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Sampo & Erhardt

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Visit our archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.

Goodbye Sci-Fi

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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Episode Guide 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 (184 votes, average: 4.66 out of 5)
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• You can watch this one 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 Co., got radically downsized.
• For the record, the second short, never seen by anyone outside of BBI as far as we know, riffed on an industrial film called “Mylar, What’s It To You?” You can watch the unMSTed original 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. 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 from BBI and later that collection was 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 a friend who, a line 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 RiffTrax’s now-infamous “Rudolph, I need you tonight,” moment during one of their live shows. People just fell out and on the amateur videos, you can’t even hear the next two or three riffs, much less figure out what they’re saying. 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.”

96 Replies to “Episode Guide Special: Short- Assignment: Venezuela”

  1. syferdet says:

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

       3 likes

  2. 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?

       0 likes

  3. 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!”

       3 likes

  4. 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:

       3 likes

  5. ck says:

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

       0 likes

  6. 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.

       4 likes

  7. 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.

       2 likes

  8. Raptorial Talon says:

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

    ^This.

       1 likes

  9. 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?

       0 likes

  10. 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

       1 likes

  11. Miss Mary says:

    “um, why?” “Just because!”

       0 likes

  12. 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!

       4 likes

  13. 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.

       0 likes

  14. 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?

       2 likes

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

       1 likes

  16. 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).

       3 likes

  17. goalieboy82 says:

    to quote the final sacrifice, seven years later.

       10 likes

  18. Kenneth Morgan says:

    Any chance that RT could riff on the Mylar short during their next live, all-shorts show? Or if maybe next season Jonah & the ‘bots could take a crack at it?

       4 likes

  19. Castleton Snob says:

    What’s interesting about this short is how Mike & the bots all seem to enjoy the “darker” riffs that Joel would usually
    admonish them not to do.

    Favorite lines:

    Tom: Our man in Venezuela, Pee Wee Herman

    Narrator: He gave me a regular guided tour of Maracaibo.
    Mike: Know what I mean?

       2 likes

  20. Sitting Duck says:

    @ #54: If you’ll pardon me for getting pedantic, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and not a separate country (even if they do have their own Olympic team).

       2 likes

  21. thequietman says:

    My god, it’s GLORIOUS honey! You gotta get down here!

    I guess Sampo’s Theorem finally finds me with this short. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but the whole ‘narrow-wide’ running gag just didn’t land with me this time around.

    Besides a dearth of the regular pop-culture references, I didn’t recall a single callback to a regular episode either (though ‘clam flowage’ comes close).

    Is there any possibility of this turning up without the time code in the corner?

       0 likes

  22. Lisa H. says:

    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.

    Is this, like, a scientifically documented psychological effect? Of course, anecdotally, I’ve experienced it myself; I’ll laugh aloud at things with just one other person watching that, while I still find them funny, don’t seem as potent if I’m watching something alone. But, just curious.

       1 likes

  23. RedZoneTuba says:

    One of my favorite riffs I haven’t seen mentioned yet: Minnie Pearl arrives and gives the baggage guy instructions in her broken and stilted Spanish….
    Baggage Guy: Sure! Right here?!?

       3 likes

  24. Ian L. says:

    My favorite riff, when the kid gets an injection and opens his mouth: “Spock!”

       1 likes

  25. Gobi says:

    Does it pass the Bechtel test?

       3 likes

  26. EricJ says:

    Gobi:
    Does it pass the Bechtel test?

    For those still obsessing over that, check out the “Bechtel test: Zero” riff when the girls discuss their boyfriends like girls do, in 1103 Time Travelers.
    Not sure if just an intellectual riff, or they’re reading Satellite News (as a few do) and think it’s now officially a Thing around here. And if they do…please stop, Sitting Duck, we could never really figure out why the heck you were doing it either.

    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 Co., got radically downsized.

    Didn’t become “Radically downsized” per se, just changed emphases when the Laser and CD-Rom markets both suddenly became the DVD market before everyone realized (’99-’00), and Voyager Laser/CD became Criterion DVD.
    Had a copy of their A Hard Day’s Night CD-Rom, and they were reportedly working on an expanded Monty Python & Holy Grail CD-Rom along with S7-era MST3K, but that market folded quickly. Even anime companies didn’t have time to establish themselves on “CD, because, like, we’re all watching it on our computers!”

    Oh, the days when “Digitized video” could mean Philips CD-I disks…

       3 likes

  27. Cornjob says:

    “…and shot me in the back of the head.”

       1 likes

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

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

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

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quonset_hut

    Quonset huts were also mentioned in riffing “The Deadly Mantis.”

       2 likes

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

    Do the rest of us get to find out what Sampo said that needed to be corrected to “nude midget circus”? Well, do we?! Better say “Yes,” dammit!

    MikeH:
    Our man in Venezuela, Pee Wee Herman

    Shouldn’t that be Kiwi Herman?
    (checks wikipedia)
    No, my mistake, kiwis apparently do not grow in South America. Carry on.

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

    Ohio? No, wait, that has two round parts and a high area…

    So, Argentina, right? Well, don’t cry for them, they’re the ones who gave us “Deathstalker” the First One, where our “hero” rescues a woman from being raped and then tries to rape her himself. Still had a few bugs to work out, I guess.

    Sitting Duck:
    @ #54: If you’ll pardon me for getting pedantic

    Why stop now?
    :-)

    Sitting Duck:
    Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and not a separate country

    So you may as well just stay where you are.

    EricJ: For those still obsessing over that, check out the “Bechtel test: Zero” riff

    Aren’t the only ones obsessing about it the ones who keep complaining about it?

       4 likes

  30. trickymutha says:

    I played in a band where we would practice in a Quonset hut. The Breslin Center in East Lansing now occupies that same space.

    touches no one’s life, then leaves: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quonset_hut

    Quonset huts were also mentioned in riffing “The Deadly Mantis.”

       0 likes

  31. NewsFedora says:

    EricJ: For those still obsessing over that, check out the “Bechtel test: Zero” riff when the girls discuss their boyfriends like girls do, in 1103 Time Travelers.
    Not sure if just an intellectual riff, or they’re reading Satellite News (as a few do) and think it’s now officially a Thing around here.And if they do…please stop, Sitting Duck, we could never really figure out why the heck you were doing it either.

    Not quite sure what you’re saying with this. The Bechdel Test has been around for ages and has particularly become pretty well known in pop culture over the past couple of years. I doubt the riff was meant as a reference to Satellite News (why would it? Or was there some epic Bechdel Test conversation a while back I missed out on?)

       4 likes

  32. bartcow says:

    NewsFedora: Not quite sure what you’re saying with this. The Bechdel Test has been around for ages and has particularly become pretty well known in pop culture over the past couple of years. I doubt the riff was meant as a reference to Satellite News (why would it?Or was there some epic Bechdel Test conversation a while back I missed out on?)

    Yes, I’ve heard it referenced in plenty of non-MSTie places as well. It’s a thing.

       4 likes

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

    EricJ: For those still obsessing over that, check out the “Bechtel test: Zero” riff when the girls discuss their boyfriends like girls do, in 1103 Time Travelers.
    Not sure if just an intellectual riff, or they’re reading Satellite News (as a few do) and think it’s now officially a Thing around here.And if they do…please stop, Sitting Duck, we could never really figure out why the heck you were doing it either.

    I would imagine that Sitting Duck does it because Sitting Duck WANTS to do it. He or she says whatever he or she felt like saying. As do I. As do you. Unless I’m much mistaken, that’s kind of the PURPOSE of a comments section, to COMMENT.

    Is it really such a burden on you to read — or to SKIP PAST — the one or two sentences that Sitting Duck devotes to the topic? Does that truly weigh upon you so? It seems to me that you devote more time and effort to griping about it than Duck does to reporting it. That strikes me as odd but I would imagine that you do that because you WANT to do that. Just like I wanted to make this post, which I shall now conclude.

       15 likes

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

    This is the origin of the Bechdel Test:

    http://movies.mxdwn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/BechdelRule.png

    There. That was it. One comic strip, period. A joke of the day from 1985. It was never intended to be a significant rating method.

    Some people nevertheless attach importance to it. Others do not. Just as is the case with everything else in the world.

       2 likes

  35. Sitting Duck says:

    Gobi:
    Does it pass the Bechtel test?

    I’ve never really thought of applying it to the shorts. This is primarily due to how the bulk of them consist predominantly or entirely of narration. I suppose you could make a case for applying it to the serials. They didn’t run enough installments of Phantom Creeps or Undersea Kingdom for me to be certain. However, I think we can safely say that Radar Men from the Moon failed, since it appears as if Joan was the only female character.

    As for why I do it, it’s just a piece of trivia I find mildly intriguing. I certainly don’t operate under some delusion that it’s an indicator of feminist ideals. The fact that The Atomic Brain, Angels’ Revenge, and Horrors of Spider Island easily pass should debunk that line of thought.

       9 likes

  36. Lisa H. says:

    The Bechdel test is a food-for-thought thing: it is, or should be, such an absurdly low and easy bar to clear that it prompts pondering on why so many things fail it.

       4 likes

  37. EricJ says:

    Whether I like something or not is known as the Bigdolt Test!

       2 likes

  38. Joseph Nebus says:

    Sitting Duck: As for why I do it, it’s just a piece of trivia I find mildly intriguing. I certainly don’t operate under some delusion that it’s an indicator of feminist ideals. The fact that The Atomic Brain, Angels’ Revenge, and Horrors of Spider Island easily pass should debunk that line of thought.

    Well, I find it interesting to see what movies pass and what don’t pass the Bechdel Test. Obviously it’s not in itself a guide to the sexism or decency of a movie, but the underlying question — why did the movie not have (or have) two women talking to each other about anything but a man? — is a reliable one for discussing one aspect of how a movie is put together.

    I agree that categorizing the shorts would probably be a less interesting task, since so many of them are the narrator explaining how to function to a pale guy. The serials and soap operas actually have characters and stories.

       2 likes

  39. Gobi says:

    I think a lot of the shorts are eligible for the Bechdel test, in that they have characters and maybe even a plot (a date with your family, cheating, why don’t they look, etc). Whether any of them would pass is another question.

       2 likes

  40. Gare.Chicago says:

    EricJ: And if they do…please stop, Sitting Duck, we could never really figure out why the heck you were doing it either.

    You people are being much too civil regarding this. Apologies to Sampo’s board, but here – I’ll handle this. Someone hold my beer..

    EricJ – just **** off already.

    Also, Sitting Duck, I fully appreciate your Bechtel test posts on each episode guide. Please *don’t* stop just over the comments of an insipid, petulant, pseudo-intellectual prick.

    We now return you to Satellite News, already in progress.

    Gare

       5 likes

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

    Gare.Chicago: You people are being much too civil regarding this.

    Shrug. I gotta be me. No one else applied for the position.

       2 likes

  42. Sitting Duck says:

    Funnily enough, the Bechdel Test does get briefly mentioned on the show. But more on that in a couple of weeks.

       5 likes

  43. GodzillaVsMegalon says:

    Finnias Jones:
    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?

    I was always a fan of both crows I gues especially because Bill took a risk with the character and it payed off, and the writing crew supported the move to an edgier crow. As it is, they were both iconic. One of my favorite moments during the anniversary show was when Kevin stood between Trace and Bill and said “I’m standing between two crows!”

    I also agree season six is perhaps unappreciated and it’s possibly because of the mixed emotions of Joel leaving. I agree that the writing is spot on and I think the chemistry between the characters is some of the finest.

       1 likes

  44. GodzillaVsMegalon says:

    touches no one’s life, then leaves:
    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.

    Very true. As a Mstie who started in the Sci-Fi years, my normal is their set. No disrespect intended, when I caught up with the earlier years I measured every thing against the production from Sci-Fi .

       0 likes

  45. FordPrefect says:

    Considering how many shorts they’ve done at this point, it’s kind of strange that Rifftrax hasn’t done “Mylar: What’s It To You?” yet. I wonder if they’ll finally riff it sometime before we discuss this short again in the next 4 to 7 years.

       0 likes

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