Last Time Movie Sign! The End of My New MST3K Reviews
12 – Carnival Magic – Another shitty, low budget kid’s film with fantasy elements, another MST3K regular.
This time, it concerns a shitty carnival, and a sad man who has a mysterious gift with animals, and pals around with a talking chimp, who just may be special enough to save the carnival. I’ve made it sound more exciting than it is. For both a kids film and a fantasy, this whole thing is weirdly lackadaisical, meandering from scene to scene with no energy or life to speak of. Even the talking chimp is weirdly taciturn and joyless, which they point out in a host segment. It’s like the film has been cursed with terminal lethargy. Slap on a rote, desultory love story, and you have a snoozefest. This film would make an excellent sleeping pill. The guys do the best they can with it, but this is one of those movies that sits on your head and crushes you. Why is it such a life energy suck? Was the filmmaker suffering chronic depression, and it just colored everything? And like all kids movies that get the MST3K treatment, there’s some wild tonal shifts, such as a sudden scene of domestic violence, and Alex the chimp nearly getting vivisected as well as almost dying. If this movie wasn’t so cheap, poorly made, and narcoleptic, I could see that being traumatic for some.
13 – The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t – Ah, yet another MST3K minor film category: the shitty Christmas film. This one is a poorly dubbed Italian film about an evil rich man with the on the nose name Prune who tries to shut down Christmas by charging Santa outrageous rental fees, and the good hearted lawyer Santa “hires” to help him. Doesn’t that description just fill you with whimsy? No? Yeah, me neither. It has some instantly forgettable songs, and predictable plot developments, and a tangible lack of joy. The “funny” bits are not funny, and the warm moments aren’t warm, and you can probably follow the theme from here. This has none of the slap dash wackiness of Santa Claus, or the weird incompetence of Santa Claus Vs The Martians, but it does have a strange drug subplot involving the villain and his butler. That is never resolved (No, I’m not kidding.) But who doesn’t like being depressed on Christmas? It’s like every family Christmas ever!
14 – At The Earth’s Core – Another Doug McClure movie? Wow, the last movie in this cycle (who knows, there could be more) is another Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation starring the same iffy actor. If this film proves nothing else, it’s that Burroughs – along with Jules Verne – pretty much invented steampunk before it was even a thing. Victorian era explorers create an “iron mole” that drills down into the Earth’s core, and improbably discover a world that looks an awful lot like a standard sound stage with a dash of H.R. Pufinstuf. There are terrible costumes and terrible effects galore, and some upsetting racial and colonial implications in all of it, along with the requisite sexism.
The heroes in this story are really privileged and annoying, and it’s really hard to pull for them, and all the costumes look clumsy and rubbery. I actually began to wonder what was worse in a film – bad practical effects or bad CGI? I’ve decided its CGI, if only because it’s everywhere, and it’s really awful. Bad rubber suits are bad, sure, but at least you feel like they made an attempt. Ten year olds could probably crank out some bad CGI.
Paul Chaplin has a cameo as head of the Brain Guys, suggesting he got his brain back at some point – I’m cool with that – and Joel McHale make a cameo as Doug McClure. There have been a lot of cameos in the series as a whole, from Jerry Seinfeld to a few different appearances by Joel Hodgson and writer Elliott Kalan. In general, they’ve been cute, although not super memorable. If I have one overall complaint, it’s that the host segments weren’t as strong as some of the classic MSTies, but to be fair, they weren’t all memorable. It’s just the sheer number of them brought some great stuff. This episode puts an end (?) to the brief bubbling sub-plot of Kinga and TV’s Son of TV’s Frank (Max), as Kinga decided to marry Jonah as a way to boost ratings – she doesn’t quite understand how ratings are taken now, which is actually a funny bit – and Max, who has been not so secretly in love with Kinga, is crazy jealous, even though Jonah doesn’t like Kinga and doesn’t want to marry her. Pearl, Brain Guy, and Bobo show up for the wedding, and there’s a brief reprise of “When Loving Lovers Love”, which was great. Of course, the ending suggests that, if this is not the last MST3K season, they may need a new test subject. Or will they? MST3K has written itself out of worse corners.
So now, I’m going to list the new episodes in order of most liked to least liked. Your mileage may vary.
2. Cry Wilderness
4. Wizards of the Lost Kingdom
5. The Beast of Hollow Mountain
7. The Land That Time Forgot
8. Wizards of the Lost Kingdom 2
9. Loves of Hercules
10. Time Travelers
11. At The Earth’s Core
13. The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t
14. Carnival Magic
Excuse me, but I have a date with Prince of Space. See you later, guys.