krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Still trying to fill in one-episode gaps in my list of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes commented on, I've moved on to the eighth season. As it turns out, there's a link between "Riding With Death" ("And believe me, death does not pony up for gas.") and the last episode I commented on in that both feature William Sylvester. (However, I suppose I've opened up another "gap," if not an one-episode one for now, in that he was in a third movie featured on the series numbered in between these two...) Beyond that, I also find myself thinking about how I've looked at particular episodes with Mike in them and thought them "responses" to previous episodes (or whole genres) covered in the Joel episodes, and how "Riding With Death" ("Remember, when riding with death be sure to buckle up.") just might have a subtler connection than the ones I've thought of before. In this case, the connection is to "movies" consisting of two episodes of a TV series stuck together, in a fashion made famous by Sandy Frank and "Master Ninja"...

Things open with information being called up on screen ("This computer has over five hundred bytes of 'RAM.'") about federal agent Sam Casey (played by Ben Murphy, which seems to mean a bit more to the "riffers" than it does to me), who got a degree from Harvard Law School in "1983" but still inhabits a very sort of 1970s world. A crashed satellite he had been trying to retrieve blew up on him, but in this case "radiation" just turned him invisible, and his fellow federal agents gave him a digital watch that can turn that invisibility off and on again. He promptly puts this to good use rescuing a scientist who invented a special gas-stretching additive from the two henchmen of the international oil cartel. The scientist and the additive must be transported, and Sam is going to move them in the armoured compartment of an undercover big rig.

However, one of Sam's fellow agents, Dr. Abby Lawrence (who, Sam informs us via some strange flashbacks to a time before William Sylvester was on the series, is "some gal"), has discovered that the additive blows up after a while, and that the scientist plans to escape with the money he was given to develop it. She's promptly captured and, stuffed in a big sack, is swapped for the scientist to be blown up along with the rig. In the meantime, Sam has been in CB radio contact with singing trucker "Buffalo Bill" Joe Hickens, played by "country-novelty singer-songwriter" Jim Stafford, and saves him from hijackers. ("And his shipment of Pet Rocks is saved." "And the precious cargo of Billy Beer continues on its way." "Another shipment of Whip Inflation Now buttons!") Buffalo Bill returns the favour when Sam's brake lines get cut ("He could die and miss the Bicentennial!"), and Sam figures out what happened, cuts Abby out of the armoured compartment with a blowtorch ("So he took shop at Harvard Law School."), and gets the big rig out of a town before the scientist can machine-gun it from his helicopter. Some voiceover work has already established that Buffalo Bill is thinking about getting out of trucking and into stock car racing; more of it establishes that Sam wants a month's vacation.

One very quick cut later, more voiceover comments on how William Sylvester's character Leonard Driscoll has "grown quite a moustache" during that vacation; despite his new hirsuteness, though, he's still intent on bringing in the "elusive" Robert Denby, who seems to be connected with sabotaging various defence projects (we see stock footage of a T-38 trainer) through lacing radios with "deuterium" and then detonating them by transmitting the right frequency. He also just so happens to be connected with stock car racing, and Sam strikes up his friendship with Buffalo Bill again to get on the racing team. In the most bizarre attempt to link up the two halves of the movie, shots of Abby in a lab somewhere are connected with a screen view of barroom brawls. Then, it just so happens that Robert Denby's race car has one of those exploding radios in it, and Sam and Buffalo Bill eventually reconcile and win a race, then get the car off the race track before it can be blown up. ("They should drive into the highest concentration of race fans they can find. That'd mop up the explosion!") Driscoll tracks the detonation signal from Robert Denby's van in his own somewhat less photogenic van and brings his elusive quarry to justice at last, and once more, Abby is watching as Sam, Buffalo Bill, and Driscoll bond in the bar.

In the "host segments," after (offscreen) robots attack Pearl Forrester, Bobo, and Observer on the "camping planet," Mike manages to blow the whole world up with a baking soda and vinegar bomb. (I suppose this opens up one more gap, as he blew up another planet before this...) Pearl escapes all the same, though, and other diversions include Tom Servo giving himself a "trucker's body" and Crow becoming the superhero "Turkey Volume Guessing Man." It all makes for a "mellow" yet entertaining episode, and I did find myself thinking it's nice to have one featuring a movie from the 1970s that even I can't call "bleak."

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