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Review: Alien From L.A.

Alien From L.A. (1988)
Director: Albert Pyun
Cast: Kathy Ireland, William R. Moses, Janet Du Plessis

Alien From L.A. is the tale of Wanda Saknussemmememmenemm (Ireland), a nerdy young lady who is voiced by a choir of field mice. After getting dumped by her shallow boyfriend, she goes off to Africa to find her recently-dead father. While stumbling around in a coke-induced daze, Wanda falls down a hole and into Australia- OH! I mean, Atlantis. Sorry. It’s a Mad Maxxian city populated by mostly-Australian people who are ruled by an Orwellian government of some sort. See, they don’t want Atlanteans believing in aliens, or people from the surface. We’re not really sure why, but this does not bode well for our nerdy- oh, wait! Wanda’s not nerdy anymore! She turned into Kathy Ireland! Hurrah! So, a very long story made shortish, Wanda is hunted down, arrested, finds her father, and they’re both rescued by her really Australian male friend. She and her father escape to the surface, and Wanda gets even with her ex-boyfriend by informing him that she’s now equipped with breasts. Still voiced by field mice, though.

The review is under the cut, as the kids say.

When Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich plowed the depths of shamelessness in order to, once again, craft another soulless summer blockbuster for 1994, they might’ve hacked apart this piece of crap for the “inspiration” they needed to create Stargate. Don’t believe me? Both Stargate and Alien From L.A. involved backstories about our ancestors being aliens from other planets who came to populate the earth. Both films also involve crackpot doctors who appear to be the only men alive in their respective worlds who know this secret origin, and who end up paying a visit to the aliens’ homes and end up being taken captive by the current residents of those homes. Evidence of this truth is found in, or around, Egypt in both movies, as well. Sadly, Stargate did not involve Kathy Ireland, which is why it bombed and never went anywhere, and why Alien From L.A. went on to spawn several successful spin-offs… Oh. Wait. Nevermind.

I can only imagine what compelled individuals to make this film. “Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a ‘Mad Max’ film about Australian aliens living underground! Let’s cast a supermodel as the star.” Admittedly, you could probably do a lot worse than Kathy Ireland, for your supermodel star. It’s far more preferable to watch Kathy toddle and squeak her way through boiler rooms than to watch, say, Kate Moss carry her gaunt, ghoulish frame amongst the sneering, smelly quasi-Australians, like a malnourished succubus. So, before you lay deep your slings and arrows into dear Kathy, remember to count your blessings. But I digress.

This is a really, really dumb movie. I do, however, give it points for being pretty darn goofy. It’s got fake Australians, supermodels in really ginormous glasses, midgets, piraty women, a semi-Thunderdome, clown mobsters, fuzzy scientists… it’s one trippy hoot, and that alleviates some of the pain. Still, the ridiculousness of the overall plot, the actors, and some of the characters – with all due respect to the vertically challenged, how is Mambino even remotely threatening? – make it increasingly difficult to watch. It’s kind of fun, but it’s pretty hokey.

Oh, and want to know something even creepier? In the Stargate spin-offs SG-1 and Atlantis, it’s revealed that the aliens that originally populated the earth were, in fact, Atlantians, more or less. Embarrassing rip-off, or insane coincidence? You make the call!

MOVIE GRADE: C-

I have fond memories of this episode. It’s one of the few that I distinctly remember watching, back when the show was on Comedy Central. I suppose there also isn’t a vast wealth of adventure movies about post-apocalyptic Australians that star supermodels, thus making this episode stand out.

I have to say, the episode has a decent handful of weaknesses. Foremost of all, it has a lot of lackluster host segments. They’re not bad, per se; but they just don’t stand out. Still, having said that, the opening segments are incredibly good. Trace’s drill sergeant is hi-larious, and Mike’s brief “psycho” turn (seen above) is a (disturbing) hoot. From there, the host segments drift aimlessly from the relatively dull argument about supermodels to the fairly overrated “Wild Irish Ireland,” before ending with a weak but chuckle-inducing final segment. Tucked between those last two, however, is the pretty amusing Guessing Game skit, which does salvage something. Throughout it all, I’m sad to say that Mike still sticks out like a sore thumb, with this being only his fourth experiment. He’s kind of boring, during the host segments, but he was still fresh virgin flesh at the time, so we’ll forgive.

As for the riffing, it’s pretty darn good. I don’t get too many lines sticking in my mind, but there’s plenty of laughs to be had. One of the earmarks of a good episode is that even the repetitive, easy gags work. Sure enough, the Kathy Ireland riffs are almost always amazing. Never has cruelly insulting an attractive person’s intelligence been so fun!

EPISODE GRADE: B

  • Crow disassembles Tom and forces Mike to reassemble him. [A+]
  • Mike is psycho. Mads invent the Vend-A-Gut; Mike invents Fridge Udders. [A]
  • The Bots think Kathy reminds them of Clara Peller. [C+]
  • Mike sings of his “Wild Irish Ireland.” [C]
  • The Kathy Ireland Fabulous Range of Emotions Acting Guessing Game! [B+]
  • An overly-inquisitive letter; Frank loses count. [B-]
  • [STINGER] Something offends Kathy’s sense of taste. Finally. [C+]

1. Trace’s Kathy Ireland riffs. Riffing on a supermodel’s acting abilities is something akin to shooting barns with a cannon. Yet, somehow, Trace manages to make his impressions of Kathy and his jabs at her intelligence come off surprisingly fresh and funny. Mike and Kevin manage to get in a few good ones too, but Trace is easily the winner, here.

2. The Chick-Movie Battle. Usually when, during the end credits, the riffers go off on a tangent about something completely unrelated to the film, there’s a very large potential for suckiness. I mean, it usually seems obvious that the writers couldn’t come up with anything to say about what’s going on on-screen, so they threw something random together. However, this one is an admirable segment, as Crow and Mike lay into each other quite effectively

3. “Looks like ‘Sad Max.'” A brilliantly accurate riff from Tom. That is the film.

4. The ‘Boss of Bosses’. It’s worth noting that Mambino is portrayed by Deep Roy, an actor probably best known as the new Oompa Loompas from Tim Burton’s Willy Wonka remake. However, it doesn’t need to be noted that he’s one goofy-ass character. I have no problem with the vertically challenged, nor with one being in authority, but look at him. He’s an albino midget mob boss with five-inch eyelashes, who looks at people through a giant magnifying glass. Yeah. ‘Kay.

5. The Wizard of Oz motif. Wanda gets mysteriously whisked away to a strange, alien land and makes strange, alien friends. Multiple actors from the “surface world” also play characters in Atlantis. There’s an evil Munchkin. (Sorry.) Our heroine is pursued by an evil woman. At the end (SPOILERS!) Kathy wakes up and almost reveals the film to be a dream (if only), before we find out that it was, in fact, real. It’s so obvious that the filmmakers were trying to create a quasi-endearing Wizard of Oz-type movie – perhaps inspired by the release of Return To Oz, a few years earlier – that it’s almost cute.

[+] LINE: “Andy? Helen? Are you in there?”
A reference to a season-four episode of The Andy Griffith Show in which Andy and his girlfriend Helen get trapped inside a cave, and Don Knotts’ character leads the ultimately-unnecessary rescue operation. The riff, “Sarah, get me Mt. Pilot,” is also a reference to the show, Sarah being the local operator.

[+] ACTOR: Simon “Crassus” Poland
Oh, excuse me – Consul Triton Crassus. I actually kind of liked this character. A little too foppish perhaps, but he fought The Man (“Patches”) and won, and that’s A-OK in my book. Anyway, if you were really, anally attentive at the movies this past year, you might’ve spotted Simon – he played a Trafalger Square preacher in Children of Men and “Alan Anthony Beaven” in United 93 – his first apparent roles since 1997. Here’s hoping for a successful return to acting for ol’ Crassus.

[+] LINE: “Oh, I thought we were beyond Thunderdome.”
Beyond Thunderdome, the sequel to Mad Max. This joke is best displayed in the opening of the Comedy Central finale, Laserblast. It’s a painful and difficult joke to pull off but, as someone who has successfully managed to do so, I can honestly say that the rewards are well worth it.

[+] LINE: “One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble!”
From the song “One Night In Bangkok” by Murray Head, originally from the ABBAriffic musical Chess. I’m not sure why the reference was made, though.

[+] SEQUEL: Journey to the Center of the Earth
Can’t get enough of the adventures of the Atlantians? Sure, we all do! Merely one year later, Journey was released as a hastily hacked-together follow-up to Alien. The film featured the return of Rykov/Patches, as well as several other characters whose names I can’t match with faces, nor do I care to. (Simon Poland returns as well, but playing different characters.) Sadly, the film goes light on the Kathy (she’s reduced to a cameo), and it apparently went heavy on the Emo Philips. I haven’t seen this, but I instantly regret that the Brains couldn’t get their hands on it. Sounds delightful.

Uneven. The movie is almost tolerable due to its wackiness, but it’s really not. The episode is almost brilliant, but there aren’t enough good host segments and really memorable riffs. So, nothing here is awful by any stretch of the imagination; however, nothing here really stands out enough either. Still, it’s nutty, and nutty works.

FINAL GRADE: B+

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6 Responses

  1. I love this blog (which I’m finding to be a better source of MST3K-related news than mst3k.com!)… but I *hate* reviews of this show, especially when each fan’s favorite cast members, riffs, and episodes are absolutely guaranteed to be different.

    MST3K itself nicely skewered review scores at the end of episode 706, when Mike and the ‘Bots thumbed through Leonard Maltin’s movie guide and asked why the atrocious Laserblast failed to earn “the full three stars.”

    Commenting on unusual or amusing aspects of individual episodes is cool; slapping subjective and meaningless ratings on them is not.

  2. Thank you very much for the kind words. I don’t consider myself in competition with Satellite News at all, but I do strive to be just as good and better than their site, for the sake of quality. I appreciate that.

    As for the reviews, yes, of course they’re completely subjective. I’m basically an over-opinionated nerd, so please just indulge me. I simply enjoy writing. Also, the reviews are intended for newcomers seeking information and for people who are just looking for an entertaining read. (And hopefully it does end up being an entertaining read. I do try.) The news and other articles will always outnumber the reviews, though.

  3. Aww.. what happen to the cool heading logos?

  4. Unfortunately for you, this blog is run by a minimalist. :) Honestly, I’m trying to make the review process as easy as possible, hence the more simplistic graphics. It’s really hard to find good, high-quality screencaps from specific episodes that will look good and will edit neatly into the previous divider-bar format. (My computer’s DVD drive isn’t currently working.) It makes it easier for me and (I think) more pleasant-looking for everyone, if I keep it smaller and simpler. I’m still experimenting though, so bear with me. Suggestions are welcome.

  5. Another great little ‘riff’.. When Kathy is entering the bar/grill in Atlantis for the first time and the blonde stands right next to her and one of MST3k sings a line to that 80’s song.. I can picture the music video vaguely, but I don’t know the words. Its kind of mumbled. I heard it the other day in Marshalls (TJ Maxx-owned store) and started laughing out loud!

  6. That’d be Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” – “Once I had a love, and it was a gas…” An extremely accurate riff, since the woman looks a LOT like Debbie Harry.

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