krpalmer: (mst3k)
krpalmer ([personal profile] krpalmer) wrote2012-09-16 01:03 pm
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MST3K 1012: Squirm

Moving along with finishing the project of commenting on Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes, I've now completed the tenth season by watching its penultimate episode, "Squirm." ("Well, I don't know why, but okay," Mike says, and everyone squirms around in their seats.) Before the movie itself, though (if after Mike, Tom, and Crow inventory how Tom and Crow have destroyed all the safety supplies on the Satellite of Love and Pearl Forrester sets up the "Castle Forrester Fair," featuring an "authentic cardboard replica of Mr. Ben Murphy himself"), we get the third and final short featured in the "Sci-Fi Channel era," one referenced much earlier in the series...

"A Case of Spring Fever" ("Ah, me, I'd rather have a case of Bass Ale.") begins with a "froglike middle-aged man" trying to fix the springs of his old-fashioned sofa when he'd rather be golfing. When he grows frustrated and wishes out loud for a world without spring, he gets that wish via "Coily, the spring sprite," an animated spring-bodied imp added to the live action. ("So one clod says one thing and the whole world pays?") The man's glee at being able to make his golf game is very short-lived, though, when he realises his pocket watch doesn't work, his phone dial doesn't turn back, his front door won't close behind him, and his car has no give to the upholstery and all its pedals flush with the floor, with Coily taunting him and laughing at every turn. Suitably contrite, he pleads with Coily for springs to be restored, and with a show of reluctance the spring sprite agrees. ("So Coily waited all eternity for this moment and he backs down almost instantly?") Overjoyed to see springs in the sofa frame again, the man gets to his golf game anyway ("Welcome to Divot Hill.") and spends it lecturing his friends about the myriad uses of springs, at last getting to how important they are in cars. ("1941 Dull Greymobile!") Strange beings with the power to eliminate useful things from the world were first mentioned back in "Viking Women and the Sea Serpent," and it's easy enough to imagine the Best Brains taking notice of the short when they started really digging into the "educational" ones, but I did find myself wondering a little if the idea of Coily was somehow a little stronger than the reality at length (to say nothing of how he skips out for a good portion of the short, leaving the man to lecture his obviously bored friends), thus explaining why they waited to get around to it until it was a matter of "tying up a loose end." In any case, though, there is a "host segment" where Crow and Tom toy with the premise by invoking "Mikey, the Mike sprite"; Mike is not troubled by this.

As for the movie itself, it begins with a title card explaining how on September 29, 1975, the small town of Fly Creek in Georgia was hit by a storm with extreme consequences. We see a model power line tower toppling ("The monster called Gamera is destroying the city, ah."), and electricity from a live line arcs into the ground for hours on end. On the outskirts of the now blacked-out town, the young, red-haired, and skinny Geri Sanders ("A plucked stork!") awaits a visitor as her emotionally fragile and thoroughly Southern-accented mother Alma frets ("I do hope Ashley Wilkes can get through.") and the sweaty and perhaps not that bright local handyman-type Roger Grimes drops by. ("I accidentally married one of the sheep.") To prove the movie isn't just about exploiting Southern stereotypes (it does seem somehow indelicate and perhaps even misguided to mention this at any point, but I can't seem to help noticing there are no black people in the movie), Geri's equally skinny and red-haired visitor Mick is from New York City itself, as proven when he asks for an "egg cream" at the local lunch counter. This might have attracted the unwelcome attention of the local sheriff even had Mick not reacted to finding a worm in the glass. ("Didn't you order a worm cream?" "It's no worse than putting okra in something!")

Managing to escape with a warning, Mick heads with Geri to the house of "Mr. Beardsley" to go antiquing. Mr. Beardsley isn't in, though, no matter how often they call his name, but there is a skeleton in the dirt nearby. The skeleton, though, is missing when they bring the sheriff, and Mick gets his second warning. Trying to get over this, Mick and Geri go fishing with Roger, whose father runs the local bait store. When a worm manages to bite Mick, though ("The worm had a shiv!" "Oh, this hurts more than when that butterfly struck me!"), he goes ashore and leaves Geri with the probably obviously suspicious Roger. It also turns out the missing skeleton was in the back of Roger's ramshackle truck; Mick appropriates the skull and teams up with Geri's younger but still quite tall sister Naomi to break into the local dentist's and search the X-rays. ("It belongs to a guy named Al P. Yorick.") In the meantime, Roger has made his forceful moves on Geri, only to be knocked into the bottom of the boat, right where the worms are...

The distraught Geri reunites with Mick (although she's managed to change first), and the Sanders family prepares for a brittle dinner even as Mick discovers Roger's father being devoured by worms. The dinner itself is interrupted when the tree next to the Sanders house falls over and crashes into it ("Save the chicken-fried collard greens!"); the worms were massed beneath it, but do show how they hide from light. To try and reinforce the house, Mick heads off to get a big sheet of plywood, but he's attacked on the way by Roger, his face burrowed into by the worms. In the meantime, the worms are pouring out of the plumbing and starting to storm Fly Creek itself, apparently devouring the sheriff and his girlfriend during a romantic tryst in a cell and everyone at the lunch counter.

Making a torch from his shirt ("He's like an unbaked breadstick in slacks." "He was made by a Play-Doh fuzzy pumper."), Mick limps back to the Sanders house, (somehow) manages to pitch Roger into the ocean of worms filling the first floor, and escapes with Geri to a still-standing tree. One flashlight seems enough to keep this tree from toppling, and in the morning they're still alive ("Her dream date: wedged into a tree with Howdy Doody."), and so is Naomi, who shut herself in a trunk ("Man, she must have folded her legs about three times.") Whether they pause to appreciate the now-restored power or just make their getaway isn't clear.

With that, I've now commented on all the episodes of the tenth and final season. The Best Brains did know for most of its length that it would be their last, and I have seen comments this was taking some of the spark out of their work even as I contrast that to other comments that they were able to experiment a bit more with different genres of cheesy movies than in the two seasons previous. I suppose I do find the first few and last few episodes of the season still pretty good, though, and "Squirm" does seem to all into that category. I also tend to think that as much humour is dragged from its "Southern rural trash" setting, there's always the counter-example of the "Northern rural trash" of the set-in-WIsconsin "The Giant Spider Invasion"...

[personal profile] thrush 2012-09-19 11:43 pm (UTC)(link)
I have always felt that "Squirm" and "Giant Spider Invasion" make a perfect pair, not only in terms of their bleak depiction of the American north & south (and the Brains' respective lampooning of same), but also because both films are laughably bad even on their own and repulsively gross even MST'ed.

I love the treatment they give to "Spring Fever", too. I think I recall reading an interview with Mike a long time ago in which he said that they'd wanted to do this short for many years but that some sort of legal or bureaucratic hang-up had prevented it. That would explain the many references. But, it's been a long time and I no longer recall the source, so take that with a grain of salt.