Last weekend I was privileged to have attended a performance by Mystery Science Theater 3000 writers/puppeteers/mad scientists Trace “Dr. Clayton Forrester” Beaulieu and “TV’s Frank” Conniff. They did live movie riffing in the now-familiar MST3K style, and it was really quite an excellent time. They have two shows coming up in the next few months, In St. Louis on Saturday, December 12, 2015, and as part of the San Francisco Sketchfest on January 15, 2016. If you’re an MST3k fan at all, this is a show you really have to see, especially since Beaulieu and Conniff are not going to be a part of Joel Hodgson’s forthcoming reboot of the series. (I’m optimistic about the performers chosen to serve as the new host, mad scientist & robots, though.)
I won’t reveal the feature film they riffed just in case they plan to use it at any of the forthcoming shows—I’d hate to spoil a welcome surprise. But as a warm-up, the pair also ably mocked a couple of preposterous cartoon shorts, one of which was so completely around the bend that they could have kept their mouths shut and it still would have been a riot to watch. It was a don’t-talk-to-strangers scare PSA produced by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, called “The Cautious Twins,” and was the animated counterpart to a contemporary pamphlet.
The titular twins Dorene and Dan have the opposite of a helicopter mom, who sends them off to explore the town on their own. (To be clear, I’m not being critical here, I grew up really free-range, myself.) But mom might reconsider her permissiveness if she properly understood that every adult male in town save for one cop is a sleazy, leering, predatory pedophile. In fact, merely being more watchful might not suffice. She should really consider moving as far away from this nightmarish place as possible. Her poor kids can’t go ANYWHERE without getting hit up by a creeper.
That the story is told with cheap, stilted, limited-motion animation, and narrated in awkward doggerel over a calliope soundtrack elevates it from merely creepy to completely demented, and the wide eyed, perma-grin expressions the preternaturally chipper twins wear only add to that effect.
Notably, “The Cautious Twins” was directed by one Sid Davis, a director and producer who also gave the world scare films like “The Dangerous Stranger,” “Say No To Strangers,” and the massively homophobic “Boys Beware.” If you happen to be a collector of such oddball cultural produce, you might like to know that “The Dangerous Stranger” and “The Cautious Twins” are included as extras on Something Weird’s DVD release of Hitch Hike to Hell.