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Episode guide: 603- The Dead Talk Back (with short: ‘The Selling Wizard’)

Short: (1954) An industrial number showcasing the attributes of grocery store refrigeration units, with the help of shapely model.
Movie: (1957) A paranormal researcher claims he has invented a device that will permit communication with the dead. Oh, it’s true.

First shown: 7/30/94
Opening: Gypsy calls a fire drill
Intro: Dr. F. tries pin-point cigarette marketing on Mike
Host segment 1: Crow’s radio talk show: “The Dead Talk Back”
Host segment 2: M&tB are “The Dead”
Host segment 3: Dr. F. tries his hand at interrogation and Frank quickly cracks; meanwhile, the guitar solo continues
End: Crow is still playing, Tom is acting up, Gypsy starts another fire drill, Mike reads a letter, Dr. F. practices his crossbow skills
Stinger: Woman screams after seeing dead body
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (239 votes, average: 4.42 out of 5)

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• This is a weird episode, featuring an odd short and even odder movie. It’s fun, but not a favorite of mine.
• This episode was included on Rhino’s Vol. 8.
• Though clearly made in the ’50s, the movie was never released until it was discovered and purchased by a low-budget video company in the 1990s.
• I wonder if the fire drill segment led to the later fire safety PSA that they did.
• It’s the “umbilicon” again in this episode.
• The short is a bit of departure. This is what is known as an “industrial,” quite a different animal from the mental hygiene shorts they’d mostly done up until now. I’m not sure it always works for MST3K, as in this case. This may be my least favorite short MST3K ever did.
• Callback: “Plenty of lip and tongue action” (from the speech short). Frank says “I killed that fat barkeep” (The Beatniks)
• Spaghetti ball bumpers: beaker, film canister, book.
• Then-current reference: “James Farentino visits Tina Sinatra.” Farentino was charged with stalking his former girlfriend, Tina Sinatra, in 1993.
• “Oh, its true!” became a frequent callback in many future episodes.
• Segment 1 features the voice of Trace, one of the few times he ever did a “guest spot” on the show.
• Say what you want, Churchill was right about the Bills.
• The Rhino release of this episode had some encoding problems and was reissued.
• I was never much of a deadhead. I liked ’em, but a little guitar jamming goes a long way for me. Gypsy seems pretty natural as one, though.
• The closeup on Crow’s guitar gives us a close look at the stick that controls Gypsy’s jaw.
• Later in segment 2, Mike is folding Crow’s sensible slacks. He really DID get a lot of wear out of them!
• I had a nice Twitter DM back and forth with Andy LaCasse, who performed the “cheesy guitar solo.”
LaCasse said: “The director [that would have been Jim, he directed the host segments for that episode] kept laughing out loud and asking me if I could make it more grating and irritating. I said I could, and I did!”
He also recalls: “I brought my 1-year-old daughter, Kayla, with me to the studio. The writers whisked her away for a while. Later, the video guys [that would have been Brad and Tim] let her play with the controls on the video editing machine. The scene had already been shot, so I followed Crow’s hands as he played.”
On the technical side, he notes: “I played a cheap copy of a Fender Stratocaster with EMG pickups through a Big Jam Spit Wah pedal straight into the MST3K video editor.”
“My daughter had a great time and the writers adored her,” he concluded. “I had a blast! Definitely a career highlight for me. It’s still on my résumé.”
• Crow is still wearing his Grateful Dead costume when he reenters the theater. Mike removes it.
• No cast and crew roundup this week. Similar to “Teenage Strangler,” this appears to have been a cast that largely never did anything else.
• Creditswatch: Host segments directed by Jim Mallon. Sarah Wisner does Post Production Coordination with Ellen McDonough for two episodes, instead of Jann Johnson. This is the last of three episodes where Tim Scott gets an audio mixing credit. This is the first of five episodes where Brad Keely gets a lighting credit. This is the last time we see Director of Operations Jeffrey P. Young in the credits. (He lasted all of three episodes and I would LOVE to heard THAT backstage story.) “Cosmic Freight Train” written and arranged by: Michael J. Nelson, Paul Chaplin and David Sussman.
• Fave riff from the short: “But don’t put your tongue on it!” Honorable mention: “Wow, that was close. She was mad!”
• Fave riff from the movie: “Well! I’m going home for lunch.” Honorable mention: “…than springtime are you, sir.”

157 Replies to “Episode guide: 603- The Dead Talk Back (with short: ‘The Selling Wizard’)”

  1. JeremyR says:

    I find this movie fascinating. It’s an interesting look at the lower class of the 1950s in a way you don’t often see. Even in 1950s crime movies, they are almost always more about gangsters, not everyday people..

    Here you have the proverbial bad girl (the victim), a crazy religious fanatic, a pervert (that german guy), a weirdo (Krasker), another weirdo (the photographer), a dimwit (the landlady’s daughter), and a loser (the murderer). Very much different than the normal cast of a 1950s movie. Much earthier, more realistic, the sort of human flotsam you’d actually find in a run down boarding house.

       7 likes

  2. Stargazer says:

    [The Original] Stan McSerr, Destroyer of worlds:
    dakotaboy (136), you are making the Selling Wizard angry. .But to all fairness, she is cute when she is angry.

    The pizza dominatrix!

       4 likes

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

    For those who have issues with the title, remember, it only said “The Dead Talk Back.” It didn’t say that the dead were going to talk back to these particular people at that particular point…

       3 likes

  4. goalieboy82 says:

    off topic but found this about Robert Easton:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4FuS5cJvvI

       1 likes

  5. Cornjob says:

    Watching Dr. F’s expression while Franks confesses and goes insane is one of my favorite MST moments. The progression from “Here we go again”, to “You see what I have to deal with”, to “Oh my, it’s bad this time. I’m not sure Frank’s coming back this time.” is priceless.

       5 likes

  6. Jeyl says:

    Wait, they reissued the DVD?! I still have the problematic one! Shoot. Missed the boat on that one.

       0 likes

  7. Ray Dunakin says:

    goalieboy82:
    off topic but found this about Robert Easton:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4FuS5cJvvI

    Thanks for that link! I saw Robert Easton’s obituary in the paper when he passed away a few years ago and that was when I first heard about his work as a dialect coach. This interview was very interesting, and he seems to have been a fascinating individual.

       1 likes

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