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Sampo & Erhardt

Sci-Fi Archives

Visit our archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.

Goodbye Sci-Fi

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

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Episode guide: 514- Teen-Age Strangler (with short: ‘Is This Love?’)

Short: (1957) A college couple rushes into marriage, while another couple is taking their time.
Movie: (1964) In a West Virginia town, a newly arrived family is at the center of a series of murders.

First shown: 11/7/93
Opening: Mike tries to phone his grandma
Invention exchange: Dr. F shows off the Frank-n-forcer, M&tB demonstrate the waiter-baiter
Host segment 1: M&tB ask: What is love?
Host segment 2: Crow and Tom want to rumble, but Mike intervenes
Host segment 3: Crow and Tom have a gadget that will make Mike act like Mikey
End: Song: “I’m a Janitor;” Dr. F. cleans up after Frank
Stinger: “And he didn’t steal no bike neither … I did!”
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (204 votes, average: 4.55 out of 5)


• And so the show tries to settle into a new routine, and largely succeeds. The movie is plenty riffable and the memorable riffs are plentiful. The host segments are still a little awkward, but the show ends on a real high note. It’s a sign of good things to come.
• This episode is included in Rhino’s Vol. 10.
• Why is Mike calling his grandma? Not his parents? Not his brother Eddie?
• That’s Mary Jo as the voice of Mike’s grandma; that’s Kevin as the voice of the waiter-baiter.
• Mike channels his TGIFridays days with the waiter-baiter invention.
• Once again we get a short apparently aimed not a grade-schoolers, or even high-schoolers, but college students. I wonder when, exactly, college students stopped listening to mental hygiene movies with 30-year-old Romulans playing the students. Still, the message of the short — take your time, let your parents give you a house — is a good one, perhaps even more so today.
• RiffTrax would later riff “How Much Affection?” which is plugged in the short’s closing credits.
• In the first segment, it’s amazing how many of those celebrity romances are no more: almost all of them. I guess that was the point, but I’m still impressed by their accuracy rate.
• What’s the deal with John Humphries, who plays Mikey? At the first Conventio-Con, he explained. He said was a complete novice to acting when the film was made, and that he took his acting cues from Jo Canterbury, the actress who played weepy girlfriend Betty, whom he knew was from New York and had some acting experience. Thus, as her performance became more teary and shrill, so did his.
• The movie was filmed in, and stars many of the residents of, Huntington, WV. The real sheriff even played the movie sheriff. As one reviewer put it, “The effect is of a small town putting on a high school play about a serial killer.”
• During the introduction to the immortal “Yipes Stripes” number, M&TB try to come up with the dirtiest band names they could get away with, including The Cramps, The Buzzcocks and The Butthole Surfers. I think at the time they were just looking for band names that were good punchlines, but all those bands are now considered pretty important.
• “Yipes Stripes” is a real earworm. I’ve been unwillingly humming it for days.
• We get a nice look at Crow’s legs in second segment, which is otherwise pretty forgettable.
• In this episode they began using something different from the traditional five-second shot of the spinning spaghetti ball when they went to commercial. The bits show closeups of Deep 13. In the first one, the camera focuses in on a datebook that gives the episode number and the name of the movie In the second, the camera pans along a workbench in Deep 13 and stops on a beaker labeled with that info. In the third, we see a blackboard with that info, then what looks to be a big spitball then hits the blackboard.
• In the theater, Servo whistles. Hmmm…
• Segment three is fun, though it goes on a little too long…and why “rime”?
• Mike and Tom are already in the theater after segment three, and Crow enters still wearing the Mikey glasses — and therefore talking like Mikey.
• Callbacks: “Cornjob!” (Gamera v. Guiron). “The Master wants you but he can’t have you.” (Manos) [Note: Mike does that one.] “You can flip any chick in the house.” (Brain That Wouldn’t Die) Also, references to “Eegah” including “Watch out for snakes!” “Mr. B Natural is in one of those lockers!”
• One thing about Mike in these early episodes (and I think somebody in the comment thread last week mentioned this) is that he seems unwilling to actually yell when the line calls for yelling. Instead he sort of whisper-yells. He sort of simulates yelling, though he’s not actually raising his voice. As he got more comfortable in the role, that kind of faded away, but it’s pretty noticeable in these early ones.
• We get another “whu-happa?”.
• The show ends with Mike’s first song as host, and it’s a winner. Mike sang it in the live show at the first conventio-con as well.
• This movie was largely made by, and featured, people who had never made a movie before and would never make a movie again. Hence, no cast and crew roundup this week.
• CreditsWatch: Host segments directed by Kevin Murphy. “The Janitor Song”: Music by: Michael J. Nelson and David Sussman. Lyrics by: Frank Conniff.
• Fave riff from the short: “A big VISA bill!”
• Fave riff: “Fortunately, the Higgins Boys and Gruber were on the scene.” Honorable mention: “Looks like mom has won some dirt track trophies.”

132 Replies to “Episode guide: 514- Teen-Age Strangler (with short: ‘Is This Love?’)”

  1. Warren says:

    I’m not sure if I’d call this a favorite but it is a good episode, Mikey can’t be forgotten once you’ve seen him. As for people asking ‘is it a strangler who’s a teenager or someone who strangles teenagers’–I’d like to point out that spoiling the movie within the first five minutes would kill any suspense.
    #49 “Answer: C. John Ensign, who plays Jimmy Walton in Teen-Age Strangler. He was 47 when he made this movie.” Ensign played Lt. Anderson, not Jimmy, so a 47-year old police Lieutenant makes sense.


  2. frankenforcer says:

    I’ll admit that the host segments are a bit rough and inconsistent in regards to humor and they just plain fell flat during the beginning of Mike’s tenure. Personally, I was happy when they stopped the invention exchange because none of those clicked with Mike’s time. However, I think you have to make allowances for this simply because, it is a learning process. None of the Brains could or would know exactly how Mike would fit in and these beginning episodes are just that, trying to find the rhythm and chemistry of Mike with the other players on the show.

    The writers, I’m sure, always wrote these host segments during the Joel era for Joel, utilizing his style, persona, delivery so that the scene and dialogue flowed naturally based on what made Joel, Joel. With Mike, there’s no way they could know how Mike would deliver this line or handle that segment. He was still finding his character, as were the writers. Learning what his timing was, how he would address the situation created in the segment for the most comedic effect. Until they found the best fit and personality of the character they couldn’t really write for him. It’s why I think the Invention Exchanges stayed for a time; they wanted to see if Mike could carry those segments.

    You have to keep in mind, Mike’s first episodes were a lot like MST’s first season, they were learning and adapting all in front of a National audience. I think we can agree that they did find Mike’s niche and the segments got better and the show shined once again in all aspects. You have to give Mike a pass, just like Frank before him, and Mary Joe after him. Season 2 was Frank’s finding of his character. Season 7 ended before the dynamic of Mother and Son could be fine tuned to fit the actors.


  3. frankenforcer says:

    Oh and I forgot to add, that I love host segment two simply because Mike pulls off that attitude and approach and older person who tries to pretend that he understands kids by using their slang and simply coming off as fake and kind of lame. He nailed that perfect.

    Also, as a single parent of one I understand where Dr. Forrester is comng from with the Frankenforcer. Still my favorite invenrtion and my namesake. I finally got to know someone special- me! nhhnnhnnnhnhnhhhhnnnn. Love Trace’s Uncle Albert inspired laugh.


  4. frankenforcer says:

    Has it ever been remarked that the Romulan’s boyfriend in the short looks alot like Jimmy’s friend who gets beat up by Buzz in the diner and whose girlfriend is strangled in the shower?


  5. frankenforcer says:

    In regards to Mike’s whispered yelling. i always assumed that was a result of his chronic headaches. I can’t imagine someone who suffers the intense pain of those regularly is willing to go full voice yelling.


  6. Lee Harvey Osmond says:

    I don’t have legit proof (my only copy is the official DVD), but I’m sure the Deep 13/non-spaghetti ball bumpers first showed up in the last episode, not this one. I mean think about it. It’s Mike’s first episode. With a new opening theme and doorway sequence, you would assume they would have replaced all the Gizmonic bumpers with Deep 13 ones in Brain, right? So why aren’t they in the last episode? Well, did anyone ever notice that the earliest Rhino DVDs actually have less bumpers than the others? Meaning that those specific ones were all most likely cut from the official release? Surely there’s somebody who still has their old tapes (when these episodes first aired) who can confirm that Brain has these bumpers? Makes me wish Shout Factory would put out more re-issues (and more Special Editions like MANOS), they haven’t done any since this past March.

    This episode’s great. Nice short, mostly good movie with Mikey being the highlight (plus two gut busting moments at the very end). Lovely song too. A real winner, five stars. Season 5 has been on a roll since Super Dragon (Lost World and Hercules were great too, Swamp Diamonds was average with a great short) and there’s still plenty of great episodes to come. This is my personal favorite era of the show.


  7. mickeybruce says:

    like many episodes, this one gets better with repeated viewings. somehow I’d forgotten about Mike’s “the master wants you, but he can’t have you” callback, and burst out laughing while watching this tonight.


  8. Ian L. says:

    The invention exchange is one of the best ones, it’s just chaos. Forrester getting increasingly aggravated with Frank’s baby crying (“I think someone needs a nap, PERMANENTLY!”), Crow and Servo’s purposefully-annoying waiter baiter (“Excuse me, pardon me, if I could just… excuse me, pardon me, if I could just…”) that plays over their chatter and Mike scurrying around- classic.


  9. goalieboy82 says:

    Is this love, or is it just rough sex with Michael Douglas?


  10. Sitting Duck says:

    Teenage Strangler passes the Bechdel Test. Betty and Ann have multiple (albeit brief) non-male conversations during the prologue.

    Though it should be noted that any conversations between Mikey and another female character wouldn’t count, since Mikey is still technically a male.

    At least Peg isn’t as anal as Sue from Are You Ready for Marriage.

    I get that these sort of shorts are expected to have a Goofus to illustrate how to do something wrong. But even so Peg seems needlessly thick.

    When I first saw this episode, I was genuinely unsure of Mikey’s gender when he was introduced.

    By Jupiter? Are they secretly pagans?

    In the first segment, it’s amazing how many of those celebrity romances are no more: almost all of them. I guess that was the point, but I’m still impressed by their accuracy rate.

    I would have been more impressed if they had a high accuracy rating for picking romances that would have lasted.

    Favorite riffs

    “The lovebirds have arrived.”
    And they’re leaving their droppings all over the place.

    Gifts given in dorms punished with expulsion.

    Well honey, looks like we’ve spawned a demon seed.

    Meanwhile, back in the cold, bitter, loveless life of her parents.

    Let’s make sweet love and have a new daughter.

    Another busy Friday night in downtown St. Paul.

    I breathe a little easier knowing the fry cook’s on the job.

    This teen joint brought to you by the Paneling Council.

    Now you’ve ruined it. No more killing all summer.

    “Where were you, then?”
    I vas in Austria during the rumble.

    The Amish kids beat me up again.

    “Tell her…”
    You’re really not my brother.

    Gary, I broke up with you while you were over there getting trashed.

    Some people might not realize that it was basically an offensive maneuver to let him slam me in the wall.

    You’re not fully dead ’til you’re Zest-fully dead.

    It wasn’t me who was murdered, was it?

    See the incredible school zone action!


  11. Bruce Boxliker says:

    Oh, don’t invoke Jupiter.

    Good episode. I’ve got to say though, as someone who’s quite susceptible to having songs stuck in my head for days, Yipe Stripes isn’t one of them. Which is odd, since it’s the only song playing through the entire movie. Or maybe the song is just so bad that I unconsciously push it out.


  12. A.J. (A Jerk) says:

    “In this episode they began using something different from the traditional five-second shot of the spinning spaghetti ball when they went to commercial. The bits show closeups of Deep 13.”

    These new bumpers actually debuted with the previous episode*. I’m not sure if most people realize this, but Rhino always cut the non-spaghetti ball bumpers out of their VHS releases, which carried over to when those episodes were re-released on DVD (up through volume 3 or so). Shout! has done a good job for the most part with re-releasing these shows and restoring these bumpers (and other things). You can find the full version of ep. 513 (and 512) together on the bonus disc included in the 25th Anniversary set.

    *and they’re with every episode to the end of Season 6, each unique to their respective show. For future reference to those of you who only own the Rhino DVDs, these episodes don’t got the bumpers either: 515 (Shout’s DVD is the same, unfortunately, but the version on the Vimeo streaming site has them all intact), 517, 518 (this is getting re-released again in September), 606, 607, 609, 619, 622


  13. Green Switch says:

    This movie was largely made by, and featured, people who had never made a movie before and would never make a movie again. Hence, no cast and crew roundup this week.

    Hal P. Warren: “Pfft. Amateurs.”

    A fun episode that’s worth some revisits. Come to think of it, I should probably rewatch this one soon.

    I want to think that anyone who was still potentially on the fence about Mike after The Brain That Wouldn’t Die became more of a believer after this one. It doesn’t hurt that Mikey is one of the most memorable characters featured in an MSTed movie. The episode in general was great, but the riffing caught on fire when Mikey popped up.

    I can see arguments both ways as to whether or not this film (and its short) should have been featured for the first Mike experiment. On one hand, you have a film that’s not as oppressively grim as The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. There was also the potential for humor with Mike trying to leave the theater after the short, only to find that he had an entire film to sit through. On the other hand, there are some great things going on in the host segments, and you would have to lose them in order to establish the Mike character and his bond with the ‘Bots. I go back and forth on this.

    Seeing the MST3K Scrapbook only makes me wish that I could have been at the Conventio-Con to hear what John Humphries had to say for the Celebrity Guest Panel.


  14. DarkGrandmaofDeath says:

    Eight years later, and I find that I like this episode more than ever. Frank in the Frankenforcer and Dr. Forrester going into rage mode cracks me up, as does Tom’s hover skirt getting stuck and disrupting the bots’ turf war, and Mike as Mikey is priceless.

    The movie is…not that bad. I mean, it’s awful, but it’s not all that bad. I like these little regional indie films, and the fact that they managed to produce something with a storyline plus a beginning, middle and end is impressive. I could probably watch this movie unriffed, if I had to. Though I’d rather not.

    One more thing. There’s a scene toward the end, with Betty and the janitor at the locker. He asks her what she’s looking for, and she says, “I’m trying to find something. Or not find it. Or something.” I always thought that her delivery was THIS CLOSE to being good – if only she’d taken some acting lessons!


  15. fry1laurie says:

    According to, Lynne “Romulan” Gorman was born in 1920, making her 37 at the time the short was made. She had quite a long career in Canadian television and film. Her boyfriend/fiancee was Craig Slocum, who was a regular in Dark Shadows in the late 1960s. He was only 22 when the short was made, and died in 1978, age 43.


  16. Dracula says:

    The “It wasn’t me that was murdered” riff cracked me up, and that lady really reminded me of some of the actors I’ve worked with in community theater in the past. This entire movie reeks of community theater, and that made it all the more entertaining to watch. Definitely one of my favorite of season 5.


  17. schippers says:

    I really like the way the movie’s title comes up with the guitar playing. It’s pretty effective. Just about the only effective thing in this movie, which is full of moments by turns perplexing and utterly charming.


  18. thequietman says:

    “And now, a firm and hearty handshake!”

    Good movie, but for me a great short. For the first one Mike did, “Is this Love?” was a real winner. I had the Shorts 3 VHS and in high school I was in a critical thinking class and at one point we were discussing ways teenagers were seen in the past versus today. Well, I talked my teacher into letting me show the short to the class. After a hurried explanation of why there were three weird characters at the bottom of the screen, I just let the thing play and it went over very well. The “We have a winner!” riff got a particularly big laugh. I did cut it off right before M&TB started reeling off their own short titles, fearing that might be a bridge too far for the teacher.

    Afterward, the short actually led to a good discussion. So, MST3k educates the youth of America! Think about it won’t you, thank you.

    As for the rest of the episode, there were no duds but the ‘Mikey Glasses’ skit I think was the first real gem from Mike’s era. It’s one that just sticks in the mind, especially Crow’s sniveling at the end. Jimmeh? Jimmeh?…


  19. Haydn 70 says:

    Uranium – 235:

    Joel’s very ‘PC’ attitude was really kind of annoying. The ‘Booing’ whenever a woman was hit was probably the most annoying.

    Exactly! Thank you, Uranium – 235. I am glad someone mentioned this. I love this show passionately–it is my favorite TV show all time–but the one negative for me is the PC stuff…in particular the ‘white male’ bashing (so very tiresome)…along with the above-mentioned item.


  20. pablum puking liberals make me sick says:

    Haydn 70: Exactly! Thank you, Uranium – 235. I am glad someone mentioned this. I love this show passionately–it is my favorite TV show all time–but the one negative for me is the PC stuff…in particular the ‘white male’ bashing (so very tiresome)…along with the above-mentioned item.

    yeah I hate women and minorities too


  21. Hotchka! says:

    The big riff for me was, “I beat myself up!” Love the short, but the way the original writers created the characters grates on me. I hate that the “lesson” is delivered by making one side saintly while the other is completely unreasonable and childish. “No! I won’t wait a few weeks more and graduate with a degree and a free house from my parents! I want to get married NOW! And no, I won’t even let me folks meet my fiance before we elope!”


  22. Johnny's nonchalance says:

    pablum puking liberals make me sick: yeah I hate women and minorities too

    “What are we gonna do?”

    “Rub your face in crunchy underwear!”

    Thus always to straw man arguments


  23. maclen says:

    My favorite part of this episode is when the mother of the heroine is talking on the phone and the poodle in her arms appears as if he’s looking down towards Crow, and Crow growls at him.


  24. Lawgiver says:

    Favorite riffs:

    Tom: Maybe this is the start of the Counter Culture. (Tom usually gets the worst/best puns.)
    Mike: Now is this a teenager who strangles or a person who strangles teenagers?
    Crow: It wasn’t me who was murdered, was it?


  25. Bat Masterson says:

    I like this episode a lot. Mike is starts to get into the flow of things, and the movie wasn’t half-bad either, it had a coherent plot, and while the acting was not very good, these were small town people not professional actors. Still, it lends itself great for riffing and I am glad that John Humphries(Mikey) was a good sport and showed up at the First Convestio-Con. I agree with Sampo about Yipes Stripes, I have had that song in my head since I watched it on the 28th of June, it’s not a half-bad song either, nonsensical yes, but no worse than professionally produced bubblegum music.
    Fave Riffs:
    “Now we’re stuck in Lake Forest!” Mike
    “I live the other way, but all right.” Servo
    “Oh. Don’t invoke Jupiter.” Mike
    “Go on. Git!” Crow


  26. Johnny Drama says:

    A grossly under rated gem. An early Mike era work of brilliance that keeps improving upon subsequent viewings. And I didn’t steal no bike neither!


  27. Bat Masterson says:

    @ 27 Yeah, I found that odd too. Even in a smallish town there are generally worse things done than stealing a bike, not to mention the huge leap from stealing property to committing murder. Maybe it was because of the time period although that still seems like a bit of an overreaction on the town’s part. I don’t think that Mikey “set up” Jimmy though, this is just my interpretation of the situation, is that Jimmy realized that Mikey couldn’t handle the consequences of his action some he took the blame.

    I always thought this film might be pretty good with an an experienced director who could calm the overacting, although that would have made the movie less memorable, so in terms of enjoyment of the movie, it’s six of one half a dozen of the other. I thought that the scenes at Jimmy’s bedroom between Mikey and Jimmy were well-handled Mikey feels guilty about Jimmy being blamed because it was his fault that Jimmy is perceived .as a ne’er-do-well in the first place and Jimmy just wants to drop it although I am sure he does feel some resentment over being falsely accused of the attacks.

    Another fave riff (I forgot who said it though):
    “Oh, no no no no no, don’t tempt me I’m a happily married man.”


  28. 70's run on car says:

    Tom. She sure makes that plaid look tasty.


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


    Uh, what would you consider a suitable alternate reaction to women being struck? Laughter? Cheers?

    Based on my personal private individual experiences, “politically correct” seems to be just another way to say “polite” or “civil.” I’ve mentioned at least once that Joel appears to be almost instinctively civil, so I suppose that works.


  30. Sitting Duck says:

    @ #129: “They have tacos.”


  31. new cornjob says:

    gotta dig that crazy mikey kid! in all his geeky glory… absolutely a fave (but fairly-new still) “mike.n” for me, since i’m still catching up with the scifi era. when i do encounter similar old fans who, like me, saw and favored more j’s vs m’s, i highly recommend trying this one out. (it does have a slightly “manos-ish” vibe for me, that kodachrome/film-positive-shot look to it… plus it’s a little less “elvis” in fashion than “attack of th’ thee eye creatures”, so it better matches the tail end of the kinds of fashions i had to grow up wearing. i guess it’s just one of those movies that reminds me a bit too much of our old family home movies – don’t ask, especially since i’m comparing them to “manos” there! ;0 ever have to sit through films of family trips to dams? -that- will try your patience…)


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

    Sitting Duck:
    @ #129: “They have tacos.”

    We now return to Non Sequitur Theater…?


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