The MST3K Files

Your experiment this week is Ryan's pointless and probably long-winded exploration of every (non-local TV) MST3K episode ever. Thrill as he bores you with his inane struggle to get through interminable sci-fi films from the 50's.

Well, aside from letting this little project fall by the wayside because I got too busy doing many other things that probably involved sitting in front of a computer playing games, it doesn't seem like the point of the whole thing managed to reveal itself to me. The idea of writing about something I was excited by was hampered by not being sure what I was actually writing about. My observations began to feel forced and I had to wonder exactly who would be interested in the minimal pointless pieces of information that I was spewing out in the midst of opining about how, truth be told, most of the early episodes weren't all that entertaining to watch, especially by yourself when you had plenty of other things to do.

So, as it stands, I can't really imagine continuing this little lark, even as site-filler. My desire to write something may need inflating, but who the hell could possibly want to read this? I was tempted during the site rebuilding to just store these bits away for no one to see, but decided that a lot of the old material is crap (especially Steve's writing... am I right?), so it might as well join the rest of it.

17-catalina-caperSo I slacked off on this project back in October; it was easy to do. I got distracted by trying to write for NaNoWriMo, followed by doing everything I did to not write for NaNoWriMo, followed by the holidays and Skyrim. It was really hard to get back to the point that I wanted to watch old MST3K episodes, as strange as that sounds. Watching them alone, usually in the boring, quiet part of the dead of night, wasn't how I felt like spending my evenings. But a WD TV Live Hub in the bedroom changed my mind about it, and I decided it was time to get back on the proverbial horse.

Catalina Caper is strange in the history of "Mystery Science Theater 3000", in that it's interspersed with intentional comedy. I wouldn't go so far as to call the movie itself a "comedy", most of the focus being on a typical "hip daddy-o's" beach movie, like some horirble Frankie & Annette film that decided it wanted to try its hand at being a crime drama for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. As such, the writers implied that they shied away from doing anything too comedic again, as it's hard to make good jokes about bad comedy. They set their sights promptly back on mediocre genre dreck from the 50's and 60's, where it definitely felt more at home. That's not to say the episode was a failure. Some of the jokes were good and it began to set up common themes in the host segments that you'd see for seasons to come. But, overall, it was not a particularly memorable episode, despite its early video release during the Rhino VHS era. The biggest upside, I suppose, is the fact that the film and sound quality is good and it's a tolerably-made film, which makes it at least easy to watch (and might explain why Rhino opted for it early on, as they also had a tendency to release DVD's that also included the original film).

Overall, nothing special, but people will undoubtedly remember Tom Servo's "Creepy Girl" songs with great fondness.

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16-jungle-goddessThis was another rough print. It was like going back to season 1, as far as movie quality goes. While it was decently amusing, I'm already having trouble remembering anything about it. And whatever there was to see was covered up by the intense graininess and poor print quality.

Probably one of the more boring "white guys go into the jungle and deal with savages" movies, the focus is mainly on the arguing between the two lugs at the center, one played by George Reeves. He and his compatriot argue over a girl and the obvious and two-dimensional heel wants to bring the girl back dead, more interested in quick cash than absurd blonde beauties hiding in the jungle. This film made Reeves' sad, sympathetic character in Holywoodland seem, somehow, even more tragic. Reeves' co-star, Ralph Byrd, shared the fate of his early death. Perhaps this movie was a curse in more than its shoddiness. I'm sure that few of the black actors cast as African savages and forced to stand around in loinclothes, yelling gibberish, thought too highly of the experience. But at least everyone involved tried.

This is probably never going to be considered one of the more interesting episodes of MST3K by anyone. I can't imagine who would list this as a favorite. The whole thing is a sort of shrug; it was neither bad nor good, though it was entirely watchable. Perhaps there was something funny in there, but my mind has already erased almost all traces of this episode. And maybe that's for the best.

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15-sidehackersI thought that I knew a little bit about "The Sidehackers". For some reason, I was pretty sure that it was one of those black & white 1950's biker gang movies. I definitely never saw this one (and was probably getting it confused with "Wild Rebels" or "Daddy-O" or some such thing). Instead, this one is much more in the '60's "everybody's a bit of a cool hippie cat" vein, with the typical villain who's less like a gang leader and more like a scenery-chewing parody of Charles Manson or Jim Jones.

Oh, and how the scenery was chewed in this one. Michael Pataki ate everything on screen in his role as J.C. (I'm left to wonder if "J.C." stood for "Jesus Christ", what with "Nero" and "Rommel" already being in the movie. Tony Huston was definitely no great writer; he also wrote "The Hellcats", appearing later in MST3K's second season.) Not that anyone else did a particularly good job of acting in this one. The people who had no other credits to their names seemed to be much more staid and normal in their capacity to exhibit genuine human emotions than the people who went on to have long careers in episodic television and crappy movies.

As far as episodes went, it was a bit of a step back for the writing. "Rocketship X-M", as perfect as it was for the show, immediately showed the flaws in "The Sidehackers". As stated in the episode guide, this is the last episode where they only watched part of the film before accepting it for production. In the midst of the movie, there turns out to be a "brutal" (their word; I found it to be fairly tame and not even vaguely shocking) rape and murder scene, which they weren't aware of when they chose it. You'd think it was in the time between J.C.'s arrival at the cabin and Rommel waking up, tied to the wall, but it was in that really strange moment where the beaten Rommel arrives at his partner's house and then runs outside for no good reason. While watching his buddy's kids roughhouse, he flashes back to his girlfriend being raped and then accidentally killed. That scene and another shot of her body had to be excised from the episode. It feels, knowing that, like they never quite recovered the appropriate mindset to find the last half of the movie to be funny enough. There was a dour note constantly hanging over the whole production, as if they couldn't get it out of their heads. As silly as the whole movie was, perhaps it just wasn't as inclined to be comedic as "Rocketship X-M". Though at least you can see them really getting a handle on how to make more amusing host segments.

Still, this episode was head and shoulders above anything in the first season, and rarely was there a color film that was boring to watch on MST3K. Even if it lacked a bit in the joke department and the lines were not coming in as fast and furiously as they should have, the pathetic production values and absurd plot more than made up for it. This was another one that went down much more easily.

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