Support Us

Satellite News is not financially supported by Best Brains or any other entity. It is a labor of love, paid for out of our own pockets. If you value this site, we would be delighted if you showed it by making an occasional donation of any amount. Thanks.

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.

Social Media


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 (286 votes, average: 4.78 out of 5)

Loading...

• 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?”

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

  1. FRANKNFORCER says:

    This was the first episode I watched when MST3K moved to Sci Fi. Not having internet back then I never knew any of the goings on at the show. So it came as a surprise to me when they disappeared from Comedy Central. I remember being estatic that they were on again even if on a new channel.

    The things I remember was how fun it was to watch them riff this movie. They really gave it the business.

    I wondered where Dr. F was and remember thinking he must have left and yet it never dawned on me that Crow had a new voice. I knew Trace was both but for some reason I thought he had decided to just do the puppeting and leave the on air stuff to the lovely and talented Mary Jo. Oh the naivete’ that was me back then.
    Favortie line: “So I sing you to sleep after the trucking.”

       6 likes

  2. ck says:

    Ben Murphy’s boss can just be thankful that the fortune teller in The Incredible Creatures wasn’t in the room watching him clean and clean and clean his “feelthy” glasses. Who knows what she’d have had Ortega do. And speaking of comeuppances, did anything ever happen to Cupcake? Btw, treachery, thy name is woman. First OatMB’s coworker is spying on her (for someone or other) and now Cupcake betrays Ben Murphy’s godd buddy. Come on back, someone!

       1 likes

  3. ck says:

    Make that The Incredibly Strange Creatures, etc. not Incredible Creatures. :shock:

       1 likes

  4. Loran Alan Davis says:

    By the way, the name of the series this movie was taken from was “Gemini Man.”

       0 likes

  5. Joseph Nebus says:

    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. I mean, I understand wanting to blow up Bubba Bo Bob Brain, just for the joy it would bring to the world, but not why it was such a deviously villainous thing to do.

    Yeah, he was smuggling radio-controlled explosive in from East Berlin through the racecars, but what happened that made him want to blow up his own car and temp driver?

    Also, what was it said that The Brains heard as “New England journalists”? I keep almost kind of making something out of it and keep failing to understand what the heck they were saying.

    Times have changed division: when this episode and Agent For H.A.R.M first aired I had to be away from home for a week plus, and I felt very nervous with my new VCR and the timing and whether it would actually record the whole of the debuts of both episodes on one tape in the popular-ish LP speed without cutting things off or running out of tape or just having a power blip that wiped everything out. They came through in good order, though.

    Also I still have the tape, which was a Radio Shack brand videotape. Kids, ask your elders about videotape, before it’s too late. And don’t record things in SLP.

       8 likes

  6. Yipe Striper says:

    anybody seen jim stafford’s branson show?

    This ep is one of my favorites.

       0 likes

  7. Yipe Striper says:

    important side note to this ep:

    the catchphrase shirts… as elusive as robert denby!

    I have one of those…

    i get a lot of comments… who suggested that one. i owe you my thanks.

       1 likes

  8. robot rump! says:

    start seeing Ben Murphy’s….
    wow it was really something how the *ahem* hero gained all these superhuman abilities when he played with his watch…he became invisible of course and while invisibile his arms could grow another 6-8 inches longer when needed, he gained the ability to be anywhere apparently and he could also levitate hence the gun remaining perfectly still while he walked. and also apparently the standards at all the major universities and federal agencies dropped considerably during the 70’s. oh wait..the carter years…never mind i understand perfectly now.

       2 likes

  9. Sitting Duck says:

    This episode was also a trope namer.

       1 likes

  10. Travis H says:

    Favorite riff:

    “Lucky guy, he’s about to find out I’m Ben Murphy.”

       5 likes

  11. Kenneth Morgan says:

    Interesting fact: there are actually two different versions of this “movie”. At the Gateway 2000 convention in St. Louis, they showed an alternate cut where the computer-spoken exposition of the original “movie” opening is replaced by a very brief recap of the “Gemini Man” pilot movie, more prominently featuring Richard Dysart.

    And the reason they showed it was so the audience could riff the daylights out of it, which we did. Unfortunately, this was an extra after we riffed on an uncut copy of “Mitchell”. As a result, we ran out of time and only got to see the opening half of “Riding with Death”. Is that version available somewhere?

    Oh, and the ep is great. But what’s up with, “This can’t BE!!! You’re DEAD!!!” Andrew Prine owes us an explanation.

       2 likes

  12. Dan in WI says:

    Daleism Question: I know what is printed on the FAQ page about the Brains mistakenly cross-breeding an Ivory Liquid commercial and a Grape Nuts commercial. My question is this: At what point did they realize the mistake? The whole time they were making the Daleism jokes in season 8 did they still mistakenly think Dale was in the Ivory commercial? Or did they realize the mistake somewhere in there and keep making the references anyway sort of picking on themselves?

       2 likes

  13. Gummo says:

    OMG, another classic.

    Even taken on its own terms and accepting its premises, THIS MOVIE MAKES NO SENSE. This guy’s a government scientist, yet he works alone in a warehouse somewhere? And Murphy has no backup and no weapons while he’s supposedly transporting the most important new discovery in the world? And why is the scientist sitting in the back of an empty truck with no ventilation or way to keep from rolling into the walls instead of up front with Murphy? And why does he HAVE to do those paaaaaatent papers on just that day? I could go on & on & on….

    Seems like there was lot of crap TV that got by me in the 70s, thankfully. Was every episode of the show tied in to some lame 70s fad, like trucker CB radio and dirt track racing? Was there a disco episode too?

    Well, this is a complete piece of crap and the gang do a great job with it.

       3 likes

  14. DON3k says:

    OPT-TIC-CAL ILL-LUS-ION!!!!!

    Great episode! One of my all-time favorites.

    That movie was so, so badly cobbled together! The audio dubbing, to try and tie the plots and segments together were comical. A lot can happen while Ben Murphy is on vacation. Mustaches grown, trucking careers end, racing careers begun. Abby ascends to heaven, where she’s given an all-powerful surveillance computer.

    I’m on the air… M’on ‘ne air…..

    And you know what, that Abby is one heck of a girl.

    So, his clothes becoming instantly invisible, but not the gun he holds.

    And I, too, admit I have no idea what the plot is for the 2nd segment. An explosive that can be infused into plastic, which can be detonated with radio signals… Yeah, that sounds safe. No stray frequencies out there to worry about. And what does it have to do with racing?

    And what year was this in? He graduated law school in 1983, then started work for the Gov? So the events in the move were supposed to be the mid-to-late eighties?!?! As a kid, if I saw this movie, which is supposed to be in the future, I’d be really disappointed. It’s the 70s, FOREVER!!!!! Am I wrong here?

    I’m baffled, but it’s cool, and it’s not harshing my mellow.

    Take it easy, you turkeys!

       1 likes

  15. Jeyl says:

    Oh, I do love this episode. The fact that it’s a television series spliced together to try and form a movie just makes it so susceptible to great riffs.

    Oh, I do like that Tom Servo Truck Driver’s body segment. When I saw pictures of the new Enterprise from Star Trek 2009, I examined it like Mike does to Tom, pull back and say “It has no butt”. I love it!

       0 likes

  16. Travis says:

    This can’t beeee…. you’re deeeaaaad

       1 likes

  17. Travis says:

    Didn’t Gemini Man get remade for the Sci-Fi channel a few years ago? I seem to remember a show about a guy who could go invisible and worked for the government…
    Judging Sci-Fi (or is it Sy-Fy now?) channel’s normal quality, it must have been terrible…

       0 likes

  18. Here’s the skinny:

    The first half was from the first episode of “Gemini Man,” called “Smithereens.” The show didn’t last too long on television, and thus the second half was the final unaired episode of the season, called “Buffalo Bill Rides Again.” (The length between episodes explains Sylvester’s sudden moustache.) By that point, Katherine Crawford had been written out of the show and replaced with the actor who played Elliott. Thus, because the editors figured two episodes with Jim Stafford would naturally tie together, they did their best to patch up the cast change with Abby watching her magic camera, splicing in close up shots of something that’s obviously from a different episode altogether. (Despite what Mike and the Bots show in the final skit, you never see Abby’s lips move during this section. They just dub in lines from other episodes.)

    Alan “Gavin McLeod-mania” Oppenheimer is better known as a voice artist for Hanna Barbera, and did the voice of either Heckle or Jeckle at one time.

    “Imitation Brady Dad” Don Galloway was Raymond Burr’s sidekick on “Ironside.”

    Notice how the moving van’s side is clearly cut out before it “takes out the entire town.”

    And this isn’t the last time Jim plays Gypsy. Jim plays her in the first half of “Agent for HARM,” saying “Hey! Nice tort!” and Patrick plays her in the deposition bit. An interesting transition.

       3 likes

  19. MikeH says:

    I think this is my favorite of the Sci-Fi era episodes. Anything that was made for TV or nearly anything that was on TV in the 70’s deserves a riffing. The show itself seems like garbage and the, ahem, “movie” is completly laffable. Why take empty back roads to deliver this stuff, unguarded, in a civilian truck? I guess Intersect can’t afford their own airplane. Also I would think the scientist would get arrested by govt. agents or Ben Murphy himself and not extras from the Chips set?

    Fave riff: “So it takes them 13 hours to go from Torrance to Long Beach?” (people who have/do reside in So. Cal it’s a short distance between those cities)

       0 likes

  20. RPG says:

    Actually, I think Abby’s… ‘Abby-scense’ was an “Optical IllusioNNNNNNN!!!”

       1 likes

  21. monoceros4 says:

    The 8th season is really rolling by this point, speeding like a semi with bad brakes towards Space Mutiny and Overdrawn at The Memory Bank.

    Once I was watching this episode (well, I had it on TV while doing homework) and my boyfriend comes in. “What’s this, San Francisco International?” His confusion was understandable. All the ’70s television pilots kind of look the same. There’s something about the way they’re filmed, the cheesy dialogue, the smarmy acting. I like all the episodes that come out of them.

    The first half of “Riding with Death” is better than the second, though. The goofier moments all come from there:

    All the ham-fisted exposition in voice-over. I know that the first episode of a TV show always has some clunky exposition, but it’s never clunkier than here.

    Piling on the trucker slang. Unbelievably this was made before Smokey and the Bandit but not by much. There seems to have been a fad for trucker movies starting in the 70s. An earlier one was a 1973 TV movie called “Hijack” in which two truckers, one played by David Jannsen, are hired to transport a top-secret cargo. Hm….

    “It almost blew this room apart!” “Well, it knocked a chair over.” Or whatever the actual lines were.

    The crooked scientists’ wigging out at the end always makes me think of “Animaniacs”: “HE’S A CHICKEN I TELL YOU! A GIANT CHICKEN!!”

       2 likes

  22. FarmboyinJapan says:

    -South Berlin?

    -New England journalists!!!!!

       1 likes

  23. mikek says:

    5 stars. I really like this episode and it holds a special place for me, since it was the first MST3K show that I recorded. My recording is from 1999, not long after the show was canceled. I had to leave while the episode recorded so I have all the commercials from that time as well.

    The Sleuth Channel once showed the two-hour pilot of Gemini Man last year, but it had a different title. I think it was The Invisible Man. The pilot was pretty good, helped by the fact that it had a larger budget than the actual series. That metal chest plate thingy that we see Sam wearing in the flashback was a primitive version of that wrist watch stabilizer he uses in the series.

    The host segments are all good, the first being Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds. I think this was the third time that Mike got spaced out and acted weird. The other two times being in Alien From L.A. and I believe earlier in season 8. Servo’s songs about the ’70s and ’50s were well done. Tom Servo’s trucker body was funny. I like how comfortable he is with himself. And then there was Crow’s Turkey Volume Guessing Man, taking all the talk of turkey’s to the extreme.

    The movie is good fun. This is the Sci-Fi era’s first TV movie, well kind of since it’s actually to episodes of a failed series. Still, TV nonetheless. This episode is the first in the William Sylvester trilogy of Sci-Fi era episodes.

       0 likes

  24. Clu Gulager says:

    LOVE this episode- for me it never gets old. The riffing is top notch, which I think is largely based on the haphazard and clumsy way these two Gemini Man episodes were thrown together. I think Mike and The Bots’ previous attempts at riffing on TV movies (San Francisco International and Codename: Diamond Head)resulted in successful, but less memorable episodes largely because those films were made with greater proficiency than this steaming pile (albeit a pile that, as Sampo notes, is not overly painful).

    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.

    #12- I am not sure when they realized that, but you reminded me that I have my own Daleism question (although one having to do with a completely different episode). Yesterday I watched “Last of the Wild Horses” and at about 1 hour 20 minutes in Jane has followed Terry to find Barnum. There’s a shot of Terry going into the barn and then a cut to Jane on horseback at which point Mike clearly says “I thought you were Dale.” Interestingly enough the riff has nothing to do with anyone looking at their hands. I checked the LOTWH episode guide entry and couldn’t find any mention of it. Has anyone ever noticed this before? Sampo?

       3 likes

  25. Evan K says:

    Classic. My wife and I watch it every Thanksgiving. What a bunch of turkeys …

       1 likes

  26. I'm not a medium, I'm a petite says:

    Hard one for me. I have to disagree with Sampo, the subject film is horrible to watch. But on the other hand I will take any and all the Mary Tyler Moore riffs you can throw at me. And seventies riffs too for that matter. Pet Rocks, Mood Rings, Dorothy Hamill. Brilliant stuff and lots of it.

    Host segments leave me kind of cold, even the beloved TVGM.

    And Tom doesn’t realize that they are expecting 1950’s and 1970’s songs, but still manages 1950’s and 1970’s style music to go with his 0050’s and 0070’s subject matter. Interesting.

    Medals for Pearl and Hibachi Mike.. meh.

    But the Abby Insertion bit at the end was VERY good.

    Fave riff: I am become death, the destroyer of small plastic radios. ( or was it portable radios )?

    Jim Stafford was forced to do things too vile and horrendous to be discussed here.

    As for the H.G. Wells credit, well if he was alive today he would be spinning in his grave.

    Unwatchable subject film, great riffs, weak host segments : Adds up to a 3 for me.

       1 likes

  27. Iggy Pop's Brother Steve Pop says:

    Kenneth Morgan (#11): “Is that version available somewhere?”

    Yes. That’s the version that was released on VHS. You can easily get a copy from a third-party seller via Amazon.

    By the way, the second half of that version doesn’t have the weird cuts to Abby.

    And for everyone else: the first half doesn’t have those non-sequitur flashbacks to the pilot (since it begins with a 15-minute digest version of the pilot instead). So it’s a better movie, but maybe not as fun.

    Also, to make up for using more of the pilot, there’s more cut out of the two other episodes. So, unusually for a MSTed movie, the MST version actually has some scenes the VHS version of the movie doesn’t.

       3 likes

  28. Iggy Pop's Brother Steve Pop says:

    I re-watched this episode recently, and among all their 1970’s references, there’s one that’s become topical again:

    “Boy, I sure hope I don’t get Swine Flu.”

       0 likes

  29. Toots Sweet says:

    “Camel toe”.

    “The rare male camel toe”.

    I watched this yesterday and finally got what these phrases refer to. The first is when they’re describing what Abby’s “area” looks like in her tight pants, and the second refers to Ben in HIS tight pants. Here’s my question: I’ve never heard this phrase before. Has anyone? Was it a guy thing, or a Minnesota saying? Class?

       0 likes

  30. norgavue says:

    This movie sets up the whole william sylvester and robert denby lines we get in devil doll and gorgo. The movie is so not a movie that it’s funny. Love the 70’s song and turkey volume guessing man is the best. Think this guy likes spiders and snakes?

       1 likes

  31. Bobbled Dopple says:

    Really enjoy this episode. Random note – Rifftrax did a one episode take on the 70s television show “The Incredible Hulk – The Final Round” that has a very similar feel to Riding with Death.

       0 likes

  32. Joseph Nebus says:

    Re #13 Gummo:

    The transporting of the macgufferine is explained, or at least lampshaded, back in Glasses Wiping Exposition Scene.

    Since Intersect expects that those pesky Foreign Agents who were always running around sabotaging things in those days would try to sabotage the shipment, they were sending a decoy of a big convoy with heavy guard and a big obvious presence along the big roads. (They also took most of the non-critical equipment, leaving the warehouse so near empty.)

    Ben Murphy and his truck were then protected by being so obviously nothing that it wouldn’t be worth attacking. And note the Real Foreign Agents didn’t bother attacking after all; all we get is Murray Slaughter’s helicopter buddy.

    Murray rides in the trunk and works on patent papers because he was arranging to have himself disappear in the staged attack and explosion taking out nearly four-fifths of one lane of traffic. So he made up some plausible-sounding excuse to be “put in” the truck rather than ride with Ben Murphy.

       2 likes

  33. I'm not a medium, I'm a petite says:

    Toots Sweet @29

    Camel Toe is in pretty broad general usage, and has been for quite a few years.

       0 likes

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

    >>>This guy’s a government scientist, yet he works alone in a warehouse somewhere?

    Well, nobody said he was a WELL-FUNDED government scientist…

       2 likes

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

    Overlooked yet obvious riff:

    Leonard: “SAAAAAAMMM!”

    Riff: “I said no WITCHCRAAAAAAAAAAFT!”

       3 likes

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

    Apropros of nothing, odd that Sam’s graduation date (from The Backstory Database) was IIRC in the *1980s*. So the series was for no particular reason set in a future that looked exactly like the then-present?

    “Under Operation: Admit The Dumb.”

       4 likes

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

    “Winged bears?! Oh my God, it’s the End Time!”

       4 likes

  38. Cabbage Patch Elvis says:

    In the case of Sam’s area, they could have used the term “moose knuckle” instead of “camel toe”, although this term is probably as elusive as Robert Denby. I myself prefer the term “hoof”.

       2 likes

  39. DON3k says:

    #36 – touches no one’s life, then leaves:

    I wondered the same in #14. That’s the real nutty part of this movie. Was that added-in later? Clearly there was no effort whatsoever to make the show appear to be a decade-forward. I mean, even the stock car stock footage was older than the mocie, showing some vehicles, like ’69 Talladega Torino, in some of the footage.

    nooooOOOO! thIS caN’T bEEEEEEEE!!!!!

    It’s THE FUTURE!!!!!!

       1 likes

  40. Cabbage Patch Elvis says:

    Holy Moses! I forgot to comment on the ep. Just got caught up in all this camel toe business. Anyway, one of my top ten for sure. My VHS copy is practically worthless at this point, so I’m hoping this one gets onto a Shout!Factory set soon. In addition to all the turkey comments, some of my faves:

    “My patent papers are at a slight angle, Sam.”

    “THERE’s your Buffalo shot.”

    “The fade-away jerk handshake.”

    Basically, I think Jim Stafford makes his own riffs. This one gets my vote for greatest stinger ever.

       2 likes

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

    BTW, although it may not be obvious at first glance, Gemini Man seems to be pretty much a ripoff of The Six Million Dollar Man in that it has a super-powered guy working for a secret government agency. IIRC Sam even gets his powers while retrieving a shuttle or something, sort of the same way Steve Austin was crippled (and thus had to be rebuilt stronger, faster). That was sort of a minor trend in the 1970s.

       1 likes

  42. Roman Martel says:

    Oh man, it’s the 70’s, it’s a failed TV show and it’s got Heywood Floyd from “2001” in it. Only MST3K could have found something so forgotten and so full of ripe material for riffing.

    Scraped from the bottom of the 70’s barrel of forgotten shows, comes “Riding with Death”. It has all the elements needed for laughs, although I get the feeling that if I caught this show when it was on the air, I would have fallen asleep. The opening theme music is enough to get you chuckling. I’m hoping this wasn’t the original theme music and was just used for this cobbled together “film”. Then there’s our hero, Sam (played in a oh so laid back 70’s way by Ben Murphy) riding his motorcycle and saving the Love Boat captain from the thuggish assault (who were those guys? Where they hired by the Captain to get Intersect to believe his story? Did he count on Sam to save him? Why do I care?) For me, “Riding With Death” is all about the trucking scenes. The best laughs of the episode occur in that sequence, what with the patent papers, the johnny jump up for the Tripolodine, and of course Buffalo Bill and his brand of comedy. The invisiblity gimmick isn’t used to much, we just rely on Ben’s natural charisma and coolness to carry the episode – yay. The second half of the story runs out of steam. The whole race car angle and the elusive Robert Denby just don’t have the same wackyness of truck driving. Most of the laughs come at the expense of Buffalo Bill and his friendship with Ben. Well there’s also the shoehorned Abby watching the events (how is she doing that? Did she pay someone to follow Ben around and spy on him? Is she the spectre of death?) Buffalo sings us out with a tune and everyone throws up in their beer.

    For me the riffing follows the movie. Lots of great laughs for the trucking scenes and a solid amount of good laughs for the racing storyline. It does get a bit old with them constantly injecting “because I’m Ben Murphy” into the riffing, but Ben’s smug yet sedate attitude practicaly begs for it. Some of the best laughs come from the feeble attempt to tell a cohesive story by slamming together two unrelated episodes (was Buffalo the linking element? Ew.) and pouring on a helping of flashbacks to the pilot episode. These are so badly done that Mike and bots can’t help but rag on it.

    The host segments are goofy enough what with the war on the camping planet and Mike blowing it up. Then it’s back to some pretty old school host segments with the 70’s song and the trucker body. Those both felt very Comedy Central and were fun. And Mike wielding sharp knives is kinda scary! Not a bad set of host segments.

    “Riding with Death” is a entertaining episode, not a highlight for me, but definitely one I can pop in when I’m in a 70’s but not “Mitchell” mood. Even though my wife can’t stay awake after the truck scenes (she always conks out when Floyd has his loooong conversation with the random lab guy), I feel good about giving this episode a mellow four stars out of five.

       2 likes

  43. pablum says:

    What were they smoking in the 70s to get something like this produced? The silliness of a secret agent who can conveniently turn invisible for plot purposes made for great riffing material. Even though right now I don’t remember all that many riffs other than ones made at Ben Murphy. As nutty as Jim Stafford was in this, he fit right in.

    The host segments didn’t do much for me. Just more season 8 silliness. Although Mike’s odd behavior as a teppanyaki chef was pretty funny looking.

       0 likes

  44. John Seavey says:

    Oh, come on! 42 comments, and nobody has mentioned the best scene in the whole movie?

    “Drained and satisfied, I’m tracing lazy circles on your supercab…” The entire ‘truck sex’ sequence is filled with some of the funniest, filthiest riffs they ever did on the series. Single-handedly raises the movie a whole star for me.

       5 likes

  45. Sampo says:

    #12 Dan–According to the list we have [http://www.mst3kinfo.com/ward_e/listdale.html] the Daleism in the next episode is their last one. I’m not positive that’s right. We’ll see. But it was somewhere about two-thirds the way through season eight that the Daleisms abruptly stopped. I don’t think it had anything directly to do with finding out the mistake. I think maybe they just decided enough was enough. I can try to ask Kevin or Mike, but often when people ask them really specific questions about specific riffs or specific episodes, they’ve long-since forgotten the details.

    How we at Satellite News — and Best Brains — found out about the mistake, or, rather, MY side of that story, is worth telling and I guess this is as good a spot as any.
    It started with an email from somebody claiming to be Adam Burke, Dale’s brother. Yes, THE Dale. He is the creator of this Web site: http://home.earthlink.net/~a_burke/BurkeGrapeNuts.htm.
    You need to understand that during that period I was getting all sorts of crazy email from complete strangers telling me all sorts of crazy rumors and stories about MST3K. 90 percent of them were crap. I had gotten used to ignoring a lot of it. So when I got his email telling me that the FAQ was wrong (at that time the FAQ stated categorically that the Dale references were to the Ivory Liquid commercials, based on definitive statements by BBI staffers to that effect.), I was skeptical. One thing was for sure: I wasn’t going to rewrite the FAQ–and say the Brains were wrong in the process–on a complete stranger’s say-so.
    So I did some research on the matter. Keep in mind that this was in the days of the infancy of the internet and a lot of the resources that are now available were not available then. I had long phone conversations with advertising archive houses and contacted the makers of Ivory Liquid and of Grape Nuts. I couldn’t determine anything definitive.
    I reported back to him of my inability to corroborate his story, and I politely requested that he give me some proof of who he was and that what he was saying was true. In response, I got a rather rude demand that I do as I was told and make the change and how dare I demand proof. At that point I wrote him off as a kook and there was a bit of a standoff for a while.
    On this page — http://home.earthlink.net/~a_burke/BurkesGrapeNutsErr.htm — he describes my responses as “an onslaught of vehement and most unfriendly rebuttals” and “wild allegations and desperate contrivances.” I take issue with that characterization, and I contend that quite the reverse was true. The tone you can read there is an example of the tone I was getting in his emails to me. I believe I was mostly fair and cordial, but I admit that HIS increasingly strident tone toward ME may have shortened my patience somewhat.
    In any case, a little while later the above Web site appeared, in which he presents — in painstaking detail — the history of the Grape Nuts commercial and its similarity to the Ivory Liquid commercial. It was exactly what I had been requesting. I began to seriously wonder if I’d misjudged the guy and began to consider the notion — GASP! — that BBI might have goofed.
    At about the same time, as he explains, he directly contacted BBI and spoke to Kevin. It appears his proofs were sufficient to convince Kevin that they’d made a mistake and he forthrightly stated as much. With that statement, we were more than happy to change the FAQ.
    The last communications I got from Adam were entirely pleasant.

       6 likes

  46. pearliemae says:

    MOOSE KNUCKLE??!!! Here’s my embarrasing admission for this ep: I watched the Jim Stafford show. I liked it. Did anyone mention that he was once named one of the Best Dressed People? Who’s list was that, Nascar’s?
    “Peter Fonda is (can’t remember the name) in the Marcel Marceau Story.”

       1 likes

  47. Sampo says:

    #24 Clu Gulager: As our Ward E list [http://www.mst3kinfo.com/ward_e/listdale.html] states, the Daleism in Last of the Wild Horses seems to a reference to Dale Evans.

       1 likes

  48. thecorman says:

    I have always wished the guys had done more TV episodes; they always work so well.

    I’ve actually selected this episode as my preferred watching while spending my Saturdays futily attempting to finish the ever-growing to-do list of my better half.

    I don’t know if there’s ever been a movie(or something) that was so riff-able. Almost every scene seemed to be written to have someone make fun of it.

    As a side-note, I’m constantly perplexed the various sound quality of movies and TV in the Seventies; this piece of dung sounds like it was recorded yesterday, but so many high quality, high budget movies and TV shows from that era sound like the microphones were in a bowl of pudding. For evidence, view Robert Altman’s “Nashville”; everybody in that movie sounds like they have a mouth full of marbles.

       0 likes

  49. thecorman says:

    In fact, I think Mike and the bots reference Altman’s notorious sound quality in an episode.

       0 likes

  50. pearliemae says:

    Sampo, thank you. A great story. And I want to say, that I just LOVE that there are people in the world who do this kind of research.

       1 likes

Comments are closed.