krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Continuing in this new year my viewing of the first episode of each season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I've reached the beginning of the seventh season. It was an ambiguous milestone for the show, with only six episodes in it. The executives at Comedy Central, the cable channel the series was running on at the time, had changed enough to apparently lose all interest in the show, and I can suppose it was also just possible they were getting fed up with the show's fans hurling complaints their way whenever they were dissatisfied with how the episodes were being presented. The end result of all of this, beyond the show's creators being curtly informed to wrap things up with a six-episode season, was a whole string of anti-Comedy Central references in MSTings. Even after the Sci-Fi Channel had brought back the show and then cancelled it itself, there were still jabs at Comedy Central in MSTings.

However, with the passage of time, the six episodes of the seventh season have become somewhat separated from the outside ambiguities of the time in fan opinion, and people have been able to appreciate them for very funny work. There were some changes taking place to the setup, though. After the departure of Frank Conniff from the series, Mary Jo Pehl, another one of the writers who had already begun making brief on-screen appearances as different characters, returned as Mrs. Pearl Forrester, Dr. Clayton Forrester's mother. This still maintains a note of controversy about the season: Mrs. Forrester started out as just about everyone's worst nightmare of a dominating, disapproving, emasculating mother. (We learn in this episode that Dr. Forrester's full name is "Clayton Deborah Susan Forrester," for one thing.) I've noticed that one thing that happened at the time, though, was that while some MSTing authors continued to have Dr. Forrester on his own (in a fashion somewhat similar to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie), others were more than ready to write Mrs. Forrester into their "host segments."

With the setup complete, it's on to the movie itself. There are actually two slightly different versions of Mystery Science Theater 3000's presentation of "Night of the Blood Beast." The first was used as the final episode of one of their famous "Turkey Day" marathons, closing off a series of short introductions where various "guest characters" returned to ruin Dr. Forrester's Thanksgiving, leading up to the arrival of Mrs. Forrester herself and host segments joking about Thanksgiving food and customs. This time, I watched the second version, whose host segments reflected what was happening in the movie and preceding short a little more closely. The short itself, "Once Upon A Honeymoon," has its own collection of oddities. It involves an angel (in the best "comedic guardian sent down from a mildly bureaucratic heaven" mold) helping out a Broadway song writer forced to produce a new musical number before he and his wife can leave on a much-delayed honeymoon. In the meantime, the wife sings about how great it would be to have a redecorated house, placing great importance on every room having its own colour-coordinated phone (although I can't help but think that the "Princess phone" would have had a role in the short had it been made just a few years later) before the writer gets inspiration from his existing phone dial and some "angel dust." As has been noted, there seems to be a definite yet elusive point to the short.

The "riffing" on "Night of the Blood Beast" leaves me with the odd feeling that it places heavy emphasis on a small number of running gags. There are "riffs" declaring a female photographer to be dumb, over and over, and riffs building on confusion about character names to call everyone "Steve," although the point where this confusion begins still seems elusive to me. Fortunately, there are funnier running gags too. The movie involves an astronaut's space plane crashing to Earth (using some very cheap animated effects), to be found by five people working out of an otherwise empty facility with a suspicious resemblance to a radio station. This results in numerous riffs along the lines of "This is back when NASA was family owned and operated." After a long, draggy setup, one of the people (a doctor the riffing presents as horribly depressed) is killed by a monster, the dead astronaut comes back to life with small monsters growing inside him, and this is milked for just about every "pregnant" joke you can imagine. (One of the host segments even gets in on the game, with Crow proclaiming that he's "lain with Blood Beast" and is pregnant, mostly because he's convinced pregnant women get a free ride.) At the close, the Blood Beast itself, a raggedy monster costume with a big round head that inspires a few "parrot" riffs (and also showed up in a different Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie, "Teenage Caveman,") attempts to assimilate the entire world only to be splashed with gasoline and set on fire with flare pistols. All in all, it's a good way to ride the transition forward to a new era in the show itself.

March 2017

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