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Sampo & Erhardt

Sci-Fi Archives

Visit our archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.

Goodbye Sci-Fi

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

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Episode guide: 805- The Thing that Couldn’t Die


Movie: (1958) A traysure-hunting family at a dude ranch digs up a severed head with evil powers.

First shown: 3/1/97
Opening: Artiste Tom creates negative images of patron Crow
Intro: We meet The Observers, super-intelligent beings who carry their brains around with them. Pearl and Bobo are their guests
Host segment 1: An irritating Observer arrives and observes
Host segment 2: The Observers enable Mike to materialize anyone from his memory
Host segment 3: Crow premieres his documentary on the Civil War
End: Tom has a plan to make Crow do unspeakable acts; Pearl and Bobo get ready for bed
Stinger: Observers
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (212 votes, average: 4.44 out of 5)


• Check out Paul’s take on this episode here.
• This episode is included in Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Vol XXIX.
• This episode definitely causes me a lot of playsure, but it’s also a bit of a comedown after the wacky fun of “Deadly Mantis.” Some of the segments are more clever than funny, and this is a classic example of a movie that would be unwatchable without the riffing. But it’s there, and it is very good. That’s one thing I have to say about this whole period we’re getting into where some fans began to complain (about the loss of the stingers, about the sameness of the movies (see below), about the new premise, blah blah blah): I maintain that the riffing in all these episodes is as consistently good (and occasionally better) as what we saw in the Comedy Central years. There, I said it, I’d say it again if I had to.
• It was about at this point that the string of black-and-white Universal b-movies began to wear on some fans. In retrospect, the relief that was “Giant Spider Invasion” was only a few episodes away, but at the time the sameness of the movies irritated some. My sense is that Sci-Fi Channel lined these up for them, thinking that these were the sort of movies fans wanted them to riff. (Though, to be sure, there were at least two others reasons: because they were compatible with the channel, and because, at that time, the company that owned these Universal movies was the same one that owned the channel, making them cheap to acquire.) But the complaints were less about each movie taken by itself and more about the sameness of the sequence. Had they interspersed these movie with some other types of films, the issue might never have come up. The moral: a little variety is always nice.
• Of course, the big news in this episode was the introduction of The Observers, characters not directly from any particular “Star Trek” episode, but certainly reminiscent of many of the sort of supposedly omniscient beings that Captain Kirk seemed to encounter often.
• Tom notes that much of the music in the movie is essentially a needle-drop on the “This Island Earth” soundtrack. It’s hard to miss.
• Callbacks: “She’s getting squishy!” (A Young Man’s Fancy); “Old Timer Billy Slater” (Junior Rodeo Daredevils).
• Early in the movie, something called a “trade rat” is mentioned. The writers apparently never heard the term before (neither had I), and so they have a lot of fun with the phrase. Well, the Columbia Encyclopedia says a “trade rat” is synonymous with “pack rat ,” a rodent of the genus neotoma, noted for its habit of collecting bright, shiny objects and leaving other objects, such as nuts or pebbles, in their place; also called trade rat or wood rat … the pack rat stores the objects it collects to decorate its nest.” There, don’t say you’ve never learned anything from Satellite News. :-)
• As Jessica prepares to leave, Crow wonders aloud where the heck she’s going. Pay attention, Crow. She said loud and clear she was going to her cousin’s.
• Paul is hilarious as the Observer. “I hate him, and can take solace only in my own cool detachment.”
• There were a total of 12 “Dale” riffs this season, and there were Dale riffs in 11 consecutive episodes beginning in this episode. (And there were some in previous seasons! For a complete list, visit Ward E.) From this point forward, they will be referred to as “Daleisms.” This episode’s Daleism: Mike the lunkhead (in the movie) looks at his hands and Mike (the lunkhead, in the theater) says “I thought you were Dale.”
• When Kevin’s appears as Hadrian, his helmet begins to come loose almost immediately and eventually falls off even though he attempts to secure it in mid-scene.
• Then Mike shoves Bridget in the face … THAT must have been a delicate rehearsal…
• Obscure references: Larry Wilcox, who played Officer Jonathan “Jon” Baker in TV’s “CHiPs” and Tracy Gold, best remembered as daughter Carol on the TV’s “Growing Pains.”
• One movie complaint: Toward the second half of the movie, the inhabitants of the ranch decide to dig for the coffin containing the head’s body. I have to ask: Why is the oily beat artist guy digging? He’s a GUEST at the ranch! Sure, both the ranch’s hands are dead, but that’s Flavia’s problem, isn’t it? If I were a guest at a dude ranch (an unlikely prospect, I assure you), you wouldn’t catch me doing heavy labor for the ranch’s owner without a serious cut in the room rate.
• There’s a classic moment in this one when the two women crawl into bed together, and Crow and Tom celebrate in great style.
• A lot of fans were very surprised and not many were pleased when the Observers usurped the stinger. It would continue for three episodes, and the howls of dismay grew louder each week.
• In a thread we did a while back, the consensus choice for the stinger was “You’re all evil and I hope you die!”
• Cast and crew roundup: Screenwriter David Duncan also worked on “Black Scorpion” and “The Leech Woman.” Cinematographer Clifford Stine also worked on “This Island Earth,” “The Creeping Terror” and “The Mole People.” Costumer Bill Thomas also worked on “The Leech Woman.” Makeup guy Bud Westmore blah, blah, blah. Same with art director Alexander Golitzen, set designer Russell A. Gausman, sound person Leslie I. Carey, score composer/music supervisor Joseph Gershenson and score composer Henry Mancini.
In front of the camera: Robin Hughes was also in “The Mole People.” Peggy Converse was also in “The Brute Man.” Phil Harvey was also in “The Deadly Mantis.” Thomas Browne Henry was also in “Beginning of the End.
• CreditsWatch: Bill’s credit as “Observer” begins; it will run though the end of the series. Paul and Mike’s credit as “Observer” begins and runs for three more episodes. Jim gets both the producer and director credit this time, and Kevin continues as associate producer. That’s Paul as Finnigan, Kevin as Hadrian and Bridget as Adrienne Barbeau.
• Fave riff: “Oh E.G. Marshall, you ARE a bold one…” Honorable mentions: “Well, there’s that all-night historical society.” “Now I want her more than ever!” and “Here’s lookin’ up your neck hole!”

161 Replies to “Episode guide: 805- The Thing that Couldn’t Die”

  1. snowdog says:

    This episode is a tour de force for Paul Chaplin, both as Finnegan and Observer. I was in stitches when Adrienne Barbeau pops in and punches Mike. All the host segments are great. Oh, but they’re evil! EVIL! I hope a tree falls on them!


  2. pearliemae says:

    Ok, there is something in this movie that has always bothered me. If you were going to steal a key out of a woman’s purse – the woman asleep right next to where you are standing – would the obvious ploy be to stab your knife loudly into the purse and rip it open? How about trying the latch? How about quietly taking the purse out of the room to do your evil business? AND, it bugs me that Aunt Flav-o-flav sleeps through all this, but wakes and is up dressed in her robe in a matter of seconds when what’s-his-name knocks the gun over onto the floor DOWNSTAIRS. I suppose the purpose of the knife-ripping-open-the-purse thing is that we see the oily cowboy’s shadow as he lifts his knife, and we are supposed to gasp, “NO, don’t kill Auntie!!” But, of course, we know he isn’t going to kill her, even though it would be nice if she would stop screeching. So, there really is no tension, unless you are about 2 years old, and have never seen a movie before, so the whole scene is pointless. I obsess too much, don’t I? It just bugs me is all.


  3. Stickboy says:

    I’ve recently begun to appreciate the MST3K digital archive and have only seen this one a few times. But I’ve grown to love it. Everyone gets to provide a pompous British voice for the head, they supply endless names for Flavia (did they ever call her Flavor Flavia?), and of course Tom and Crow cheer on the girl/girl action. Hard not to enjoy this episode.

    My two favorite riffs:
    “We were stabbing each other, and he died.”
    “Remember, you fell against a painting of a door.”


  4. pearliemae says:

    Sorry, I forgot something. You’re all evil, and I hope you have snacks!


  5. Stickboy says:

    The purse stabbing bugs me too. And doesn’t she notice it’s been ripped open?
    To give the movie an ounce of credit, I like that they didn’t allow the head to actually speak without lungs. Pay attention, Reanimator.


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

    >>>Why is the oily beat artist guy digging?

    Working off sexual frustration?

    Maybe they offered him a cut of the money if he helped.


  7. You know, the country needs skilled trade rats.


  8. MattG says:

    “When Kevin’s appears as Hadrian, his helmet begins to come loose almost immediately and eventually falls off even though he attempts to secure it in mid-sketch.”

    Kevin’s characters have a knack for losing their heads, don’t they?


  9. Shinola says:

    This was it. My first episode. I was in seventh grade, flipping through the channels late one Saturday night and saw these guys in shadow making snarky comments at a bad movie.

    It was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. I had never heard of the show, but I soon found out. “Thing That Couldn’t Die” led me to the online MSTie world, taping, DVDs, memorabilia and everything else that comes along with slavish devotion to this show.

    As far as seminal life moments goes, it may be lame, but it’s mine.

    Because it has that personal connection, this is an episode I consistently wish would be released in a box set. Hope springs eternal.


  10. Shinola says:

    Oh, and maybe I’m late to the party, but did we ever find out what the Brains’ motivation was for dropping the movie-based stingers?


  11. I maintain that the riffing in all these episodes is as consistently good (and occasionally better) as what we saw in the Comedy Central years.

    +1,000, as they say.

    You’re not alone. And I, for one, don’t mind all the bizarre host segments. The Observers were hilarious (“But you’ve got bodies NOW, right?” “God, how I hate him. I pray for his death”) and they seemed willing to try new things and go to new places.


  12. Sitting Duck says:

    Interesting fact. The flashback of the Big Bad’s execution has some historical basis. When Drake was in what is now California, one of his crew was executed for being a conjurer. And back then, the term refered to summoning demons rather than pulling rabbits out of hats or performing card tricks.


  13. bartcow says:

    I believe I have a perfect record of announcing “You’re all evil and I hope you have snacks!” at every party I’ve been to since 1997. And no, it never gets old.

    Now I’m going to go read my favorite Shakespeare play, Maysure for Maysure.


  14. And more, before I forget.

    The final skit where Tom tries to scare Crow with his own head… “Now, Mike, look like a big dumb guy (no pause) THERE! That’s perfect!”

    I don’t know who says the season eight skits were bad. They always made me laugh, until Season Ten.


  15. Spector says:

    Not as good as the Deadly Mantis but not bad either. IMO they were starting to hit their stride by this point with the host segments as I thoroughly enjoyed every one in this episode, which of course introduced us to the Observers.

    I have to agree with the opinion that the constant parade of B/W films by this point was getting a bit wearing, which could also be why this one just doesn’t seem as funny as Leech Woman or Deadly Mantis.

    Overall the riffing is good and certainly has its moments, like mocking the aunt’s strong midwestern accent (“Play-sure”,her favorite Shakespeare play “May-sure for may-sure”), the oily ranch hand (singing, “there’s a big oily stain on my pillow…”), and Crow and Tom’s joy when the two women get into bed together.

    Still, this one kinda dragged in places for me, likely because of the aforementioned fatigue with the steady parade of b/w films early in this season. 3.5 stars out of five.


  16. Michael D. says:

    “You’re all horrible! I hope you all die! I hope…a tree falls on you!”

    Hilarious! You don’t see scenes like this that often these days.


  17. Spector says:

    Not to highjack this thread or go too far off-topic but I agree with Sampo and Thomas K. Dye regarding the riffing during the Sci-Fi years. I think much of the criticism is unwarranted and likely due to the departures of beloved characters like Joel, TV’s Frank and Dr. F, plus Bill Corbett taking over the Crow puppet.

    For some folks the Comedy Central years, especially those with Joel as host, were the gold standard and they just didn’t like the rapid changes in three short seasons. It’s understandable but also too bad because for most of the Sci-Fi years the riffing was, as Sampo contends, every bit as good. Only in the final season did I find it starting to lag and fall short, likely because the cast knew it was their final season.


  18. Cliff Weismeyer says:

    In addition to the “This Island Earth Music,” this movie also recycles music cues from Creature from the Black Lagoon and Return of the Creature.

    I also think it is worth noting that Gideon Drew is one of the lamest villains in film history. When his evil plot comes to fruition, and his head is reattached to his body, he musters a lame monologue about how everyone’s blood is not up to his exacting standards, and then dies because someone waves a necklace in his face. This guy is the best that Satan could do?

    This is not a favorite episode of mine (the…movie…is…so…dull) but it has a strikingly attractive cast and the crew does a decent job of not letting the movie Castle of Fu Manchu them. Also, while Paul sometimes rubs me the wrong way, he is great as the condescending but feeble-minded observer. Working for the government, I know that type well, and so does Paul, apparently.


  19. Tim says:

    My favorite riff is when the creepy ranch hand is about to do some peeping through the window, and as he saunters along, Crow sings (as an homage to the musical Oklahoma), “There’s a thick yellow stain on my backbrace”, and Mike busts up laughing for several seconds.

    Paul’s segment as an Observer investigating Mike is absolutely classic. “I’m sure we shall discover him to be but an animated piece of refuse, or feces.” Impressive that Mike could keep a straight face.


  20. adoptadog says:

    “Hey, a Kan-don’t-sky!”

    I think they definitely hit their stride with this episode. Great introduction of the Observers & use of many (many many) Sci Fi cliches. Paul did a wonderful job here, as an Observer and as Finnigan. The opening segment, with the Observers discussing dissection of Bobo & Pearl, and then the quick cut-away to Mike vacuuming, still makes me laugh.

    Lots of fine riffing, too, on this really pretty bad movie. The visual special effects weren’t too shabby, considering the overall quality of the movie, but can’t say the same for the audio. The reverb during the flashback sequence, that continues while ranch hand Mike begins to speak, is funny all on its own.

    Favorit riff: “She’s a Ouija broad!”


  21. jason says:

    My favoperite riffs Pretend you don’t have blood. Why does the historical guy wearing a robe? They sitting in the let’s pretend we didn’t boink last night pose. This maybe the most pointless movie they ever did.


  22. rcfagnan says:

    “A registered trade rat.” The second of the SciFi eps I saw (and the first after moving to a place that got the network), I was less than impressed on first viewing, probably because the movie drags…out…too…loooooooooong. There’s some good riffing here, and I loved the host segments even though, not having ever seen Star Trek, most of the references were lost on me.


  23. rcfagnan says:

    Oh, favorite riff “So Catholicism is just a placebo?” at the idea that the necklace/pendant/whatever could protect from evil as long as the person wearing it believed it could. BTW, the British had established their own Anglican Church by this time though…


  24. trickymutha says:

    But it’s an evil wind…

    Shinola- I found the show the same way- only I was 42 years young and was watching with my 7th grade son at the time. Sure you’re not him (lol)? To this day I have unfettered devotion to the show. Watched “Racket Girls” last night. “walking on the beaches looking at the Peaches…”


  25. Loran Alan Davis says:

    trickymutha: Wow. I am 50 years old, and I thought I was the only one here in that age group. Seems like most people here are twenty-somethings. I watch numerous MST episodes every day. Can’t live without it.


  26. DantesRing says:

    My fave riff is the
    “big boys don’t cry… big boys don’t cry”
    When she finds the head in the closet.

    Pulling that out of a 10cc song was briliant and I literally fell out of my chair laughing.


  27. Roman Martel says:

    This movie is a bit of a conundrum. It’s so memorable, what with the mute all powerful head, that I usually list it as one of the better early season 8 episodes. Then I watch it and remember how deadly dull it is. Once again the dreary drabness of the film overpowers what fun the original film could have and what fun the riffing could work with. This results in an episode that is very uneven.

    The film itself offers what appears to be plenty of fodder. You’ve got Aunt Flavia and her maysuring of traysure. You’ve got the “Of Mice and Men” hired hands. You’ve got the beat artist and his model. You’ve got the lovely witchy girl who sees evil in just about everything. I also love the flashback sequence with the echoy sound and use of mist. Very reminiscent of the upcoming “The Undead”. Then you’ve got the head. And the head is actually something that could be scary, and if filmed correctly this could have become a minor classic in Universal’s B horror cannon. Instead, the head is just ridiculous, especially when it shows up in the hat box. How is the audience supposed to react to that thing other than with laughter. For me the kicker is the ending. All it takes is our “hero” (and I use that term loosely) to throw the magic necklace on the restored creature and poof… he’s gone. Pretty sad monster in the end.

    But instead of being alive with pleasure, and riffing opportunities, the laughs just don’t measure up here. Again, the best stuff seems to come at the beginning and end of the episode, with really uneven stuff in the middle. And the middle is the slog portion of the film. Lots of wandering around and our leading lady going from being naive and cute to just plain annoying. Once the head gains control of her, things pick up a bit, and the laughs seem to come right along with it. But for me, while the middle does have some really funny moments, it also has lots of dead space.

    When it comes to host segments things pick up with the arrival at the planet of the Observers. Lots of goofy things going on here and it seems like everyone is having fun with the concept. I especially enjoy when Paul arrives in Observer garb aboard the ship and proceeds to annoy Crow and Mike with his observations. I also noticed that Bobo has pretty much devolved into the goofy ape we know and love. In a way you can explain this as the over powering nature of Pearl to sap the humanity from the good Professor, or you can just call it the evolution of the comedic writing. Pearl needs a good sidekick, and Bobo will fill that void perfectly. While some people dislike the moronic Bobo, I find him funny, especially when Bill comes on board as Brain Guy.

    For me “The Thing that Couldn’t Die” is a real mixed bag. When it hits the high notes of laughter it is solidly funny. But the middle is such a slog that doesn’t connect enough (either with the movie or the riffs) that the end result is an average episode. The host segments are fun, but don’t elevate the grade in my book. It’s a step down from “The Deadly Mantis”, but not nearly as dull as “Mole People”. I give it three stars out of five.

    For the record, I really enjoy the Sci-fi Channel years. Some of my favorite episodes are coming up. It’s just that these drab and dreary Universal monster movies don’t always work for me. If they had mixed it up with some other types of films, it might have helped. But I still think that there is something about these movies that just doesn’t lead to top notch riffing for the entire running time. Those dull stretches can be tough to pull off. The combo of Mike, Kevin and Trace was probably the best at handling these (making “Red Zone Cuba”, “Starfighters” and “Racket Girls” work so well). I just think that Bill was still finding his legs here, and it would take a little longer before they completely clicked and could handle those sagging middle portions of movie. Perfect example, “Incredibly Strange Creatures…” is really damn funny and is also really damn slow in places. By that point it seemed that Bill, Mike and Kevin were firing on all cylinders and it was no problem.


  28. RockyJones says:

    # 25: Loran Alan Davis…

    I’m 51, and also stay alive by pumping several episodes a day into my bloodstream…at home AND at work. Thank God for that Winamp Shoutcast TV stream!


  29. The Professor says:

    Wow. I’m surprised this one isn’t getting more love. It’s a full five stars for me! The riffing isn’t as good as my last five-star episode, The Leech Woman, but the great host segments really help this one become a winner.

    -Paul has, in my opinion, his finest moment as the condensending Observer. It’s truly a hilarious scene.

    -I, too, find it bizarre that Universal keeps dipping into the same themes from it’s production music library. Must’ve had been a small library…

    -I love the riffing on the “kindly peeper” scene. Brilliant.

    -The endless varitions on Aunt Flavia’s name didn’t really get many laughs from me. That is, except for Aunt “Coolio”. You just don’t hear many references to Coolio nowadays.

    -Jessica is hot. Very hot. Especially when she gets in that black dress. :twisted:

    -It seems like the Brains were more than happy to get rid of the stingers…their previous selections for the season were a bit disappointing.

    Yup…five stars!


  30. AThis episode beats the crap out of the Deadly Mantis. What’s so great about TDM?


  31. Ator In Flight says:

    Another great episode for me. The host segment where the Observer arrives to watch Mike is one of my favorites. Mikes’s face is priceless as Observer goes on and on.

    I love the lines they give Mike in the movie.
    “Why don’t you hit me anymore?”
    “I wasn’t going to shoot it I was going to clean it at you”
    “Me have element of surpise on you.”

    It still cracks me up when Tom keeps on restarting the song Jessica whenever someone says her name.

    Yes Jessica is hot,but I wonder about the guy she ends up with at the end(I forget his name). Can you imagine going out with her? Sorry getting to second base is evil.

    Flavia’s voice drives me crazy. This movie takes place in California? Well she has that shrill midwestern accent. Trust me I know it well.


  32. jjb3k says:

    I’ve only seen this one a handful of times, but I recall the riffing being pretty decent. Though I do specifically remember roaring with laughter at this particular riff:

    “Ever since we pulled you out of that well…”

    I wasn’t expecting them to make that reference, which I guess makes it all the more clever.

    The Observers are really funny at this point. Paul is great as the one who observes Mike, but I think it’s worth mentioning that Mike’s slow angry reaction to it is just as brilliant, and it’s all in his face. The host segments in general in this episode are really quite good. Which is much more than I can say about the next episode…


  33. Loran Alan Davis says:

    I remember seeing this film as a kid in the 60s. I will always remember that head.

    I just ordered another batch of episodes from Sadly, I have not yet seen the Mistie version of The Thing that Could Not Die. I look forward to getting it in a future order.

    Overall, I really do enjoy the Universal films. It makes sense that there were a lot of those on the Sci-Fi channel, since Sci-Fi (Sy-Fy?) is owned by NBC Universal. There would be no rights’ issues. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for a DVD release. Most likely, we will never see the Universal films on DVD. But I welcome Shout! to give it a try!


  34. jedzz says:

    For those of you who are still sore about the Observers taking over the stinger for this episode, don’t forget about this YouTube video suggesting possible replacements.


  35. Kenneth Morgan says:

    A movie-related question: If all they had to do to kill the bad guy was toss that bracelet at him, why didn’t they do that in the first place? Why go through all the hassle of chopping off his head, burying his remains separately, then hoping nobody would find it?

    By the way, I can only figure John Agar didn’t play the “hero” because he was shooting another movie at the time. The boring-stuffy, condescending scientist has Agar written all over him.


  36. DON3k says:

    This film is another in the long line of films featured on MST3k where the title is completely inaccurate. Couldn’t die? Does! Indestructible Man? Nope, just really durable. Conquered the World? Nope. Santa Clause Conquers the Martins? Wins-over, maybe. Conquers, no. Beatniks? None featured. Brain that Wouldn’t Die — It was kept on life support, so, no. Beginning of the End? Really, every day is the beginning of the end, so no. Village of the Giants? Nope. Just giants in a village. Dead Talk Back? Doesn’t happen. Future War? Present Day.

    The two most accurate titles would be I Accuse My Parents and Incredible Melting Man. Dead-on plot synopses, both.


  37. Cabbage Patch Elvis says:

    I agree that Jessica would make for a pretty high-maintenance girlfriend. “Yeah, yeah. What’s evil NOW?”

    I’m also a fan of Tom’s Allman Brothers bit whenever someone says “Jessica”. Good stuff. The Oklahoma theme song that plays whenever the greasy cowboy strolls by always gets me. “There’s a thick oily film on my back brace!”


  38. Cabbage Patch Elvis says:

    #36 – another pretty accurate title would be Laserblast. Pretty cruddy film (2.5 stars my big toe!) but you can’t deny the laser-blasting. Probably had more laser-blasting than really necessary, if you ask me.


  39. Fantagor says:

    From Paul’s Observer stint in the SOL, “Odd grim marionettes” sticks in my mind, as does, “He attempts to master some seemingly purposeless toy” and “as if to mock the gods that made him.”

    Probably the greatest writing for a host segment in the entire run. Pithy, erudite, and a total scream.

    The “trade rat” and “evil” jokes make this episode shine.

    TTTCD is truly a clumsily executed production. The mix of eras during the flashback is like a peek into the meeting where some studio functionary tells the director to “rummage through some old train cases and use what you can”. While I don’t detest magic or supernatural story lines, I DO detest ones based on spurious and flimsy mythologies, like Sir Francis Drake’s execution of Thomas Doughty for witchcraft. That’s like building a movie around the guy who stood in line at a Beatles drummer audition and left, making Richard Starkey (Ringo) next in line.



  40. Fantagor says:

    #36: A better title would’ve been The Thing That Was Very Resistant to Dying or The Thing That Didn’t Mind Being Buried For Centuries Then Dug Up.



  41. Paul Chaplin definitely was great in this episode. His portrayal of the observer sent up to study Mike and the Bots was hilarious. The way he insults Mike as if he weren’t even there reminds me of times at work when the boss other employees would talk bad mouth me while I was in thew same room. Too bad there wasn’t a convenient airlock to throw them out.


  42. Richard R. says:

    I unfortunately came to the Sci-Fi episodes fairly late and in a more or less haphazard fashion; I had moved from NY to LA literally two weeks before Season 8 premiered and upon hearing that my new cable company didn’t carry the Sci-Fi Channel (that loud screaming that came across the sky circa February 1997 was me) I had to coerce a friend of mine back in Brooklyn to tape them and send them to me…whilst she was prompt in taping, she was less prompt in mailing. Rather like waiting for the Shout Factory sets, now that I think about it… So I never saw them in order the first time around (funny, I think that was one the complaints the Brains had about the Sci-Fi Channel reruns, too!) and I missed a few episodes until I moved back east a few years later and could fill in the gaps.

    Anyway, what I (eventually) liked about the Sci-Fi era were the take-offs on various tropes of “classic” sci-fi–from “The Planet of the Apes” in the season openers, to the Observers, and later to “Alien” and some of the others. Not that this was entirely new ground for them, but I liked the “wandering in time and space” plotline (to the extent you can call it a plotline) and thought it worked very well. I thought the writing of the host segments got better in the Sci-Fi era, and they seemed a bit more conceptual.

    All the while, I thought the riffing was as good as it ever was, tho’ this episode was a bit of a comedown from “The Deadly Mantis”–you can’t beat a giant bug movie! However, for my money, Season 9 was the peak….but…wait for it…


  43. Iggy Pop's Brother Steve Pop says:

    One of the frustrating things about TTTCD as a movie is how it stretches the middle out and out, and then rushes the conclusion. In traditional structure terms, the villain getting his head back would probably be the plot point that ends Act II (about 3/4 of the way into the film), or even the “heroes’ low point” moment (about 5/8 into it). We get to see some of what the villain can do, our heroes find out how to defeat him, and then comes the showdown.

    Instead… well, you know what happens.


  44. mikek says:

    5 stars.

    There are a lot of good running jokes in this episode.

    There’s trade rat jokes, “We found a small tool and die shop in there.”

    Aunt Flavia’s name jokes, “Aunt Fistula, Aunt Fla-a-flaw, Aunt Flav-o-rite, etc.”

    Aunt Flavia’s sexuality and that of the old professor, “Oh E.G. Marshall, you ARE a bold one. That Flavia is one stone babe. etc.”

    Oklahoma song jokes, “There’s a thick yellow stain on my back brace! There’s a dark oily film on my headband! There’s a black greasy smudge on my pillow!” (Those are my favorite riffs as well.)

    The host segments are good. Paul’s Observer pestering Mike is well done. “How I hate him.” “I pray for his death, as all good and decent beings do.”

    Now, regarding the “girl on girl” stuff. Who the heck is Amanda Beardsley? I’ve heard that riff used on so many movie scenes involving two women. I’ve tried Googling the name but I came up with nothing, not even a random woman of the same name? I assume it’s a reference to some sort of artist or someone like that who makes lesbian themed work.


  45. Green Switch says:

    GREAT episode. This one was a lot of fun along the way, what with excellent host segments and hilarious movie riffing.

    Let’s start with the host segments:

    -One of the things I fondly remember about MST3K from the Comedy Central years was “classy” Crow, that is, Crow with his net on backwards, giving the illusion that Crow’s hair is slicked back for dignified purposes.

    When Bill did his thing at the beginning of the episode as classy Crow, I didn’t even think to compare what he was doing with what Trace did. It just seemed as if Bill had really come into his own as Crow.

    -It was something of a surprise when the Observers were introduced. I didn’t know where the show’s “endless chase” premise was going to take us, so I found myself jarred when the camera went from the SOL feed to some sparse-looking room with cloaked guys holding their brains.

    Still, all that humorous nonsense about their bodies lugging around their “self-sufficient brains” won me over quickly. The Observers’ goofy synthesizer theme music was a nice touch, too.

    Mike and Bill did great jobs in their first episode as Observers, but Paul was particularly amusing in the “impartial observation” sketch. It seems that he had trouble keeping a straight face at points, and that only added to the fun.

    -The lively music helped to make the already amusing Finnegan/Hadrian/Adrienne battle sketch even wackier.

    -You have to look closely on the monitor towards the end of the Civil War sketch, but one of the credits says, “SHOT ON LOCATION.” That got a big laugh out of me.

    -I absolutely hated the stinger hijacking for this episode and the next three. Yeah, the play on “A Best Brains Production” was mildly funny, but I would’ve rather had poorly chosen stingers than no stingers at all, since they are a big part of the fun for me. That said, my pick would’ve been “MY HANDS ARE STRONG.”

    -Finally, I completely agree that they should have thrown in some color movies to offset the top-heavy barrage of black-and-white Universal movies at the beginning of the season. If anything, the beginning of Season 1 (not counting the fact that “Women of the Prehistoric Planet” was played out of rotation) should have served as a lesson that too many black-and-white movies in a row CAN become monotonous.

    -As for the movie itself, I think that this one’s decidedly goofier than the previously covered movies in this season. Of course, that helps to make the proceedings more enjoyable.

    24-hour historical society representatives, the over-the-top look of contempt on Gideon Drew’s face, Flavia’s comically single-minded greed for “traysure,” Jessica’s constant observations on the presence of evil everywhere, the teamwork of Oily Horseman and Big Dumb Mike, the fact that THE THING THAT COULDN’T DIE actually dies fairly easily at the end of the movie – it all adds up to an experience that’s perfect for Mike and the ‘Bots to mock.

    And for what it’s worth, I died at the Ol’ Timer Billy Slater callback, not to mention Mike’s laughter at Crow’s riff: “There’s a thick yellow stain on my backbrace!”

    Some of my favorite riffs from this episode:

    -Call me an empiricist, but I need to see the water!

    -Okay, who’s for Evil Lunch before I have an Evil Nap?

    -There’s something Arch Hall, Jr. about her…

    -He’s a geometrical savant! – You might as well turn it into a den!

    -Flavia: “Gold, it must be gold!” Yeah, the great Nevada pirates buried it.

    -I’d like to see this resort’s full-color brochure. – Enjoy our crack-staff Mike and oily horseman Steve!

    -Thought it was Flavia’s room…

    -I’m takin’ forever in there. Did I fall in or something?

    -Wow. They held the tension for a full SECOND.

    -My hands are less strong than previously thought.

    -Uh, let’s see, he glued his knife upright on the coffee table and fell on it? No… uh, we were carving soap into figurines and he tripped? No… uh, we were stabbing each other and he died? Yeah, that’s it. (Riff of the episode!)

    -Man, Aunt Coolio’s gonna flip when she sees this…

    -Okay, you stand there shrieking like a dental drill and I’ll go endanger myself!

    -As your lawyer, I recommend you SHHHHH! – Uh, sir, you’re not helping your case much.

    -Next time, use your empty hand to knock, you idiot, you almost broke my nose!

    -When Jet, Jet all way.

    -But who’s going to milk the horses?! Oh, nevermind…

    -You rocked my world last night, Flavia.

    -My vacation dollar was NOT well-spent.

    -Jessica: “Oh, Linda, you’re giving me one of your hats!” Well, it’s hat-related.

    -You know, I think, frankly, they could do just as well with a systematic grid search.

    -The whole movie was leading up to THIS shot!


  46. The Toblerone Effect says:

    After the sleep-inducing effect that The Deadly Mantis had on me last week, TTtCD was a bounce back. The characters alone were much more riffable (Jessica, Flavia, wormy guy, et al) and the storyline was so out there that it more than held my interest. “There’s a thick oily gaze on my back brace” had me in a fit of laughter for several seconds. I also agree that Jessica is very hot, especially once she’s dressed in black and becomes more somewhat more sinister, and I love Servo’s humming the tune of the same name whenever someone says “Jessica”.

    What REALLY helps this episode the most is the first appearances of The Observers. Looking back, I wish they had kept Paul’s and Mike’s Observer characters coming back in epsiodes beyond this stretch (I know, they make a one-off comeback once they’re parked in Castle Forrester, but that wasn’t enough for me). And I agree, this was Paul’s best comedic effort in his entire time on the show; his Observer’s examination of Mike alone is side-splitting!

    In retrospect, I find my favorite non-SOL character of the Sci-Fi era to be Observer. Bobo was funny at first, but the dumbing-down the writers gave him over time became obnoxious after awhile. Pearl had her moments, yet her overbearing ways got to be trying at times. But Bill’s take on Observer was almost always humorous and clever, particularly when he became exasperated with either Bobo or Pearl (or any other character involved, for that matter). His presence helped get the show back to its high standard of comedy, IMHO.

    Four stars. But “The Giant Spider Invasion” is still too far away! Enough Universal B&W films already!!


  47. Ang says:

    This one has got to be in my top five. It’s also one of the few films I saw non-MSTied first and actually enjoyed. The sci-fi channel used to have a thing called Moonlight Matinee Theater where they would show old, weird movies in the afternoon and I remember catching this one on a lazy summer day in high school. I was happy to see it got the MSTie treatment and it was superbly done.

    I love the host segment with Paul as the Observer who can’t stand Mike. When he takes that cottonball on a stick and rubs it on Mike’s temple and Mike looks at the camera like he’s about to open a can of whoop-ass; I just lose it!! I don’t how they ever managed to film that b/c I can imagine they kept getting cracked up too. I’m sure Mike and Bridget also had fun with their scene. When else can you get paid for wailing on your wife? :lol:

    My other fave part of the host segments is at the end where Mike is pretending to be dumb Mike from the movie and he says “I have these hands, my hands are strong”. He seems just like him and it just cracks me up.

    How creepy is it that oily horseman Steve kept trying to break into Jessica’s room? It gives me the shivers. :sad:

    Fave riffs:

    When the monster guy looks as the necklace then recoils in horror and they say “Oh it’s so tacky!”

    “How do you like my new body?” as the head is sitting on a stump.

    “Always keep a neck rag handy – yepper!” I have said ‘yepper’ ever since then when answering things in the affirmative, I say it with the twang too which isn’t hard since I’m from Texas.

    “I must drive head to convenient store for smokes and Dove bar.”

    “I’m afraid my lamps aren’t feminine enough.”

    “This pennoir is for me and my future husband. He saw my bustle!”

    I also love all the variations on the song from Oklahoma: “There’s a dark oily film on my headband”

    “They’re in the classic let’s pretend we didn’t boink last night pose.”

    And way too many others to type up without getting carpal tunnel syndrome.


  48. Fart Bargo says:

    This was not too bad of an episode for me. The ladies were very easy on the eyes although I found the so-called hero a bit creepy in a Woody Allen way (been coming to the ranch since the blond was a little girl and now she is legal age, jump her bones!) He was also a John Agar wanna be type of smarty pants but just could not fill those pants the way John does.

    Aunt Flavia, flannel robes, greasy ranch hand, dumb ranch hand, head on a limb, head in a box, head in a chest, head in a hat box, head in a hand, lipsyncing head, greasy painter, cute guest, good riffing, observers, should have had a Jan in the Pan visit, sound track lack, totes up a 3.2 in my book.

    PS I am 56 and saw many of these movies in theaters and drive ins. Made fun of them with family and friends before there was a MST3K.


  49. Wampa Joe says:

    This is always a favorite of mine, if for no other reason than the introduction of the Observers. Brain Guy was my favorite “Mad” during the entire ten season run, and I thought he complimented Pearl and Bobo quite well.

    What I especially like is how Pearl’s minions now mirror Mike’s. They’re both portrayed by the same actors, and it’s fun to think that Bobo and Observer are kind of funhouse mirror versions of Servo and Crow.

    This was also when the brilliance (yes, brilliance) of the season 8 host segments really began to shine through. Despite all of the hand-wringing that went on after the fact, it really feels like the Brains embraced the network need for a science fiction-oriented story arc. The Observers, a mash-up of a multitude of science fiction cliches, were probably their most ingenious creations this year (with the Nanites coming a close second).

    Finally, I agree that this was Paul Chaplin’s shining moment, and the entire “Observer observes Mike” skit may go down as the funniest host segment the show ever did.


  50. BruceShack says:


    You (or the Brains) are probably referring to Amanda Bearse (sp?), the actress best known for playing Marcy (the next-door neighbor) on “Married with Children”, who came out as a lesbian near the end of that show’s run.

    Favorite riff:

    Servo “Mike, insert me into her cleavage and then get lost.”


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