krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
In my latest "project" of watching the second episode from each season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I do have to admit that I seem to be looking forward more to the "Mike episodes" than I did to the "Joel episodes." That's perhaps caught my attention where I previously might have just accepted it because of late I also seem to be contemplating philosophies towards the show and the whole matter of "finding unintentional enjoyment in cheesy movies," and wondering if I might agree more with some hypothetical "Joel approach" than with a "Mike approach" while still contrasting that with actual experience... although, equipped most of all with the general desire to not pick favourites because of what that might imply about the things not picked as favourites, I may not have been thinking about it that much. In any case, I was looking forward to "The Leech Woman" because it may have been one of those episodes that surprised me when I first saw it, the reputation of its movie perhaps not quite as outrageous as that of others but very enjoyable all the same.

The movie opens with a smug and middle-aged endocrinologist, Dr. Paul Talbot, browbeating June Talbot, his middle-aged and apparently frequently drunken wife (in a smug manner; "He's got built-in smug."); their marriage seems just about washed up ("I'd like to announce the engagement of me and Johnny Walker.") until Malla, an extremely old African woman, enters his office and offers for his inspection a mysterious powder that's kept her alive past her natural span. Exactly what she intends to accomplish by this isn't quite clear, but Talbot is intrigued by her comments that the powder can bring not just leathery old age but rejuvenated youth, and decides to take June with him to Africa, where they enlist the aid of a British guide and learn that Malla has preceded them.

Marching through a somehow set-like jungle past frequent stock footage of African wildlife ("We'd better camp here. The next stock footage is eighteen miles away."), the explorers are at last caught by Malla's tribe. ("Sadly, this tribe of extras no longer exists.") After an eloquent little speech by Malla about how old age brings men dignity but makes women get ignored, we learn that to bring rejuvenation the powder has to be mixed with secretions from a man's pineal gland, extracted by stabbing the base of their skull with a hook-equipped ring. Rejuvenated for one final fling (with convenient steam poured into the scene by her tribe), Malla offers the same thing to June, and in a somehow unsurprising development she decides to extract the necessary pineal juice from her husband. ("So long, mincing, man-pig character. You were enjoyed!") The guide manages to sneak some dynamite out from his captured supplies and makes a getaway alongside June ("Typical British reaction. Throw dynamite at the problem!"); unfortunately, the youth indeed wears off to leave June made up older than before and, in the face of sudden horror from the guide, June chases him into a swamp ("Those coffee grounds are deadly.") and extracts his pineal juice as well.

Now passing herself off as her youthful niece while rejuvenated (and explaining how the traumatic journey aged her while it's worn off), June returns to America and hits pretty brazenly on her attorney Neil Foster, in between extracting pineal juice from someone she lured into trying to kill her for her jewellery. ("Oh, it's so upsetting to see your grandma trolling.") Her attorney's fiancee Sally Howard finally gets fed up with her and orders her to leave town at gunpoint; the thrifty June stabs her pineal gland as well. ("When two girls fight, who wins? The American viewing public!") With Neil ready to dump his dead fiancee ("Love is a many tepid thing."), though, some detectives arrive investigating the murder of the would-be killer, and things don't go well for June. Desperately seeking rejuvenation, she imbibes of Sally's pineal juice only to find that a woman's won't work, and hurls herself out of a window to her death. There may be a message in there, but the movie is over at this point.

The "riffing" adds a lot to this movie, and while many (but not quite all) of the host segments might no doubt be noted by some to "not reflect on the movie," they're fun as well. I had wondered at first if the show had needed some time to "get back up to speed" after switching channels, which makes the evidence otherwise that much more fun.

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