krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
There are at least a few Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes where how I first saw them is linked in a significant way to how I continue to think about it. One of them is "Attack of the The Eye Creatures." (That's the title on screen; the movie started as just "The Eye Creatures," but "Attack of the" was superimposed later, an early sign of how "they just didn't care...")

Back in the late summer of 1999, when the show itself had just wrapped up and I had seen just a few actual episodes on videotape to go with all the MSTings I was reading, I happened to learn about somebody who'd converted an episode into "RealVideo" format and cut it up into chunks available from the "dotcom bubble" era's equivalent of a "direct download" site. He didn't have enough free storage space to make the whole episode available at once, though, and so I wound up (after tying up the family phone line for hours on end downloading those then-unbelievably huge files via a dialup modem) with just the first few minutes and the last half of "Attack of the The Eye Creatures," stored on a hundred-megabyte Zip drive cartridge. After that, the person sort of vanished into the ether, never getting around to his declared plan of making at least a few more episodes available in the same way. (I do seem to recall that with the show on just over, the "Best Brains" were more vigilant about people giving away their work...)

A few years later, though, a new whole collective had organised, and now equipped with a broadband connection and new software I was able to download seven hundred megabyte encodings of episodes, getting around in turn to the full episode at last (and now, of course, things are different yet again...) The movie starts off with a great show of "official secrecy," leading up to a film reel (narrated by Peter Graves) with some rather unimpressive effects of a flying saucer approaching the Earth. ("No, seriously, let's see the real film.") The US Air Force remains vigilant, though... or rather it would be if the two servicemen supposed to be watching the skies weren't using infrared technology to spy on the local makeout spot. ("And now, the most instantly unappealing figure in film history.")

In the meantime, one of two youthful drifters happens on the flying saucer and tries to get the attention of his companion, who happens to be in bed wearing a striped nightshirt (contrasted to an Air Force colonel first found at home in a leopard-skin print bathrobe...) The sharply dressed teenager Stan Kenyon and his girlfriend Susan Rogers, who has a strange and precisely maintained mid-1960s beehive-like hairdo, drive their car into one of the saucer beings, a pale, lumpy monster with a big dark maw-like area and a number of eyes among the lumps. ("Ew, beluga caviar!" "We ran over a fungus!" "I think we killed the Michelin Man!") The first drifter eventually gets killed by the eye creatures ("He's being attacked by creamy nougat centres!"), and when his body is found near Stan and Susan's abandoned car this causes problems for them. The adults (of course) don't believe them; in the meantime, the Air Force has found the flying saucer but sets it on fire and blows it to dust trying to cut into it. ("They're welding back at me!") With the traditional declarations that all of this must be suppressed to avoid panic, they cover it up and then ask themselves how many similar incidents have no doubt also been covered up by other units. (This is apparently cribbed, as is the rest of the movie, from a film made in the previous decade.)

Stan and Susan manage to escape from the police station by going out an unlocked door and recruit the remaining drifter to their side. In the process, they discover that flashbulbs and headlights can make the eye creatures explode. When the adults forgive them for the death of the drifter and escaping (whether this has something to do with the cover-up isn't clear), they recruit all their friends from the makeout spot ("When Teenagers Saved the World." "Hey, keep your lips on the wheel!") to surround the eye creatures (both the fully costumed ones and the ones that are just masks on top of black tights) and "headlight" them to destruction. Whether this would have meant the invasion would have been over once the sun came up isn't clear, but then most of the movie did amount to poorly done "day for night" filming with crickets dubbed in... In any case, everyone can get back to making out. ("The the end!")

Two of the "host segments" (which I saw back when I had just part of the episode) do have the unfortunate air of seeming to go over my head by being built around references to people I don't really know, although I do know one of them seems more popular with other fans. However, the rest of the episode seems better, building up to an appearance of "director Larry Buchanan" as played by Mike Nelson as a particularly "contemporary" sort of dazed slacker, agreeing without words that indeed he "just didn't care."

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