krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
I suppose I'm getting back into my usual routine by commenting on a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. At the same time, I only have ten left to comment on; I now seem in the definite final countdown. That feeling of closing things off begins as I complete the third season with "Earth vs. the Spider" ("I'll put my money on the spider.")... but before the movie, with Bert I. Gordon once more inflicting amazing colossal beings on the world, there's also a short.

"Speech: Using Your Voice" provides bizarre examples of how not to talk as a professor-type explains that we must be heard, we must be understood, and we must be pleasing. ("Do I please you? Do you find me pleasing?") As might be expected, our heroes also find plenty of amusement in the admonishment to "use plenty of lip and tongue action." It so happened that the professor-type also appeared in the short "Speech: Platform Posture and Appearance," and that did make me wonder a while ago whether the episode itself ought to serve as an additional prologue to the "Coleman Francis trilogy." In the end, though, I decided to leave it for later; a part of me does want to say the later short had snappier, more entertaining "riffing."

As for the movie, it begins with a somewhat unattractive older gentlemen driving through the night with a small present for his daughter when he gets into a blood-spattering accident. ("I'm guessing the film is not about him.") His teenaged daughter Carol Flynn gets her boyfriend Mike Simpson to borrow his friend's hot rod ("They're driving in a hot tub!"), and they cruise out into the countryside to find the poignant gift ("Dear Carol. I'm dead. Enjoy.") and also a cave with a warning sign on the entrance. ("It says Danger: Weak Plot Ahead. Be careful. This means you.") Jumping at the thought that Carol's father might be taking refuge inside it, they press on through cave formations added via process shots until they tumble into a remarkably net-like web. ("Oh! It's the cave of the Flying Wallendas!") Then, a giant tarantula shows up... ("Come on, it's only a process shot.")

Managing to flee, Carol and Mike enlist the aid of their high school science teacher, introduced earlier arcing electricity between two electrodes. He mobilises the local cops, who head out to the cave with a tanker truck full of DDT. Although the deputy is killed in the process (his resemblance to Dr. Laurence Erhardt from the beginning of Mystery Science Theater prompting a horrified response), the spider is gassed into apparent submission and dragged out to the high school gymnasium. However, a conductor-led rock band of suspiciously old-looking "teenagers" is intent on practicing ("Okay, we'll open with Rite of Spring and kick right into Blue Suede Shoes."), and as everyone piles in to dance the spider revives. ("I got eight legs! I wanna dance!") As people look up in horror ("Everyone's afraid of those crane shots!"), the spider roams through town via some occasionally rather transparent effects. ("Industrial Light and Magic, you've done it again.")

In the meantime, Carol realises she's misplaced her deceased father's bracelet, and gets Mike to borrow his friend's hot rod again to go and search the cave. She manages to find the bracelet only to be threatened by the spider. In the meantime, the local authority figures have dynamited the cave entrance, and have to dig back into it. ("Big sweaty men working long hours to get the job done! Desperately in need of Aqua Velva.") The science teacher finally gets some electrodes hooked up to the town's power supply, and with the aid of Mike electrocutes the spider so that it winds up impaled on some stalagmites.

It's easy enough to figure out how the film stretches itself along with the teenagers putting themselves back into danger, and the best parts of the "riffing" may be packed into the middle of the episode. The "host segments" are interesting, though, with Crow presenting his screenplay "Earth vs. Soup," our heroes becoming the progressive rock band "Spy-Dor" only for their performance to be interrupted by Mike Nelson as a "janitor from the seventh galaxy" (a little before the janitor shows up in the movie itself, which manages to be commented on), and Joel rambling about dangerous yet entertaining toys from the 1960s. With that, I've now commented on all of the third season episodes. I've gathered that to those who were following along at the time, it does seem a first golden age for the series, with an interesting structure of alternating between North American movies (starting with the "Film Ventures International" repackaging of then-recent cheesy movies and moving on to the rich nostalgia of black and white movies from the 1950s) and Japanese movies as brought to us by Sandy Frank. At the same time, as much as I appreciate or want to appreciate the now seemingly gentle ribbing, it can seem to be a matter of references to things I'm too young to get, and something about the longer episodes back then can have an ambiguous air of "is it over yet?" to me.

Date: 2012-09-09 04:29 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thrush
Just have to chime in again to agree with your assessment of Season 3. Although I haven't seen every episode I, too, feel that this is the first really solid season. And while I do agree that the show overall got noticeably harsher as time wore on I also have a hard time penetrating many of the references from the earlier seasons.

That said, the longevity of the show has been greatly enhanced for me because as I get older and my nerd horizons expand I get new jokes. So maybe one day I'll be able to pick out gems from the first three seasons that I don't get now....

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