krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Getting to the "final five" episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 I still have to rewatch and comment on, I'm closing out the eighth season (and the whole "Sci-Fi Channel era") with "The Horror of Party Beach." ("Ah, the only real horror at Party Beach is Cindy's cheese dip.") When it began to really register on me how few episodes I had left to watch the first time, I managed to save one from the eighth season to be the very last. I'm not doing that this time around, but that's not to disparage this episode.

Things start off with Tom Servo becoming a Gyuto monk and (apparently) tapping into the cosmos itself through his chanting, and then it's down to "Roman times," where Pearl Forrester and "Brain Guy" the Observer ran into trouble at the end of the previous episode. Kevin Murphy as Callipygeas, managing (for a while) to get out from under the Professor Bobo makeup and costume, hits it off with "Brain Guy"; Bridget Jones as Flavia doesn't get along quite so well with Pearl. As for the movie, it starts with "1960s movie 'teenagers'" heading to a black-and-white Connecticut beach as drums of radioactive waste are tossed over the side of a boat offshore. ("Oh, it's an Exxon training film." "Shouldn't we dump this in a poor black neighbourhood or an Indian reservation?") One of them immediately comes open ("Just another day at Love Canal.") and transmogrifies a human skeleton ("Sure, most radiation is harmful eventually, but ours does massive damage in a matter of seconds.") into a ridiculous monster (compared at times to Cookie Monster himself) with what might be pickles or hot dogs stuffed into its mouth. ("So radiation has a sense of humour!")

In the meantime, a surf band plays, sexist, exploitative jokes are made, there's a lot of beach dancing (our heroes are rather more disturbed by the men admittedly in Speedo-type swimwear than by the women), and the couple in the film's opening moments aren't getting along. Tina flirts through suggestive dance with the leader of a motorcycle gang much larger than that of "Wild Rebels," and Hank Green gets into a choreographed fight with the gang. ("Fight direction by William Shatner.") Annoyed by this, Tina heads out to sea even as the festivities pick up again and is caught by the monster. ("You think a lot of people who make movies have issues with women?")

Hank starts getting over this loss by meeting up with his old friend Elaine Gavin, who lives with her scientist father and their black maid Eulabelle, who's convinced the goings-on are the result of voodoo. In the meantime, the multiplying monsters kill an entire slumber party ("Don't even know what panties are but they feel compelled to raid.") and three women in a car who got lost on the way to New York. ("Take a right on Monster Killing Girls Road.") Finally, after one of the monsters severs a forearm in a plate glass window trying to get at the female display mannequins, Eulabelle happens to knock a vial of "sodium" (apparently the hazardous elemental metal) over on the sample and the authorities figure out how to deal with their problem. It still takes a while for Elaine to track them down with a Geiger counter, though, as Hank speeds to a remarkably traffic-free New York City and comes back with a small metal pail of sodium. In the stunning climax, Elaine is saved in the nick of time as the authorities grab hunks of sodium with their bare hands and throw them at the monsters, which explode when they're not just bursting into flames.

Things get off to a good pace in this episode and stay entertaining throughout, the "riffing" and the ridiculousness of the movie working well together and the "host segments" adding to the fun. It was a good way to finish off the eight season, which I know has been looked at a little askance by the Best Brains themselves for being stuck with a "plot arc" by their new channel's overseers but which doesn't seem to lack for anything with the movies themselves (for all that, once upon a time, I thought there must have been "time needed to get back up to speed...")

Date: 2012-10-26 06:15 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thrush
This is one of my very favourite MST3K episodes, showcasing what I feel are seasons 8 & 9's real strong points: continuous, lightning fast riffing and moments when the jokes are so well-timed and well-placed that they nearly pass as part of the original movie. (For example, "I'm going to have to work you over".)

I feel that this film is at the optimum level of bad for me: there's really nothing good about it, with a forgettable cast, poor cinematography, recycled soundtrack, lousy (but memorable!) creature design, and a silly plot that the writers themselves seem to be confused about. At the same time, it's not so bad that it's painful: you always have a pretty good idea what's going on, the camerawork doesn't induce nausea, and it's never more than mildly offensive.

Although the Best Brains didn't enjoy the plot arc imposed on them, I also think that in season 8 they handled it quite well: all three host villains are well developed, the host segments are consistently humorous, and the never-ending string of pop sci-fi references engages my geeky side.

My favourite sequence here is the conversation between Eulabelle and Dr. Gavin that Mike & the Bots enhance: "That's enough, Eullabel, you're scaring me!" "It's a human thing, Dr. Gavin; you wouldn't understand." ^o^

Forgive the lengthy comment!

Date: 2012-10-26 10:46 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thrush
For myself, I wasn't a big fan of Pearl during the "my mother's visiting" season 7, but I feel like the Pearl+Bobo+Brain Guy combo is greater than the sum of its parts. I think this is another thing that is handled better in season 8 than in seasons 9 or 10. And as for replacing Dr. Forrester, perhaps it helps that I always enjoyed Dr. Erhardt and TV's Frank more than Dr. F. himself?

My high school friends and I watched this episode many times; it was a favourite source of inappropriate/obscure quotes during lunchtime conversation: "My skull!!"

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