krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
After what seemed a fairly long sojourn among the "Mike episodes," it's back to the "Joel episode" "It Conquered the World." ("Oh, they're giving away the ending!") I now have the definite feeling of starting into the last few episodes I have left to rewatch (I have to admit I've seen them all already) and comment on, but to say that I was consciously "saving my absolute favourites for last" would be too much of a stretch. However, there are certainly interesting things about the movie...

After Joel presents Crow as his ventriloquist dummy and Crow returns the favour by presenting Joel as his own dummy (complete with lots of ridiculous names) ahead of the "Invention Exchange," it's off to the short "Snow Thrills," with a fast-paced narrator accompanying some equally fast-paced pastimes in the frozen outdoors. The numerous wipeouts ("It's the agony of defeat audition!" "It's a safe and fun way to blow a Saturday! Or a knee.") add to the off-kilter but old-fashioned feel, although I do sort of have the feeling the experience doesn't quite match the all-time memorable shorts.

The movie itself features a trio of actors notable both within and without Mystery Science Theater 3000. Lee Van Cleef plays Tom Anderson, younger (and with more hair) than in "Master Ninja," but with his looks just perhaps meant to add a subtle sense of "rat-faced untrustworthiness" as he cautions officials about launching satellite. When the launch does happen, though, he takes it in stride, putting on a dinner party with his wife Claire (played by Beverly Garland, impressing the show's creators and fans just as she did in "Swamp Diamonds" and "Gunslinger") and inviting Paul Nelson (played by Peter Graves, who would later show up in "Beginning of the End" and "parts: the clonus horror"). It turns out that Tom has an elaborate radio in a curtained alcove, with which he claims to be in communication with Venus. ("You know, no arms, nice rack?" "Hey...") When the satellite spins off into space and then reappears only to crash (as a cheap special effect), he continues to take it all in stride, even as a very peculiar alien makes a perhaps-early appearance... ("Oh, great. It's a giant plastic pickle!")

The alien stops all electricity, running water, and watches (which might well have had more wind-up clockwork in them back then). This does of course bring The Day the Earth Stood Still to mind, but just to keep up the ominous undertones the alien sends out rubbery bat things that sting local officials on the back of the neck... ("I understand now! Ronald Reagan would make a great president!" "I understand now! Gallagher is funny!") Paul narrowly escapes this fate and begins some lengthy discussions with Tom over the unemotional utopia in store even as Claire's own suspicions grow. Things take a dark turn when Paul's own wife is stung; as often as these sorts of stories take the hopeful tack that to destroy the controller is to free the controlled, Paul shoots her ("Even in death her hair smells great!") and then starts gunning down the other officials. ("Um, you were all bad guys, weren't you?") In the meantime, Claire takes matters into her own hands and heads off with a rifle to take on the alien ("It's a safety cone gone horribly wrong!"); unfortunately, that weapon proves useless against it, even if her screams attract a squad of soldiers sent into the foothills on the orders of a controlled general to watch for Communist subversion. Tom manages to arrive just as half of the soldiers have been dealt with ("Uh, sir, the ambassador from Venus wants to kiss us...") and finally uses a blowtorch to burn out one of the alien's eyes and kill it even at the expense of his own life. Paul then shows up, suit and tie still as dapper as ever, and gets to make a long speech summing up the themes of the movie.

I've seen comments that this is a fairly reasonable movie from the fairly reasonable Roger Corman, and it's just the risible monster that weighs it down, but I've also seen comments the "Best Brains" were engaged enough with it to not be as funny as they could have been. Even the second set of comments might have a little resonance with me, but watching the episode I suppose I just chalked it up to the show itself being what it was back then. The "host segments" start off strong with a knockabout reinterpretation of the short narrated by Tom Servo (although I can't help but notice one of the small, fragile letters has broken off the "KSOL" microphone he's already used this season) and an even more sarcastic dinner party than in the movie; in the next segment, though, Joel mentions how the movie's a little short and they have to pad out "the experiment"; this is followed up by repeating Peter Graves's final speech twice in the closing segment and then once more over the credits, which is the sort of thing some people can get and some people can't.

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