Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Classic Serials: Undersea Kingdom, Chapter Two

Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffed the first two episodes of this serial.  Well, parts of them.

I mentioned way back in my edited version of Chapter One that they cut a substantial chunk.  It amounted to nearly ten minutes.  And with Chapter Two, they simply cut from about 8:19 in the video below, directly to the "Next Episode" caption.  I guess they already knew they weren't coming back for Chapter Three.

MST3K never tackled a whole serial.  The closest they came was when, during their first season, they riffed eight whole episodes, out of twelve, of Radar Men from the Moon before becoming mightily sick of it.  (They also did a couple minutes of Chapter Nine to bring another episode to length, at which point the Mads suffer a "film break," from which they apparently never recovered.)  And it's not tough to see why it wore on them.  A serial tends to be like a very long movie with highly repetitive action.  (And Radar Men from the Moon is almost surreally so.)  Eventually, you run out of different riffs for the same old, same old, and you start repeating yourself as well.  (How many times did Servo describe Commando Cody's process of twisting his flight control knobs as "Nipple, nipple, tweak, tweak"?)  Imagine if they'd gone on.  Chapter Ten was a "recap" chapter, consisting mostly of footage from the previous nine episodes.  Yikes!

It looks like it took shorter each time for them to get tired of a serial.  During Season Two, they riffed on three episodes of The Phantom Creeps.  Then what amounts to about 7/6 episodes of Undersea Kingdom, in Season Four, and then never again.  Which is a bit of a shame.  I can't help but think it would have been fun to see them take on Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.  Maybe they could have done the feature version.  And, like the other serials, it was in the public domain, so there was nothing stopping them.

As it is, whenever I hear the opening theme to Undersea Kingdom, I can't not think of their short burst of lyrics for it: "It's the Undersea Kingdom/For you and for me/And it's fiiiiine!"  And the name "Unga Khan" reminds me of their riff, singing his name to the tune of Chaka Khan's "I Feel for You."

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