Posts Tagged ‘intelligent

24
Nov
13

Happy 25th Birthday, Mystery Science Theater 3000!

Mystery Family

*Turn Down the Lights, Where Applicable.*

Hey Gang, if you will humor me for just one post I would like to make an attempt to express my love and admiration for a television show that served as one of the primary inspirations for The Trash Cinema Collective and The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews. One of the funniest and most inspired comedy series to ever grace the boobtube. An unholy amalgam of science fiction, puppet show, Saturday horror matinee and sketch comedy show. It’s influence is still felt to this very day and it’s legend  continues to grow by leaps and bounds.  Today, this show turns 25 years old.

Of course, I am speaking of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

So, excuse me while I turn into a drooling fanboy and make a lame autobiographical post about how the show changed my life, shaped my entire being and  get all sentimental. Read on if you dare…

When I was in first grade my parents decided to uproot us from Winter Haven, Florida, the town where I was spawned, and move us up North to the capital city of our rotted penis shaped state, Tallahassee, Florida. It was a pretty abrupt and unexpected change of scenery for me, one I resisted and revolted against with all my might. Having to leave behind my friends and everything I was so familiar with was a terrifying prospect.  The idea of starting all over again in some new town, in a new school, with a bunch of new kids was enough to evoke the first panic attack of my young life.

Of course, as life teaches us, everything changes whether we like it or not.  I adapted fairly well to my new environment thanks to my family, primarily my younger cousins Steven and Patrick, who I started hanging out with habitually just about as soon as I arrived, and some understanding, supportive teachers. There was also one other element that eased my transition and helped me to forget my woes over having been tossed headlong into this awkward, new phase of my life; a television show called “Mystery Science Theater 3000”.

joel and bots

Flipping through the channels one Saturday or Sunday morning I came across some cruddy old b-movie, with these funny little silhouettes in the bottom right corner. It looked like some regular Joe and a couple of funny looking monsters, or robots…maybe aliens? I had no clue. But as I listened it dawned on me that these little guys were doing what my Mom, Steven, Patrick and I always did over such cheese-ball entertainment…they were cracking jokes! And great ones! Sure, many of of them flew over my head, but a lot of the appeal had to do with their delivery.  Soon, the little people in the movie theater row got up and walked out of frame and the camera pulled back through a colorful, fun assortment of doors and hallways leading back to a room where the three folks in the theater were suddenly right in front of me. I was soon acquainted with three captives on Dr. Forrester’s diabolical Satellite of Love (The S.O.L., for short) Joel Robinson, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot.  My life would never be the same.

Needless to say, I was hooked. My cousins and I would watch it just about every weekend and laugh our elementary school aged asses off at just about everything these jokesters said.  I was never quite sure of the shows schedule in those days, but the chances were if I tuned into The Comedy Channel, later Comedy Central, during Saturday or Sunday, they would eventually be on the air. The premise was simple and spelled out brilliantly in the show’s opening theme song, here, I will let Joel explain…

The show was unapologetic in it’s  silliness, boundlessly creative and unabashedly intelligent. To watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 you had to actively pay attention to the action on screen while simultaneously listening to Joel and his robot friend’s riffs and out two and two together in your own head. Sure, many of the jokes reference things you might not know about or not be in the vein of comedy specifically catering to your liking, but as Dr. Forrester and Crow T. Robot himself, Trace Beaulieu has stated in the past: “Hey, if you don’t like that joke, there will be another one in about 3 seconds.” The humor, jokes and references span an enormous spectrum  so that there will always be something for everyone in each episode.

Across the board, the characters, puppets and all, were brought to life with such manic creativity and energy, you couldn’t help but pay attention. The host segments, the parts of the show taking place between the stints in the theater, often mocked the film’s themselves in the form of skits and small productions Joel and The Bots would put on for The Mads back down at Gizmonic Institute, later Deep 13…later Pearl’s VW van, later still, Pearl’s gothic castle.  These segments also treated the viewer to the “Steampunk over a decade before Steampunk existed” set created with what looked like nothing more than garbage,  junk purchased at the flea market, Styrofoam pillars and hot glue. It was the epitome of bargain basement, do it yourself creativity. They had a budget, they worked with the scraps they had and they ended up putting together a show with a unique, one of a kind appearance that looked like a million bucks, but probably cost as much as a dinner for two at Red Lobster.

Mystery movie

Between elementary school and high school MST3K came and went in my life as I moved around a lot after my parent’s divorce. I collected episodes on VHS as I spotted them and would watch as often as I could depending on who our cable provider was. Call it luck or call it fate, I got the pleasure of seeing Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie during it’s initial run when it played in Dallas, Texas. I just happened to be in town for my older brother, Trey’s, college graduation and got to see this milestone in MST3K history in the company of my Mom and my  late Grandmother affectionately known as Bobo. Hearing Bobo laugh as hard as I did through MST3K: The Movie, I often think she might have just been laughing at hearing me laugh, is one of my fondest memories I have with her.

I have since had the pleasure of meeting and shaking hands with  many of the creators and talent behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 as well as experienced their riffing skills live and in person. I only wish I could put into words just how much their creation means to me.  Some folks, their passion might be Dr. Who, others Star Trek or Firefly maybe even  Battlestar Galactica. For me, my science fiction television allegiance will always belong to Gizmonic Institute, Deep 13 and Mystery Science Theater 3000. A show that has always had it’s heart in the right place, filled my life with laughter, brought my friends and family closer,  influenced and inspired me in countless ways and always reminded us to “breath and just relax”. Not to mentions they had TWO final episodes and neither one of them sucked.

I am now an adult with a  fireplace mantle decked out with every box set of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Rhino and Shout Factory have so far released and not a week goes by that I don’t watch at least one episode.  Those guys and gals can still make me laugh all these years later. In fact, I would say they keep on getting better with age, which is no small feat.

MST3K

To Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff,  Mike Nelson, Mary Jo Pehl and the rest of the Best Brains Team, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart for creating Mystery Science Theater 3000. You’re show is an even bigger part of my life now than it was when I was a child.  I’ve shared and introduced your creation to so many great and wonderful people who mean the world to me. Heck, the love of my life and I finally got together after months of being “friends” thanks to your outstanding short “Assignment Venezuela!” Who knew your brand of zaniness would inspire such a romantic evening with my very own Creepy Girl?

Happy 25th Birthday, Mystery Science Theater 3000!  May your legacy live on forever.

Love,

-Kevin (The Primal Root)

PUSH THE BUTTON, FRANK!

14
Mar
13

Brain Damage (1988): Just Say “Aylmer!”

brain-damage-poster-4

a Primal Root review

edited by Bootsie Kidd

“Whenever you want the pain to stop, I’ll be here. Whenever you want to stop hurting, you come to me.” -Aylmer, Brain Damage

Let’s take a moment to discuss the Reagan Administration’s poorly schemed “War on Drugs”, shall we? On October 13th, 1982, President Ronald Reagan declared illicit drugs to be an imminent threat to U.S. National Security, while First Lady Nancy Reagan promptly flooded the talk show circuit advising the children of our nation to “Just say NO!”. Because, you know, becoming addicted to narcotics or not is as simple as just saying “no” to your local pusher. Obviously, Nancy Reagan and the War on Drugs, itself, were more than a tad naive when it came to the nature of addiction and its beginnings.

Thankfully, 1986’s “Brain Damage”, Frank Henenlotter’s stellar follow-up to his classic 1982 debut,”Basket Case”, doesn’t cut corners when it  comes to the discussion of drug use. From its depiction of the initial orgasmic rush that launches its user into a life bent around being steeped in a state of euphoria where problems are forgotten, to the sudden meteoric plummet that follows once the high is wears thin. In his usual brilliant insight, Henenlotter creatively portrays to viewers how addiction winds up taking its toll not only on users, but those closest to them, as well. Despite the laughable oddity of the seductor, Aylmer, ‘Brain Damage’ manages to tell it to us straight with a dark, horrifying, even often comical story in the realm of fantasy-horror providing a truly masterful message film about the dangers of drug use and the nature of addiction.

We meet Brian, a nice enough average guy who lives with his brother Mike in an apartment in New York. Brian even has a caring, sweet-natured, if mildly bland girlfriend he’s dating named Barbara. One evening while sick in bed, Brian blind-sided by seemingly inexplicable visions of a blood-shot eyeball where his ceiling light used to be experiencing, pulsating bright lights, blue water flooding his bedroom, and a powerful feeling of euphoria. It’s a feeling the young man has never encountered before, and as you might imagine, and one he’s eager to experience again. Only thing is, he soon discovers that what he felt was due to a small, slimy, blue-hued, phallic, turd-like creature named Aylmer (or Elmer), but, bizarrely enough, that doesn’t seem to throw Bryan as much as you might think it would.

The precise origins of Aylmer are unknown, though it is revealed through its previous users that Aylmer has a sordid centuries-old past that can be traced back to countless now-fallen civilizations. Aylmer, a creature with friendly, sleepy eyes and palsy voice of John Zacherle (yep, the host of Shock Theater, Zacherley, himself) is quite willing to inject Brian with a mysterious bright blue fluid procured from a syringe-like appendage protruding from Aylmer’s enormous, sharp tooth-filled gob. Aylmer simply jacks his juice directly into Brian’s brain stem, injecting a little “Aylmer juice” which allows Brain to, once again, experience the unique pleasure of becoming unattached from the world and embracing visions of glorious lights in junk heaps, all the while laughing his ass off in chemically-induced glee. If Aylmer is anything, he is one helluva saleman, as he perfectly pitches to Bryan saying, “This is the start of your new life Brian, a life full of colors, music,light and euphoria. A life without pain, or hurt or suffering.” I mean, really, what could possibly be the drawback?…

Artwork by Marc Palm

Aylmer artwork by Marc Palm

Well, turns out Aylmer feeds on brains. Sure, animal brains are okay, but to become powerful he must munch on the human persuasion. So, the deal becomes clear to Brian after several night’s of blacking out under the influence, and waking to find blood stains in some pretty alarming locations on his person, that for each “fix” he must pay by hooking Aylmer up with a human brain to scarf down. And let me just say, Aylmer is one very sloppy eater and NO ONE has a quick and painless death at this parasite’s merciless bite. There’s no discrimination here, either. Folks of all race, gender, and class have their skulls bitten open and brains sucked out by Aylmer. From the security guard at the junk yard, to the man taking a dump in a bathroom stall, even the slutty girl with the enormous knockers ends up getting an Aylmer down the hatch in a disturbingly violent, yet rather hilarious sequence that has since been dubbed “The Blow Job Scene”. Trust me, it’s a must-see, classic, Trash Cinema moment.  And as Brian’s dependency on Aylmer grows, so does the threat to his family and friends. No one is safe from the destruction Aylmer can cause.

Henenlotter handles Brain Damage’s odyssey of a boy and his parasite with a great sense of grotesque comedy to lighten the load of an otherwise deeply dark and unsettling cautionary tale. There is one sequence in particular that is both hysterically funny and soul crushingly bleak as Brian has finally realized the dire cost of his  addiction. He decides he needs to pack up Aylmer and hold up in a derelict hotel room where he can quit Aylmer long enough to think straight and come up with some sort of solution to his problem. In short, he tries to quit Aylmer cold turkey. The sequence features Brian clinging to a radiator, quivering, practically swimming in his sweat, puking and sobbing as Aylmer laughs and cracks jokes at his host’s expense. For good measure, Brian even has a grotesque nightmare wherein he picks meaty, gore glazed chunks of his own brain out of his ear and horrified reaches for more and begins pulling a long, drippy, unending piece of tissue and literally unravelling his brain. No joke, this scene will have your stomach churning while you laugh at this graphic, gory take on the classic magician’s gag. Finally, Brian is reduced to a convulsing, filth-and-sweat-drenched shadow of his former self lying on the hotel room’s concrete floor in the fetal position. The pain of withdrawal is too intense for the young man to bear. And in desperation, in tears, Brian agrees to Aylmer’s demands. Someone must die so that Brian can get his fix. Aylmer chuckles with delight. He has won.

brain_damage_poster_02

Again, it’s that perfect blend of humor and downbeat terror which gives ‘Brain Damage’ its substantial power to both entertain and completely repulse. By the film’s end many people have fallen the voracious hunger of Aylmer, and Brian’s need to satiate his own need for Aylmer’s juice, including people Brian loves and cares for.  And in ‘Brain Damage”s pitch perfect, unconventional, ending, we are left with one of the most haunting and surrealistic images from Trash Cinema, as Brian’s glazed over eyes look through us, the screen fills with the brightest white light and crackles with electricity. It’s an audacious ending  and one that still gives me chills to this very day. I have often called Brain Damage the “Requiem for a Dream” of the Trash Cinema genre. I still feel this is an appropriate description of this film’s nature and intent. This is one example of how powerful Trash Cinema can be, and in my opinion, this is Henenlotter’s masterpiece.

‘Brain Damage’ is the kind of sleazy, down trodden horror film that’s unafraid to point the mirror back at society and has an eagerness to push buttons, tackle difficult subjects and shove your nose into the down and dirty details. It’s unabashedly gross, over the top, and even silly at times. But the core to ‘Brain Damage’ is one that steeped the horrors of our own world. The darkness of despair and the nightmare of addiction. The unsettling, dreadful feeling that you cannot function normally without first feeding this need that has become more powerful than your common sense, rational thought, even your own sex drive. It’s more important to you than your loved ones and their well being. Suddenly, this stuff is your drive. This is what keeps you alive. This is what gives your life meaning.

Gang, I can think of few things more horrifying. And Brain Damage handles the subject with creativity and respect.

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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