Wednesday, February 22, 2006


"For every film that pushes the stylistic and narrative envelope, there is an equal and opposite film that sucks it back in again." - Newton's First Law of Cinema

'Monster-A-Go-Go' is a case in point. In true MST3K fashion, it contained almost no go-go-ing and precious little monster. A more accurate title might have been 'Middle-Aged People Standing Around Talking Inaudibly Because Someone Didn't Mike Them Properly'. But that wouldn't bring in the punters, would it?

It takes a certain kind of perverted genius to take the relatively simple and straightforward monster movie genre and mess it up. Let's face it; it's not that hard to film a guy in a rubber suit menacing bikini babes for eighty minutes. As long as you follow three basic rules, you just can't fail.

1. You need a monster.
While it's okay to be coy about what your monster looks like until the third reel, just showing a tentacle here and a glowing red eye there, it's not okay to briefly show him off in all his awful glory in the first half hour, then relate his subsequent exploits through exposition. Somehow having one guy in a grey suit tell another guy in a grey suit, "The monster killed again last night," is just not quite as interesting as, you know, seeing the monster kill again. It's like making a film about the birth of the aeroplane in 1903 by showing the Wright brothers having brunch afterwards and complaining about their lost luggage.

Afficiandos of this genre will know that it doesn't take much for a monster to kill people. A light tap on the shoulder will usually do it, which is lucky, since movie monsters generally have all the hand/eye coordination of a thalydomide baby. So in order to actually show the monster killing his victims, all the film makers really need is for everyone to turn up on set at the same time.

But could 'Monster-A-Go-Go' manage this? No, it could not. Each scene appears to have been filmed with whatever friends and relatives of the director happened to turn up that day. Perhaps the monster had another job to go to, menacing the crowds at the opening of a new hardware store on the other side of town.

2. You need a hero.
Not a bunch of interchangable guys, all middle-aged and boring, who spend the entire film schleping around after the monster without ever actually meeting him. They do, however, hold a lot of meetings. The film could just as easily have been called 'White Collar Workers-A-Go-Go'.

3. You need a heroine.
Or at least a love interest. There was a frumpy lady scientist, but since she spent the entire film trailing about after the men and bitching about being blamed for stuff, and never wore anything more glamorous than an overcoat, she didn't fill the need.

There were some hot babes, in a range of tight pencil skirts, stilettos and snug angora sweaters, but they only appeared briefly in small, meaningless scenes, then scarpered before the monster could shuffle his way into camera range. My theory is that they were bussed in by the distribution company after the end of shooting, then spliced into the film wherever possible to give it what little appeal it has.

So, without a monster, a leading man or a love interest, what do we have left? Bupkis, that's what. Lengthy scenes of office workers fretting about the sorts of things middle-aged people fret about (their career prospects, the shortcomings of their relationships, the difficulties of having to share their workspaces, radioactive monsters upsetting their project management schedule, etc). It may thrill the hearts of mild-mannered accountants, but the rest of us are left out in the cold.

But there were at least two positives about the 'Monster-A-Go-Go' experience:

a) it was the catalyst for some good gags:

Narrator: It is the one word that nuclear physicists fear most...

Crow: "Oops"?

Narrator: ..."Radiation".

Crow: Oh.

b) we have the knowledge, as Tom Servo noted and imdb attests, that none of these actors ever worked again.


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