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Sampo & Erhardt

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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: 520- Radar Secret Service (with short: Last Clear Chance)

Short: (1959) Union Pacific scare film aiming to teach drivers to pay better attention at railroad crossings.
Movie: (1950) Government agents use the incredible power of radar to track down some crooks dealing in black market atomic “material.”

First shown: 12/18/93
Opening: Mike performs Crow’s maintenance checkup, but has no idea what he’s doing
Invention exchange/Intro: Mike has an escape plan, The Mads have created Hypno-helio-static-stasis
Host segment 1: Trooper Tom presents: “Why Don’t They Look?”
Host segment 2: The bots simulate Mike’s 10-year high school reunion
Host segment 3: Driven mad by the movie, Mike and Crow build the Quinn Martin Nature Preserve
End: The Mads are beaten by Ecstato-euphoro-fun (with patented Hinder 90)
Stinger: Hysterical maid
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (187 votes, average: 4.18 out of 5)


• Very good short, very dull movie. This one is reminiscent of episode 319- WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST, where the short tail wags the movie dog, as it were. As the Brains note, the gray, dull, men in gray or black suits and gray or black hats are almost indistinguishable (except for Sid Melton), and for long stretches the movie just lays there. (Each side even has a guy with a mustache!) The Brains try their best — in fact they do a pretty good job, and there are some great riffs — but this is a middling episode at best.
• This episode is included in Shout’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection Vol. XXXII.
• More differentiation between Joel and Mike in the opening, as Mike attempts something Joel did easily, and fails miserably. Crow is hilarious. “Help me!”
• I like how Gypsy just kind of nibbles on Crow to fix him.
• Crow’s sensible slacks make a re-appearance.
• The Poopie tape has a very funny outtake of the Hypno Helio Static Stasis sketch: The entire wall behind Frank falls over and Frank and Trace just go with it.
• It’s in this episode that the invention exchange kind of fades away and becomes a general intro. Hypno-helio-static-stasis is sort of an invention, but nobody calls it that. And Mike is just busy trying to escape.
• Crow still has panties on his head when he enters the theater after the opening. Mike quickly removes them. (I like the way Trace improvs a spitting noise when one gets caught in his beak.)
• The short is one of the show’s finest hours. They showed this one at the Museum of TV and Film event in Los Angeles, on a big screen, and the audience was just roaring with laughter. It was, I think the only time I saw people literally, not figuratively, falling out of their theater seats with laughter. It really reminded me how much more fun watching the show is with a group.
• Segment 1 is one of those great short-followup sketches. It’s too bad that BBI never thought to release a tape of shorts that also included their follow-up sketches.
• As of this episode Best Brains was STILL under the mistaken impression that Sam Newfield directed “Jungle Goddess,” something they also said in “I Accuse My Parents.” I wonder if there was some error in the edition of Maltin’s movie guide that they were using.
• Then-current references: the now-defunct Nashville Network and long-forgotten series “Powers That Be.”
• Callbacks: Dr. F references “Rock climbing” (Lost Continent) and “Deep hurting” (Hercules Against the Moon Men) and Frank refers to “Fire Maidens.” “Send up some gas juice! You know, laugh water!” (The Beatniks), “No waffles!”, Servo sings a little of “Are You Happy in Your Work” (I Accuse My Parents), “But there was no monster” (Monster A-Go-Go).
• Non-spaghetti ball bumpers: pan to blackboard as something that looks like a catcher’s mitt flies by; pan down to the notebook; pan to beaker.
• Mike mentions “The Nagely capers” during a shot of highway. Anybody know what that is? I asked Mike on Twitter. He doesn’t remember.
• In addition to all the similar-looking men, Crow seems to have trouble keeping the two women in the plot straight. When they finally appear in the same scene, he is dumbfounded.
• Ward E has a list of all the things they call that radar ball thingy on top of the car.
• Cast and crew roundup: I will not go through the Lippert litany again. Producer Barney A. Sarecky was associate producer for “The Corpse Vanishes” and production supervisor for “Undersea Kingdom.” Sam Newfield also directed “Lost Continent,” “Mad Monster” and “I Accuse My Parents” but NOT “Jungle Goddess,” as noted above. Special effects guy Ray Mercer also worked on “Lost Continent,” “I Accuse My Parents,” “The Sinister Urge” and “The Beast of Yucca Flats.” Art director Fred Preble also worked on “Mad Monster.” Set designer Harry Reif also worked on “I Accuse My Parents,” “Women of the Prehistoric Planet” and “The She-Creature” and was assistant director on “Gunslinger.” In front of the camera, Sid Melton was also in “Lost Continent.” Ralph Byrd WAS actually in “Jungle Goddess.” Robert Kent was also in “The Phantom Creeps.” Pierre Watkin was also in “Beginning of the End.” Tristram Coffin was also in “The Corpse Vanishes,” “The Crawling Hand” and “The Brute Man.” Tom Neal was also in “The Brute Man.”
• CreditsWatch: Host segments directed by Kevin Murphy. Charles A. Zimmermann joins the staff as editor. He will continue through the rest of the season and for the first 10 episodes of season six.
• Fave riff from the short: “I’m the impish officer of death.” Honorable mention: “…spilled my youth like cheap gin…anyway!”
• Fave riff from the movie: “It’s not the radar, it’s size of the amplitude, if you know what I mean!” Honorable mention: “Not in a strictly Cartesian sense…”

As we do every time we get to this point, we will skip the next episode, 521- SANTA CLAUS, and save it for the holiday season. Next week we will move on to 522- TEENAGE CRIME WAVE.

113 Replies to “Episode guide: 520- Radar Secret Service (with short: Last Clear Chance)”

  1. DKinMN says:

    -Tom Servo mentions “The Nagely capers” during a shot of highway. Anybody know what that is?

    Here’s a shot, pure speculation on my part: Naegele Outdoor Advertising (which has since been purchased by another company) at one time owned lots of billboards around Minnesota (and perhaps other states – I have no clue as to whether they were national, regional, or local in scope). “The Naegele capers” could have just been a reference to highway billboards.


  2. Cornjob says:

    Why is it that safety shorts provide valuable information that can be used to prolong one’s life and health while simultaneously making you want to kill yourself? And, “why don’t they look?”, (holding pencil on my upper lip as I type).


  3. thequietman says:

    I’ve loved this short from the time I first saw it on the Shorts Vol. 2 tape. It was nice to finally see the episode so I could understand why Crow was draped with underwear as they enter the theater (Gypsy’s quiet “This is wrong…” at Crow’s Underoo giddiness was a big laugh). The short also has what might be my favorite call-and-answer riff:

    (as train noisily passes young couple)
    Servo: I have no feelings for you!
    Crow: What?
    Servo: This is a loveless relationship, I want out!
    Crow: Wh-what?
    Servo: I’m repulsed by your touch!
    Crow: WHAT??
    Servo: Let me out right here! I hate you!

    As for the film, not even the magic of RADAR! can disguise a sub-PRC grade crime flick that has nothing that hadn’t been done far better several times before. It’s the sort of film that begins to leave your mind almost the minute it ends (and perhaps before).


  4. Happenstance says:

    It’s strange, but of all of Lippert’s messes I find RSS to be the most tolerable. Perhaps it’s the familiar presence of Ralph Byrd, who played Dick Tracy in some of those rotten movies, here playing the whiny sidekick; maybe it’s the earnest plight of the girl in love with the punk in jail, as she’s the movie’s real hero. Maybe it’s Monkey Boy, and the mystery of whatever happened to his character. Heck, it might be the excitement with which Boss Man declares radar’s ability to solve every problem known to man. Or perhaps it’s a combo platter.

    Either way, it’s a watchable movie but not a good one, so I’m down with the MST3K version AND the normal version.

    The segment with Mike and the Bots applying the lessons of Last Clear Chance to sandwiches and lint traps makes me bray so hard with laughter as to risk internal injury.


  5. Terry the Sensitive Knight says:

    Happenstance: Heck, it might be the excitement with which Boss Man declares radar’s ability to solve every problem known to man.

    One thing I love about movies from this era is the confidence that modern tech can solve all of mankind’s problems.

    I miss that kind of can-do, gung-ho optimism.


  6. Steve K says:

    Confession time: sometimes I drift away from the screen, especially when it’s just a static gray picture with a wall of credits as in the beginning of this movie.

    So for the longest time, I heard what I though was Mike singing “Blue Asher is here” to the tune in the opening credits.

    I thought it was a reference, but I couldn’t place it. Even looked it up online and found nothing.

    Well, I just got this on DVD in set 32, and was actually paying attention to the credits this time:

    Property Master … Lou Asher

    Mike was just singing the credits.


  7. Cornjob says:

    Radar is GOD!


  8. Sitting Duck says:

    BTW Sampo, are we doing Santa Claus next week, or are you going to hold that out for December?


  9. Johnny's nonchalance says:

    -Tom Servo mentions “The Nagely capers” during a shot of highway. Anybody know what that is?

    Here’s a shot, pure speculation on my part:Naegele Outdoor Advertising (which has since been purchased by another company) at one time owned lots of billboards around Minnesota (and perhaps other states – I have no clue as to whether they were national, regional, or local in scope).“The Naegele capers” could have just been a reference to highway billboards.

    I second this explanation. I was watching it last night and Servo says the Naegele capers at the exact moment two giant billboards are in the background. As a lifelong resident of the Twin Cities, the first thing I thought of was the name on every billboard in the area. I did a google image search for Naegele billboard. You can see the name on the billboard in the first handful of images:

    Look closely around the outside border of the billboard. The name Naegele is printed in white surround by a black oval. As a bonus, a few of the billboards are for Red Owl- an old grocery store chain that I remember them singing the jingle from.

    This also from an online search: As of March 12, 1996, Naegele Outdoor Advertising Company was acquired by Universal Outdoor, Inc. Naegele Outdoor Advertising Company provides products and services to the outdoor advertising markets in four states. The company is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


  10. Cornjob says:

    The world is a bleak awful place in which nearly every inanimate object hates you personally and actively conspires to violently maim, cripple, and kill you before publicly defiling your corpse. Our only hope is holy radar. But should we pray for radar, or to radar?


  11. littleaimishboy says:

    Okay, but why “capers”?


  12. JeremyR says:

    While the radar aspect was silly, I thought the story of the movie itself was pretty decent.


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