krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
So far as titles of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes go, "Invasion of the Neptune Men" is one of those I can roll around until it starts sounding ridiculous all by itself. That, though, does seem to draw comparisons with "The Robot versus the Aztec Mummy," a title attached to an early and somewhat dragging episode, and I do have the sense the second Japanese movie of the eighth season has a reputation among at least some fans as one of the outright "difficult" episodes of the series. While I have seen it before, I recall not having quite the same enthusiastic personal reaction to it as to the "Coleman Francis trilogy," which I pretty much just shrug off the complaints of others about. That left me wondering just what I'd make of it this time around.

Things start off with an extended-length opening "host segment," in which Tom and Crow (with the aid of an issue of National Geographic) hector Mike about his "eyelash mites" and send the nanites in to clean him up with pretty much predictable results. Down in "Roman times," Pearl and Observer show a lack of enthusiasm for Bobo having become the "Mad Goth," but still manage to send our heroes the movie. It starts off with a gaggle of nameless Japanese boys talking with a young, ample-haired scientist about recent advances in space exploration, and then charging off into the woods thinking they've seen a satellite landing, where they instead discover a full-sized spaceship. ("A prefab Lutheran church.") The Neptune Men themselves then appear ("Don't worry kids; it's a promotional gimmick for Sushi Cereal."), mute aliens with pointed helmets, but just as they're about to swarm the kids ("So the aliens come and strangle little kids. Thank you, Japan!") a hero in a sort of flying car arrives and defeats the aliens in an elaborately choreographed battle. ("Come on I want to jump around while you fall down more.") The kids settle on calling him "Space Chief" with remarkable speed, but he just takes off again.

This encounter, as seems usual for the Japanese movies of the series, lets the kids hang around Japan's most brilliant scientists as they prepare to set up protective "electrobarriers." Perhaps surprisingly for movies of this sort in general, the Neptune Men are repelled by it the first time. They manage to transform themselves into lipsticked soldiers (the white gloves, though, seem standard issue), only for Space Chief to show up and save the day again, and then there's some unseasonable snow, but this seems taken care of in short order. ("A quick and pointless plot cul-de-sac is over!")

Then, though, the Neptune Men spaceship has managed to get inside the barrier, and after a frenzied evacuation a very extended aerial battle ensues, what seems stock footage of actual buildings blowing up in World War II deployed ("No! Not the shrimp paste tanks!") even as Space Chief (eventually) shows up in his flying car to battle the small Neptune Men craft. A quick cut shows a building with a giant picture of Adolf Hitler being blown up, and after freaking out over this our heroes seem to start struggling with a lone hero who doesn't say anything battling aliens who don't talk. Tom has a sudden spell of insisting the movie is The Magnificent Ambersons before breaking down and sobbing he doesn't even like that movie, and first Mike and then Crow step out of the theatre before returning in time for Tom's angry "song about stock footage." Finally, though, the conventional military deploys its own missiles (as there's a not quite spelled out suggestion Space Chief might be the ample-haired scientist), and the Neptune Men spaceship is blown up.

I am tempted to say it's the final aerial battle that sits on the heads of people and crushes them; I had wondered earlier about Space Chief and the Neptune Men not having the ridiculousness heartiness of Prince of Space and the inhabitants of Krankor (the leader of who visits the Satellite of Love right when our heroes are at their bleakest, but before the aerial battle starts), but then found myself wondering if the lack of dialogue opens up space for "riffing." Things do seem to slide somewhat from a first "host segment" with Mike "messing with" Tom and Crow about Kabuki and Noh theatre to Crow making up a "suggestion box" for Japan asking that it, among other things, "reconsider cartoon gun-toting, big-eyed, prepubescent blondes as your national hero," but in the end things hold together enough for at least the entire episode not to seem "difficult."

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