krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
My trek through the "Coleman Francis episodes" of Mystery Science Theater 3000 continuess, and at the midpoint the entertaining goofiness threaded through "The Skydivers" has leached away. Even so, unlike some fans (and like some others) I do still seem to be enjoying "Red Zone Cuba" ("The Red Zone is for Cuba and un-Cuba only.")

Before the movie itself, we're treated to the short "Speech: Platform Posture and Appearance." ("Hey, Posture Pals was the definitive last word on appearance.") It's all about how to make sure your public speaking is a success by looking sharp, given how often we're evaluated by our appearance ("Yes, that's Eisenhower's America!" "Remember, appearance has a pear in it!"), and by having your posture just right. One way of doing this is to "make the knee test" ("I will not make the knee test!"), which surely has to be done in private just to get a general idea of where to place your feet, but as the short doesn't quite say that...

Then, it's on to the movie itself. A weathered John Carradine returns to Mystery Science Theater ("Was he always one hundred years old?" "This was just after he was drained of life by the succubus!"), explaining to a young reporter how he has the most tangential of connections to the rampage of "the Griffin gang." Then, with Carradine also performing the title song "Night Train to Mundo Fine" in an inimitable style, we get to the story itself, with writer-director Coleman Francis also starring as the bulky, cropped-hair escapee Griffin. "Coleman Francis is Curly Howard in The Fugitive!") He falls in with the ex-con drifters Landis (played by producer Anthony Cardoza, who also starred in "The Skydivers") and Cook, and they decide to make some money by signing up with a special military operation. Flown by "Cherokee Jack" (with the "riffing" calling back to "The Skydivers," "San Francisco International," and "The Starfighters"), our trio sign up but don't get paid cash and still can't desert anyway. After hanging around "in someone's basement apartment" and a training montage ("We do more before noon than most people do before... ten."), the tiny group "shoves off" ("You shove off!") for what we're supposed to assume is Cuba, complete with an approximation of sorts of Fidel Castro. To nobody's surprise, the softening-up attack falls apart and Griffin, Landis, and Cook surrender with little prompting. "Bay of Pigs," Griffin muses in a sort of rundown summer camp prison. ("That's what they say when I go swimming.")

Some time is killed executing extras, and then, inspired by the pleading of their wounded companion Bailey Chastain ("Justine?") about how he has pitchblende and tungsten on his property back in the United States, Griffin overpowers a guard with little trouble and escapes with Landis and Cook. They grab a light plane from a line of them (all with American registration numbers), and in a somehow suspicious jump cut get back to the mainland. ("Coleman, are we still in a plane in Cuba?") After passing some time assaulting the aged proprietor of an incredibly shabby restaurant ("The pie doesn't make you want to kill yourself; want some?") and his blind, piano-playing daughter and jumping a train just as the opening implied ("I bet they're going to pistol-whip Thomas the Tank Engine."), the trio reach Chastain's wife Ruby Chastain. After shopping for supplies ("Want a video? We got some super-violent Asian triple-X cartoons."), everyone goes prospecting ("Can't you just smell the tungsten?"). However, some youthful agents have spotted the fugitives, and a flying posse is thrown together. Ruby is shot (but despite initial impressions, apparently survives for her injured husband to come home), Landis and Cook surrender, and Griffin is gunned down from the air. ("Mother of mercy, is this the end of Curly?")

I can see how the slow, meandering pace of the movie might annoy some people even more than the unrelenting bleakness, but for me it seems to offer plenty of opportunities for entertaining "riffs." The "host segments" are also fun in an offbeat sort of way, starting with Tom Servo shooting ping-pong balls with lotto numbers on them out of his head, our heroes as tuxedo-clad gamblers playing a high-stakes game of bingo, and TV's Frank admitting he's "in deep to the mob for fifty large." Dr. Forrester, though, gets beaten up in Frank's place, and winds up swathed mummy-like in bandages as Jimmy Carter calls (with Frank promising "I'll let you know just as soon as he dies") and Mother Teresa sending a withered floral wreath with the banner "HOPE YOU DIE." Somehow, it's all too ridiculous to worry about it being "casually cruel" this time around, but perhaps the "bad guy" taking the pounding has something to do with that too. At the end of it all, our heroes manage their own absurd recovery from the movie by singing a "bouncy upbeat song."

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