krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
My journey through the "Russo-Finnish troika" of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes has entered the "Mike years." When first watching these episodes, "The Sword and the Dragon" somehow seemed one of the more entertaining ones of them. However, after I seemed to enjoy Joel's two parts of the "troika" more than I had before, I perhaps did start wondering a little about whether my reactions would also change for this episode, but in a different direction...

Of course, this might be due in part to a peculiar ambiguity to my reactions to the opening "host segments." At the start of the episode, Crow and Mike are humouring Tom Servo by playing Dungeons and Dragons, with him in wizard's cap and cloak as the Dungeon Master and giving an air of taking things just a little too seriously; when after being confronted on "a Trimilidifadian footbridge" by "a fourth-level Balrog" and being devoured after they can't follow his prompts quickly enough, Mike jokingly tosses a comparable fate back at Tom and he reacts by proclaiming "I must take my own life." Perhaps I can't decide if this is poking fun at the old panicked moralizing about how playing role-playing games would inevitably make you take your fate in them too seriously or somehow "accepting" it... but then, I may not be qualified to comment on the whole fact of role-playing games at all, having, during the years when you seem most likely to start playing them, not really known anyone well enough to be able to just ask them if they wanted to try a campaign or whatever. I do wonder, though, how the online fans of the time took it. Then, after Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank's organizing of their Starlog magazines and bagging of their comic books has been interrupted by "Bridget" and "Mary Jo" moving into "Deep 12" (one of Frank's attempts to make small talk is "Babylon 5 was on last night," and I can contemplate how once upon a time that show was just "a space show not Star Trek," for all that some people loved to link "Deep Space Nine" with it, before it became a sign of discerning taste), the Satellite of Love puts on Crow's "satirical revue," "Supercalifragilistic-expialawacky!" Again, I found myself wondering whether there's a central unifying joke to the whole thing in the revue's various somehow very conventional cracks at "government" as arteriosclerotic and greedy, or whether the jokes are to be taken at face value... although, in the end, probably this just shows I can get worked up over things that touch me if at all in the most tangential of ways, or something.

Once the movie itself gets under way, though, all of that vanishes. "The Sword and the Dragon" is set in a far-off land the "riffers" keep referring to as "Finland," a land under siege by the Tugar (or "Mongol," again according to the "riffing") hordes. ("Man, this movie is already fifty times more expensive than all the other movies we've seen put together!") A hero arises when Ilya Muromets, described in the official episode guide as "a thick, hairy man in a land full of same" (and also a genuine cultural hero whose name was applied to one of the first multi-engine aircraft), is revitalised through magic dew. He then collects the stupendous steed "Chestnut Grey" through similar methods, defeats a wind demon, and is accepted into the royal court. Unfortunately, a scheming noble gets him thrown into prison for years while his wife Vilya is captured (again) by the Tugars for his son to be brought up as one of them. Nourished in captivity by his wife's magic tablecloth, though, Ilya is at last set free to deploy a rather complicated plan against the Tugar, meet his son for the first time, and slay a three-headed dragon. The whole thing is clearly "epic" in scale (if also always just a little out of focus) and makes me think just a little of the Lord of the Rings movies, and yet in the context of the show it's also perfectly ridiculous at frequent intervals. I can wonder if something got lost in translation, or perhaps in cutting the movie down to fit the episode (although there's a very drawn-out host segment presenting "a joke by Ingmar Bergman" tossed in there too).

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