krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
In wondering just what episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 I would next watch, I began wondering about one of the first "not available on official video" outings I managed to see. For all that I had a genuine interest in wanting to see "San Francisco International" again, it was more just available at the time than something I had heard about and been wanting to see, though, and it might be easy enough to outright brush it off as one of the "just there" episodes, a data point in the mutterings of some about how the sixth season of the series seemed to scrape a little for raw material and a TV pilot converted into a TV movie, complete with obvious commercial break moments. ("This movie just staggers from one commercial break to another.") As well, I could remember that most of the host segments were built around just one joke, Mike doing an impression of "Urkel" and everyone (including a good number of "special guest appearance" characters who had shown up in previous episodes to add just a trace of spice) breaking down in uproarious laughter until at last Torgo himself (played by Mike Nelson, which might be mildly interesting in the context) shambles in as the one unamused character, whereupon everyone comes down and wanders away. Whatever point all of it makes is made more subtly and pleasantly than it perhaps might have been, but it was something ambiguous to remember (along with the strangeness of seeing Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank as shirtless building contractors at the beginning, and Mike whacking Tom and Crow with a board, which was one of the first things to make me wonder about that point in the show's history having our heroes being "casually cruel" to each other)... and then I was surprised to see that the very first "host segment" is a "political debate" between Crow and Tom Servo, involving them tossing barbs such as "Dill is a good spice! I will not have it maligned!" and "But horseradish does not go with chicken!" back and forth at each other. All of a sudden, I was perhaps a bit more interested in the episode than I might have been.

The movie (or TV movie) itself seems set at that precise moment where the nostalgic appeal of the 1960s "Jet Age" wears down into the earth tones ("Even the sky is brown in this movie.") and easy jokes of the 1970s. Pernell Roberts, who the "riffing" keeps reminding us was in "Bonanza" (although it may assume as a whole a greater familiarity with TV actors of the 1960s and 1970s than I actually have) plays the administrator of the San Francisco International Airport. He starts off informing the members of Congress on a special flight that he's also on that there's a problem with the landing gear, and the emergency forces roll out as the jet comes in... ("You could cut the tension with a dull object.") ...and then we learn it was just a regular drill, one Pernell uses to suggest that his airport get increased funding. A very complicated caper follows to try and steal three million dollars loaded as air freight, involving two hostage takings and threatening an airline pilot to make him delay his flight ("I'm a pilot; I'm not used to pressure!") and dressing up as a priest ("So, do the Jesuits carry guns too?") and snipping through a chainlink fence and loading magazines into the trunk of a car. ("I didn't know international smuggling would involve so much heavy lifting!") Pernell and his airport chief of security, played by Clu Gulager, eventually figure out what's going on and how to foil it, leaving Gulager enough time to defuse a tiny situation involving a definite "square" freaking out on a convenient "hippie" with remarkably short hair and beard ("Oh, he's a made for TV hippie!") and Pernell the chance to leap into his own small plane and talk down a teenaged kid who stumbled into an aerial joyride after spending most of the movie upset that his mother is breaking up with his successful but busy columnist father. The "riffing" is pretty mean on poor "Davey" right from the start ("Uh, Davey, I need to know where your dental records are." "Oh, and Davey, when you die, there's only a dark numbingness awaiting you, okay?" "Davey, you're going to meet a man in a black robe wanting to play chess with you."), but in the end it does finally feel entertaining. The same just might be said for the episode itself.

Date: 2008-09-28 11:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jeffwik.livejournal.com
It's one of my favorites, actually. When I think of MST3k and its fodder, the overblown performances and ham-fisted exposition in this ep are what I think of.

Date: 2008-09-29 09:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] krpalmer.livejournal.com
It just goes to show that one person's "interesting in part through an accident of personal history" episode is another's "type case." (Actually, when looking up other opinions (http://kernunrex.blogspot.com/2007/01/mst3k-614.html), I noticed a pretty positive (http://mst3kfanguide.blogspot.com/2007/01/614-san-francisco-international.html) overview where I just might have been expecting a less impressed (http://mst3kfanguide.blogspot.com/2007/01/season-six-violent-video-vixens-or.html) take.)

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