Keith Palmer (krpalmer) wrote,
Keith Palmer

MST3K 206: Ring of Terror

There's a new collection of official Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVDs out, and remembering how the previous boxed set stopped being sold pretty quickly due to what I gather was an unexpected problem with rights for one of its movies, I was swift to order this set as well. However, I did wonder a little about the four episodes included in it. It happens that all of them were episodes I got to fairly late in my watching of the series, ones whose descriptions hadn't really grabbed me. Would this, perhaps, be a collection picked up out of a mere push towards completeness, one otherwise "disposable?" The thought came to mind as I started rewatching one of the episodes in it, "Ring of Terror."

The movie opens in a graveyard, with an old guy making lengthy and ominous yet curiously forgettable pronouncements and then wandering around calling "Puma?" It turns out that he's looking for a cat, and in the process runs across the tombstone of "Lewis B. Moffitt" ("sat on a toffitt"), who died at the tragic age of twenty-two. This calls on flashbacks, and we meet the medical student Lewis himself, who looks suspiciously older than his tombstone claims. ("Aw, she's the ginchiest. Life does begin at forty!") Numerous "riffs" on the other wrinkly-foreheaded students and an entire host segment about "The Old School" follow, but to be honest it does start to seem a little repetitive to me. There are also jokes and riffs about an overweight student couple, ("An interpretative dance showing how plate tectonics works"), at least until Joel and the bots get annoyed with it and start complaining. In the midst of all of this, it's established little by little that while Lewis appeared to "fear not," he has a secret phobia, rooted in childhood, about corpses and darkness... and wouldn't you know it, his fraternity initiation involves him stealing the ring off the hand of the cadaver he "feared not" at the autopsy. Everything comes together when Puma shows up in the darkness, and all of a sudden you may feel a little less annoyed at the old guy from the introduction stepping on the cat back then.

One good thing about the movie, though, is that it's actually over before you expect. This is because the "short" that accompanies it, for the one time in the series, actually follows it. The third chapter of "The Phantom Creeps," starring Bela Lugosi himself, starts with an "opening crawl" and the resolution of the previous cliffhanger in best "Commando Cody" "here's what we didn't show the last time," and then things are even murkier and harder to follow than in the movie until the closing cliffhanger. ("Joel, how come they kill all these people but the credits don't get any shorter?") This, as it turns out, was the last chapter of the serial shown on the series, which was about to enter the more rewarding fields of educational and/or promotional shorts.

This episode, to be fair, was the first episode shown during the first of Mystery Science Theater's famous "Turkey Day" marathons, features a cylinder-headed Tom Servo for the second and last episode, and was the inspiration for multiple riffs to follow involving calling out "Puma?" while someone is searching on screen. (I'm pretty sure they show up in both "Cave Dwellers" and "Pod People.") The DVD also includes a bonus feature of a series of host segments involving songs from the show, so all in all it may not be that "disposable" after all.
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