Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Crawling Hand 
My Rating:

As always, the Best Brains are brilliant.

Bitable Bytes:
"The premise is a simple as it is silly!"
"Vintage in the worst way!"
"Joel and his pals make a bad film enjoyable!"

What to do while watching:
Manual activities like knitting, stapling, collating, darning socks, etc. You don't need a lot of visual focus to have a good time with these tapes.

What to eat while watching:
Finger food.

Your friend Gooden is far too busy in his personal life to spend much time in front of the boob tube. If I'm not watching a video, the television is off. Not having had much interest for television growing up, I never developed the habit of watching and, therefore, never invested in cable. It's true that I occasionally regret missing so many seasons of The Simpsons, and I'm growing impatient for the episodes of South Park that haven't yet made it to video. But I've been lucky to have friends with cable, specifically, Comedy Central, and this week's review is dedicated to those that hosted evenings of watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in the early 90's: Matt Weatherford and Mike Ho.

For those who have never seen Mystery Science Theater 3000, the premise is a simple as it is silly: Joel, a mild-mannered drone worker at Gizmonics Institute somehow irked his mad-scientist bosses. For revenge they shot him into space in his own space ship. As he floats in the void, his evil bosses send him old B-flicks from the very bottom of the barrel. He is required to watch them. To keep himself company, Joel built four robot companions. Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo are the two wise-cracking contraptions that watch the films with Joel. These three are silhouetted in front of the movie and make comments over the sound-track. Gypsy and Cam-bot are also on-board the ship and participate in the little sketch intermissions that punctuate these vintage-in-the-worst-way movies.

So, for MST3K fans, the stand-out aspect of this particular episode is its earliness in the series. It's pre-Frank! The mad scientists on most episodes are Dr. Clayton Forester and his bumbling assistant, Frank. Frank is about the funniest thing on the show. But this episode has Larry instead of Frank, kind of like when they switched Dicks on "Bewitched." Also, and I don't know if this is related or not, Tom Servo seems to have a different voice. He is witty as always, but I think there's a different human larynx backing up the little bubble-gum-headed puppet.

The film they must watch is The Crawling Hand, and it is really, really bad. It stars a Sal Mineo lookalike, who is about the worst actor I've seen, a Swedish 50's bombshell who simply can't act, and Alan Hale, AKA Skipper from Giligan's Island as the sheriff. The story, in a nutshell, is that the space program has lost several astronauts to some kind of zombie virus. An ionosphere explosion of one of the rockets returns a possessed astronaut arm to the earth. This cousin of "Thing" Addams has two attacks: strangulation and infection. It strangulates Mineo's landlady and infects Mineo who then becomes a Jeckyl-and-Hyde zombie/wuss.

The film is chock full of slow talky scenes among scientists and fantastic stretches of logic intended to fill in plot holes (a tactic that doesn't work at all). Veneer-thin character development accounts for several more stilted dialogues. And finally, we get to the action scenes, which are about as exciting as the slow talky scenes.

Joel, Tom, and Crow make the leap from the poor acting in this film to William Shatner. They have fashioned their own disembodied hands and have fastened them to their throats. It's quite an intriguing look, and a toy that I'd like to have for Halloween. The trick is to sew the hand to your collar and then deliver a line, starting with the word "must," and punctuated with gasps and halts, hence:

Must...find...Doctor...Parker's...hand cream!

Must...warn...colonies...about...approaching...threat...from Archon...5! forty-five...minutes!"

As usual, Joel and his pals make a bad film enjoyable. In this case, they have a hard row to hoe, but I laughed out loud several times.

The makers of MST3K are very intelligent and funny people. I recommend these videos highly. If it's still on cable, someone in the bay area needs to invite me over to watch an episode.

Want to share a happy story with Gooden?

Gooden loves to share!

Want to see The Crawling Hand for yourself?

Gooden's Listening to:
WC Handy's Memphis Blues Band by WC Handy
Shake My Hand by Snooky Parker

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