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Sampo & Erhardt

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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: 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 (181 votes, average: 4.36 out of 5)


• 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 ending…
• Bill’s take on the episode is here.
• This episode is not yet available on DVD.
• 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?”
• Annoying commercial: Burger King tries to sell croissan’whiches as “groovy” featuring the annoying song “Good Morning, Starshine” which I had in my head for the next day or so.
• 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.”

131 comments to Episode guide: 806- The Undead

  • 101
    Sitting Duck says:

    @ #44: Night of the Blood Beast from Season Seven was a Corman film.

    I count myself as a member of the camp which believes that the sandwich making was as overly padded as any Corman film. Other than that, a great episode.


  • 102
    trickymutha says:

    mayoNAISE! I find myself saying this on a regular basis in the kitchen. Yes, the skit was too long, they could have used a 7 minute short (blah, blah)….as for the movie- it is another brilliant mix of a Corman quickie and sharp writing. Alison Hayes, is, well..Hotter than July. I won’t dig too deep, but, this installment entertains me every time, and, makes me want to STAYYYYYY!!!


  • 103
    ToolAssist says:

    Great riffing, punctuated by some pretty sluggish host segments. The movie also gets kinda dry in some spots, but it’s generally fun. This isn’t an episode I return to frequently, but when I do I’m always surprised at how good it is.


  • 104
    Itsspideyman says:

    One of those movies that grows on you the more you watch it. And Allison Hayes was one of the femme fatale’s of the 50s. How she could breathe in that costume is beyond me!


  • 105
    Goshzilla says:

    The missus, who sometimes has trouble with the “It’s just a show; you should really just relax” concept, just asked me the other day why Brain Guy puts up with Pearl and does whatever she says it he’s so omnipotent. I reminded her that Bobo did use a slice of Observer’s brain in a sandwich. That satisfied her misgivings.

    Personally, I liked the addition of a “story arc” to the host segments, mostly because it gave them a chance to play with so many sci-fi boiler plates. They did let many of the sketches run on too long, true, but not unlike the first two seasons on Comedy Central, they were feeling out new territory. (Many of those early sketches were over long, too.) Now that the classic comedy trio is coming together, it just feels much more natural to the show. No, it’s not quite Frank and Dr F, but dammit, I love Bobo and Brain Guy. Yes, Pearl too. Sure, her particular brand of of malevolence candidates get a little irritating, but Mary Jo’s inherent liability comes through. For me, at least.

    Y’know, the Macs started


  • 106
    Goshzilla says:

    The missus, who sometimes has trouble with the “It’s just a show; you should really just relax” concept, just asked me the other day why Brain Guy puts up with Pearl and does whatever she says it he’s so omnipotent. I reminded her that Bobo did use a slice of Observer’s brain in a sandwich. That satisfied her misgivings.

    Personally, I liked the addition of a “story arc” to the host segments, mostly because it gave them a chance to play with so many sci-fi boiler plates. They did let many of the sketches run on too long, true, but not unlike the first two seasons on Comedy Central, they were feeling out new territory. (Many of those early sketches were over long, too.) Now that the classic comedy trio is coming together, it just feels much more natural to the show. No, it’s not quite Frank and Dr F, but dammit, I love Bobo and Brain Guy. Yes, Pearl too. Sure, her particular brand of of malevolence candidates get a little irritating, but Mary Jo’s inherent liability comes through. For me, at least.
    Y’know, the Made started with


  • 107
    Goshzilla says:

    Stupid “smartphone.” Feel free to erase that duplicate post, Sample or Erhardt. Typing on this thing can be awfully difficult. I hope folks appreciate the frustration I’m suffering to share my brilliant observations with you. :-D

    What I was trying to say is that the Mads evolved from a Laurel & Hardyish situation with Doctors Forrester and Erhard to an Abbot & Costello relationship with Frank, and here we have an obvious Three Stooges homage. And if you think about, it was there ever much to love about Moe? He was a short-tempered bully. But he filled a necessary position. Pearl has much more to offer in rhat same spot, in my opinion. (Though I must admit, I never really “got” the Three Stooges. I’ll turn over my Man Card on the way out.) Does anyone see an apt parallel in classic comedy to the Clay & Mother pairing in season seven? Maybe that’s why it didn’t really work….


  • 108
    mstgator says:

    Soon-to-be-no-longer-current-reference: Crow’s enrollment at “Suits University” (“I guarantee it”), now that Men’s Wearhouse has dropped George Zimmer as their spokesperson.


  • 109
    Goshzilla says:

    Oy. Next time I think I’ll wait til I can get to a keyboard. Gotta love that Autocorrect feature. Clearly I couldn’t have meant the cheese “asiago,” I had intended, rather, the grammatically unlikely “Asia go.” Razzafragginsassafrassin… yeah, fix that, Autocorrect.

    Regarding the Observers’ brains, I remember in the mid ’90s Nerf sold foam footballs shaped like human brains. I have no idea why. You can Google Nerf brainball to learn more. I’ve always presumed the Brains (ahem) used those, painted teal. Just a guess, though.


  • 110
    Goshzilla says:

    While I’m making multiple posts and wasting everyone’s time, does anybody know if Bobo’s very particular pronunciation of mayo-NNAISE is a reference to anything? Or was it just Kevin suffering from dehydration in that gorilla suit?


  • 111
    Rachel says:

    Thanks to the magic of YouTube, I finally saw this episode a month or two ago! (It was the one Sci-Fi era episode I missed, for whatever reason.) It was suitably Cormantastic.
    I really, REALLY disliked the psychichichiccal researcher guy. I think he reminds me of an ex of mine, I guess. Finally getting to see ‘STAY!!!!’ was a blast, though. It was just as funny and bizarre as I’d heard.
    The closing segment – Bobo, brain sammich – was pretty labored. But it was also kind of creepy. I don’t know, the dark, and the screams, and the Observer theme in the background… I was a little squirmy watching that part by myself in my dark bedroom late at night. Anyone else? Just me? :-?


  • 112

    This is another rough one, as it seems we’ve hit the rocky patch of Season 8.

    Last week’s episode was dullsville (but with good Host Segments) while this week’s is the opposite, with a fairly entertaining movie and some awful Host Segments.

    First, let’s talk about the good: This Roger Corman movie isn’t so terrible, at least not the concept. It’s an interesting take on time travel, you have to give it that. The movie never gets a chance to get too dull because of the the wealth of great characters. If it just starred Pendragon, then yeah, it might’ve been a bore, but you got the witch, the imp, Satan Pan, Allison Hayes, Digger Smolken, the spazz attack dancers, Dick Miller as a leper, etc. It’s such a wealth of Corman-isms that Mike and the Bots have a lot to work with. The riffing is pretty good, the “STAAAAYYYY!” bit being the most memorable. Oh, and Mike’s obsession with Satan Pan’s misplaced adams apple. Overall though, it’s not a particularly strong episode….

    Because of the Host Segments.

    HS#1 starts promising but then goes on too long with the Keystone-Cops-everyone-running-around bit. Also, it was really weird to see a full bodied (?) Servo running around, and not weird in a good way. HS#3 is terrible and not funny. I don’t like Kevin’s Digger Smolken voice and the “jokes” are one note; I find the skit to be grating. HS#2 I give a pass to; Bridget gives a good performance as the witch. “Oh boy!”

    Now, the ending skit with Bobo making the sandwich….. Oy! This might be the most painfully unfunny skit they’ve ever done on MST. It’s excruciating! The joke is telegraphed a mile away and the setup isn’t worth it. Bobo is so entertained and amused by himself that I couldn’t help but be annoyed. The amount of mayonnaise (oh wait, I mean mayoNNAISE) that he slops onto the sandwich is something I find to be physically repulsive. And I LIKE mayo… but the amount he uses is just gross.

    However, I do kinda like the opening with Mike seething about the past; just the way the scene slowly builds to that closeup of Mike’s face. And of course, the end with Crow as the imp and Servo’s rage against Leonard Maltin is pretty great, the best Segment of the episode.

    (Hmmm, looks like I just made a compliment sandwich…)

    Overall, this is a below average episode, in my opinion. A reminder of why I don’t re-watch these early Season 8 episodes that often.


    Mike: “Dirty greasy walls: a short lived design fad.”

    Servo: “Oh and by the way. . . . SLEEEEEEP!”

    Crow: “Good ol’ fashioned nightmare fuel.”

    Mike: “And I get to lick the ax!”

    Crow: “I’m a damn good imp.”


    after decapitation,
    Mike: “Nothing but net.”

    I didn’t find this one to be as dull as last week’s episode (The Thing that Couldn’t Die),
    but I find myself giving The Undead the same rating.

    2 out of 5 STAAAAAAYS!


  • 113
    Dan in WI says:

    The opening was great. I felt there was great interplay between Mike and the Bots in the attempt to bring everybody up to speed. Then for my money I thought Mike’s vapor lock here was the best vapor lock in the history of the show bar none. He then reprises the vapor lock during the Observer’s test.

    Of all the test results I like Gypsy’s the best. She scored in the 80 percentile of robots of her kind of which there are only one. Meanwhile the devolution of Professor Bobo is complete. He scored profoundly stupid and then reverted to the classic monkey test of stacking crates and doesn’t do particularly well at that. But Bill steals the show with his non-verbal body language reactions to not scoring as well Servo. Just watch him as Mike and Paul’s Observer characters go on and on.

    This movie: Oh boy. You know you are in for it when you have those terrible grease stained set walls.

    Billy Barty always looked old.

    The sammich sketch: Kevin truly did everything you possible could with this segment. There is some good stuff there during the journey to the punch line. But in the end I’m voting too long. I guess this is a case of the sum of the whole is actually less than the parts.

    I have to say the ACEG entry for this episode is probably my favorite ACEG entry of all time. So in conclusion Bill Corbett said it best so I’ll just quote him. “This movie sat on all of our heads. The plot’s logic defies any amount of painstaking analysis, even that involving elaborate flow charts and hired consultants from the most respected universities and think tanks in the country. Next time you have the notion to defend Roger Corman as a good director, watch this movie and repent.”

    Favorite Riffs:
    Tom “I saw the Undead at UnAlpine UnValley.” [Alpine Valley is a great concert amphitheater in southern Wisconsin. Among other things it’s famous for being the site of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s final show.]

    Dr. Ratcliff goes on about his plan to hypnotize Diana. Tom does the evil scientist maniacal laugh.

    Dr. Ratcliff loosens his tie. Tom “It’s the 23rd hour of out telethon and we are going all the way.”

    Crow about Pendragon “Sir Gul of Ble”

    Mike about Satan “This guy was never in heaven. He was cast out of community theater.”

    Mike during a crappy scene “Yeah Corman is a good director.”

    Mike “I’ve never known more about what isn’t going on in a movie.”


  • 114
    Depressing Aunt says:

    #107, typing on a Kindle Fire is also no picnic. I feel your pain.

    That spoon bit ain’t my favorite. Bah! While Tom is chased around that set, the spoons shift around on the floor from shot to shot… Unavoidable I suppose–I mean, I’m no film student. But the use of an olive for a brain is a neat trick.

    This movie’s got cheap sets, cheap makeup, cheap dialogue, cheap action scenes. So much fun. I love how Pendragon asks Helene where Meg is. How’s she supposed to know where Meg’s at? She’s been stuck in Meg’s house ever since Meg left!

    I feel like, if there’s ever a suitable time to exclaim, “You’re stuck here!” it’s definitely when you’re stuck in drabland because Satan tricked you. You got off pretty easy, Mr. Fugitive Alien.

    Noticed a really cute moment this time around. Tom makes annoying snoring sounds as Diana lies on the couch, then very softly tells Mike, “Sorry.” Mike laughs and says “That’s all right,” and pats Tom gently.


  • 115
    Depressing Aunt says:

    Tried to edit my comment to say, Meg’s probably wondering where Pendragon’s at while that scene’s going on. And she’s probably feeling lucky that there’s only a couple other places that exist in the entire universe, as far as she knows.


  • 116
    Angie Schultz says:

    …does anybody know if Bobo’s very particular pronunciation of mayo-NNAISE is a reference to anything?

    In An Officer and a Gentleman, Richard Gere’s character’s name is Mayo, and his drill sergeant (Lou Gossett, Jr.) keeps calling him “mayo-NAISE”.

    I like this movie, but it sure is better with the riffing.


  • 117
    touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    #96 (okay, a very old post, but still):

    Pretty much anything that anyone did to “Angels Revenge” would make it a better movie. ;-)


  • 118
    littleaimishboy says:

    Production costs, Corman probably got change back from a $20, and still this is actually a really well done movie, if all his work was as good as this he’d deserve all the acclaim he doesn’t actually deserve.


  • 119
    Depressing Aunt says:

    So, I see post #46, and I see the witch named as Maid Maud, not Meg. Whoa, I sit corrected!

    Another riff I like is when Satan opens the movie by telling us to look at him and Tom whines “D’I hafta?”


  • 120
    Tim S. Turner says:

    Season 8 continues to pick up steam. So much fun, with the kind of goofiness I love. Servo as an Observer cracks me up every time.


  • 121
    Depressing Aunt says:

    But #54 says Meg! Must…chill…about…getting…deets right… Must…chill…grrrr…


  • 122
    Creeping-Death says:

    Another above average episode, 4 stars. Really enjoy the testing segment and Digger Smolken sings segment. A lot of people mention how hot Allison Hayes is as Livia, but don’t mention how attractive Pamela Duncan is also as Diana.

    Favorite lines:

    Mike [as Knight]: [in stilted “medieval” grammar that parodies the knight’s own dialogue] Me help! Attacked I am being! Hitting me stop you must! God dear bleeding am I! Break my leg think I did you!

    Servo [as Knight]: Towest thy vehicle to the curb and showeth me thy driver’s license and registration. Did thou knowest how fast thou was driving?

    (On Pamela Duncan’s dress that draws your attention to her bosom.)
    Servo: Showcasing: breasts!


  • 123
    Of no account says:

    Great episode! Even the first time I watched it, I really didn’t have a problem understanding what was going on, so I don’t get why Mike & the bots have a problem with it. The characters certainly seem clueless, though.
    I really liked the sandwich sketch. Bobo dropping the tape & running after it only made it funnier.

    Now, off to listen to my Digger Smolken albums…


  • 124
    robot rump! says:

    as i watch this episode, i keep remembering Sampo’s comments about the spoon/chase and the brain sandwich segments. i’m sure that someone else could come up with a better example, but outside of the Streisand segment, these two really do seem played out or unnecessary.


  • 125
    John in Afghanistan says:

    @ #101
    “Night of the Blood Beast” was produced by Roger Corman, but was directed by Bernard L. Kowalski.
    I love this experiment. Some of the best riffing ever in this episode!
    I used to watch this movie as a kid on late night TV. Back then I thought it was scary! LOL!


  • 126
    Goshzilla says:

    I’ll take Bobo’s sammich preparation over Crow’s Match Game sketch. Yeesh. But a short would have been so much better to fill time. I can understand why the Sci-Fi channel wanted the show to stick to riffing “genre” movies, but why couldn’t they understand that the mental hygiene shorts were pure undiluted hilarity? To me, the shorts are what’s missing the most from the Sci-Fi years. (And there seems to be no end to that lode of material, as RiffTrax has demonstrated.)


  • 127
    mstgator says:

    Depressing Aunt: I assumed the spoon-shifting during the chase sequence was an intentional homage to incompetent special effects (like, say, in a Corman film).

    Incidentally, I’m typing this on my iPhone while I have a perfectly good Mac just across the room. Yeah, I am lazy.


  • 128
    Stefanie says:

    The strange thing is, despite being a Roger Corman production, I actually liked this movie. Sure the hypno regression thing is silly but I really liked how Diana Love at the end of the movie took the weird stuff as a wake up call and is going to improve herself. Also the twist with Quintus being stuck in the past because he was so arrogant that he forgot how the path back was severed when Elaine died, that was pretty awesome.


  • 129
    Richard the Lion-Footed says:

    I often find it interesting that my favorite episodes are generally not liked by the cast.
    I disagree with Bill on this one.
    I thought it was a delightful “Corman” film and the one of the reasons he is universally remembered.
    It is a fun little premise, and with Shirley Maclaine’s past life parade just passing by, it was as current a theme as the mid-1950s.
    Done on the cheap, but everyone in it seems to make the most of what they had.
    This is just the type of movie MST3K was meant to be showing.
    I was surprised to read Bill’s take on this. I thought this was another of one of the best of Season 8 and showed a strong return to
    way the show was on CC.


  • 130
    Viking Woman says:

    I watched this episode for the first time on Saturday, and I must say that I absolutely love it! The movie was just SO BIZARRE, it seemed like they had a lot to work with. I laughed at almost every line. Definitely in my top twenty favorite episodes, maybe even top fifteen.

    And just when I thought I couldn’t love MST3K any more than I already do, they go and make a reference to the song “Lydia the Tattooed Lady,” a family favorite in my house.

    Pendragon: LIVIA!
    Servo: That encycloPIDIA!


  • 131
    Hey Cabot! says:

    A somewhat competent, forgettable B movie with two attractive ladies, a goofy Satan character and more boring hypnotism. The real draw of this episode for me is the last sketch, with Servo forcing Mike to read a prepared letter as Leonard Maltin and Crow off to the side wearing large teeth and pointy ears, repeating “I’m an imp!” It was nice to see that Bill could do goofy humor like Trace used to.