krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Still in the sixth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I've headed on to "The Sinister Urge," a indictment of the dirty-pictures racket written and directed by the legendary Edward D. Wood, Jr. As if to prepare us for the descent into depravity, the episode also includes a short on the topic of "Keeping Clean and Neat"...

Trying to get to students sooner than "Body Care and Grooming" did, the short offers a grade school class the chance to have a boy and girl picked by the older kids for some sort of special honour that hinges on their personal appearance. ("The eighth graders cull the herd." "They'll sniff everyone.") The greasy-haired Don and the somewhat unkempt Mildred don't have a chance, but they would have if only they'd taken the (possibly considerable) time to shower, tend to their hair and nails ("Are you supposed to file open sores with an emery board?"), and also tidy up their rooms.

The movie itself opens with a young woman in late-1950s undergarments fleeing through a park ("The Maidenform woman! You never know where she'll turn up.") to a phone booth ("Quickly, into the TARDIS.") Unfortunately, the operator doesn't pick up in time...

Two middle-aged cops declaim in an office on the evils of "smut" ("That's what I love!"), the racket being represented by an elfin elderly immigrant ("He's the kindly old pornographer!") photographing three women in late-1950s swimsuits. The police crash in ("Wow, if they're raiding these guys, imagine the arrests they'd make at the beach!") and find a stash of film reels ("Ah! It's Erich von Stroheim's Greed!"), but can't get to the top of the racket. When a shopkeeper (played by the familiar Harvey B. Dunn from "Bride of the Monster") asks the two cops if they shouldn't be tackling bigger things such as juvenile delinquency, the cops snap back how dirty pictures not only fund crime but drive people to it.

We at last get to the top of the racket ourselves to meet Gloria Henderson, a sharp-voiced woman of a certain age changing from one bizarre outfit to another, and her frustrated director companion Johnny Ryde. Then, it's on to a brawl breaking out at a local diner ("Teens come running for the good taste of porn!"), one of the battlers played by Ed Wood himself, in scenes borrowed from a different, unfinished movie. ("It's kind of a low-impact donnybrook.") As the two cops continue to fulminate to each other about the industry destroying everything and everyone it gets its tentacles on, the young Mary Smith tries to get into pictures only to be noticed in a park by Johnny and placed in Gloria's debt via generous cheques. At last enmeshed in the racket, she winds up draped in a considerable amount of gauze ("So they put her in more clothes than she's ever had on in her life!" "Next film we may show her elbow!") and photographed. The obviously creepy Dirk Williams sneaks into Gloria's modernistic living room and finds dirty pictures in a drawer, though ("This smut placed here by the Gideons."), and winds up killing Mary in a local park pond...

Aware an undercover policewoman would be in considerable danger, the two cops send a policeman in drag instead; he manages to survive Dirk's savage lust. Pressured by her own backers in "the syndicate," Gloria gets Johnny to put Dirk in a car with faulty brakes on the steep road out of town. ("Must be a real emergency smut shipment!") He does happen to bail out before the crash ("After his near-death experience, Dirk learns a new appreciation for smut."), and returns to Gloria's to run into Johnny. He stalls her until Gloria shows up, and in a series of double-crosses Gloria shoots the first person to appear in the half-darkness just outside ("Oh, right in the sinister urge!") and calls the cops. It turns out she hadn't shot Johnny as she was claiming, though, but Dirk, and at last the cops are able to cart her off with one last condemnation of "pornography" ("That's what I'm in the mood for!")

There could certainly be better condemnations of pornography than this movie; I suppose the awareness it comes to us through the agency of Ed Wood lends an extra frisson the "riffing" doesn't quite spell out itself. The episode itself still seems fun, though. As if loosely inspired by the moralising, the "host segments" are built around Frank being influenced by action movies to prepare to blow up Deep 13 and our heroes doing their (approximate) best to stop him, the whole thing played for obvious absurdity.

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