krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
This final trip "in order" through the seasons of Mystery Science Theater 3000 has come to an end with the final episode of the series itself, "Diabolik." This just might be a compromise between "watching it last" and treating it as just one more random episode. Whether that reflects askance on some subtle quality of this episode as "the final episode" or just shows in some small way how I got to know the series in a different way than watching it on cable for all that I was aware of it coming to an end as it did, I'm not sure; it may not be any clearer after these thoughts are set down.

After Mike and the bots at last find the Satellite of Love employee handbook, Pearl starts "messing" with them by hooking a joystick from Radio Shack up to the Satellite and putting it into "a high speed tumble," at least until the stick breaks. This puts the Satellite into its "Re-Entry Protocol," to be complete in an hour and fifty-five minutes (this was where I at last happened to think of the almost thirty minutes of commercials attached to the show since the start of the fourth season), and "Brain Guy" the Observer is powerless to affect it what with the Mountain Dew Pearl poured into his brain pan. She doesn't take this well, but rallies to send our heroes their final movie.

Things start off with an elaborate convoy being sent off through a European sort of locale escorted by a swarm of motorcycles and loaded with blank paper; the actual money shipment is being driven in a Rolls-Royce by a few peculiarly dressed people. ("Some movies just won't stop and ask for directions.") Despite the hopes of Inspector Ginko, though, the Rolls is intercepted dockside and whisked away by the superthief Diabolik, encased in a black rubber mask ("When he takes that mask off later, his weird tan is going to give him away." "Reverse Racoon Man!") and under it played by John Phillip Law, who also showed up on the series two decades weathered as the mutinous security chief in "Space Mutiny." Diabolik escapes lawmen firing machine guns at him from helicopters with the aid of the beautiful and passionate Eva Kant, and they make their way to Diabolik's elaborate underground lair ("You really need this much to get some tail in the sixties? I thought a hi-fi would do it.") to make love in the stolen money. ("Oh, they're really going to have to get their money laundered." "Yeah, they got pretty badly injured when they tried this with gold bars.")

Our heroes begin packing, Mike loading up a monogrammed suitcase ("Actually, I got it from Mojo Nixon's garage sale.") with sacks of bleached and enriched rice ("I'll bleach and enrich you," Crow mutters) as Tom starts blowing up the extra Servos that collected on the Satellite of Love over the past decade. Back at the movie, Diabolik and Eva respond to dire threats from officials through the surreptitious introduction of "Exhilarating Gas" to the conference, having already taken "Anti Exhilarating Gas Capsules" from a box so marked, and watch as things dissolve in laughter. ("Dan Quayle announces his candidacy!") When the law gets tough, though, crime boss Ralph Valmont (played by Adolfo Celi of Thunderball but also "Operation Double 007") makes a bargain with Ginko to get Diabolik. Ginko plays up a fabulous emerald necklace to get Eva's attention, and Diabolik decides to steal it for her.

After we learn what the inhabitants of Castle Forrester are planning (Pearl has accepted an offer to be dictator of life of Qatar, her first goal being to get the country an "u"; Bobo has a promising position at the zoo; Observer has lots of stuff going on), Diabolik, in a pale full-body suit and mask for a change, completes infiltrating the castle where the necklace is kept and distracts Ginko's men by hurling his empty suit into the air with a convenient rooftop catapult. ("Oh, this is what they apult their cats with." "Okay, I'm nude and I'm still trapped in the castle. Huh.") Eva, though, was (apparently) injured in the getaway, and when she goes to the doctor the doctor doublecrosses her.

Apparently bringing the necklace with him, Diabolik boards Valmont's plane, which just happens to have a trap door in it to drop unsuspecting victims to their death. Valmont, though, offers Diabolik a parachute and says Eva is accessible straight down. Diabolik thanks him for this by dragging him through the trap door as well. Just managing to parachute to safety, Diabolik is reunited with Eva ("Next birthday, I'm taking you to Olive Garden.") and gets into a firefight with Ginko's men. After apparently running out of ammunition, he still manages to machine-gun Valmont and then, with the aid of a peculiar pill, feigns death. ("If he swallowed a silver thing, we're sunk.") Returning to life on the autopsy table, Diabolik dons a cunning disguise and collects Valmont's ashes from the crematorium; it just so happens the elongated emeralds served as bullets, and it just so happens they weren't damaged by the heat. ("Let's face it, this guy operates on unbelievable luck and coincidence.")

Crow is now uncertain about returning to Earth and wedges himself under the desk; Mike, though, anticipated this and wrote one last song for the occasion. With the aid of this and Crow's "mother" (which wasn't jettisoned into space in "Code Name: Diamond Head" after all), Crow regains his enthusiasm, but before that he manages to get Tom worried enough to wedge himself under the desk. "Great, now I'm going to have to write a whole new song," Mike mutters. Back in the movie, Ginko has created a twenty-ton gold ingot and is shipping it via a small train; with the aid of a truck crashed on top of the tracks ("Ah, Diabolik adds to his trail of charred and dismembered bodies.") and a bridge blown up ("Now more innocent people killed because of Diabolik's whims!") Diabolik manages to dump the ingot into the water, where he and Eva salvage it with a couple of flotation balloons and an underwater scooter. Back in his lair, Diabolik starts melting the ingot out of its container with a laser gun, secure in his protective suit; it turns out, though, that Ginko added a radioactive tracer to the ingot and has at last found the lair. Distracted by the firefight ("Well, I'm sorry if you're offended by my random murders."), Diabolik manages to get caught when the ingot overheats inside its container and explodes...

Now an odd-looking golden statue ("He's a golden Gumby!"), Diabolik is put on display. Eva shows up to mourn ("He had so many innocent people left to murder."), but gets collected by Ginko. However, where nobody else noticed how intact Diabolik was behind the faceplate of his protective suit, Eva does happen to see him wink...

Back on the bridge, Tom is now at the wheel as the Satellite of Love makes a fiery reentry, "Rocket Number Nine" pacing it down to show bits breaking off. There's a tremendous crash, and then things recover with Mike, Tom, and Crow in a small apartment, talking about how well Gypsy's company is doing even if they managed to miss out on the initial public offering and then tuning into "The Crawling Eye." "This movie looks kinda familiar, doesn't it?" Crow asks.

I've seen comments that don't seem completely satisfied with the conclusion so far as "grand finales" go, including an ambiguous allusion or two in some MSTings. (Most MSTings written after the series had ended were still set in the ninth or tenth season; one person did set some in the little apartment, even addressing the slight problem that our heroes weren't being "forced" to watch things any more... unfortunately for me, he started with a "1999 Summer Blockbuster Review," one of the most unpleasant and unfunny MSTings I've ever read.) At the same time, others don't seem disappointed with the episode. As much as I'm suspicious of "reading" performances to support what seems an obvious conclusion, I did wonder a bit as things got under way if there wasn't as much enthusiasm to the "riffing" as there's been in other cases, but things did seem to pick up with the thoroughly psychedelic credits. When I wondered if "Diabolik" was a "truly suitable final movie," I turned around and wondered if "Laserblast" was "typical" of the series either. In any case, I still have episodes left to rewatch and comment on. What episode I'll finish with will be a secret for a while yet, as much as there aren't a whole lot of candidates left to guess about.

Date: 2012-07-13 01:36 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thrush
I watched this episode when it was first broadcast. For me, going into it knowing that it was to be the final episode made it an emotionally-laden ride in ways that none of the other episodes ever were. I suspect that other MSTies may have had similar reactions and that some of the dissatisfaction with the finale may stem from these issues rather than from the comedy itself.

I do think that Diabolik was a much more challenging film to riff than most of what the Brains tackled during the Sci Fi era, and I support them going out on a high note in that sense. That said, I personally think that in general the 10th season was not their strongest.

Date: 2012-07-14 02:30 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thrush

Count me as a fellow Future War fan!

So, hoping this is an appropriate venue to pursue a discussion:

I also like Soultaker, while Track of the Moon Beast and Hamlet are easily on my second tier of favourite episodes from the whole series. Still, there are other season 10 episodes like Girl in the Gold Boots or Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonder that, although funny, just feel to me as if they could easily have been so much more. At the time season 10 aired I thought maybe I was burning out on the show, but having seen some of these again recently I am pretty sure it wasn't just me. I can’t say objectively that these episodes are actually less good, just less what I want.

It would certainly make sense if the Best Brains were tired out or feeling unenthused about the impending cancellation, but I also wonder if this was simply the ultimate end of the transformation that some fans (including me) feel the show went through from slow-paced, mildly humorous commentary at the outset to uproarious, rapid fire but snarky riffing toward the end.

I have watched a good deal of Riff Trax and Cinematic Titanic, and while both are enjoyable neither of them lives up to Mystery Science Theatre 3000 for me. Riff Trax in particular has that too-caustic vibe I find in the terminal seasons of MST3K. My ex actually prefers Riff Trax for this reason, but for me the harshness often makes it less funny.

I was wondering where you stand on this issue, and what you think of RT and CT?

Date: 2012-07-14 10:49 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thrush
Cool, thanks for the reply.

As far as Riff Trax goes, I think they do a good job with the shorts, better than with most of the movies I've seen, but the shorts they work with don't often have the same qualities as the ones MST3K tackled. I would recommend one of their 'Riff Trax Live' events to any MSTie, but beyond this I agree with you. If you ever decide to give them a whirl, I suggest trying one of the MST-type films, such as Birdemic or Plan 9 from Outer Space.

As for Cinematic Titanic, I imagine they are better live, too, but I have not had the chance to see for myself. The only thing close to a recommendation I have for them is their version of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

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