krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
I've finished the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Robot Holocaust," with it finishing off the "Joel episodes" (those shown on cable, anyway). When I realised how close I was to finishing, the episodes I had skipped to that point were down to ones from the first season. I had gathered an impression that "Robot Holocaust" was one of that season's better outings, and decided to watch it last.

Like many others from that season, though, "Robot Holocaust" starts with another instalment in the long-running adventures of "Commando Cody and the Radar Men From the Moon"... which cuts off a few minutes in with an embarrassed slide of the mad scientists claiming that "the film broke." It's likely that the movie needed only a few minutes of padding added to stretch the episode out to full length... but in a way, I can see how some see it as a fitting "goodbye and good riddance" to the serial. The low-budget action (Commando Cody's rocket-pack flight is stock footage lifted from a previous serial, and would be reused again for a third chapter-play) started to blur together after a while, and most of the cliffhangers went so far as to imply Cody was just plain killed (whether through ray-gun disintegration, molten rock flooding in, cars being bombed off bridges, or planes being blown up) only to, at the start of each next chapter, cut in a scene showing him just getting out of the way before last week's exciting conclusion. Even so, I was still interested to discover that the concluding instalments are available for download at the Internet Archive... and then I found that the next chapter after the one Mystery Science Theater ended with was a "clip show" with Cody sitting in his office discussing his previous escapes.

As for the movie itself, the "riffing" was still from the first season. While it somehow didn't feel as sparse as some other episodes do, it wasn't quite as sharp to me as later seasons became. The movie itself, though, carried more of the weight this time. Joel and the bots were excited to hear it was in colour, but more importantly to me, it was from the 1980s. A lot of the Mystery Science Theater movies that were made in the 1950s can feel a little ponderous to me. Those from the 1960s can be sleazy, but they also include some of the most harrowingly yet hilariously incompetent outings the series had to offer to me ("Monster A Go-Go," "The Creeping Terror," the "Coleman Francis trilogy," and "Manos: The Hands of Fate" itself). Movies from the 1970s can carry an intriguing yet bleak everybody-dies burden ("The Incredible Melting Man," "The Touch of Satan," and "Blood Waters of Dr. Z"). The movies from the 1980s, though, seem to pack most of the incompetence of the 1960s with the faint but unmistakable air of being attempts to cash in all wrapped up in budgets far too minimal for what they're trying to show.

Drawing another unexpected yet intriguing connection between the Mystery Science Theater canon, "Robot Holocaust" started with the droning and low-key yet somehow memorable theme music from "Laserblast," a movie made earlier but shown on the series seasons later. It was an auspicious opening, and "Robot Holocaust" followed up with plenty of low-budget cheese, including generic post-apocalyptic barbarian costumes, outdoor locations the riffers kept mentioning had a suspicious resemblance to Central Park, indoor locations including a disused factory (which reminded me of "Space Mutiny,") sock-puppet worm monsters and a spider monster we see one leg of, and exactly four robots. That said, one of the robot suits did have a sort of unique ugliness to it. The riffing kept making crustacean jokes, and I've noticed some modern-day fans talking about an "evil Dr. Zoidberg" (from Futurama.) One of the more memorable characters from what I've heard is Valeria, the woman assisting the robots. However, for some reason I didn't find her accent quite as incomprehensible as others have always said, and some of the repeated riffs about her seemed a little flat to me because of that.

Only one episode remains! How will it all end?

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