krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
I might have decided to open up my new DVD of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie when I did to return to a juxtaposition from my earliest days of watching the series. When I first saw the movie, I quite liked it, which made the comments of certain reviews that the series was better than the movie and the "Joel episodes" were better than the "Mike episodes" quite intriguing in a certain way... Then, I found a well-appointed independent video rental store that had the first official videotape releases of Mystery Science Theater episodes, and decided to rent "The Amazing Colossal Man." However, for some reason I wasn't quite as "blown away" as I had expected to be, and had to watch either "Cave Dwellers" or "Pod People" before I really managed to start enjoying the series itself. Now, I was going to watch that "first episode" again...

It turned out that the rights to "The Amazing Colossal Man" proved nearly as slippery as those to "Godzilla vs. Megalon" would later be, and the official videotape wasn't on the market for long. It took getting into the "episode sharing" circuit before I was able to rewatch the episode, and a while after that I decided to rewatch it again, using the video iPod that I got a while back to compensate for a DVD not having been fan-encoded of it, but not having really tried that for a full episode before this moment. After all that setup, though, I found that I in fact seemed to be enjoying the episode a good bit more than when I first saw it. It may be that I'm better used to what I see as the amiability of the "Joel years" as opposed to the sharpness of the "Mike years." However (at the slight risk of dating this one commentary), it may be that some aspects of the 1950s B-movie science fiction in "The Amazing Colossal Man" point out, in a complementary rather than detractive way, some aspects of the "1957" in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull...

Lieutenant Colonel Glen Manning, Korean War veteran, is huddled in a trench near where a "plutonium bomb" is going to be set off. When nothing happens ("Hey, the amazing colossal dud!"), it being a "plutonium bomb" means the soldiers have to keep waiting ("So use your helmet") just in case, and then a light plane sails in and crashes. Manning leaps out of the trench and rushes to the rescue, only to have the "plutonium bomb" go off at last, burning him up in what seems some pretty gruesome makeup work for the 1950s but apparently not blowing him away with a blast wave or anything, even with stock footage of houses being blown up deployed somewhat later on. Treated with what the "riffers" call seaweed and lasagna noodles, Manning miraculously regrows his epidermis (and eyebrows if not the rest of his hair) through the effects of "plutonium bomb" radiation, but that's not all that's growing...

Growing steadily larger, housed in a circus tent and clad in an expandable sarong (and lamenting "What sin could a man commit in a single lifetime to bring this upon himself?"), Manning gradually goes to pieces despite the best efforts of his fiancee to keep talking to him. This seems to be due to his heart not growing as fast as the rest of him, which inspires a few dubious comments from the "riffers." At last, Manning completely loses his mind if not his vigour and wanders off into the desert, then into Las Vegas. Through the magic of badly matted special effects ("Boy, he's really kind of flimsy and shallow, isn't he?"), Manning beats up a little on some of the giant props decorating the casinos, then heads to Boulder Dam, where a giant hypodermic needle (complete with oversized finger loops) is rammed into his bone marrow to stop his abnormal growth. Manning spears one of the people trying to help him with the needle, and is at last blasted by the army ("Thanks for putting down the girl! Now here's some bullets for you!") and tumbles off the dam. The whole thing has something of the bleak, fruitless quality I tend to associate with the movies from the 1970s Mystery Science Theater 3000 showed.

As I've already said, I was almost a little surprised with how much more I was beginning to enjoy this episode, beyond even the memorable exchanges between movie and "riffers" I could remember from before such as:
>Glen: I just don't want to grow any more...

Joel: I'm a Toys 'R' Us kid...

>Glen: I don't want to grow any more!

Joel: I'm a Toys 'R' Us kid!

The "host segments" were also kind of fun, with perhaps a somewhat less cozy, familial relationship between Joel and his 'bots than I tend to associate with them and first Joel playing at being the amazing colossal man, then Mike Nelson (the person, not the "character") showing up as the amazing colossal man. At the end of the episode, too, there's the awareness that "The Amazing Colossal Man" had a sequel, and that sequel was attached to one of the more memorable shorts Mystery Science Theater 3000 showed...

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