“Welcome to the Jungle, we have fun and games…” “We got everything you want, honey, we know the names…” “We are the people that can find whatever you may need…” “If you got the money, honey, we got your disease…” Is this including The Man Of Steel? Or is that extra? Hide and Seek, Radio Controlled Circular Saw, Dr. F’s Head Fused To A Sax, The Phantom Creeps, Bela’s OK Discoveries, Binocular Mattes, Imperialistic Aliens, My White Goddess. “Oh Smoki Whitefish, sounds delicious”, “I’ll have a Carl Berger”, “Hey look a Shriner.” “Here whitey, whitey, whitey, whitey” or “I told you this thing had an automatic pilot”?
Ugh, this one is hard to sit through. Joel and TB’s do their best but there’s so little to work with. A dull movie filmed in dull b&w. Not one redeemable character. Drab from start to finish. This is one of my least favorite episodes.
All the movies featured on MST3K show their age to some degree. However, Jungle Goddess wears it more poorly than most. But first let’s talk about the short. The running time of these older movies aren’t always capable of filling the two-hour slot of the show, hence the use of shorts. However, it appears that the Brains had yet to discover Rick Prelinger and his treasure trove of vintage educational shorts, so we’re stuck with serials. On the face of it, The Phantom Creeps may look promising, as it features Bela Lugosi as a mad scientist. But unlike Radar Men from the Moon, it stumbles right out of the gate.
As mad scientists go, Dr. Zorka is oddly unfocused in his creative energies. In the first chapter alone, he demonstrates a prototype giant robot, an invisibility belt, a bunch of exploding spider drones, and a vapor concoction the effects of which are currently unknown. But what really sets it apart involves how he went about faking his death to evade the authorities. Zorka’s lackey Monk is driving him when a hitchhiker is spotted and on an apparent whim Monk is told to pick him up. Shortly thereafter, the car goes off the road and crashes. While Zorka and Monk fly clear and remain uninjured somehow, the hitchhiker dies in the fiery wreckage. To this, Zorka states, “How fortunate. This will simplify everything.” No kidding. Throw in a bad audio and it’s hard to tell what’s going on half the time. At least Radar Men from the Moon was easy to follow and had some decent action sequences.
The main feature can be summed up thusly: A pair of bush pilots in Africa learn of a reward being offered for locating the daughter of a diamond magnate, whose flight to Johannesburg crashed six years ago. They eventually discover her being worshiped by an isolated tribe as a goddess. Just from that, you can tell it’s going to be problematic.
The trope of a Caucasian explorer being mistaken for a god by natives exists in part due to historical precedence, with consequences ranging from comic to tragic. The issue with works that employ this trope is in how the natives are portrayed. All too often, they get played as moronic bumpkins, which doesn’t sit well with modern sensibilities. In such circumstances, it can be difficult to maintain good humor and it gets reflected in the host segments. Most notable in this regard is the final one, where the movie is reimagined as an unfunny 1950s style sitcom. This is a prime example of doing something too well, as the sketch is IMO not that funny.
I have an interesting “relationship” with this episode.
I agree the movie is really drab with little to latch on to, but since it also launched several in-jokes/callbacks/running gags (“Art Crow”, “Hamburger Sammiches”, “This will simplify everything!”, etc), that I think it’s worth revisiting once in a while just as a reminder of its overall legacy.
I will say that I really enjoy The Phantom Creeps here, since the opening chapter throws so much at you plus Joel and The Bots’ impersonations of Bela Lugosi are so great!
The only thing that bugs me in The Phantom Creeps is Joel doing that Hart to Hart Lionel Stander voice for the henchman (“That’s my boss! Always thinking!” etc., etc.) Like fingernails on a chalkboard. I think it’s the only running gag in the series that I can’t stand.