Keith Palmer (krpalmer) wrote,
Keith Palmer

MST3K 107: Robot Monster

After a little thought on what episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 to next rewatch (and some contemplation of winding up with another list of episodes to watch based first of all on their episode number), I finally returned to the simpler time of the first season, and an episode that seems to be well-thought of by several. (It was one of the first episodes I sought out to watch when I first found my chance to see ones that weren't available from video stores.) "Robot Monster" is one of the small number of movies the series showed that were already infamous, and the mad scientists Dr. Clayton Forrester and Dr. Laurence Erhardt openly declare it was in the "Golden Turkey Awards." (That does, though, make me aware of how I've seen genuine fans of unadulterated low-end movies get angry at that book and the "bad movies" circle it's a part of, and reminds me of my conviction that the series grew to become something somehow working with its cheesy movies instead of just producing a brief synopsis to invite ridicule and contempt.)

The episode leads off with not one but two chapters of the "Commando Cody and the Radar Men from the Moon" serial, which if nothing else clearly demonstrates how the serial seemed to try just a little too hard to set up its cliffhangers, showing the hero's car or plane crashing in flames at the end of one chapter but at the start of the next going back to show how he actually bailed out instants before impact. The early "riffing" somehow doesn't quite make the serial seem more exciting than it is; both Josh Weinstein's jaded Tom Servo and Joel sound a little bored to start with. They seem to be warming up by the time they get to the movie proper, though, and the movie itself most definitely helps.

Clearly set up as a dream sequence, the minimalist post-apocalyptic goings-on of "Robot Monster" do have their own charm, with bizarre dialogue, a bombastic and distinctive score by Elmer Bernstein, and the memorable Ro-Man, somebody ambling around in a bulky gorilla suit with an improvised diving helmet-like head, wearing a stocking over his face. (Joel comments that it looks like "a bunch of clay" inside the helmet as our heroes get into the spirit of surrealism during the host segments. I was somehow intrigued by the references to Isaac Asimov during them, which also showed up in another first-season episode. In addition, Tom Servo's bubble head "explodes" when he get confused... something that MSTings could sometimes carry to excess.) There's one point that did leave me thinking ahead: as part of the general chaos leading into and out of the dream sequence, there's some repeated stock footage with really cheap stop-motion animation of dinosaurs and two actual lizards gruesomely attacking each other. I believe that an episode of the second season had something approximately the same, and that time our heroes start getting upset about it.
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