krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
With "Mighty Jack" ("The story of a brave flapjack."), I've finished rewatching the "Sandy Frank" episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, at least in their "shown on cable" forms. Thoughts of it being "the end of one era" do mix, though, with the impression I just might have got to this particular episode a bit sooner, back when I was watching movies I could identify as "James Bond ripoffs." With an opening "invention exchange" in which the mad scientists are showing off "Formal Flippers" for secret agents wearing tuxedoes underneath their scuba gear, the show does seem aware of the connection. At the same time, though, something about the snappy grey suits and slim neckties just about all the men in the film seem to wear made me think not of a "Japanese James Bond," but of a "Japanese Mad Men" (and I haven't ever watched that show...)

After some opening narration setting up the opposing organizations of "Mighty Jack" and "Q," the "professional mountaineer" "Harold Atari" ("Still trying to launch Pong, eh?") is captured in Paris when his car is stopped at a roadblock and then picked up in a huge net slung from a helicopter. ("Hey, you can always tell it's a Japanese net--it's filled with dolphins!") The dialogue turns more than a little confusing around here, but I have the impression that, while Atari isn't a member of Mighty Jack yet, he's nevertheless been gifted by them with a suit loaded down with super-spy gadgets. Seeming to discover this by accident in Q's captivity, he assembles a transmitter with no hesitation ("Oh great, the instructions are in Japanese.") and manages to attract the attention of Mighty Jack, who roam the world in a flying submarine of the same name. Mighty Jack agents infiltrate the Q stronghold and break Atari out, and a furious (model) battle ensues between Mighty Jack and the forces of Q ("They're using every toy in the box!" "And we'd like to welcome you to Collateral Damage Playhouse..."), even as our heroes begin to pick up on how the flying submarine is always being shown making "bank turns." Despite some tension between Atari and everyone else, he's appointed the commander of Mighty Jack.

With that, it's on to the final once hour-long episode of the thirteen-episode series Sandy Frank attached to the first. Q is creating "solid water" (not mere ice, of course), and the half-German son of a Japanese scientist ("Kind of like sushi stroganoff.") is assisting them. Much confusion ensues, but at last the half-German scientist has blown himself up (by "folding himself over [a] suitcase," to quote the official episode guide) and another (model) battle ensues. ("Continuous bank turn continuing, sir.") As the iceberg headquarters of Q is being blown to pieces, that organization's head, equipped with a cat and always photographed in a way that seems just a little odd to me, shoots himself in the head, and it seems the world is safe at last.

I've seen several comments about this movie being just too much to make a really good episode of, and yet for much of it I did have the feeling the "riffing" was just a bit more memorable than in some other episodes also from the third season. Those comments in any case did praise the "host segments," which lead off with chaos on the Satellite of Love bridge as Joel (wearing one of his non-maroon jumpsuits from the previous season, the better to get it scorched and gooey) collapses and the smashed-up Crow and Tom Servo panic until the mood is deftly punctured. There's also a commercial for "Mighty Jack" dog food (with Crow seeming to puppet a bizarre little "Mighty Jack" creature,) which has a certain multi-levelled fascination to it, Tom and Crow recreating Q's fiendish "bright light" torture pod for Joel (just like Harold Atari, he doesn't open his eyes inside it, which leaves them amazed by how smart he is), and Joel dunking various toys in an aquarium, even if that seems to end with the slightest edge of tension between the dismissive robots and him. Things close with the performance of a "plot chantey," the perfect way to wrap up a movie that became something of a standard for "incomprehensibility" for the series. The DVD also includes another explanation from the knowledgeable person who's appeared before, pointing out that the original "Mighty Jack" series was intended for adults but that there was a follow-up with a somewhat different name that skewed younger. I do know that "Mighty Jack" was referenced in "Otaku no Video," a famous anime OVA that managed to reference most of the notable Japanese visual "works of the fantastic" from the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s.

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