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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

805

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)

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• 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.
References.
• 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. Dan in WI says:

    There is some really nice detail in the art exhibit (art about Art. Get it?) opening. I like the painting of Crow squashing Tom with his thumb. That said there really isn’t any ha-ha funny there. I do like the idea of Crow tossing kittens into a meat grinder. And I’m a cat person.

    So the tractor beam was pulling the SOL at a million times the speed of light???? Oh it’s just a show? I should really just relax?

    Evolved beyond the need for speech and yet they are speaking. Evolved beyond the need for bodies and yet they have bodies. I think Gypsy said it best. “What the h*ll.”

    Hey the Observers have Dallas reruns? I’m glad they haven’t evolved beyond that. I really do love that show!

    If one were to go strictly by the Observers introduction you’d think Paul’s character would become the regular. He really was the most prominent of them here.

    I really enjoyed the Civil War documentary. It is the first of the Bill Corbett Crow factually loose reports. My favorite credit of the documentary narrated by James Earl Jones. Somehow I missed him when watching the documentary.

    Charles Horvath is no Tor Johnson. But he does try.

    Okay so many complained about the sameness of this string of Universal movies. Should this really be lumped into that category? Yes it is black and white but it is no monster movie as two (or three depending how you count the moles slaves of Mole Men) of the first four are. It’s a super natural ghost story and that is unique to this young season.

    Favorite Riffs:
    Crow “Ma’am as a working ranch when are we going to plant a crop, get a cow or something?”

    Crow comments on Boyd “Nothing like smoking a Slim Jim.”

    Mike about Aunt Flavia’s robe “From the Jean Stapleton collection of lingerie.”

    Crow about Boyd “Sam Sheppard is Chuck Yeager in night mother.”

    Tom as Boyd “I only peeped six hours but I’m going to put eight hours on my timecard.”

    Jessica to Gordon about the necklace “You put it there. You’re the only one who can take it off.” Tom as Gordon “I helped you put your bra on too remember?”

       5 likes

  2. Tom Carberry says:

    The role of Aunt Flavia McIntyre was played by Peggy Converse. Born Peggy Randall on April 3, 1905 in Oregon City, Oregon, Peggy Converse’s stage, TV, and film careers spanned nearly seven decades. In each of these venues, she frequently played alongside her husband, Don Porter (of “Gidget” and “Ann Sothern” fame). She began acting in high school productions and later in college, graduating from Stanford University in 1927. She is reputed to have played in more than 100 roles on stage, including “The Infernal Machine” on Broadway and “The Taming of the Shrew” at Los Angeles’ Greek Theater. With her husband, she toured the USA and Canada in shows such as “Any Wednesday,” “The Best Man,” and “Love and Kisses.” Converse published poetry and was an active member of Planned Parenthood, the American Women for International Understanding, and the Hemlock Society. She died at the age of 95 in her home in Los Angeles in 2001.

    Favorite lines:

    [Universal-International logo] The weather today, the oceans turned black.
    [title card] The Strom Thurmond story.
    Look in back, its L.A. There like a block from the Comedy Store.
    [Hank/Jeffrey Stone] Sonny Corleone, Dude. He looks like Carmen from Laverne and Shirley.
    Yeah, they’re all dumb as posts and they home schooled her.
    [tree branch breaks] Gidget, have you lain with the horned one again?
    [main house] Decorated like a Keg and Kettle.
    “…there are evil voices too…sometimes they’re very hard to resist.” Well, just don’t listen to talk radio.
    [ancient charm] I think I got most of the rat droppings off of it.
    [Boyd/James Anderson] If Mike Connors and David Janssen had a baby. Did Flavia hire this guy directly out of prison?
    Sandy Dennis in BUtterfield-8.
    From the Jean Stapleton collection of lingerie.
    [treasure chest] Sir Francis Drake’s tackle box…bring me the head of Edward Mulhare. Mrs. Muir!
    You know, a single long stemmed stick says so much.
    So, she’s kind of a OUIJA broad.
    [Jessica/Carolyn Kearney] Did she drink like a quart of Robitussin before she came out to divine?
    [Judge/Thomas B. Henry] Robert Bork’s on a tear here. Justice Jackie Coogan.
    Follow me, we will bury the body where no man will ever find it.” Under Larry Wilcox’s career.
    [Linda/Andra Martin] Also starring Suzanne Pleshette.
    [Gideon/Robin Hughes] Peter O’Toole as Marie Antoinette.
    Another Domestic [Disturbance] on Walton’s Mountain.
    I better call Mitch and see how the little Brenner Girl’s doing.
    You know, his work is uncluttered by talent.
    [Julian Ash/Forrest Lewis] You rocked my world last night, Flavia…now they’re in the classic let’s pretend we didn’t boink last night pose.
    “You put it there, you’re the only one who can take it off.” I helped you put your bra on earlier too, remember?
    [Gordon/William Reynolds] “Ah, and you.” A skinny young virgin.

    Final Thought: More “This Island Earth” music in this than TIE. I give this one 4 out of 5 stars.

       4 likes

  3. Of no account says:

    I hate this episode, and can take solace only in my own cool detachment.

    Kidding, kidding. I actually really enjoy this episode. Goofy if overly drawn-out movie, great riffing, great host segments.

    Personally, I don’t understand the whole black & white complaints. I’ve never had a problem with b&w, and I grew up with color TV. Though, I actually knew someone who, when asked if they ever watched a b&w movie, replied ‘Why? I have a color TV!’. And really, was an icky movie like Giant Spider Invasion REALLY an improvement?
    If the problem is dullness (both visual & mental), then yes, I do understand. Though I wouldn’t say Deadly Mantis would fall into that group. Of course, I’m biased to giant monster movies.

    My boss says ‘maysure’ & ‘traysure’, etc. every time she says something that way it’s all I can do not to burst out laughing.

       5 likes

  4. Maybe it’s just my personal tastes, or maybe it’s just a generational thing, but I never could understand all the complaints about the number of B&W movies, or of the long string of old Universal “B” horror/sci-fi they featured in Season 8.

    I’ve always enjoyed those good old crunchy B&W stinkburgers as the B&W photography “dates” them as artifacts of a classic era of bad horror and sci-fi. For me, they seem to provide a kind of detachment and a certain flavor of “unreality” that the color movies from the ’70s/’80s/early ’90s didn’t really have.

    The Thing That Couldn’t Die has a certain kind of campy weirdness that makes it rather funny on its own, and that final shot right before the “The End” title (“…brought to you by the Breast Council…”) really ices it. (“…it was all leading up to this shot!”) On top of that, the quality of the riffing sends it into a special kind of absurd space. The running gag involving that old song from Oklahoma! is one of my all-time favorite running gags (“There’s a dark oily stain on my headband…!”).

       9 likes

  5. Michael D. says:
    September 10, 2009 at 10:29 am

    “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.

    “Evil painting… evil sofa… evil rhododendron…!”

       4 likes

  6. Loran Alan Davis says:
    September 10, 2009 at 11:40 am

    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.

    I’m 56, and have been a huge fan after being turned on to MST3K late in Season 2. So, when I refer to MST3K helping me get through my wasted youth, I’m talking about my early 30s. Seems ironic when I think that even when I was watching MST3K as it aired in first-runs, I was probably already outside the target demographic. I was in my early/mid 30s when I first started watching, and approaching my mid 40s when it was cancelled for good by SciFi Channel, so in a way, I grew old with MST3K even as many fans were growing up with it. It is kinda cool to see people who were in diapers during the early CC seasons growing up to become huge fans. I’ve also been rather curious about all those grade-school kids whose letters to the Info Club were featured on the air in the early CC days.

       2 likes

  7. BIG61AL says:

    This episode has a kind of “we have this set for something else for an extra week, lets see if we crank out another movie from it” to it. Throw in a few hokey props and special effects – BOOM – we have another movie. I think the story has some merit as a good plot but the execution of film is just horrid. This thing was bad long before the film was even processed. Thankfully the riffing makes this watchable.

       1 likes

  8. DON3k says:
    September 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    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.

    Yeah, right on, there. And, don’t forget Women Of The Prehistoric Planet (only one woman, and she’s not prehistoric), and Monster A Go-Go (there was no monster).

    Still, to be entirely fair, there are quite a few accurate titles. For instance, you’ve got:
    Rocketship XM (sure enough, got a rocket in it)
    Gamera (He’s in it)
    The Creeping Terror (Well, it creeps, at least)
    Danger: Death Ray (Yep, got a Death Ray in it, and they use it, though you could make a case for Danger: Wall-Mounted Guns. Bop ah dop ah dah dah.)
    Agent For HARM (well, that movie harmed me, at least; don’t know about the rest of you)
    Girl In Gold Boots (yep, fersure, there was a chick dancing in gold go-go boots — two chicks, in fact)

       6 likes

  9. Yipe Striper says:

    You are all evil and i hope you all have snacks.

       9 likes

  10. MikeK says:

    Crow’s Civil War documentary is the only host segment in this episode that I don’t like. It’s rare for me to dislike a host segment, and that only happens when it’s a one whole story line, like the essay/cheating story inspired by the short on cheating. I like the episode though and it’s got a lot of fun riffing.

       1 likes

  11. trickymutha says:

    Yup- still watching. Now almost 57. Busted this one out (again) the other night. It was about 2 in the morning on a Sunday. Took a long nap that day, and, find MST in the wee hours still works. Now, I’m off to look for trade rats and buried Trashyurs.

       3 likes

  12. Tom Carberry says:

    Just a heads up for those of you interested. TCM (Turner Classic Movies) will be running this little gem un-MSTed the on July 20/21 (depending on your time zone).

       2 likes

  13. Rob-ot- Rollcall says:

    the stingers never meant anything to me, back in the when I recorded shows with a vcr I stopped the recording as soon as the show ended. Why waste tape for credits and a meaningless callback scene?

       1 likes

  14. Sugar Magnolia says:

    Servo humming the song Jessica never fails to crack me up in this episode. One thing that always gets me about this one is the fact that the titular “thing” was much more powerful as just a head. He only lasted for a couple of minutes in his body before they destroyed him. He would have had much better luck just getting Mike to carry his head around as he caused chaos.

       4 likes

  15. Goshzilla says:

    A true tour de force from Paul Chaplin. Any idea what he’s up to these days? It’s always a treat when he pops up in Shout featurettes. There’s just something about Paul’s bearing that tickles me.

       4 likes

  16. Rose from NJ says:

    I am 62 years young and have loved the show for 20 years. I wish I was clever enough to make a Leech Woman or pineal juice comment, but I’m having a senior moment.

       6 likes

  17. Depressing Aunt says:

    I like the zest these guys have for Adrienne Barbeau. It’s so cute. For a long time I only knew her from “Swamp Thing” and I hated her totally un-tubular, horrible early 80’s hairstyle in that–I finally realized she is beautiful when I saw her in other things. I was quite pleased, most recently, to see her on “Dexter” and in “Argo”.

    P.S. You’re all evil and I hope you have snacks.

       1 likes

  18. mstgator says:

    “She’s a ouija broad!”

    Rewatching these Season 8 episodes in order, I’ve gotta say this is my favorite so far (yes, even above “Deadly Mantis”). I think it’s great the way the guys seem to have so much genuine fun in the theater (I swear Mike laughs at half the riffs in this one).

    Question: Was this episode shorter than most of them? My copy is only 1:28 without commercials, as opposed to the normal 1:31 or so, but I’m not noticing any obvious edits.

       4 likes

  19. GizmonicTemp says:

    mstgator #118 – Hmmm. It seems you’re correct. All of the season 8 eps are the same length (within ~20 seconds), except for #821 Time Chasers which is a minute shorter and #805 Couldn’t Die which is a whole four minutes shorter. Also, most of the season 1-3 eps are five minutes LONGER. Hmmmm, interesting…

       3 likes

  20. Brian says:

    This is my favorite episode. I really can’t pinpoint why. Maybe it’s the numerous running gags? I only really know that it is the one I pull out when I need a really good laugh or when I want an episode to give someone a good “introduction” to the show. It has never failed to succeed at either task.

       2 likes

  21. Fred Burroughs says:

    What a wonderful ep… The ensemble cast has such variety and goofiness, especially the cliche of Jessica the innocent/rageaholic/naive/beautiful/judgemental/coming-of-age/clairvoyant. Maybe I’m dumb, but it took me a few viewings to understand just WHY the beatnik, girlfriend and professor are staying at a desolate ranch?

    It’s been mentioned, but Paul (Shersten) is awesome in his turn as Observer. The sheer length of the observation is cruel as the depth and loathing escalates. However, I think it would’ve benefited from another take or two for Mike to keep his serious face longer. Concur, maybe the funniest host moment of MST, except for Mike Feinstein singing Gamera.

    PLot holes: it doesn’t bother me that the titular “thing” is defeated so easily, that happens in many vampire movies (show a crucifix, they die; reflect some sunlight, they die; see:Samson vs Vampire Women). What bugs me is the speech he gives after getting his body back. He’s been doing very well as just a head, but he now wants blood… and he insults everyone as having inferior-grade blood (even Satan is contemptuous of alcoholics? or shrill women?) Why is Gordon’s so good, anyway? I should really just relax.

    Side note: earlier this year, I was re-watching Star Trek season one, and the first 10 episodes are hilarious when you see all the themes since lampooned thusly by the Cow Towners. (Actually, after the 7th episode or so, they start repeating the same plots without much variation.) The self-righteous smugness, the condescending tone… “You are as amoebas to us…you see how your understanding fails you.” it’s all there. I was about to catalog which episodes match the MST reference, but it’s amazing how fast I gave that up.

       2 likes

  22. Stefanie says:

    The host segment with Finnegan, Hadrian, and Adrienne Barbeau is one of the best host segments in the entire history of the show! Also Brain Guy!!!

       3 likes

  23. Kali says:

    I enjoyed this episode since by this time I was getting tired of the apes. Especially as Bobo was getting dumber by the episode. Doesn’t say much for evolution — Mike is ultimately responsible for the stupidest apes in creation to rule the earth in the 25th century…

    Hate to say this, but I was never all that impressed with Paul as “The Actor” once Mike was promoted to host. That said, Paul’s Observer here is absolute perfection, and, of course, he owns Pitch the Devil later.

    Sure was obvious they were in the back reaches of the Universal lot.

    Jessica was cute – you can’t argue that. When I originally saw the episode, I didn’t recognize the music that Crow started humming each time Jessica’s name was mentioned, but I loved the “ever since we got you out of that well” and the “Jessica scared to death” riffs. Of course, now I have “Jessica” on my mp3 player.

    Recognized Gideon Drew (“Gideon’s Drool?”) immediately — too big a Twilight Zone fan not to. He was “The Howling Man.” The lady who played Jessica was in Twilight Zone too — she played the granddaughter of Ed Wynn in “Ninety Years Without Slumbering” during the Fifth season. And she had to wear a pregnant suit. Wasted casting, guys. That’s like casting gorgeous Julie Newmar as a pregnant woman on Star Trek. Oh, wait…

    And Mike punched Bridget in the face. Must have been an interesting evening after shooting…

    “You’re all evil and I hope you have snacks!”

    “Bring me the head of Edward Mulhare!”

    Now, how to explain this. “Uh, let’s see, he glued his knife upright on the coffee table and fell on it? No … um, we were carving soap into figurines and he tripped? No… um, we were stabbing each other and he died? Yeah, that’s it.”

    “There’s a thick yellow stain on my back brace!” — and all variants.

    “Um, as your lawyer, I recommend you hush!”

    “Why did you do that, you bubble headed booby!” Dang, he did look like Jonathan Harris in that pose!

    “Mike, insert me into her cleavage, then get lost.” Cracked up every time.

    “Regret, have, one, life, give, country.” So long, Mike-the-geometrical-savant!

    “I found the ‘This Island Earth’ music!” Early on, they also slipped in a “plug it in, Joe” but so quiet we almost missed it.

    “Now can we milk the horses?” Nobody does any real work on this farm, do they?

    “Oh, EG Marshall, you ARE a bold one.” Then, having her dream of Will Geer and Mike Douglas…

    “The whole movie was leading to this shot!” How in the world did THAT shot get past the censors?

    SERVO: “Now, Mike, just look like the big dumb guy. Great! That’s perfect.”
    MIKE: “But I wasn’t… hey!!”

    Mike-the-riffer WAS kind of dumb in this episode – I think we have to admit this. We are talking character, of course…

       3 likes

  24. Cornjob says:

    In case the obvious hasn’t been stated, this villain should have quit while he was a head.

    Here’s another case of “we’re going to punish you by making you powerful and immortal”. Can’t imagine that ever creating problems down the road. I mean, if you are going to create magical toxic waste with a half-life of forever, could you at least mark it with proper signage? Maybe one of those “call before digging” notices.

    Speaking of digging, If I ever need any excavation done I want Mike (from the movie) to do the job. He’s good.

    If I was one of the guests I don’t think I’d be coming back next year. Maybe I’d visit that nice Vally Lodge I’ve heard good things about.

       5 likes

  25. Mike and Trickymutha – Since you guys brought it up, I will update my post from 2009: I am now 54 years old, and I still watch at least one MST episode every day. I watch them in chronological order. When I finish, I go through Film Crew, CT, then Rifftrax (just the DVDs; I don’t have the downloads).

    I have noticed over the years that many fans here have love/hate relationships with certain episodes and cast members. For the record – I love every episode and every cast member. I have also noticed that some fans tend to have problems with black and white episodes and the 5 films from Universal at the beginning of season 8. What is wrong with black and white? Do you not watch Citizen Kane or skip the first 15 minutes of The Wizard of Oz because of black and white? And it should come as no surprise that there were films from Universal in season 8 since Universal owns the SyFy channel. Agent from H.A.R.M in season 8 was also from Universal; as was The Projected Man in season 9 (as well as a few others in earlier seasons). Come on gang – black and white instead of color; regular def instead of hi-def; and standard ratio instead of widescreen are all valid. Let’s get away from the attitude that everything made before yesterday is outdated.

    On topic (finally!), The Thing that Couldn’t Die is another great episode from those glorious horror film days at Universal.

       8 likes

  26. Ugh.

    This episode stinks.

    There, I said it.

    Seriously, I know Sampo’s Theorem is in full effect here, because I cannot fathom what everyone is talking about, how this can be considered a GREAT episode. This isn’t even a GOOD episode. I wasn’t in to this one at all when it aired back in 1997 and I was not in to it when I watched it yesterday. I was kind of surprised how unfunny it was. Just dull, dull, dull, with some subpar riffing, in my opinion.

    The movie has a couple memorable moments/lines, like Jessica’s “You’re all evil!” bit and dumb Mike with his “strong hands” that he just has to keep reminding everybody about. Strong hands? YEAH, we get it… Other than that though, seriously, what does this movie have? It’s all first act setup and second act conflict introduction, with no real third act of “rising action” to speak of. Sure, there’s resolution with the death of our (super lame) villain, but as #43 up above said, it’s like The Thing That Couldn’t Die drags the middle before rushing the end. Add to this the oppressive grayness of the movie and you have a winning combo for dullsville.

    It’s rare for me to say this about a Season 8 episode, but here goes: the Host Segments are my favorite part.

    The intro goes on a little too long (as they tend to do in this era. they are, after all, trying to tell a story) but I like the setup of the Observers as omnipotent beings that are also contradictions of themselves and to continue that, Paul just nails it as the impartial Observer in Host Segment #1. I found HS#2 to be a bit startling just because Paul shows up again, but this time as a different character, who immediately starts punching Mike in the face. When Adrienne Barbeau (played by Bridget) shows up for the punchline (pun intended) at the end, I couldn’t help but think how awesome it would’ve been if they had actually got Barbeau to do the cameo role.. The scene is funny as is, don’t get me wrong, but I wonder if they even tried contacting her?

    Crow’s Civil War doc in HS#3 is a total clunker, though, and I thought that the ending with Pearl and Bobo went on way too long and didn’t really offer anything, but hey, I don’t want to complain too much. . ..

    Because after all, even a subpar episode of MST3k (like The Thing That Couldn’t Die) is something I’d rather watch than most of what’s on network TV at any given time.

    –In regards to the Observer’s hijacking the stingers: it was cool once, but to do it multiple times was pretty lame. I like the stingers because they provide a nice endcap to the episode, which is the same reason I like the MST Love Theme that plays over the end credits.


    RIFFS:

    Crow: “Is there something Arch Hall, Jr. about her?”

    Mike: “Okay, tree. Start talking.”

    Servo: “Jessica, may I scare you to death?” —–reference to obscure 70s psychological horror film Let’s Scare Jessica to Death

    Mike: “Did you MAYsure the TRAYsure?”

    Crow: “The whole movie was leading up to this shot.
    Mike: “Brought to you by the Breast Council.”


    I was really tempted to give this a 1/5,
    but I reserve that rating for KTMA eps.

    The Thing That Couldn’t Die isn’t very good.

    I give it 2 out of five strong hands.

       3 likes

  27. Sitting Duck says:

    Cornjob #124: In case the obvious hasn’t been stated, this villain should have quit while he was a head.

    For that, you must die. :P

       6 likes

  28. jjk says:

    Saying TRAYsure and MAYsure is a Mid-Western dialect, particularly central Ohio. I had a high school teacher from there that pronounced all those words that way.

       2 likes

  29. ck says:

    “Sitting Duck says:
    June 28, 2013 at 9:35 am
    Cornjob #124: In case the obvious hasn’t been stated, this villain should have quit while he was a head.
    For that, you must die.”
    =======================================================================

    He better hope Mike’s brother doesn’t read that. You know
    what he said about puns!

       2 likes

  30. Farmland says:

    I should’ve mentioned this in the Good Performances, Bad Movie thread, but I’ve always thought that Jessica gave a pretty good performance in this. She was particularly convincing as the evil one.

       2 likes

  31. JCC says:

    The Amanda Beardsley thing is one of my fave blown riffs, and they do it a couple of times too. I’m not sure what the state of IMDb was at the time and I cant blame them for NOT wanting to watch an episode of Married With Children, even if just the credits. For another gloriously blown reference see “Barry Knight’s first feature” from Angel’s Revenge. Or don’t. Whatever’s OK with you guys…

       2 likes

  32. ToolAssist says:

    #119 I’m guessing the reason for the shortness of the episode is that this movie runs a total of 70 minutes, as opposed to the needed 75, and Sci-Fi wasn’t letting them do shorts at this point.

       0 likes

  33. SOLDaria says:

    One of my most heavily rotated episodes, can see why it’s boring to some but something about it just clicks. But what do I know, I liked Hamlet.

    @131 My favorite too because MWC was one of my favorite shows as a kid – and no, I didn’t live in a trailer park (at the time).

       5 likes

  34. privateiron says:

    This is a prime example of how different Sampo’s taste is from mine. I find “Mantis” heavy going and this movie fun, if stupid.

    On the other hand, for me, most ranking of MST3K is on a very fine scale. I love over half the episodes and like/tolerate something on the order of another 40%. There are probably less than 10 episodes I actively avoid and only one I flat out refuse to watch anymore. (Project Moonbase, if anyone is wondering.)

       4 likes

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

    “Stop where you are!”
    “Too late, I’m no longer there.”

    touches no one’s life, then leaves:
    >>>Why is the oily beat artist guy digging?

    Working off sexual frustration?

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

    Or maybe he just got caught up in the “adventure” of it. Digging up “tray-sure” isn’t the kind of thing most people get a chance to do. It was 1958, entertainment standards were much lower.

    Maybe without Linda he just needed to latch on to SOMEONE to tell him what to do.

    Were Hank and Linda supposed to be sharing a cabin? Obviously, they were a couple, but I wouldn’t think that an unmarried couple sharing a cabin would’ve gone over well in 1958. Of course, if it was a rich guy and his mistress, that’d probably be something else again. From what I understand, it used to be EXPECTED of rich guys to have mistresses yet, of course, it was rich people who set the standards of what was and wasn’t “moral.” Odd odd odd.

    Looking at the cast list from Wikipedia:

    William Reynolds as Gordon Hawthorne
    Carolyn Kearney as Jessica Burns
    Andra Martin as Linda Madison
    Jeffrey Stone as Hank Huston
    Peggy Converse as Flavia McIntyre
    Robin Hughes as Gideon Drew
    James Anderson as Boyd Abercrombie
    Charles Horvath as Mike
    Forrest Lewis as Julian Ash

    Only Mike didn’t —

    Wait a minute, “Abercrombie”? I actually just thought people were addressing Boyd by his last name since “Boyd” sounds so much more like a last name than a first name. Moreover, it’d be understandable if a guy whose FIRST name was “Abercrombie” didn’t want people to address him as such. Oh well.

    Only Mike didn’t rate a last name, poor guy. Maybe his character was supposed to be too stupid to remember more than a one-syllable name.

       1 likes

  36. McLargeHuge says:

    To your point about riffing being consistently good, I will say that riffing was pretty strong for most episodes from 3 – 10. I will say, however, is that I think that what some fans noticed is a different type of riffing after the departure of Trace and Frank. After seeing The Mads are Back live, I can definitively say that those two added so much to the writing room, with Trace’s onscreen delivery and comedic timing being second to none. The riffs stayed strong through Season 10, but the loss of Trace and Frank would be noticed.

       2 likes

  37. gf120581 says:

    I lost my TRAY-sure and I feel dis-PLAY-sure.

       2 likes

  38. Lisa H. says:

    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.

    I was one of them at the time, in a sense – I didn’t directly complain to anyone but I found that the differences kind of left me cold and I stopped being that interested in watching, especially as between fall 1997 – spring 2000 I did not get the Sci-Fi Channel. I was grateful in later years that my dad had actually taped some of them for me during that time. In any case, I agree with you about the strength of the riffing, though it does have a different tone from the different mix of writers (like McLargeHuge noted).

    Paul is hilarious as the Observer. “I hate him, and can take solace only in my own cool detachment.”

    I think Mike is probably the weakest/least amusing as an Observer. I can see why they ultimately went with Bill solo.

    A lot of fans were very surprised and not many were pleased when the Observers usurped the stinger.

    Shinola asked this way back in 2009, but I didn’t spot any responses looking through the comments up till now. Do we know why this was done in the first place?

       2 likes

  39. Sitting Duck says:

    The Thing That Couldn’t Die passes the Bechdel Test. Jessica has multiple non-male conversations with Aunt Flavia and Linda.

    The entry written by Paul incorrectly identifies Jessica as Flavia’s daughter, rather than her niece.

    On the Killing the Thing dry erase board on the DVD menu, the crossed out methods are Liquid Nitrogen, Crush in Vice, and Burn in Lava.

    The Ballyhoo documentary was really nice. Interesting that the film’s original title was The Water Witch. While not as attention grabbing as The Thing That Couldn’t Die, it is more accurate.

    For those not up on classic Star Trek, Finnegan is an upperclassman from Kirk’s academy days, a simulacrum of whom appears in the episode Shore Leave. The Star Trek comic book series published by DC in the late Eighties (which follows the post-Voyage Home adventures of Kirk and Co.) had a storyline in which the actual Finnegan visited the Enterprise.

    I think Crow’s Civil War documentary was better than Ken Burns’. For those who missed it, one of the credits at the end says, “The filmmaker wishes to acknowledge the generous support of Circle Pines, Minnesota, who let us use their bathroom.”

    Much is made by the riffers concerning the use of dowsing to locate the coffin over more traditional archaeological techniques. However, it was established earlier that Aunt Flatulent didn’t want them digging up holes all over the ranch.

    For an alternate Stinger, I would go with Jessica yelling, “You’re all evil!!!!!”

    rcfagnan:
    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…

    To be fair, of all the Protestant sects that emerged during the Reformation, Anglicanism is probably the least dissimilar theologically speaking from Catholicism.

    ck:
    Let’s see, Flavia McIntyre or Erica Page (Gunslingers bar/brothel owner), who’s a less sympathetic/female protagonist character?

    Flavia is more of a supporting character, while Erica is clearly the antagonist.

    Bob(NotThatBob):
    As a kid I used to catch “The Thing That Couldn’t Die” on “Creature Double Feature” Saturday afternoons back in Boston.I don’t think this movie has ever had an official VHS or DVD release.Boring as many believe it is, I would love to see it released some time.It just makes me feel like a kid again to see it.

    Checking Amazon, it’s available on DVD both as a single and part of one of those multi-bad film collections. Admittedly, both were released years after you made that post.

    The Bolem:
    I also agree with whoever mentioned the ending being too rushed/cramped.The best example of this is how he just throws out that he needs to start drinking blood, and he has to be fussy about it, in the last 30 seconds before he dies.Were they just assuming that people associated vampirism with selling your soul to Hell?Or with being buried for hundreds of years and getting all dehydrated?One of H.P. Lovecraft’s longest works does something similar:The first 2/3 of ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward’ deal almost exclusively with the title protaganist unearthing evidence that his ancestor found a way to reconstitute the dead using special powder and was torturing them in some vague quest for ultimate knowledge and immortality, but then the third act just tosses in, “oh yeah, Curwen was also responsible for some vampire attacks, because he needs fresh blood.Did I forget to mention how that ties into all this?Ah, we’ll move on, story’s long enough already…”(It’s still a good novella, though)

    To be fair, CDW is essentially a rough draft which August Derleth stitched together from a variety of correspondence.

    Favorite riffs

    In weather today, the ocean’s turned black.

    “Jessica was only thirteen when I went away to college.”
    And now she’s twenty-nine. I kind of had a bit of a hard time.

    “But Jessica doesn’t charge anything.”
    And the Devil’s built right in.

    You’re all evil and I hope you all have snacks.

    Who’s for evil luch before I take an evil nap.

    “I must do it to help someone.”
    Like when I crushed your vertebra.

    The country needs skilled trade rats.

    There’s no trade rat, but there is a skilled artisan rat.

    “A museum might pay plenty just for that chest. But not if you smash it with a pickax.”
    Oh, that chest.

    Enjoy our crack staff, Mike and oily horseman Steve.

    I just noticed that window treatment is evil.

    “There’s no evil left after four centuries.”
    What if they Zip-Locked the evil?

    Old Timer Billy Slater’s doing three years community service.

    Little lady ought to be down to her twelveth layer of slip by now.

    My hands are less strong than previously thought.

    I’ll try the psychotic virgin down the block.

    You stand there shrieking like a dental drill, and I’ll go endanger myself.

    “What’s that?”
    It’s just those trade rats working the night shift.

    “As if something were trying to overpower me.”
    Did you have the pesto pizza before bed, honey?

    “Nay, do you gaze on this.”
    Oh, it’s so tacky!

    “And in that distant time, my soul shall rise to spread the plagues of Hell around the world!”
    Sir, you’re not helping your case much.

    “Stop where you are!”
    It’s too late. I’m no longer there.

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

    Honey, put the head away for now. It’ll still be here when we get back from church.

    I want to look evil, but not satanic.

    So I guess we can assume that Aunt Rabies divining attempt was a miserable failure.

    Five thousand dollars was a lot of money back now.

    “This one feels loose.”
    Sure, but let’s get back to work now.

       4 likes

  40. thequietman says:

    Now what did you do THAT for, you bubbleheaded booby?

    Up until the DVD release, this was one of the rarest Sci-Fi episodes for me. I missed its original broadcasts and saw it only once during the post-finale reruns. But it stuck with me for whatever reason and even gave me a riff (…the Strom Thurmond story!) that helped me explain the premise to non-fans.

    Also, to me Crow’s Civil War ‘doc’ marks the return of another tradition from the Comedy Central years, that of the ‘School Report’ sketch. Sometimes it doesn’t always land, but when it does it’s hilarious.

    But yeah, otherwise the only thing this film has going for it is when the good girl goes bad. Why is it the heroes always become more entertaining when they temporarily turn evil? Think about it, won’t you? Thank you.

    Fave riffs
    Joe dropped the needle, now he’s off eating a Mallocup…

    Her butt’s under a big W!

    She took her dress off and now she’s less nude than she was before!

    “Don’t call me Mr. Hawthorne…”
    Call me Mr. Jenkins, that’s my name!

    A graphic depiction of the Lutheran attitude toward sex.

    Could you stop blocking the fruit bowl? I’m trying to paint.

       2 likes

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

    Stickboy:
    To give the movie an ounce of credit, I like that they didn’t allow the head to actually speak without lungs

    It’s magic. What difference does it make one way or the other?

    bartcow:
    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.

    And how many parties have you been INVITED to since 1997? ;-)

    Tim:
    Impressive that Mike could keep a straight face.

    That’s a crucial trait in comedians, to keep a straight face during any joke, even their own. Supposedly, in vaudeville (more or less quoting Jerry Seinfeld here) comedians were a dime a dozen, but when you had a good straight man, you had an ACT!. Mike is basically an Abbott on a shipful of Costellos.

    rcfagnan:
    I loved the host segments even though, not having ever seen Star Trek

    How is that even possible?

       2 likes

  42. Johnny Drama says:

    Wow, I thought I had previously commented on this one (under my old handle PondosCP), but apparently not. For years, I thought this one was incredibly dull, and I’d always fall asleep to it. Then one day, it all clicked. I think it was the Shout! copy that did it, with it’s superior quality picture and sound. Now I love this episode.
    For the most part, I think Season 8 is really bad. I mean, the low point of the whole series. I know, I’m in the minority. There’s only a handful of Season 8 episodes I like, and this is one of them. This episode and Riding With Death are easily the crown jewels of the Sci-Fi era. This movie is a perfect, comfortable call back to the glory days of the CC era, invoking a kind of Season 6 dreary vibe that I adore. Yep, love this one.
    Other than The Undead, I Was A Teenage Werewolf and Incredibly Strange Creatures, this season is the pits. Too much change, too fast, and the vibe of the series went out the window. I guess that’s to be expected when you go from a cast of up to 12 writers down to 6. I feel the Sci-Fi era gets better in Season 9 (a few duds in there), and Season 10 (back on their feet, the best of the Sci-Fi era, then abruptly cancelled).

       1 likes

  43. docskippy says:

    I love this episode. This was an excellent choice of movie – slickly made, but there’s just something…so…odd…about it.

    If you want to see basically this movie, but with lots of explicit gore and full-frontal nudity, check out Paul Naschy’s movie Horror Rises From the Tomb. It’s great!

       1 likes

  44. docskippy says:

    Johnny Drama:
    Wow, I thought I had previously commented on this one (under my old handle PondosCP), but apparently not. For years, I thought this one was incredibly dull, and I’d always fall asleep to it. Then one day, it all clicked. I think it was the Shout! copy that did it, with it’s superior quality picture and sound. Now I love this episode.
    For the most part, I think Season 8 is really bad. I mean, the low point of the whole series. I know, I’m in the minority. There’s only a handful of Season 8 episodes I like, and this is one of them. This episode and Riding With Death are easily the crown jewels of the Sci-Fi era. This movie is a perfect, comfortable call back to the glory days of the CC era, invoking a kind of Season 6 dreary vibe that I adore. Yep, love this one.
    Other than The Undead, I Was A Teenage Werewolf and Incredibly Strange Creatures, this season is the pits. Too much change, too fast, and the vibe of the series went out the window. I guess that’s to be expected when you go from a cast of up to 12 writers down to 6. I feel the Sci-Fi era gets better in Season 9 (a few duds in there), and Season 10 (back on their feet, the best of the Sci-Fi era, then abruptly cancelled).

    Now see, I think S9 is the pits. Holy crap, The Deadly Bees? That one’s painful. And isn’t the Projected Man in there too? I can’t remember, and too lazy to look it up. I just recall S9 being full of drab, cheap British genre pictures. Whoops, I was being redundant there, I should just have written “British genre pictures.”

    Basically, what I’m saying is that you can stop watching British sci-fi after the Quatermass Xperiment. Okay, you can watch Quatermass II as well. Then you can stop.

       0 likes

  45. Joseph Goodman says:

    docskippy: Now see, I think S9 is the pits. Holy crap, The Deadly Bees? That one’s painful. And isn’t the Projected Man in there too? I can’t remember, and too lazy to look it up. I just recall S9 being full of drab, cheap British genre pictures. Whoops, I was being redundant there, I should just have written “British genre pictures.”

    Basically, what I’m saying is that you can stop watching British sci-fi after the Quatermass Xperiment. Okay, you can watch Quatermass II as well. Then you can stop.

    What, and skip The Day The Earth Caught Fire and Quatermass And The Pit?

       1 likes

  46. Joseph Goodman: What, and skip The Day The Earth Caught Fire and Quatermass And The Pit?

    You DO NOT SKIP Quatermass & the Pit. Any John Carpenter fan will tell you that.
    (The Quatermass Conclusion, maybe, but they’re both helpful for understanding why “Prince of Darkness” and “Halloween III” were made.)

    Let’s not fall into the Mike-era trap of “They all did it to us by giving us this one movie, they’re evil!”

       1 likes

  47. Johnny's nonchalance says:

    in your most solemn dirge voice:

    Frosted Lucky Charms, they’re magically delicious

    Huh, the guy playing Boyd was in To Kill a Mockingbird, as another greasy low-life.

    “James Anderson, who played the malevolent Bob Ewell, was a drunken Alabama-born Method actor so lost inside his part that he came to hate Gregory Peck.”

       0 likes

  48. docskippy says:

    The Original EricJ: You DO NOT SKIP Quatermass & the Pit.Any John Carpenter fan will tell you that.
    (The Quatermass Conclusion, maybe, but they’re both helpful for understanding why “Prince of Darkness” and “Halloween III” were made.)

    Let’s not fall into the Mike-era trap of “They all did it to us by giving us this one movie, they’re evil!”

    Prince of Darkness is interesting in concept but little more than drab in execution.

    Halloween III deserves better than it got at the time, but not THAT much more than what it got. It’s amusing, but it’s really not as good as its revisionist boosters would have you believe.

       1 likes

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

    >>>The Professor

    Loved you in “Animal Crackers.” ;-)

    >>>Iggy Pop’s Brother Steve Pop

    It just registered, that’s yet another “Steve.” Frank calls Dr. F “Steve,” oily horseman Steve, and “Steve?!”

    Nicias:
    I don’t normally pick a least favorite character, but I feel compelled to this time. Surprisingly it’s not Flavia, although she is spiteful. I choose Hank, the “beatnik” artist. His response to his girlfriend’s demon-inspired rejection is to immediately seduce the underage virginal girl.

    She wasn’t underage in the movie. She was underage back when Gordon left for college (“And now she’s 29, I had kind of a hard time of it…”), and that would’ve been at least four years ago.

    IIRC the movie gave us not one clue as to how Gordon and Jessica knew each other before he went away to college. Maybe he was the son of one of the however many workers Flavia employed at the time? Neither Boyd nor Mike show any sign that they recognize him from years ago (although admittedly in Mike’s case that probably wouldn’t happen anyway), so presumably they didn’t work there back then, but someone must have. But who cares.

    crowschmo – Registered Trade Rat:
    Lame villain.Why didn’t he just stare at EVERYONE at the end and put them ALL in a trance instead of making a lame speech?

    Maybe he couldn’t mesmerize that many people at once. Does low-budget HAVE to mean all-powerful?

       1 likes

  50. docskippy: Prince of Darkness is interesting in concept but little more than drab in execution.
    Halloween III deserves better than it got at the time, but not THAT much more than what it got. It’s amusing, but it’s really not as good as its revisionist boosters would have you believe.

    Well, point I was making was that Carpenter was such a Brit-scifi Quatermass geek, he hired an uncredited Nigel Kneale to write the Halloween III story (if you watch the original TV version of “Quatermass Conclusion”, you’ll know where the Creepy Annoying Commercial-Jingle trope came from), and Carpenter pseudonymed his own Prince of Darkness script as “Martin Quatermass, brother of the well-known rocket scientist”.
    Yeah, think he was a little bit of a Q&tP fan.

       0 likes

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