MST3K: Code Name Diamond Head (1994)
Director: Kevin Murphy
Starring: Mike Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy and Jim Mallon

The Plot: In the not-too-distant future, Mike Nelson (Michael J. Nelson) is abducted by his boss at Gizmonic institute and shot into outer space. His boss, Dr. Forrester, then sends Mike the very worst movies that he can find in order to document his reactions. Mike, who has built two robot friends named Crow and Tom Servo, does his best to improve this bad situation by having a good time and riffing on the movies with his robot pals. In this episode, we watch Code Name: Diamond Head, which was a TV pilot that has been converted into a feature film. In our story, we follow secret agent Johnny Paul (Roy Thinnes), aka: Diamond Head, as he arrives in Oahu taking on the role of a playboy gambler. His actual mission, however, is to help stop the theft of a frightening new chemical agent which is far deadlier than anything the world has seen before it. A military made chemical agent, this toxin was stolen by the elusive double agent “Tree” (Ian McShane). Now, Johnny Paul must track down this rogue agent and put a stop to his nefarious plans before this deadly chemical falls into the wrong hands.

The Review
When it came to things that should be applauded, Mystery Science Theater 3000 was in no short demand of aspects that were worth cheering about. It brought the ironic sense of enjoyment that can be found in the world of b-cinema right out into the mainstream, and it has influenced all of film-geek culture ever since. One thing that strikes me about the show is the choices they made when picking their films. Although this was a program dedicated to the very worst in cinema, the cast and crew were actually very selective in what movies they pursued. Occasionally, the group would introduce their audience to a few interesting characters behind the scenes (directors and producers), and occasionally give new notoriety to actors who were truly at their worst. I am thinking of both the producer Sandy Frank because of his involvement in the Gamera series, as well as Joe Don Baker for his starring roles in Mitchell and Final Justice. Although Code Name: Diamond Head does not reach these heights, it does introduce us to b-television producer Quinn Martin. A name that isn’t as important during the course of this episode as he is on the special features for the DVD (where you will find a spectacular documentary on his work), he is still a very interesting character. He is an integral part of this movie, because if you haven’t guessed already (and the plot synopsis above was a major giveaway), this is indeed a made for TV movie. A failed spy pilot, Quinn Martin’s attempt to emulate the James Bond aesthetic is a general failure in most regards. It’s only true success comes from it being a relatively fun episode of MST3K, which is more than you can say for a lot of movies.

The actual movie isn’t poorly made in any technical sense, it is actually quite the opposite. Although it is lacking in style, which is understandable since it is hard to evoke atmosphere while showing off the sunny Hawaiian locations in the film, the movie is shot very competently. The acting is also quite solid, but Ian McShane (or as Mike and the bots continually refer to him: Lovejoy!) is always solid in any role he takes. The performances remain quite solid throughout, and Roy Thinnes in the leading role is fairly charismatic. Despite the general meandering of the plot and the boring nature of this TV movie, these two actors seem to have enough charisma to sustain the entire thing. This charisma is enough to make the overall plot seem interesting enough that we can focus on the movie while also paying most of our attention to the MST3K gang. Despite the boredom that this movie must surely inspire when watched by itself, it makes for a damned entertaining episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

As with any good episode of Mystery Science Theater, the best moments tend to come from the general ridiculousness found in the riffing. When the guys go off on tangents, the are at the very best. Their work becomes most interesting when they find strange obsessions that they continually reference. Scenes that revolve around characters and their obsessions with ice cubes, as well as a odd recurring reference to a scene dealing with a character picking up his luggage, make for some of the most memorable recurring jokes. However, the jokes continue to fly regardless of recurring gags, and it gives the episode a very fun vibe. While the plot within the movie seems to stall out after the first thirty minutes or so, the gang still manage to make their jokes work. Code Name: Diamond Head is the sort of movie that relies heavily on expositional dialogue instead of heavy spy action. This inevitably leads to a dreadfully tedious story that never matches the pulp atmosphere of any good James Bond story, but it does offer ample breaks within the dialogue for Mike and the bots to reel off one-liners.

Featuring some guest segments that make this episode really stand out, Mike and the crew have a running gag that plays out through the entire episode. While Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank are debating about who is the bigger germaphobe, Crow and Tom Servo are reminded by a seemingly omnipotent voice about how bad their life would be if Mike wasn’t the nice guy that he is. Each host segment essentially devolves into skits where Mike plays various characters who torture the bots, and this leads to some genuine laughs. These are easily some of the stronger host segments I have seen in a while, and they don’t feel nearly as random or out of place as others generally do. The host segments only endear the audience to our silly gang of rogues, but it is the riffing that makes this a memorable episode. I have to admit that I am always partial to Mike, as he was the host when I discovered MST3K, but I believe that this is generally one of the better episodes from his earlier years. When the gang hit their final few seasons, they started to stockpile the comedy gold.

The Conclusion
Code Name: Diamond Head is a pretty silly movie. It is hardly worth talking about outside of MST3K circles, but as a episode of the show it certainly makes for high entertainment. It isn’t one that will make it into the pantheon of great episode, but it is most assuredly a nice helping of fun. Packed with some intriguing special features, you honestly can’t beat the Mystery Science 3000: Volume XXIII boxset. I give this episode a high three out of five. It isn’t quite a four, but it is close!

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