Tuesday, December 8, 2015

MMPR Season 2 Episode 15: Orchestral Maneuvers in the Park

Power Rangers Assaulted by Monstrous Lepers
Alcoholic Tofu Trumpet Besieges Teenagers

Every once in a while I feel like I enjoy episodes of Power Rangers for very superficial reasons. I liked Life's A Masquerade because the Rangers get savagely beaten by a tough monster, I enjoyed The Trouble With Shellshock because it's out and out silly, and I loved A Star Is Born because Bulk took his shirt off.

This week's episode is one I enjoy on a similarly sketchy foundation, but at the same time this show isn't exactly modern art. I don't know if it's possible to like an episode of Power Rangers for reasons other than "This guy blew up real bad", or "It was fun when Billy invent a science."

Well this week kicks off with something that nobody in the key demographic would possibly be excited for: A jazz concert headlined by everyone's favorite new character Curtis. Trini tells Curtis she had no idea he played an instrument, and he responds by telling her he didn't know she existed.

Tragically for Curtis, his horn is stuck on a moving van out in St. Louis and he doesn't have anything to play at the concert. Do any of you musicians out there sign up for concerts when you aren't positive you'll have instruments to play during the show? What's he going to do if the horn isn't there by the time he's supposed to perform? Stand up there and juggle while whistling? Who am I kidding? The losers in Angel Grove would go nuts for gimmicky trash like that.

Curtis asks Zack if he still has access to their famous Uncle Ed's horn. Zack has trepidations since this trumpet did belong to the world famous jazz musician Uncle Ed. Zack goes on to talk about how great his uncle was at playing music and ignoring casual racism from a bunch of middle-class crackers. As Zack talks about his long deceased Uncle Fred or whoever, Richie pops in to remind the audience that he's still on this show and won't be disappearing no matter how many times the viewers forget he's there.

Zedd takes personal interest in Curtis' jazz concert. Not because he's a fan of ancillary characters being given traits, but because that trumpet will be the catalyst for his newest and most diabolical spell yet. Once the Ranger Teens hear the haunted trumpet, they'll be subjected to illusions of some of the most powerful monsters from the past. Or at least the monsters whose costumes held up best in storage.

Zack, Billy, and Kimberly head through the park with Uncle Ed's horn safely in tow. Billy asserts that he has always enjoyed the rhythmic patterns of jazz; a sentence which instinctively made me punch my computer monitor. Kimberly whines that Tommy isn't here and she isn't able to have a character without a man around to lord over her. Well at least with Tommy gone we can see what Kimberly's fashion sense looks like as a single woman.

Kim's everything is on fleek.

Kimberly moans about Tommy not being around some more so the kids at home don't forget he existed two episodes ago. Before Zack can tell Kim exactly where she can shove Uncle Ed's world-famous trumpet, Bulk and Skull show up with another stupid plan that isn't going to work before humiliating themselves in front of the audience for comic effect. This week's certainly treading new ground, I'll give it that.

After the morons depart with a wheelbarrow full of corpse burying supplies, Zedd dispatches a Putty squadron to distract the Rangers and steal that trumpet. Zack, Kim, and Billy battle the Z-Putties near a conveniently placed set of playground equipment. It's a solid looking Putty fight, which is saying a lot considering how often these scenes blend together.

As the fight rages on, one of the Putties sneaks away and finds Uncle Ed's discarded horn. The lone Putty sprinkles some magic dust atop the trumpet, which is going to allow the Rangers see some crazy shit. If Zedd wanted the Rangers to hallucinate during a jazz concert why didn't he send down a Putty masquerading as a human to offer them some sweet sweet Jazz Cigarettes?

The Teens regroup after finishing off the Z-Putties and grab the trumpet. Zack and company hoof it back to the Youth Center and provide Curtis with Uncle Ed's trumpet just before he blows his brains out in front of an audience of jazz enthusiasts.

Back in the park, Bulk unveils his latest scheme to Skull. Bulk has located the last known sighting of the Power Rangers, and will slather that location in plaster. Once the Rangers come back and stomp all over it, they'll have a plaster cast of the Rangers' footprints. Then all they need to do is find the feet that match the cast and they'll be in business. Bulk says it's just like the story of Cinderella, and Skull earnestly responds, "I love that story."

Maybe someday we can spend a week with these guys and not waste our time on some dumbass jazz concert.

Bulk passes all the work off to Skull as he hustles away. Usually this wouldn't be worth bringing up, but Bulk walks with such an illustrious swagger that I couldn't help but show you kind readers.

John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer enjoy an afternoon in the park.

Back at the Youth Center, we jump right into Curtis' jazz performance. He plays Uncle Ed's trumpet while three complete nobodies join him with backing accompaniment. This is a great scene for those of you out there who get a real kick out of watching a bunch of white extras bob their heads along to a music track that was plucked right out of 1958.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on music, if it ain't Daft Punk I don't really give a rat's ass, but I get the impression none of these actors are playing the song that we're supposed to believe they are. I base that mostly on the fact that Curtis is diddling away on the trumpet, but every three seconds or so we cut away to reaction shots of the Ranger Teens in the crowd. Perhaps I'm just being cynical, but that doesn't sound like the way you would frame someone who's competently playing an instrument. That means that so far, all the guy who plays Curtis can do is kind of sort of break-dance. He sure as shit can't act or play the trumpet. Boy howdy I'd be so excited if he got to become a Power Ranger!

Curtis' HAUNTED trumpet spews black colored energy on the Ranger Teens. Our heroes briefly look uncomfortable, which might have something to do with the fact they're listening to jazz, so they ignore this odd sensation and applaud as Curtis finishes up his set. Everyone politely congratulates Curtis for how well he could pretend to play an instrument. While the cast fellates this dweeb that's getting shoved down the audience's throats, a Putty drops by and proves that every character in this show is fucking blind.

Curtis' one weakness is that he has no peripheral vision.

Just in case you were wondering, Jason, Trini, Kimberly, and Billy were all standing in front of Curtis and somehow didn't notice that Putty appearing or nabbing the trumpet. You can chalk that up to careless filming, or you can assume the other Ranger Teens don't give a shit about Curtis or his terrible jazz performance. Whatever canon helps you sleep better at night.

Curtis and Zack lose their shit when they see Uncle Ed's trumpet has been pilfered, and Zack says his parents are going to be furious with him. That horn is the only thing left of Uncle Ed, outside of the waves of illegitimate children trying to claim his fortune.

While the Ranger Teens fan out to search for the trumpet, Zedd's stealthy Z-Putty appears in the middle of the woods and places the trumpet down for his master. In order to complete this circuitous plan, Zedd turns Uncle Ed's trumpet into his newest creature, Trumpet Top.

What was Uncle Ed doing with that trumpet to make it turn out like that?

Since we've had to waste time being bored at some trash-ass jazz concert the last few minutes, Power Rangers tosses the audience a bone with a nice little nugget of Bulk and Skull interaction. Bulk finds some choice footprints of the Power Rangers they can create a cast of at the bottom of a hill, and Skull rolls his wheelbarrow of plaster down towards him. I'll let you fill in the blanks of how Bulk gets humiliated, but it's still fun to watch no matter how far away you see it coming from.

The Ranger Teens wander around in the park looking for Uncle Ed's critically acclaimed trumpet. Trumpet Top, from off-screen, spews forth some magical dust to bring forth an "old friend." Trumpet Top's magic sparkles create the image of the evil Grumble Bee in the park, who growls at the Power Rangers. They become astounded that Lord Zedd has resorted to busting out old monsters to fight them, but they morph regardless.

The Rangers battle Grumble Bee on a sandy beach, which was certainly right next to the park they were just at. Grumble Bee mutters about having unfinished bee-suiness with the Rangers before everyone with ears starts vomiting. When Grumble Bee fails to provide a sufficient challenge for all five Rangers, Trumpet Top decides to add a little more fuel to the fire. Using his magical sparkles, he summons forth the images of Saliguana and Fighting Flea. The trio of monsters combine their forces to battle the Ranger Teens, and Grumble Bee shows that he hasn't been doing well in his off-time.

Grumble Bee GIF
 You could probably keep that back in place with some Bees Wax.

Seeing that his ally Grumble Bee is falling apart, Soccadillo arrives and probably says something about soccer. I don't know. Black Ranger takes on Grumble Bee atop a tall lifeguard tower, which is a far more interesting set-piece than I'd expect this show to use. Zack subdues the buzzing loser by kicking him off the tower, but is soon assaulted by even more monsters, Rhinoblaster and Mantis. Zack, in his dubbed over voice, wonders where these monsters keep coming from. Occam's Razor would dictate the simplest solution is most likely, so if I had to guess I would chalk this one up to a magic trumpet creature creating hallucinogenic monsters.

Kim and Trini combat the Saliguana before knocking him right onto his scaly ass. They aren't out of the woods yet though, as Slippery Shark and Stag Beetle charge into the battle.

In case you couldn't guess why I like this episode so much, maybe it's become a bit more apparent in the last few minutes. I can't help but get a real kick out of all the old monsters showing up and wreaking havoc on the Rangers all at once. Even though the monsters aren't firing energy blasts or using weapons against the Rangers, you still get some pretty solid choreography from the U.S. stunt crew in making this monster mash look pretty cool.

Zack confronts the charging Rhinoblaster by grappling his horn and kicking him down the ramp of the lifeguard tower. This moment reveals the tragedy that Rhinoblaster had attempted to hide his entire life, a prolapsed asshole.

Rhinoblaster GIF
Rhinoblaster just gave birth to a beautiful Jim Carrey.

Trumpet Top giggles himself silly over how goddamned dumb the Power Rangers are that they're exhausting themselves in a fight with imaginary monsters, even though he's always going to be off-screen from the Rangers so he may as well not exist either. Not only that, the illusions of monsters still seem to be wearing the Rangers out, so at what point can we say these guys aren't actually real? If the effect they have on everyone is real then you can't really call them imaginary can you? You know what? I'm probably thinking about this too much.

Mantis hurls Black Ranger off of the lifeguard tower while Blue runs up to try and stop the monster and its massive bug hard-on from doing more damage. Trini knocks out the Stag Beetle before she and Kim take on Slippery Shark, who is portrayed as a gibbering goofball this week. For anyone out there who actually knows that's inaccurate to the monster's character, I'm sorry you've wasted your life as much as I have.

The monster brigade smack the Rangers around a bit more before getting all five Rangers grouped together. All of the monster illusions form a huge circle around the Rangers while taunting them and laughing at their prey. Oh sorry, all of the monsters except for Grumble Bee. He had to go get his wings taped back on.

Zordon demands to know why his dumbass fighting losers are sending an emergency signal in the middle of the day. Alpha 5 reiterates that there shouldn't be any problems, because his scanners don't sense any monsters in the city at all. Nope. Not a one. Particularly not one with trumpet ears that's hopping around like a horse's ass and giggling. Nice thorough scan Alpha, you clown. Zordon says this scenario is exactly what he's feared. It's finally the very special episode where he has to talk to the Rangers about experimenting with recreational drugs at rinky-dink jazz concerts. If they don't, then haunted trumpet drunks will throw lizards and sharks at them until they die cold and alone on the beach.

Bulk and Skull wander onto the scene and witness the five Rangers battling what appears to be nothing. Skull ponders if the Rangers have been out in the sun too long, and provokes a genuine laugh from my cold dead heart. Bulk reminds his stupid associate that this is exactly what they've been waiting for. Once the Rangers leave, he and Skull will be able to get all those fresh juicy footprints for their collection. Then they can shove a bunch of civilian's feet into their plaster cast until the police arrest them for being total fucking creeps.

Zordon and Alpha bring the Rangers back to the base and inform them they've been hornswoggled by one of Zedd's evil spells. As a matter of fact, there were no monsters at all. Alpha then tells the Red Ranger, "No Jason, you are the monsters." And then Jason was a Grumble Bee.

Zordon directs the Rangers to the Viewing Globe where he shows them the image of Trumpet Top posing at nobody in particular. The only way for the Rangers to break this spell and stop seeing monsters they've already beaten is by destroying the Trumpet Top monster. This task won't be easy though, as Zedd has just made the monster grow! What a coincidence, that means the Rangers won't need to have a poorly edited fight with him on the ground.

The Thunder Megazord is summoned to battle Trumpet Top, and all that shit about monster illusions is promptly forgotten. We only have four minutes left, what could we possibly do with that premise anymore? The two giants square off as Trumpet Top weirdly refers to his opponents as "Power Pansies." I get the feeling that line might not go over so well outside of the 90's.

Trumpet Top spews a blast of fire from his mouth that causes the mighty Zord to fling its saber into the air. T-Top grabs the weapon and turns it on its master. While a lot of these Dairanger Zord battles aren't too impressive, there's something really cool about seeing a Zord's weapon used against it. It makes Trumpet Top look less like a giggling dumbass and more like a force to be reckoned with. For about 20 seconds.

Thunder Megazord: Master of pulling out bullshit to win fights

After getting zapped, Trumpet Top reels in pain before the Thunder Megazord finishes him off with its blade. Lord Zedd blames his incompetent henchmen for botching this ingenious plan of his. He would be ruler of Earth by now if those goddamned Rangers had just kept fighting some ghosts! Squatt pipes up to ask Zedd why none of the monsters he's been summoning lately have done anything other than stand around in Japanese footage while flailing around like idiots. In response, Zedd sentences Squatt to ten million spankings, to which the blue ogre responds by sporting a tiny smile.

Back at the Youth Center, Curtis sulks and pouts. The Ranger Teens ask what's got him down, and if it has anything to do with the fact that he's a forgettable character whose actor will fade into obscurity the second he's fired from this karate baby show. Curtis says those are some unfortunate realities he'll soon have to face, but what's got his panties in a bunch right now is that he's lost Uncle Ed's trumpet.

But wait just a darn second here Curtis. Did you forget what show you're on? This is Power Rangers. As soon as something bad seems like it's going to happen, plot contrivances will kick in and make sure all the good guys get out of trouble without a speck of dust on their shoes. The Ranger Teens present Uncle Ed's trumpet back to Curtis. Even though Zack's the one who needed it back in the first place, but fuck him, Curtis is the character everyone likes now.

Now that we're at the zero hour, Bulk and Skull stumble into the Youth Center holding a huge plaster mold that's littered with footprints. The gruesome twosome demand everyone in the Youth Center place their feet inside this gross massive slab of concrete, and then let Skull massage their feet after that. Zack decides they should humiliate these chumps with a little more music, so he has Richie pop in a CD filled with some brand spankin' new generic rock tunes.

A bunch of extras come out to shake their groove thing to uninteresting sounding music as they bump into Bulk and Skull, who try desperately to hold onto their million dollar slab. Though Bulk's in possession of the slab, he manages to avoid suffering it's curse, as he barely manages to hang on to the concrete as the rest of the dancing youths pass him by. Though Bulk breathes a sigh of relief, Skull good-naturedly pats him on the back to congratulate him, and causes him to drop the footprint block. It shatters into pieces as Bulk looks aghast, and I'm left genuinely amused that a show like Power Rangers just managed to pull off a successful bait-and-switch gag. Now once you get that editing thing down you'll be ready for the Emmy's in no time!

Your Weekly 90's Nostalgia: Uncle Ed's Haunted Trumpet

Personal Thoughts

I can't help myself, I like this episode. It's not groundbreaking material, but when you bombard me with a bunch of old monsters battling the Rangers all at once, I can't help but be charmed. The only problem I really have with this episode is the time we have to spend on a waste of a character like Curtis. He's a complete non-entity who only exists to be a replacement Zack. I don't mind spending time at a jazz concert with uncomfortable looking white people, but I'd rather we spend time fleshing out actual characters instead of Zack Jr.

The Bulk and Skull material this week is pretty enjoyable, and skirts the line between being dumb in a self-aware manner, and just plain dumb. It's also great that after Bulk gets splattered with plaster, he doesn't even bother cleaning it off of his face for the remainder of the episode. He knows his only reason for existing is to get covered in goop, so why even bother cleaning up?

I was also impressed with Trumpet Top, believe it or not. He's not a lot to write home about, but the fact that Power Rangers turns him into a spellcaster monster softens the blow that we don't see him in a direct fight with the Rangers. Making it so that his primary strength is perplexing the Rangers with illusions makes his off-screen antics much more plausible than a lot of the other Season 2 monsters who will be dropping by. I also can't deny that his pilfering of the Thunder Saber is a pretty smooth move coming from some dipshit with horns for ears.

I mentioned previously that all of the Zyu2 monster costumes were shipped to the U.S. production crew for Power Rangers. What this meant was that every one of these monsters could have new footage filmed with its suit. Since these suits hadn't been used for very much filming, they would be in decent enough quality to shoot unique fight scenes like in today's episode. Though it sure seems that monster costumes like Grumble Bee and Rhinoblaster weren't doing quite as good as the show was hoping.

Another really cool thing that Power Rangers did with these returning monsters is that, for the most part, their original voice actors portrayed them in this episode. Except for Saliguana, who's been given some weird breathy Spanish voice, and Slippery Shark who's been given Peckster's voice. Even with those two missteps that's still 6 monsters who had their voices reprised. I don't know if the ADR department took pride in which stupid looking animal monster they got to do the voice of, but it's still impressive that someone behind the scenes of this show took the time to give a shit about continuity.

One last thing I wanted to mention was that Trumpet Top's counterpart in Dairanger wasn't intended to be a trumpet at all, but rather a tofu monster. Which simply couldn't work in America because only total power pansies eat tofu. Even stranger than his tofu theme is that his battle gimmick was drunken fist martial arts, and Trumpet Top spent a lot of his screen time boozing up. Which also explains a few scenes in Power Rangers where we zoom in on Trumpet Top's bizarrely bloodshot eye.

I mention this mostly to give an explanation as to why Trumpet Top spends so much of his footage dancing around like a total clod. Because he's supposed to be drunk on his tofu chewin' ass and doesn't know what he's doing. It's actually an entertainingly goofy episode to watch on its own merits, so I'd say give it a look-see!


  1. Did Curtis ever act again or did Power Rangers kill his career?

    1. This is the one credit on his IMDB. I'll try and change that when I film a documentary on how he impacted jazz culture by making a bunch of people hallucinate about monsters.

  2. The title of the episode was enough to charm me...I particularly loved Bulk and Skull watching the Rangers fight imaginary monsters. Goofy action, monster redux...it's not Gone With the Wind, but we never asked it to be.