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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: 806- The Undead

Movie: (1956) A “psychical researcher” hypnotizes a prostitute, causing her to regress to a previous life as a woman accused of witchcraft.

First shown: 3/8/97
Opening: Trying to fill in the viewers, Mike seethes about past injustices
Intro: The Observers test everybody and Servo tests well
Host segment 1: Servo becomes an Observer–then the spoons go missing
Host segment 2: The witch from the movie appears, but she’s going through some changes
Host segment 3: Mike plays his Digger Smolken album
End: Crow is an imp, Tom and Mike lash out at Leonard Maltin, and Bobo makes a brain sammich
Stinger: Observers
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (208 votes, average: 4.38 out of 5)

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• My memory of this one was that it was all drab and smeary, kind of like the walls in the psychicical researcher’s office, but this was one of those episodes that was a lot wackier than I remembered. To start with, it’s Corman, and that means funny. And it’s the first non-Universal movie since the season started. Plus you got Billy Barty, the always-fun Bruno VeSota, Digger Smolken and the STAY! chorus. What’s not to love? Well, maybe the last host segment…
• Bill’s take on the episode is here.
• This episode is included in Shout Factory’s “MST3K: Volume XXXIV.”
References.
• It’s in this episode that Bill breaks out and begins to become the Observer we know. He has some nice moments in this one.
• Why did Corman think audiences would go for this hokey tale of psychic regression? Well, it was, briefly, all the rage. In the mid-1950s, a book called “The Search for Bridey Murphy” became a best seller. It supposedly was based on a true story about a woman who regressed to former lives via hypnosis. In 1956, a movie based on that book, with the same title, was released, and did pretty well, well enough to get Corman working on a ripoff. But by the time he was able to get it filmed, the craze had peaked, and a new fad was hot: zombies. So they changed the title from “The Trance of Diana Love” to “The Undead,” even though there’s nothing particularly undead in the movie.
• When Livia and her imp change into bats, they may look familiar to you. Corman used them a year earlier in “It Conquered the World.”
• Daleism: As Quintus hypnotizes the girl, he says: “Do you see my hand?” Mike adds: “Do you think I’m Dale?”
• LOTR references: Rivendell, Strider, Mordor, Mithril.
• Bridget is lots of fun as the witch unable to control her shape-shifting.
• A rare riff retread: “This guy is Satan … from hell” is a riff originally done in “Santa Claus.”
• Callback: “You’re stuck here!” (Fugitive Alien)
• The old “spoons dropping from the sleeve” bit was probably most famously done in the 1930 Marx Brothers movie “Animal Crackers.”
• The “Servo as Observer” bit goes on a bit, I have to say. This long segment, plus the long segment at the end, are obviously drawn out because the movie is so short. A short might have served them better.
• That’s Kevin singing on the Digger Smolken album, of course.
• I wonder if Leonard Maltin saw the bit at the end before he agreed to be a guest star a year later.
• The final bit—the lengthy brain sandwich-making scene—sparked fierce debate among internet fans. Some loved it, others saw it as long, labored, pointless and emblematic of a growing problem they were having with the revived series. It really is a tour de force for Kevin. On the other hand, it’s definitely a long walk for a little joke.
• One other note: Kevin, his hands — or paws — probably slippery with mayoNAISE — drops the tape and it rolls a little way away and he has to run after it. They keep rolling.
• The Observers steal the stinger again. What would be your nomination? Mine is: “STAY!”
• Executive producers Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson also worked on “The Amazing Colossal Man,” “It Conquered the World,” “Earth Vs. the Spider,” “Teenage Caveman,” “Viking Women and the Sea Serpent,” “War of the Colossal Beast,” “Night of the Blood Beast,” “Terror from the Year 5000,” “The She-Creature,” “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” and “The Screaming Skull. Producer/director Roger Corman also worked on “It Conquered the World,” “Teenage Caveman,” “Viking Women and the Sea Serpent,” “Swamp Diamonds,” “Gunslinger,” “Night of the Blood Beast,” “Attack of the Giant Leeches” and “High School Big Shot.” Assistant director Lou Place directed “Daddy-O,” appeared in “Swamp Diamonds,” was a production manager on “It Conquered the World” (he probably wrangled those bats), and “Agent for H.A.R.M.” Screenwriter Charles B. Griffith also worked on “It Conquered the World” and “Gunslinger.” Screenwriter Mark Hanna also worked on “The Amazing Colossal Man” and “Gunslinger and was production coordinator for “Terror from the Year 5000.” Cinematographer William Sickner also worked on “The Phantom Creeps.” Prop Master: Karl Brainard also worked on “It Conquered the World,” “Teenage Caveman,” “Night of the Blood Beast” and “The She-Creature.” Choreographer Chris Miller also worked on “Gunslinger” (and appeared in it as well). Score composer Ronald Stein also worked on “It Conquered the World,” “Gunslinger,” “The She-Creature,” “Attack of the the Eye Creatures and “The Girl in Lovers Lane.” In front of the camera, Allison Hayes was also in “Gunslinger,” “The Crawling Hand” and “The Unearthly.” Bruno VeSota was also on “Daddy-O,” “Attack of the Giant Leeches,” “Gunslinger” and “The Wild, Wild World of Batwoman.” Richard Devon was also in “Viking Women and the Sea Serpent.” Aaron Saxon was also in “Gunslinger.” Richard Miller was also in was also in “It Conquered the World” and “Gunslinger.” Paul Blaisdell also appeared in “”It Conquered the World,” “The She-Creature” (for which he also did special effects), “The Amazing Colossal Man,” “Earth Vs. the Spider” and “Teenage Caveman.”
• CreditsWatch: Jim gets the producer credit and Kevin gets the director credit. A guy named John Sims joins the crew for six episodes. His credit is “SFX/foley.” For some reason, interns Elliot Cobb and Mytch Parks, who worked the first five episodes of season 8, did not work this one and the next one. In their place are Lane Stiller and Steve Zocklein. They worked this episode and the next one, then Cobb and Parks returned for two more episodes. Hm.
• Fave riff: “You have one litter of toads and people won’t drop it.” Honorable mention: “I have never known more about what isn’t going on in a movie” and “This is one tough spelling bee.”

160 Replies to “Episode guide: 806- The Undead”

  1. docskippy says:

    The Original EricJ: Not to mention, it was supposed to be goofy, just like the entire Vincent Price-Peter Lorre-Boris Karloff intentional-comedy trilogy.Along with “The Comedy of Terrors” and the middle segment of “Tales of Terror”.

    Price in “The House of Usher” or “Masque of the Red Death” actually weren’t all that bad, either, no question mark.(And an exclamation point in Masque’s case, with the Richard Matheson screenplay.) Corman’s B/W films were quick stuff for double-features, but the Poe films were his big-budget pieces he hoped would play the A-bills by themselves.
    Which is one important thing to get away from the Cult of Name-Beating that became all the Mike era had to rely on.Not every director is instantly declared Evil, just because he made one or two public-domain films that happened to have a few choice bits of riffing-fodder in them during better seasons.

    Right. Joel et al were, as we all know, ENTIRELY fair and balanced in their assessment of the works of Ed Wood and, yes, Roger Corman. Absolutely NO declarations of evil made against those chaps by Joel et al. Nope, none sir. Nothing to see there.

    Again, we see how easy it is to get onself into a deadly jock lock when all you’re out to do is relentlessly push a “fan” grudge that holds less water than a cheese grater.

       7 likes

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

    Sitting Duck:
    This regards the scene where a newly arrived and naked Quintus mugs the knight to steal his clothes. When asked, “Look familiar, Mike?”, are they implying Mike being experienced in the Quintus role or the Knight role?

    The “Look familiar, Mike?” riff got a LOT of mileage during the SFC years. I’m not sure they ever used it during the CC years, though.

       1 likes

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

    docskippy: Right. Joel et al were, as we all know, ENTIRELY fair and balanced in their assessment of the works of Ed Wood and, yes, Roger Corman. Absolutely NO declarations of evil made against those chaps by Joel et al. Nope, none sir. Nothing to see there.

    Again, we see how easy it is to get onself into a deadly jock lock when all you’re out to do is relentlessly push a “fan” grudge that holds less water than a cheese grater.

    IMHO griping about it makes as much sense as griping about Sitting Duck and the Bechdel Test, i.e. none. The act of NOT reading a post takes less than a second, griping about it takes much longer. That’s just me, though.

       2 likes

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

    ADDENDUM:

    Wait. Is EricJ, the guy “pushing his grudge,” the same guy who b|tches and b|tches and b|tches about Sitting Duck posting Bechdel Test results and has actually told Sitting Duck to STOP doing it? If so, well, that’s one of the most enormous examples of hypocrisy I’ve seen in a while. And keep in mind that this is well AFTER the 2016 Presidential Election.

    But, hey, why EricJ or anyone care what *I* think, right?

    If that guy is in fact NOT that guy, well, my genuine apologies.

       4 likes

  5. Sitting Duck says:

    touches no one’s life, then leaves: The “Look familiar, Mike?” riff got a LOT of mileage during the SFC years. I’m not sure they ever used it during the CC years, though.

    Though I can’t recall any specific instances off the top of my head, I’m reasonably sure they needled Mike in that fashion during the CC years. Interestingly, In Gamera, when the title kaiju is launched into space, one of the Bots says, “Look familiar, Joel?”

    touches no one’s life, then leaves:
    Wait. Is EricJ, the guy “pushing his grudge,” the same guy who b|tches and b|tches and b|tches about Sitting Duck posting Bechdel Test results and has actually told Sitting Duck to STOP doing it?

    Johnny’s nonchalance and Bad Wolf also seem to have found them objectionable. You can’t please everyone.

       3 likes

  6. Why did Corman think audiences would go for this hokey tale of psychic regression? Well, it was, briefly, all the rage. In the mid-1950s, a book called “The Search for Bridey Murphy” became a best seller. It supposedly was based on a true story about a woman who regressed to former lives via hypnosis. In 1956, a movie based on that book, with the same title, was released, and did pretty well, well enough to get Corman working on a ripoff.

    Bridey was even enough of a 50’s trend to attract Stan Freberg’s attention: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue43nVO9xkQ

    Sitting Duck: Though I can’t recall any specific instances off the top of my head, I’m reasonably sure they needled Mike in that fashion during the CC years.

    Think the first regular instances was the “Woo-hoo, vannin’ & stonin’!” motif for riffs in Laserblast (’cause it’s, like, the 70’s ‘n stuff) that got the Bots trying to delve into Mike’s personal high-school nostalgia.
    After that, it was the SciFi years, where Bill could beat the self-aware default joke to death.

       1 likes

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

    Just as a general MST3K interest item, did anyone else know that there’s a relatively recent film called “The Girls from HARM” (presumably an homage to “Agent from HARM”)? Until about seven minutes ago, neither did I. :-)

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0285141/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl

       2 likes

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

    Johnny’s nonchalance and Bad Wolf also seem to have found them objectionable. You can’t please everyone.

    Well, perhaps, but that doesn’t answer my question. ;-)

       1 likes

  9. Sitting Duck says:

    touches no one’s life, then leaves: Well, perhaps, but that doesn’t answer my question. ;-)

    It’s possible that he made some derisive comments about it. However, if he did, he didn’t display the bile that Johnny’s nonchalance and Bad Wolf did.

       1 likes

  10. Mark Boersma says:

    I was surprised to see that Allison Hayes was in several prior MST3K films. While I noticed her in those, she really busts out in this one.

       0 likes

Comments are closed.