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Episode Guide Special: Short- Assignment: Venezuela

Short: (1956) An American oil executive struggles to assimilate after he is transferred to South America.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (151 votes, average: 4.63 out of 5)

I’m going to review this short. You?

• You can watch this one here, here and here.
• The short was originally intended to be one of two that were to be included on a planned MST3K CD-ROM (back when CD-ROMs were a big thing; recall “Monty Python’s Complete Waste of Time”). The project fell through when the bottom fell out of the CD-ROM market and the company that was going to produce the product, Voyager Company, got radically downsized.
• For the record, the second short, never seen by anyone outside of BBI as far as we know of, riffed on an industrial film called “Mylar, What’s It To You?” You can watch the unMSTed original here and here. Although the short we’re discussing today is generally thought of as MST3K’s “lost” short, that description is literally true of the “Mylar” short. The master somehow got misplaced at the BBI studio. In the Sci-Fi era, following the release of this short, a concerted effort was made to find the tape but it never turned up. It appears to be lost to the ages.
• This short was shown to the public for the very first time on Friday, Aug. 30, 1996, in a large hall of the Minneapolis Convention Center, at the second MST3K convention. Those who were there, please correct me if I’m wrong, but if I remember correctly it was Paul Chaplin who introduced the short. He coyly teased the audience a bit, saying that the short existed, but then saying he wasn’t supposed to show it and then finally giving in and off they went.
• For several years, the only publicly available version of that short was video footage recorded by convention attendees. The angles to the screen were not great, and the sound was terrible (the acoustics in the large hall were atrocious, and several of the riffs were obscured by laughter and/or applause in reaction the previous riffs), but MSTies will take what they can get. These videos, along with videos of the “MST3K: The Movie” outtakes that were also shown that night, soon found their way onto bootleg “MST3K: The Movie” DVDs that were selling on E-bay for $100 and more.
• It was eventually released on a VHS shorts collection and later that collection was also an extra on a Rhino set.
• The short was an incredible treat for fans, who had not had any new MST3K for months, and did not expect to get any more for a long time. I can remember, as the short ended and the lights came up, seeing more than one fan around me wiping tears of laughter from his or her eyes. One was my friend Jon Whitney, who, quoting Joel from Season Two, muttered, “Wow, blindsided by a short!”
• Crow channels “Apocalypse Now” with the riff “Never get outta the boat. Absolutely Goddam right.”
• Tom Servo and then Crow BOTH invoke country music personality Minnie Pearl with a boistrous “HOWWWDEE!”
• The whole “narrow-wide” thing really had folks roaring. It was one of those running gags that just gets funnier and funnier. “Well, if it isn’t Mr. Big Lake!”
• However, it was the riff “Bag-o in car-o!” that really brought the house down. It was a little like the recent “Rudolph, I need you tonight,” moment at the RiffTrax Live show. People just fell out. On the videos taken by the convention attendees, you can’t even hear the next two or three riffs. It was one of those memorable moments of being a MSTie, when you’re in a large group and the funny just gets funnier because there’s more of you to enjoy it.
• Fave riff: “I saw a nude midget circus.”

66 comments to Episode Guide Special: Short- Assignment: Venezuela

  • 51
    syferdet says:

    “The cab driver whirled on me, his eyes narrowed…NO, NOT NARROWED!!”


  • 52
    Finnias Jones says:

    Having just gone through Season Eight along with everyone else here re-watching Bill Corbett develop his vocal and puppeteering skills as Crow, it’s a bit of a shock to see this display of Trace’s take on the character. He is so animated and gleeful. And a lot more gay (bi-?) than Bill’s Crow. An earlier comment noted that the extended length allows the riffers to build on their humor to an extent we’d not seen before in the “industrial” shorts. I also think the chemistry of the writing/performing team at the time, sadly short-lived, exists in a sweet spot between the tonally different Joel and Mike eras. Even Mike and especially Kevin exhibit different personas than they showed in the later SciFi years.

    I love what MST became once Bill found his “voice” as Crow, but A:V is a shining example of the greatness “that could have been.” I’ve always assumed Trace left because without Joel and Frank, doing the show didn’t feel the same. BTW, does anyone know when in the chronology of Season Seven this was made?


  • 53
    Rex Dart says:

    His Kwanzit (?) hut has four beds, but some have more.

    “Some have less! It all works out! Everyone seems to get a bed!”


  • 54
    Creeping Terror says:

    This short reminds me of another classic short about a Latin American country: “Progress Island, U.S.A.” However, I think it’s a middle-level short in quality, and there are several that I prefer more (“Once Upon a Honeymoon,” “Design for Dreaming,” “Mr. B Natural,” and a few others spring to mind).

    My favorite riffs that no one else has mentioned:
    “I guess I shouldn’t complain to you, but he’s never home. He has another wife called ‘Petroleum.'”
    “Wow, they’ve been in there a long time. The cavity search must be hell.”

    I must admit that “Assignment: Venezuela” makes me nostalgic for the time that I spent in South America. I lived in Chile, which is a narrow country. (D’oh! There I go judging things as narrow.) Wink


  • 55
    ck says:

    Interestingly, Chile’s neighbor to the east has both wide (north) and narrow (south) parts.


  • 56
    clonus says:

    Okay…which would you guys rather have-“Mylar” or the first 3 KTMA shows? I would choose Mylar because it’s actually “lost”, while those KTMA’s are safe in Mallon’s possession. I would LOVE to see rifftrax just do the short again, I doubt they remember any of the original jokes they used.


  • 57
    touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Re the sudden jolt of Trace’s Crow: The first several MST3Ks I ever watched were Sci-Fi era, so initially Bill’s Crow was the only one I was familiar with, but once I saw Trace’s Crow, there simply was no contest. IMHO Trace’s Crow is just way more fun.

    Similarly, and I’m sure this has been discussed before, the Comedy Central SOL bridge sort of looked like a kid’s show set; it looked like somewhere you might WANT to be trapped. In contrast The Sci-Fi SOL bridge was creepy and depressing. IMHO. All part of the presumptions about audiences, I guess.


  • 58
    Raptorial Talon says:

    “I’m bummed that there’s a missing MST3K short.”



  • 59
    touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Re-watched it. Is it my imagination, or does it have fewer pop-culture-reference jokes than MST3K usually does?


  • 60

    I needed to watch this one again to remember every good thing about it, because it’s so good that so much is missed from laughing. A lot’s already been said though.

    * As a Mormon and having some MST3K-loving friends of the same, our biggest group laugh came from the “Hi, have you heard of the Book of Mormon?” at the very beginning. All of us had been down that path.
    * I wonder if there’s ever been or ever will be some crazy, overreacting controversy over the kid’s bare butt in the “Spooooooooock” scene.
    * Servo has a great nervous breakdown that breaks the 4th wall for the narrator, “Stop that crappy music and fly me home!”
    * Mike notices that the narrator is never actually dressed for swimming whenever he’s at the pool. “I put on my swimming trousers and went for a dip.”
    * Also have to love Mike’s Zorro reference during the bit on Simon Bolivar.
    * I didn’t know about Minnie Pearl before I heard the “HOWDEE!” jokes for the first time. Imagine my reaction when my mom turned on a re-run of one of her performances one night that I happened to hear. It made the “It’s a frosted Minnie Pearl!” riff from I Accuse my Parents much more funny too.

    Favorite riffs:
    “My God! Go! Go! Go! This whole thing’s gonna blow! We’ve gotta be 100 yards away in 7 seconds, mister!” – Mike
    “I’m lying! I stayed up till nine and had Coke! Please forgive me!” – Crow
    “They sent me to Maracaibo, not Venezuela!” – Servo


  • 61
    Miss Mary says:

    “um, why?” “Just because!”


  • 62
    rcfagnan says:

    Good short, left me wanting more. I usually pair this with MST3K:TM because they both feel like they’re not a “whole” entity. Together, they are awesome!


  • 63
    ya'na'glachy baby! says:

    People on here always rag about how Rhino never gave enough extras on their dvds. True Shout!Factory does throw more extras at us, but Rhino did a great job on some volumes as well…example-3 bonus shorts on the vol.7 dvd “The Killer Shrews” one of which is this gem. I love this(very long for a short)short, and I could quote a bunch of riffs from this short cos there are some great ones. However I’m just going to ask everyone this…am I the only one that after watching this video thinks it sounds like a bad place to work and live?? I mean the huts and the water c’mon. Its just funny cos I assume the short is meant as a training/introduction film for their company to entice people to wanna work down there….but hey they do have “brown beauties” lol.


  • 64
    losingmydignity says:

    I haven’t made a list of fav shorts but this might crack my top ten. Really good stuff…

    Wish my father had lived to watch this with me. He did work for a big oil company and probably would have had to watch something like this for his travels. In fact, we almost moved to Japan like this lovely family does to Venezuela. I wonder if I would have lived in a very small quonset hut?


  • 65

    “And as we left the clam flowage that day…”


  • 66
    The Toblerone Effect says:

    I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’d had the Volume 7 box set for a long time before realizing that this was included on there. I don’t know how I missed it – the wording is written in bright yellow I believe – but I didn’t watch it until a couple of years after buying this copy. Funny thing is, I’d known about this “missing” short for some time before that, but thought I’d never see it! (Cue head slap here). Better late than never, I guess.

    Since discovering it, I’ve watched this several times, since it still feels like a fresh piece of MST3K to me. The running narrow-wide gag is vintage MST, and the fact that it’s longer than the average short but shorter than a movie is perfect for when you want riffing in a smaller dose. It helps make Vol. 7 my favorite Rhino release, and my second favorite of all time (behind Volume XVI).