krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Entering into the fifth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 also brings us to Joel's last half-season as host. Many people (including me) have a great appreciation for his last episode, "Mitchell," but to me the first episode of that season is also a personal favourite.

"Warrior of the Lost World" is one more of the low-budget post-apocalyptic action movies that appeared on the show, but one of the more distinguishing things about it to me is an even more common theme of MST3K movies. A great many of them have barely competent protagonists who appear to have been intended to be heroes but don't seem to accomplish very much on their own. After an opening crawl that's sort of hard to read ("The unclear war has been forgot?" "All gummy mints have colitis?"), we meet a prime example of these characters in the Warrior of the Lost World himself. He may have been intended to be rugged and laconic, but instead he's puffy-faced, unshaven, and mumbles. After demonstrating his ability to penetrate the "wall of illusion" by apparently not watching where he's going and driving his talking speedcycle straight into a canyon wall, he's selected to rescue an important professor from "the Omega," the fascistic rulers of the half-empty future. His extreme initial reluctance to do this is handled by the professor's daughter (played by Persis Khambatta from "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," but with hair) taking his gun without his noticing and threatening to shoot him.

After gunning down (with absurd electronic sound effects) endless ranks of Omega minions who carry on the proud tradition of not being able to hit the good guys, the Warrior rescues the professor (whose appearance inspires a whole slew of Jimmy Carter references) but manages to leave his daughter behind. He's then cajoled into entering a last-man-standing mass brawl, which rallies a whole two or three dozen post-apocalyptic anarchists to storm the Omega stronghold. After much smashing of trucks together and flaming cars plunging into abandoned quarries ("This isn't Mad Max, it's Sad Max!"), the Warrior finds the daughter, who's been brainwashed by the evil overlord, played by Donald Pleasance. Here, though, my coming to many cultural references second-hand may have tripped me up. I first thought that Pleasance's character had a strong "Doctor Evil" from "Austin Powers" resonance to him, and then I remembered that he had played a James Bond villain, which is probably where the connection comes from. The Warrior doesn't seem to do very much in the final rescue (and completely misses the sequel hook of suspicious survival and pointless betrayal), but does get to plant a big sloppy kiss right on the daughter before he leaves in the direction he came from at the start of the movie.

The riffing is very sharp by this point, and carries the audience almost without effort through scenes that might have seemed draggy. The one point about it that does seem to not agree with me is the great enthusiasm Joel, Tom, and Crow show for "Megaweapon," a large black dump truck used by the Omega. It did explain a reference in one of the first MSTings I read, but perhaps I see it as getting excited over nothing and then gloating when Megaweapon runs over the Warrior's speedcycle, as if it's being punished for the sin of being annoying, a sin I somehow find far less egregious in fictional characters than most seem to. However, the speedcycle is fixed up in the final scenes.

I had thought about watching Joel's last and Mike's first episodes as host before I leave the fifth season, but I may skip that now. In that case, I've reached the end of a Mystery Science Theater era.

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