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Episode Guide: 407- The Killer Shrews (with short: ‘Junior Rodeo Daredevils’)

Short: (1949) Cowpoke and old-timer Billy Slater straightens out some wayward kids by making them put on a small-time rodeo.
Movie: (1959) A hunky skipper makes a delivery to a small island, and learns that the inhabitants include heavy-drinking scientists who are conducting genetic experiments.

First shown: 7/25/92
Opening: Joel gives out presents to the bots
Invention exchange: The Mads prepare to destroy Earth, but are stopped by Jim Henson’s Edgar Winter Babies
Host segment 1: Joel vapor-locks while trying to do Will Rogers
Host segment 2: While presenting the Killer Shrews board game, the bots snap
Host segment 3: J&TB concoct the Killer Shrew drink
End: The shrewbots attack scientist Joel, letter, Frank isn’t feeling good
Stinger: Festus swipes Roscoe’s drink.
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (227 votes, average: 4.26 out of 5)

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• This is one of those episodes where the movie is SO stupid and the print is SO bad that it takes a lot of really good riffing to overcome it — and that, for the most part, is what you get. You can tell the writing team struggled with the movie’s tediousness -– it comes out in one segment -– but overall I think they did a pretty good job. The host segments are lots of fun too. I’m not sure I’d recommend this one for a newbie, because the movie’s just so hard to see and hear, but the episode is plenty funny.
• This episode is featured on Rhino’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Volume 7” and became notorious after fans noticed that the movie had been cut a little bit and that there were some mastering issues, causing Rhino to send corrected disks to any who complain.
References.
• People always talk about the way Joel was a “dad” to the bots in a way that Mike never tried to be. The opening sketch is pretty much a pristine example of that dynamic. Who hasn’t been in poor Crow’s place at one time or another?
• This ep has another use of the “aaaaaaahh!” farewell by the mads, first used (I think) in episode 321- SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS.
• Servo is still wearing his hat in the theater during the short, but it’s gone by the time the movie starts.
• The whole “Jim Henson’s [fill in the blank] babies” concept, which was clearly a phrase being batted around the BBI writing room for past several weeks, reaches its peak with this episode: it was used three times, including the invention exchange.
• The riffs get very dark during the short — a taste of the way it’s going to be in plenty of shorts to come.
• Crow DID get some use out of those slacks: He is wearing them in segment 1.
• Segment 1 is an corollary to the “sabotaged sketch” — the “Joel vapor locks” sketch. Mike had a tendency to vapor-lock too.
• You have to be a certain age to get the “He’s the guy who taught LBJ how to hold dogs” riff. For those too young, President Johnson loved his beagles, but caused a kerfuffle among animal lovers when he was photographed lifting them by the ears. He insisted there was nothing wrong with doing so, but dog lovers howled.
• Some entirely understandable tears are shed by the bots during segment 2, as the bots seem to express the feelings of writers about the dull, actionless movie.
• Has anybody noticed that this movie has, in a general sort of way, the same plot as “Jurassic Park”?
• Two “Dune” references in this one: “It’s the Gom Jabbar” and “Tell me about your home world, Usul.”
• Segment two is a great example of what movie sign can be good for — giving the sketch an ending it otherwise doesn’t have.
• Joel and the Bots decide Hispanic Mario is Manuel from “Fawlty Towers.” It allows them to do foreigner jokes that they otherwise probably couldn’t get away with.
• I remember after this episode aired that a few people actually tried to follow the recipe for a killer shrew. Anybody ever taste one? If they did, they’re probably in a diabetic coma. This sketch also has a nice little visit to Deep 13, something that doesn’t happen that often in mid-movie.
• The sound is so bad in this movie that there are about a dozen riffs where they are essentially asking what the hell some character just said. Way more than usual.
• The killer shrew costumes, far from “not cutting it,” are a riot.
• Joel says “we will be-ack” and “MST3 viewers.” They keep going.
• Ipecacs reappear; they first reared their ugly head in episode 315- TEENAGE CAVEMAN.
• Cast and crew roundup: The person to blame for this movie is Gordon McClendon, a Houston radio tycoon went through phase where he fancied himself a movie producer. The result was “Giant Gila Monster” and this. He also fancied himself an actor: he plays the Steve Allen-like scientist in this one and was the narrator in GGM. Both movies were made by many of the same crew members, including: co-producer Ken Curtis (yes, Festus of “Gunsmoke” fame), director Ray “knees up” Kellogg, screenplay/story guy Jay Simms, cinematographer Wilfred Cline, editor Aaron Stell (who also worked on “Beginning of the End”), makeup lady Corrine Daniel, production manger Ben Chapman (who was a stuntman in “The Mole People”), art director Louis Caldwell, set designer Louise Caldwell (who also worked on “The Amazing Transparent Man”), sound guy Earl Snyder (who also worked on “The Amazing Transparent Man” and “The Crawling Hand”) and sound effects guy Milton Citron.
• CreditsWatch: Additional contributing writer: Steve Hollenhorst. Host segments directed by Jim Mallon. Dr. F’s last name is still spelled “Forrestor.”
• Fave riff from the short: “And the crowd goes wild — yay.” Honorable mention: “Oh no. This is wrong. I signed up for debaaaaate…”
• Fave riff from the movie: “Imagine in how much detail, senor?” Honorable mentions: “I’ve been going through the script and I think I’m in this scene.” “The…end…”

112 Replies to “Episode Guide: 407- The Killer Shrews (with short: ‘Junior Rodeo Daredevils’)”

  1. Yipe Stripes says:

    im a james best fan. this episode is one of my faves. love it from start to finish.

       1 likes

  2. DirtyTerry says:

    Ya know, Ingrid is Goude, but James is Best.

       5 likes

  3. Bruce Boxliker says:

    Sitting Duck: The Killer Shrews fails the Bechdel Test. Ann is the only female character.

    How do you know none of the ‘shrews’ were female? Although, they were probably only talking about the male humans anyway. Killing & devouring them, that is.

       3 likes

  4. thequietman says:

    Hey kids, y’ever read ‘The Ox-Bow Incident’?

    I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while since I love the “Killer Shrew” drink sketch. I can’t remember the last time Joel threw himself into the physical comedy like that, flinging himself backwards the way he did. He even stuck the landing and remembered to have his legs up, cartoon rigor-mortis style! That was funny enough, but the capper with Frank having a totally different reaction (which I’d totally forgot about) had me on the floor laughing.

    One more fave riff from the short:
    Looks like most ev’ryone in town’s turned out for the big rodeo…
    Joel: All nine of ’em!

       1 likes

  5. Sitting Duck says:

    Bruce Boxliker: How do you know none of the ‘shrews’ were female? Although, they were probably only talking about the male humans anyway. Killing & devouring them, that is.

    Aye, there’s the rub. The gender of the characters either way has to be conclusive.

       0 likes

  6. Terry the Sensitive Knight says:

    There’s a black guy in this movie, is he:

    1. The hero who wins the girl in the end
    2. A key member of the cast who survives to the end
    3. Some schmuck who gets killed off right away and nobody really notices

    If you answered 1 or 2, you really don’t understand cinema.

       2 likes

  7. Cornjob says:

    #66:Geez, I hadn’t thought about the hand down the garbage disposal in Rolling Thunder in years. Saw it as a kid on HBO. In the 90’s I wrote a short story where a character commits suicide by sticking both his hands down a garbage disposal after being possessed by a Lovecraftian evil God who uses him to build a doomsday weapon. I wonder if that scene in Rolling Thunder was in the back of my mind when I thought of the characters suicide method.

       0 likes

  8. trickymutha says:

    Just watched this one- GF laughed at “wish I had one of those anti-shrew barrels.”

       1 likes

  9. littleaimishboy says:

    The Killer Shrew costumes (the ones in the movie and the ones in the closing segment) are among my all time favorite MST3K things.

       1 likes

  10. Tad Eustace Ghostal says:

    Truly one of my top 10 episodes. I love “The Killer Shrews” so much. It is the perfect booze-soaked, dimly lit, talky black and white movie. On paper, this is the type of episode I’d run far away from, into the comforting arms of a beach party episode like “Catalina Caper” or a cheesy adventure like “Time Chasers”. But somehow, everything works and this ends up being a compelling watch start to finish, even as people stand around drinking.

    How do I love thee, episode 407? Let me count the ways.

    – Joel’s Present Time sketch leaves a very deep influence that would last through the Mike years, symbolized by those slacks. This is also the root of a bizarre sibling rivalry between Crow and Tom that would manifest itself throughout Season 6.

    – My favorite “Invention Exchange” – Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank are at their best. Frank and Joel’s goofy midwesternness undercuts Forrester’s attempt at menace. “Can I ask a stupid question? Why are you doing this?”

    – Junior Rodeo Daredevils: “You know some scars don’t heal. UP NEXT is another young feller…”

    – James Best. Can you think of another star of a MST’ied movie with such legit charisma? He really does a great job in this terrible film.

    – The Killer Shrew drink and Frank’s random reaction to it.

    – Joel and the bots attempt to understand the muffled dialogue.

    – That one killer shrew that is apparently standing up at the door waiting to come in and bite the glasses guy.

    – The Glasses Guy himself, and the way he first randomly wanders into a master shot and sinister music plays to introduce him. I just love characters like this- guys whose SOLE purpose in life is to do scholarly research on whatever horror/sci fi phenomena is happening in their respective film. And he gives his life for it, pretending it’s NBD when he’s fatally bitten.

    – Automatic pilot can’t play Dixieland Jazz.

       2 likes

  11. 407 – The Killer Shrews

    Memorable Riffs from Short:
    Joel: “He’s hammered.”

    Servo: “I’m gonna bury ya up to your necks!”

    Joel: “Yep. I’m hot. That’s me pretty much.”

    Joel: “I DON’T REALLY KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!!!!”

    Joel: “Fortunately, Billy didn’t need his spine.”

    Crow: “Next week, geriatric rodeo.”

    Fav. Riff from short:

    Memorable riffs from movie:
    Crow: “A simple yes or no will do.”

    Servo: “So, how’s your novel comin’ along there?”

    Servo: “Your breath smells like feet!”

    Crow: “Stop talking and finish my pedicure!”

    Crow: “Awwww you chewed up the slippers! Bad shrew!”

    Servo: “How deadly is that doggy in the window?”

    (Guy whistles)
    Crow: “Don’t do that! They’re dogs!”

    Joel: “They’re just as frightened of you as you are of them!”

    Joel: “Not the couch! i just had it re-upholstered!”

    Servo: “OK, now someone’s gotta get the door.”

    Fav. Riff from movie:
    Servo: “He was Mr. Eeeeeed.”

    Comments:
    – Gypsy’s lips are back to their normal color. As are Servo’s hands.

    – Someone on the TV Tropes website once asked a pretty good question: How come Cambot didn’t get a present in the opening segment?

    – Just before Invention Exchange starts, check out the puppetry work that Trace does on Crow. He may be a hunk of plastic, but Trace sure knows how to make Crow look pissed off!

    – Obscure riff: “Meanwhile, back at the branch.” I believe it’s a Beany & Cecil reference.

    – Funny line from the movie: “I just ripped my trousers is all.”

    – Oz reference: “How about a little fire, doggy!”

    – Something you’d expect in an Ed Wood film, or Roger Corman film. Ingrid Goud’s clothes change between shots in one scene.

    – Did the director tell Ingrid Goud to act turned on when they make it to the water? Sheesh.

    – Ingrid loses one of her boots to the shrews towards the end of the film, but when she’s swimming to the boat, both her feet are bare. Weird.

    – Another oddity about the ending. The main “hero” if the film makes a comment that essentially refers to him wanting to have sex with Ingrid’s character (“I’m not too worried about over-population.”)….. while her father is standing two feet away. Smooth.

    – Servo’s shrew costume kinda looks like Scrat from the “Ice Age” movies.

    Best Segment: The Killer Shrew drink segment has a silly premise, and a great payoff gag.
    Worst Segment: The letter segment isn’t a great show-ender.

    Overall: Not a particularly memorable episode. ** (2 stars)

       1 likes

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