Episode 303: Pod People
“It has nothing to do with pods. It has nothing to do with people. It has everything to do with hurting.”
Streaming: Netflix episode 11
Hi and welcome to my AVCAD TV Club reviews of MST3K. MST3K isn’t the easiest to review. You’ve definitely have to work through the different layers. I am gonna try to approach it as a “sum of it’s parts” type affair. The wiki has a great list of a lot of the more obscure references, so not going to duplicate that. As always welcome to suggestions with how you think I should review the series.
The Movie: Pod People aka Extra Terrestrial Visitors
Going to start with my second favorite Joel movie, Pod People. Pod People is a movie I think hits a lot of the check marks for getting someone into the series. To start with, the movie is bad in the way that I think lends itself to good riffing in a way that others (Say, Coleman Francis MST3Ks, for you series veterans) sometimes aren’t.
You can check out the details of the film here.
Pod People Wiki entry
Pod People IMDB
MST3K Wikia entry
If it’s not clear, this is an ET knockoff. But like many other MST3K classic bad movies, it’s more than just that. It has the weird hallmark that some of the best bad movies have where it feels like two or more distinctly different movies are edited together in an attempt for a cash grab. Between the teen (?) band, the hunters, and the adventures of Tommy and Trumpy, you get a mishmash of who cares. Which is perfect for riffing.
My theory is that the best movies to riff have an ability to be safely ignored but aren’t necessarily boring. Pod People hits that target. The dialogue is safely ignored to leave room for the riffs but the movie itself is at least watchable and has enough pure goofiness on its own to keep your interest in a “What the hell is going on?” sort of way that other movies (Looking at you, The Castle of Fu Manchu) never are.
Plot wise, hoo boy. You have a weird ET like alien, some real jerk hunters, the worst band with the meanest lead singer and some inexplicably boring and ignored deaths. It is at least tangentially sci-fi, which may not be a requirement for MST3K but it usually seems to fit the show better. It’s not a great movie by any stretch.
The Host Segments
Get ready for some blasphemy. I think the host segments are often skippable. Case in point are the opening (Robot Monologues, Trumpy Hi-jinks and this episode’s invention exchange). The invention exchange is oddly one sided with Joel’s being little more than a visual gag and the Mad’s Public Domain Karaoke being a one note (almost literally) joke that drags on too long. Trumpy’s Hi-jinks is probably little more than a chance for them to have some fun with messing around with the puppets.
However, when a host segment works, man does it ever. This one has a whopping three host segments that I feel hit the mark.
First, Joel and the Bots version of the song from the film. Their version, “Idiot Control Now” is so damn earnestly silly it ends up becoming downright hilarious. Taking the riffs from the scene in the film and going even further, you end up with a misheard lyrics song for the ages. It’s childish, sure, but fun. The ending (Made famous by the A Winged Potato avatar, of course) punch out of “It Stinks!” with Joel’s disgusted face are a hallmark of the series.
The second segment is another callback to riffs earlier in the movie. I am of the age where I remember late night radio and Time Music New Age collection, so this part hits hard for me. Sure, the segment feels dated now, but Music From Some Guys in Space has a lot of the weird attention to detail that MST3K is known for. Not only do you get a shout out to Windham Hill records on that sweet Yanni Lick (Hell of a band name there, too) but you also might know that Music from the Hearts of Space was a real show that the gang is riffing on. New Age music is an easy and safe target, sure, but I am never not going to laugh at the idea of a John Tesh track called “Whispering Firestorm”.
Finally, another musical number and one that provides a weird amount of heart. Clowns in the Sky is weirdly moving. Well, until Tom launches into his angry Anthony Newley. As a musical number, though, it’s also the title of the musical CD released in 1996 containing all the early season MST3K musical numbers. The most important thing to know about Clowns in the Sky is that it stinks.
Top Ten Riffs
1 – Trumpy! You can do stupid things!
2 – Boldly backing away from where no man has gone before.
3 – Idiot Control Now!
4 – Come on, breakfast is getting cold and she isn’t getting any warmer. More oatmeal for everyone!
5 – You know, even the movie The Fog didn’t have this much fog in it.
6 – McCloud!
7 – Tommy you quit warping space and time this instant!
8 – We’re just as confused as you are, folks.
9 – The Music from the Hearts of Space riffs in the opening credits
10 – Gimme that! I’ll show you how to use a prop phone
I give Episode 303: Pod People 4/5 stars. It stinks.