Monday, October 22, 2012

Countdown to Halloween: MST3K Season One, Episode 7 - Robot Monster!

Time for another review/index/whatever you want to call this series of articles on MST3K! And we're up to episode 7, which features Robot Monster, the 1953 schlockfest that starred Goerge Nader, Gregory Moffett, Claudia Barrett and Selena Royale, directed by Phil Tucker and written by Wyott Ordung. The basic plot is, the monstrous Ro-Man attempts to annihilate the last family alive on Earth, but finds himself falling for their beautiful daughter!

And yes, this is the movie with the gorilla suit and the robot head, that looked like someone just borrowed some leftover costumes from two other movies!

robotmonster_lcThe episode opens with Joel in his robe again, like last time, with much the same kind of introduction -- almost word for word! After Commercial Sign, Joel's making adjustments to Gypsy, which she's scared of, but it all is fine. The Mads are calling now, and after they insult Joel, they introduce their invention, the Mechanically-Inflating Whoopie Cushion, and it's filled with real methane gas, which ignites when someone sits on it! Joel and the Bots are all shocked at this, but then Joel introduces his, the Cumber-Bubble-Bund, which is a bubble machine worn around the waist. Joel demonstrates it with disco music, and Cam-Bot zooms in and out as it plays. Then, Joel says he has a joke, and turns away, so it looks like he's urinating bubbles, and says, "Champagne goes right through me." The Mads aren't amused, and tell Joel about this week's film. But first, it's two chapters of Radar Men From the Moon!

So it's time for Movie Sign, and they head into the theater! Chapter four begins with titles, and they come up with some complaints about having to sit through them again, and then Joel reminds them they're getting two chapters this time around! Jokes are based on the standard cliffhanger plot device of adding an extra shot not seen last time around that shows how the hero got away, a lot of added dialogue to the movie, the Motion Picture Association, John Cleese, Caesar's Palace (standard gag whenever the movie shows the moon city), the song "Paradise City," jokes about the fighting ability of scientists, Madame Curie, Excedrin, Tom sneezes at dust being kicked up onscreen, Joel holds his hands up so that it looks like his silhouette is holding up Commando Cody in flight, Karen Black, Charlton Heston, and Fantasy Island.

robotmonster_lc2After a commercial break, chapter five begins! Joel suggests that the bots try to cope with it, and to think of it as getting a booster shot twice a day, from the same doctor, to which Crow quips, "Yeah, Dr. Mengele." Tom asks if the Geneva Convention covers this. The bots start walking out of the theater, but  Joel gets them back again (Tom starts saying, "You can't make me, you can't make me," which is an obscure Gilligan's Island reference). They keep trying to leave, however, providing the gags while the opening credits run. Gags are made on the topics of air shows, Joel pointing out what wasn't mentioned in the last chapter, Joel says he's beginning to think the endings are rigged, Superman, arts grants, Kelly Services, My Mother the Car, Joel picks up a giant dart to throw at what appears to be a dart board on screen (he never throws it, though), Good Humor Men, Joel muses about whether or not "Commando" is an honorary title, and James Dean.

robotmonster_still2Back in the control room, Joel and the bots re-enact the plane sequence in the first chapter shown to see if it could really happen, using a model plane as well as a model Commando Cody (I want, I want, I want!), and the model plane even bursts into flame! Tom points out that physics don't work well for Commando Body, and Joel replies with Asimov's debunking of King Kong (square/cube law and all that), and that The Incredible Shrinking Man wouldn't have been able to be heard. Tom counters with scientific proof of Asimov's sideburns, to which Crow suggests if The Invisible Man is truly invisible, he'd be blind because his retinas would be transparent. Joel says something more unbelievable that's true in real life is that physics can't explain how bumblebees are able to fly (which has been debunked, but that's beside the point). Tom tries to calculate it all out, but there's a burst of smoke from his head and he stops talking. Crow is asked to figure it out next, but when he tries to blow it off, he gets a burst of smoke out of his head, too! Joel thinks he should get more memory in the bots, and asks Cambot what he thinks about bumblebees -- and there's a burst of smoke, followed by static!

robotmonster_lc4And now, it's time for Robot Monster, and Joel walks back into the theater with the now-repaired robots, and he's asked by Tom not to ask any more brain teasers. They make jokes during the credits about George Nader being Ralph Nader's brother, Claudia Barrett being from the comedy team Grin and Barret, Selena Royale (Joel says, "What a great movie, wasn't Woody Allen in that?"), John Mylon from the comedy team of Mylon and Winding Road, and so on. As an aside, there's a bunch of pulps and comic book covers shown behind the opening credits, I wonder if anyone's ever documented which issue numbers they are? I see issues of "Strange Stories From Another World," "Space Cadet," "Terrot Tales," "Strange Suspense Stories," "Haunted," and that's just the ones I can ID.

robotmonster_lc5Most of the jokes are just adding dialogue to the characters, but other jokes are made based on The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, Emergency!, Pop-A-Matic, some alligator gags, Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, Schlitz Malt Liquor, teaching apes sign language, the Asteroids video game, a vague Planet of the Apes reference, the Berlin Wall, "Billy Don't Be a Hero," and then they take a break from the movie.

In the control room, Tom and Crow mock a sequence in the movie, with Crow calling Tom on an empty frame, and asking Tom why he hasn' t killed the human. Tom responds, "Because he gives me crunchy treats and he empties my load pan!" This goes on with gag after gag, and then Joel comes in, but the bots still are playing, and Joel takes them seriously, and smashes a wooden chair over Tom! Joel learns they were just playing, and he feels bad. Tom says Joel must've forgotten Asimov's laws, and when Joel asks how he could make it up to him, Tom says Joel could let him kill him! This causes Joel to break another chair over him, and then it's Movie Sign!

robotmonster_still1In this segment, Joel's apologizing to Tom still, but then they get to making jokes about the movie again! This time, the jokes are based on cows (trust me on this, they make a whole bunch of cow gags), Miller Beer, Planet of the Apes, Raymond Burr, V-8 Juice, George Lucas, Shedd's Spread, ham radio, Gino Vanelli, "pull my finger," Bigfoot, Ben, the Parade of Homes, Texas A&M, Sherwin-Williams Paint, The Jungle Book, Alice Cooper, Oklahoma!, Janitor in a Drum, Lawrence Welk, Geritol, Fantasy Island, "I'm Getting Married in the Morning" (sung as "Armageddon Married in the Morning"), "Girl of My Dreams" (sung as "Gorilla My Dreams"), Planet of the Apes (again), Magilla Gorilla, and then it's time for a break!

robotmonster_stillThis time around, Crow and Tom think that they're having heart problems, due to how bad the movie is, and they're not sure they can take any more. Joel, however, thinks it's cool in a dark, surreal kind of way. Joel tries to explain this to them, but the robots argue it's not surreal, it just doesn't make sense. Tom starts to get the idea of surreal, and then Cambot gets into the act, making the video go really bizarre. Crow starts talking surreal, but still doesn't seem to get why it's a good thing, but the surrealistic speech from both the bots continues (although one could argue it's not surreal, but rather free-form nonsense).

Back to the movie, joke topics include Casey Kasem and American Top 40, The Banana Splits, nature films, Lenny from Of Mice and Men, the Donner party, the Cowsills, Planet of the Apes (yet again), and Ben (again). There's also a bit of a deja vu gag at the end of the movie, as there's repeated sequences of Ro-Man (the Robot Monster) walking towards the camera, and Joel and the bots say the same gags over and over.

robotmonster_posterFinally, they leave the theater, and in the control room, Joel and the bots are wearing garbage bag togas and perform a skit called, "The Life and Times of Ro-Man," and they basically reiterate the plot of the movie, pointing out some of the stupid aspects of the movie, and then it goes off the rails. The Mads wonder if they could've sent a stranger person into space, and they press the button.

Wow, Robot Monster was an even worse movie than I expected it to be... thank goodness I got to watch it as an MST3K episode! Still, I can't help but feel a bit disappointed in this episode... the jokes don't come as fast and furious as I'm expecting, although maybe I'm looking at these with greater expectations than is reasonable. It's not like I didn't enjoy this episode, after all... it's just not as funny as I expected it to be. Maybe it's the current group of writers and cast, and as things changed between this season and the next, things got tighter and funnier?

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