krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
My viewing of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes that I've thought of as ripoffs of the 1960s James Bond movies (although I suppose it's possible I might find more if I thought about it) has come to an end with "Agent For H.A.R.M." (although the "riffing" seems to frequently identify that agent, Adam Chance, as "from H.A.R.M."). The episode is distinctive in another way for me: it was the first from the show's "Sci-Fi Channel years" that I managed to see. I was familiar enough with the online episode guide and MSTings had generally embraced each change in the show's format, but actually seeing (and hearing) these new characters was something.

Fortunately, the episode itself is pretty good. The opening minutes of the movie are a particularly fast-paced assemblage of entertaining "riffing" as Dr. Jan Steffanic and an assistant with "David Lynch hair" blow one single Soviet soldier heading through "the eastern Europe part of southern California" but still get betrayed by their contact. The assistant is turned into a lightly bubbling green-grey "human fungus" ("Like Larry King?") by the contact, and Dr. Steffanic then overpowers the contact ("I am mighty Elderly Man!") and gets away in a "Deadhead van."

At this point, after an opening sequence with a "generic-'60s-spy movie theme" (yet still catchy for me) and "pointy credits," H.A.R.M. itself is brought in. Agent Adam Chance notes another agent being killed in Naples, but instead he's being sent to near San Diego to protect Dr. Steffanic. This assignment comes from a spy boss played by Wendell Corey, who I was later to discover some years later had also appeared in the rather earlier Mystery Science Theater episode "Women of the Prehistoric Planet," also seeming to be "either drunk or very ill during filming."

Finding Steffanic and his rather attractive niece in a beach house, Adam Chance also becomes entangled with a group of European agents preparing to dust America's crops with "spore." One agent inspires an endless series of "preppy" riffs even as Adam Chance, now sporting a yellow cardigan, strangles him with a coat hanger ("Pops, there's a man giving the squish-squash to the old wind tube") and sends his generic-looking "Dry Cleaning" van over a cliff ("Say, the old top-knot seems to be in flames, old trench"), and another one inspires an even more endless series of "Prince" references. Finally, Adam Chance has whittled the enemy agents down to just their leader ("So he's really a serial killer sanctioned by the government"), whereupon Dr. Steffanic manages to pour powdered "spore" all over the leader ("And the agent hangs back while the injured elderly scientist does everything!") with the hopes that his newly developed antidote will protect him. Unfortunately, it doesn't. However, Adam Chance springs the news on us from out of nowhere that the professor's niece was actually another agent, and lays on the smarm pretty thick as the riffing gets a little nasty in the last minutes of the movie.

The "host segements" involve Mike being put on trial for "the wanton and cruel destruction of many planets," which was a point brought up in several MSTings. He fumbles his way into selecting Professor Bobo as his defence and Pearl Forrester as the prosecution. While the testimony of Mike's robot friends doesn't really help either, Mike's death sentence is commuted to community service because he's "basically an amiable lug."

The nastiness of the riffing in the last minutes of the movie may have actually knocked down some of the points I was giving it for its poverty of scope ("By this time in a James Bond movie there would have been ten helicopter explosions, eight ski chases..."), and that may mean that my favourite two 1960s James Bond ripoffs of the show are "Operation Double 007" for its not that shabby production values and "Danger!! Death Ray" for being perhaps just a little more likeable. Still, this little subgenre of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes is all in all an entertaining one.

March 2017

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