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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: 814- Riding with Death

Movie: (1976) Two stitched-together episodes of the TV series “Gemini Man,” about a hero who gains the power of invisibility.

First shown: 7/19/97
Opening: Mike, who was once a teppanyaki chef, has a relapse
Intro: Pearl and company are under fire! She begs Mike for air support … and she gets it, and then some
Host segment 1: Tom sings about the 70s (and the 50s, too)
Host segment 2: Tom acquires a buttless truck driver body
Host segment 3: Crow is Turkey Volume Guessing Man!
End: Mike, Crow and Tom spoof the end of the film, while Pearl is weighed down with medals
Stinger: Jim Stafford is really happy!
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (277 votes, average: 4.78 out of 5)

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• I like this one. The movie — two poorly spliced-together episodes of a forgotten ’70s TV series (a la “Master Ninja”) — is not painful to watch, but gives them plenty to work with. The riffing is great and the segments are mostly pretty good. So rock it, you turkeys!
• Kevin offers his take here.
• This episode is included in Shout’s “MST3K: Volume XXXVI.”
• The opening, with Mike as the mindless teppanyaki chef, is hilarious. “There’s about a 1-in-4 chance were gonna get out of this alive!”
• This episode is the last one in which Jim is listed as providing the voice and puppetry for Gypsy, but Gypsy isn’t in this one. I had thought that meant his last actual performance as Gypsy was the previous episode’s “Lord of the Dance” sketch, but a commenter corrected me. More on that in the next episode’s writeup.
• Daleism: During the bar fight, the big guy tries to punch Buffalo Bill, but his fist is held back by invisible Sam. He looks at his fist. Crow: “Thought I was Dale.” Big guy tries again, and is again held back. He again looks at his fist. “Again, I thought I was Dale.”
• I love the way Mike answers the phone in this episode. His cheery little “Helloo?” is great.
• Mike destroys his third planet so far this season. This sets up the premise for the segments in the next episode.
• Crow and Mike reenact a memorable moment from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
• A perfect example of the genius of this show is the scene early on in which four characters are just standing around explaining the plot. Not much to work with. Then they pick up on Ben Murphy’s boss compulsively wiping his (apparently filthy!) glasses and suddenly the otherwise dull scene is a riot.
• Tom’s songs about the 70s and the 50s are a lot of fun. “The apostle Paul traveled to Greece…”
• I think the “Tom’s trucker body” segment seemed funnier on paper. Nice job on the body creation, however.
• Tom still has his trucker body in the theater. Mike and Crow are already there.
• The Turkey Volume Guessing Man segment is another gem, another hilarious example of Bill’s slightly deranged Crow.
• The “Pearl gets medals” bit at the end is cute, but doesn’t really go anywhere.
• This movie has two completely baffling elements, which probably only made sense in the context of the series, context which is completely lost in the movie. First there’s this Elliot guy, who angrily, even bitterly, berates Driscoll, who I think is his boss. Why is he doing this? Is he working for Denby? Is he just naive? As the movie plays out, it becomes clear that Denby is exactly the elusive crime boss Driscoll thinks he is. But we never see Elliot admit he was wrong (though he does seem a bit less grouchy in a later scene — maybe by then he’s seen the light).
Then there are the shots of Abby in the lab, watching some sort of super duper camera feed (it can pan and change angles and do closeups). Apparently the makers felt the need to include Abby, but why? (Note: A commenter had a plausible explanation for this.)
• On a related subject, you’re not seeing things: two different actors appear as Driscoll: Richard Dysart portrayed Driscoll in the pilot (and is seen briefly in the flashback sequence, which was taken from the pilot), while William Sylvester played Driscoll in the series.
• Then current reference: Kelly Flynn.
• Callback: “Look, a couple of VAAAAAANS!” (“Giant Spider Invasion”)
• Cast and crew roundup: “Village of the Giants” also gives H.G. Wells an amusing story credit. Costumer Charles Waldo also worked on “San Francisco International.” In front of the camera, Ben Murphy was also in “Being from Another Planet.” William Sylvester was also in “Gorgo.” Ed Nelson was also in “Superdome,” “Teenage Caveman,” “Swamp Diamonds” and “Night of the Blood Beast,” plus he did costumes for “Attack of the Giant Leeches.” Austin Stoker was also in “Being from Another Planet.”
• CreditsWatch: Produced and directed by Kevin. Brad, who has been listed as “Editor” on and off since season five, is listed as “Editor” for the first time this season, a credit that will continue until the end of the series. Bob Seabold begins a two-episode stint as grip. Intern Joseph Olson begins a four-episode stint; intern Meshach Weber begins a six-episode stint. The music for “The Funky Seventies” and “The Fifties” was written by Michael J. Nelson, with lyrics by Bill Corbett.
• Fave line: “Dear, sweet, homicidal Murray.” Honorable mention: “Okay, now, who wants their butts kicked first?”

208 Replies to “Episode guide: 814- Riding with Death”

  1. SaveFerris
    Ignored
    says:



    That was a great handshake, man. This is a pretty mellow, top secret operation. Nobody’s gettin’ uptight, everything’s cool, no baggage or hang-ups. I’m just gonna hang in there baby, you bet your sweet bippy. I’ll do my thing, they’ll do theirs. Just gotta keep mellow. That’s what bein’ Ben Murphy’s all about………….and I’m Ben Murphy.




    For me, this riff pretty much says it all about this one……an episode with a ‘movie’ that PERFECTLY captures the vibe of the 70’s era. And the fact that it was a tv-movie (well, episodes of a failed tv series stitched together to “look” like a movie, anyway), only makes the over-abundance of ‘cheese’, that much more satisfying going down…..

       8 likes

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

    The Original EricJ: (tweet!) Flag on the play!–No Saturday-morning live-action series in a discussion of prime-time’s techno-super obsession!If Shazam, Isis, or Bigfoot & Wildboy was mentioned, we’d have to award a penalty!

    I didn’t say anything about prime time. ;-)

    The Original EricJ:
    Let’s be honest, comics were a mess before the 80’s.A different kind of mess, but not the same kind that you’d think of from John Byrne, Todd MacFarlane or Chris Claremont.

    I didn’t say anything about messes, either. Besides, eighties comic book stories seriously didn’t tend as much toward the downright weird as did seventies comic book stories. IMHO.

       2 likes

  3. SaveFerris
    Ignored
    says:



    In 1987, while in Northern Ireland, Matthew Broderick caused a car crash, killing two people in the other car. He was fined $175 as a result.




    For whatever reason, I STILL think of Broderick’s (literal) “Riding With Death” moment, whenever I see him now. I can’t imagine what it must be like living the rest of your life, knowing that two people might still be alive today, if you had never crossed paths with them (and please understand, by making that statement, I’m in NO way commenting on ANYBODY’S guilt, or innocence……..just saying how HORRIBLE it would be to know that the death of two people can be linked to something you did……..or didn’t do.). Talk about HELL on Earth!


    And for anyone even REMOTELY interested in what is being referred to, a little more clarification on the incident in question can be found here:

    http://people.com/archive/matthew-broderick-ends-a-holiday-in-a-tragic-crash-that-claims-two-lives-vol-28-no-8/


       1 likes

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

    Coincidentally, I came across this remark about the seventies that could be applied to both the good AND the bad of that era’s films:

    “Say what you like about the 1970s, and goodness knows I have, for lovers of outré cinema it was an era of unparalleled delight; a time when nothing was too bizarre to end up in front of the cameras.”

    http://www.aycyas.com/thethingwithtwoheads.htm

       2 likes

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

    MiqelDotCom:

    “For some reason this movie was a hit with elderly back women and hispanic lesbians”

    One of the main characters in Alison “Test” Bechdel’s comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For” is a Hispanic lesbian. Which has nothing to do with anything at the moment, I suppose, the juxtaposition just occurred to me, that’s all.

       1 likes

  6. mando3b
    Ignored
    says:

    You know, guys, I was wrong: I’ve written several times about how so many of the Season 11 films are 1,000 times worse than anything in Seasons 1-10, but then I watched “Riding With Death” again last night (on my Shout! Factory DVD). Not even “The Starcrash Wilderness Wizards Magic That Almost Wasn’t” can top (bottom?) this one in ineptitude and cynicism. It’s one of those bad movies that just makes you mad, makes you MEAN mad. Many earlier posts have chronicled all the specific badness, so that I don’t have to. Still, I have to mention those “Abby-in-the-void” scenes in the second half: that is something that simply shouldn’t happen, even in a crappy film being made for all the wrong reasons by people who don’t give a damn. For me, the line “C’mon, Sam, give it the old college try!” fairly screams out THEY JUST DIDN’T CARE!–who the hell uses that phrase seriously any more? Certainly not secret agents on a life-or-death mission to save the world. (Or whatever the hell Ben Murphy and Jim Stafford are flailing at at that race track).

    For me, this is good, solid MST3K, but not a life-changing episode: lots of laughs, but nothing that made me have to pause the film because tears were streaming down my face. There’s a lot in Seasons 8-10 I like better. Do like the host segments: “Mike, destroyer of worlds” was a funny story line while it lasted. Bill-Crow’s demented mind snaps, like TVGM, are not my favorite bits (although they’re more bearable than, for instance, Trace-Crow’s one-man “Hollywood Squares”, which I will fast-forward past every time). But, to each his/her/its own . . . Servo as a buttless trucker is a scream–albeit one that induces nightmares . . .

    Well, mister, I DID live through the 1970s. Not only that, I was (technically) a full-fledged adult back then. And I say: There can NEVER be enough ’70s-bashing! In my memory, the whole decade is a vast cultural void, just as washed-out and cheaply garish as the colors in “Riding With Death”, a “film” that captures all the ghastly essence of the period. For me, the ’70s are: my parents’ Ford station wagon that broke down every five days; the mainstreaming of Hollywood/Madison Avenue’s dim notion of what the ’60s were all about; bad fashion; bad hair; bad music; the degeneration of American television; smugness, obliviousness, THEY JUST DIDN’T CARE . . . For me, time stood still between ca. 1973 and 1980, and whatever good there was stands outside of time; I mean, I don’t say “The Godfather” is the “best film of the 1970s”, but that it’s a great film that happened to be made in 1972 . . .

       3 likes

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

    Evidently just no one cares Enough to ask, but “good buddy” apparently refers to male truckers having sex with each other (not necessarily because they’re gay but more because aside from prostitutes there was rarely any other sex to be had). A genuine trucker informed me of this. It seems safe to presume that whoever was in charge of scattering trucker lingo into American popular culture didn’t know that.

    >>>SAMPO: First there’s this Elliot guy, who angrily, even bitterly, berates Driscoll, who I think is his boss. Why is he doing this? Is he working for Denby? Is he just naive? As the movie plays out, it becomes clear that Denby is exactly the elusive crime boss Driscoll thinks he is.

    Perhaps it was a primitive effort at actual characterization. ;-) More likely, though, they just needed someone to explain the Leonard/Driscoll backstory and establish that by not telling Sam about the restraining order, Leonard was taking the risk of Sam going to prison. Or something.

    ck:
    Btw, treachery, thy name is woman

    I thought treachery’s name was Carl…

    Joseph Nebus:
    I’ve never quite got the hang of why it is The Elusive Robert Denby wanted to blow up the racing car containing Bubba Bo Bob Brain or whatever his name was.

    Denby found out that Buffalo had some clue about his criminal activities and about the operations of Intersect, and killing him was easier than trying to explain things to him from a pro-Denby perspective. After all, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing…

    DON3k:
    It’s the 70s, FOREVER!!!!! Am I wrong here?

    You Say That As If It Were A Bad Thing.

    Roman Martel:
    Well there’s also the shoehorned Abby watching the events (how is she doing that?

    SCIENCE!

    Or, more specifically…

    RADAR!

    monoceros4:
    Piling on the trucker slang.Unbelievably this was made before Smokey and the Bandit but not by much.

    Perhaps they had at least heard about what director Hal “Give me a firebird and a…” Needham was filming (i.e. Smokey and the Bandit) and, inasmuch as Needham obviously had his fingers on the pulse of America’s “redneck”/”cracker” demographic (a subset of the “angry white male who couldn’t evolve with the times” category), they went and did likewise. Just more quickly.

    Clu Gulager:
    I also believe that Robert Denby’s elusiveness is overstated- how elusive can he be when he wears a jumpsuit with name “DENBY” clearly and boldly printed across the back.

    I think they meant “elusive” as in “we can never get enough evidence to indict him.” He eludes PRISON.

    pearliemae:
    MOOSE KNUCKLE??!!!

    Which almost inevitably called to [my] mind the phrase “Mouse’s Knuckles.” How obscure is THAT reference?

    mikek:
    Not to sound odd or anything, but upon my current viewing of this episode I can’t help but notice Ben Murphy’s ample buttocks.I guess Mike and ‘Bots kind of noticed this too, in the riff:

    “Why am I so full-hipped for a guy?”

    I think there’s also a riff about Sam, “Wearing his sister’s jeans.”

    And from thence came the Servo Trucker Body sequence.

    losingmydignity:
    AndBuffaloed Bill running into Gemnini Murphy again in another espionage situation (with the apparently not so efflusive Robert Denby no less) is a coincidence that would surely make even the ghost of Nabokov smile…(and since it is such an outstanding coincidence, why doesn’t it make Ben Man suspicious?)

    Know you nothing of the workings of TV universes?

    ;-)

       1 likes

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

    The Bolem:
    that old VHS I rented of “Breeders” (1988)

    Now I’m mildly curious, would “Breeders” be verboten to the Brains because it contains rape scenes?

    Rex Dart:
    #55:
    Well, I see what you mean about New England journalists, but I think that journalists of many regions have their own unique styles!

    Timechasers in fact FEATURED a New England journalist, yet the Brains inexplicably didn’t callback to this episode. Unless they did and I missed it.

    MiqelDotCom:
    The weirdest part is definitely the unexplained super magic spy-camera Abby is watching in the 2nd half. Crow – “Mike, is she in heaven?”

    Well, not if she’s in THIS movie…

    Manny Sanguillen:
    If it had been made closer to ’78-’79, we’d have had a disco-dancing Sam Casey.

    I somehow suspect that this is a slam of some sort against disco. I’ve never understood why disco is considered so odious by so many. It’s just a sub-category of rock music.

    Ashley Pomeroy:
    I love to say “turkey volume GUESS-ing man!”, even when it is not appropriate to do so, e.g. when answering the telephone, ordering food in a restaurant, performing surgery etc. It’s a shame about the other host segments with Pearl and the monkey and the brain guy. I’m sure they were all great writers, but they have no charisma or screen presence at all.

    You’ve got me curious as to when it IS appropriate…

    littleaimishboy:
    I like that Buffalo calls Cupcake “Cupcake” not as a down-homey term of affection, but because she’s the Official Spokesmodel for the Auntie McFrank Cupcake Corporation, or some such outfit.He takes the trouble to explain it at some length.

    If her parents were hippies, they might well have actually named her “Cupcake.” Such was not the case, of course.

    And regarding product placement, “cupcake” isn’t a copyrighted term; that’s like saying “apple pie” is a copyrighted term. If Cupcake had been acting as a hostess, well, maybe.

    stefanie:
    This was the first official MST episode that my family and I watched. It is 100% perfect!! We watch this episode every Thanksgiving.

    For the turkeys?

    F Burroughs:
    why does Cupcake need to give herself to Buffalo, just to get him to drive the car, which he obviously wants to do anyway?

    Theory 1: To make Buffalo less likely to be distracted by a shiny object and forget the race. Theory 2: Cupcake enjoys toying with rock-stupid men.

    Watch-out-for-Snakes:
    he was also in a really weird 1991 horror movie called The Boneyard that co-stars Phyllis Diller and a giant poodle monster… I wrote a review of the movie recently over at my blog…you can check it out (SHAMELESS PLUG) here: http://squealingtiresondirt.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-boneyard.html (SHAMELESS PLUG).

    I am genuinely surprised to learn that a “monster” of this sort is not far more infamous than it is. Perhaps it’s because it was the EIGHTIES that the cheesy movie monster dominated. As a result of appearing instead in the nineties, that dog was denied its day. Poor dope. Sad, really.

    http://bh-s2.azureedge.net/bh-uploads/2016/11/zombie-poodle-the-boneyard-e1378500063425.png

    That poodle would be no match for THIS poodle, though.

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-cDV4pQ5GyMU/UL36qkaze7I/AAAAAAAAAVc/vn4w4_CNa0U/s1600/Zappa-Cheepnis-GIF.gif

       0 likes

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