Monday, August 2, 2010

Canon MST3K Review: The Unearthly

First of all, I must apologize for the lack of activity this weekend, as I pulled a LeBron and took my writing 'talents' elsewhere for a couple of days. As to where that was, I'll have an announcement about that over the next few days or weeks or months ahead. But for now, it's time to get back to whatever it is I do at the Canon Review, and today that is watching episode 320 of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the sci-fi "classic" The Unearthly. The movie stars John Carradine as a mad scientist and the late, great Tor Johnson as Carradine's dumb muscle Lobo. This movie was made in 1957 and was only 70 minutes long, half of which was characters walking up and down stairs. A few notes about this episode, and yes there are spoilers.

- Because this movie is so short, there are two short films shown at the beginning of this episode. The first is a little piece of nostalgia called "Posture Pals", which teachers viewers that unless you have proper posture, you will be nothing but a loser. In this film, four kids whose names I don't care to remember set out to become the posture king, queen, prince, and princess of their class, while everyone else in the class chooses not to participate because they've got better things to do. After the kids, their parents, and a stuffed clown named Bombo help them improve their posture, the kids complete their goal, and each are awarded a crown from Burger King and a silly looking robe. I think I would rather walk hunched over all day than win a 30 cent crown and look like a fool in front of all my classmates, but to each their own.

- The next short is a 1950s piece called "Appreciating Your Parents". In this film, young Tommy spends most of the time staring blankly into space wondering how his room got cleaned. Turns out his mother did it, and Tommy realizes that both his parents do a lot of things for him. So instead of asking for a higher allowance, Tommy decides that it would be better to help around the house more. At the end, Tommy ends up with a higher allowance, so all's well that ends well. This was the least offensive part of the whole episode, to be honest, although the narrator acts a little high and mighty in this short.

- Now to The Unearthly. Here's the thing, despite its title, there is nothing 'unearthly', like aliens or comets, involved in this movie. In fact, the whole movie takes place on Dr. Conway's (Carradine) property, where he does crazy experiments in the name of science, like any other crazy scientist, I suppose. Anyway, Dr. Conway thinks that he's found the secret to the fountain of youth, and so he and his love-stricken assistant Dr. Gilchrest (Marilyn Buferd, 1946's Miss America, btw) tests his hypothesis on patients brought to them by Dr. Loren Wright (Roy Gordon) under the assumption that Conway is treating them for psychological issues. Instead, he implants a 17th gland, which looks suspiciously like a bell pepper, into their bodies to give them eternal youth, but unfortunately, Conway's success record seems to be worse than the Detroit Lions' so he must not be very good at his job.

- The main protagonist is Police Det. Mark Houston (Myron Healey), who gains access by planting an article in the local paper about an escaped convict and then posing as said convict in order to gain access to Conway's lab. As far-fetched as that plan is, it somehow works, and after Lobo brings him in, Conway arranges for Houston to stay and take part in his experiments or else he'll turn him in to the cops. Houston gets to meet the rest of the patients, including an angry young man named Danny (Arthur Batanides), who seems determined to be as hammy of an actor as possible. To call Batanides' performance overacting would be the understatement of the month. Also, there are two lovely ladies, Natalie (Sally Todd) and Grace (Alison Jones), who both take a fancy to Houston soon after meeting him. Then again, when the other choices are angry young Danny, Old Man Conway, a half-dead man named Jedrow in the basement, and Tor freakin' Johnson, it's not like the girls have much of a choice.

- As I said before, the whole movie takes place in Dr. Conway's house, and it seems as if half the movie is spent with somebody either walking around in the hallway or walking up and down stairs. To make matters worse, there's not enough lighting in the movie, so it's kind of hard to see. This is especially apparent towards the end of the movie, where Houston is chasing Conway around outside the house, and it's really hard to tell just who is who in the darkness.

- While Carradine mails in his performance, and Healey and the women aren't too terrible (although they really could have expanded on Grace's character more, since we know little about her other than that she's scared of something), the real acting highlight is Tor Johnson's performance. If there is one word I would use to describe the hulking Tor, it would be lumbering. Tor moves with all the speed of molasses, he has an expression of deep confusion on his face at all times, and he only has two lines in the whole movie and you can barely understand what he's saying. Let's just say it's a good thing that Tor's so big, because even a movie as bad as this one is too good for Tor's acting skills.

Overall, this a merely a decent episode, although if you are a fan of MST3K, I would highly recommend watching both of the shorts featured on this episode, as they are quite full of good digs from Joel and the Bots. As for the movie, there are some good bits in it, but the movie itself is so dull that it's a chore to sit through at times. I'd give the move The Unearthly a 1.8 out of 10, and the episode itself a 6.4 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this or other posts, or ideas for future posts, than let me know about them either by leaving a comment on the blog or sending me an e-mail at As for me, I think it's "Time for go to bed".

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