krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
The Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes I could identify as overt "ripoffs" of some popular movie always seemed to be particular milestones in my rewatching and commenting on them. It turned out, though, that there's still one of them left even now, if a ripoff of a 1970s TV series. It's true that my own knowledge of both that decade and of the specific show being ripped off is pretty much second-hand, but that doesn't quite seem to matter with "Angels Revenge"... ("Gabriel is out for justice." "This is so timely because angels are real popular right now.")

The "1970s theme" is established from the beginning with Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank dressed as their "favourite Seventies relief pitchers, Tug McGraw and Rollie Fingers," although they do dose the Satellite of Love's food to turn our heroes into the cast of "Renegade." This is proclaimed to be all in the name of higher ratings, and a similar gambit in the seventh season does leave me wondering if the "Best Brains" were making a subtle response to Comedy Central as their time together ran down. As for the movie itself, things start off in medias res with six women (with that many of them, two of them can be visible minorities) in white jumpsuits (all unzipped halfway down in the front) preparing to storm a country "compound." ("So these were the Carter years." "I do sense a malaise here.") Despite some uncertainty about one of them trying to take out a guard tower on her own, a customised armoured van gets them through the front gates ("It's the T and A-Team!"), and then as cartoon sound effects are added to the fight and bombs are stuffed down the chimney an only somewhat awkward voiceover gets around to explaining how all of this happened...

When things go wrong between a high school junkie, his pusher, and the pusher's immediate supervisor (played by Jack Palance, if with somewhat less screen dominance than in "Outlaw"; here, though, he doesn't have the aid of giant hats), the student's teacher meets up with a Vegas entertainer related in some fashion to the student and they start enlisting the aid of other women, including a motorcycle stunt driver, a martial arts expert, a model to distract the men, and a security guard or something. ("She's flat, but I think we can trust her.") One of the teacher's female students is sort of tagging along by this point. To collect weapons, they scout and storm a local right-wing militia compound (commanded in "humorous" fashion by Jim Backus). Then, they threaten the pusher with emasculation to get information from him ("It's Dworkin-fest 78." "They're revoking his member-ship!"), hang out on the beach in swimsuits until they can intercept a drug shipment, and finally get back to where the movie started as the compound blows up. ("So they just destroyed all the drugs in the world." "The War on Drugs was never sexier.")

The drug ring rallies, though, and Jack Palance manages to turn the tables on the teacher after she subdues him. It's up to the student to get everyone else ("This looks like a job for Girl Woman!"), and in a final confrontation the bad guys are all either gunned down or handcuffed and locked up with savage guard dogs. It's the student herself who shoots the drug ring's leader (played by Peter Lawford), and this apparently makes her a full-fledged and jumpsuited member of the group.

The whole thing is apparently meant to be "funny," and having meditated somewhat of late on whether Mystery Science Theater could just let exasperation boil over when trying to deal with this I suppose I was pleased to have the sense the show's humour wasn't impaired. It's just possible to wonder about the episode managing to not only present exploitation but also make "dumb broad" jokes while clearly using them to criticise the movie, and without ever being blunt. The "host segments," while they do lead off with that ambiguous sense of the sixth season having our heroes "casually cruel" (as Crow insists Mike whack him with a mallet to cure the amnesia he can remember in elaborate detail having had before), follow up with a sort of surreal briefness in the style of the 1970s, with Crow writing the blaxploitation script "Chocolate Jones and the Temple of Funk," Tom and Crow blasting Mike with a cannon when he tries imitating Fonzie ("Sorry we had to destroy you, Mike."), and Aaron Spelling's house flying past the Satellite of Love. ("Don't disturb it. It might charge.") At the end of it all, to make up for having dressed as Seventies relief pitchers, Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank dress as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.

That ambiguity already mentioned aside, the sixth season of Mystery Science Theater does stick in my mind in a way it may not for other people. The MSTings I first learned about the show from were written with Mike being tormented by Dr. Forrester, with TV's Frank there as often as not, and that just may have led to a feeling of being just as surprised to first hear about "Joel" as to hear about "Pearl Forrester." I get enjoyment out of sixth-season episodes others have difficulty with, which just perhaps adds to a sense of it being a "personal favourite."

Date: 2012-10-05 04:08 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thrush
Great review! I have been wanting to revisit this episode for some time now. It was a favourite of mine back in the day, but I do not own a copy and so haven't seen it in years.

I am in the camp that finds the sixth season a little less enjoyable but this episode is definitely an exception. I really agree with what you said about the Brains finding genuinely funny, clever ways to critique the sexism in the film without becoming too snarky. I also agree that some of the violence in this season does seem especially random.

Date: 2012-10-06 01:56 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thrush
Haha, interesting indeed! ^m^

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