Monday, July 11, 2011

Assignment Venezuela (1956) – MST3K Review


A very ‘50s man arrives in Venezuela to begin working for Creole Petroleum. He writes to his family, providing voice over of course, telling them of his adventures in this strange and exotic land. Along the way he searches for housing, attempts to learn Spanish, and tries to relate to the culture that seems very alien to him. Don’t tell anyone the super secret surprise twist ending of this very odd little short film.

Movie Review:

Made by Creole Petroleum to help their employees prepare for life in Venezuela, this movie does its best to inform and assure – it may be different, but we’ll be watching over you.

In many ways the ‘50s vibe is all over this thing, from the clothing and hair, down to the almost patronizing voice over and view of all things “exotic”. Some of the main characters “revelations” are pretty funny. I especially like how shocked he is that they put murals and paintings on the sides of apartment buildings. Its always fun to see how a corporation attempts to anticipate their employees reaction to things and this film reveals a lot about Creole as well as the time it was made.

But there a lot of interesting information in the movie about how the company oil operations worked as well as their set up for North American employees. I appreciated how they put our narrator through school to learn Spanish and created a whole community for the employees to live in, while also creating a more integrated experience with the locals.

In the end all the earnest convincing comes across a little silly. With voice over so ripe for riffing, this is a gold mine for Mike and the bots to enjoy.

Episode Review:

This short was produced for a special CD-ROM project that Best Brains had cooking during the Comedy Central years. But sadly this project was never completed. It was shown during a convention, but for a long time it was never released in any official way. Finally, Rhino added this as a bonus short to their DVD of Killer Shrews and all us MST3K fans are happy they did. This is one of my favorite short films they’ve tackled.

Clocking in at a little over twenty minutes, this is one of the longest short features the crew ever attempted. It gives them plenty of time to come up with running jokes as well as the typical comments they make during your garden variety short.

Most of the riffs come at the expense of our narrator and lead character. When he first appears in the doorway to the plane Tom says, “Our man in Caracas, Pee-wee Herman.” His clueless demeanor is the perfect fodder for our boys and they have a blast adding thoughts and quips to his running commentary.

Unlike similar shorts the crew has tackled, like Progress Island, they actually go pretty easy on the country and the people. Mostly they save their meanest stuff for Creole’s handling of their employees and our protagonist. And keep in mind that this is the Comedy Central years, when riffing was a bit more good-natured.

For me the running jokes they come up with are great. During one scene our narrator comments how a lake appeared narrow, but turned out to be wide. Mike and boys treat this as a major mistake adding lines about how filled with shame he is over the mistake. Then for the rest of the short, the narrator (with help from Mike and bots) accidently comments about how wide something is, and it ends up spiraling into tears and begging for forgiveness. This has turned into something of an inside joke in our house, whenever anyone comments about how narrow something is.

Another set of hilarious scenes feature our hero searching for a place to live with his family. He visits a fellow worker, and sees their home. But finds out that he may have to live in a Quonset hut. This opens up a whole bunch of jokes about how bad the conditions are in the hut, including the rats in the toilet and the quality of the water in the facet. It all climaxes in “a nude midget circus” that has to be seen to be believed.

Needless to say this one of my favorites and one that I highly recommend seeking out for fans of MST3K. Even if it requires you to try and sit through Killer Shrews to see it. I give it five narrow, I mean wide really wide lakes out of five.

This episode is available on Killer Shrews DVD on Collection Volume 7.


  1. This is up there with the "knee test" posture short as a favorite; I find that I use lines from the quonset hut on a regular basis, along with the Spanglish jokes ("Baggo in carro!").

    I can see where someone would say "Killer Shrews" is a slog, but in my household, it was always the high-water-mark for terrible SFX. My mother was pleasantly surprised to learn that the MST3k crew played "guess the breed" just like she & my father did when they saw it. So while it's dull, it has some sentimental value for our family.

  2. LOL - Baggo in carro is classic.

    That's what I love about MST3K, one person's classic can be another person's slog. Seriously, that makes the show excellent, because it can appeal to such a wide variety of viewers for a bunch of different reasons.

    There are two that I love that for reasons that are mostly nostalgic, "Hercules Against the Moonmen" is the first episode I ever saw and I actually fell out of my seat laughing. For me its the best of the Herc movies, but I admit theres a lot of sentimental reasons for that.

    The other is "I Accuse My Parents". That one always seemed to be on TV during a real good time in my life. I can pop that one in, enjoy the riffing but also enjoy the nostalgic glow of the memories it brings back. So odd that this little show has so much packed into it.

  3. I just love this short. The "Baggo in Carro!!!" rift still makes me bust a gut laughing. It perfectly sums up the Gringo belief that if you and an "o" to the end of any noun and scream at the top of your voice, then your speaking Spanish. Another favorite rift is when they show a statue of Simon Bolivar and the clueless hero of the short thinks its Zorro.