MST3K Vs. Hypnosis: The Undead

Technically, this is jumping the gun a bit, as “The Undead” has actually been announced for the fall box set. But as with most Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes, it’s not tremendously difficult to find it on YouTube while you’re waiting for it to come out. (As always, I encourage you to use your wallet to ethically support talented artists.) But it’s an episode that’s very heavy on hypnosis as a plot device, and actually has a pretty good hypnosis scene, so let’s talk “The Undead”!

“The Undead”, for those of you who’ve not seen the riffed or unriffed versions of the film, is about a psychical researcher (yes, that’s actually what they used to call themselves–the term has fallen so far into disuse that Mike and the bots think it’s a spelling error) with some pretty bizarre ideas about reincarnation. Yep, we’re back on the Bridey Murphy kick again! He picks up a hooker and brings her back to his office to meet a colleague of his, and I really swear this is not the start of one of my stories. He then proceeds to deeply hypnotize her, and I again really swear that this isn’t the start of one of my stories, and regresses her through her past lives until she reaches Ye Olden Times, where she awakens in one of her past bodies where she’s been condemned to death for witchcraft.

But this is where it gets entertainingly crazy–the present version of herself convinces the past version of herself to escape and prove her innocence! She’s been framed for witchcraft by a real witch, who sold her soul to Satan for occult power. Luckily, there’s also a good witch out there who tricked Satan into giving her occult power without selling her soul, who’s made it her business to mess with evil witches. There are all sorts of farcical hijinks, including a point where the present-day hypnotist somehow manages to bodily transmit himself down the reincarnation lifeline and just sort of hang out naked in the past, and can I just remind everyone at this point that I did not write this?

Eventually, they all sit down for a long discussion of what the hell the plot is actually supposed to be, and it turns out that history is on the verge of unraveling thanks to Bozo the Hypnotist and his crazy theories. For the present-self version of the hooker to exist, she has to be reincarnated from the past-self version, and that won’t happen if she doesn’t get executed. (I guess you only get one chance at dying in this cosmology?) But of course, if she dies, she’ll die and miss out on her upcoming life with her dim-witted and gullible boyfriend, who’s been lurching about the plot ineffectually trying to help her and nearly selling his soul to Satan. There’s a long period of shouting, at the end of which the heroine realizes that all her future selves to come deserve their shot on the karmic wheel…because apparently the writer doesn’t really understand the point of reincarnation in the religions where it features prominently…and allows herself to be recaptured and beheaded. Dim boyfriend kills the wicked witch, Bozo the Hypnotist is stranded in the past (because one end of his link is now sans head) and Satan tries to pretend that this was totally his plan all along. Exeunt omnes.

It’s actually a doofily charming movie, but hypnosis is really the mechanism used to get it started and not the focus. If all you want to see is the hypno stuff, watch the first twenty or so minutes (where there is, as I say, a pretty decent hypnosis scene with a kind of interesting induction technique) and skip the rest. If you like cheesy, silly Ye Olden Times movies with Satan and singing hunchbacks and witches of the good and evil/seductive variety (and oh yes, Billy Barty as the evil witch’s familiar/imp), it’s well worth checking out.

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