krpalmer: (mst3k)
krpalmer ([personal profile] krpalmer) wrote2011-03-20 06:21 pm
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MST3K 109: Project Moonbase

Opening up the latest official Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVD collection, I've returned to the first season of the show and "Project Moonbase." Before the movie itself, though, the episode delivers not one but two chapters of "Commando Cody and the Radar Men From the Moon," appropriate enough perhaps on a day marked by a notable full moon outside. It also just so happens that I've now managed to comment on all the Commando Cody chapters shown on the series, even if in a certain way they've all been pretty much the same...

Picking up with Commando Cody tagged in the chest with a rock and plummeting off a cliff, we get more or less what might be expected when Cody fires up his rocket pack again and flies to safety. ("Meanwhile, back at the Cody Institute for guys who almost die every week...") The two Earth gangsters hired by a lone Radar Men to soften up Earth's defences in advance of the full invasion put a ray gun behind crate-motif doors in a truck; Cody catches them in the act but is pummelled into submission in a fistfight (with Joel holding up huge "BIFF," "POW," and "OOF" silhouettes). Recovering from this ("Well, at least he's getting used to being beat up."), he takes off in pursuit with his sidekick flying a light plane and dropping tiny bombs on the truck. ("This time use a water balloon. That'll really scare them.") The gangsters raygun the plane, though...

...And it turns out that what we didn't see was that Cody and his sidekick managed to bail out moments before the plane was blown up. Trying something different, Cody gets into his rocket ship and flies through the same pale skies as the last time to the Moon, where he captures a moon man to don his Destination Moon-surplus space suit and try to steal some "lunarium." (As Cody changes into the space suit, I had the impression that without the padded collar the helmet has a distinct resemblance to that of the "Robot Monster"; I then wound up thinking this might have been referenced in the "riffing" later on in the series.) Hijacking one of the rickety moon tanks ("You know, the moon men have uses for plywood we haven't even thought of yet."), Cody and his sidekick flee; however, their moon tank is raygunned and in the process Cody's air supply is cut off; at least it might be the sort of cliffhanger that doesn't require an extra little scene dropped into the beginning of the next chapter.

Getting on to the movie itself, we're informed by an opening title card that space stations were declared of military importance back in the late 1940s. This led to the first orbital flight by "Breiteis" in 1966, and a mere four years later a space station has been built and preparations for the first circumlunar flight are under way by the United States Space Command "SPACOM." ("SPACOM, wood fill and meat substitute.") However, the enemies of the Free World are intent on sabotaging this, and substitute a duplicate for the Brooklyn scientist Dr. Wernher who's going to photograph the Moon to instead crash the Moon ship into the space station. (This being the future, civilian suits have short neckties. I'm reminded a little of the different-through-being-drab civilian fashions in 2001, although here the neckties are still long enough to just look strange... As well, people use cordless handsets, but both the handsets and the phone bases have big loop aerials sticking out of them.) In the meantime, Major Bill Moore, intent on piloting the Moon ship, is informed that higher authority has assigned Colonel Breiteis (constantly pronounced "brighteyes") to this mission as well. The two haven't got along since Breiteis was the first to orbit the Earth, and then at last it's revealed Breiteis is a woman... and it's also implied she made history because she's lighter than a man even as her commanding officer threatens to spank her. ("I spanked your copilot, didn't I?")

After some split-screen tricks and a lot of "don't walk on the walls" signs on the space station, the trio rocket off for the Moon wearing shorts, T-shirts, and strange-looking headgear ("It's hard to take anyone in a flannel skullcap seriously."), with the fake Dr. Wernher wheedling information on how the Moon ship works from the unsuspecting Breiteis. Bill, though, realises that not only has "Wernher" not set up his cameras correctly, he doesn't even know about the Dodgers. ("Oh, this is the future when they sold the Dodgers back to Brooklyn.") When "Wernher" makes his ploy to capture the Moon ship, he's waiting for him, but as the rockets fire up to full thrust there's a ridiculous slow-motion wrestling match on the deck. Following a commercial break and some potential editing for time, the Moon ship is making a full-fledged landing right over the edge of the far side. Bill and "Wernher" set out in space suits a little less impressive than the serial's ("They look like salt and pepper shakers." "Their heads look like bell jars.") to put up a relay on a nearby peak, but despite seeming to cooperate in full "Wernher" falls to his death. Back in contact with Earth, the best is made of Bill and Breiteis' unplanned landing by calling them a full-fledged moonbase, and they start getting supply rockets. ("And it's filled with cat food! This rocket was supposed to go to the Cat Women of the Moon!") Just to clear up things with public opinion, though, the two of them are encouraged to get married, and it turns out they've made up anyway. With the ceremony performed, the President of the United States is revealed in somewhat the same fashion as Breiteis as she blesses the union and promotes Bill to Brigadier General just so his wife doesn't outrank him. Breiteis pins a hand-made, oversized star to his uniform T-shirt. ("Here honey, I got you this poisoned throwing star.")

Robert A. Heinlein gets a credit for the screenplay, and some of his themes do seem to crop up in the movie even if the execution is a little off. As for the episode itself, the "riffing" does seem to be happening more often this late in the first season even if individual quips are a bit more casual and observational than they would later be. The "host segments" sort of pick up throughout, culminating in the Satellite of Love's own presentation on the wonders of "SPACOM," and the DVD has a small bonus feature in an interview with one of the show's cinematographers (if one who joined well after the first season).