krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Although one thing and another did get in the way, I've made it to the second episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 featuring a "Union Pacific safety short." Once again, "The Days of Our Years" may somewhat overshadow "The Amazing Transparent Man." ("Am I that amazingly transparent?" "I'm glad it's not the Annoying Transparent Man.") Of course, that just might be expected with a title like that. As for the short, we move from road safety (with a particular emphasis on level crossings) to industrial safety...

The short itself starts with a choir-enhanced church service ("It's Up With Brakemen.") and a minister ("Chief Justice Earl Warren!") in a "railroad town" (although I've seen reports the filming took place in Los Angeles, not often associated with railroads) reflecting on the tragedy of accidents. Despite everyone in his congregation hating accidents, though, they keep happening. Joe Tendler, intent on getting back to his fiancee Helen, who daydreams about the happy married life to come even as she waitresses at a local greasy spoon ("Mr. and Mrs. Joe Toast."), drives recklessly and gets in a road accident, winding up encased in a neck brace. Helen marries him anyway ("Do you take this bionic man?" "Their honeymoon at Six Flags is going to be real fun.") in a ceremony rather drabber than she had been imagining, but as she continues to work as a now-morose waitress it seems there's no happy ending. George Price, too proud to call in sick after forty-two years of work, has a heart attack at the controls of his switching locomotive ("Shouldn't have thought of Mamie Eisenhower...") and kills his friend and cross-the-street neighbour Fred Bellows in the crackup; George winds up slumped on his porch watching Fred's son Lenny, "who wouldn't be going to college that fall" ("'cause he's dumb.") Charlie O'Neal is sent back to the welding shop while his wife is in labour ("This has nothing to do with you, go on."), but on hearing the good news ("Charlie, does fur run in your family?") he gets excited and starts passing out cigars. However, he forgets to use "gentle pressure" to get the attention of another welder and takes a welding torch in the face, winding up the blind father of a young son. ("So the leading causes of accidents are joy, sex, and old age?")

I've seen a certain number of comments about "if you get hurt, it's your own fault" overtones to this short. At the same time, working in the industrial setting of a power plant does leave me aware there's a personal responsibility for safety. Of course, all messages aside, the emotional manipulation going on in the short still makes it a prime target for "riffing."

Getting on to the movie, it begins with the safecracker Joey Faust escaping from prison to be picked up by Laura Matson. ("It was nice of his mom to pick him up after his escape practice.") She drives him to the remote country mansion of Paul Krenner, a Major from somewhere or other. It turns out that Krenner also employs the services of the European Doctor Peter Ulof, who has great experience in turning guinea pigs transparent and returning them to regular opacity. ("He's going to use that guinea pig as a guinea pig!") The somewhat reluctant Faust is at last pressured into also becoming transparent to steal nuclear material from an official vault; on accomplishing that, he decides to put his transparency to personal use by walking into an open bank vault only for it to wear off in mid-theft. Doctor Ulof convinces Faust he's doomed anyway from radiation poisoning ("Oh thank you, Otto von Bringdown."); Faust helps spring the Doctor's chipper daughter from the attic closet she was locked in ("Prison was fun!") Laura gets shot in the melee, and as the Ulofs and the rustic guard Julian escape the foreshadowing about just what happens when the transparency ray hits nuclear material is fulfilled and the house (or stock footage of a different house built for an A-bomb test) gets blown up. Krenner's plans to create an invisible army are dashed with his getting caught in the explosion, but Doctor Ulof still manages to pose an open question to the audience.

I did happen to notice in the course of this episode how I stopped noticing "riffs" that seemed suitable to be quoted on their own, but that didn't keep me from enjoying it. Some of the "host segments," though, did leave me wondering again about the sixth season at times having the characters being "casually cruel" to each other, what with Tom Servo sticking Crow in a huge insect jar and then pinning him up to a board spread-eagled as a prize specimen of Crowtus robotus horriblis and Crow forgetting to use "gentle pressure" and being incinerated by Tom's welding torch. I've wondered in the past if this might have contributed to some people developing allergic reactions to the "Mike episodes," but at the same time I can contemplate how a show's own creators can be a bit more detached from the "characters" they write for and perform than fans who just see the self-contained characters. Another extended part of the host segments is more enjoyable, though, with Dr. Forrester and "Auntie McFrank" launching "Auntie McFrank's Tangleberry Inn" (with our heroes providing dubious "local colour") and Frank making grand plans to see Squanto: A Warrior's Tale. It all comes together at the end, with (as I've seen others point out) Frank Coniff, after a lot of somewhat faint and forced "screams" in previous episodes, belting something out at full volume.

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