Double Feature: Mystery Science Theater 3000
Gooden Worsted's Bitable Bytes:
What to do while watching:
What to eat while watching:
Woof! Why are the Best Brains so darn good? I'll tell you why. They aren't satisfied with the path of least resistance. They don't take the easy way out: they take on challenges and succeed. They take the bull by the horns, and sometimes they get a little bruised up.
I don't know where the mad scientists found these films, but they are BAD with a capital BAD.
For those not familiar with MST3K, let me pitch you the premise in a nutshell. Joel lives in a space ship with his robot friends Crow, Tom Servo, Gypsy, and Cambot. As punishment for raising the ire of mad scientists Dr. Clayton Forester and TV's Frank, Joel and his crew must watch very bad B-movies. To break the monotony, they make wisecracks throughout the film and take frequent intermissions to perform various sketches, songs, and other segments.
It's a fanciful set-up for about six very bright, very witty guys, The Best Brains, to mock B-films and flex their comedic muscle. Their references to other films, music, television, and literature are savvy and amusing: The Princess Bride, Frank Zappa (twice), Star Trek, Edgar Allen Poe, etc., etc.
With this in mind, what I'm rating here is the Best Brains ability to remain entertaining in spite of the awfulness of the films they must watch. Sometimes a film is bad because the acting is lame, the script is piss-poor, or the budget is nil. Other times, all three of these elements converge and snowball into something worse than just being poor: being boring. When a film is just plain dull, there's little even the sharpest satirist can do.
Both of these movies are of this formidable breed. Cave Dwellers, a New Line Cinema release tells the story of a scientist/warrior who does battle in ancient times. Here's an abbreviated list of the stupid aspects of this movie:
1. The time setting includes cave-people and castles.
2. The hero manages to construct and use a hang glider.
3. The director fails to eliminate such elements as Rolex watches and sunglasses from his actors.
4. The opening and closing credits roll over scenes from a completely different movie.
5. A long, convoluted back-story (part 1?) is told in a flashback that never really ends.
I could go on. Joel, Servo, and Crow manage to recreate the opening credits in a very amusing way. They also demonstrate various foley tricks like slapping raw New York Steaks together for fighting sounds; but for the most part, they are at a loss for coming up with clever stuff, and toward the end, it's just depressing. They end the show in a defeated mood.
I found "Manos" Hands of Fate more entertaining to watch. Joel's impression of "The Master," and Mike Nelson's "Torgo" embodiment are both good and silly. And though the movie must contain at least 20 minutes worth of driving-through-empty-countryside scenes, the boys manage to continue throughout with the wisecracks. Somehow, they don't look as completely battered by the end of this movie. Angry, yes; beaten, no. Meanwhile both Dr. Forester and TV's Frank independently apologize for having forced Joel and the bots to watch this film.
The story is about as empty as a story can get: A mother, father, and daughter get lost somewhere flat and are forced to stay in a strange hotel run by the gloomy Torgo, a man with huge knees. The owner of the place, called "The Master," is the undead chief of some Satanic cult whose members are himself and his undead wives. They all dress like a Greek chorus, and there's a long cat-fight among the lot of them about half-way through the film. Servo astutely points out that the entire picture was probably built around this one scene. The protagonist family gets sucked into the cult. "The end?"
For the MST3K-uninitiated who is interested in great satire, I'd recommend
starting with The Unearthly or The Crawling Hand. If you really
like these, then you might risk "Manos", but stay away
from "Cave Dwellers." You have been warned.
©1999 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights happily reserved.