krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Moving on to the eighth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I've watched another one of the black and white Universal movies that opened that period in the show's history. "The Deadly Mantis" pretty much delivers (or at least tries to deliver) what it says, although I've read in a non-Mystery Science Theater context that, as one of the movies trying to follow in Them!'s footsteps (or ant prints), it tried to make a mystery of just what the big bug was this time around but instead left the audience waiting impatiently for what the title gave away.

In any case, after a meandering pan across a world map ("Next, we'll see Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion version.") that leaves the "riffers" a little confused ("Apparently the director was a former cartographer.") and something to do with a volcano in the southern hemisphere making an iceberg in the northern hemisphere start to thaw out... ("You know, behind the credits you can see the Ant of Turin.") Then, it's on to the building of the DEW Line ("Yeah, more like the Don't Line." "Canada calls to ask what are you guys doing up there?"), which somehow leaves me thinking it's a substitute for the shorts sadly absent in the eighth season. Something starts smashing radar shacks ("Horrible! Just think what kind of force it takes to destroy a Quonset hut!") and bringing down cargo planes, and a peculiar broken-off object is found, which paleontologist Nedrick Jackson is called in to investigate. He (eventually) declares with much force his theory that a giant praying mantis has thawed out to menace the world, and as he heads up to the DEW Line museum magazine photographer Marge Blaine invites herself along. The men at the base all take a distinctly strong interest in Marge, but she just happens to strike things up with their commanding officer Colonel Joe Parkman. ("Lukewarmness at first sight.") Then, after terrorizing an Inuit village with much sped-up footage of lots of people jumping into lots of kayaks and paddling away, the deadly mantis itself (played by a crude-looking puppet of uncertain size) attacks the base and heads further south. Nedrick, Marge, and Joe follow in pursuit, and much stock footage of fighter jets is deployed (along with a few "riffs" referencing "The Starfighters") as the mantis buzzes Washington, D.C., attacks a bus in the fog ("Ah, the mantis has joined the Birmingham bus boycott!"), and finally gets shot down over New York. Joe leads a squad of men into a tunnel ("Wow! Gollum's bigger than I thought.") and finishes the mantis off.

Possibly having more or less extracted all the humour from Planet of the Apes that they can, things shake up in the "host segments" of this episode as Mike more or less accidentally fills in the apes and the "mutants" how to arm their thermonuclear device and blow up the Earth. The Satellite of Love barely manages to drive away into the void, but so does Pearl Forrester in her flying Volkswagen van (MSTings tended to call it "the Widowmaker"), with Professor Bobo stowed away on board. There's a collection of "travelling through space" jokes in the host segments that make for a fun change from the usual, and which now reminds me I managed to set my own first MSTing right after this episode (not that I'd seen it at the time) to try and filch one of its ideas...

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