Keith Palmer (krpalmer) wrote,
Keith Palmer

MST3K 101: The Crawling Eye

With all of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in front of me to watch again, I've done some thinking about other people who are watching through all of the episodes in production order. Getting through all of those episodes does feel a little intimidating to me. However, I could see myself watching the first episode of each season in order to get a fast-forwarded sense of how the series changed over time, and so I rewatched the first episode shown on cable, "The Crawling Eye."

Even with its production number, "The Crawling Eye" gives basically about the same introduction to the series as any other early episode, and most of that is in its opening credits (which do, though, show Joel's reaction to being blasted into space.) The mad scientists (at this point, Dr. Clayton Forrester and Dr. Larry Erhardt) say a little about moving down from "Gizmonics Institute" to "Deep 13," and you could even listen to the first host segment and imagine that they moved right after shooting the guy in the red jumpsuit that they didn't like into space, but the introductory remarks could also be viewed as a wink back to the fans in Minnesota who watched the inaugural season on an UHF station there.

The chronological efforts to watch through the show that I've seen all start with the "KTMA" episodes, and going from them to "The Crawling Eye" seems to make the episode look good by comparison... but perhaps through a bit of "sour grapes" that the first three episodes ever have been lost to the ether, and perhaps through a gathered sense that the KTMA episodes were really, really rough work, I haven't seen any of them. That makes "The Crawling Eye" a jump into the deep end for me. The simple Satellite of Love set and the long pauses in between "riffs," where I'm positive something else could be said even if I can't think of what that could be, do give the episode something of the feel of a first, tentative part of a larger work in progress. (When I wrote my first MSTing, I worried about the big chunks of original text I was leaving in between the riffs I could think of. Rewatching "The Crawling Eye," I started to wonder if, had the MSTing been set in the first season, it would have resembled the show as it was.) With that said, when I think about the riffs that are there, there is an intriguing promise of things to come to them.

All of this, of course, might give the chance to pay more attention to the movie. It involves a mysterious cloud settling on a mountain in the Alps, from which some climbers emerge with their heads missing and others emerge in shaky shape with homicidal tendencies. A young psychic (who doesn't seem to do that much to help) and a sort of international troubleshooter (who makes cryptic comments about this having happened in the Andes, not that it helps him when the crisis starts) converge on the Alpine villa to investigate. Clouds from space settling on mountain peaks to cloak a dark invasion actually made me think of an old science fiction novel with a certain following among the SF cognoscenti, "Last and First Men"... but the eponymous crawling eyes, tiny eyes set one apiece in large spheres with thin tentacles, are a bit ridiculous at first glance. The heroes retreat to a laboratory conveniently built by like a fortress and call in an air strike after figuring out that the eyes can be burnt, and "eye" puns fly freely as the riffing picks up. All in all, thinking back on it, it's maybe a better introduction to the series than it might seem watching it.
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