krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
After a long stopover in the "Joel episodes" of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I've returned to the "Mike years" and the one "black and white movie from the 1950s that led off the eighth season" left to rewatch, if from the "Arkoff and Nicholson" half of that stretch instead of the "Universal International" half. I had decided to save "Terror From the Year 5000" for that particular spot on a bit more than a whim, and it seemed to pay off.

Things get started with stock footage and a dramatic voiceover about how, after the breaking of the "sound barrier" and the "space barrier," mankind is now probing the "time barrier"... and with the stock footage over, all of a sudden we're in a wet part of Florida and watching two men work with a water boiler-like contraption. ("Dental technicians from the year 5000!" "Furnace repairmen from the year 5000!") They manage to materialise a peculiar statuette inside their contraption, and it gets sent off to the craggy, cropped-haired museum curator Robert Hodges. ("He's a drill sergeant curator.") With some prompting from his apparently not-that-bright secretary, he sets about "carbon-dating" the statuette by pulling an all-nighter at his desk only to be left troubled by calculations showing it's from the year 5000. ("Six plus one is ten!") It's only then that he takes it to an actual lab to be examined by an actual Geiger counter and discovers it's radioactive. (It's obvious enough that radiometric dating just doesn't work that way, and yet I'm oddly fascinated by the presentation in this movie of "more radiation equals newer; even more radiation equals future" as something that might be come up with based on incomplete understanding and "radiation paranoia.")

Travelling to Florida, Bob has an ambiguous car-chasing meeting with Claire Erling, the daughter of the lead scientist Howard Erling and fiancee of the assistant Victor, and they boat out to the island mansion laboratory. It soon turns out there's something suspicious about Victor (with our heroes gleefully chipping in via the "riffing,") and as Bob goes swimming ("Curator of the Black Lagoon!") to look for the cases Victor is throwing into the water and there's a certain to-do about the creepy groundskeeper Angelo, some uneasiness is developed about what's coming through in the time machine. Claire dumps Victor and picks up with Bob ("I love a man who smells like Vince Lombardi." "I'm curating your tonsils now."), and there's a fight between Bob and Victor ("The epic battle between moist and moister.") that ends with the discovery of a radiation burn on Victor. Things spin along that much further with the whole group going to town, but Victor sneaks back to the island ("You're the only one who trusts me, time machine.") and the Terror arrives at last with her deformed face, hypnotic fingernails, and black hooded leotard with shiny discs sewn to it. She borrows the face of the horrified nurse ("Real sensitive nurse. 'Stay away! You're unattractive!'") sent to take care of Victor and, as Bob and Howard march around the island in radiation suits, the Terror tries to hypnotise Victor to acquire his unmutated genes for the aid of the year 5000. However, everyone converges on the mansion in time for the Terror and Victor to be electrocuted attempting to activate the time machine, and there's a grand speech about how we have to prevent radiation accumulation and mutation here and now as the camera focuses on the Terror's actually somewhat peculiar face. ("And don't bob for French fries!")

The "riffing" did seem snappier and even funnier for me than the last few episodes I watched, admitting there's not much happening in the movie but even making that entertaining, and yet I suppose I was left with that ambiguous thought of mine that there was something "meaner" about the whole experience too. The "host segments," with everyone still stuck at the planet of the Observers, felt somewhat "padded" in keeping with the show at this point, but there were some entertaining bits to them too, such as Tom Servo attempting to "comfort-rate" everything starting with a tiny "Servo-sized" parka and working up through slices of bologna and a crowbar to Mike himself, available in a wide range.

March 2017

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