krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
It's possible that when I made up my mind to watch some officially released episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that I might not have seen all that many times before, I was specifically looking forward to "The Touch of Satan." That anticipation may have come from noticing one of its more famous lines mentioned in a fan video compiling some of the greater "unbelievable" moments of the series, and while watching my way towards it I noticed a "riff"-quoting post about the episode on the [livejournal.com profile] mst3k community... (Although, in looking up the posts again, I also noticed one of those posts about "Boggy Creek 2.")

In any case, "The Touch of Satan" begins with a farmer being killed by a pitchfork-wielding leathery old woman, ("Did a plucked turkey in a wig just talk to me?") and then cuts to Jodie, a very seventies kind of guy, driving his Maverick through the California countryside (and the credits) and taking a turn off along a "two ruts in the grass" road to reach a walnut ranch where he meets the fetching young Melissa. In amongst dialogue filled with pauses, Melissa casually admits to Jodie that she's a witch, who sold her soul to the devil over a century before to save her sister Lucinda from being burned at the stake. (The leader of the old-time mob also featured prominently in "The Giant Spider Invasion," in practically the same role. Some of the "riffs" refer to this, and it was kind of fun to realise that.) The injured Lucinda is now the incoherent and homicidal old woman; if she actually had been a witch to start with, she seems to have got the raw end of the deal compared to Melissa. Then again, after finally giving up on her sister when she possibly threatens Jodie and finishing the job of burning Lucinda to death in her "hideaway shed," Melissa finds herself withering to death and Jodie sells his own soul to the devil to save her. The movie ends in that special bleak, unhappy seventies fashion I've come to associate with several Mystery Science Theater experiments from that era, with the two restored leads staring at each other, not quite sure what to do next.

With things like a walnut ranch and "This is where the fish lives" to build running gags around, I found the "riffing" quite funny, even when it's dwelling on the lengthy and numerous pauses in the dialogue. ("Weren't they concerned about holding an audience in the seventies at all?" "Well, talkies were still a novelty back then.") The host segments are notable for having Pearl Forrester missing, and Mary Jo Pehl, who plays her, is also missing from the writing credits, but this temporary absence is endurable. However, the film print isn't a particularly good one. Not only does it still open with its "GP" rating card and is full of scratches around the reel changes, but everything seems to have that slight "ghost" effect you get with bad TV reception. This doesn't get riffed on.

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