krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
In finishing off the second season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, where the show started looking and sounding like it would for many seasons to come, I've also completed its loosely linked "trilogy" of "biker movies." The last movie of them by "series order" I didn't get around to until I was watching the last few episodes of the series for the first time (which made it one of the first few episodes I posted about), and the first of them I looked at a fair while ago, but now at last I've made it to "Wild Rebels," remembering it to be one of the better thought-of episodes of the whole second season...

The episode starts off with Joel getting Crow and Tom Servo to run some of the "higher functions" of the Satellite of Love so Gypsy can talk to him about why she's feeling down, thus beginning to provide some retroactive character development to someone who'd been pretty much a big dumb mascot before. Her "articulate" voice doesn't sound quite like what it later developed into, but once she's running the Satellite again (and Joel can breathe) she's back to saying "Richard Basehart!" (and during the movie itself, she reels into the theatre to say that again when a reference gets made to "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.") Dr. Forrester and Frank establish the theme of the movie in the "Invention Exchange" by showing off "Hobby Hogs," the modern substitute for the classic hobby-horse, and Joel responds with three-dimensional pizza ("Pepperoni to anchovy level four."), suggesting he might take it into what he calls for once "the Mystery Science Theater."

As for the movie itself, after stock car driver Rod Tillman escapes fiery death he auctions off his remaining gear and hits the road with a suitcase and guitar. On the way, he's propositioned by a three-member biker gang, "Satan's Angels," to be their getaway driver, and manages to escape intact ("Note to myself: never negotiate with bikers hopped up on goofballs!") only to be counter-propositioned by the police to go undercover. ("It's called Operation Weasel Snitch.") A staged but still spectacular wipe out on the stock car track ("Hey, did anybody see that Tom Cruise film this summer?" "No.") gets him back in the graces of the threatening but wordy Jeter, the threatening and sullen Banjo, and the lightly brain-damaged and mute Fats, and he takes the wheel of a big station wagon as the bikers' moll Linda shoots the owner of a gun shop. As Linda tries to explain to the square-by-comparison Rod that it's all for "kicks, baby, kicks" ("Silly rabbi. Kicks are for trids!"), he tries his best to get word to the cops staking out the bikers' country shack. At last, the gang storms the "Citrusville" bank ("Check out the bank sign. It's printed with electrical tape on ceiling tile!") as Rod flashes the station wagon's headlights at some passing cops. ("Now, if I can just remember my Aldis code from the Navy...") The bikers gun the cops down, though ("Oh, you poor officer. Can I get you a doughnut?") and hit the road with the now somewhat reluctant Rod still driving for them, shooting more officers along the way and managing to take the open side lane right in front of the main roadblock. ("By this time, the ol' Duke boys had killed just about every cop in town!") Things wind up at a deserted lighthouse, where the bikers continue to rack up their kill count until they can at last be taken down at dramatically appropriate moments, as Banjo grabs an abandoned motorcycle right in front of the cop cars only to be shot at long range, Fats ascends the lighthouse only to be shot through the window, and Jeter chases Rod up it as well and gets the drop on him only to be shot in the back by Linda. Wounded and sadder, Rod is comforted by the policeman who recruited him as the movie comes to an end.

Things are somehow more sprightly and cheerful than that summary might make them sound, and the "riffing" does seem to pick up throughout. The "host segments" are also all inspired by the movie, including a "commercial" for "Wild Rebels Cereal," "the nutritous cereal that's like getting hit on the back of the head with a surfboard of flavor!" At the end of it all, Joel cheers up his robot friends with the philosophy that it's better to see the funny side of a cheesy movie, which I admit to clinging to myself.

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