Hello again! It’s time for another review/look at a movie from Mystery Science Theater 3000. Currently, we are in the very early years, when they were on KTMA, a local access TV station that gave them their start. Now, I’ve gone through these episodes on my own before and let me tell you, they are ROUGH. There’s not much riffing in the early episodes and the movies are uncut so you see every boring minute. But we must preserver!
A note about this and the next episode; they were originally lost for years and years. The only reason anybody saw any of the KTMA era episodes was because people started recording these shows as they aired in 1988/1989, but they didn’t think to do that for the first three episodes. Eventually, Joel would find the master tapes for the first two episodes and released them to those who backed their Kickstarter. As I am a Kickstarter member, I have access to these episodes but not everybody does. With that said, let’s get going!
Well, “movie”. It’s actually four episodes of a 1960’s show called Stingray, which was filmed in “supermarionation” which is to say the “actors” are marionette puppets. To use a more modern term, think Team America: World Police. The four episodes don’t have anything in common with each other, outside of the main characters of course, besides the bad guys were all underwater monsters trying to destroy something on land.
The first part of the movie focuses on an Admiral and his wife, who have retired, buying an island and living there all alone. Until a lettuce faced being from the deep kidnaps them, forces the Admiral to call Stingray for help. Stingray is the name of a submarine ship that works for WASP, which I didn’t know until the third “episode” stood for World Aquanaut Security Patrol, an organization that patrols the oceans and the waters of the world. The captain of Stingray is Troy Tempest and he is exactly as his name sounds. Very sure of himself, kinda cocky at times, and is probably banging every woman puppet around. His partner is either Bones or Phones. I’ve heard both throughout this whole film. Bones Phones is played by Robert Easton, who is going to show up two more times in the future of MST3K. I’ll just say this: you been HITTIN’ da BOOZE a’gin!
There’s also a mute woman named Marina who is humanoid but apparently can breathe underwater. She joins Troy and Bones Phones on missions but mainly just sits there, looking concerned and is kidnapping fodder. In fact, the first “episode” we see, when Troy and Bones Phones are going to rescue the Admiral, their leader Commander Shore (oh my god all the names are water puns, someone stab me in my brain stem now) tells Troy to take Marina with, but they don’t use her and she ends up going on her own to recuse the Admiral.
Troy and Phones (I looked it up on Wikipedia, it’s Phones but I still say it sounds like Bones) swim through a hole in a rock under the ocean to save Marina and the Admiral. Speaking of Marina, these lettuce faced guys has Marina tied up underneath a giant sword fish and a rope connected to a candle and when the candle burns out, the sword fish is going to impale Marina. Kinda clever if not very time consuming.
Anyway, through weird gunplay involving puppets, they managed to capture the lettuce faced guys, save Marina and the Admiral and this part of the movie simply ends.
We immediately smash cut into our next story, which is almost the same plot minus the kidnapping. Some underwater beings are pissed at us people who live on land and want to blow it up. These flat-topped beings decide to set their sites on Marineville, the island WASP is set on.
I’m not gonna focus too much on the “movie” because each segment was the same and it got boring over time. There’s a bad guy, there’s Troy Tempest, there’s Stingray, there’s some trouble, the bad guys want to blow something up, Troy blows up the bad guys home and imprisons them, they all laugh, Marina is hot for a puppet and makes me question if I would fuck a puppet, move on to the next thing.
The last “episode” of this “movie” was somewhat interesting cause it focused on TWO bad guys, who were the last of their kind AND a volcano is about to blow their home land up, so they tricked Stingray to come down to them so they could take Stingray back to land and save themselves. But when Troy mentions they don’t have enough breathing apparatus’ (apparati?) the bad guys are like “oh darn I guess we will have to leave you here to die” but Marina was on the ship and she closed the hatch to get into the ship, causing the bad guys to go “aw damn, we gotta go back and get Troy and Phones to open the ship” and this becomes their downfall. Maybe I was just getting bored but I found that funny.
This was the first movie covered on MST3K that was just episodes of a TV show edited together and it certainly won’t be the last. Like I said, this was a boring “film”. I have no idea if watching it as a TV show would be better, if they’re better in 20 minute chunks. And I guess it’s mainly for kids? Were kids easily entertained in the ’60s? I guess so, they didn’t have Internet or a Kardashian to look at.
The MST3K Episode
Like I said in the beginning, these very early episodes are pretty rough. There’s a bit more riffing here than in the pilot episode and some of it made me laugh. There were some “smoke on the water” gags, a whole bunch of “pull my finger” jokes, and one “that’s not a (blank), that’s a space station” joke that was also in the pilot episode.
Speaking of the pilot, a lot of segments from that is reused here, which I guess makes sense as the general TV viewer didn’t see the pilot. The whole “flowers are sick, now Gypsy and Crow is sick” bit is used again, along with the shaving cream. We see more of Joel’s inventions, this time an airbag for motorcycles and electric bagpipes, which we’ll see again later.
One last odd thing to note here is that Trace Beaulieu, who did the voice and puppetry of Crow, was not present for this episode, which is the FIRST real episode mind you. Josh (later J.Elvis) Weinstein, who will go on to voice and operate Tom Servo, played Crow here and it shows. Crow sounds like a 12 year old boy who doesn’t wanna be here. Also there’s no Servo, despite being mentioned in the new and improved opening theme song.
Beeper gets mentioned in one segment but we never see him. Also, there’s no “Mads” in this, even though, again, they’re mentioned and shown in the theme song. This is what we have to work with for the next few episodes so it’s going to get rough. Hang on to your ram chips!
That’s about all I got on this episode, it’s very unremarkable in comparison to what’s to come down the road. It’s very “Svengoolie”, which I think was the original idea. It was less about making fun of the movie and more about presenting the movie and just kinda saying things here or there. There’s even a part where Crow, who doesn’t come into the theater until midway through the movie, asks Joel for a recap on what happened and Joel starts to explain but then says “oh, let’s just wait for the break”. And things are very meta in this episode, they know full well this is just a low budget TV show and it gets acknowledged a lot. They kinda tone that down later.
Anyway, that’s it for this episode. Tune in next week for…more marionettes. I wonder if any of them are fuckable.