krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
According to the official Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode guide's brief section on the show's formative instalments aired on a UHF station in Minnesota ("Oh, and trust us--you don't want to see the KTMA episodes."), "Invaders from the Deep" and "Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars" were a double feature on American Thanksgiving in 1988. When those two long-lost episodes were made available to the revival Kickstarter backers, though, I took my usual week in getting to the second show. I knew it was another "Supermarionation" epic, but could only guess how it might come across in turn.

"Who says puppets don't have a sense of humour?"
"I would never say that."

This time around, the "host segments" have a definite Thanksgiving theme (I could flash ahead to the special segments in an alternative version of "Night of the Blood Beast"), and while it still takes Joel a while to show up in the theatre he enters alongside Crow, now voiced by Trace Beaulieu in a way at least familiar from the pilot, although it doesn't sound much like what it later became. "Servo" (upgraded from the pilot's "Beeper") appears as well after a while longer, although it seems Josh Weinstein's voice for him, which I'd already heard took a few episodes to settle, varies over the course of this show itself. With three characters in the seats, there did seem to be a bit more "riffing," but only a bit. Joel crunches on popcorn again (he says it's popcorn when putting the last of it in Servo's head), and I was sometimes distracted by how the robots, who didn't have their black-painted duplicates suitable for "shadowramma" yet, could have odd sheens to them during the darker shots in the movie. Those distractions, though, could also keep me resolved to focus on the (however unintentionally) funny side of the movie itself.

I had mused a bit watching "Invaders from the Deep" about certain efforts long made to give science fiction a foothold "under the sea" as exotic as outer space and easier to get to, but with this feature, or rather four more half-hour episodes from another television series, things are travelling to and from space anyway, with the Mysterons, who seem to have a considerable ability to subvert humans, countered by the colour-coded agents of Spectrum, who say "S.I.G." to each other a lot. I was contemplating other works of SF that make quick efforts at "something different" by inventing bits of substitute slang (E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensmen say "QX" to each other, for example), and then there was an explanation that "S.I.G." is an abbreviation for "Spectrum is green." This shows up not long before it's explained men from Earth in fact panicked and fired on a Mysteron establishment while exploring Mars; the remarkable regenerative abilities of the Mysterons fixed it up in no time, but they're still intent on destroying the Earth anyway. After that, it's not that far to the end of the feature, which began in the middle of things and ends with no resolution.

The "Supermarionation" puppets aren't so big-headed in this series, but perhaps that just prompts a thought or two about "Ken dolls" (there is a "riff" about "Barbie dream homes"). I can at least suppose the subtle unreality of everything is all of a piece even as the scope is bigger than you'd get without prompting familiar complaints about computer-generated effects. So far as "cheesy movies" go, though, I was also remembering having managed to see the "MST3K Video Scrapbook," which includes a first commercial for the show on KTMA that mentions not just "The Green Slime" (with a "riff" from Joel that didn't appear in the pilot he showed at a convention; I've seen a bit of speculation he might have taped a movie segment then cut the perhaps not too lively effort down for the pilot itself, which is somehow more heartening to contemplate than him trimming things years later out of intellectual property concerns) but also "Thunderbirds Are Go." That had me contemplating how the show itself put "Bride of the Monster" and not "Plan 9 From Outer Space" in its canon, avoiding a too-well-known target.

The third KTMA episode is still missing, although there were some host segments and a quick "riff" from the first effort at "Star Force: Fugitive Alien II" put online back when Jim Mallon and not Joel Hodgson seemed more in control of the show title itself. Whether Joel found his own source or things went missing in just a few years is an ambiguous question; there were two shorts riffed on for a MST3K CD-ROM that was never completed, but while "Assignment: Venezuela" was later found and released on tape "Mylar: What's It To You?" has been missing to this day. At the same time, though, while I don't lack for access to the movie itself (save for perhaps a few more minutes of footage), I have had a thought or two about this "remaining my firewall" against "having" to find and slog through all the KTMA episodes just to see the improvised riffing pick up. This first taste had its own certain charm anyway.
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