VHS Vednesday: Firesign Theatre's Hot Shorts
FIRESIGN THEATRE'S HOT SHORTS (1983). Directed by Phil Austin. Starring Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, and Phil Proctor.
(Ignore the "Beta" label on the image...it was the only picture I could find on-line, but this is indeed a VHS Vednesday.)
In the tradition of Woody Allen's "What's Up Tiger Lily?", the celebrated Firesign Theatre comedy troupe (or three of them, at least) have edited and re-dubbed several vintage movie serials, transforming them into an assortment of twisted shorts. Among them:
"Mounties Catch Herpes" (Dangers of the Canadian Mounted): In Alcana, "a thin town on the dotted line between Mexico and Israel," the Royal Mexican Mounted Policia battle an infestation of ticks, brought in by the notorious criminal Al Herpes.
"Sperm Bank Holdup" (The Black Widow): A sinister mastermind plots to distribute the DNA of Richard Nixon to unsuspecting would-be mothers.
"Revenge of the Non-Smokers" (Spy Smasher): The heroes of the non-smoking resistance movement battle the Axis powers of tobacco. (Though I'm sure many pundits would reverse the roles, this is the way the Firesign Theatre cast them...)
"Nazi Diet Doctors" (She Demons): A mad scientist hides deep in the jungle, leading the bikini-clad native women in a sinister aerobics class.
"Toy Wars" (Manhunt of Mystery Island): The pirate Captain Kiddie plots to dominate the market with the stolen plans for a new remote-controlled plane, only to be foiled by agents Ken and Barbie of the Marxist Toy Company.
"Claws II" (Panther Girl of the Kongo): An up-and-coming director travels to the jungle and finds her new star...a wisecracking giant lobster.
"Olympic Confidential" (Undersea Kingdom): An idealistic wrestler falls prey to the insidious steroids of Dr. Pillpopper.
"The Last Handgun on Earth" (Radar Men from the Moon): Agents of Big Brother track down the owner of (as indicated in the title) the last handgun on Earth.
"Heaven Is Hell" (King of Jungleland): Heaven has a new appointee to the office of God, but one disgruntled angel plots to dethrone Her (if his interior monologues don't give him away).
There's really no way I can do justice to the Firesign Theatre's inspired madness...it speaks for itself. I could offer a selection of my favorite quotes, but they need the visual juxtaposition for full effect. ("Now everybody lean back and pretend like you're flying!") Many of the lines, like the best MST3K quips, will stay with you for a long time...from time to time, I find myself singing the merry jingle "You killed the pirate with his own toy gun!"
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
All of the original serial/B-movie stars, ranging from Buster Crabbe to Irish McCalla...who undoubtedly remained blissfully unaware of this project.