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Sampo & Erhardt

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Goodbye Sci-Fi

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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Episode guide: 511- Gunslinger

Movie: The widow of a murdered sheriff attempts to clean up the crime in her small town with help from the man hired to kill her.

First shown: 10/9/93
Opening: Tom goes “Ka-Boom!”
Invention exchange: The Mads show off the scanner planner, J&tB demonstrate new whiffle items
Host segment 1: J&tB imagine their funerals
Host segment 2: The Gypsy Express
Host segment 3: Tom demonstrates quantum linear super-positioning
End: The ’70s: A pretty foul decade, Joel reads a deep-fried letter, Dr. F. scans Frank!
Stinger: “What about our clothes?”
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (137 votes, average: 4.12 out of 5)

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• Well, here we go, the penultimate episode, the last regular episode before big changes occur. I generally like this one. Corman always brings out the best in them, and while it isn’t a slam dunk, it’s pretty consistently entertaining. Good not great.
• This episode is on Rhino’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 6.
• Did Gypsy mean to throw the dice onto the floor behind the desk or was that a goof?
• Jim blows a line in the opening bit. They keep going.
• The opening bit is downright hilarious, a brilliant melding of attitude and great prop building.
• I love how Frank does the classic Harpo Marx “gookie” when being “scanned.”
• Dr. F. says this is their first western. Doesn’t “The Painted Hills” count?
• Callback: “I’m a Grimault warrior!” (Viking Women)
• Segment 1 is great. It’s kind of a funeral for the Joel years (at least it feels that way to me) and it’s got great writing. However, is it my imagination or is everybody a little short with each other in this sketch? I may be imagining things.
• Segment two: meh. It goes on a little too long. Oh and: peanut butter and Dijonnaise?? Ew!
• This one has one of the season’s funniest running gags: the riffs about the doors that open the wrong way. They just get funnier.
• Joel seems to lose patience with the movie about two thirds the way through. “Man, this movie is just sitting on my head and crushing it.”
• I forgot this episode has a “I thought you were Dale”!
• Crow wasn’t far off when he said Corman did “Swamp Diamonds” on Tuesday and this on Friday. The movie actually had a seven-day shooting schedule. Among the problems on the set: John Ireland and Beverly Garland were attacked by red ants during their romantic tree-sitting scene, Beverly twisted her ankle and it became so swollen that her boot had to be cut off, and Allison Hayes broke her arm falling off a horse.
• Segment 3 is one of the best of season 5, witty and intelligent, but not too talky.
• We are entering the “Honey” period of this show—the epoch when everyone was calling each other “honey” constantly. There are at least four instances in this ep.
• I imagine they had a ton of letters to Joel laying around, that they wouldn’t be able to use any more. Deep frying them seems like a nice bit of closure.
• Cast and crew roundup: Okay, it’s a Corman, and he loved to use the same people, so strap in. In addition to Roger, screenwriter Charles B. Griffith also worked on “It Conquered the World” and “The Undead.” Screenwriter Mark Hanna also worked on “The Undead,” “The Amazing Colossal Man and “Terror from the Year 5000.” Cinematographer Frederick West also worked on “It Conquered the World,” “Swamp Diamonds and “The She-Creature.” Editor Charles Gross also worked on “It Conquered the World.” Assistant director Harry Reif was a production designer for “Women of the Prehistoric Planet,” and a set designer for “The She-Creature,” “I Accuse My Parents” and “Radar Secret Service.” Score composer Ronald Stein also worked on “It Conquered the World,” “The Undead,” “The She-Creature, “Attack of the the Eye Creatures” and “The Girl in Lovers Lane.” Choreographer Chris Miller also worked on “The Undead.
In front of the camera, Beverly Garland is also in “It Conquered the World” and “Swamp Diamonds.” Allison Hayes was also in “The Undead,” “The Crawling Hand” and “The Unearthly.” Jonathan Haze was also in “It Conquered the World,” “Teenage Caveman,” “Viking Women and the Sea Serpent,” and “Swamp Diamonds.” Bruno VeSota was also in “Attack of the Giant Leeches,” “The Undead,” “Daddy-O” and “The Wild, Wild World of Batwoman.” William Schallert was also in “Invasion USA” and “Hangar 18.” Dick Miller was also in “It Conquered the World” and “The Undead. Chris Miller was also in “The Undead.” Aaron Saxon was also in “The Undead.” Paul McGuire was also in “Radar Men from the Moon.”
• CreditsWatch: Host segments directed by Joel Hodgson, his last one. Additional writer: Timothy Scott.
• Fave riff: “Oh, rut like crazed weasel. You?” Honorable mentions: “Most people are morally ambiguous, which explains our random dyin’ patterns” and “Come out!”

93 Replies to “Episode guide: 511- Gunslinger”

  1. snowdog says:

    I hear that in the Special Edition, after finding out that she has killed the entire town, Beverly shouts “NOOOOoooOoOOOoooooo!!!”

       9 likes

  2. JohnnyRyde says:

    How feasible would it be for a saloon to be open 24 hours a day (we see it open at 3am) in days before the electric light?

    I also never understood why we constantly needed to be told what day it was via subtitles.

    I’m not a huge fan of this episode, but I think I may be in the minority on that one. I watched this one again yesterday and I think that was the first time I noticed the Red Dwarf reference…

       1 likes

  3. Bombastic Biscuit Boy says:

    Actually, despite the high body count and poor sets, this is a pretty good film…does anyone know why Beverly Garland was so upset when the showgirls try to hang her?

    JOEL: “Well, at least I have an immortal soul, all right?”
    TOM: [mumbles] “Yeah, sure you do!”

       6 likes

  4. Dark Grandma of Death says:

    Oh, Bombastic, you made me laugh!

    No, I’m not sure why Beverly was agitated, but did she have to be so goshdarn rude to those poor girls, and refuse to let them get their clothes? There is just no excuse for poor manners!

       5 likes

  5. snowdog says:

    Was I hallucinating (could be!) or was there a callback to “I don’t fink on soul brother!” in this episode?

       0 likes

  6. Joseph Nebus says:

    @52 JohnnyRyde says:

    July 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm
    How feasible would it be for a saloon to be open 24 hours a day (we see it open at 3am) in days before the electric light?

    I also never understood why we constantly needed to be told what day it was via subtitles.

    There is, believe it or not, a ticking suspense countdown on the action. No, honest. There’s a new sheriff coming to town and Beverly Garland has to get her little murder sorted out by then or the new guy will … uh … probably be not so particularly interested in doing justice or whatnot. So the day clock is meant to remind us that, despite this being a Roger Corman movie, time is running out.

    Public lighting of spots at night has a surprising (to me, anyway) history, with such things as giant towers to illuminate whole cities at once. But I don’t know the practicality of this small town of backdrop sets. Probably the source to look for is Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s The Industrialization of Light in the 19th Century, although he might not get into specifics of a town this obscure.

       4 likes

  7. MPSh from Lowell says:

    “Booze has knighted me king of the lovers.”

    I have found that a much more effective pick-up line than I ever thought possible…..

       3 likes

  8. losingmydignity says:

    I think I’m one of the few who think Roger Corman films never worked well for the show (or CT either). This is a lackluster ep but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have occasional great moments.

    C

       1 likes

  9. stef says:

    While Joel and the bots are pretty darn funny in this episode, this is second most painful Corman movie for me. It Conquered the world is the most painful. I’d rather have a root canal with no novacaine than watch that movie again.

       0 likes

  10. Cornjob says:

    My dad taught philosophy for 2 years at Fullerton State. Jokes like the whole “Random pattern of death” really crack me up.

       3 likes

  11. Slartibartfast, maker of fjords says:

    So, prior to the lynching sequence, the girls are to leave town by Saturday, but they can certainly come back by Sunday when Beverly’s character is no longer sherif(f). Makes a lot of sense to me. Also, the sheriff is a law enforcer, not judge or jury, and many things that she did she didn’t have legal authority for. Other than that it was a great episode.

       0 likes

  12. EricJ says:

    @51 – I hear that in the Special Edition, after finding out that she has killed the entire town, Beverly shouts “NOOOOoooOoOOOoooooo!!!”

    No, it’s that little barn at the end of the street that shouts that. 0.0
    (“Hey look, there’s a Fotomat.”
    “Yeah, and it’s going “Oooo, noooo!'”)

    And is anyone else now unable to hum the first bars of the Death March without segueing into “Family Affair”? ;)

       1 likes

  13. Steve Vil says:

    I remember reading a review of this episode somewhere and the reviewer said of the funeral segment, “The tension between the actors was palpable”. I personally never noticed it but it seems like others besides you have.

    This is one of those episodes that I didn’t like. I tried watching it about three times and it just bored me to death. Then one day I gave it one last chance and it just clicked. I laughed all the way through. I have no idea what the difference was or why I’d never found it funny before. I think the sketch were Servo bilocates is the most brilliant sketch they ever did.

       1 likes

  14. Sitting Duck says:

    Liked the nod given to Harry Kemelman’s Rabbi Small series during the montage.

       4 likes

  15. Luther Strickland says:

    “Naughty, naughty, naughty this way …” That bit can still make me spew coffee.

    John Ireland’s affectation of a Kirk Douglas-style grimace through his scenes is amusing to me even without a riff on the subject.

    Incidentally, this past April was the 150th anniversary of the battle of Shiloh.

    The mayor’s pride in having ridden off with “Bedford Forrest” is disconcerting, given that Bedford Forrest was a founder of the KKK.

    “Is it a two-way thing?”

       3 likes

  16. Luther Strickland says:

    Oh, and “tension between the actors?” Meh.

       0 likes

  17. Warren says:

    I’ll watch Gunslinger once in awhile, but it’s not very memorable. Beverly Garland is good in it but there’s only so much one actor can do with a cheapo production. Someone else may have mentioned this mistake on other websites already but the opening that says “Friday May 21st 1878” is wrong-on the Gregorian calendar anyway. May 21st, 1878 was on a Tuesday, the 17th would’ve been the previous Friday. That’s nitpicking but Corman deserves it.

       2 likes

  18. Watch-out-for-Snakes says:

    Late to the party on this one
    (Internet troubles, busy week, etc.)
    Not that I got much to say…..

    This is a ” good, not great” episode, it has it’s moments (like all MST) but overall it doesn’t quite impress.

    I like the “scanner planner” invention exchange and Host Segment #3 is great…..and that’s about it for the live action skits.  (HS#2 is almost abysmal).  The riffing itself is only so-so, this is not one of their better efforts on a Roger Corman picture..

    Beverley Garland is a looker, but I’d rather look at her in some other movie..


    RIFFS:

     Joel:  “Cue the horses!”
    Crow (shakes head):  “Corman!”

    Servo:  “Is he getting shorter?”

    Crow:  “Not really a Howard Hawks film, is it?”

    Joel:  “I thought you were Dale..”

    Crow:  ” Mmmm..pure maple syrup.”


    Gunslinger:

    3/5.

       3 likes

  19. John R. Ellis says:

    The bounty hunter having his bedroom out in the hallway. Wormy. The worst dance hall girls ever. The really bizarre flirting between Beverly and the bounty hunter. The extremely high death count. The awkward directing. The blatant sexual subtext that pretty much becomes text. The evil lady being evil for the sake of evilness.

    It all adds up to an enjoyable “hang-out” episode, one where the laughs gradually increase to out and out guffaws.

       4 likes

  20. Keith in WI says:

    Haven’t watched this since it was originally aired. Not great, but not bad either. Have to agree with Tom when he mentions that the movie is a real turd. While I am not a big connesiour of westerns, this movie seems to have an unusually high body count for even a western. As usual, a lot of great riffs in this one. Love the re-upholstered horse crack, as well as the random patterns of dyin’ Somewhat obscure riff: Cain mentions that he has been in Tombstone for while and Tom quips, “And then I spent some time in Medford, WI” This of course was the home for Tombstone pizza. They make a more obvious reference to the pizza brand when he mentions Tombstone later in the film. References like these always make the show entertaining for me and reinforce that saying of Joel’s – “The right people will get it.”

       1 likes

  21. Cubby says:

    I’m watching the Opening Ceremony of the XXX Olympiad, and they’ve got a series of children’s choruses singing hymns to dogs, and I am instantly reminded of Crow’s funeral:
    Crow: “I’ll lie in state at the Corn Palace while “Hooked On A Feeling” is sung by a choir of castrati!”

    … and the ceremony hasn’t even begun to get weird.

       0 likes

  22. dakotaboy says:

    Sampo, you’re not wrong in observing that everyone is a little short with each other in host segment 1. Back in my tape trading days, I picked up a tape that had rehearsal takes from this episode on it. You could really feel the animosity Joel had toward his coworkers, it was quite clear in the rehearsals. Plus, the camera operator kept panning to the wrong bot at the wrong time.

    He managed to hide it for the most part during the final taping of this episode, but if you watch closely you can see that throughout this episode Joel is just marking time until he can leave.

       0 likes

  23. Sitting Duck says:

    Gunslinger passes the Bechdel Test. Rose and Erica have multiple non-male conversations with each other and with the showgirls.

    I suspect a lot of us already have Whiffle underwear.

    What really makes HS #2 work is the way Crow goes, “Owie! Owie!” in a rhythmic fashion as he rides.

    If you find that minor character Freddie looks and sounds familiar, there’s a reason for that. He’s portrayed by one George Offerman, who was Jimmy Vale in the Batman serial Rifftrax did a while back.

    Dark Grandma of Death #54: No, I’m not sure why Beverly was agitated, but did she have to be so goshdarn rude to those poor girls, and refuse to let them get their clothes? There is just no excuse for poor manners!

    At least she didn’t force them to leave behind the clothes they were wearing as well.

    Favorite riffs

    Sorry I’m late. Horse threw a tire.

    “There’s a little matter my husband kept putting off.”
    Me.

    “You ever see a peace officer in a corset?”
    Yeah, your husband.

    The Riveting Horse Mounting Scene.

    Tuesday the Rabbi Got Robbed.

    Jethro wants to be a rock star.

    There’s three bowls of porridge here. Don’t quite know what that means.

    Say what you want, Reverend. This brings in the parishioners.

    “She says they constitute an immoral influence on our young men.”
    That’s pretty much the idea, isn’t it?

    Old Western Art of the Old West.

    Back then, money was a lot of money.

    “So old Sam’s crossed over, huh?”
    Wearing dresses and stuff.

    “What’s the matter?”
    I killed a guy and I wet ’em.

    “Afraid the town will dry up and blow out from under him.”
    Like me.

    Well, I feel good after damning someone to Hell. I’m going to rustle me up some Hormel chili.

    “I’m the same man that’s wanted in three states and five territories, remember?”
    And I’m not allowed in The Sizzler.

    Easy Snap Ranch ready to assemble!

    Right in my vast, doughy midsection!

    Now he’s the sensitive cold-blooded killer.

    Booze, it’s what’s for dinner.

    I’m the comic relief! Don’t shoot!

    Should I taunt him? Nah, he’s dead.

    Could we maybe settle this with a game of Scrabble?

    Remind me to kill you later.

       5 likes

  24. Cherokee Jacka$$ says:

    This one is one of my favorite MST films to watch. Sure it suffers from production values but it has a cohesive plot that works. Beverly Garland (rest her soul) was always a delight to watch, Bruno VeSota was an underrated talent and John Ireland gives a really good performance in his own right. Toss in the extended cameo by William Schallert and it has more talented actors than a half season of other MST episodes (“Marooned” aside)

       2 likes

  25. Bruce Boxliker says:

    Sitting Duck:
    While Pony Express delivery times were slow by modern standards, they most certainly did not take a period of months, being more in the range of 7-10 days.

    Wow, that’s faster than Amazon’s free shipping! Maybe we should bring back the pony express…

       1 likes

  26. Bruce Boxliker says:

    Good, not great episode. Never liked westerns (too many forced on me as a child), but J/M&tB make them better.

    The quantum linear super-positioning sketch is my favorite thing about this episode, along with the ‘random dying patterns’ line.

       1 likes

  27. Lisa H. says:

    Well, here we go, the penultimate episode, the last regular episode before big changes occur.

    OMG TAG UR SPOILERS

    Warren: Someone else may have mentioned this mistake on other websites already but the opening that says “Friday May 21st 1878” is wrong-on the Gregorian calendar anyway. May 21st, 1878 was on a Tuesday, the 17th would’ve been the previous Friday.

    You were expecting Tolkienian precision with calendar dates?

       2 likes

  28. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    A metaphorical big giant film vault of America would probably contain more westerns than any other kind of genre film. They were the most popular film genre for several decades, even as far back as the era of silent movies. Plenty of them must be in the public domain by now. An MST3K-style show could surf that wave for almost ever.

    I wonder how many horses so many westerns went through; I’d imagine horse suppliers almost never went bankrupt. Yes, the noble horse, humanity’s silent partner throughout most of history. How far would we have gotten without them? Literally.

    “Did Gypsy mean to throw the dice onto the floor behind the desk”

    No, she didn’t. Jim Mallon may or may not have meant to do that, but that’s not what you asked. ;-)

    (so they’re old comments, big deal)

    >>>48. Wormy comes into the room too early and ducks out again, and Joel adds “Whoops! Sorry…” – an obvious riff, but I love the way he says it

    There’s really nothing at all unrealistic about that scene. People do that all the time when they see that whoever they’re looking for is busy with someone else. It’s so true to life that it’s theoretically possible Corman did it on purpose.

    >>>52. How feasible would it be for a saloon to be open 24 hours a day (we see it open at 3am) in days before the electric light?

    As feasible as any other saloon in any other western being open all night. They had those Wild West Tom Servo lamps back then, y’know. ;-)

    The main attractions to a saloon are, of course, alcohol and sex (dance hall girls, no matter how untalented, might perform, mm, additional duties between shifts). Some men will put up with anything for that.

    >>>61: Also, the sheriff is a law enforcer, not judge or jury

    Those lines could be kind of thin back then, though. Something that kept a sheriff from doing whatever he felt like doing? They Hadn’t Invented That Yet.

    Strange to think that, back then, a sheriff could force new arrivals to turn their guns over to him for him to keep until they left. That wouldn’t go over any too well today…

    >>>62. And is anyone else now unable to hum the first bars of the Death March without segueing into “Family Affair”?

    I, uh, don’t actually have much call to hum the first bars of the Death March…

    >>>63. I remember reading a review of this episode somewhere and the reviewer said of the funeral segment, “The tension between the actors was palpable”.

    The tension between one actor and two puppets?

    >>>65. The mayor’s pride in having ridden off with “Bedford Forrest” is disconcerting, given that Bedford Forrest was a founder of the KKK.

    Well, not during the Civil War, he wasn’t, since it didn’t exist yet. He was by 1878 (the film’s timeframe), but the Mayor may not have known that and, honestly, probably wouldn’t have cared. Things Were Different Then. Anyway, I doubt that was common knowledge in 1956, so Corman risked nothing with that line. Besides, people who look back at the Confederacy *nostalgically*, well, their thought processes would be foreign to most of us, anyway.

       2 likes

  29. littleaimishboy says:

    JohnnyRyde:
    How feasible would it be for a saloon to be open 24 hours a day (we see it open at 3am) in days before the electric light?

    After dark is after dark. If the saloon can be open at 8pm it can be open at 3am.

       1 likes

  30. thequietman says:

    As a prelude to what’s about to hit us in the next episode, I agree this is good, not great. It didn’t really pick up for me until Crow discovered the door goof (‘Wait a minute, doors don’t open that w-HE’S IN THE HALL!’) and it rose to the occasion from there.

    As for segment one, I think one aspect that no one has touched on is the fact that the lighting really did not flatter Joel at all. I get that it was supposed to look spooky, but it made him look ‘old’ and yes, a little mean. But it must be said, despite what may have been going on behind the scenes, everyone managed to keep it from showing in the final product.

       1 likes

  31. Warren says:

    You were expecting Tolkienian precision with calendar dates?

    Not really, no… but it’s a fair question. When it comes to lunar phases I’ll go easy on Corman.

       1 likes

  32. Warren says:

    Lisa H.:
    Well, here we go, the penultimate episode, the last regular episode before big changes occur.

    You were expecting Tolkienian precision with calendar dates?

    #77, just so it’s clear who I’m responding to. I guess we can’t preview comments any more.

       1 likes

  33. Johnny Drama says:

    Frank’s spare head!

       1 likes

  34. Ray Dunakin says:

    This episode isn’t really high on my list, mainly because the movie itself just kind of plods along. But it’s a solid mid-grade episode with some exceptionally good parts. I especially love the riffs about the wrong-way doors, and the skit involving Tom’s “super-positioning” or whatever it’s called is downright hilarious.

       0 likes

  35. Bruce Boxliker says:

    So, Cane comes in, threatens the MAYOR who’s under the SHERIF(F)’S PROTECTION, then commits ASSAULT & BATTERY on the deputy (destroying furniture in the process). Maybe… arrest the guy? Seems like it would be a good idea. Only problem is the jail cells were all taken up at the time. I mean, where else is the town drunk going to sleep?

       4 likes

  36. Ro-man says:

    Two words:
    Allison
    Hayes

       4 likes

  37. Ray Dunakin says:

    Cane killed several people in this movie, yet for some reason he wasn’t tormented by their ghosts.

       1 likes

  38. thequietman says:

    Before I saw it as Sampo’s favorite riff, I thought we might have had another candidate for Dirtiest Riff. Since Garland’s character is newly widowed and in this era extramarital sex was highly frowned upon, I heard it as ‘RUB like a crazed weasel’. :shock:

    Maybe it’s still dirty?

       0 likes

  39. MSTie says:

    I like this one a lot, mostly because of Her Highness of the B Movies, Beverly Garland, but got some genuine laughs from it. I love it when the actors are obviously standing around waiting for their cues to start moving.

    About the saloon lighting issue, as littleaimishboy points out, dark is dark. If a place can be sufficiently lit at 7 in the evening on a winter’s day, it can be lit at 3 in the morning. A few lamps can be enough, and your eyes adjust. I’m of the opinion that dark saloons have more atmosphere anyway, specifically Moose’s Saloon in Kalispell, Montana, which, despite the name does not serve hard liquor.

       2 likes

  40. Cornjob says:

    The moral ambiguity being responsible for the largely random pattern of death riff still cracks me up. Such a great example of taking a throwaway line in the film seriously and considering it’s implications.

       3 likes

  41. dakotaboy says:

    May 21 was not a Friday in 1878 – it was a Tuesday: http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/index.html?country=1&year=1878

       0 likes

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