The Case of the Art House Film and the Beer Commercial

I mentioned in a previous post that while horror movies were sort of pushed on me in a way when I was growing up, I was a receptive audience. I couldn’t get enough of horror movies – B Grade, blockbuster, obscure, cult following – you name it – I loved them all and still do.
Which was unfortunate in a way, because my father must have kind of figured that “Hey – he liked the horror movies – maybe I can get him to like some of my other favorite movies too!” Most of these other “favorites” were in black and white.  Snore.
When I was 16 I came home from a friend’s house one night pretty hammered – sloppy drunk, I believe, would be the correct term here. I got grounded for a month for that – more than even for the drag racing incident. (I had driven drunk – that’s why the harsh punishment, and well-deserved, I might add.)  And this was hard time too – no TV, and no real family time except for meals. When I was not upstairs for family meals, I was confined to my room. It was summer vacation, so this was a really harsh sentence – in my room for a month except for food and bathroom visits.

This might seem harsh – but I am so glad I got that punishment – I had a radio / tape player downstairs in my room and it stayed on most of the time. This was when I really fell in love with rock and roll – but that’s another post (Coming Soon!)  During this time I also fell in love with classic old movies.

You see, about a week into my sentence, Dad declared that my sentence would be amended – I was allowed to watch TV in the family room, but only after prime time, and only after my brother and sister went to bed. Oh, and I had to watch what Dad wanted to watch – I got no say whatsoever in the programming. Oh, God……..

And so he made me watch the classics. And I mean I really didn’t want to watch these movies. But no TV for a month, I was in withdrawal, I think – I mean, I must have been – because I agreed to watch these things without protest. And so we did. Casablanca. Gone With the Wind. To Have and Have Not. The African Queen. Shane. Citizen Kane. The Ten Commandments. The list goes on and on. No horror movies, no B movies, just the giants of cinema here. In a month’s time – I watched over 40 of the best films ever made. And a funny thing happened. I fell in love with them. All of them. At 16, I was doomed to be a huge movie buff for life. I think I also fell in love with Ingrid Bergman, which is odd since she died two years after this, but I digress.

In fact, I had almost completed my sentence – and a crash course education in classic cinema – before I realized that, while she was arguably the best film actress who ever lived, Ingrid Bergman was not in fact a Swedish art house movie director. I thought this last crop of esoteric films my dad wanted me to watch were called Ingrid Bergman movies, which was odd, since she only starred in one of them. Finally the mystery was unraveled – my dad was, as my sentence came to a close, trying to get me to watch Ingmar Bergman movies.

It’s actually pretty amazing that my dad actually had all of these films on VHS in the mid 80’s. Even more amazing that he had nearly every Ingmar Bergman film on VHS.

This was where I had to draw the line, finally, and retreat back to Rick Dees Top 40 on my radio downstairs. I just couldn’t get into Ingmar Bergman movies.

Ingmar Bergman was a Swedish film director / producer who produced what I like to call “art house films” in the 60’s, 70,s and early 80’s. Most of his work was really depressing. He did some black and white and several color films. It seems like they all dealt with death, misery, suffering, and sexual repression. Just not very cheery stuff to watch, and I just could not get into them.

Take an example – “The Seventh Seal,” one of Ingmar Bergman’s more famous works, starts out with two men on the sea shore. It’s in black and white, and arduously slow. We find out like 15 minutes in that one of these men is Death. The Grim Reaper. Whatever. So the other guy challenges Death to a chess game in hopes of prolonging the inevitable, and Death accepts the challenge. This is your plot, people. There are not very many people who saw this movie that needed a Sominex to sleep that night. I’m just sayin.

So, I never really got into those. But like I said, I did become a huge movie buff, which eventually led to me watching some more obscure movies. And – gasp – even non-horror B Movies! Which led to a sick little passion of mine – movie riffing (verbally making fun of a movie while you watch it).  Trained and taught by a puppet show. Those of you who know me well already know what I’m talking about – my over decade-long love affair now (through DVD mostly) with a TV show called Mystery Science Theater 3000. For those of you not familiar, probably the best way to school you is with the opening title song!  Yay!

In the not too distant future, next Sunday A.D.

There was a guy named Joel, not too different from you or me,

He worked at Gizmonic Institute, just another face in a red jump suit,

He did a good job cleaning up the place, but his boss didn’t like him so he shot him into space.

(mad scientist appears in green lab coat)

I’ll send him cheesy movies, the very worst that I can find, he’ll have to sit and watch them all, as I monitor his mind,

Now keep in mind Joel can’t control when the movies begin or end, ’cause he used those special parts to make his robot friends:

Cambot!  Gypsy!  Tom Servo!  Croooooooooooooow!

If you wonder how Joel eats and sleeps and other science facts, repeat to yourself it’s just a show, you should really just relax,

For Mystery Science Theater 3000!

There are actually six versions of that song, and yes, I know them all. The show ran from it’s odd and modest beginnings in the local Minneapolis market to Comedy Central and later the Sci Fi Channel from 1988 to 1999. Each episode is 2 hours long, as Joel and the bots (later replaced by Mike) rip up a fresh B movie. These things are divinely hilarious, with skits and songs put on by the bots to break up the movie a bit.  They did 198 two-hour shows in all. I have seen 108 of them, which is pretty good considering the first season was in the Minnesota market only. And oh, God are the movies soooooooooooo bad. (Incidentally, this show is also responsible for movie-riffing groups like The Trash Film Orgy I mentioned in a previous post – this thing had and has a HUGE cult following.)

Well, the other day, I got one of the latest DVD releases of this show – this episode was from 1994 , “The Sword and the Dragon” (all MST3K episodes are named after the movie being riffed on.) Think “Jason and the Argonauts” made by Swedes on a low budget, then add ham. I’m tellin ya – this thing was as goofy as a string cheese sprayer. (I realize “Jason and the Argonauts” probably should have been an MST3K, so that was probably a bad example, but anyway….)

Wait – did someone say Swedish – made film?  Yes, yes I did. And although of course “The Sword and the Dragon” is a little beneath Ingmar Bergman’s level of film mastery (or so I’m told, but I’m still not that convinced on this point) might this not be the perfect time for the crew of MST3K’s Satellite of Love, or SOL, to launch an absolutely irreverent parody of an Ingmar Bergman film, just for the pure Hell of it?

Yes, yes it is.

And so I give you MST3K’s 4 and a 1/2 minute parody of Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal” with a beer commercial thrown in for good measure. (If you can’t find the beer commercial – it’s perfectly okay – it just means you are younger than 35…..)

I hope you enjoy watching this as much as I did – hilarious, but infinitely more so if you have ever seen an Ingmar Bergman movie:

My dad would probably ground me for a month again if he could for this post, but what can you do…….
Oh, and for your homework today – I challenge you to go rent an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The funniest ones of all time (but there are SO many qualified candidates!) are almost unarguably “The Final Sacrifice,” “Werewolf,” “Gunslinger,” “The Dead Talk Back,” and “The Blood Waters of Dr. Z.”

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