Keith Palmer (krpalmer) wrote,
Keith Palmer

MST3K 320: The Unearthly

At long last, I've begun rewatching a whole set of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes that I've been looking forward to for a while. The "Coleman Francis" movies do seem to ride on the edge of "just too bad to be funny" for some Mystery Science Theater fans, but I seem to have enjoyed them enough for the thought of watching them one after another to be appealing... although there's perhaps the piquant edge of wondering if my opinions will change at last when presented with hard evidence. Before beginning the three episodes themselves, though, I decided to watch two episodes featuring movies not directed by Coleman Francis himself, but which feature actors who'll show up in his works...

In introducing "The Unearthly," Dr. Forrester declares that it stars John Carradine and Tor Johnson, and I sort of have the feeling he's introducing them as if they're already familiar. Before the movie, though, there's not just one but two shorts. "Posture Pals" pushes the importance of good posture to school children, four of who provide reinforcement for each other ("Oh, they're going to take this for about half an hour before they end up killing each other.") to be crowned "King, Queen, Prince, and Princess of Posture." ("Their chances of of being cool are ruined for life." "Next week: Posture Pope, in colour!") Then, it's on to "Appreciating Our Parents," in which young Tommy, even if he's not quite listening to the narrator, figures out how much work his mother and father do ("As for Tommy, he's a slacker.") for the family, even if only his father gets paid for it. ("Mom leads a life of quiet desperation!") Eventually, Tommy pitches in ("Tommy showers only half his body to save water.") and gets a raise in his allowance. ("From slacker to booster; thanks, Tommy!") Both shorts are very earnest, but may not offer quite the scope for "riffing" that others have for the series; I'm sort of conscious that this episode follows right after the one that featured "Mr. B. Natural."

As for the movie itself, it breaks the pattern that had been running through the third season of alternating American (eventually black and white 1950s movies) and Japanese movies. John Carradine plays Professor Charles Conway, a doctor transplanting "the seventeenth gland" into patients who think they're just staying at his country house for a rest cure, with Tor Johnson in a fairly small role as his lumbering and barely articulate assistant Lobo, who nevertheless delivers one of the movie's most memorable lines, "Time for go to bed." ("Well said!") Convicted criminal Mark Houston shows up at the doctor's house, winds up staying through a moderate battle of wits, discovers the experiments never go well, and manages to save one but not the other of the female patients there when he arrives as Professor Conway is stabbed by one of his experiments who had just clawed his way out of a fresh grave. It's then revealed Mark was really an undercover police officer and that there were a whole bunch of hairy mutants down in the basement. ("Hey, it's the cast of Quest For Fire! They saved the best for last.")

This was one of the first Mystery Science Theater episodes I saw, buying it on a videocassette, but I may be more inclined to agree in this case with the assessments of others that it's a slow, unexciting movie. However, the "host segments" are pretty good as far as I'm concerned, starting off with Crow being "burned beyond recognition" trying to tape a "spontaneous," "funny" segment for "America's Goofiest Home Videos" (here, I'm reminded that was a new phenomenon) and a particularly cheerful and evil Dr. Forrester presenting "hard pills to swallow" for the Invention Exchange. (Joel's "celebrity products" aren't as interesting for me, but that may just reflect my lack of cultural knowledge.) There's then a take on the "Appreciating Our Parents" short where Crow is prompted to appreciate all the work Gypsy does on the Satellite of Love while he's "too bloated on dinners of rich food and generous portions of our own gargantuan ego" and a presentation on the career of Tor Johnson featuring heavily retouched film frames run through a "Video Toaster." To me, it's in keeping with the "lo-fi" spirit of the show, but it was never featured again. After that, though, there's also a presentation of the bizarre and slow-moving "Unearthly game."
Tags: mst3k, mst3k episode
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