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Sampo & Erhardt

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Episode guide: 313- Earth Vs. the Spider (with short: ‘Speech–Using Your Voice’)

Short: (1950) Prof. E.C. Buehler explains how to be a good public speaker.
Movie: (1958) A teen discovers her father has become a meal for a giant spider, which then attacks the small town where she lives.

First shown: 9/14/91
Opening: Crow hosts Tom in “Inside The Robot Mind.”
Invention exchange: The Mads have invented the cheese phone, while Joel shows off his CD blow drier
Host segment 1: J&tB read through Crow’s screenplay, “Earth vs. Soup”
Host segment 2: A rehearsal of J&tB’s rock band Spidorr brings a visit, on the Hexfield, from the custodian of 7th galaxy
Host segment 3: J&tB discuss Creeple People and other dangerous but fun toys
End: Crow and Tom present their reports on Bert I. Gordon, Tom reads a letter, Frank is sick
Stinger: From the short, the mush-mouthed speaker is not pleasing.
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (116 votes, average: 4.58 out of 5)

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• As we begin the second half of this season, there is a lot to love about this one. Hokey movie, classic short, familiar faces, great riffing, great host segments. This is one of those “firing-on-all-cylinders” episodes.
References.
• As noted elsewhere, it seems like they had season one and Josh Weinstein on the brain during this episode. In the opening bit, the Mads reprise the season-one catchphrase “Thank you!!” then look embarrassed. Later, as the deputy (who looks a little like Dr. E) is devoured by the spider, Joel yells: “Dr. Erhardt! No! So that’s what happened to him!” (a reference to the fact that Dr. E’s fate was never really spelled out when he was written out of the premise). And at the end, in another homage to season one, Joel offers ram chips to the bots as rewards, something he has not done in ages.
• Jerry and Sylvia get a mention in the opening.
• The short became an instant classic, with instant catchphrases like “Plenty of lip and tongue action.” I think it really showed them the riffing potential of this kind of short. This could have been one of those episodes where the short overpowered the movie, but they managed to rise to the occasion with the movie as well.
• Incidentally, the speaker standing by the American flag is none other than Herk Harvey, director of this and four other MSTed Centron shorts (and director of “Carnival of Souls.”)
• Callbacks: “…and a good friend” (Rocketship XM), “Joe Doakes…” (X Marks the Spot), Crow sings “Hike your pants up…” (Daddy-O), “the spider is either missing or he’s dead!’ (Phantom Creeps)
• After the spider attack in the opening, Crow says, approximately “Heyhepullhefilalayvava.” They keep going. By the way, once and for all, THAT is Merritt Stone driving the truck and being killed by the spider in the beginning of the movie.
• I love how, in segment 1, Crow’s “lips” move while the others read their parts. Classic Trace.
• A little Firesign Theatre reference, I think, when Joel says “Oh Porgie no!” while reading through “Earth vs. Soup.”
• I just love Joel’s skeleton voice. “I’m famished!”
• Gross riff: “Does your dad like bran?” Ew.
• Tom Servo twice pronounces Gary Busey’s last name “bussy” instead of “byoosie.” Had Kevin not heard of him? Thry keep going.
• Joel brings up, and then defends the reputation of, the Ashwaubenon High Jaguars, from his real-life Wisconsin high school.
• The ELP bashing is interesting. That feels to me like it came from Mike.
• Geek alert: In the Rocket Number 9 shot, the spaceship is a badly disguised TOS Klingon battle cruiser model. I’m so embarrassed that I know that.
• This would not be the last time Mike played a janitor…
• Mike says “What the Hector Alonzo is goin’ on?” I think he meant Hector Elizondo. They keep going.
• As Paul points out in the ACEG, the second host segment is in the wrong spot. But they seemed to know it at the time–as they’re coming back to the theater Joel says: “I don’t know what that janitor has to do with anything.” Later, when the janitor finally appears, Joel says: “Ohh! THAT’s how it fits in.”
• An odd moment as they re-enter the theater, Joel says “We’re comin’ out of the game thing.” In some of the outtakes that have come to light in recent years, we sometimes see them reminding each other what host segment just appeared in the show. Filming schedules were such that host segments were filmed on one day and theater segments another day, so it was sometimes easy to forget where all the pieces fit in the puzzle. I think that’s what Joel was doing here, but they didn’t bother to start over.
• Character Mike mentions wanting to see Bert I. Gordon’s “Attack of the Puppet People.” You can see the lobby cards for it in the background, and a poster appears outside the theater. Lobby cards and posters for the movie in episode 309- THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN also appear, not-so-subtly. Originally titled, “The Spider,” this movie was retitled to cash in on the name of another successful movie with a similar title, 1956’s “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.”
• I can’t find it on the Web anymore, but we used to have a link in the Umbilicus to an odd web site by a guy who was REALLY into the Thingmaker and Creeple People. The page had a transcript of segment three, because he found it so moving.
• Segment 3 is weird–for most of it, they seem to be championing these toys and blaming the “careless” kids who got them taken off the market, but then Joel ends it with a saccharine little homily about the toymakers of tomorrow. I don’t get it. Not quite sure what’s supposed to be funny about that. Were they just desperate for an ending?
• Note the “Movie Sign!” bumper sticker on the desk in the ending segment.
• There’s an interesting “call-forward” to “Beginning of the End” in Crow’s report. Had they seen it? It was two seasons away.
• Cast and crew round up: Scriptwriter Laszlo Gorog also wrote “The Mole People,” while scriptwriter George Worthing Yates also wrote “War of the Colossal Beast” and “Tormented.” Cinematographer Jack Marta also worked on “War of the Colossal Beast” and “Beginning of the End.” Costumer Marge Corso also worked on “Teenage Caveman,” “Tormented, “The She Creature” and “Bloodlust!” Production designer Walter Keller was an assistant director for “War of the Colossal Beast” and “Beginning of the End.” Assistant director John W. Rogers also worked on “War of the Colossal Beast.” Sound man Al Overton also worked on “The Screaming Skull,” “Attack of the Giant Leeches” and “The Phantom Planet.
In front of the camera, Merritt Stone was in “War of the Colossal Beast,” “The Magic Sword” and “Tormented.” Gene Roth was in “Attack of the Giant Leeches,” “Tormented” and “The Rebel Set.” Jack Kosslyn was also in “The Amazing Colossal Man,” “War of the Colossal Beast” and “The Magic Sword.” June Kenney can also be seen in “Viking Women and the Sea Serpent” and “Bloodlust!”
• CreditsWatch: Paul Chaplin becomes a full-time writer. Tim Paulson is back as online editor. Cindy Hansen begins her stint as an intern. Someone named Mary Flaa does the first of two shows as hair and makeup person. Trace and Frank are still “villians” and Dr. F’s name is still spelled “Forrestor.”
• Fave riff from short: “Here’s George Patton, a patriot and into high-grade weed.” Honorable mention: “We’ve had him put down.”
• Fave riff: “Everybody’s afraid of these crane shots!” Honorable mention: “We’ve got bugs!”

102 Replies to “Episode guide: 313- Earth Vs. the Spider (with short: ‘Speech–Using Your Voice’)”

  1. Anonymous says:

    For television watching, the traditional guidance for viewing distance is 2 times the size of the
    TV screen. Limit overhead lighting to bathrooms
    and laundry rooms. We always tend to tile the walls of our bathroom
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       0 likes

  2. Tad Eustace Ghostal says:

    Like others here, I watched this one for the first time recently as part of the new Shout! set.

    What a wonderful episode.

    Usually, I’m not a fan of the Bert I. Gordon fare. His material tends to fall SO flat for me. I love Ed Wood and Coleman Francis…their characters/dialogue/atmospheres always stood out, as bad as their films were. Gordon could take my favorite bad movie genre, goofy teenager movies, and still make it terribly uninteresting (Village of the Giants). Everything about his films is so utilitarian…like this is a monster movie because it is, and this person is reacting in horror because they’re supposed to be scared.

    But I like this one! It’s perfectly goofy and J&TB make the most of it with excellent riffing. They were very hot and cold in the 3rd season, and in this show they’re red hot in the theater and in the segments.

    The short had me cracking up and really taps into a timeless MST3K virtue of exposing the underlying menace in Eisenhower’s America. Trace is so good at using Crow to add a layer of character to someone that’s not necessarily there. “Won’t people think I’m peculiar if I talk differently from how I usually talk?” Crow: “People think that already ya dope!” Also- “Do I please you? Do ya find me pleasing?” LMAO. Servo gets a good one in too with the “What a pathetic loser” comment after that weird guy speaks.

    The Season 1 references in this episode are pretty significant, because otherwise the Brains were eager to forget it. I believe this is the only episode in the show post 201 where RAM chips, Larry, and “Thank you” are referenced (although I do recall Servo doing a Larry impression during one of the Gamera movies).

    My favorite part of this episode is Joel’s argument with Crow about KISS. Seeing Crow’s beak stick out of its costume, mouthing off to Joel “So you went to high school with a bunch of dorky losers and now it’s our cross to bear??” Brilliant. So Trace and so Joel.

       0 likes

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