Keith Palmer (krpalmer) wrote,
Keith Palmer

MST3K 203: Jungle Goddess

I'm back to commenting on Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. Perhaps letting my course be set by having watched "Mad Monster" not that long ago, I'm on to the third episode of the second season, "Jungle Goddess." It might still be tempting to say that the show was still developing in the early part of its second season, but there are some interesting moments.

Following our heroes playing "hide-and-seek with the elusive and mysterious forces that control the universe" (the universe doesn't oblige them by hiding in turn, even after they count to a hundred and say, "Ready or not, here we exist!"), things lead off with the first chapter of the serial "The Phantom Creeps." A bearded Bela Lugosi (the "riffers" delivery many, many quips in Count Dracula voices) plays the scientist Dr. Alex Zorka, whose enormous, lumbering tiki-headed robot ("Oh, what's the big deal? It's a big metal Richard Kiel.") seems used at first just to push open the entrance between his regular and his secret lab. ("If you guys don't mind, I've got a Michelin Man reading in an hour.") However, the scientist is also equipped with a belt that can turn him invisible (or at least to a white blur on the film) and exploding spiders that can home in on magnetic discs and blow up potted trees. Naturally, the authorities are concerned that he doesn't turn these things over to the wrong power. The scientist, though, shaves off his beard and with his assistant chauffeuring him picks up a bearded hitchhiker and then kills him in what may or may not be a fortunate car accident. The busy scientist then invisibly sneaks an exploding spider into the plane carrying his wife to identify the body, the spider blows up the pilot instead of the scientist's wife, and a spunky girl reporter who stowed away in the plane's broom closet is seen bailing out just before the (model) plane crashes and we're left waiting for the next chapter.

"Jungle Goddess" itself features a pre-typecast George Reeves (the riffers make a good number of references to the "Man of Steel" throughout) as Mike Patton, the copilot to Bob Simpson. In the days just after the end of the Second World War, Bob wants to go looking for an heiress who crashed somewhere in Africa and beat the rush of people also hoping to claim the "dead or alive" reward. After flying out ("I think we just flew through a dissolve!") and viewing stock footage of African wildlife through a "binoculars" effect, the pilots spot the plane's wreckage with what seems very little difficulty and make a safe landing in the middle of the jungle. ("Oh, they had to land, the rubber band's unwound!") Changing into pith helmets, the pilots set out, and Bob manages to shoot the first native he sees. The remaining natives surround the pilots and take them to their village, and it just so happens that the crashed heiress Greta Vanderhorn is alive and well and more or less worshipped by the village. She explains to Mike that, despite her accent not seeming that different than his, she decided to return to South Africa at the very start of the war; unfortunately, her plane crashed along the way. ("Airport '42.") Surviving alone by some miracle ("By some plot contrivance..."), Greta stumbled into the midst of the natives, and it turns out they aren't just wildly enthusiastic about those who look different than them and don't shoot at first sight, but that she also managed to save the life of a sick villager. Nevertheless, Greta would give a lot for "a hamburger and some french-fried potatoes." (Along with Bela Lugosi's "This will simplify everything!", this became a catchphrase in the show and MSTings, including one of my own I wrote before I'd even seen the episode, although sometimes it seemed to change to "hamburger sandwich" as well.) There's also a point about the village being on top of some ore Mike identifies as "kronotite," "stuff that they use in the manufacture of atomic energy" ("Saps all your power if you're a visitor from a foreign planet."), but nothing seems to come of this.

Bob has been sentenced to death for his trigger-happy nature, but Greta is perfectly happy to help him escape along with Mike. The three make their getaway with the natives in hot pursuit ("Meanwhile, in an equally racist Tarzan movie across the way..."), but the stress of it all is getting to Bob ("Yeah, he's not thinking as clearly as when he shot that guy."), and he has a violent falling-out with Mike right after a commercial break and charges off with the compass and the revolver, shooting at every animal in sight. ("Oh great, he killed a coconut. In cold milk.") Eventually, one of the natives throws a spear into Bob's back, but Mike and Greta, who have been tailing Bob with only some difficulty, shoot the native ("My first kill. Feels good."), and make their aerial getaway.

In one of the "host segments," Joel shows off a great number of cards to be loaded in front of "Cambot" with cutouts similar to the "binoculars" in the movie. One of them is the blurry and somehow datingly cheap crack "Hubblescope," but things brilliantly turn around just moments later with the "Scopes Monkey scope, also known as Inherit the Wind-o-Rama." At the end of the episode, there's a brief "sitcom" skit presented about the domestic life of the movie's characters, and at the end of that Joel, in Jackie Gleason fashion, introduces Crow as "Art Crow!", which may have been the inspiration for a piece of fan art arriving later that identified Crow as "Art" and in turn inspired a running gag where Pearl Forrester would call Crow "Art."
Tags: mst3k, mst3k episode
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