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Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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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. Joey Stink Eye Smiles says:

    That short was just another excuse to climb inside a whiskey bottle.

       5 likes

  2. Mark says:

    Oddly enough, I have a certain fondness for this movie, It’s one of the few movies I remember from staying up late when I was a kid, in the sixties, on a Friday night, watching our local version of Sir Graves Ghastley, showing shlocky horror movies. I guess when you’re 8, 9, or 10, it’s not as bad. ;-)

       3 likes

  3. Brandon says:

    I always liked the two Beany & Cecil related riffs.

    “Look! It’s Bob Clampett!”

    “Meanwhile, back at the branch…”

    Some of the scenes in the movie seemed to have been shuffled during production, as Ingrid Gould’s wardrobe keeps changing in certain parts to earlier scenes.
    Also, she loses only one of her boots to the shrews when they’re escaping to the ocean, but by the time they get to the boat, she’s completely barefoot. A case of Prince Eric-itus, I guess.

       0 likes

  4. RCFagnan says:

    Really good host segments, I thought. Favorite riff “Okay, everybody light your martinis!”

       1 likes

  5. Nick says:

    Yeah, the print was awful, but IMO, some of the falls in “Junior Rodeo Daredevils” were even tougher to watch. Especially that girl that almost fell on her head. Ouch… :shock:

    Just out of curiosity: what was cut from the Volume 7 version?

       4 likes

  6. happy says:

    I own the double feature with Killer Shrews and Giant Gila Monster – the one with the colorized versions and remastered prints
    To me these are good cheese, with Shrews just a slight Shrew better…you have to be in the right mood to watch LOL

       3 likes

  7. jason davis says:

    what was cut was a short intro of the movie from a narrator saying the worst animal was the shrew. it only like 1 or 2 minutes.

       4 likes

  8. fireballil says:

    Gave this one four stars, mainly because of the movie being so bad. Observations off the top of my head:

    Crow wore his pants throughout all the host segments. He would wear them other times, including in segment four of The Skydivers, where he built his own car and said, “No one had to give me a car!”

    Joel being a “dad” to the ‘bots was most likely becasues he created them, so he was their “dad.” I always thought Mike was more like the little brother that always got picked on, or blamed for things(like blowing up planets).

    Fave riff: When Tom sees the dead shrew corpse, he says he taught hin a trick: “Stay, rot, good boy!” Listen for Crow’s laughter at the end.

    Most of the complaints for the cutting off of the beginning of the movie were, IMO, from “completists” who feel like they have to have every bit of footage from the show or they don’t have it at all.

    The short riffing was pretty dark, mostly commentary on social stuff. I particularly liked Joel’s on stripping one participant of their dignity at an early age. “What are you looking aaaaattt!”

    More when I get a chance.

       1 likes

  9. skenderberg says:

    I found this episode slightly painful. I think Joel’s Killer Shrew board game summed it up perfectly, especially when they discovered that all the pieces had been glued down next to the bar.

    Favorite Riff: When Billy Slater finds kids trying to vandalize his horse, “Git the shotgun, that’ll learn ’em.”

    Full review here.

       1 likes

  10. Radioman970 says:

    I love this movie. Something about a bunch of people stranded on an island with goofy things happening to them. I don’t know…

    *slaps Ginger on the fanny*

       2 likes

  11. GizmonicTemp says:

    This movie has 652 riffs over 1:07:26 of movie time for 9.669 RPMs. That ranks #59 all time.

    The short had 112 riffs over 8:57 for an RPM of 12.514, which ranks #2 of the shorts.

    One of my favorite movies!

    Hop on over to my site to check it out!

       2 likes

  12. Joey Stink Eye Smiles says:

    Quaker Oats for you; it’s the right thing to do.

       3 likes

  13. TV's Adam says:

    In this episode’s stinger, doesn’t the one guy take a drink from another guy’s hand, drink it, then hand it back to him, and the other guy just sort of looks down at his depleted drink, looks over at the guy who drank it, and go on with the scene?

    Am I thinking of another movie? Or did I just dream it? Because I remember that being hilarious to me.

       1 likes

  14. norgavue says:

    Uh I changed my mind

    Have to say the pants bit was always a fav.
    Least you can get some use out of them.

       0 likes

  15. GornCaptain says:

    The cut was noticeable as the bots complain later in the movie that a character is explaining about shrews again.
    Rhino, bless their hearts, did issue replacement discs. :smile:

       4 likes

  16. GornCaptain says:

    And at fifty bucks a set, shouldn’t we get the shows intact as originally aired?

       8 likes

  17. Bob says:

    The “boardgame of the film” premise for one host segment was also used in The Unearthly episode of the show. It worked well in both cases, being good, goofy fun that was full of great pop culture and old boardgame references and highlighting the worst aspects of both films hilariously well.

    One of my favorite riffs, “Synchronized drinking”.

    Without the padding of the standing around talking and drinking scenes, Killer Shrews would be all of about 15 minutes long. It contains a huge amount of padding for a film that only has a running time of 69 minutes! The script is just so weak they couldn’t even make a 69 minute run-time without tons of padding.

       1 likes

  18. fireballil says:

    A couple of more observations:

    Another fave riff: “This is our resident novelist, Rapid Bathroom.”

    Is it just me, or did the ‘bots start getting miffed at Joel’s dixieland jazz references a bit early?

    To Adam: There was a scene like you described in the movie, but it wasn’t the stinger. That was Dr. Craigus explaining about unusual results to Thorne.

       0 likes

  19. Feyd-Rautha says:

    I caught the Dune reference all right. Someone needs to make a Ward E file on all Dune references, because I recall several throughout the series.

    About my experience, I watched this episode with a friend who is a casual MST fan, and while he loved the short, he just sat blankly through the movie proper. Until this riff:

    “Hi there, I’m Kurt Gaudy, we’re out huntin’ with George Kirby for big Texas shrew…”

    He cried for ten minutes after that riff.

       1 likes

  20. Danny says:

    Can you play dixie land jazz?

       4 likes

  21. lpydmblb says:

    I’m surprised that the phrase “Dukes of Hazzard” hasn’t appeared yet in these discussions. Never thought I’d see anything where James Best gives the finest performance — by a lot.

    TV’s Frank’s sugar rush from the “Killer Shrew” drink always gets me laughing. Comic gold.

       2 likes

  22. radioman970 says:

    I just bought the DVD set with this film in it a week or so ago. Do I need to return the Shrews DVD for replacement or is it okay?

       0 likes

  23. ThorneSherman says:

    One of my favorite episodes, for the short if nothing else. It is almost certainly the finest performance of James Best’s career, however little that says.

       1 likes

  24. JakeS says:

    I love the cliched order that the charecters are killed off…first the black guy, then the hispanic guy, then the guy with glasses…

    BTW…this reminded me. I ordered the replacement disc years ago and never got it! But I don’t really care anymore.

       4 likes

  25. Sean74 says:

    This was one of the first half-dozen episodes I saw, and for me it’ll always be a fav because I had so much trouble getting a copy of it on tape! I finally had the chance during the Turkey Day Marathon of ’94 which Adam West hosted, and even then I almost slept through it because it played at some crazy time in the early morning. The Junior Dare-devil short is gold; dark comedy or not, it’s some of their best riffing of the entire show, and in my opinion is the second-best short covered after Mr. B Natural. While I wished they had made more Dukes of Hazzard references, they more than made up for the drinking jokes whenever Ken Curtis was on-screen.

    To TV’s Adam: fireballil is both right and wrong…while Dr. Craigus is explaining scientific results, Ken Curtis does take James Best’s drink, finishes it, hands it back, and Best goes to drink it only to find it empty. I get the feeling it was improvised, based on the look of James Best’s face afterwards. Funniest part of all, later in the movie, Best does it right back at Curtis, and J&TB make note of it.

    Director Ray Kellogg must of liked actresses with thick accents: remember the French girl in “The Giant Gila Monster” who was barely discernable? Same could be said for Ingrid Goude. Both are pretty gorgeous, though, and for that I can forgive them!

    The dixie-land jazz bit reminds me of the “cop & donut” riff in “The Indestructible Man”, where Joel continues on with it despite Servo and Crow’s protests. This one doesn’t last as long, however, and there are fewer uses of it.

    The second host segment is a riot: although the game-board idea was also used in a segment of “The Unearthly”, here it’s taken to a funnier level. I love the ‘Bot’s theme song for the board game, and they’re freaking out after realizing nobody ever moves is hysterical!

    All in all, another season 4 gem, and just another example of how the show was on a roll at the time.

       2 likes

  26. S.Mc. says:

    I’m rewatching this episode for the first time since I got the replacement disk. I just caught this–when Joel and the Bots are getting ready to go in for the short they sing a riff from “You Can’t Do That On Television”! I love it! Ahhh, the 80’s…

       0 likes

  27. fireballil says:

    To Adam and Sean: The stinger and the taking of drinks were all part of the same scene; at the end both Thorne and Jerry take a drink at the same time and Tom says, “Synchronized drinking!”

       1 likes

  28. Sitting Duck says:

    Frequently during the JRD short, Joel would say, “And the crowd goes wild!” with the Bots giving off an apathetic sounding cheer. I believe this is from the Tom Slick cartoons which were a segment on Jay Ward’s George of the Jungle.

       3 likes

  29. Mark721 says:

    Has no one noticed that Festus, from Gunsmoke, was in this movie? He is difficult to recognize.

       1 likes

  30. radioman970 says:

    “Festus” also produced a few of these bad movies they used on the show. He didn’t always star in them too.

       0 likes

  31. ThorneSherman says:

    Well, J&TB hit the Ken Curtis thing pretty hard in the riffs, so I guess we all kinda know he’s in it, poor dope.

       2 likes

  32. crowschmo says:

    The shoes are in the bar.

       0 likes

  33. Pingback: Efile
  34. jessie says:

    Ack.I can not ,to this day,sit through this episode.I just get all to bored.I dont know,maybe its the dull gray tone,or the monotonous drinking shots,but its just so boring.but the riffs are hysterical

    And Franks Reaction to killer shrew-Gold
    oh yes its ladies night,oh what a night”and then he like grinds next to DR.F.

    Fav short riff-Sure,strip me of my dignity at age four WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT”
    Honrable mention”and the crowd goes wild”yaaay”\
    for some reason i thought that was a python reference.

    Fav movie riff-I love all the bits about dixieland jazz”
    The short is great,but i have to be in a shrew mood for the movie.its a good movie to go to sleep to though….

       2 likes

  35. Uranium - 235 says:

    There’s a couple references to Spacom hidden in here (though nothing particularly calls for it). Another callback to, I think, “The Corpse Vanishes” – ‘shakin’ the bush there boss!’

    There’s also a line in here I can’t really understand clearly, but sounds like Tom mimicking Doctor Strangelove – in fact, in a few episodes prior you can hear a few references to the Doctor. Nobody’s mentioned them so far so either I’m crazy or everyone just seemed to miss it. Sadly I don’t have a great memory for which riffs were in where…

       0 likes

  36. Uranium - 235 says:

    There’s also a Fawlty Tower reference – as the Mario (the Mexican guy) is walking around with a flashlight Crow calls out “Mister Fawlty? Mister Fawlty! Paulie?”

    Again, there’s past references to Fawlty Towers, mostly involving scenes on stairs with the riff going along the lines of “Manuel! Manuel where are you?” I know there were two or so in “The Unearthly” whenever someone went running down the stairs in the foyer.

       1 likes

  37. Spector says:

    “Killer shrews, killer shrews, don’t know the difference ‘tween me and you.

    Comes out at night, to give you a fright…”

    The main feature’s pretty good, coming from the same team that brought us Giant Gila Monster but not quite as rich for material though. Still, this ranks among the good to very good, and the sight of dogs covered with bathmats and phony fangs as “shrews” is always hilarious.

    What hurts this flick is the short, which has to rank as one of the best the Brains have ever riffed. So many great lines from this one that the main feature, while good, is for me a bit of a let-down after such a strong lead-in.

    “He rides that horse like he’s glued to the saddle”.

    Crow: “I a-a-m-m-m!” First time my wife and I saw that bit we had to stop the tape because we had a five minute laughing fit. That one line was like an unexpected punch to the funny bone and really caught us off guard.

       1 likes

  38. Toots Sweet says:

    I thought “the crowd goes wild” was from Rocky and Bullwinkle. Wonder which one it is?

       3 likes

  39. rockyjones says:

    I always associated the “yaaaaaaaay” response to “and the crowd goes wild” with Monty Python
    And The Holy Grail:

    “…they were forced to eat Sir Robin’s minstrels…and there was much rejoicing…’yaaaaaaaaay'”

       3 likes

  40. Dan in WI says:

    The gold of the present opening is this little exchange: Crow “Ah Gypsy you didn’t get anything. He forgot he had a robot named Gypsy.” Tom “Knock it off you clown. You want to ruin present time by being naughty?” Crow was being mean.

    I thought the Mads had a good invention going, but it felt like the punchline was never delivered. There just should have been something more done with it. It does remind me a bit of the first Austin Powers movie though.

    So there is a bit of speculation above in this thread as to the origin of the “and the crowd goes wild. Yaaaaaaay” riff. Personally I didn’t recognize it from anywhere. (I’m not really familiar with Monty Python.) I always thought that riff does just fine on its own even if the reference isn’t known.
    Overall this is not the world’s most quotable short, yet I really like it a lot. Go figure.

    The host segments fall in the average category as does the episode. But still enjoyable.

    Overall this episode is a weird sort of greater than the sum of its parts. Not a lot of it is quotable for me. The host segments are just meh. The riffing is a solid good by not great. Yet I still like it a whole lot more than I normally would given the averageness of its parts. Again, go figure.

    Favorite Riffs:
    Rook “Sure is a lot of quiet out there.” Crow “Too lot of quiet.”

    Thorne using binoculars “Hey Rook, come here.” Crow “These things make everything look bigger.”

    Crow “This is just like Aliens. Except without the underwear.”

    Tom “This is just like the Happy Days or Perfect Strangers or Full House or Empty Nest or Just the 10 of Us episode when they get stuck in the basement.”

       2 likes

  41. robot rump! says:

    the movie for me has to take a back seat to the short on this ep. when i grab this DVD out of my collection i always seem to jump over to the bonus shorts and check out ‘Assignment: Venezuala’ first then i can ease over into the movie.

       3 likes

  42. Big61al says:

    I love this episode. Those shrews are some the dumbest monsters ever. :dog:

       1 likes

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

    Sometimes I wonder exactly how limited the show’s film selection was. If a film, upon initial watching, turned out to be (to borrow from “Werewolf”) BAD-bad-bad, was it that hard to get hold of another one?

    “You have to be a certain age to get the “He’s the guy who taught LBJ how to hold dogs” riff.”

    Well, that’s true of many riffs, really.

    #40: “The gold of the present opening is this little exchange: Crow “Ah Gypsy you didn’t get anything. He forgot he had a robot named Gypsy.” Tom “Knock it off you clown. You want to ruin present time by being naughty?” Crow was being mean.”

    Maybe if he hadn’t been mean, he would’ve gotten a better present.

    IIRC Crow’s sensible slacks reappear in the “Radar Secret Service” episode when Mike ties together a bunch of clothes to try to climb down to Earth. As I’m sure many have noticed before me, the show had better continuity than some of its movies.

    I noticed a couple of “dark” riffs during the short, but not all THAT many. Maybe I’m not light enough to notice the dark. OSLT.

       4 likes

  44. JimmyBruce says:

    Just checking to see if I left a comment on here 2 years ago so I don’t duplicate myself.

       0 likes

  45. Cubby says:

    So there is a bit of speculation above in this thread as to the origin of the “and the crowd goes wild. Yaaaaaaay” riff. Personally I didn’t recognize it from anywhere. (I’m not really familiar with Monty Python.) I always thought that riff does just fine on its own even if the reference isn’t known.

    It’s from the old Bob & Ray radio show. Back in the dark ages, it was also a common staple on the Keith Olbermann & Dan Patrick ESPN Sportscenter telecasts. Keith cited Bob & Ray for that reference. [Check your local library for the book “The Big Show” by them. It’s in there.]

       2 likes

  46. Edge says:

    Sampo: ‘Has anybody noticed that this movie has, in a general sort of way, the same plot as “Jurassic Park”?’

    In that they are both written (roughly) in English? :-P OK, maybe they are also basically retelling of the Frankenstein story.

    Also, TKS print is like an IMAX movie compared to the mess that is The Castle of Fu Manchu!

       1 likes

  47. Sampo says:

    Cubby, et al–The “Yayyy!” thing comes from the cartoon “Tom Slick,” a regular feature of the old “George of the Jungle” cartoon show. The Monty Python usage in “Holy Graile” is parallel development. It’s possible the George of the Jungle usage is a reference to Bob and Ray, but MST3K is referencing GOTJ for sure.

       3 likes

  48. Bombastic Biscuit Boy says:

    I totally agree with Sampo on this one! I would probably put the short up with the very best material the show ever came up with; a definite choice for newbies. But the movie! Oy Vey! Rarely has a horror movie had the monster be the comic relief!

    I can see how this movie somewhat resembles Jurassic Park; experiment to breed animals (in this case, big Texas Shrew) goes out of control and the main characters have to leave the island to the man-made monsters. Don’t forget the exciting sequence where the characters are dangling over the…oh wait, never mind! Or the part in the kitchen with the….oh…

    “Oh wait! This is wrong! I signed up for debaaaaate!”

       7 likes

  49. Matthew Shine says:

    Well, Sampo’s Theorium will come into play here, as I feel that this is pne of the most underrated episodes in MST3K history.
    The short’s hilarious, with the Teddy Roosevelt lookalike Billy Slater. It’s almost like those documentaries that used to be on The Mickey Mouse Club.
    Somehow, the movie turns out to be WORSE than The Giant Gila Monster, even though we thankfully don’t have to listen to Laugh Children Laugh this time. My favorite character was Rook, so I’m kinda annoyed that they killed him off 20 minutes into the film. He’s playing Dixieland Jazz up in heaven now…
    The Killer Shrew “custumes” look terrible, even by 1950’s standards. It looks like The Creeping Terror threw up some of his rags on a dog.
    Thankfully, J&TB saves what would be an unwatchable movie.
    Host segment 3 was my favorite, with The Killer Shrew drink. I remember reading that someone on the MST3K message board tried to make one but I can’t remember if they drank it.

    This episode gets 5 Stars from me.

       4 likes

  50. Kenneth Morgan says:

    I saw this one again not long ago, and I noticed a couple of things. First, my Rhino disc of the movie appears to be complete; maybe I got a set made after the problem had been detected and fixed.
    Second, watch the scene where James Best puts the tourniquet on pseudo-Manuel’s leg; he’s using the barrel of his loaded revolver to wind up the tourniquet. Guess gun safety wasn’t too big a concern.

    I agree, this movie is almost too boring to get through. Great riffing, though.

       1 likes

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