Thursday, July 07, 2005


Last night I had a perfect opportunity to hold a Festival of Bad Cinema and introduce some more people to the delights of Mystery Science Theater 3000. So I did. I may miss many opportunities in life, but not when they involve bad movies.

We started with the 'Girl in Gold Boots', a 1969 beatniksploitation dreck-fest ably excoriated by Mike and the robots. Michelle, a small town girl working in a diner called 'Eat' ("They forgot the ' Me'" - Tom Servo), dreams of being a dancer, and her complete and utter inability to dance is not going to stop her. She escapes her abusive father to run off to Hollywood with a greasy Tony Curtis-wannabe named Buz, who is given to pouring beer on bikers' hogs, robbing gas stations, and teleporting into scenes via the magic of shoddy editing.

Michelle and Buz are joined by Critter, a flowery prose-gushing drifter who owns a non-operational motorcycle called Traveller and plays the guitar about as well as Michelle dances. As young people are wont to do, they form a hostile love triangle and troop off to Hollywood, where an apparent crippling labor shortage allows them to all get jobs at the same sleazy nightclub.

The nightclub's star attraction is Buz's sister Joanie, who has evidently achieved notoriety by being the only person in the history of human movement with less dancing talent than Michelle. Given that Joanie is less a dancer than someone who has convulsive fits in front of a band, Michelle soon finds herself wearing the star gold boots and receiving adulation from the crowd, who are obviously whacked out on needle drugs and probably believe that her staccato shuddering is really a secret code conveying the secret to immortality, if only they can work out how to decipher it.

Speaking of the drugs, Buz has become Joanie's boyfriend's drug runner, while Critter has become a lowly janitor. It soon becomes apparent that all is not well in the land of sleazy nightclubs ("Man, even the sex and drug industry has a seamy side" - Mike); Joanie is taking pills that are destroying her "pretty mind", Buz has killed a man, and Critter has been reduced to singing bad love songs in the rain while being menaced by Michelle's giant, transparent, disembodied head.

After it all comes to its thrilling conclusion, in which Critter fights Buz, the nightclub owner and some sort of Armenian gangster in the kind of ferocious tussle rarely seen outside kindergarten playgrounds, Michelle realises that she'd rather marry Critter and live a wholesome life of strictly amateur dancing... at least until Critter is bundled off to 'Nam. Eh, no biggie. We leave her dancing and him singing on the beach, wondering where life is going to take them.

According to IMDB, it took Michelle to such films as 'Blood Orgy of the She Devils', 'Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?' and her final film, 1975's 'Death Race 2000'. As for Critter, it took him precisely nowhere; he never worked again.

It's a terrible film, but a great MST3K. It features some of the funniest ever skits between scenes, during which Mike sings a sad ballad while the robots battle a fire, Pearl tries to get her Mad Scientist accreditation, and Crow becomes a tabletop-dancing stripper. I'm pleased to report that the MST3K newbies in the audience were so wracked and bent over with laughter that, at certain moments, in the dim light, they almost looked like Michelle dancing.

After some restorative drinks, we segued into David Cronenberg's 1981 effort 'Scanners', which was about people with mysterious mental powers battling the guy who voiced Sam Fisher in 'Splinter Cell'. In its day, 'Scanners' was famous for it's then-cutting edge 'exploding heads' special effects, but it turns out that only one guy had his head go bang, and he looks uncomfortably like Frank Oz, so it's all a bit of a let down.

1981 is a year that will bring back fond memories for anyone who's ever had to renovate a kitchen or bathroom from that era. Basically, 1981 was the Year of Red. Glossy, unbroken, B-R-I-G-H-T red. It keeps popping up like a zombie everyone thought was dead, but isn't. Everything's off-white and grey and beige and camel and then BAM! Red formica like a countertop from HELL! Hall carpet like a river of blood! It's no wonder the characters spent most of their time stumbling about in a daze.

Between the assaults of the couleur de jour, the plot is as follows: hero Cameron Vaile is dragged away from his fulfilling career as a homeless person by representatives of a mysteriously generic corporation. He is told that he is a Scanner, which is presumably shorthand for Person with Gnarly Mental Powers That Can Cause Nosebleeds, Make An Annoying Whining Sound, And Cause Frank Oz's Head To Explode. He is recruited by a scientist working for the corporation to track down and stop a renegade Scanner named, of all things, Daryl. Shenanigans ensue, including, but not limited to, the acquisition of a love interest whose eyes are permanently half-closed (probably because she's wearing about thirteen kilograms of bright orange eyeshadow), a ride in a school bus that crashes into a record store, a psychic interaction with a mainframe (because, as the scientist notes, computers have nervous systems just like people) and a spot of self-immolation.

Whether the ending is a happy one or not isn't the point - the point is that it ended, and we were all free from its tyranny.

None of it really made much sense, but that's the early 80s for you. Coherence was for squares.


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