Movie: (1984) In a bleak future, teen biker gangs and a sinister corporation battle for control of an abandoned city.
First shown: 6/20/92
Opening: Crow and Tom get Joel to say “ping-pong balls.” Joel soon wishes he hadn’t
Invention exchange: J&tB present Mr. meat & potato head, while the Mads demonstrate pop star Tupperware, featuring Morrissey
Host segment 1: Crow sings: “Oh, Kim Cattrall!”
Host segment 2: J&tB list some of the Fantastic 85
Host segment 3: J&tB keep listing superheroes
End: J&tB try to play the City Limits trivia game, Joel reads letters, the Mads have had enough of Morrissey
Stinger: Tiny radio controlled death from on high
• I’m not a big fan of this one. It has its moments (every MST3K episode does) but J&TB seem to be fending this one off, rather than tearing it up. The plot’s confusing and most of the action is a little hard to see. The host segments are just sort of so-so. It’s just sort of a middling episode. Part of the problem is I don’t get why I am supposed to root for the biker kids. An apparently hopeful and rebuilding government has contracted with Kim Cattrall and Robbie Benson to restore basic services. That’s evil why, again?
• It’s at about this point in the show’s run that the “Turn down your lights (where applicable)” message at the beginning of each episode, was replaced by a title card featuring a still from the movie and a gruff voice (usually that of editor Tim Scott) saying “Mystery Science Theater 3000, show [show number here]; reel one.” But my copy, taped off TV, doesn’t have that. Can anybody confirm that it did? I know the next episode does.
• The ping-pong ball bit comes from the old “Captain Kangaroo” show. Unfortunately, like so many daily kids shows of that era, most of “Captain Kangaroo” was not recorded and very little of it survives. But a running gag on the show was that the puppet characters would try to trick the captain into saying the words “ping-pong balls,” at which point a veritable cloudburst of the little guys would pour down from the heavens onto the Captain. You had to be there…and you had to be 6.
• Callbacks: Frank’s is humming “I sing whenever I sing” from Giant Gila Monster; Crow’s “help me!” is a callback from a well-remembered “Rocket Attack USA.” “Hi, I’m Max Keller.” (Master Ninja) “…After the Robot Holocaust.” “My own FLESH I don’t love better!” (Sidehackers) “I’m a Grimalt warrior!” (Viking Women), “I feel like a happy king!” (Mr. B Natural).
• Mike is just hilarious as Morrissey, who, by the way, I had never heard of when I first saw this episode back in ’92.
• The opening of the movie says that it takes place “15 years from now.” The movie was made in 1985, so “15 years from now” was 2000. Thankfully the world in 2000 looked very little like the one this movie predicts. (By the way, it’s been more than 15 years since this episode debuted.)
• Early on, there is a very clever solution to the appearance of some brief female nudity when Joel inexplicably feels the urge to stand up and open an umbrella.
• Joel mentions a place that sounds like “mays-a-may” Wisconsin. Where’s that?
• Kim Cattrall tells the story that one evening she had just checked into a hotel and she turned on the TV and by pure chance host segment 1 was running on Comedy Central. She says she was completely baffled as to why a golden puppet was repeatedly singing her name.
• There’s a mention of “Far Side Gallery,” a book I also owned. That shot does look like the cover, a little.
• Somewhat obscure riff: “I’m still here, Happer, you crap hound!”
• More obscure riff: “But all I have is an alcove!”
• For a full list of the Fantastic 185, visit Ward E.
• A rare moment: Tom does something they almost never do—he quietly explains a riff (after quoting Lady Macbeth). Wonder why they felt that riff, among all the others, needed explaining.
• Several times the movie shows flashbacks of moments we’ve never seen. I assume this was stuff cut by either Film Ventures International or BBI.
• Movie observation: I do love how all the characters get gussied up to beat the band before making their big assault.
• Dated reference: a mention of the shortlived-and-now-forgotten James Earl Jones series “Gabriel’s Fire.”
• Watch the handoff from Joel to Kevin following after segment 3. You can see Kevin moving around.
• There’s another reference to Apple’s System 7, along with observation “we gotta get Windows for this thing.” In 1992 that was pretty obscure jargon.
• Tom still has ping pong balls in his head in a couple of segments.
• Great throwaway line by Crow: “Daddy needs a new pair o’ hydraulic talons!”
• During her appearance at the second convention, Kim’s recollections about making this movie included always filming at night in a dangerous part of L.A., and suffering with the ever-present stench from a nearby dogfood factory.
• Cast and crew roundup: One of the minor characters in this movie (the guy J&TB keep calling “Michelle Shocked”) is played by a fellow named Dean Devlin. He also appeared in the movies “My Bodyguard” and “The Wild Life” before going on to become a big Hollywood producer, bringing us such mindless, noisy blockbusters as “Independence Day” and “Godzilla.” Premiere magazine ranked Devlin and ID4 director Roland Emmerich No. 44 on 1997′s Power List of the 100 Most Influential People in the Hollywood Industry. Score composer Mitchell Froom has produced recordings for such acts as Los Lobos, Del Fuegos, Crowded House, Elvis Costello, Richard Thompson, and his then-wife (1995-98), Suzanne Vega. He was one of the founders of The Latin Playboys. He also composed the theme from the TV show “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.” Sound mixer: Mark Ulano also worked on “Being from Another Planet.”
• CreditsWatch: Host segments directed by Jim Mallon. Production person Ellen “Ellie” McDonough joins the show. She’ll be there through season six. This is one of three episodes this season where Andrea DuCane did hair and makeup. Clayton James did most of them. Occasional prop assistant Barb Oswald, who did work back in season three as well, gets a new title this week: “Toolmaster Jr.” Brendan Glynn finishes up a three-episode stint as intern. Additional Writer: John Carney.
• Fave riff: “I’m getting beaten up by the cast of ‘Pirates of Penzance!’”