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Episode Guide: 414- Tormented

Movie: (1960) A betrothed jazz pianist believes he’s escaped his troublesome mistress when he fails to save her from a fall. But then he’s visited by her ghost … and a blackmailer.

First shown: 9/26/92
Opening: The bots have set up housekeeping in a ventilation duct
Invention exchange: J&tB demonstrate the Aunt Catherine wheel, while the Mads show off the drinking jacket
Host segment 1: Joel is stuck in ventilation duct, Crow and Tom are no help
Host segment 2: Joel asks the bots which pop singers they’d like to throw from a lighthouse
Host segment 3: Crow and Tom pretend to be bodyless ghosts, but Joel has the last laugh
End: J&tB are depressed so they think happy thoughts and sing a happy song, and does Frank
Stinger: “Tom Stewart killed me!”
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (234 votes, average: 4.30 out of 5)


• A lot of people say this may be Bert I.’s best, and it may be true. It’s definitely possible to get caught up in this one, as strange as it is. The riffing is good and the host segments are what we’ve come to expect from season four. Definitely a fun episode.
• This episode was included in Rhino’s “The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 11.”
• “This is one dark mama-jama of a movie,” Joel says toward the end, and, wow, is it ever. It’s also kinda dull for the first half, although the weirdness overwhelms the blandness in the second half. The script makes some bold narrative choices: nobody can sympathize with the awful, grasping, brassy Vi, and Tom didn’t actively kill her and yet he is still subjected to blackmail and as nightmarish haunting. It seems like Tom’s biggest mistake (not counting killing the hipster) was not immediately reporting Vi’s death.
• Cambot is leaning WAY over the desk to shoot Joel in the opening.
• That’s definitely Mike as “The Aunt Catherine Wheel” and “Uncle Carl,” and it sounds like the same voice as “Grammy Fisher” and “Aunt Ethel” but who is it? Trace, maybe?
• I have a special fondness for the “drinking jacket” invention — I created my own and wore it in the costume contest at the second convention.
• Sadly the “Spalding, old man!” joke is not so funny now.
• Movie comment: They’re sending the invitations only a week before the wedding?
• I’m no expert on men’s calves but certain people of the female persuasion have expressed agreement with Crow’s assessment. Any thoughts on Joel’s calves?
• This episode’s overused joke: “Sessions presents…” Once or twice, okay, but they really beat it to death.
• After segment 2, Joel is so excited he playfully tosses Tom as they reenter the theater (Kevin is apparently laying on his back waiting to catch him).
• Crow goofs: The snack bar chef is NOT Merritt Stone. That’s Gene Roth. But Stone IS in the movie: he’s the clergyman who marries Tom and his bride.
• Callback: “Charles Moffett…” (Ring of Terror)
• Joel suggests this is more depressing than hanging in a bar talking to Neil Young. Why is talking to Neil Young depressing? He seems like a pretty cheerful guy.
• One highlight of the episode is the hilarious “happy thoughts song,” including Frank’s verse at the end. Great stuff. Note that the Prince Roach from episode 408- HERCULES UNCHAINED is on the floor near Frank.
• I’ve always enjoyed Joel’s use of the phrase “K’nerping for moisture.”
• During the song, Tom Servo’s head falls off. They keep going.
• Cast and crew roundup: Of course, many of the people who worked on this worked on other BIG movies, to wit: scriptwriter George Worthing Yates also wrote “Earth vs. The Spider” and “War of the Colossal Beast.” Cinematographer Ernest Laszlo also worked “The Space Children.” Editor John Bushelman worked “War of the Dinosaurs” and “Village of the Giant. Costumer Marge Corso worked on “Earth Vs. the Spider,” “Teenage Caveman,” “Bloodlust” and “The She-Creature.” And of course Albert Glasser did every movie ever. In front of the camera, in addition to Gene Roth and Merritt Stone, there’s Harry Fleer, who was also in “The Unearthly,” Vera Marshe, who was also in “The Space Children” and George Stanley, who was in “Earth Vs. Spider.”
• CreditsWatch: Host segments directed by Kevin Murphy. Tim Scott replaces Brian Wright as audio guy. Andrea DuCane did hair and makeup (the third of three times this season). And it is with this episode that we say farewell to Alexandra Carr, who was with the show since the KTMA days and did just about every job, including writer and performer. Her departure caused a lot of title shifts, but we’ll deal with that in the next episode. “Ammendment” is still spelled wrong.
• Fave riff: “Honey, I’m ho-o-o-o-oh, yeah, you’re dead.” Honorable mention: “C’mon, we’re going bowling.”

143 Replies to “Episode Guide: 414- Tormented”

  1. EricJ says:



  2. John Ellis says:

    I’ll admit it: Once Vi starts, well, “tormenting” Tom with the record, I actually get caught up in the story.

    I’m not saying the riffs aren’t golden, though. Especially the dark, wickedly funny spin they put on Tom and Sandy’s increasingly disturbing heart-to-heart chats.


  3. SATURN2 says:

    Neil Young not depressing?Are you sure you know who Neil Young is?One listen to “Tonights the Night”,not to mention the other two Ditch Trilogy albums should make anyone appreciate how dead center on target that joke was-I’m surprised you left out Joe Turkel in your list of actors-Nobody else in this movie was in anything major like Blade Runner or The Shining-his Lou Reed blackmailer was my favorite character in this movie!


  4. SATURN2 says:

    And “Barstool Blues” on Neil’s ZUMA album is the PERFECT illustration of what a great joke that was-


  5. Revlillo says:

    In their song after the experiment, they mention going to the Vali Hi drive in to see a dusk to dawn Star Wars marathon. The Vali Hi is still in operation. It is on the eastern outskirts of the Twin City metro area just off interstate 94. They commonly show triple features (most other drive-ins commonly show double features). I’ve gone to a couple triple features there. They’re not exactly dusk til dawn, but they do let out around 3:00 AM. It is a great movie going experience.


  6. Revlillo says:

    Here’s the Vali Hi web site:


  7. dad1153 says:

    Even when Mr. B.I.G diversifies and gives us something a little deeper and better than the brain-dead SFX stuff he’s known for (“Colossal Man” flicks, “Beginning of the End,” etc.) he still can’t help but tilt the goofy meter all the way to red. “Tormented,” which I just saw for the first time (and want to see again), so desperately wants you to think of it as both horror (the bloodless insinuating type) and noir flick it forgets that there’s a degree or rationality behind the doomed actions characters in those flicks get themselves into. Here the “hero” (a jazz musician, really?) is an a**hole but hardly a killer, and the tragedy of his mistress dying a thin excuse on which to hang made-for-TV manufactured horror (the record is back in the record player… so?!?!) or meant-to-scare-but-they’re-just-goofy money shots (chapel plants dying, Vi’s ghostly head being held by her hair, etc.) of what’s happening around Tom. If Mr. Gordon were just skilled-enough to have presented Vi’s presence a little more subtly the movie would have a modicum of “Shining”-like ‘is this real or not?’ suspense. Alas, it’s made clear early on that Tom IS seeing Vi’s ghosts f*** around with him, thus we’re just marking time until the inevitable end for Tom. Joel and the Bots go to town on “Tormented” like men/robots possessed, and they strike gold early and often. Count me among those that couldn’t get enough ‘Sessions Presents…’ jokes, especially since Joel/Trace/Kevin really seem to get into the musicians they’re pretending to be. Little Susan Gordon (the director’s daughter) isn’t spared some abuse, but for the most part J&TB’s rightfully jab at the movie’s grown-up actors and the director’s futile attempt to make all the silly nonsense it’s showing with a straight face seem like a ‘noir’ scared-straight arthouse flick. Frank’s drinking jacket invention exchange is also a highlight (and I hate roaches, aaaaaaiiiiiieeeee!!!). :silly:

    THREE-AND-A-HALF STARS (out of five) for “Tormented,” a pretty bland movie saved by top-notch riffing. Favorite riffs: ‘Put her down, Jerry Lee’ and ‘The horn section is stuttering’ :lashes:


  8. Bruce Boxliker says:

    Sampo, how could you fail to mention how, in the opening when Tom falls from the air duct,he lands and bounces to the left but Joel helps him up on the right? I mean, we all know how it works, but it’s still one of those things they should’ve done another take of.

    Here’s another goof that falls into the “can’t unsee” category. In the opening, Servo falls out of the ventilation shaft and Joel rushes to help him up. However, you can clearly see the dropped Servo bounce far to the left, while the other Servo comes up immediately from the right-hand side of the desk.

    Obviously Servo was still practicing his spatial transpositioning skills that we’ll see he perfected in Gunslinger


  9. Bruce Boxliker says:

    Yeah, not a favorite of mine. Actually, it’s among my least favorite, right there with Kitten With a Whip & Teenage Crime Wave. The host segments aren’t bad, but the riffing is only marginal. The main problem is the movie itself. It’s just so terrible. Boring, dreary, and filled with immensely stupid people. Stick to the monster flicks, B.I.G.!


  10. Sitting Duck says:

    Tormented passes the Bechdel Test. Meg, Sandy, and Mrs. Hubbard talk about the unexpected perfume scent. Sandy and Mrs. Ellis about the wedding rehearsal.

    Anyone care to speculate as to why Dr. F is apparently a Mariners fan?

    The Aunt Catherine wheel seems more like something the Mads would have come up with.

    Those Sessions Presents riffs sure got old fast. And unlike, “This is CNN,” from City Limits and, “Biography,” from Parts: The Clonus Horror, there isn’t any eventual payoff. As least none that I noticed.

    HS #1 comes across as more of a Mike sketch. And honestly, I think Joel’s calves are pasty.

    On a related matter, I find myself in a bit of a quandary. Some of you may recall my mentioning this project I’m working on where I track how many of the host segments are relevant to the feature and/or the short (when applicable). Thing is, I’m not sure how to classify HS #1. I suppose it could be considered a parody of the scene where Vi is dangling from the lighthouse railing. However, I’m not entirely convinced. What do you people at home think?

    I’m surprised there were no riffs when Meg’s Dad commented that he wouldn’t let her get married without her favorite father around. A missed opportunity.

    @ #48: Yes, it’s very wrong. You probably want to be Bavarian as well.

    Favorite riffs

    That’s what she gets for railing against him.

    Nothing like an invigorating swim with a corpse in the morning

    It’s her own fault I didn’t save her.

    Think I’ll return to the scene of the crime to cheer myself up.

    I hate the prying eyes of furniture.

    Honey, are you carrying a pocket Theremin?

    “They complained about an unseen dog whining and scratching at the door. But that wasn’t what made them break their lease.”
    The dog piddled the carpet, and I evicted them.

    I’ve got a headache this big, and it’s got Bert I. Gordon written all over it.

    Of all the lighthouses in the world, she had to fall off of mine.

    On my summer vacation, I babysat for a paranoid psychotic.

    “Sandy, see if there’s a window open. There’s a cold draft all of a sudden.”
    Gee, I could go for a cold draft right now.

    “But you wouldn’t want to make an innocent person suffer, would you?”
    Well sure. That’s the most fun.

    “What are you saying?”
    She’s saying, “Watch that first step.”

    Look, no habla beatnik.

    So, how’s life in the Merchant Marine, little girl?

    Do you charge extra for the plot point?

    This cat’s onto my hip lingo too quick.

    Forgive me Tom, for I have slanged.

    Seems like a really nice guy. Just wish he wasn’t blackmailing me.

    The Nazis fortified Normandy and waited in their beach houses.

    “Don’t worry, Sandy. I love him.”
    But his touch repulses me.

    Vi, listen. If you’re going to haunt me, you’re going to haunt me on my terms.

    “What did we come up here for?”
    So I can kill you, Mr. Bond.

    “Dearly beloved…”
    And the rest of you.

    The Mass has ended. Let us go in peace. Let’s get out of here!

    “I’ve come to tell you that you’ve won.”
    And here’s what you’ve won! Tell him, Johnny.

    Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo Babies.


  11. snowdog says:

    Tom Stewart kills me every time I watch this episode! For some reason, Mr. “Beatnick” really got on my nerves during this viewing, ya dig? Really wanted to pop him a good one, dad! Oh, I’m no good at this.


  12. tierack says:

    Is Crow mistaking Gene Roth for Merritt Stone a goof? Or is it actually a clever callback (callforward?) to Tom’s theory in 419 The Rebel Set that Gene Roth is Merritt Stone and vice versa?


  13. schippers says:

    Reading the summary of this movie’s plot, it occurs to me that, shortened up a bit, it would be all but indistinguishable from some lesser Twilight Zone episodes.


  14. Jeff McM says:

    “Cambot is leaning WAY over the desk to shoot Joel in the opening.”

    I don’t think he is. Just elevated slightly and zoomed in. They maybe pushed the desk forward to give Joel more room.


  15. crowschmo says:

    Is Crow mistaking Gene Roth for Merritt Stone a goof? Or is it actually a clever callback (callforward?) to Tom’s theory in 419 The Rebel Set that Gene Roth is Merritt Stone and vice versa?

    Probably. :-)

    This is one of my favorite eps. I remember laughing quite a lot on the first viewing. (Not so much now, since I know all the jokes, heh). I caught this early on in my discovery of the show, it was one of the first episodes I watched, so it will always have a special place.

    The movie itself is actually not all bad. It looks like something I’d watch on a rainy afternoon while channel surfing and coming across TCM or AMC or something. And I’d probably think, not a bad little flick.

    I’d say, there weren’t any clunkers, riff-wise, in the whole ep. It’s one of those that I enjoy throughout the whole thing. It just puts a smile on my face when watching.

    I liked this little exchange: When Mrs. Ellis says, (when asked if she believes in ghosts) “If anyone was to ask me seriously, I’d have to say no.” And Crow retorts, “What if I asked you dressed in a clown suit?” :clown: :bye:


  16. Prime Minister Jm J. Bullock says:

    This one is still firmly in my top ten!


  17. Professor Gunther says:

    I have a deep affection for this episode; then again, I tend to love the fourth season. (To state the obvious, with the fourth season everything felt so solid that you might have been convinced that the show would last forever.)

    I’m a jazz fan, and I will go ahead and say that the cat they hired to play Tom Stewart’s piano parts had absolutely NO FEEL for jazz. “Plinkity Plink Plink Plink.” They might as well have substituted Albert Glasser’s trombone orchestra. (And of course we notice that they hired someone else to compose the “Modern jazz sequences.” Yeah, I can imagine Glasser hearing those parts and exclaiming, “hey, man, those cats can blow!” I’ll bet DAVY Brubeck composed those sequences.)


  18. Torgo's Pizza says:

    Y’know, I agree with those who like this movie. It isn’t a bad little flick – a quite Hitchcock-lite thriller, with clear budget limitations, but with some strong performances and a solid tightening of the screws. The biggest problem with it is that it can’t decide which villain ultimately hinges the plot: Vi’s (Six’s?) vengeful spirit (who is chillingly blunt with her sexuality) or the blackmailing hipster (who really kinda feels like the outlier in a movie with supernatural elements, and whose “cool out, daddy-o” patois grates on the ear pretty dang quick).


  19. cvbwe says:

    I don’t know if any other BIG movie can inspire this much earnest discussion.

    But yeah, they pulled the trigger on Vi really being a ghost waaaaaaaaaay too early, but otherwise it’s a surprisingly well-done thing all around, especially handicapping for MST3k and Burt I in particular.


  20. thequietman says:

    I wonder if the happy song at the end was to get over the movie itself, or the myriad of dark riffs made during it?

    I suppose what keeps the ‘Sessions’ riffs from getting old for me is they keep switching up the musicians and every one gets an imitation. It sort of reminds me of those old music anthology infomercials you used to see all the time on basic cable.

    Anyway, who else thinks Tom could have thrown off the beatnik’s suspicion if he had just kindly paid him the lousy five bucks in the first place instead of getting all huffy and defensive?

    Finally, a fave riff:
    Meg, spotting a light in the lighthouse: Probably just a boy and a girl, you wouldn’t understand…
    Servo (as Sandy): Try me!


  21. tamlin says:

    thequietman: It sort of reminds me of those old music anthology infomercials you used to see all the time on basic cable.

    That’s exactly what Sessions was. They sold compilations of hits on vinyl (later CD) through the 70’s and 80’s. Their commercials used generic beach footage, so J&tB were prompted to mimic the announcer by all of the beach scenes in the movie.

    More information here:


  22. MSTie says:

    A bad movie that wasn’t horrible, with really solid riffing. I, too, thought the “Sessions” jokes got old and illustrated the pitfall of beating a joke to death.

    Miscellaneous thoughts: Joel’s calves are pale but muscular. What Vi (or anyone else for that matter) saw in Tom Stewart, I’ll never know. He looked as old or older than Meg’s father. Some of his scenes with little Sandy were downright creepy.


  23. The Might Untrained FOOZLE says:

    Listening to Neil Young can be depressing, yes. Chatting with him…well, I guess it depends on his mood (maybe don’t start with “so, what do you think about this new streaming music thing?”.


  24. Cornjob says:

    Did we do a weekend discussion about pop stars we’d like to toss off a lighthouse? Celine Dion gets another vote from me.

    Vi is quite the stalker. Most quit when they die. She should read “He’s just not that into you” and get an afterlife.


  25. Sitting Duck says:

    As a matter of fact, we have. You even replied in it.


  26. YourNewBestFriend says:

    Lest we forget–the “blackmailing hipster” was Joe Turkel, and it looks like only one commenter (#103) mentions him.

    Joe is still with us, per imdb, at 88 years old.

    And EVERYBODY knows Joe Turkel–not the manic-looking guy on the left, the other one in the shot.


  27. Cornjob says:

    Thanks Sitting Duck, that was a good thread. Are you related to Sitting Bull?


  28. Sitting Duck says:

    Sure. Not many remember the Battle of the Medium Sized Horn, where I was joined by Crazy Quilt in defeating Colonel Bluster.


  29. Cornjob says:

    I bow to you, noble Sitting Duck.

    Back to the movie, what the heck was in those letters that Vi could use as blackmail? Did he admit to conspiring to assassinate President Garfield? Did he detail some abhorrent fetish of his. Did he admit to liking the music of Yoko Ono? The fact that Jerry Lee had a girlfriend once shouldn’t be a deal breaker for the wedding. Unless I’m missing something this is probably the biggest hole in the plot. Even bigger than why didn’t he just give that guy 5 bucks and be done with it.


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

    >>>The fact that Jerry Lee had a girlfriend once shouldn’t be a deal breaker for the wedding

    I think the deal is that Vi somehow so thoroughly failed to meet standards of “respectability” that Tom would’ve been similarly marked simply through association and thus deemed unsuitable by the bride’s family, who’d consider any man who would consort with the likes of Vi to be “not their kind of people.” OSLT. Really, some of them probably thought that just the fact that he was a…an ENTERTAINER was bad enough.

    Remember, 1960 was different than now. Less than ten years before, Tom could probably have been driven out of the industry just because someone told somebody that Vi had once dated a communist.


  31. crowschmo says:

    ^^^ Or, maybe the letters were dated. Maybe it showed he was still going with her when he was first seeing Meg. (…”it will come back to you…”).


  32. Cornjob says:

    Good points, too bad the movie didn’t make them. What does OSLT mean?


  33. Be Right There says:

    Good points, too bad the movie didn’t make them. What does OSLT mean?

    “Or Something Like That”.


  34. Cherokee Jacka$$ says:

    Wish I could remember the Drinker’s Jacket from the ’96 con. Mr B Torgo kind of overshadowed that costume contest


  35. Merlin Hay says:

    Love this episode, especially because Joe Turkey shows up. Not only does he star in *one* ofy favorite movies ever, ‘The Shining’, but also in another absolute favorite of mine, ‘Blade Runner’ as Tyrell.

    Since I never knew Turkel from any other movies, I was so happy to see him show up in this mess. As a Lou Reed beatnik, no less!


  36. 70's run on car says:

    Hey Merlin do not forget “Paths of Glory”.


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