krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
I'm returning to the earliest days of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (on cable, at least) to take a look at "The Robot versus the Aztec Mummy." Like "Invasion of the Neptune Men," "Godzilla versus Megalon," and perhaps also "Teenagers from Outer Space," the title seems to pack a hefty dose of ridiculousness right in itself. In these early days of the series, though, the ridiculousness of the title may somehow outweigh all of the "riffing..."

The episode starts not with the now-familiar banter between Joel and the "bots," but with banter between Dr. Clayton Forrester and Dr. Laurence Erhardt down in Deep 13. Joel appears alone on the simple Satellite of Love bridge set to show off his "airbag helmet," and then it's off to the theatre, where Tom and Crow enter with Joel. We're treated to the first of the "Commando Cody and the Radar Men from the Moon" shorts; when the somehow childish-sounding early Crow mutters "There's always a boring short," the Tom voiced by Josh Weinstein responds with "My shorts are never boring!" Years later, Tom's underwear collection would start being mentioned... In the short itself, with (model) oil rigs and power lines and trains blowing up, the authorities have figured out that this seems connected to the Moon, and get in touch with Commando Cody himself, who's working with his small team to build a rocket ship. Cody uses his "flying suit" (using footage, so I've heard, from a previous serial) to fly in and capture the truck-carried atomic ray gun operated by two gangsters hired by a single Moon man. The gangsters, who don't seem to care about the impending invasion from the Moon so long as they're paid ("Yeah, well paid, but in moon rocks!") let themselves into Cody's lab and beat up the people there with much smashing of prop lab stools, then leave. Cody bounces back and takes off with his team for the Moon, flying through a suspiciously pale sky until they arrive. ("Hey, the Moon looks just like Arizona, you guys.") Cody is invited into the inner sanctum of the Moon's leader, who explains all before adding that obviously Cody won't get to leave. Another donnybrook breaks out ("You can see they're a more advanced civilization. Their furniture doesn't break!") until at last it seems that Cody's been blown up by a portable if slow to reload ray gun... but just wait for next week. The shorts did seem to wear out their welcome fairly early on among fans and the show's creators alike.

The movie itself hails from Mexico, and a considerable amount of it is made up of flashbacks, conceivably from the previous movie in its series. A Mexican savant informs his friends that he used hypnotic regression to learn that his wife was an Aztec sacrifice in a previous life, and the only thing to do to prove it was to raid a tomb to find the artifacts buried with the sacrifice. However, it turned out that those artifacts were also being guarded by the gruesome-looking mummy of the Aztec warrior sacrificed at the same time, and a series of encounters with the Aztec mummy followed, in which he seemed to change from a mere antagonist to somewhat helpful, what with an evil savant out to steal the artifacts for himself. It seems the flashbacks finally trail off around the time the mad scientist invents the robot, or rather "the human robot," with the face of the man inside it obviously visible through its water jug-shaped head. Lumbering and kneeless, the robot battles the Aztec mummy, but is put out of action when the good guys surprise the mad scientist and knock his control box out of his hands, and the Aztec mummy demolishes the robot. The good guys finally decide to just give the artifacts to the Aztec mummy and be done with it.

Strange enough in synopsis, the movie and the episode do seem to drag somewhat with the sparse early "riffing," noticeable enough during the talky scenes in "Commando Cody." (In the show's official episode guide, Frank Conniff, whose last episode with the show also happened to be a Mexican movie, comments that the other "Best Brains" didn't seem to enjoy the original experience.) There seems promise enough even so, and the "host segments" feature an invasion of the Satellite of Love by "demon dogs," who cover Tom and Crow with what looks like silly string (off-camera) and whose leader is eaten by Gypsy, in her earliest role as a big dim mascot.

July 2017

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