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Weekend Discussion Thread: Worst Exposition in a MSTed Movie

Alert regular Sitting Duck notes:

In film and television, conveying exposition through character dialogue that sounds natural isn’t easy. So it’s no surprise that many MST3K movie writers aren’t always up to the task. What character dialogue exposition did you find particularly clumsy or awkward? Mine comes from “I Accuse My Parents” where, in a textbook example of the “as you know” style of exposition, Kitty has to be reminded by her roommate about the existence of her mob boss sugar daddy.

My pick is from “Slime People:” “Now, we’ve always known that there are fish in the ocean, haven’t we?”

What’s your pick?

Keep those WDT suggestions coming!

44 Replies to “Weekend Discussion Thread: Worst Exposition in a MSTed Movie”

  1. DarkGrandmaofDeath
    Ignored
    says:

    The first scene between Mila and her dad in Cave Dwellers, as Mila’s dad explains it all, is quite painful…and long. So, so long, so interminable. Is there any other MSTied movie that has so much exposition? Is there any other that includes flashbacks to other movies as part of the exposition? Not sure, but I know the Old Guy monologue really hurts.

       16 likes

  2. jay
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    says:

    This is a toughie this week.
    Although he was not technically a character in the movie I nominate Dr. Frank Baxter, the “Gesture Professor” from THE MOLE PEOPLE. In the fifties when a fifty foot woman and ping-pong eyeballed aliens were found on the silver screen the makers of this movie found it necessary to have an English professor explain the premise of a supposedly hollow Earth to legitimize their story. Of course, they could have had Dr. Baxter the ENGLISH professor explain what exposition means.

       18 likes

  3. skrag2112
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    says:

    In ‘Amazing Colossal Man’ when Dr Linstrom gives a long explanation about Glenn’s heart growing at a slower rate than the rest of his body, and refers to the heart as just “one big cell” is just eye-rollingly wrong.

       14 likes

  4. Yeti of Great Danger
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    says:

    There’s worst as in “incorrect information” (the heart being “one big cell”), there’s worst as in “hello, Captain Obvious” (Sampo’s example of Kitty’s roommate), and then there’s worst as in painful to listen to and watch. I nominate the skin-walker exposition scene in the lab in “Werewolf.” It’s slow and boring when it could have been interesting, but of course we have to consider that Noel had to dumb it waaaay down for his audience of Yuri and Natalie.

       6 likes

  5. Kenneth Morgan
    Ignored
    says:

    jay:
    This is a toughie this week.
    Although he was not technically a character in the movie I nominate Dr. Frank Baxter, the “Gesture Professor” from THE MOLE PEOPLE.In the fifties when a fifty foot woman and ping-pong eyeballed aliens were found on the silver screen the makers of this movie found it necessary to have an English professor explain the premise of a supposedly hollow Earth to legitimize their story.Of course, they could have had Dr. Baxter the ENGLISH professor explain what exposition means.

    I would disagree with that, mainly because Frank “Gesture Professor” Baxter makes it actually sound interesting. You even start to wish they’d made the movie about one of the theories he’d mentioned rather than another John Agar smug-fest.

       11 likes

  6. mando3b
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    says:

    Alan Hale on the phone repeating everything the person on the other end is saying in Giant Spider Invasion: one of the oldest, tiredest, lamest exposition tricks in the business.

       18 likes

  7. yelling_into_the_void
    Ignored
    says:

    DarkGrandmaofDeath:
    Is there any other MSTied movie that has so much exposition?Is there any other that includes flashbacks to other movies as part of the exposition?

    I think about half of Robot vs. Aztec Mummy is told as flashback.

       6 likes

  8. jay
    Ignored
    says:

    One could make the case that A CASE OF SPRING FEVER is nothing but exposition. Totally, completely, absolutely unnecessary exposition.

       12 likes

  9. Sarrinsor
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    An hour into Angel’s Revenge: “That was a long flashback.”

       12 likes

  10. Son of Peanut
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    If we’re counting boring and needless narration, then The Creeping Terror takes the prize. The narrator literally exposits a conversation while it’s in progress. He’s a renegade narrator on the loose, but he gets results!

       9 likes

  11. Son of Peanut
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    says:

    I always laugh at the forced exposition scene in Horrors of Spider Island. “Remember, we work for the professor and we’ve been gone six months.”

       7 likes

  12. Kevin Wallace
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    says:

    As we watch Monster A Go-Go we don’t realize until the end of the film that.. There was no Monster!
    Think of it as “Stealth Exposition”

       9 likes

  13. RedZoneTuba
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    says:

    In Colossus and the Headhunters the exposition to Macheesesteak is so long that he has to periodically prompt it to continue with “Then what happened?”.

       6 likes

  14. mando3b
    Ignored
    says:

    Son of Peanut:
    If we’re counting boring and needless narration, then The Creeping Terror takes the prize. The narrator literally exposits a conversation while it’s in progress. He’s a renegade narrator on the loose, but he gets results!

    He’s a renegade narrator who also exposits stuff we don’t need or want to know, like Martin’s life now that he’s married. Somebody stop him, he needs real help!

       4 likes

  15. mando3b
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    says:

    The flip side is when we desperately need exposition and don’t get it: for example, why are the bad scientists so intent on ruining Bryant Halliday’s projection experiments? No one ever tells us!

       9 likes

  16. jay
    Ignored
    says:

    Kevin Wallace:
    As we watch Monster A Go-Go we don’t realize until the end of the film that.. There was no Monster!
    Think of it as “Stealth Exposition”

    So what you are saying is …

    But there was no exposition. BWA HA HA!!

       6 likes

  17. GreenLuthor
    Ignored
    says:

    Son of Peanut:
    If we’re counting boring and needless narration, then The Creeping Terror takes the prize. The narrator literally exposits a conversation while it’s in progress. He’s a renegade narrator on the loose, but he gets results!

    If narration counts, I’d have to nominate The Beast of Yucca Flats. Who needs dialogue when you can just have the narrator do all the talking instead?

       5 likes

  18. Say No To Yes
    Ignored
    says:

    DarkGrandmaofDeath:
    The first scene between Mila and her dad in Cave Dwellers, as Mila’s dad explains it all, is quite painful…and long. So, so long, so interminable. Is there any other MSTied movie that has so much exposition?Is there any other that includes flashbacks to other movies as part of the exposition?Not sure, but I know the Old Guy monologue really hurts.

    “This is the part of the film we like to call, She Had To Ask.”

    Q. How much clunky, awkward exposition is in this film?
    A. Miles O’Exposition.

       8 likes

  19. Yeti of Great Danger
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    says:

    mando3b:
    The flip side is when we desperately need exposition and don’t get it: for example, why are the bad scientists so intent on ruining Bryant Halliday’s projection experiments? No one ever tells us!

    Indeed! The entirety of “Hobgoblins” would qualify for “where’s the exposition when you need it?”

       2 likes

  20. Brock Lee Rubberband
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    says:

    The Amazing Transparent Man – “Locks mean nothing to him”

       2 likes

  21. littleaimishboy
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    And then there’s Doc Lockhart, Dean of Exposition at Insane Hogcallers University.

       5 likes

  22. DarkGrandmaofDeath
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    Yeti of Great Danger: Indeed!The entirety of “Hobgoblins” would qualify for “where’s the exposition when you need it?”

    I think I’d be afraid of catching an STD from any Hobgoblins exposition.

       4 likes

  23. DarkGrandmaofDeath
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    says:

    yelling_into_the_void: I think about half of Robot vs. Aztec Mummy is told as flashback.

    Yes, I’d forgotten about that one; lucky me!

    Say No To Yes:

    Q. How much clunky, awkward exposition is in this film?
    A. Miles O’Exposition.

    NICE!

       3 likes

  24. The Original EricJ
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    says:

    It’s hard to outdo “She HAD to Ask…” from Cave Dwellers, but there’s also the several minutes of narration explaining WHY the Sam Heck we see a mushroom cloud at the end (which is conveniently drowned out by the guys’ reactions of “…The hell??
    Apparently, the “It is everything…and nothing” (“Er, could you be a little more specific?”) that the old guy was guarding was prehistoric uranium, and, the narrator tells us, IF such a power should ever fall into the wrong hands, um, this would happen. But that, fortunately, we have Ator to ride to the rescue, and he doesn’t even need hazmat gear.

    I’m still not sure why we got seven minutes of flashback in Jungle Goddess ruefully criticizing America’s pre-war isolationism, just to tell us that our heroine’s plane crashed in a jungle–

    But, for science exposition, there’s also Dr. Bellows explaining rocket science in Project Moonbase:
    “The space station–“
    “Or ‘Frisbee’.”
    “Will send a ship–“
    “Or ‘Batteries’.”
    “Directly to the moon.”
    “Or ‘Playground ball.'”

       4 likes

  25. Jason Davis
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    says:

    The phantom planet for me is the worst exposition. The whole film is just scene after scene of exposition. Then you have colleen grey aka leech woman acting like a game show model and pointing out what this and that does and the next scene she still doing the same thing. It never ends.

       7 likes

  26. Johnny Drama
    Ignored
    says:

    I nominate Mighty Jack. Wait, does no exposition count? ;)

       5 likes

  27. IR5
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    The dual narrators in The Dead Talk Back. And to think, the narrators talked back for an hour, but- the DEAD never did!!

       6 likes

  28. Sitting Duck
    Ignored
    says:

    DarkGrandmaofDeath:
    The first scene between Mila and her dad in Cave Dwellers, as Mila’s dad explains it all, is quite painful…and long. So, so long, so interminable. Is there any other MSTied movie that has so much exposition?Is there any other that includes flashbacks to other movies as part of the exposition?Not sure, but I know the Old Guy monologue really hurts.

    Provides great opportunities for tack-on riffs, though.

    “The next most important thing…”
    Is peanut butter.

    “As Ator nursed his wounds…”
    I nursed a Scotch.

    “When you’ve reached the ends of the Earth…”
    Ask for Earl.

    Kenneth Morgan: I would disagree with that, mainly because Frank “Gesture Professor” Baxter makes it actually sound interesting. You even start to wish they’d made the movie about one of the theories he’d mentioned rather than another John Agar smug-fest.

    A movie about John Adams’ idiot son Quincy and his attempts to green light an expedition to the North Pole to prove the Earth is hollow would be box office gold. The only question is should it be a historical drama or a comedy.

    yelling_into_the_void: I think about half of Robot vs. Aztec Mummy is told as flashback.

    That strikes me as a rather conservative estimate. I’d figure it would be in the range of two-thirds.

    mando3b:
    The flip side is when we desperately need exposition and don’t get it: for example, why are the bad scientists so intent on ruining Bryant Halliday’s projection experiments? No one ever tells us!

    Probably academic pettiness and grant grubbing. While vindictive bickering is more commonly associated with the humanities, I wouldn’t be surprised if those in the sciences are just as bad. Also the rival scientist likely resents that the money he thinks should go to his own research is being used on what could easily be seen as a crackpot scam.

       3 likes

  29. Terry the Sensitive Knight
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    says:

    It’s funny, I was just thinking about this earlier. I always love dialog where the characters tell each other things they should already know, for the “benefit” of we the audience.

    My favorite is in ‘Terror From the Year 5000’ where Dr. Hedges has to pointedly explain what Carbon-14 dating is to his incredibly loud, screeching secretary.

       3 likes

  30. Terry the Sensitive Knight
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    says:

    Son of Peanut:
    I always laugh at the forced exposition scene in Horrors of Spider Island. “Remember, we work for the professor and we’ve been gone six months.”

    This is another favorite of mine. I also enjoy Sargent Exposition and Officer Plot Point from ‘Hellcats’

       4 likes

  31. Cornjob
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    says:

    As something of a writer I appreciate how hard it can be to weave in exposition without it thudding like a lead balloon. Maybe the worst exposition in MST for me is the beginning of The Deadly Mantis. Not only did a narrator drone on and on about about the DEW line, it had nothing to do with the damn bug, or anything really.

       9 likes

  32. Sitting Duck
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    says:

    Terry the Sensitive Knight:
    My favorite is in ‘Terror From the Year 5000’ where Dr. Hedges has to pointedly explain what Carbon-14 dating is to his incredibly loud, screeching secretary.

    To be fair, Carbon-14 dating was still pretty new at the time the film was released, having been first developed during the late 1940s.

       2 likes

  33. mando3b
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    says:

    One of the major reasons that Santa Claus is MST fodder instead of just another innocuous kids’ Christmas movie is the nattering English-language narrator who is constantly gabbling in our ear in his faux-enthusiastic voice about stuff on the screen we could probably figure out for ourselves. Back off, man, let the movie breathe! (On the other hand, he did give us the classic “No, Lupita!” . . .)

       6 likes

  34. GareChicago
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    says:

    Rifftrax, I know, but the whole Criswell thing at the beginning… oy.

    The beginning-ish of Sword and the Dragon kind of drones on, but at least it actually sets the stage well. Still, by the 3rd or 4th plot point intro, even the guys are like “How many prologues does this movie need??”

    Gare

       4 likes

  35. Terry the Sensitive Knight
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    says:

    ooh, another good one is the beginning of Final Justice where the sheriff-director Greydon Clark goes into great detail as to why he’s stuck with Joe Don Baker

       4 likes

  36. Endoplasmic Reticulum
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    Of course, they could have had Dr. Baxter the ENGLISH professor explain what exposition means.

    I’ve wondered if Professor Baxter’s film career had something to do with the director’s mistress needing a passing grade in English.

       2 likes

  37. Joseph Klemm
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    says:

    Along with the aforementioned “the heart is a single cell” thing, I’d also have to mention Paul’s story of how me met Bigfoot in Cry Wilderness. It is not because of how awkward this exposition is, but rather the fact that it’s a complete failure of the “show, don’t tell” rule. For a plot point that is important (and a film that is not a sequel to something), Paul meeting Bigfoot and receiving the “Life Alert medallion” from him should have been something that was shown on screen, not something that is negated to just something Paul mentions at the start of the film (with the only hint of this incident being a cave filled with Coke cans).

       3 likes

  38. Trumpys Dad
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    says:

    How about Women of the Prehistoric Planet? How many times to they explain that time goes slower when traveling at near light speed? Did they ever make any sense? And then they made fun of the guy that said he didn’t get the Time Paradox. And yet you could tell that the writers really thought they were being funny while describing it.

       2 likes

  39. jay
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    Endoplasmic Reticulum: I’ve wondered if Professor Baxter’s film career had something to do with the director’s mistress needing a passing grade in English.

    Dr. Frank Baxter had a fairly prolific second career doing exposition for educational films such as the Bell Laboratories film HEMO THE MAGNIFICENT which was about blood and blood cells. I had to sit through it in eighth grade science class while the coach/teacher went outside to smoke. Dr. Baxter had a pleasant demeanor and good on-screen presence and his expositioning was often the most enjoyable thing about the film.

    PS – Can you guess what HEMO THE MAGNIFICENT turned into in the muttering mouths of middle school boys?

       6 likes

  40. The Grim Specter of Food
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    says:

    Zigra’s motivations in Gamera vs. Zigra
    Part the first: Somehow humans are beaming pollution to other planets? In the 1970s?
    Part the second: “On this planet, you live on the land and eat the things that live in the sea. On Planet Zigra, we live in the sea and eat the things that live on land!” Very menacing, Zigra, you invented the Yakov Smirnoff joke a decade early

       5 likes

  41. Kenneth Morgan
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    says:

    jay: Dr. Frank Baxter had a fairly prolific second career doing exposition for educational films such as the Bell Laboratories film HEMO THE MAGNIFICENT which was about blood and blood cells.I had to sit through it in eighth grade science class while the coach/teacher went outside to smoke.Dr. Baxter had a pleasant demeanor and good on-screen presence and his expositioning was often the most enjoyable thing about the film.

    He also did a couple of very enjoyable, literary-themed shows for “The CBS Radio Workshop”.

       3 likes

  42. Bob Johnson
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    Sitting Duck: To be fair, Carbon-14 dating was still pretty new at the time the film was released, having been first developed during the late 1940s.

    So new, in fact, that the Sargent Carter museum curator didn’t understand that there is no way is could give a negative age for an item, even a statue sent back from the future.

       0 likes

  43. Ryoki Nor
    Ignored
    says:

    “Then somebody remembered..”
    -First Spaceship on Venus
    I just love that line. Another score for Doctor..er.. who?
    “Your weapons have no effect on me!”
    -Prince of Space
    So you’ve said. Unfortunately the guys with the guns haven’t figured it out.
    “Flag on the moon.”
    -The Beast of Yucca Flats
    Seen it a thousand times and I still can’t figure out what’s going on.

       0 likes

  44. mando3b
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    says:

    Ryoki Nor: “Flag on the moon.”
    -The Beast of Yucca Flats
    Seen it a thousand times and I still can’t figure out what’s going on.

    Yet another variation on the theme: exposition of stuff that has nothing to do with the film and is never explained. Another example: the photo of the woman in Rowsdower’s truck, the supreme mystery of all MST3K.

       0 likes

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