Greetings from the edge!
We bring MST3K’s comeback season to a close this week with the 1976 E.R. Burroughs science fantasy film, At the Earth’s Core. With Doug McClure, Peter Cushing, and Caroline Munro, we might just be in for a treat even without the Satellite of Love’s merry miscreants adding in their traditional helping of riffs and skits. So snuggle up with your best Morlock and don’t let the telepathic pteranodons hog all the snacks as we dig into our season finale!
Wrapping up our invention exchange this season for Jonah and the bots, we have Permanent Temporary Tattoos. Just wet them, set them on your chosen patch of skin, and let the inevitable regrets at your all too hasty life decisions just seep in… much like the patent pending “impossible to remove ink.” The Mads leave us with the Rip Taylor Urn cannon: turn your loved one’s mortal remains into a festive shower of carbon and micro bone fragments, putting the Fun back in funeral!
I couldn’t review this episode without mentioning Kinga’s wedding plan blues, especially the fact that she’s apparently alienated her entire guest list, necessitating renting members of the Observer collective to fill up her empty moon base venue. The difficulties of the modern professional woman/profiteering mad scientist are truly without end.
Let me take a moment to highlight the best part of At the Earth’s Core, Peter Cushing, who is going all in on this performance. Mr. Cushing plays the slightly dotty, but ultimately heroic English professor to perfection and absolutely steals every scene he’s in. Like Michael Caine, Christopher Lee, and Robert Duvall, Peter Cushing may often star in bad movies, but you’ll never catch him giving a bad performance whatever the quality of the film… and if Rogue One is any indication, not even death itself can contain his acting might!
As you might imagine, the guest stars and special appearances flow free in this penultimate episode. We have Mary Jo Pehl, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy reprising their roles as Perl, Brain Guy, and Prof Bobo for Kinga’s big day, as well as special appearances by both Paul Chaplin and Joel McHale.
While the budget of At the Earth’s Core is obviously far and away higher than the typical MST3K fare, I would feel remiss if I didn’t comment on the special effects, particularly the “Dinosaurs.” On the upside, they aren’t iguanas with plastic horns and fins haphazardly glued on, and there is a pretty broad selection of creatures throughout the film, but the creatures themselves are kinda disco-tastic. What can I say, people, the 70’s send their regards and their regards are mainly sloppy drunk and high… very, very, high. The “Dinosaurs” in At the Earth’s Core look more like the “swipe left” options on Godzilla’s dating app, or possibly a very niche segment of the more squicky kind of furry. Set your expectations low, is what I’m saying.
Even mangled to fit into a cinematic format, some of E.R. Burroughs original creativity shines through in At the Earth’s Core. Add in Peter Cushing, the lovely Caroline Munro, the ever beefy Doug McClure, and enough rubbery monsters to make Toho blush, and you have the recipe for a good time in my very singular book. Bring in a team of expert riffers, a handful of original skits, and some old friends coming back for the finally, and I don’t hesitate to say that this season of MST3K has indeed saved the best for last.
Favorite riff of the episode: it’s a toss up between “The Doctor Who no one is tempted to cosplay” and “We’re all hopped up on absinthe and snuff!”
Also, Favorite Bot of the Season: Gypsy. Rebecca Hanson’s performance was a treat and I looked forward to her jibs and asides.
“SPOILERS FOR THE WEDDING AND SPECULATION ON THE NEXT SEASON”
So… Jonah is dead, eaten by Reptilicus Metalicus at the behest of TV’s Son of Tv’s Frank. Yes, Max has indeed killed his romantic rival at the very marriage altar. Well, maybe not romantic rival, seeing that Jonah never had any interest in Kinga. However, Max has pretty conclusively cleared the field to Kinga’s heart. Of course, there’s still Neil Patrick Harris.
Normally I’d go ahead and assume that we’d see Jonah back safe and sound for season 12 but, earlier in the season, they dropped a huge hint that our top astro-nut would indeed not be returning when we saw a different actor with the bots manning the satellite. So unless that was a giant fake out, I’d say we’re going to have a new comedic lead. I think it’s safe to assume we’ll see Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt return as Kinga and Max which, as far as I’m concerned, is great. They’ve both done spectacular work as our new Mads and hopefully we’ll see Hampton Yount, Baron Vaughn, and Rebecca Hanson also return as Crow, Tom Servo, and Gypsy.
I wonder if this could be the start of a new format, switching out our main host each season? We’ll just have to wait and find out, but fear not intrepid viewers, I’ll be here to help guide you through the cinematic landmines next week, next season, and for as long as I can keep you laughing!
Come back next week for more Reviews From The Edge.
And always remember, “Keep circulating the tapes!”