boulders the rest of the way down ("They've come to bury Cesar, not to praise him."), the survivors get back to the ground much faster than they had got up, dash through the now completely deserted village, and pile into a dugout outrigger canoe to push out to sea as the whole island blows up. ("Get away! The stock footage is erupting!") The ultimate fate of the survivors seems somewhat ambiguous, the rock climbing earlier having taken up any opportunity for a hopeful coda, but at least they've still got cigarettes... ("Well, smoke 'em if you got 'em, boys.")

It was noted as the DVDs started coming out that the master tape supplied to Shout! Factory seems to be starting to degrade, but I was able to make it through the episode all the same. It may even be that "rock climbing" is handled better than the comparatively shorter "sandstorm" in "Hercules Against the Moon Men"; when the riffers start breaking down or blowing up over it, they seem to me to have been through enough to justify that. The "host segments" also manage to build off little bits of the movie, including an appearance of Mike Nelson as Hugh Beaumount, flying past the Satellite of Love in a suburban home spaceship and appearing in the "Hexfield Viewscreen" to bring the world "a message of unholy death" (our heroes manage to talk him out of it), a presentation about explorers that builds off the previous "jungle" movie of the season (and also claims Joel is "tripped up on goofballs"), and getting excited over a "cool thing" outside we can't see at all (there's an invitation to mail in ideas of what the "cool thing" is, which let this get wrapped up in a future episode). The DVD also includes a new introduction from Frank Conniff, reflecting on the episode and the whole "rock climbing" phenomena.

March 2017

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