The MST3K Journal: Season 2

The year was 1990, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 had cleared its first hurdle by getting renewed for a second season. But all was not well, as Josh Weinstein chose to figuratively sling a bindle over his shoulder and strike out on his own. At the time, it was believed among the fandom that Josh had been dissatisfied with the switch from improvising riffs to scripting them. This is understandable as, watching the KTMA episodes, he’s clearly the most adept of the three at conjuring ad-libs.

However, later remarks by the cast indicated that the split was more acrimonious in nature. This was partly due to the age difference. When MST3K premiered on KTMA in 1988, Josh was 17 while Joel, Trace, Jim, and Kevin were all in their late twenties and early thirties. Seen from this light, it’s not too surprising that the other Brains might have regarded Josh as the annoying brat who wants to hang out with the big kids. In turn, Josh could be excused for feeling that he wasn’t getting any respect. However, it appears that any such hard feelings are now water under the bridge, seeing his participation in Cinematic Titanic and other such projects.

Still, there was a massive hole left behind that needed to be spackled pronto. As well as finding a new voice for Tom Servo, who could possibly join Dr. Forrester in wreaking cinematic torment on Joel and his robot friends?

Why, this guy:

While Dr. Erhardt was a mad scientist in his own right (though clearly the junior member of the team), Frank was pure lackey material. With their comically abusive relationship, Dr. Forrester and Frank joined the pantheon of duos whom you can’t imagine in any other formation, like Abbott and Costello, or Siskel and Ebert, or peanut butter and chocolate. Could you imagine what it would be like if Lou Costello partnered with Fred Allen, or Roger Ebert with John Simon, or chocolate with curry paste? It would be a bleak, miserable world.

Changes were made up on the Satellite of Love as well. First and foremost, the set got an overhaul, replacing the eye-searing yellow and purple palette with a much cleaner look. Tom Servo also got a voice upgrade with new puppeteer Kevin Murphy (the original plan to continue having both Bots voiced by the Mads’ performers was nixed as apparently Frank Conniff’s puppeteering skills weren’t up to snuff). Gypsy was also slowly but surely transitioning from the inarticulate dullard of Season 1 to the character we would come to know and love. The addition of the Hexfield (though the actual design would see some tinkering in the first few uses before they settled on the camera iris style) proved to be an excellent method for interacting with characters from the movies (often portrayed by Mike Nelson), as well as assorted random weirdos.

But we’d best get to the theater before Dr. Forrester comes around and decides to apply rope burns to our hinders.

A couple of notes before we continue. At the suggestion of a commenter in the Season 1 article, I’m now including a favorite riff from each episode. Also, now that stingers are featured, I’ll be offering my opinion on whether the ones used were good choices and suggesting alternates for instances where I don’t agree.

201: Rocketship X-M [Grade: B]

Another rocketship movie, as you can probably guess from the title. This one featuring Lloyd Bridges back when he was known for serious movies instead of stuff like Airplane and Hot Shots.

One of the more obvious ways you can tell it was made in the 1950s is how the air is thick with cigarette smoke during the preflight press conference. The mission quickly goes south due to a cock-up with a fuel mixture, which makes it the sole fault of the crew’s Token Girl. She gets dumped on quite frequently throughout the movie, with just about everything that goes wrong being blamed on her. Then an engine misfire causes them to fly to Mars because it’s God’s will. They don’t actually use the G word. But the explanation given for how they just happened to end up orbiting Mars boils down to that. Their exploration of the surface results in the audience being pummeled with a heavy-handed Horrors of Nuclear War Message. They try to return to Earth but run out of fuel and crash land to their deaths. Quite a downer of an ending, especially since science fiction movies at the time tended to be more upbeat.

The host segments prove to be of more consistent quality than we saw in the first season. Of particular note was their first use of the Hexfield, which featured the onscreen debut of Mike Nelson doing a bizarre portrayal of Robot Holocaust vixen Valeria. Apparently, Mike was never comfortable with these crossdressing roles (and he does make for a rather ugly woman). So naturally the others would create instances where he would be in drag onscreen as much as they thought they could push him without him snapping.

  • Favorite riff: Help me, Mr. Wizard. I don’t want to be an astronaut anymore!
  • Proposed stinger: “Should we wake him?”
  • Bechdel Test: Fail. The only conversation between two females occurs between Lisa and a female reporter about the prospect of being stuck in such cramped quarters with four guys.

202: The Side Hackers [Grade: F]

I truly hate the movie with every fiber of my being. The story behind it being selected is that originally the Brains would just watch the first ten minutes or so before deciding to use a film. If that amount of material was all you knew about The Side Hackers, it’s understandable that one might think that it’s a goofy sports film about an oddball form of motorcycle racing.

But just like the cheerful looking imagery in the poster for the film version of The Plague Dogs, it’s very misleading. About a third of the way in, it takes sudden left turn into being a biker revenge movie, including a graphic rape scene. The resulting nihilism is such that even the darkest spaghetti western would look like The Roy Rogers Show in comparison. Apparently, they were committed to using it at that point, so they cut the rape scene and worked around it the best they could. Having learned their lesson, from then on, the Brains always viewed a film all the way through before committing to it. It’s really a shame the film couldn’t have stuck with the initial premise, because it might have been halfway tolerable then.

The host segments suffer a similar descent in quality. It’s starts off fun with their first ever song-based host segment (I don’t count the jingle from Women of the Prehistoric Planet) about side hacking done to a Beach Boys-esque tune. The one where they attempt to develop terminology for play-by-play commentary is okay, but a bit drawn out. The appearance of J.C. (the film’s antagonist) on the Hexfield falls flat. The proceedings are capped off a practically word for word rehash of the morose folk song from the movie that is concentrated pain. Not one I’m inclined to rewatch.

  • Favorite riff: Hurl him in the ground and dose-do, make him sing like a soprano. Fall off the bike flat on your ass, and you fill up your butt with prairie grass. You stick your can up in the air, and show us your can like you don’t care.
  • Proposed stinger: J.C. hauls ass on the side hack.
  • Bechdel Test: Fail. None of the female characters converse with each other.

203: Jungle Goddess (with The Phantom Creeps: Chapter 1) [Grade: C]

All the movies featured on MST3K show their age to some degree. However, Jungle Goddess wears it more poorly than most. But first let’s talk about the short. The running time of these older movies aren’t always capable of filling the two-hour slot of the show, hence the use of shorts. However, it appears that the Brains had yet to discover Rick Prelinger and his treasure trove of vintage educational shorts, so we’re stuck with serials. On the face of it, The Phantom Creeps may look promising, as it features Bela Lugosi as a mad scientist. But unlike Radar Men from the Moon, it stumbles right out of the gate.

As mad scientists go, Dr. Zorka is oddly unfocused in his creative energies. In the first chapter alone, he demonstrates a prototype giant robot, an invisibility belt, a bunch of exploding spider drones, and a vapor concoction the effects of which are currently unknown. But what really sets it apart involves how he went about faking his death to evade the authorities. Zorka’s lackey Monk is driving him when a hitchhiker is spotted and on an apparent whim Monk is told to pick him up. Shortly thereafter, the car goes off the road and crashes. While Zorka and Monk fly clear and remain uninjured somehow, the hitchhiker dies in the fiery wreckage. To this, Zorka states, “How fortunate. This will simplify everything.” No kidding. Throw in a bad audio and it’s hard to tell what’s going on half the time. At least Radar Men from the Moon was easy to follow and had some decent action sequences.

The main feature can be summed up thusly: A pair of bush pilots in Africa learn of a reward being offered for locating the daughter of a diamond magnate, whose flight to Johannesburg crashed six years ago. They eventually discover her being worshiped by an isolated tribe as a goddess. Just from that, you can tell it’s going to be problematic.

But before we continue, a word about the two lead actors. Joel and the Bots instantly recognized the straight shooter pilot as George Reeves, aka Superman. Not quite so recognizable is the twitchy pilot portrayed by Ralph Byrd, known as Dick Tracy on film and television. Like Reeves, he too died at a relatively young age. Though in his case it was a heart attack induced by the brutal work schedule of the Dick Tracy television show.

But back to the main feature. The trope of a Caucasian explorer being mistaken for a god by natives exists in part due to historical precedence, with consequences ranging from comic to tragic. The issue with works that employ this trope is in how the natives are portrayed. All too often, they get played as moronic bumpkins, which doesn’t sit well with modern sensibilities. In such circumstances, it can be difficult to maintain good humor and it gets reflected in the host segments. Most notable in this regard is the final one, where the movie is reimagined as an unfunny 1950s style sitcom. This is a prime example of doing something too well, as the sketch is indeed not that funny.

  • Favorite riff: “After considerable red tape…” I went on some bombing raids over Central Europe
  • Proposed stinger: Bob becomes a shish ke-Bob.
  • Bechdel Test: Pass. Greta and Wanama go on about the former’s good looks. Also, during the flashback, Greta talks about the outbreak of war in Europe with Helen.

204: Catalina Caper [Grade: B-]

This feature is renowned for being the only pure comedy film (as opposed to merely having bad comic relief) to be screened on MST3K. In this case, it was one of the many beach party movies that infested theaters back in the 1960s, typically starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. In this one, the former Mouseketeer is Tommy Kirk and the young woman who arrouses his passion probably has a name, but we’ll use the tag Joel and the Bots came up with, Creepy Girl. A romantic rival is portrayed by Venita Wolf, who receives the dreaded “And Introducing” credit that has become regarded as an acting career death sentence. As it happens, her filmography is rather sparse with only a handful of television appearances after this movie, the most notable being as Yeoman Ross in the Star Trek episode “The Squire of Gothos”.

There’s the usual dancing, music (including an appearance by Little Richard singing a truly ghastly song), romantic misunderstandings, and other beachside tomfoolery. The excuse for a plot that barely holds it together involves a trio of petty crooks who have stolen a Chinese scroll from a museum for a sketchy collector. But they’re somewhat goodhearted crooks, as they intend to make a forgery and return the real scroll to the museum. There’s also a bumbling inspector named Fingers O’Toole (a name which sounds more appropriate for a pickpocket or a safecracker), whose slapstick pratfalls are painfully unfunny.

Like many older comedies, most of the humor has gone stale over the years. As a result, a lot of the riffs end up being some variant of, “That’s not funny.” While there are some borderline cases (The Wild, Wild World of Batwoman comes to mind), the Brains wisely chose to never do another pure comedy.

The strongest of the host segments is the one where Tom Servo expresses his infatuation with Creepy Girl in the form of a 1950s style ballad. The dud host segment this time around without question is Frank’s Tupperware party. My best guess is that it was meant as a comment on how awkward Tupperware parties tend to be and, as with the bad 1950s sitcom sketch from the previous episode, it succeeds too well.

  • Favorite riff: The youth of today, spent like so many shell casings on the battlefield of love.
  • Proposed stinger: O’Toole gets wuss-slapped by the topless bikini babe he reels in, who then storms off in a huff.
  • Bechdel Test: Fail. Despite the horde of bikini babes, none of them actually converse with one another.

205: Rocket Attack U.S.A. (with The Phantom Creeps: Chapter 2) [Grade: C]

A Cold War thriller that doesn’t really thrill and has a pessimistic resolution. There’s also another installment of The Phantom Creeps. But other than establishing a spunky girl reporter character who was sneaking around in the previous chapter, I have no idea what was going on. While the shoddy audio is a big contributor to the problem, it appears as if characters are simply blundering about at random.

As for the feature, the initial plot concerns a spy who gets inserted into the Soviet Union to investigate the status of their ICBM program. He contacts an agent who is the mistress of a high up government official (since he looks like a slightly less heavyset Tor Johnson, she deserves some hazard pay). They sneak onto the ICBM installation with the intent of sabotage. But they get caught and are shot dead, with the bomb being disposed of before it causes any damage. Quite a downer ending, except it’s not yet the end. Instead we get a POV shift in the vein of Psycho where we observe the lives of random New Yorkers going about their business. Little do they know that, as Joel and the Bots put it, the Big Apple is about to become (radioactive) applesauce.

Not much else to say about the movie. However, the director Barry Mahon is more familiar than you might realize. The two genres he’s best known for directing are nudie films and children films, which does feel like a bit of a disconnect. Two of the latter type have been covered by RiffTrax. The first is a relatively faithful adaptation of The Land of Oz that looks like someone had recorded a community theater play with a Super 8. For all I know, that was the case. More infamous however is the nightmarish Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny. New York being reduced to a glassy crater is somehow less horrific.

Host segments are a bit uneven. The Mads’ invention of the Water Polo Foosball Table is a great one. Extra kudos for painting the little players to look like Dr. Forrester and Frank. The one on the Charlie McCarthy Hearings was a lot funnier than I was expecting coming in. Civil Defense Quiz Bowl however was an atomic dud.

  • Favorite riff: Remember guys, this is filmed in color. It’s just that everything’s grey in Russia.
  • Stinger: “Help me.”
  • Alternate stinger: Agree.
  • Bechdel Test: Pass. Two random women comment to each other about how they dislike the air raid drills.

206: Ring of Terror (with The Phantom Creeps: Chapter 3) [Grade: C+]

This has all the earmarks of a tenth rate Twilight Zone submission that failed to get Rod Serling’s approval. And he would have been correct in his refusal. Though there are a multitude of variants of this plot, the core elements remain identical. Guy goes into creepy place on a dare to perform a task. In the process of performing said task, he’s immobilized by a presumably supernatural force. Guy panics and dies of fright. When his body is discovered the next day, it’s revealed that the immobilization was caused by something mundane. The End. This works fine when told around a campfire. But adapting it even for a half-hour anthology series would require considerable padding. As a feature film, it takes padding to a whole new level.

Our protagonist is Lewis Moffitt, a 22-year-old medical student. At least they try to convince you that’s the case. In actuality, actor George Mather was in his early forties when this film was shot. Judging from their appearances, it was the same case for the other actors cast as students. So all the geriatric jokes in the riffing were pretty much inevitable. Now it’s been argued that there are plenty of college students of more advanced years. But that age group is rarely into going through fraternity hazings that are so prominently featured here.

Anyway, Lewis is supposed to be fearless, which is demonstrated by him dealing with a rattlesnake that interrupts the lovers lane time with his girlfriend and by being the only student who doesn’t toss his cookies during the dissection of a John Doe. Clearly, he’s Compensating for Something. So, the frat committee that assigns hazings has him break into the morgue to swipe the ring worn by said John Doe and the above-mentioned campfire story proceeds by the numbers.

Of the host segments, the most memorable is the one that parodies the dissection lecture scene, with Joel gutting a vacuum cleaner as the Bots get all nauseous. But that’s not all, as we get a serving of The Phantom Creeps for an unwelcome desert. Chapter Three is just as incomprehensible as the previous installments. The sole new development I could make out is that Monk’s loyalty to Zorka is wavering. The only reason I can think of for having the short at the end is because Frank’s song “If Chauffeurs Ruled the World” works better as part of the final host segment.

  • Favorite riff: Now let’s see, where was I? Oh yeah. “See Dick. See Dick make a lateral incision.”
  • Stinger: “Weird. I guess that is the word for it. Weird.”
  • Alternate stinger: Agree.
  • Bechdel Test: Fail. All conversations between female characters are about their boyfriends.

207: Wild Rebels [Grade: C+]

Another biker film, though it thankfully it doesn’t have the distilled misery of The Side Hackers. Which isn’t saying much, as that slice of cinematic Hell makes Othello look like a Mel Brooks comedy in comparison. In it, our hero Rod is a stock car racer who becomes frustrated with the sport and quits. Though I use the term hero loosely, because Rod is one of the many ineffectual chump protagonists seen in the films screened on MST3K who fail their way through the plot. Even when they occasionally succeed (especially if it’s through dumb luck or a deus ex machina), it merely causes their general incompetence to stand out even more.

Anyway, a psychotic biker gang wants to recruit him as a wheelman for a bank robbery. The cops catch wind of this and want him to be a mole and he foolishly agrees. The caper ends in a climatic shootout at a lighthouse, with a trail of dead cops and bystanders left in the wake. All the gang members are killed except for biker chick Linda, who is taken to the big house. Like I said, dreary stuff.

While the movie has many of the negative traits that turn me off on the crime drama films, as Joel notes, it helps to think of how ridiculous it all is. In particular, the biker gang is such a collection of exaggerated stereotypes as to be near impossible to take seriously. An interesting fact about Jeff Gillen (the actor who portrays Fats). Later in his career, he would appear in A Christmas Story as the Santa Claus who famously told Ralphy, “You’ll shoot yer eye out, kid.”

A notable series development occurs in this episode with Gypsy. Previously, she had been a dullard whose lines were largely restricted to “RAM chips!” and “Richard Basehart!” While she would continue to be a touch slow-witted, at least she became more articulate. Also, the host segment where Joel serenades Gypsy is a prime example of how the Bots were capable of being hard on Joel as they would be on Mike.

  • Favorite riff: “You remember that little college banana you were dancing with?” Well now he’s a banana split with nuts on top.
  • Proposed stinger: “That square bugs me! He really bugs me!”
  • Bechdel Test: Pass. A bank customer concludes her transaction with a teller.

208: Lost Continent [Grade: C-]

Rock climbing indeed. There are other distinctive traits possessed by this film, such as all the 1950s and 1960s television personalities like Hugh Beaumont and Cesar Romero. But it’s the lengthy and tedious rock climbing sequence that sticks in everyone’s craw. But why rock climbing? You see, a rocket launch went awry and disappeared over the South Pacific. So, a team of scientists and Air Force personnel are sent to locate it and recover the flight data. When they arrive in the area, a local tells them of the rocket landing in a plateau on the island. And hence the rock climbing.

Unfortunately, it appears to stymie Joel and the Bots, whose wailing in agony is as grating as the rock climbing, if not more so. It’s fortunate that there were so many familiar faces on the screen to inspire some more palatable riffs. Alas, the host segments are quite weak, with the visit by Hugh Beaumont on the Hexfield being the only quality material.

  • Favorite riff: I’ve plummeted to my death and I can’t get up!
  • Stinger: “Well, thanks for straightening the whole thing out…”
  • Alternate stinger: Briggs plummets to the foggy bottom.
  • Bechdel Test: Fail. The two female characters don’t even share scenes.

209: The Hellcats [Grade: B+]

Another biker film, though rather different in tone from the previous two. For one thing, it dials back on the death and despair, which helps make it more watchable. The more upbeat tone gets emphasized by this peppy theme song played during the opening credits. The membership of the gang also has a more even male-to-female ratio in comparison, with the prior biker movies having had only one biker chick each to share among themselves.

However, a big minus for Hellcats concerns the plot. As ugly and depressing as they were, The Side Hackers and Wild Rebels had mostly comprehensible storylines that could be followed. Hellcats is more of a bunch of random happenings. While the bikers occasionally work as drug mules for some local gangsters, mostly we see them indulging in sex and drugs and rock and roll. There’s also a subplot about the brother of a cop who was killed for investigating the connections between the bikers and the gangsters (the cop was killed, not the brother). He and his brother’s fiancée go about infiltrating the biker gang. But this meanders rather pointlessly and never resolves in a satisfactory manner. Plus, we have an odd scene with a guy dubbed as Kooky the Biker Clown by Joel and the Bots trying to swipe a drug stash hidden in an impounded motorcycle.

For the host segments, we essentially get a clip show, where Servo, Crow, and Joel are composing diary entries that segue into host segments from prior episodes. Whether or not you find Crow’s use of the “Dear Kitty” salutation creepy and inappropriate is entirely up to you.

  • Favorite riff: I’ll just blend in with the crowd here. Fortunately, I’m wild on the inside. I don’t need these hippy threads.
  • Stinger: Trumpeter yells something unintelligible.
  • Alternate stinger: Agree.
  • Bechdel Test: Pass. The female members of the gang have multiple non-male conversations.

210: King Dinosaur (with X Marks the Spot) {Grade: A-]

Finally, a short that isn’t a serial chapter. X Marks the Spot was a hopeless attempt to encourage New Jersey drivers to follow traffic laws. It even goes so far (this being the early 1940s) as to connect it to the War Effort. Because everything was tied to the War Effort at the time, no matter how tortured or convoluted the reasoning. It tells the story of Joe Doakes, New Jersey’s worst driver. We get treated to a multitude of scenes featuring his careless driving. I’ve got to say that the stunt drivers really earned their pay, as most of the scenes are terrifying to watch. As you might expect, Joe eventually dies and to his horror learns that good driving habits are a key component to getting past the Pearly Gates. What’s more, instead of defending him, his guardian angel unloads about what a hellish nightmare his existence has been ever since he was assigned to Joe. By the end of it all, about the only good thing that can be said of him is that he was never responsible for a hit and run.

As for the feature, it was the solo directorial debut (he previously co-directed Serpent Island with Tom Gries) of Bert I. Gordon, a name we’ll become all too familiar with. The plot involves a team of four scientists with a wide range of skill sets being sent to a newly discovered planet. Since two of them are men and two of them are women, it’s a foregone conclusion that there will be plenty of nookie. As it happens, the planet is identical to Earth, both in the general environment and the fauna. Only this being a Bert I. Gordon film, much of the fauna is made gigantic thanks to slapdash process photography.

Another reason for bringing the women folk is so they can provide the screaming for when they encounter the huge critters. Dear Gawd, so much screaming. Of course, the piece de resistance is the giant iguana which the film tries to convince us is a T. Rex. No dice, Mr. Gordon. For no particularly good reason, they set off a nuke just before they make the return trip back to Earth.

Of the host segments, the best of the lot by far is when Crow ponders the question given at the end of the short and delivers a bizarre monologue about things we can do to make a difference. What makes it especially memorable is how expressive he proves to be. As puppets go, Crow is rather crude, being made of random bits and pieces gained through thrift shop trawling. So in lieu of elaborate fiddly bits that would go in a Jim Henson construct, things such as altering the angle the puppet is held towards the camera help provide an amazing performance.

  • Favorite riff: “Did he ever drive when he had been drinking?” Oh boy, I need my other scroll for that. That’s a doozy.
  • Stinger: Gator wrestling aftermath.
  • Alternate stinger: The accident witness hears no evil and sees no evil.
  • Bechdel Test: Pass. Patricia and Nora have multiple (albeit brief) non-male conversations.

211: First Spaceship on Venus [Grade: A-]

Adapted from a novel written by noted Polish science fiction author Stanislaw Lem, he reputedly disowned the movie. Not having read the original, I can’t say for sure if it’s a Bakshi Lord of the Rings style Charlie Foxtrot or if Lem was just being uptight. Though the fact that the screenplay went through about a dozen revisions and three separate writing teams suggests the former is more likely.

However, the film has its pluses as well as its minuses. On the positive end, the design of the Venusian landscape is very creative. Certainly, it’s admirable to not take the easy way out by shooting at the East German equivalent of Bronson Canyon. Even if there are instances where the sets in question look kind of fake. Not so wonderful are conjectural leaps (and occasional straight-up wild guesses) used to drive the narrative forward. A magnetic spool discovered in the Gobi Desert is somehow connected to the Tunguska event. It’s somehow determined that the spool came from Venus. It’s somehow determined that the mechanical spider things are media storage devices. It’s somehow determined that the giant golf ball is a force field generator. And so on. As one of the riffers so aptly put it, “You really have no clue, do you?” It could be argued that this is all the product of a sloppy translation. But I suspect that’s just wishful thinking. It would certainly give cause for Mr. Lem being so upset with the end result.

While riffing remains strong, the host segments fall flat. In particular, the series where Tom’s sarcasm sequencer is adjusted was unmitigated pain. It was a relief when his head exploded in the final host segment.

  • Favorite riff: Well, good morning. It’s 8:15 and time for our Crazy Call. We’re gonna call Venus and pretend we’re Pluto.
  • Stinger: The alphabet people wave good-bye.
  • Alternate stinger: Talua screams in impotent fury as he gets left behind.
  • Bechdel Test: Fail. None of the female characters converse with one another, with the cast consisting of six men and one woman for much of the run time.

212: Godzilla vs. Megalon [Grade: A+]

It can be argued that Godzilla is the most famous kaiju that ever existed. But as with any major star, he has at least a few shameful credits in his filmography. Like this one. Anyway, the underground civilization of Seatopia is cheesed off about nuclear testing and send up Megalon with the task of flattening Tokyo. How this would accomplish their goals is not all that clear. Apparently Megalon is also an idiot, because Seatopian agents swipe a flying robot called Jet Jaguar and use it to guide Megalon to his destination. Jet Jaguar’s inventor countermands its current orders and it flies off to Monster Island to summon Godzilla, leaving Megalon to blunder about aimlessly while the SDF displays its general uselessness.

Since Godzilla must swim, Jet Jaguar gets back first and inexplicably grows so that it can take on Megalon but gets soundly thrashed. If there were a kaiju-themed remake of Animal House, Jet Jaguar would get the Stephen Furst role. Eventually Godzilla shows up and curb stomps Megalon. One of the more distinctive moves he employs is a flying kick so bizarre that the image would end up being featured in the MST3K opening sequence. Overall, the film is an incomprehensible mess, but at least the climatic fight is moderately engaging.

Host segments improve considerably in comparison to the past few episodes. Particularly memorable are the Orville Redenbacher sketch (which comes across as horrible on paper but is gut-bustingly hilarious in execution) and their dubious translation of the Jet Jaguar Song lyrics.

  • Favorite riff: Oh my God, the humidifier committed suicide!
  • Stinger: Godzilla takes the plunge.
  • Alternate stinger: Agree.
  • Bechdel Test: Fail. There are no female characters with a speaking part.

213: Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster [Grade: B]

Godzilla’s foe this time around is Ebirah, whose name is derived from the Japanese word for shrimp (even though he looks more like a crab). The human part of the story involves a not too bright young man named Ryota whose brother Yata went missing at sea. So, he and a couple of his buddies steal a yacht to search for Yata (rereading it, that is horrible). As I said, they aren’t that bright. They run afoul of Ebirah and find themselves stranded on an island which is being used as a base by some paramilitary group and get separated. Ryota ends up on a neighboring island where Yata is hanging out with some natives who worship Mothra, one of the buddies ends up in a labor camp with a bunch of enslaved natives, and two of the others run off with an escaped native gal and stumble upon a slumbering Godzilla, who is woken up.

But we couldn’t care less about the human stuff. We certainly didn’t come to see Godzilla make inappropriate advances towards the native gal (allegedly it was intended to be a King Kong film, but they couldn’t get the rights, so they inserted Godzilla in the script). We want kaiju fights. The first bout has Godzilla tossing boulders at Ebirah which display some unusual physics. The second bout gets rather ugly, as Godzilla rips off Ebirah’s claws.

The host segments this time are a mixed bag. “The Godzilla Genealogy Bop” is certainly one of the weaker songs of the second season. Making up for it is a visit from Mothra as well as Joel’s descent into madness demonstrated by his construction of crappy models.

  • Favorite riff: For once, this was a boating accident.
  • Stinger: The Mothra pixies are filled with shame.
  • Alternate stinger: Godzilla and Ebirah play ball.
  • Bechdel Test: Fail. The only conversation between two females is when Yata’s mom consults the oracle about his whereabouts.

Bechdel Test totals as of Season 2: 14 Pass, 12 Fail

And that’s all we have for. But stick around, as the best is yet to come.

4 comments

  1. As you note, the introduction of Frank is a huge step forward for the show—Frank and Dr. F are a classic comedy team (the most successful comedy teams always seem to depend on one member cluelessly annoying the other). Also, Season 2 sees the introduction of musical numbers, which will become the most beloved of the host segments. And the riffing is better, though the writing room won’t peak until next season.

    I’ve been re-watching the series in order from the beginning (I just finished the Joel years and start the Mike era next week), and I’m ranking every episode along the way. This seems like a good place to share them.

    With the exception of a few canonized classics, everyone in the MST3K community has different opinions about which experiments are the best and worst. As you’ll see from the rankings below:

    202 Sidehackers>207 Wild Rebels>204 Catalina Caper>212 Godzilla v. Megalon>201 Rocketship XM>206 Ring of Terror>203 Jungle Goddess>208 Lost Continent>213 Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster>205 Rocket Attack USA>211 First Spaceship on Venus>209 The Hellcats

    Yep, the dark offscreen elements of Sidehackers don’t bother me at all, and its got two great singalongs. It feels like the first “real” MST3K episode to me, where all the essential elements are in place.

    I don’t think Season 2 has any great episodes–the best ones are just average. But it’s all starting to come together.

    Cordial disagreement is fun!

    • Obviously we are in disagreement about Side Hackers. But I can respect that. My own absolute least favorite (we haven’t gotten to it yet, but you’ll know it when I talk about it) is moderately popular among the fanbase, while some of my favorites don’t get much love. My primary issue is with the tone whiplash, of which the edited out rape scene is just one element.

  2. I always leave one out (not on purpose, it just happens that way). “King Dinosaur” is actually my lowest rated episode of Season 2. Though “X Marks the Spot” is an important moment in series history, starting off the tradition of proper shorts.

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