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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 (185 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. Shinola says:

    I don’t remember exactly when I first stumbled across this short on YouTube, but boy am I glad I did. There are few shorts or feature-length MST presentations that make me laugh a hard and as consistently as Assignment: Venezuela.

    The references to the protagonist’s double life, such as his exploits with “Ethcobar,” are hilarious. The “Mr. Big Lake” gag just gets funnier with each iteration.

    But my favorite riff, now and for all time, is during a panning shot down a “typical” Maracaibo street. A sign reading AUTOS USADOS flashes by, and Trace very softly sings “Autos usadooos…” to the tune of the incidental music. See? I’m sitting here laughing about it right now.

       2 likes

  2. Moon W. Trash says:

    That riff is actually “I saw a nude midget circus”, for what it’s worth.

    Wonderful short. In addition to what’s already been mentioned, I also really enjoyed the bit about the department store terrific (“Just buy the gun, lady, just buy the gun!”)

       1 likes

  3. MPSh says:

    “He was even scrawnier than I was”

    “Mean Gene Okerlund!”

    “FLINSTONE!”

    “Spo-o-o-o-o-o-ock!”

    “..where he cheats on us with the brown-skinned beauties…”

    Pure gold…

       1 likes

  4. robot rump! says:

    ‘but nothings as nice as our quonset hut, honey’
    this was a truly great short that deserved more exposure. escobar, cokes by the pool and skipping language class so you can drive down narrow streets looking at narrow lakes…*sigh* i suppose a modern day follow up short would lose some of it’s charm what with all of Chavez’s soldiers goose stepping all over the place. and lest i forget…”HOOOWWWDEEEEE!!!!”

       0 likes

  5. Dan in WI says:

    How appropriate this is reviewed now as I look at the still photo on my 2010 Satellite News Shorts Calendar.

       0 likes

  6. Tim S. Turner says:

    So great to find that this “lost” short was so damn funny. One of the best of the latter day shorts.

       0 likes

  7. Mela says:

    For some reason, the tour of the quonset hut cracks me up. “The water only runs for half an hour, and you’ve gotta boil the hell out of it” gets me every time. Probably one of the best shorts that was ever done.

       1 likes

  8. ck says:

    “Venezuela: Proud jewel of the Adriatic!”
    (American geography challenged knowledge in action :mrgreen: ) Speaking of which, why do Americans have so much troubleddistinguishing wide rivers from narrow ones? :???:

    Interesting home schooling sex ed in the ’50s:
    “Oh no! That’s the Kama Sutra!”

    You know, that car could have been driven by Michael Corleone to meet Hyman Roth in Miami.

       0 likes

  9. ck says:

    And of course there’s our heroe’s interest in brown-skinned beauties, and live sex shows in Caracas. Well, I suppose he can set his family up in one of them quonset huts and have a nice love nest once that couple move out. (Hey! It’s Eisenhower’s America! (Recall Joel’s screed about ’50s Christmas parties) :smile:

       0 likes

  10. Joseph Walker says:

    Point of order: this short is NOT included in the “Mr. B’s Lost Shorts” collection, which is its own disk in Rhino’s Volume 4. Rather, it’s included along with the Sci-Fi era shorts “Century 21 Calling” and “A Case of Spring Fever” as extras on Volume 7’s “The Killer Shrews.”

       1 likes

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

    Outstanding. 5 stars. I first saw it as a Rhino extra and have come to thin of it as some of their best work. It has a different quality that I can not quite describe, a freshness, a brightness a lightness. It may be the middle-distance of a long short… they have more “temporal space” to move around in and work the gags and develop a rhythm ( compared to a regular short ), but it does not have the sometimes oppressive weight of a full length film. Since it was not for their usual distribution, maybe they were looser, more relaxed. Whatever it was it worked.

       2 likes

  12. FarmboyinJapan says:

    Sampo: Isn’t the line: “I saw a NUDE midget circus” ?

    Oh, and SPOCK!!!!!!!!!

       1 likes

  13. Sitting Duck says:

    ck #9: Hey! It’s Eisenhower’s America! (Recall Joel’s screed about ’50s Christmas parties)

    Except said screed was about Seventies Christmas parties. :razz:

       0 likes

  14. Lazlo25 says:

    There’s a video time code on the high left side of the screen, which is a little distracting, but the riffing on it was great.

    Aside from the two shorts, I wonder what was gonna be on the ill-faded MST3K CD-ROM?

       0 likes

  15. It’s a particularly funny short considering the strained relationship Venezuela has with us nowadays (NOT an opening gambit for political discussion, honest).

    Really funny stuff, and nice to see as Trace’s last hurrah. I love the idea that Pee Wee Herman is ogling all the ladies while his Minnie Pearl wife back home is having to describe Venezuela to his irritating children.

    And I loved all the jokes about their lovely new home. “I DON’T WANT TO LIVE IN A QUONSET HUT!” With shuttered windows. Hear hear.

       0 likes

  16. Kenneth Morgan says:

    I first saw this at ConventioCon II and the response was, indeed, huge. I know I certainly wasn’t expecting it, and it was a very pleasant surprise.

    Favorite riff: (after the narrator mentions the pilot of the ferry boat) Nice guy, drove the boat well, however he wants to live his life is none of my business…

    By the way, if the master copy of the Mylar short riffing is gone, why not just do it over? How about giving it to CT and RT simultaneously, just to see their differing takes on it? I’d certainly pick it up.

       1 likes

  17. Stickboy says:

    I agree with #11 I’m not a medium, I’m a petite
    There is something different about this short that I can almost grasp. The “narrow” running gag is my favorite part. I find myself looking forward to each instance, not quite able to anticipate the repetition as I haven’t watched it all that much.

       1 likes

  18. Sampo says:

    Whoops! I listened again and it IS “nude.” Now fixed.

       0 likes

  19. Clu Gulager says:

    “You kneed me in the groin, daddy.” :smile:

    Glad this got a review because this is actually one of my favorite shorts- a fair amount of pretty good riffs jammed into 25 minutes.

    There is a also a great little moment when a car is going across a bridge on the screen and Crow leans over and opens his mouth to make it look like he’s swallowing it. I truthfully have no preference between Bill or Trace, but it was little things like that that made you appreciate Trace’s Crow.

    Also, many have pointed out Sampo’s misquote, but there is one other minor inaccuracy. Tom Servo only invokes Minnie Pearl once, as the second “HOWWWDEE” came from Crow.

       0 likes

  20. Ray The Whimsical Lampshade says:

    I love this short. I wish I could’ve seen it live, but those are the breaks. i am glad they finally released it and I wish they had done “Mylar” too but you can’t have everything.

    “I’m lying! I stayed up until nine and had Cokes! Please forgive me!”

    “Frankly we wandered into a bad section of town.”

    “Just buy the gun, lady! Just buy the gun!”

    “Meow! Meow!” (done to the incidental music)

       1 likes

  21. RPG says:

    “The first thing that surprised me on that ride was the…/” :shock:

    “Was being sucked through a time portal.”

       0 likes

  22. TVsCorkey says:

    Thanks for the great convention memories!

       0 likes

  23. TheNintenGenius says:

    I also saw this as a bonus feature on the Rhino Killer Shrews disc and it’s quite possibly my favorite short they ever riffed. They’re absolutely on fire, beginning to end, and I can’t think of a single clunker in the lot.

       1 likes

  24. Dropo221 says:

    Actually, the second HOWDEEE is from Crow not Tom, but that’s a minor point. I’ve often wondered about a line towards the end of the short by Mike. Something about ‘…will never happen due to a grusome crash!’ It seems much lower than the other riffs, like it was being muffled. Was there a major plane crash just before the convention or something?

       1 likes

  25. Spector says:

    Definitely among the best shorts they’ve riffed. It’s a goldmine of material, especially the “narrow-wide” thing. I was thrilled when Rhino included this in the Volume 7 boxset, as I’d heard of it but couldn’t find it anywhere until it appeared in that set. Of course now it’s easy to find on Youtube but back in the days before then I couldn’t find it. This was like discovering lost gold…or at the very least, a $20 bill hidden between your sofa cushions.

       1 likes

  26. Cabbage Patch Elvis says:

    #24 – I think Mike muffled his voice so that his line would go with the airport intercom.

    This has to be my #1 short. Great stuff from start to finish. More than once I’ve put the Killer Shrews dvd, and forget to even watch the film. I’ll just watch this a couple times instead.

    “El baggo in carro!”

       0 likes

  27. H says:

    This is a decent one for me. It’s good but there are better shorts definitely. It’s a shame the Mylar riffing is missing. That would’ve been awesome.

       0 likes

  28. Roman Martel says:

    This short is a favorite around our house. First saw it as the extra on “Killer Shrews” and actually enjoy it more than “Killer Shrews” itself.

    We often quote the whole narrow versus wide line any time we try to judge distance or size. And then there’s the whole naughty drinking of Coke, America’s… I mean Venezuela’s favorite drink!

    I think this long short was great for them, becuase it gave them enough material to use and time to milk it into some great repeating jokes. It’s not my favorite short (I think “Date with your Family” has that spot), but it’s a great one.

       2 likes

  29. miqeldotcom says:

    Finely riffed short! 5 stars all the way!!! Quite a few laugh-out-loud moments here & the running gag about ‘width estimation’ works very well.

    “The first thing that surprised me on that ride was the …” (skip in film)
    “Being sucked through a time-portal”

    “i thought of you honey, when i saw the big barge”

    “they killed all pets just to prove they were serious”

    “Oil is a loving God”

    “Just buy the gun lady … just BUY the gun”

    “Bag-o in Car-O!”

       1 likes

  30. fish eye no miko says:

    “The driver narrowed his eyes at me–no, not ‘narrowed’!”

    I also love the gasp of surprise the guys give out when some large piece of equipment is lowered into frame.

       1 likes

  31. pablum says:

    I just watched Assignment: Venezuela in the last month again, but I’ve since forgotten most of it. I just remember that it was really long for a short.

    It sorta reminded me of The Space Children due to family having to live in a small shack, but it was before they riffed on the movie, so no heavenly blob jokes were to be had.

    I’d also like to see the take on Mylar, What’s It To You?, but alas its not meant to be.

       0 likes

  32. MikeH says:

    Definetly 5 stars for this. I wonder though if his wife Minnie Pearl survived there in teh tropics since she had no skin pigment whatsoever. She’d be dead of sunstroke in 10 minutes or less.

    I thought of you honey when I saw the big barge.
    Our man in Venezuela, Pee Wee Herman
    I want Venezuela on my desk by 9am

       0 likes

  33. Mr. B(ob) says:

    This short was never on the Mr. B’s Lost Shorts collections on VHS or DVD versions. I was at the second MST3K Convention when this was first shown and then later bought the tape from BBI that had this and two other shorts on it including the “Case Of Spring Fever” short. Assignment Venezuela was the main feature on the tape sold by BBI when this was first made available to the public.

    That said, my wife and I enjoyed seeing this and the movie outtakes at the convention, but they were no substitute for the originally planned live show that was canceled when Trace B. decided to leave the show around that time. Most if not all attendees were expecting a live show when we traveled to Minneapolis for the convention as it had been advertised as one of the highlights and we were all greatly disappointed that the show was canceled.

    That said, we enjoyed seeing the Assignment Venezuela short and the rare material from the movie and it’s a shame that even the latest DVD release of the film doesn’t contain outtakes or a restored version of the film.

       0 likes

  34. Sampo says:

    Joseph Walker & Mr/ B(ob): You are correct. I got my shorts tangled up in knots! Ha! I kill me!
    Mistake now fixed.

       0 likes

  35. GizmonicTemp says:

    I found the Mylar tape yesterday when cleaning out a box of old masters, but I recorded “American Idol” over it. Sorry.

    But thank goodness that “Venezuela” saw the light of day. My only complaints about it are mostly some sound volume issues that prevent some riffs from being clearly heard, but this short is one of the BEST!

       3 likes

  36. Sampo says:

    Clu Gulagher and Droppo: Went back and listened to it again and you are right. Their “Howdeee!”s are so similar I thought they both came from Tom. Now fixed.

       0 likes

  37. DON3k says:

    Yeah, the best was seeing this at the Con. A great moment, along with the deleted scenes from MST3k:TM.

       0 likes

  38. Cabbage Patch Elvis says:

    Man, Sampo. They’re really givin’ you what for today! :grin:

       0 likes

  39. mikek says:

    4 stars. I mean, it’s good but not the mind-blowing spectacle everyone seems to think it is. Progress Island, U.S.A. is more fun.

       1 likes

  40. Brandon says:

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

       1 likes

  41. This was a fun little short subject for them to riff on. Although, if they did it now, and considering the strained relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, I’m sure there would be plenty of Hugo Chavez jokes.

       0 likes

  42. JCC says:

    “Most if not all attendees were expecting a live show when we traveled to Minneapolis for the convention as it had been advertised as one of the highlights and we were all greatly disappointed that the show was canceled.”
    =========================================
    Huh, Best Brains actually sent us a postcard stating that they wouldn’t be doing the live show a bit before the convention happened so you could cancel if you wanted to, I guess. I didn’t because I figured there probably wouldn’t be another “official” MST convention again. I didn’t regret it – I had fun. Of course a live show would have taken to the next level of awesome, but…

       2 likes

  43. Keith Palmer says:

    This short did make for a nice bonus to its set (although I have another soft spot for “Century 21 Calling,” which was included with it). The comments about how it seems a little “different” from other shorts the show took on leave me wondering about a thought I had after first seeing it, that the Best Brains seemed a little less constrained in terms of what they could say for a CD-ROM project than on cable… It would have been nice to have found the “Mylar” short as well, but then it would have been that much more nice to have had the whole CD-ROM finished before the bottom fell out of that market. On the other hand, I’ve got one of the Voyager Company CD-ROMs, and the quality of the video on it is pretty low by today’s standards.

       0 likes

  44. fathermushroom says:

    My favorite line, as someone has already mentioned, is where the housewife is showing our hero around her Quanset Hut, and the riff is, “The water works about an hour a day, I’d boil the HELL out of it if I were you…”

    And, “Dear Ann, Here I am, in the oil fields of Lago Nias…”
    Tom: “Try to find me.”

    And, on seeing the house, “This one had two bedrooms. Some have more.”
    Tom: “Some have less. It all works out, and everyone seems to get a bedroom.”

       1 likes

  45. clonus says:

    From what I remember, the CD-ROM would contain the two shorts with some sort of way to make them play different riffs each time you watched (no idea how this would have worked) and a “flight simulator” with a kid kicking the back of your seat during a boring airplane ride. I’m sure others here could remember more of what was planned…it all seemed like a bunch of funny ideas that I can’t imagine ever working as a “game”.

       0 likes

  46. JohnBanner says:

    Sampo, you are indeed correct in recalling that it was Paul Chaplin who introduced the short at the 2nd ConventioCon. I even managed to dig out my tape of the event to confirm it. I had forgotten that it was at the opening night keynote and that they showed Assignment: Venezuela pretty soon after the retrospective/tribute to Trace. Talk about going from something bittersweet to something gut-bustingly funny!

       0 likes

  47. Some Guy says:

    I seem to recall that the CD-ROM was also supposed to have Chess Bastard 3000, a blatantly cheating chess game. Basically, a pile of mini-games and things.

    If we want to reminisce about what could’ve been, there was talk once of MST3K comic books– I think they were planned to be old (Gold Key, maybe?) comics reprinted with silhouette-based riffs on the panels. Or something.

       0 likes

  48. Matt D. says:

    Keith Palmer (#43) seems to have it right, because I too was surprised at the short getting away with the lighter end of the swear word spectrum.

    As I alluded to on another thread, I didn’t know this existed until Volume 7, and it immediately flew up to one of my most favorite shorts. I about dyed at the Narrow/Wide lake bit and the Time Portal gag. Plus, the line read by Kevin on, “Yeah, cause it’s called ‘Cran Venta’ at home,” is spot on.

    “They kicked in the groin and threw me in jail.”

       0 likes

  49. Matt D. says:

    *They kicked me in the groin and threw me in jail.”

       0 likes

  50. mstgator says:

    Mike’s mushmouthed riff when the Opie-looking kid talks at the end kills me everytime (even Crow giggles at that one).

       0 likes

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