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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: 602- Invasion U.S.A. (with short: ‘A Date with Your Family’)

Short: (1950) A typical suburban family sits down for a rigidly formal and polite dinner.
Movie: (1952) America’s failure to accept “the universal draft” dooms the nation when the Russians invade.

First shown: 7/23/94
Opening: Mike tries to build a robot; it doesn’t go well
Intro: Dr. F. gives the bots a choice: him or a wire mother?
Host segment 1: A date with M&tB
Host segment 2: Tom tricks Crow into a Lois Lane discussion
Host segment 3: M&tB get a visit from “A. Bomb” on the Hexfield
End: Tom thinks it’s all a dream, Mike reads a letter, Frank is on patrol!
Stinger: Now that’s a walk-on!
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (101 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)

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• I wouldn’t say this is an episode where the short outshines the feature, but I think the two are about evenly matched. The short is an absolute classic but the riffing of the feature is just about as good. And most of the segments are a definite step up from last week’s drab entries.
• This episode is not yet released on commercial home video.
• Again, in the opening, they make very explicit that Mike is not Joel. I remember that killbot caused quite a stir on the MSTie internet. People were trying to make replicas within hours.
• Trace does a great job in the opening. I particularly love “Yat-dat-dada-dada-FACT!”
• This week the Umbilicus is the “Umbilcon” for whatever reason.
• Great little throwaway: As Tom is examining the “mother” we can hear him mutter “…usually have two…”
• The point of the movie seems to be a pitch for what is referred to as “the universal draft,” which apparently means that the military can just waltz into a tractor factory and demand that they build tanks. The goal, of course, is fighting Communism, under which the military can just walk into a tractor factory and demand that they build tanks. Maybe that’s why we didn’t hear too much about “the universal draft” after this.
• Segment 1 is great stuff, just the sort of segment I would include in a “shorts and the host segments they inspired” collection I would love to see Shout! Factory do.
• Annoying commercial: The Odor Eaters featuring “Swamp Foot.” Honorable mention: The “Real Bowl” Comedy Central bumpers, which were distinctly unfunny.
• “It’s a long par five to the nation’s capital” was later reused in MST3K: The Movie.
• I love the neon “stand by” sign in the TV studio. It’s elegant, I’ll grant you, but pretty useless.
• This movie must have been pretty easy to make–just edit together all the stock footage you can find, along with about 20 minutes of actual movie.
• Segment 2 comes before we’ve seen any of the Lois Lanes. It probably should have been segment 3. That aside, it’s lots of fun and has a very casual feel that I like.
• Then-current riff: “Vince Coleman’s final revenge.” Coleman was an outfielder, playing for the Mets in 1993, when he threw a lit firecracker into a crowd of fans in the Dodger Stadium parking lot, injuring three children, and deservedly got into a heap o’ trouble. Honorable mention: “This is all Andrew Guiliani’s fault.” Andrew was the mischievous son of then-New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani.
• That’s comedian and MST3K writer Mike Dodge as the Bomb. Dodge joined the writing staff at the beginning of season six, and this was his only on-screen appearance. Mike’s performance is a little over the top for my tastes, but he didn’t have a lot to work with. May he rest in peace.
• Incidentally, written on the side of the Bomb is “MJ-P” and “2-27.” Feb. 27 is Mary Jo’s birthday.
• One little thing I noticed this time: during the dogfight stock footage, Crow seems to completely blow a line. Very strange, but even stranger is that his mouth movements do not synch up with the flubbed line. Which means he ACTUALLY said something else! Did the Brains actually insert a mistake??
• Cast and crew roundup: Producer Albert Zugsmith also directed last week’s offering, “Girls Town,” and producer-scriptwriter-story writer Robert Smith (neither the guy from The Cure or the NFL star) worked on “Girls Town” as well. Cinematographer John Russell worked on “Girls Town” and “Indestructible Man. Special effects guy Jack Rabin worked on “Robot Monster,” “Rocketship X-M” and “Viking Women.” Makeup guy Harry Thomas also worked on “Mad Monster,” “Project Moon Base,” “The Unearthly,” “Bride of the Monster, “Racket Girls,” “High School Big Shot” and “Night of the Blood Beast.” Production manager Ralph E. Black was a 2nd unit director for “Space Travelers.” Art director James Sullivan also worked on “Attack of the the Eye Creatures” and of course Albert Glasser did the music for many many MST3K movies.
In front of the camera, Peggie Castle also appears in “The Beginning of the End.” Robert Bice also appears in “Teen-Age Crime Wave.” William Schallert (the man who was in everything) was also in “Gunslinger” and “Hangar 18.”
• CreditsWatch: Host segments by Kevin Murphy.
• Fave riff from the short: “The less said about this the better!” Honorable mention: “Brother has a tight psychological grip on Junior.”
• Fave riff from the movie: “Well, just keep coming down until you’re not in the sky anymore! Doncha know how to land???” Honorable mention: “So, are you gonna finish the windows?”

110 Replies to “Episode guide: 602- Invasion U.S.A. (with short: ‘A Date with Your Family’)”

  1. thequietman says:

    Well, London is burning but what about New York?

    Boy, once again the short’s reputation preceded itself with me thanks to Rhino’s original Shorts compilations. I think it might hold the record for the most ‘complete the sentence’ or ‘call and answer’ riffs and every single one lands.

    Fave riff:
    The dinner is started and they’re all happy about it.
    Mike: Their stomachs knotted like FISTS!

    As for the feature, oh boy, this was a turgid little number wasn’t it? Has anyone else here seen the documentary “The Atomic Cafe”? I’m surprised footage from this didn’t make it into the former. Aside from depicting American’s as hopelessly incompetent (the window washer actually raises a good question, why do Americans in movies seem to think rushing barehanded at someone pointing a machine gun at them will work?) it depicts the ‘enemy’ as literally unstoppable. Unless all that stuff from President No-Face about ‘returning three for every one’ was just feel-good pablum, where were all those enemy planes and soldiers continuing to come from?

    Fave riff:
    So World War III is going to look a lot like World War II?

       0 likes

  2. Cornjob says:

    Tanks made from tractors could be equipped with tractor beams.

       8 likes

  3. John Seavey says:

    Ted H.: The Germans found some of their best English speakers, stuck them in US Army Uniforms, and let them cause a little havoc behind the lines at the start of the Battle of the Bulge.It is a tactic that has been used in reality.It may or may not violate the Laws of War, depending on what the troops in the false uniforms do.The leader of the German force was acquitted of violating the rules of war, as what his unit did was considered a legitimate act of sabotage.

    I understand that spies and saboteurs will disguise themselves as enemy troops, but this film seems to indicate that the entire Communist force was dressing up as American soldiers. That’s not going to be workable on that scale because in a pitched battle, which the movie again seems to (the limited budget makes it hard to know for sure) indicate is happening, you need to know which side is your side or otherwise the simplest “fog of war” distraction could lead to you massacring your own side.

       4 likes

  4. littleaimishboy says:

    “Hey, you guys over there! We’re invaders! Are you invaders too?”

    “Yah, sure, you betcha.”

    “Okay, then tell us the name of Moscow Dynamo’s star goalkeeper!”

    “Um, uh, ummmm …”

    “Fire!”

       3 likes

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

    MikeK:
    I like the short and the movie is nice and weird, but dull.

    The short is one of my favorites, as I first saw it on the Shorts collection from Rhino.The completely stiff dinner is laughable, and yet kind of practical.I really can’t fault them for the basic ideaof just finishing one’s meal in peace.

    My favorite riff from this one, of course, is “The less said about this, the better,” as the teenage son pulls the chair out for his mother.

    Invasion U.S.A.

    I’m glad Mike referenced the Chuck Norris movie of the same name. (Coincidentally, that movie stars Richard Lynch, who played the grandma-looking guy in the movie Werewolf.)

    What I find odd about the movie is that the whole scenario is basically an argument for defense spending. Also, why does the army need a guy’s tractor factory to make tanks?You’d think they would already have a contractor in place for the sort of thing?

    Cool thing in the movie:Wall mounted TV in a bar, a very common thing today.

    Missed opportunity: No Robocop references made, despite the presence of Dan O’Herlihy, who played the “Old Man” CEO of OCP in Robocop.

    Villainy was Richard Lynch’s stock-in-trade. During the action-packed eighties, he was one of the go-to guys when a film wanted terrorists. It’s a veritable crime that his only MST3Ked film was so far from his milieu. It took me a while to find the correct spelling of that word, too.

       3 likes

  6. Cornjob says:

    I heard somewhere that Richard Lynch got burned badly while taking LSD. Never take an acid trip without a competent guide.

       0 likes

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

    Or, y’know, refrain entirely from ingesting illegal drugs. Whichever.

    Personally, I’m just high on life.
    (for maximum effectiveness, please imagine that being said in the flattest monotone imaginable; thanks)

       3 likes

  8. Cornjob says:

    “Say Mike, did we just do something horribly wrong?”

    “I think so.”

       0 likes

  9. Richard the Lion-Footed says:

    Those aren’t my tomatoes!:
    The “mother” bot has always creeped me out. I’m not sure why – I can’t quite put my nipple, I mean finger, on it.

    I felt the same way when I saw the ACTUAL film of the physiological experiment this is based on. In college, of course, and it was with monkeys as you can expect. They used the idea in Big Bang Theory when Lenard told of making a “hugging Machine” just to feel some warmth, and his father would borrow it.

       1 likes

  10. Michael Howe says:

    I find this one-two punch of short and film, is like the opposite of how I take “Cheating,” and “Wild World of Batwoman.” Here, “Invasion USA” is just an interesting piece of ridiculous 50’s propaganda.

    One has to wonder how something like this could be made today, when you have persons talk about cutting back on Military spending…oh, you just know some would dig deep into their psyches for how we’d be doomed if we scaled back.

    This film makes it sound like defense spending was curbed so much, that only about 500 soldiers were left to guard the entire country, given how the ‘invaders’ encountered almost no resistance.

    Plus, there’s the ridiculousness of how everything is atomic. I’m surprised they didn’t have the enemy using ‘atomic bullets.’

    Also, it does make me wonder how one could do group hypnosis, if some people ‘die’ before the trance ends…do they just end up in a black mental abyss?

    Though deep down, I feel Ohman is actually on the enemy’s side, going into different places, making average Americans so paranoid they’ll overthink everything.

       1 likes

Comments are closed.