krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
In the clutches of "Manos: The Hands of Fate," Joel tries to rally his robot friends with "We survived 'Monster A-Go-Go,' we can survive this!" Now, as I close out rewatching and commenting on the fourth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I've reached that earlier episode myself. To put it in a few words, it's its own unique challenge.

After Crow and Tom convert the Satellite of Love into a micro-cheeserie ("America is leaning on cheese!" Crow yells over the din), the competitive theme for the "Invention Exchange" is action figures with the stakes being able to watch Local Hero or "Monster A-Go-Go." Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank introduce "Johnny Longtorso, the doll who is himself sold separately." After an darkly enthusiastic explanation of how all the body parts add up to cost three hundred dollars (and a response of "Evil! You are evil! Evil!" from Gypsy), the robots respond with the affordable, nonviolent figures "Action Oxford" (even if this gets into "Shakespeare authorship denial"), "WoodScrew TapeWorm" (the figure first on display is just his host), and "Wilma Rudolph." The impartial judge Frank, though, declares Deep 13 the winner, and a gloating Dr. Forrester sends our heroes not just "a little spittle called Monster A-Go-Go" but the short "Circus on Ice." ("You got your circus on my ice!" "Hey, you got your ice on my circus!" "Two bad things that go worse together!")

Not that long after "Johnny at the Fair's" visit to the CNE, this short returns to Toronto for an ice skating show with a circus theme. Skating "zebras" ("Yes, it's sexist male fantasies on ice!") and a "fawn" being shot ("Shut up and watch the deer get slaughtered! It's fun!") are odd enough, but I suppose I do wonder if this, along with "Here Comes the Circus," gets just a little too eager to assault an unassuming old-fashioned target.

Then, it's off to "Monster A-Go-Go" ("Oh, that's a new LA club." "'Monster A-Go-Go?' I thought it was going to be Munster Go Home.") itself. Joel and Tom have misgivings straight off; Crow manages to hold out until the end of the credits. Then, it's on to a forceful narrator proclaiming at length how astronaut Frank Douglas, fired into space to investigate an unknown satellite, went out of contact even as his capsule touched down near Chicago. Some military officers drive into a field in an unmarked car and talk to some unintelligible people over the radio ("Take the kazoo out of your mouth!" "They're talking to Charlie Brown's mom!"), and a helicopter swoops in ("Oh, yeah. This was when NASA was just a car and a helicopter."), only for its pilot to also disappear. The capsule does turn up, though, or at least a diminutive cutout resemblant of a Mercury spacecraft. ("Douglas was pear-shaped, very short, and stood the whole way.") Then, the helicopter pilot is found, the side of his face not on camera apparently mangled by the monster.

Minor issues at a young adult party are linked in a fashion by the narrator to a monster waiting to strike, and then one of the scientists trying to find Douglas goes back to the field and, at length, gets strangled by the tall, bald, lumpy-faced monster made of Douglas. This is discovered by his companions, and then all of a sudden we're dealing with a completely different set of people centred at a lab. At long last, one of them is established by the narrator to be dosing Douglas with anti-radiation drugs, only for Douglas to break free and wreck the lab off-camera. ("It might have been nice to show that scene with the monster, but use your imagination! It was true horror.") The Army gets involved (even as the jangling phone rings that jolted our heroes get succeeded by somebody making a ringing noise), and after the monster scares off a group of women ("This is the a-go-go part here") and (apparently) does something at the end of an otherwise pointless stalled-car scene ("You know, four movies went into the making of this film."), at last a radioactive Douglas (now looking somewhat different than before) is hunted down through a deserted Chicago... and then the narrator breaks in to explain "There was no giant, no monster, no thing called Douglas to be followed," ("There was no dignity for anyone who worked on this film!"), and adds "Frank Douglas was rescued alive, well, and of normal size some eight thousand miles away." Our heroes boo the experience as they make their getaway.

Where "Manos: The Hands of Fate" was at least the singular vision of a fertilizer salesman from Texas, "Monster A-Go-Go" was a half-finished movie by Bill Rebane (who managed to turn out a complete picture of comparable notoriety a decade later with "The Giant Spider Invasion") stretched out with new scenes by Herschell Gordon Lewis to fill the bottom half of a double bill. There's not a lot in it, and perhaps comments I've noticed how the Best Brains were still learning to say funny things about things like "Manos" apply in their own somewhat darker way to this episode. The "host segments" pointedly respond to the pointlessness of the movie by going "off-topic," with Gypsy wondering about how she doesn't "get" Crow ("Is it that I work off UNIX and can use a variety of operating systems?") or Tom ("Nobody does! I'm the wind, baby!"), Joel and Tom tossing a ball over Crow's head, and Crow and Tom grilling Joel about "The Pina Colada Song." At the end of it all, Joel does his very best to cheer up Tom (now "a happy king!") and Crow ("Joel, I beg you not pronounce me Sir Giggles von Laughsalot."); Dr. Forrester continues to gloat at least until Frank suggests a Matlock marathon to take advantage of their Earthbound freedom of action. With that, I'm through the fourth season, not quite as "structured" as most of the third season's alternation between North American and Japanese movies, finding smaller recurring themes in the "Hercules" movies and the Rocky Jones adventures, and perhaps by its close beginning to transition towards moods to come in the fifth season, which holds all of the three episodes I have remaining to rewatch and comment on.

Date: 2012-10-31 02:44 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thrush
Funny review! I find this episode easier to sit through than Manos (or other abysmal outings like Beast of Yucca Flats), but I haven't seen it in some time so I can't put it any more intelligently than to say I enjoyed the humour here more consistently. Part of this may be that I never had a big issue with host segments following topics other than the movies themselves. Maybe that helps explain why I don't have issues with the Season 8 host segments?

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