krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
As with the "Coleman Francis trilogy," working my way through Mystery Science Theater 3000 I was saving two particular episodes for a particular point in my rewatching. This time, it was perhaps less for the movies than for the shorts attached to them. "Radar Secret Service" ("Gary Burghoff goes under cover!" "That'd describe his career for the last ten years.") may appeal a bit more to me than it seems to do to some, but "Last Clear Chance" ("Your Last Clear Chance for fantastic savings!") just happens to be about road safety with a particular emphasis on railroad crossings, fitting its connection to the Union Pacific railroad...

After Mike manages to turn Crow into Horshack from "Welcome Back Kotter" while trying to perform maintanance on him and knots together all the sheets, "sensible pants," and underwear on the Satellite of Love intending to climb down to Earth on it, Dr. Forrester alludes to "rock climbing" and "Deep Hurting" in introducing "Hypno Helio Static Stasis, containing X-4," which has been loaded into both the movie and "a little train wreck of a short." In the theatre itself, we start off with a funeral ("Never let this happen to you. Don't make the mistake these people did. Don't die.") being attended by big late-1950s cars, with Iowa highway patrolman Hal Jackson watching glumly from outside. He flashes back to happier times, when the college student Frank Dixon Jr. was returning to the family farm and his girlfriend Betty Hutchins and his teenage brother Alan had just received his driver's license in the mail. Hal shows up at the farm ("I thought we were all paid up." "Gonna need another fifty. Real shame if something happened to this land.") and begins lecturing Alan in a friendly way on road safety, pounding it in over and over again about how dangerous it eventually gets to take little risks and not pay attention. ("You see son, we all die alone and afraid." "I'm gonna go throw m'self in the thresher...") He manages to dwell twice on railroad crossings, emphasising how you need to take the flashing lights seriously. ("Trains are blameless, holy creatures!") Then, just as the lecture is wrapping up, Frank Junior and Betty show up just as Alan is about drive off to town in the family pickup. They take in Frank's little sports car to "keep him company," pass him on the way, and get so distracted with waving back at him ("Hey, the cop never said anything about doing intensely stupid things!") that they miss the railroad crossing ahead... ("Well! Live and learn.")

Amid the jumbled railroad cars and other twisted metal, with Betty perhaps still alive but Frank definitely dead ("Would you identify this bucketful of your brother?"), one of the railroad workers muses "Why don't they look, Ralph? Tell me, why don't they look?" ("You're deep, Ernie.") Hal resolves at last to take a hard line on those "little" violations ("He's a bad cop on the loose!" "Now I'm gonna grab me a little bit of lunch!") Then, after a "host segment" with "Trooper Tom Servo" lecturing us on the dangers of sandwiches, lint traps, and hot plates, it's on to the movie...

As the action gets under way, we're informed how terrific radar is in the bright new post-World War II world ("But can radar save our stifling marriage?"), and then there seems to be some hopeful speculation of how much better it can get. The "Radar Secret Service" (whose two field operatives nevertheless drive around in a car with a big shiny metal ball on the roof) can use "radar" to pick up guns thrown out on the sides of the road and track cars from their office, seeing them with all the clarity of television. Nevertheless, good old-fashioned leg work helps them track down the waitress girlfriend of a crook captured in connection with the theft of uranium-238 (this doesn't seem to be for the benefit of any foreign power), and while things get complicated along the way what with lots of guys with moustaches, snap-brim hats, and ties loud even in black and white battling each other ("I'm dull!" "I'm way duller!"), at last the "balance" of the uranium is retrieved and there's an odd sort of tossed-off joke to close things out. (Having just rewatched "The Brute Man" from the latest official DVD collection, I was reminded of its own similar conclusion.) Our heroes emerge in triumph; even with "helicopters, dirt roads, people standing around ramrod-straight" they had "Ecstatoeuphorofun! With patented Hinder-90" to help them through it.

While my description of the movie itself was brief and even the official episode guide admits they were stuck with it to fill out the season (although they had tried to get it for the second season, which featured a number of movies from the same creative crew), the "riffing" did seem pretty lively while I was watching it. In any case, there's another episode with a short related to "Last Clear Chance" to go...

June 2017

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