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SEASON FOUR: 1992-1993
First shown: 6/6/92
Opening: “The Great Crowdini!”
Invention exchange: The dollaroid, facial tissue
Host segment 1: Space race advancements
Host segment 2: Reenacting the movie so Crow can do his killer Peck
Host segment 3: J&TB wonder: If one of them had to sacrifice themselves…
End: Magic fun, letters
Stinger: Hackman, demonstrating that he’s good in anything.
Comments and observations:
And so we begin the second of four 24-episode seasons BBI pumped out. You can really feel how settled in and relaxed they are. As they said in the ACEG, they were luxuriating in that rarity of rarities in the TV world, job security. And I think a lot of fans would agree that season four is one of the high points of the series. They really had the process down and were really feeling confident about what they were doing.
• “Marooned,” the movie Film Ventures
International chopped up to create “Space Travelers,”
is the only movie MST3K ever did that actually won an Oscar.
notes: “It won for Special Visual Effects, and was also
nominated for cinematography and sound. All three seem pretty lame
• Daddy-O also notes: “WALTER BROOKE, who plays the the network commentator here, plays Dean in 607-BLOODLUST and Clifford Foster in 614-SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL. He’s best known as D.A. Frank Scanlan on the “Green Hornet” TV series. His films include 1955’s Conquest of Space; 1967’s The Graduate; and 1968’s Sergeant Ryker.
• Somebody check for me: I’m pretty sure it’s episode 201- ROCKETSHIP X-M where Joel asks “Why didn’t you just show us ‘Marooned’?” and Dr. F replies “We couldn’t get it!” Guess they could get it after all.
• The opening bit, with the GREAT CROWDINI!!!, produced a memorable moment in the first poopie tape as well. It’s a complicated sketch–you’re supposed to notice that Crow accidentally drops the all-important key and nobody thinks to retreive it for him before he is blown to kingdom come. I bet the whole thing went right over the heads of some people.
• We get several reminders of how LONG AGO this was: When they mention “the Bush Administration” they are referring, of course, to Bush the Elder. Some of you who’ll be posting were not born yet. Somebody mentions the president, and Servo says he’ll “vomit on some Japanese people.” For those who don’t recall that charming moment in international diplomacy, here’s a report on the incident he’s referring to.
• This one starts a little slowly, largely because the movie itself starts a little slowly. It seems insane now, but I was alive then and I can tell you: The workings of NASA fascinated most Americans, and just watching them work was captivating enough for a lot of people. I’m sure the filmmakers thought nothing of beginning their movie with 15 minutes or so of random NASA footage. But there’s not a lot you can say about it.
• My copy includes the commercials and, I gotta say, talk about a blast from the past: Those ads for the video game “Burn Cycle” came rushing back as did the battery commercials featuring the hideous Duracell family.
• For a moment, J&TB do ethereal “eeeee” singing bit — a reference to the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” — that they used to such good effect in episode 205- ROCKET ATTACK USA.
• Crow’s Gregory Peck is truly killer. Joel also attempts a Peck impression and pales by comparison.
• The list of “Advancements from the Space Program (”The bendy straw. Jim Mitchum. The bassett hound.”) used to be a part of the old usenet List of Lists, and I just noticed that for some reason it never made it to Ward E. I will rectify that soon.
• Servo does a very good Burt Reynolds laugh.
• Not one, not two but THREE Firesign Theater references!
• Host segment 2 is a classic example of the “broken sketch sketch” — essentially Joel/Mike and the bots try to put on a sketch and the whole thing goes to hell — that was a MST3K staple throughout the years.
• Callback: Crow recalls that he “called dibs” on the ability to say who lives and who dies, back in season 3.
• Dated reference: Baby Jessica.
• The wonderful “aaaaaaaahhh!” closing bit by the Mads became a great way to say goodbye to MSTie pals for years.
• Fave riff: “Oh they’re dead. How’s the rabbit?”
First shown: 6/13/92
Opening: Crow and Tom are the Thing with Two Heads
Invention exchange: Sitcom radio, Renaissance festival punching bags
Host segment 1: Crow and Tom disrupt Joel’s soda shop sketch
Host segment 2: Different types of funny drunks
Host segment 3: “Servo on Cinema” looks at Ray Kellogg’s “Leg Up” directorial style
End: Hee-La the rock group rehearses, letters (including one from TV’s Frank!)
Stinger: Old guy gags on sody pop
Comments and observations:
• This episode is about to come out from Rhino, both as part of “Volume 10.2″ and as a solo disc.
• This episode became infamous in the 1995-1996 period on Comedy Central, as a number of other episodes dropped out of the rotation due to movie rights issues. The movie in this episode is in public domain, which meant that CC could play it as often as it liked, and it played it a lot, so much so that some online MSTies began to grumble about (yes, #386 of the things online MSTies grumbled about).
• Ya gotta assume there were multiple puppeteers in the trench for that bit with the decapitated bots. Must have gotten a little crowded.
• That’s Mike, of course, as the radio announcer
• We get more trashing of the Renaissance Fest, last bashed in episode 303- POD PEOPLE. “Bite me, Frodo.”
• Servo does his great coughing car bit, sort of an impression of Mel Blanc as Jack Benny’s car.
• Mildly naughty riff: “Old rubber? No! No!”
• Tom and Joel spit in the sherrif’s hat! Ew!
• The sound in this movie is uniformly terrible. One of the problems with a PD movie is that nobody takes care of it.
• Part of the plot of this movie involves our hero eavesdropping on a party line, a long-dead technology almost everywhere, and I sometimes wonder if young people even understand what’s going on. Our hero also has one of those Hooterville/Mayberry put-the-thing-to-your-ear-and-talk-into-the-thing-on-the-wall phones. Did people really still have those in the 50s?
• Another “broken sketch” sketch this week: this time it’s the bots who sabotage Joel’s sketch.
• Gypsy must be in a goth period. She’s got black lipstick.
• This is the episode that would give us the “sing whenever I sing whenever I sing” bit they’d do in many future episodes whenever somebody was banging or pounding on something.
• For those who have no idea who Crazy Guggenheim was, check out this piece by comedian Larry Miller, who, by the way, was also mentioned by in this episode. He takes a bit to get to his point, but it’s worth it.
• The little bit Joel and the bots do in unison at the end is a popular reading from AA meetings. “Bill W” was even thanked in the credits for a while, so there clearly was at least one person in recovery on the staff.
• Joel asks: “Was the ‘Richard Speck’ a popular haircut back then?” Yes, Joel. Sadly, it was.
• Movie note: Not that I expect much from this movie, but I feel I must note that in the scene where the old drunkie guy is racing the train, there’s footage of at least three, maybe four different trains that are all supposed to be the same train.
• Annoying commercial on my version (the version I have comes Turkey Day 1994): that Zima commercial where the muddy people are standing around chatting on what is apparently the sidelines of a football game, while that one guy stares off into space and nods like he’s received a serious head injury during the game. Whenever I saw it, I would think: “Jeez! Stop chatting and call an ambulance for that guy!” Do they still make that stuff?
• There’s a nice little TV in-joke during Tom’s “Servo on Cinema” sketch when Tom turns to face a non-existent second camera during his introduction and has to be corrected by Joel.
• Nice film editing by Cambot!
• Joel (sort of) sneaks in the name of beloved cult band “They Might Be Giants”
• Callback from previous episode: J&TB sing the Wild Rebels theme song.
• Obscure riff: “So how do you like Berkeley?”
• For those who wondered why Pearl called Crow “Art” many seasons later, it’s because of the illustration that accompanied one of the letters Joel reads in this episode. Apparently the young letter writer had just seen episode 203- JUNGLE GODDESS, in which Joel imitates the way Jackie Gleason would introduce his cast and the end of the show. For those who remember it, he would always save longtime castmate Art Carney for last, shouting “ART CARNEY!” over the already applauding crowd noise. Joel, in a takeoff of that, shouted “ART CROW!” The little letter writer, not understanding the reference, just assumed Crow’s name was Art.
• Watch and listen to Crow during the closing segment. Note how he says not a word, and when spoken to only sort of hums, exactly the way somebody WOULD do if they had a giant rolled-up tongue in their mouth and was waiting for the cue to unfurl it. I love it.
• Fave riff: “Not the coda! No!”
First shown: 6/20/92
Opening: Joel says “ping-pong balls,” then wishes he hadn’t
Invention exchange: Mr. meat & potato head, pop star Tupperware, featuring Morrissey
Host segment 1: Song: “Oh, Kim Cattrall!”
Host segment 2: The Fantastic 85
Host segment 3: More super-heroes
End: Playing the City Limits trivia game, letters, the Mads have had enough of Morrissey
Stinger: Tiny radio controlled death from on high
• I’m not a big fan of this one. It has its moments
(every MST3K episode does) but J&TB seem to be fending this one
off, rather than tearing it up. The plot’s confusing (I never
quite got how Robbie Benson fit in) and most of the action is a
little hard to see. The host segments are just sort of so-so.
It’s just sort of a middling episode. And call me a statist
if you must, but I felt a little sorry for Kim Cattrall’s
character. Sent by an apparently hopeful and rebuilding government
to restore basic services, she is derailed at every turn by
lunkheaded teeners and thuggish government contractors. It’s
enough to disillusion a person!
• With this episode, the “Turn down your lights (where applicable)” message that began every episode since the beginning of season two is replaced by a title card featuring a still from the movie and a gruff voice (usually that of editor Tim Scott) saying “Mystery Science Theater 3000, show [show number here]; reel one.”
• The ping-pong ball bit comes from the old Captain Kangaroo show. Unfortunately, the best of Captain Kangaroo was not recorded and very little of it survives to help explain it to young people who never saw it. But a running gag on the show was that the puppet characters would try to trick the captain into saying the words “ping-pong balls,” at which point a veritable cloudburst of the little guys would pour down from the heavens onto the Captain. You had to be there…and you had to be 6.
• Crow’s “help me!” is a callback from a well-remembered moment from episode 205- ROCKET ATTACK USA. Other callbacks: “Hi, I’m Max Keller.” “…After the Robot Holocaust.” “I’m a Grimalt warrior!”
• Mike is just hilarious as Morrissey, who, by the way, I had never heard of when I first saw this episode back in ’92.
• The opening of the movie says that it takes place “15 years from now.” 15 years from when the movie was made was 2000. Thankfully the world in 2000 looked very little like the one this movie predicts. (By the way, 15 years from when this episode was shown is…well, now, more or less.)
• Early on, there is a very clever solution to the appearance of some brief female nudity when Joel inexplicably feels the urge to stand up and open an umbrella.
• Joel mentions a place that sounds like “mays-a-may” Wisconsin. Where’s that?
• Kim Cattrall tells the story that one evening she had just checked into a hotel and she turned on the TV and by pure chance host segment 1 was running on Comedy Central. She says she was completely baffled as to why a golden puppet was repeatedly singing her name.
• There’s a mention of “Far Side Gallery,” a book I also owned. That shot does look like the cover, a little.
• Somewhat obscure riff: “I’m still here, Happer, you crap hound!”
• More obscure riff: “But all I have is an alcove!”
• For a full list of the Fantastic 185, visit Ward E.
• A rare moment: Tom does something they almost never do—he actually explains a riff (after quoting Lady Macbeth). Wonder why they felt that riff, among all the others, needed explaining.
• Weird movie moment: Several times the movie shows flashbacks of moments we’ve never seen. I assume this was stuff cut by either Film Ventures International or BBI.
• Dated reference: a mention of the shortlived-and-now-forgotten James Earl Jones series “Gabriel’s Fire.”
• Watch the handoff from Joel to Kevin following after segment 3—you can see Kevin moving around.
• One of the minor characters in this movie (the guy J&TB keep calling “Michelle Shocked”) is played by a fellow named Dean Devlin. He also appeared in the movies “My Bodyguard” and “The Wild Life” before going on to become a big Hollywood producer, bringing us such mindless, noisy blockbusters as “Independence Day” and “Godzilla.” Premiere magazine ranked Devlin and ID4 director Roland Emmerich No. 44 on 1997’s Power List of the 100 Most Influential People in the Hollywood Industry.
• Great throwaway line by Crow: “Daddy needs a new pair o’ hydraulic talons!”
• Fave riff: “I’m getting beaten up by the cast of ‘Pirates of Penzance’”!
First shown: 6/27/92
Opening: Joel uses behavior modification to prevent a recurrence of the “NBC Mystery Movie” gag
Invention exchange: Scratch and sniff report card, resusci-Annie ventriloquist doll
Host segment 1: Reel to real
Host segment 2: J&TB recreate a pre-movie no-littering short
Host segment 3: A really boss-looking space ship visits
End: Duct tape fashion statements, letters, Dr. F. dines with a friend
Stinger: “When we return to our planet, the high court may well sentence you to TORTURE!!”
Comments and observations:
• How I love this episode. Maybe it’s the easy-to-follow (albeit punishingly stupid) plot. Maybe it’s the goofy host segments, most of which are not so much funny as wry. Maybe it’s the charmingly naïve idea that somebody thought people would believe that giant lobsters walk upright. Whatever it is, this one’s a lot of fun.
• Body (or, rather, skeleton) count: 6 (not counting sparky and the lobster and the big mess at the end). And for you Dave Barry fans, Sparky and the Lobster WBAGNFARB.
• “Lisa Smithback,” mentioned in the invention exchange, has to be a real name, probably a schoolmate of one of the Brains. Wonder if she’s out there somewhere?
• I love the little Jeff Dunham-esque gestures Trace does around the dummy as he does the ventriloquist bit.
• Callbacks: Crow longs for a “hamburger sammich” from episode 203- Jungle Goddess, and later retreads the “Welcome to Death Valley Days, the driver…” bit.
• The word TORCHAA! became an immediate MSTie buzzword following this episode.
• So, what do you think is the point of the “ironic” tone Joel and the bots adopt during the “Reel to Real” sketch? They read all their lines like a presenter at an awards ceremony who is given a bit to do and resents having to do it. Did they decide the material was too lame to be played straight? It almost feels like they’re cheating. Commit to the material, guys! But wait a minute! Maybe they’re parodying comedians to tell jokes ironically! That’s TWO levels of irony! We’re through the looking glass here, people!
• Host segment foreshadowing: In one of the illustrations, we see Betty in a bathing suit, but we haven’t gotten to that part of the movie yet.
• The “muffled voice in the trunk” bit almost gets a little unpleasant after a while. Tom just portrays it as so horribly desperate.
• As Derek and Betty enter the college, there are several riffs about the smell of school. Perhaps these riffs were the genesis of this episode’s “scratch and sniff report card” invention exchange.
• Several characters seems to have songs stuck in their heads. Grandpa’s is the theme song for the TV show “New Zoo Revue.” The ill-fated professor’s secretary’s is AC-DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” The Doctor has two: First Nick Gilder’s “Hot Child in the City,” then Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded.” The Nurse has several: Prince’s “Sex Shooter,” then “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull, then The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” then “The Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish.
• Dated reference: “Must be that nice Adam Rich boy for his prescription again.”
• So the point of segment two is to set up a few throwaway lines in segment three? (”Goomy bears?”)
• Derek says he saw the Commander stop Thor from killing him. He did not. He was 40 yards away and running like hell.
• J&TB failed to notice this little bit of movie magic: Thor pistol whips the nurse, there’s a short cutaway, and in the next shot Thor and the nurse have magically switched seats in the car!
• Naughty riff: “What until you see my tongues.”
• During host segment three, Joel professes his faith. Or is he being ironic again?
• Gotta admit: the spaceship in segment three really is boss.
• The third segment is great. Joel seems incredibly relaxed. And anytime anybody tries to tell you he was always “sleepy” just show them this segment. He’s wide awake, baby.
• There is a LOT of juicy gossip about the making of this movie. Daddy-O rounded it all up.
• Fashion show surprises: Tom servo has legs??? And, say! Nice package on Crow!
• Great final bit in Deep 13. “Help me!” “No, literally! I have a man up in space!”
• Fave riff: “There’s a piece of green something between your–”
First shown: 7/4/92
Opening: J&TB playing movie slogan 20 questions
Invention exchange: Tragic moments figurines, Jack Palance impersonation kit
Host segment 1: Bill Mumy tribute
Host segment 2: Playing haunted house with Joel
Host segment 3: Holoclown fun on the Hexfield
End: TV’s Frank shopping network, letter, the “die-master”
Stinger: The heartbreak of extraterrestrial psoriasis
Comments and observations:
• A middling-to-good episode for me. The movie itself is a bit easier to follow than, say, “City Limits,” but waiting for the mummy to actually DO something starts to get tiresome. On the other hand, the movie compensates with some unintentionally hilarious moments, notably the impromptu costume parade through campus (wtf?). The “oh Joel it’s scary in the basement” bit doesn’t wear well for me, but the riffing is generally pretty crisp and funny. Lots of memorable host segment stuff, too.
• Here are the slogans from the “20 questions” that I was able to track down (and note that some of these are not exactly accurate, but are close approximations):
“Fueled by imagination” - “Radio Flyer” (1992)
“Be afraid. Be very afraid.” – “The Fly” (1986)
“The most exciting undersea odyssey ever filmed.” – “The Neptune Factor” (1973)
“100% pure adrenaline.” – “Point Break” (1991).
“It’s not only his nose that grows!” – “The Erotic Adventures of Pinocchio” (1971)
“This time, it’s personal.” - “Jaws: The Revenge” (1987)
“Dudley Moore juggles two women in an attempt to save his sanity” - “Unfaithfully Yours” (1987)
The ones I can’t track down:
“A sassy brassy musical humdinger.”
“A new high in adventure when they go thrill-deep in danger.”
“A bikini-clad romp through summer’s fun.”
“A shocking expose of souls in bondage.”
Anybody know any of these?
• Watch for the boom shadow on Frank’s face as Dr. F says “Clayton Stonewall Forrester.” They just keep going.
• Frank says “we’ve came up” and they just keep going.
• Dark and obscure riff: “Hey it’s Pete Duel” (Duel, Ben Murphy’s co-star in the western series “Alias Smith and Jones” killed himself on New Year’s Eve, 1971.)
• Callbacks: “Trumpy! You can do magic things!” (a catchphrase from “Pod People). Also: “Laurence, would you put that down please!” (as the foppish bad guy from Catalina Caper).
• For more on Bill Mumy, visit his site.
• Joel mentions Mumy’s early performance in the movie “Dear Bridget” and then mentions another movie where he played “a super-genius mathematician.” Sorry Joel, but you’re thinking of the same movie, “Dear Bridget.” By the way, the “Twilight Zone” episode Joel mentions (where he wishes people into the cornfield) is entitled “It’s a Good Life.” Mumy was also in a couple of other TZ eps.
• Joel and Tom are already in the theater after the first segment, still discussing Butch Patrick, when Crow joins them.
• Dated reference: “Hey, Jim Fixx!” Also, mentions of Intellivision and the Michelangelo virus (completely forgot that one).
• At one point they call the massive pipes in the basement “Coppolla’s espresso machine.” When I think of somebody who would be rich and powerful enough to have such a massive device, director Francis Ford Coppolla is not the first person I think of. Bill Gates? Aaron Spelling? Sure. But not Francis. Was Francis maybe more notoriously rich and powerful then? I don’t recall.
• Joel makes a reference to the ’60s TV show “The Mod Squad.” Amusingly, he makes virtually the same riff in the first Cinematic Titanic episode, and then follows it with a plaintive “Oh, I’m old!” What a difference 15 years makes.
• Crow once again requests to be carried out of the theater. Joel once again declines.
• During the haunted house skectch, Joel got spaghetti in the jell-o. Bleh. (And my OCD rears its ugly head.)
• Tom explains a riff again: After singing “Michael Goldstein! Michael Goldstein! What a beautiful name!” he adds: “Funny Girl!”
• I think Crow attempts a Dr. Hibberd (from “The Simpsons”) impression but he sounds more like Kingfish of “Amos and Andy.”
• “Sarah…Jockman!” Somebody’s an Allan Sherman fan.
• This episode begins our two-part encouter with the impossibly creepy Holo-clowns. That’s Mike and Paul, by the way.
• Gypsy’s still wearing black “lipstick” and it doesn’t look very well applied.
• I love all the Ludlum titles, like “The Mingmang Pa-ting-ting” A full list is in Ward E.
• Nick Gilder’s “Hot Child in the City” is referenced for the second week in a row.
• My copy of this episode is from a showing on or very near Super Bowl Sunday 1996 (the Cowboys beat the Steelers at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.). It has bumpers that feature Dom Irrera, a comedian I always liked, somewhat desperately wandering around the periphery of the stadium looking for somebody to interview or something to film. Kind of sad.
• The bit in which Tom insists this is the worst movie they’ve ever done is in Ward E. Oh and, Tom is entitled to his opinion, of course, but so am I, and no way is this movie worse than most of the movies named. It’s a funny trip down memory lane, though.
• The final segment brings back the notion of the “button that brings down the SOL,” which we heard about a couple of times in season two.
• Firesign Theatre reference: “…and the snake knives, Mrs. Presky!”
• Fave riff: “Sizzler! teeheeheehee!”
First shown: 7/18/92
Opening: Shutting off the holo-clowns
Invention exchange: Patches the leech, insty-adolescence kit
Host segment 1: Taking over the world and what you’d wear to do it
Host segment 2: Talking about dreams over coffee
Host segment 3: Song: “Danger to Myself And Others”
End: Understanding the leeches, letter, Patches has been on Frank too long
Stinger: Billy gets into it .
• Ah, Corman, sweet Corman. Plenty of fun here, in an episode that is deservedly a fan favorite. I don’t have a huge amount to say about it, but it’s a great all-around episode.
• Part two of the holo-clowns bit is classic MST3K: “Get on your orange and yellow knees and kiss my clown feet that I haven’t killed you!!!” That bit may be a true litmus test of MSTiedom. If you don’t like that bit, you really shouldn’t bother with this show.
• Yay! The first short of season 4 and the first in 10 episodes. By the way, “Undersea Kingdom,” made in 1936, is the oldest thing (movie or short) MST3K ever riffed on.
• Dated reference: Mayor Dinkins. Remember him?
• Tom Servo attempts a complicated joke that sort of misfires and Joel responds: “That’s a Swiss army joke.”
• For the THIRD episode running, the song “Hot Child in the City” is referenced.
• This movie has a pretty much classic Corman cast, including Bruno VeSota, Michael Emmet, Russ Sturlin and Gene Roth. Suprisingly, no Merritt Stone.
• Servo’s coffee head is a nice touch, and the best part is that nobody even really mentions it. It’s just kinda there and nobody thinks much of it.
• Joel pours some cream for Gypsy and she interrupts him to say “when” and that seems to amuse Joel.
• Movie comment: Our cuckolded store keeper Dave clearly has a double-barreled shotgun. Now I’m no firearms expert, but I believe such a weapon, assuming it is fully loaded, has the capability of firing twice before the user has to reload, correct? And in fact, we do see Dave reload, placing a shell in each barrel. But that’s after we’ve heard him fire at least four shots. And after he reloads, he fires another four shots before backing Liz and her paramour into the lake. Now it’s possible he reloaded off-camera, but if I was Liz’s boyfriend, I wouldn’t shrink in fear of that obviously empty gun.
• I never noticed before that Tom hums a line of the upcoming song in the theater.
• Lots of characters are humming internal songs in this episode. I remember this being one of my favorite kinds of riff for a while.
• “A Danger to Mahself and Others” is one of the truly great MST3K original songs. Joel and Mike share the writing credit, by the way. My only complaint is that they taped a pipe to Tom’s lower lip and we can hear it bonking loudly against his torso during the song. Very distracting.
• Tom Servo’s head practically FLIES off as they leave the theater for the last time. Joel and Kevin cover beautifully.
• That’s Kevin, of course, as the giant leech. That bit gave us another great moment in the poopie tape: “Is it my sucking you?”
• Fave riff: “…or someone might stab you in your sleep…”
First shown: 7/25/92
Opening: Joel has presents
Invention exchange: The Mads prepare to destroy Earth, but are stopped by Jim Henson’s Edgar Winter Babies
Host segment 1: Joel vapor-locks while trying to do Will Rogers
Host segment 2: While presenting the Killer Shrews game, the bots snap
Host segment 3: J&TB concoct the Killer Shrew drink
End: The shrewbots attack scientist Joel, letter, Frank isn’t feeling good
Stinger: “Any unusual experiment can produce unusual results.”
• This is one of those episodes where the movie is SO
stupid and the print is SO bad that it takes a lot of really good
riffing to overcome it. You can tell the writing team struggled
with the movie’s tediousness – it comes out in one
segment – but overall I think they did a pretty good job.
• The person to blame for this movie is Gordon McClendon, a radio tycoon went through phase where he fancied himself a movie producer. The result was “Giant Gila Monster” and this.
• This episode is featured on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Volume 7 and became notorious after fans noticed that the movie had been cut a little bit and that there were some mastering issues.
• People always talk about the way Joel was a “dad” to the bots in a way that Mike never tried to be. The opening sketch is pretty much a pristine example of that dynamic. Who hasn’t been in poor Crow’s place at one time or another?
• Another use of the “aaaaaaahh!” farewell by the mads, first used (I think) in episode 321- SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS.
• Servo is still wearing his hat in the theater during the short, but it’s gone by the time the movie starts.
• “Jim Henson’s [fill in the blank] babies” was clearly the phrase being batted around the office that week; it was used three times during the episode.
• The riffs get very dark during the short–a taste of the way it’s going to be in plenty of shorts to come.
• Crow DID get some use out of those slacks: He is wearing them in segment 1.
• Segment 1 is an corallary to the “sabotaged sketch”–the “Joel vapor locks” sketch. Mike had a tendency to vapor-lock too.
• You have to be a certain age to get the “He’s the guy who taught LBJ how to hold dogs” riff. For those too young, President Johnson loved his beagles, but caused a kerfuffle among animal lovers when he was photographed lifting them by the ears. He insisted there was nothing wrong with doing so, but dog lovers howled.
• Some entirely understandable tears are shed by the bots during segment 2, as the bots seem to express the feelings of writers about the dull, actionless movie.
• Has anybody noticed that this movie has, in a general sort of way, the same plot as “Jurassic Park”?
• Obscure (and nerdy) reference: “Tell me about your home world, Usul.”
• Very early on, Joel and the Bots decide Hispanic Mario is Manuel from “Fawlty Towers.” It allows them to do foreigner jokes that they otherwise probably couldn’t get away with.
• I remember after this episode aired that a few people actually tried to follow the recipe for a killer shrew. Anybody ever taste one? If they did, they’re probably in a diabetic coma. This sketch also has a nice little visit to Deep 13, something that doesn’t happen that often in mid-movie.
• The sound is so bad in this movie that there are about a dozen riffs where they are essentially asking what the hell some character just said. Way more than usual.
• The killer shrew costumes, far from “not cutting it” are a riot.
• Joel says “we will be-ack” and “MST3 viewers.” They keep going.
• Epicacs reappear; they first reared their ugly head in episode 315- TEENAGE CAVEMAN.
• The credits include a writing credit for a Steve Hollenhorst. Anybody know any info about him?
• Fave riff: “Imagine in how much detail, senor?”
First shown: 8/1/92
Opening: Wash and wax day for the bots
Invention exchange: Decorator roaches (Steve Reeves visits!), the Steve-o-meter
Host segment 1: Gypsy is the Hellenistic ideal
Host segment 2: The water of forgetfulness, etc.
Host segment 3: What are Hercules and the nice lady doing?
End: The meaning of the Hercules movies
Stinger: The queen recalls Herc
• The first of several sword-and-sandal outings for MST3K.
They’re perfect for the show: colorful, action-filled, mildly
sexy and really really weird. I don’t think this is their
best one, but it’s a lot of fun.
• Is anybody a scholar of these Hercules stories? I’m not. How close does this plot follow the “real” adventures of the Herc?
• One thing I DID notice, though: Herc is surprised to encounter Oedipus (whom Ulysses says is “a good man”) blind and banished, but nobody really thinks to ask why. The whole thing is kind of glossed over…
• I’ve never been a fan of “detour” movies and that’s really what this is: The main plot–Hercules returns to his hometown of Thebes only to find it in the midst of a power struggle between Oedipus’ two sons–is sidetracked for most of the movie as Herc lumbers down one plot cul-de-sac after another. When he finally gets where he wanted to get, the big battle scene is actually pretty cool. (Joel says one moment reminds him of “Empire Strikes Back,” but that’s putting the cart before the horse, isn’t it?) But mostly it’s all a big detour. On the other hand, there ARE lots of scantily clad nymphs…
• The opening segment ends as Joel leaps over the desk at Crow. It’s actually a more difficult move than you may think: For those who don’t know, directly behind the desk is the puppeteer “trench”–essentially an approximately three-foot drop. In order for Joel (and later Mike) to stand right up next to the desk, there was a narrow wooden plank laid across the trench. So to make that move, Joel had to launch himself forward, carefully plant one foot on the plank (and not misstep and go crashing into the trench), and spring over the desk. A fellow could hurt himself, he could.
• What is the music on the menu screen of the DVD? I don’t think it’s from the movie.
• That’s Mike as Steve, of course. I love that “Nuh-uh.” By this time it was really becoming a delight anytime he popped up.
• A little personal story related to the Steve-o-meter sketch: In a previous incarnation I used to write, for the Philadelphia Inquirer, that little write-up next to the TV grid that tells you what’s worth watching on TV that night. In one column, I said something nice about an performance by Steve Allen’s wife, Jayne Meadows. A few weeks later I was stunned to receive a hand-written letter from Ms. Meadows herself, thanking me for my kind words. I wrote back thanking HER for being so nice, and in the letter I mentioned MST3K, briefly explained the premise of the Steve-O-meter and ended my letter with something to the effect of “now I know something else Steve thought of, marrying a class act.” A week or so later I was even MORE stunned to receive ANOTHER letter, informing me that Steve thought the Steve-O-meter bit sounded funny and asking where they could get their hands on a tape of that show. I duped off a copy and sent it to them, and later got a short note saying Steve thought the sketch was very funny.
• Somewhat obscure reference: “He’s everywhere! He’s everywhere!” From the legendary Chickenman radio series back in the ‘60s. God, I loved that show.
• I can’t hear exactly what Servo says under his breath when Oedipus is mentioned, but it’s something about his mom…
• The whole little plot cul-de-sac at the beginning of the movie with Anteus the giant just seems like filler. It really has no relevance to the rest of the movie.
• We get a mention of Rondo Hatton, who we’d later meet in “The Brute Man”
• Every once in a while in the theater, you can really tell that Joel/Mike and the bots are in a large echoey room. Listen when Joel yells “I haven’t showered since Zeus was a pup!” The acoustics are not good.
• Great job by Jim segment 1. He really belts out that song.
• The riff “Look! I’m hungry.” “Listen! It’s cold” brought back a memory: my daughter, about 8 at the time, thought that was one of the funniest things she’d ever heard. I remember her just rolling on the couch with laughter for about five minutes after she heard it.
• Another movie complaint: The guy tests if Ulysses is actually deaf by hurling a spear into the deck right next to him… I hate to break it to the movie, but any deaf person would feel the vibration of that. Not really a good test…
• We hear Servo as the pretentious theater fellow, mention that he’s doing “an anti-Columbus thing.” And you might think: huh? Columbus? Remember, it was ‘92, the 500th anniversary of ol’ Chris’ arrival in the New World and lots of people were making a pretty good living being outraged about it.
• Vaguely naughty riffs: “You mean nymph loads!” “Ow! My eye!” “It’s twue! It’s twue!” The Herc movies brought out the naughty.
• Dated reference: Distant entertainment memories “Curly Sue” and “Remington Steele.”
• As segment 3 opens, Joel is reading, highlighting and apparently really enjoying the novel “Tek Wars” by William Shatner. But he is—quite rightly—embarrassed by it.
• Segment 3 seems like it’s not in the right place. Tom says that by this point in the movie Herc is living with the nice lady. But actually by the time the segment comes up Herc has already left the nice lady. Seems like they could have moved Segment 1 to the third spot, Segment 2 to the first spot and Segment 3 to the second spot and it would have flowed with the movie a bit better.
• Tom says: “Oh for the clarity of Mighty Jack.” It’s a funny line, but really this movie has a much more easily-discernable plot than “Mighty Jack” which I had to watch about five times before I began to make any sort of sense of.
• Joel invokes the memory of short-lived 60s TV show “Garrison’s Guerillas,” which I think most boys loved because it had that cool Jeep-mounted machine gun. Who didn’t want to ride around in that when you were about nine?
• Callback: “He hit big Jake!” (Catalina Caper)
• Firesign Theatre reference: “He’s no fun he fell right over.”
• The final segment is great, but I do wish they could have led into it a bit more smoothly. Gypsy’s question–”Why these kind of movies?”–sort of comes out of nowhere. But the rest of sketch is hilarious: Gypsy tries to contribute, but doesn’t quite have the mental dexterity. Crow has clearly paged through Campbell’s “Hero With a Thousand Faces” but, like an under-educated guy at a snooty cocktail party, can’t quite pull his thoughts together. Tom, ever the realist, cuts to the chase. Wonderful writing like “…which translates into big sweaty guys pushin’ girls around…” is one of the reasons why I love MST3K so much.
• This week’s mysterious credit: Additional Contributing Writer–Don Jurek. Who the heck’s he?
• Fave riff: “You win the crazy award!” Also: Centurion: “Great Queen!” Joel: “Thanks!”
First shown: 8/15/92
Opening: Something’s different about the bots (and Magic Voice)
Invention exchange: Mads’ secret invention, cereal novels
Host segment 1: The Undersea Kingdom parade goes awry
Host segment 2: “What would you do if you were indestructible?”
Host segment 3: Joel does the Lon Chaney “eye thing,” the bots are no help
End: J&TB sign the “no cop/donut joke” pledge, cops in Deep 13
Stinger: Indestructible man struggles with a manhole cover
• The movie is so silly and yet drab that it might be one
of those episodes where the movie overwhelms the riffers, but
somehow J&tB bring in a winner. Another great ep as we get
deeper into season four.
• Joel mentions Crow’s Billy doll, last seen the last time “Undersea Kingdom” was featured.
• I assume Trace was running Tom and Kevin was running Crow in the opening segment. I wonder if that was the only time that has ever happened…
• A little biting literary commentary as Tom refers to the “controversial-yet-all-but-forgotten” novel “American Psycho.”
• This episode contains a notorious goof by the Brains: Dr. F says that the movie features “Casey Adams of ‘Catalina Caper’ fame.” In fact, Adams does not appear in “Catalina Caper.” The Brains are confusing him with “Catalina Caper” star Del Moore, whom Adams somewhat looks and sounds like… but not that much, really. Throughout the movie, when J&tB do Casey Adams, they’re really imitating Moore’s campy portrayal in “Catalina Caper.” They don’t really sound like Adams at all.
• How could they make such a dumb mistake? Not to sound too much like an old “I walked uphill in the snow to school” fogie, but it’s important to remember that this episode was done before the World Wide Web—and the ability to just pop on to the IMDB and get your cast information straight—existed. My sense is that Best Brains’s entire movie research department, at that time, consisted of a dog-eared copy of the Leonard Maltin Movie Guide—which would have given them the correct name of the “Catalina Caper” actor, had they bothered to consult it.
• Several times during the short, when a character refers to the “strange prisoners” or “strange captives” J&tB respond with “…weeeeird prisoners…” and “…weeeeird captives…”. For those wondering what that’s about, it’s reference to the early Marx Brothers movie “Animal Crackers.” In it, Groucho briefly parodies the trance-like intonations used in the monologues that are the gimmick in Eugene O’Neill’s play “Strange Interlude” (which was playing down the street when “Animal Crackers” was a Broadway musical). Aren’t you sorry you asked?
• Whoa! A somewhat startling reference to future Vice President Dick Cheney. I forgot he was SecDef when this episode was made.
• This installment of Undersea Kingdom is largely people running and riding around. It doesn’t really advance the plot very much…
• In segment 1, Crow’s little commercial for pepper sounds like a lot like the ones Garrison Keillor does (used to do? I haven’t listened in a while…) on his St. Paul-based radio show “A Prairie Home Companion.” I wonder if it’s an homage or just a coincidence.
• Props to Jef Maynard and the rest of the props team for the parade in segment 1. Very cool.
• As segment 1 ends, Crow says “I’m just going to step into this doorway,” a reference to Les Nessman in the famous “Turkey Drop” episode of “WKRP in Cincinnati.”
• J&tB get mighty cranky during the incredibly static car conversation. Maybe I’m just hardened off to boring movie scenes, but it doesn’t seem that bad to me.
• They still make Old Smuggler. From one who knows.
• The cop-donut thing is funny, but by my count there were only three of them in this episode. Doesn’t seem like Joel overdid it to me…
• Another overtly religious remark from Joel: “…only millions of Christians…”
• This movie offers extensive footage of the Angels Flight trolley, a popular (and, in 2001, deadly) L.A. tourist attraction.
• Lon must have loved this role—there were hardly any lines to learn.
• Try to not blink as long as the witness lady goes without blinking. It’s tough!
• Fans of Joel got about as close as they’re ever going to get to their hero in segment 3. You can count the pores!
• As the bots try to distract Joel, Crow makes licking noises and Joel exclaims “Somebody’s licking me!” Who knew Crow had a tongue?
• The routine Tom and Crow fall into at the end of segment 3 is from “Sidehackers.” That they are still going on about it a season and a half later is amazing.
• Obscure ref: “I’m Dickens, he’s Fenster” – the name of a very short-lived 60s TV series. Also, Tom refers to “that Crazy Glue demonstration,” a reference to an all-but-forgotten TV commercial in which an actor playing a construction worker Crazy Glues his hardhat to the bottom of a girder and then hangs from it.
• Gypsy’s a notary?
• Mike and Kevin are great as the cops in the final segment—that scene also provided a wonderful poopie moment, with Mike and Frank cracking each other up.
• This week’s mysterious credit: Additional Contributing Writer–David Sussman.
• Fave riffs: “Alright, gather round everybody, lots to see, show’s just startin’” and Detective in movie: “You wanted me?” Joel: “For years!!” There’s also something incredibly silly about “Pollixfen, for your den-fen-tures….” That’s about three levels away from an actual joke, but it’s still funny.
First shown: 8/22/92
Opening: Crow and Tom run away (briefly)
Invention exchange: DEEP HURTING!, super freak-out kit
Host segment 1: The amazing BOOBY trap illusion
Host segment 2: Newly muscular Crow and Tom consider tough guy names
Host segment 3: Song: “Pants!”
End: Wayne Rogers syndrome, letters
Stinger: Old guy gets skewere
• This is, for me, the funniest of the sword-and-sandal
movie episodes, and an all-around great episode.
• Joel seems to have let his goatee grow out since last episode.
• “Deeeeeeep hurting!” (and, to a lesser extent, “saaaaaannndstoooorrrmmm”) became an immediate catchphrase and it’s still being used by longtime fans. By the way it’s a reference to a commercial for a nostrum called “Deep Heating Rub.” I don’t think this is the actual commercial they were parodying, but you get the idea.
• Ya gotta love “Wishbone Ash” Frank’s freakout. Traaaaiiills!
• For your edification, Daddy-O reports that while the title and the dubbing refer to our hero as Hercules, in the original Italian he is Maciste (aka “My cheesesteak”). The strongman character has a long history: he originated in the 1914 Italian movie “Cabiria” and was resurrected when sword-and-sandal epics suddenly became very popular in the late 1950s. Because American audiences were unfamiliar with Maciste, the title character’s name was usually changed to Atlas, Colossus (as in “Colossus and the Headhunters,” although nobody calls him that in the movie), Goliath, Hercules or Samson.
• Obscure riff: “The Mighty Flavog!” A character invented for The Muppets’ very brief stint on Saturday Night Live, more than 30 years ago.
• Love the “pizza-pizza” stuff. A reference to popular commercials for the Little Caesars pizza restaurant chain This should give you an idea of what was going on.
• I always enjoy the bit where some character in the movie has a long speech with odd little pauses and Tom tries to get a word in edgewise, as he does here when the old guy talks.
• During segment one, the walls of the amazing BOOBY trap illusion swing rather freely… Not really very threatening. It’s a very “meta” bit, essentially a joke about a joke.
• Callbacks: Trumpy, you’re angry! (Pod People); I’m a Grimault warrior! (Viking Women); You told me a fabricated story… (The Unearthly); It was after the apocalypse. They had to get to the power station… (Robot Holocaust)
• Mildly naughty moment: “Guys, I am so homesick right now…”
• The first time I saw this I was floored when they referenced this ancient TV commercial for “ Marvel the Mustang” that I had completely forgotten about until that moment. What horse do!
• Although Tom’s body rejected his muscle-man arms in segment 2, his old arms are back as he reenters the theater.
• During the brawl on screen, J&tB do a terrific version of the “Star Trek” fight music. Harmony and everything.
• Segment three features one of my favorite MST3K songs: “Pants!” Even Frank gets into it! (This segment also gave us a couple of great poopie moments.)
• When the sandstorm scene finally arrives, it definitely is pretty punishing. It’s the sort of thing that might have gotten the movie rejected. What can you riff on when essentially nothing is happening in the movie for minutes at time? But the geniuses at MST3K found a way, and it’s a great example of turning a liability into an asset. Instead of ruining the episode, that section is one of the highlights.
• Joel actually uses the term “riffing” several times, something he didn’t do a lot.
• In the discussion of the movie at the end of the episode, J&tB speak of the movie as if it was a direct sequel to the movie they watched a couple of episodes back, but really the two aren’t related at all.
• Somebody mentions Gaines Burgers, which you don’t really see in the stores any more. Since I seem to linking to commercials on youtube a lot this time around, here’s what they’re talking about.
• Fave riffs: Meet Sammy SPEAR and his orchestra! Also: Joel: Jiffy Pop’s done. Tom: And I don’t care! And: Don’t make me laugh, Woodsy Owl!
First shown: 8/29/92
Opening: Joel is a caricature artist
Invention exchange: Big gulp berets, designer bio-hazard absorbent throw pillows
Host segment 1: Rathbones dog biscuits
Host segment 2: J&TB don medieval costumes, but Tom ruins things
Host segment 3: Song: “Estelle”
End: Words you can’t say on TV, letter, TV’s Frank’s not looking good
Stinger: Estelle’s two-headed assistant
• [chuckle. chuckle. chuckle.] Yo, yo, yo dawgs, check this
out. This one was just okay for me. Basil Rathbone is a little bit
pitchy in places, and I don’t think Gary Lockwood went all
out like we know he can, and… oh. I’m terribly sorry.
It’s just that when I started to write about this episode, I
began to feel like a mildly disappointed Randy Jackson commenting
on a less than successful effort by an American Idol wannabe. This
episode has it’s moments, but it’s not a favorite.
• In the opening bit, Trace and Kevin must have been crouching in front of the SOL set. Probably uncomfortable.
• Maili Nurma, aka Vampira, who pops up briefly as an enchantress/hag recently passed away.
• Nice cartoon sound effect as the needle is removed from Frank’s neck.
• I love the phrase “criminally-priced spring water.”
• One of the funniest moments is when Dr. F. gets all S&M on us: “Beg me to do the invention exchange! No! Well, okay…” For those of you who don’t get it…when you’re older.
• Frank is a riot in his little skit. “Dr. Clayton Forrester, I love you!”
• One thing I’ll say for about this episode, it answers at last the question of who Merritt Stone is…he’s the guy who plays “King Grady.”
• Callbacks: “Hey, it’s the Undersea Kingdom…” “I say it’s foggy!” (The first line of the the first movie they did in a national episode, “The Crawling Eye.”) “I’m so sleepy I can barely keep awake!” (The Hercmeister). “…Happy king…” (Mr B Natural).
• Somebody mentions a “Jane Fonda video.” It’s been more than 20 years since she’s made one, so a lot of people may not remember that Fonda was once the queen of exercise and fitness videos.
• As they head out of the theater toward segment 1, they start talking about the host segment they’re about to do. I like when they do that. Adds continuity.
• Great reference: “They’re packed with bits of Nigel Bruce!”
• Note the LOTR reference before LOTR references were commonplace.
• My copy of this episode comes from 1995 (it features a “Batman Forever” commercial :::shudder:::). This week’s annoying commercial: o/` “SAIL AWAY!” o/` for Becks beer.
• Crow’s song is easily a highlight, though I confess I like Tom’s list of people better looking than Estelle ever better.
• Alas, Crow’s love was not to be. Estelle, sadly, died in 1984.
• Richard Keil is among the various “pinhead” henchmen, the first of three appearances in msted movies.
• Joel mentions Ashwebenon High, his alma mater.
• Isn’t the end of the final segment pretty much where we were the last time we saw Dr. Erhardt?
• This week’s mysterious credit: Special thanks to Mark Gilbertson, whoever that is.
• Fave riff: “Just came to freak you out, baby…”
First shown: 9/12/92
Opening: Gypsy wants to watch the movie and Joel agrees
Invention exchange: The lawn baby, the womb-mate
Host segment 1: “Good-natured” brawling
Host segment 2: Crow’s “history” of Hercules
Host segment 3: The bots’ lame Hercules action figure
End: Laying the Hercules movies to rest, letter, Frank being chased by mower
Stinger: “Hercules! Help me!”
• This is a sneaky episode. I remember not liking it and
thinking it’s the least funny of the sword-and-sandal
outings, but on this viewing I warmed to it quite a bit. And
I’d forgotten that it includes the classic line: “Today
is dedicated to Uranus.”
• And I’d also forgotten that this is the landmark episode in which Gypsy watches a portion of the movie along with J&tB. Joel’s confidence in Gypsy is admirable, but let’s note for the record that, sadly, Crow and Tom’s instincts were correct. Gypsy is not down with the street.
• As we tune into Deep 13, Frank is noisily singing the “I sing whenever I sing whenever I sing” song from “Giant Gila Monster.”
• Joel says “Zatharatu” when he means to say Zarathustra. They keep going.
• Despite all the hoopla to the contrary, this is NOT the last of the Hercules movies.
• As Tom sagely notes: “This would really be exciting if I knew what was goin’ on.” All the excitement about Gypsy in the theater takes place when the movie tries to set up the plot, with the result that I never did really figure out what the heck is going on in this movie. Part of it has to do with the strange plot break that takes place after the first commercial. Before the commercial, there are portents of danger and Herc is tossin’ thrones around. After the break, Herc wakes up on a ship and everybody is smirking silently at him. The heck? Then there’s something about Atlantis and girls inn rocks and I don’t know what all.
• Does this story resemble any actual ancient tale? Was there ever a King Androcles (with or without a lion)?
• Gypsy’s riff: “They’re steam-cleaning the horses!” delights J&tB. Eh, not bad. Of her few riffs, I actually like “Oh, they’ve got a fun friend” better.
• By my count, Gypsy lasts 5 and a half minutes. Sheesh, Gypsy, these sword-and-sandal things are among the more watchable movies MST did! What a lightweight!
• Gypsy exits left. A few other chracters have exited or entered this way. Where does that exit lead? And how do they eat and breathe?
• Firesign Theatre reference: “…The Golden Hind”
• Crow falls apart almost immediately during the good-natured brawling. Trace rolls with it brilliantly.
• I never noticed before that, a couple of times, they do a needle drop on that musical sting that I think was originally composed for “This Island Earth” and that I’ve heard in a lot of Universal movies.
• Crow goes a bit overboard with the “I have my rights! It was Callahan!” bit. (For those who don’t know, it’s a reference to the movie “Dirty Harry.”) He does it five times by my count, practically every time the little guy in the movie has a line.
• Callback: “Hurry, Diana!” (Undersea Kingdom)
• My copy, from 1995, included the little “facts” about the movie as the commercial breaks ended. Two of them are only tangentally related to this movie–they discuss other actors who also played Hercules. Thin gruel.
• That’s Frank as the voice of the action figure when he says “I’m so sleepy…” but the final comment is by Mike. Wonder why they didn’t just have one of them do all the comments?
• Fave riff: Dear lord, the canary exploded!
First shown: 9/19/92
Opening: Tom Servo is color blind!
Invention exchange: Beanbag pants, recycled paper clothing
Host segment 1: The bots are playing soap opera, but Joel won’t play
Host segment 2: Space modifiers
Host segment 3: A visit from Winkie on the Hexfield
End: Crow is Joel’s guitar, Tom is the amp, letter, the Mads are stuck in their bean bag chairs
Stinger: Space traitor tosses a chair
• I don’t know about where you are, but where I am, a rather nasty strain of upper-respiratory infection is incapacitating vast swaths of the citizenry and last week I got it, or it got me, or whatever. I watched this flat on my back in bed, every so often making that quavery moaning noise that invalids make, and periodically laughing, followed by a series of horrible hacking coughs. So maybe it was my condition, but this this episode didn’t do a lot for me, mostly because both the dreary short and the dull, repetitive movie just sort of sat on my head (or my chest). I mean, is the spaceship on THIS pad, or is it on the THAT pad, zzzzzzz. Again, I may not have been the best judge.
• Where is Joel pouring that liquid when he is pouring it on Crow? Is it trickling down Trace’s arm?
• I love how, in the short, the doc tells his patient that his treatment for her apparently minor condition is TWO WEEKS in the hospital. How times have changed.
• When John “Dr. Hardy” Beradino appears, Joel says “Wow, he was old even then!” Beradino was in his mid-40s when that scene was shot. Wonder if Joel would still make that joke? I know I wouldn’t!
• As Daddy-O notes: “The syndicated television series ROCKY JONES, SPACE RANGER lasted only one season, because it lost a considerable amount of money. It was the first space opera to be shot on film, (which is why it survives so well today) and had huge overhead costs (sets, special effects, large cast) compared to other shows of the early 1950s. The show was popular with the viewing public and had no lack of advertising sponsors, but it became evident during its first season that it would probably never break even.” Hard to believe those were EVER bank-breaking special effects…
• Funny inside bit: Crow notices that the planet on the video screen looks like the MST3K logo and Joel mutters “You’re not supposed to know about that!” But why shouldn’t Crow know about it? In season 3, Joel says that the Mads “sell the results” of the experiments “to cable TV.” Did he think Crow didn’t hear that?
• Something about this episode seemed to push a lot of “Thunderbirds” buttons for the cast: they mention it a couple of times and Crow says “Scott Tracy!” at one point.
• During segment one, Crow mentions “mo-go-on-the-go-go-go” a W.C. Fields reference which we can now be pretty certain came from Frank, since he goes on at some length about it here.
• Nice reminder that Cambot is there at the end of segment 1. We sometimes forget but they seldom did.
• Callback: “I told you to find adventure not bring it home with you!” (City Limits); I’m a Grimault warrior! (Viking Women)
• I love that the movie feels it’s necessary to spend several minutes in a rather painstaking explanation of what an “orbit” is.
• Date reference: “What’s your position?” “Leaning towards Perot?” Wow that was a long time ago.
• Somebody says, “What is this, Radio Oz?” I’m proud of the fact that I get a lot of references, but this is apparently outside of my ken. Can somebody fill me in?
• This week’s annoying commercial: “THANK YOU, MR. SHEIK!” Surprisingly I couldn’t find it on the intartubes. When he yelled “I’d use ‘em all the time!” a lot of viewers wondered “How likely is that, really?”
• I had the same reaction to segment 2 this time that I’ve had in the past: “Did they really say ’space’ that much? I can’t remember them doing it even once.”
• Movie complaint: Winkie says “the ship won’t land on its tail” and then it does. Several times. What the?
• At the end, Crow has an acid-flashback to episode 310- FUGITIVE ALIEN, precisely 26 episodes ago, to be exact.
• Mike is a scream as Winkie and why is it that Frank always gets the little old lady parts?
• Um, Joel can call Earth? (I know, I know…)
• Fave riff: “I’m already sorry, Bobby.”
First shown: 9/26/92
Opening: The bots hide in a ventilation duct
Invention exchange: Aunt Catherine wheel, drinking jacket
Host segment 1: Joel is stuck in ventilation duct, Crow and Tom are no help
Host segment 2: Throwing pop singers from a lighthouse
Host segment 3: Crow and Tom pretend to be headless ghosts but Joel has the last laugh
End: J&TB are depressed so they think happy thoughts, and does Frank
Stinger: “Tom Stewart killed me!”
• “This is one dark mama-jama of a movie,” Joel
says toward the end, and, wow, is it ever. It’s also kinda
dull for the first half, although the weirdness overwhelms the
blandness in the second half. It’s not my favorite episode,
partly because the movie almost seems to WANT Tom Stewart to get
away with murdering the grasping, brassy Vi. It’s creepy.
• Apparently Cambot is leaning WAY over the desk to shoot Joel in the opening.
• That’s definitely Mike as “The Aunt Catherine Wheel” and “Uncle Carl,” and it sounds like the same voice as “Grammy Fisher” and “Aunt Ethel” but who is it? Trace, maybe?
• I have a special fondness for the “drinking jacket” invention—I created my own and wore it in the costume contest at the second convention.
• There actually is a Blaine Community Theater. It’s in Washington State.
• Sadly the “Spalding, old man!” joke is not so funny now.
• I’m not an expert on men’s calves but certain people of the female persuasion have expressed agreement with Crow’s assessment. Any thoughts on Joel’s calves?
• How did they manage to have Joel suspended above the set in segment 1? Did they string some sort of sling up in the rafters?
• This episodes overused joke: “Sessions presents…” Once or twice, okay, but they really beat it to death.
• That being said, between the “Sessions presents…” riffs and segment 2, there was quite a lot of pop music being discussed in this episode.
• After segment 2, Joel is so excited he playfully tosses Tom as they reenter the theater (Kevin is in position to catch him). Tom doesn’t seem to mind.
• Crow goofs: The snack bar chef is NOT Merritt Stone. That’s Gene Roth. But Stone IS in the movie: he’s the clergyman who marries Tom and his bride.
• Call back: “Charles Moffett…” (Ring of Terror)
• Joel suggests this is more depressing than hanging in a bar talking to Neil Young. Why is talking to Neil Young depressing? He seems like a pretty cheerful guy.
• If this episode has a highlight for me, it’s the hilarious “happy thoughts song”, including Frank’s verse at the end. Great stuff.
• During the song, Tom Servo’s head falls off. They keep going.
• Fave riff: Honey, I’m ho-o-o-o-o-o-oh, yeah, you’re dead.
First shown: 11/26/92
Opening: A uncharacteristically mean Joel dominates the bots in a game of rock-paper-scissors
Invention exchange: Troll costumes, pocket pool
Host segment 1: Either you are or aren’t a beatnik
Host segment 2: The bots’ slumber party gets a call from Tony Travis!
Host segment 3: Servo stars in a dramatization of the life of a 50s rock star
End: Crow and Tom go nuts, letter, Mads are a “hot” property
Stinger: Moon gets hysterical
• This episode debuted on the Turkey Day 1992 marathon, and
was the first new episode to air in two months.
• As noted, Joel is uncharacteristically mean in the opening! Anybody who says Joel was always a father figure to the bots should watch this sketch. (Although he reminds me a bit of MY father a little.) Thankfully, GYPSY CRUSHES JOEL! and we have a happy ending.
• That’s Mary Jo as Magic Voice, for the first time, I think.
• Naughty line: “You got a snooker down there!”
• Fave riff in the short: “This is Pete in props. Don’t eat the cake.”
• During the short, J&TB do probably their best “commercial” for the Booze Council, featuring the classic line: “Booze takes a dull party and makes it better!”
• My recording of this episode is from August of ’93 and features those annoying commedials for the “premature” fall season (which I’d completely forgotten about) as well as commercial for one of the zillions of short-lived Comedy Central shows, “Everything You Need to Know” with an embarrassed-looking Christopher Hitchens. Also annoying: that was the era of Burger King’s reprehensivle “BKTV” spots, featuring the irritating catchphrase “I LOVE this place!” It’s a good thing they make good hamburgers…
• Callback: “Rock candy baby you’re mine, yeah!” (Daddy-O)
• You can hear director/scriptwriter Paul Frees (the voice of Boris Badenov) introducing Eddie when he makes his first TV appearance.
• One of the funniest things about this episode is that all Eddie’s songs have these giant gaps after each line of lyrics, allowing J&TB to insert a riff after every one.
• In segment 2, Tom is wearing what looks like clay on his cheeks. Supposed to be a mud pack or something I guess.
• That’s Mike, of course, as the voice of Tony Travis. “If you’re a bill collector or if you’re with the military…”
• In segment 3, Crow’s wig falls off. They keep going.
• One of the weirdest things about this movie is the casting of the hatchet-faced Joyce Terry (aka “Donald Sutherland in drag”) as Helen, a character that is supposed to tempt Eddie away from the dim-witted, co-dependent Iris, but it’s hard to understand what Eddie could possibly see in her.
• I need to check my ACEG but I seem to recall that “Everything he touched, he destroyed” is supposedly an in-joke by Frank, a reference to something he once said to his brother or vice versa. Somebody will correct me, I’m sure.
• The letter they read at the end is from a kid who got in trouble for calling his mom a “dickweed.” J&TB correctly note that it is NOT a swear word and they’re right … but you still shouldn’t call your mom a dickweed.
• Fave riff: Dish of ice cream! Don’t tempt me!
First shown: 11/26/92
Opening: During a posture check, Timmy the dark Crow appears!
Invention exchange: Big checkbook, junk food sports shoe
Host segment 1: Double entendres
Host segment 2: Joel explains universal switches, but Timmy interferes
Host segment 3: Joel defeats Timmy in a battle to the death
End: Lessons learned, letter, Timmy in Deep 13
Stinger: It’s a secret passage miracle!
• This was the second of two new episodes shown on
Thanksgiving Day, 1992.
• What a great, great episode, featuring the truly inspired “dark Timmy” host segments. The Brains rarely gave us a complete story arc within an episode, and this is one of the funniest and most creative attempts. Witty and captivating all the way through.
• As for the movie…You know, in the theme song when they talk about “cheesy movies” this is pretty much the epitome of what they’re talking about.
• Of course, for the one or two people who don’t know, Timmy is the Crow they use in the theater, painted black to make a nicer silhouette. But are they using two black Crows in the theater when Timmy arrives? I can’t really see a difference in the silhouettes.
• Callbacks: opening segment from the “Posture Pals” short in 320- The Unearthly. Joel says “tenperature” in segment 2, a callback to “Fugitive Alien.”
• Is “I prayed for a friend and he came” from something? It sounds familiar. Twilight Zone, maybe?
• I wonder who art directed the costumes and set pieces in the blackout scenes after Timmy commandeers the twin screw controller. The images are wonderfully surrealistic.
• I love Frank’s totally blank expression when they first cut to Deep 13.
• I guess with the holiday season approaching “It’s a Wonderful Life” was on their minds—not only do they make references to it during the movie (when the movies shows the starfield) but Frank and Dr. F approximate a scene from it during the giant checkbook bit.
• Dopey movie moment: When they first encounter the girl being molested by the monster, the astronauts are at least 75 yards away and the girl is standing RIGHT next to the monster, but one of them calmly levels his revolver and shoots in their direction. He’s either a REEEEALLY good shot or incredibly reckless. Or he’s in a cheesy movie. Sheesh.
• That’s Jef Maynard running Timmy. In those days he tended to be their go-to guy when they needed somebody else in the puppet trench; later it was Pat Brantseg.
• Servo applauds several times in the theater. How does he do that with inoperable arms? (I know, I know.)
• Timmy enters the theater between segments two and three. When they come back from commercial he can’t be seen, but then he slowly reappears and then starts to creep over to attack Tom. This is one of only 14 times someone or something other than Joel, Mike, Tom and Crow enter the theater.
• As Tom is attacked, Joel says “You didn’t tell us Tommy was in here…” He meant “Timmy.” They keep going.
• My copy is from the holiday season of ‘95. Annoying commercial: The Nissan Pathfinder ad where the voice says “She will try to drown you. She will try to freeze you…” Fortunately with an SUV like the Pathfinder YOU can kill Mother Nature before she kills you!
• Dated reference: The then-controversial, now mostly forgotten book “Final Exit.”
• Fave riff: “Thank you, that’ll be all.”
First shown: 11/28/92
Opening: Crow is selling true grit
Invention exchange: Sugary Deep 13 toothpaste, rock & wreck guitar
Host segment 1: Song: “The Gypsy Moons”
Host segment 2: John Banner-grams
Host segment 3: J&TB read through Crow’s latest screenplay: a space opera
End: Letter, John Banner visits on the Hexfield; then the SOL sends Deep 13 a Banner-gram
• A lot of folks love this one. It has a lot going for it
besides the aggressive geniality of John Banner. This is the most
bearable of the three GH segments and its also the most fun of the
Rocky Jones outings, so it’s basically watchable to start
with. Combine that with pretty decent host segments and some strong
riffing and you’ve got a winner.
• The 1992 Turkey Day marathon was over, but this was the third new episode in four days. MSTies had a wonderful weekend.
• I remember seeing ads in comic books when I was a kid trying to get me to sell Grit. But I’ve never seen it on news stands or anything. It’s still around. Is it a midwestern thing?
• Dr. F’s invention is extra evil this week. Conversely, Joel’s doesn’t look that well-put-together.
• Nice to see they called an unofficial moratorium on “Oh, is the great [name here] going to direct?” riff. Funny back in season two, but…
• I love Crow’s riff: “Orbit? What does that mean?” a reference to the painful explanation of what an orbit is in a previous Rocky Jones episode.
• My copy is from early in 1995. Annoying commercial: Estelle Harris and Jerry Stiller, cashing in on their roles from “Seinfeld,” screeching at each other in an AT&T ad. “I’m sicka da circles!”
• Callback: “Yew and yor dawtah aw doomt!” (Robot Holocaust)
• Great song, which unfortunately ends with a now-dated reference to Stacy Koon. Yow. Another dated reference: “Say the secret word and Bill Cosby rips off your show.” I’d totally forgotten Bill Cosby’s miserable attempt to revive “You Bet Your Life.”
• Firesign Theatre reference: “He’s not your son, Fred.”
• Dumb movie question: The space station doesn’t have any ability to propel itself? Not even some little thruster rockets? Seems like a design flaw.
• Occasionally you pick up a new word from these movies. I’d never heard of a “ suzerain” before.
• Is it just me or is Cleolanta kinda hot? Headstrong and evil, sure, but still, rrowr.
• It just hit me this time why the symbol of Bavaro’s world is a lightning bolt–cause the planet has lightning a lot of the time. I never made the connection before.
• Satellite News’ Erhardt, dressed as Bavaro, introduced this episide in the 1993 Turkey Day bumpers.
• I like Tom Servo beak moving as he reads over Joel’s shoulder. Mike is so klandinto as John Banner! Hi, Bavaro.
• Fave riff: “Horowitz is visibly shaken…”
First shown: 12/5/92
Opening: Crow and Tom quickly go through their “best friends” stage
Invention exchange: Router Ouija board, funny gag fax
Host segment 1: Tom wants to make out (but he doesn’t how)
Host segment 2: Tribute to Earl Holliman!
Host segment 3: The Rip Taylor Trio!
End: The case against the film-makers (they just didn’t care!); Larry Buchanan visits Deep 13
Stinger: Greasy drifter in sweater dress on the phone
• I’d say this is a sort of middling episode for me.
A lot of fun stuff, but not a standout. Kinda hit and miss.
• Doesn’t it seem like this episode ought to have a short?
• Crow’s arm (which was apparently taped to Tom) comes off during the opening. They keep going.
• This movie, believe it or not, is (with some minor changes) a scene-for-scene, line-for-line remake of a movie called “Invasion of the Saucer Men.” It also stinks. Larry Buchanan did a number of these remakes for AIP.
• Do you think the presence of somebody (or some THING) named Ethan Allen in the credits sparked the idea for the Mads’ invention?
• For those who don’t know, the double THE in the movie title occurred when the movie was re-released. It was originally titled just “The Eye Creatures.” Somebody decided to jazz up the title and slapped ATTACK OF THE on the title card, not noticing that there was already a THE. They just didn’t care.
• Dated reference: “It’s Larry, Darryl and Darryl” referring to the then-beloved trio on the old “Newhart” TV series. Also: A reference to now-largely-forgotten tree hugger (and eater) Ewell Gibbons.
• Required answer: Who’s ickier, the “I’m gonna walk off my great expectations” drifters or the “I’m looking! I’m looking!” military peeping toms? Show your work.
• Wow, it turns out that MST3K invented rickrolling! Tom breaks into a chorus of “Never Gonna Give You Up,” at one point.
• Joel kinda has to lean over the puppet trench to smooch Servo, but he covers well.
• Literary reference: Joel invokes Ignatius Riley from John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Confederacy of Dunces.” I PRESUME everybody in this audience has read it. If you haven’t, go and do so before Lady Fortuna spins the wheel of your destiny downward. You will not be sorry.
• My copy of this episode is from the late summer of 1995. Amusing commercial: the one for this new thing you can get for your computer called America Online! “My kid gets help with his homework!”
• The Earl Holliman sketch is silly and pointless, but I do like the line “…who would have been William Shatner had there not already been one.” How true that is.
• Call back: “….sing whenever I sing whenever I…” (Giant Gila Monster)
• I used to love Rip Taylor when I was kid. Glad to know he still with us.
• This is another episode taped during the “MST3K Countdown” that featured those odd little ten-second bumpers with facts about the movie etc. And this one had another lame installment: it reports an message from a supposed conductor who heard a character talk about playing six pianos and wondered why they didn’t do a riff about composer Steven Reich. Yeesh, they were really scraping.
• Mike scores again as “Larry Buchanan.”
• Fave riff: And don’t be alarmed if it suddenly becomes 2 in the afternoon.
First shown: 12/12/92
Opening: Joel has something really scary to read to the bots at bedtime
Invention exchange: Quick primp kit, abstract paint-by-number kit
Host segment 1: “Co-starring with Scott Baio” acting lessons
Host segment 2: What to do during a four-hour layover in Chicago
Host segment 3: Writing workshop using the Merritt Stone method
End: “Who is Merritt Stone?” (Tom’s head explodes), Frank hopelessly confused
Stinger: “I am bugged!”
• This is the beginning of a stretch of good to really
excellent episodes, with everybody on the staff firing on all
cylinders. The riffing of the short is classic, and it carries over
into the movie. The movie itself is pretty static and dull in the
first half, but finally gets going once the robbery starts, giving
them plenty to riff on.
• The opening segment offers the Brains’ take on some trendy books of the day, particularly “Life’s Little Instruction Book,” (which I had never heard of when I initially saw this show). A decade and a half later, it is still available.
• The quick primp kit is a favorite invention exchange of mine, including Frank’s “ayyyy!”
• What a great short and despite Joel’s admonition, they get plenty dark…you know, the way we like it.
• As a side note: I exchanged emails Charles Pachter, who at the age of 4 played little Johnny (he has only vague memories of the whole thing) and who now is a fairly prominent Toronto artist. He had heard about the MSTed version of the movie, but had never seen it, so I sent him a copy. He never wrote back, so maybe he didn’t appreciate it…
• I love the little record player they use in segment 1; and that’s Mike’s voice, of course, as Scott Baio’s voice.
• Scott Baio, thanks to his recent reality show work, is NOT a dated reference.
• What would YOU do with a four-hour layover in Chicago? (Although if it’s a plane layover, it would take you two hours to get into town from O’Hare and two to get back, so…) Me, I think I’d take the architecture boat tour of the Chicago River and note how the structures of so many of the buildings tend to draw my eyes upward…
• I was glad to see they kept the “Get Smart” jokes to a minimum, though that’s fairly typical. They don’t like to beat one reference to death…usually.
• Dated reference: “Bizzare” with John Byner.
• Mildly naughty riff: “Wow, really got up there!”
• Alright, let’s settle this once and for all. Tom’s right, he’s not Merritt Stone. He’s Gene Roth. Although they do whole Merritt Stone thing in this episode, Stone is NOT in this movie. As Daddy-O informs us: Dark, slender and gaunt Merritt Stone played the spider-eaten dad Pete Flynn in 313- EARTH VS. THE SPIDER; a clergyman in 414- TORMENTED; an uncredited part as a consoling cop near the end of 319- WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST and the King Grady in 411- THE MAGIC SWORD. Looking like Nick Nolte’s father, portly, baggy-eyed Gene Roth played the sheriff in both 313- EARTH VS. THE SPIDER and 406- ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES and the lunch cart guy in 414- TORMENTED, as well as a railroad conductor in this movie. Handsome, avuncular Jack Kosslyn portrayed a lieutenant in 309- THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN; the KTLA newscaster in 319- WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST; Fraser in 313- EARTH VS. THE SPIDER; and, under a lot of makeup, the ogre in 411-THE MAGIC SWORD. There, that’s settled.
• Can anybody tell me what that’s a picture of on the Rhino DVD face? It looks like a pizza to me…how that relates to the movie I have no idea.
• Fave riff: Jiminy, thinks Johnny, if only could get a ride in one of those…
First shown: 12/26/92
Opening: The bots have suggestions for ways they could be improved.
Invention exchange: The Mads have the sillies, beanie chopper, the William Conrad fridge alert
Host segment 1: Craft project: spaceships made from household items
Host segment 2: Tom Servo duplicates himself–many times over!
Host segment 3: A grumpy Hugh Beaumont revisits on the Hexfield
End: Coming out of the robot closet, William Conrad shows up
Stinger: Duplicates cracking up as they choke each other
• I said last week that this was the beginning of a stretch
of good to very good episodes. but I forgot about this speed bump
on the road to those goodies. This movie isn’t really bad,
just boring and a little out there. Doesn’t give them much to
work with. Pretty good host segments, though!
• I’m sure “the sillies” is an approximation of many moments on the set. I wonder how much of the laughter we see is genuine?
• Anybody have any suggestions about how you could be improved? That fin Gypsy mentioned sounded pretty good…
• In a “Simpsons” episode called “Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy,” which came out two years after this episode, Homer says: “Dad, how come you never gave me any encouragement? Maybe I could have been something more than I am. Like a travel agent to a great scientist, or the inventor of a hilarious refrigerator alarm.” Can that be anything but a reference to this invention exchange?”
• Callback: “I’m a grimaldi warrior!” (Viking Women) “Knew your father, I did!” (Mr. B Natural) “To think like the hu-man!” (Robot Monster)
• Trace built that SOL model shown in segment one; it spent a lot of time sitting in a corner of the studio. To my knowledge he has not, as of this date, put lighter fluid on it and burned it in the driveway.
• I love segment 2. How did they control them all? However they did it, they really created a sense of each one moving independently.
• My copy is from May of 1996. How do I know? It has a commercial for the “Laserblast” episode and for the showing if Joel’s “TV Wheel”! Cool!
• Annoying commercial: The Becks beer “SAAAAIL AWAAAAAY” spots. Sail away and take that adulterated weasel pee with you.
• Dated reference: “Oh did you see Madonna’s book?” A reference to the singer’s once-shocking-now-not-as-shocking nudie book “Sex.” Sadly, “American Gladiators” is NOT the dated reference it would have been a year ago…
• Hugh: “…resembling a human.” Joel: “See David Geffen.” Ouch!
• Segment 3 is Mike’s second visit as Hugh; and of course that’s Kevin as William Conrad.
• Fave riff: The boys did what? They duplicated Lumpy??? (partially it’s just the way Crow delivers the line).
First shown: 1/9/93
Opening: America is leaning on cheese!
Invention exchange: Action figure contest: Johnny Longtorso, non-violent action figures
Host segment 1: Gypsy “doesn’t get” Crow (or is it Tom?)
Host segment 2: Joel and Servo play keep away from Crow
Host segment 3: Examining “The Pina Colada Song”
End: Joel knights Happy King Servo and Sir Giggles von Laffsalot Crow
Stinger: Monster on the go-go
• A deservedly famous episode featuring a deservedly
infamous short and movie. Plenty for them to work with here.
• How could such a horrible movie have happened? As Daddy-O tells us: Bill Rebane made some of the movie, but had run out of money before it was completed. Meanwhile Herschell Gordon Lewis was looking for a co-feature with his recently completed movie “Moonshine Mountain,” and he needed it quickly. “So he bought Rebane’s unfinished film, added a couple scenes with new dialogue, and presto…a movie with no continuity and no sense!”
• A hook falls off the peg board with a loud clang during the Mads’ invention exchange. They keep going. And there’s also a lovely crunch as Dr. F. steps toward the camera, right onto the blister packs on the floor.
• Trace is hilarious as he introduces the movie, giving us Dr. F at perhaps his most maniacal.
• Terrific riffing in the short, and Joel doesn’t even try to keep them from getting too dark. The highlight is the great “pink girls” song.
• What does “with a filbert nut” mean? Joel sounds a little like Red Skelton when he says it. Is it a reference to him?
• Segment 1 is rightly famous (it even inspired a shirt). If you wanted to introduce the personalities of all three robots to newbie, this would do it very well in just a few minutes.
• Does ANYbody know what that song Crow is singing (”hum-did-a-hee-hee…”) is from? It’s one of the unsolved mysteries of this show (along with what “it’s a hat party and mine is the grandest of all” comes from).
• Joel opens a can of “pop” (or as normal people call it, soda) in the theater! What a rebel!
• The workings of Tom’s hoverskirt are never explained in detail, but in segment two we see a new use demonstrated: sports!
• Is that a velcro ball Joel throws to Tom when they return to the theater? Still, it’s a pretty good toss.
• Then-topical riff: “ Matthias Rust!”
• J&TB do a little of the Richard Kiel voice they did a LOT in the last episode.
• When the movie ends up in what looks very much like Chicago’s Lower Wacker Drive, they begin to rattle off some great Chicago references, including McCormick Place and the Arie Crown Theater.
• Fave riff: Narrator: There is one terrifying word in the world of nuclear physics. Tom: “Oops.”
First shown: 1/16/93
Opening: Family picture time on the SOL
Invention exchange: Snack-tion, unhappy meals
Host segment 1: The bots have some ideas for clown acts
Host segment 2: So, what’s a sampo?
Host segment 3: Gypsy’s one-woman show: “Gypsy Rose…Me!”
End: The bots are imprisoned wind, letter
Stinger: “What’s going to happen to us now!”
• As you might have guessed, this episode had a big effect
on me. For a long time it was my all-time favorite. Up until this
point, on the Prodigy MST3K boards I had just been “Chris in
Phila.” The night this was shown (or maybe the next day, I
forget), I officially announced that I was taking the handle Sampo,
and I’ve had it ever since.
• How do robots spit? I know, I know…
• The unhappy meals are truly an evil invention. I love Dr. F’s Charles Nelson Reilly laugh as he describes them.
• Joel has to rein in the bots several of times on the short, but then comes out with “a rogue elephant snaps its tether and kills a cooley!” NOW who’s getting dark?
• The announcer says “pamalino horses.” The hell?
• The circus in the short is never named, but it’s the Clyde Beatty Circus.
• The acrobat is both Dag Hammarskjöld and Albert Speer. Both references are pretty out of the blue…
• As Daddy-O tells us, THE DAY THE EARTH FROZE (originally titled “Sampo” but cheesily renamed to trick American audiences into think it was sci-fi) was based on the Kalevala, the national epic of Finland. (As an aside, J.R.R. Tolkien was heavily influenced by the Kalevala, and his “Silmarillion” was originally begun as an attempt to create a sort of British Kalevala.)
• Russian director Alexsandr Ptushko is generally recognized as a brilliant filmmaker. He also directed two other movies that came to be MSTed, episode 505-THE MAGIC VOYAGE OF SINBAD (originally “Sadko” [Finnish for “Sinbad” – no, not really], which won the Silver Lion Award at the 1953 Venice Film Festival); and 617-THE SWORD AND THE DRAGON (originally “Ilya Muromets”). As Daddy-O notes: “Those three films are a rare exception for MST3K: big budget, great cinematography and beautifully made. Too bad some of their luster was dimmed by the hasty script and dubbing of their importing American producers.”
• The “Scandinavian sketch” is obviously drawn from their personal experiences. What I find amusing is how much those Minnesota accents sound like the accents of folks in the Northeastern corner of Pennsylvania. There’s probably a linquistic explanation.
• As I noted in 1993 when I introduced this episode on national TV during Turkey Day, the movie DOES explain what a sampo is. J&TB are just in mid-riff when the explanation comes. I wonder if they do that on purpose, just so they can do the “what’s a sampo?” sketch?
• Local riff: “Mini golf at Crosslake.” It’s still around.
• My copy is from the ‘94 Turkey Day, but I don’t know if it would be fair to do an “annoying commercial” item since this ran at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. (Eastern and Pacific) so ALL the commercials are pretty low-rent and annoying. Art instruction schools, Sally Struthers asking if I want to make more money, stuff like that. Oh and I should note that in his introduction, Adam West mistakenly says that this is epsisode number 424.
• Callback: “I sing whenever I sing…”
• There are not one but two Ross Perot references in this episode. I guess it counts as “then-topical” but I would hope most people would remember who he is.
• Of course, one highlight is the classic “failure” song. Joel even gets up to dance!
• Jim gives a real tour de force in “Gypsy Rose ME!”
• Tom gently joshes fellow Minnosota entertainer Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion during the long, tedious harp attack.
• Fave riff: “Great wedding. You get half a buzz on and you’re sent home with a torch.”
First shown: 1/23/93
Opening: Joel gets to see what Crow is dreaming…and soon regrets it
Invention exchange: The tough love seat, microwave Faith Popcorn
Host segment 1: “Hired!” the musical
Host segment 2: From the lame octopus to food monsters (”huh!”)
Host segment 3: Willy the Waffle returns to defend advertising
End: Cambot re-edits the ending of the movie, letter, the Mads are playing Bela and Tor
Stinger: Bela has looked better
Okay, well, sha-la-la-la-la let’s live for today:
• I try not to overuse the already-overused word “classic” but this is one. It’s got a wacky short, an Ed Wood movie (probably his most competent, which isn’t saying much) and we’ve all seen all that backstory in the “Ed Wood” film. The host segments are only fair but they’re certainly not awful, and the riffing is top-notch.
• This show first aired three days after the beginning of the Clinton administration. It was certainly made before then, but probably after Bubba’s election, which allows Crow to talk about “The Bush Administration” in the past tense early in the short.
• Joel’s horrified, slightly nauseated take to the camera at the end of the opening is great.
• Then-topical: Faith Popcorn (though she would probably disagree that she isn’t still topical; she’s still around).
• At what point were door-to-door car salesmen discontinued? I never knew they existed before this short.
• “Hired, the Musical” is a lot of fun. I especially like Joel’s pained takes to the camera when Gypsy sings.
• Annoying commercials: My copy is from January, 1995 and it’s got those weird “Jack in the Box blowing up the board room” commercials. It also has some fairly hilarious commercials for The Sporting News, in which they attempt to sell you a subscription on the quaint notion of not being able to get out-of-town scores in your local paper. If only somebody would invent the internet!
• Segment 2 is what the kids today call “random.” I have a feeling it’s a slightly stylized version of a actual conversation among the Brains.
• Okay, I’m trying to figure this one out. In this movie, Bela does his classic “sleep” bit, complete with the hand gesture. And yet the cast have been referencing it for at least two seasons. Were they just making a reference to a movie they assumed we’d seen? Is it in “Ed Wood” and I’ve forgotten (it’s been years since I’ve seen it)? What’s the deal?
• Crow references two elements of the classic driver’s ed Smith System: “Hands at 10 and 2″ and “watch your space cushion.” Can anybody name the other three?
• Tom Servo does a lovely Flash Bazbo impression.
• The scene where the captain goes to see the file lady who has a pencil behind her ear when shot from behind, and doesn’t have one when she’s shot from the front, brought back a great memory. I remember pointing it out to my daughter, who was about six at the time, and I remember she found it hilarious and asked me to rerun it over and over.
• The random segment 2 is followed by the complete non-sequitur of segment 3. What does advertising have to do with anything?
• Callback: Willy says “Knew your father I did!” (Mr B Natural)
• It’s pronounced RAKE-yah-vik! As in: “One day in Iceland can Reykjavik!”
• I wonder how many other military bases were showing eps on their TV stations?
• Fave line: “Nobody’s kissin’ the bird today…”
First shown: 1/30/93
Opening: Joel programs the bots to agree with everything he says
Invention exchange: Chocolate bunny guillotine, the cartuner
Host segment 1: Gypsy’s big scene is ruined, Frank apologizes
Host segment 2: Why Torgo is a monster
Host segment 3: Joel dons a Manos cape, Dr. F. apologizes
End: The bots reenact the lady wrestling scene, Torgo’s pizza arrives
Stinger: “Why don’t you guys leave us alone"
“You know, there are certain flaws in this
• Whatever other battle they study, every Civil War buff has an opinion about Gettysburg. Whatever else they grow, every gardener has an opinion about tomatoes. No matter which team they root for, every baseball fan has an opinion about the Yankees. And every MSTie has an opinion about “Manos: The Hands of Fate.” So much has been written about this awful, awful movie and this justly famous episode that it’s hard to make a fresh observation, but here are a few thoughts.
• Paul Chaplin once noted that many MST3K movies are “made by oily guys who elect to direct the camera largely on themselves.” He was talking about TISCWSLABMUZ, but this is another perfect example.
• At several MSTie parties I have attended where this episode was screened, people handed out napkins, which people unfolded and put on their heads at the moment ol’ Dad in the short does so. Has anybody else done this, or do I just hang out with weird people?
• The opening bit is great, and every fan of Joel has felt a little like the programmed bots at one time or another. You see this butt? Kick this butt.
• There’s a funny clank as chocolate bunny guillotine falls. I’m guessing it’s the weight that held the blade up falling to the floor somewhere off camera?
• The last issueance of The Cartooner isn’t really that strange: It sounds pretty much like something Gary Larson would have done (if he wasn’t afraid of getting sued by the Bil Keane empire). God, I miss The Far Side…
• Joel seems a little touchy when Crow suggests this might be a snuff film! Does Joel really know the limit of the sort of evil the Mads might try?
• Stuff about the movie you may already know: The movie was shot with a camera that could only shoot a small amount of film at a time, making long, continuous takes impossible. Hence the “dissolving to the same scene” Crow observes early on. Also, the long pointless driving scene was supposed to have credits supered on it, but Hal forgot.
• I had the pleasant opportunity a few years ago to exchange emails with Hal Warren’s daughter, who told me that her brother has worn the Master costume on several Halloweens and that the painting of the Master adorned a wall of her home for many years. What a wacky family!
• Joel’s looks of disgust and horror in segment two are great.
• As I was watching segment 3, my wife wandered through and said, “You should have worn THAT to the costume party at one of the conventions. I could have made that.” I had to break it to her that about 20 guys were wearing versions of the Master cape.
• Then topical: “The Tasters Choice saga.” Remember when people cared about THAT nonsense?
• That’s Mike, of course, in the first of several appearances as Torgo. Let me just get your complementary crazy bread…
• Fave riff: Yeah, here I go! Vroom!
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