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Sampo & Erhardt

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Goodbye Sci-Fi

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

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Episode guide: 912- The Screaming Skull (with short ‘Robot Rumpus’)

912s

Short: (1956) A Gumby cartoon. Gumby builds robots to do his chores for him.
Movie: (1958) Newly married headcase Jenni sees human skulls everywhere in her new home.

First shown: 8/29/98
Opening: Tom has become a beautiful butterfly
Intro: Tom’s still a butterfly, but you can’t really tell; Pearl, Observer and Bobo pull a not-so-fast one on M&tB
Host segment 1: The bots try to work through the pain of the Gumby short
Host segment 2: The bots try to scam a free coffin
Host segment 3: Crow, disguised as a screaming skull, freaks Mike out
End: The coffin arrives from Coffins Etc.; Bobo fails to pull an even-less fast one on M&tB
Stinger: Hubby flings his stool.
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (281 votes, average: 4.38 out of 5)

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• This is another one of those episode where the spectacularly funny short outshines some decent riffing on a drab, dull movie. I wonder how it even came up that they would be able to use this cartoon. The segments are hit and miss, but a couple of them are real classics.
• Bill’s thoughts on the episode are here.
References.
• This episode is featured on Shout’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Vol XXXI.
• This was the last episode of the show broadcast on Sci Fi Channel, January 31, 2004.
• Nice build on Servo in the opening segment; kudos to whoever did it.
• Watch Mike as Servo explains his metamorphosis. His reactions are great.
• The opening bit in the castle is one of those long-walk-for-a-little-bit gags, but I have to admit everybody’s costumes are pretty funny.
• I wonder why Pearl didn’t mention the short in her intro.
• M&tB are still wearing their costumes as they enter the theater.
• The short is simply sublime, hilarious from start to finish. The reaction by fans was overwhelmingly positive, with a lot of calls for more cartoons.
• Fave riff from the short: “Thank goodness for the internal genitalia!”
• Alex Nicol, who plays unhinged gardener Mickey, was also the director. So I think you can pretty much blame him for this movie.
• Again, another nice build for segment 1. And the segment is hilarious, a rare look at the world through the eyes of the bots.
• Last time around I wrote a long plea for somebody to explain the movie to me, and I got several good responses. As I understand it, we are to believe that, in addition to the skulls evil hubby Eric was placing around the house, the ghost of Eric’s dead first wife was capable of conjuring up tangible, corporeal objects (see the skeleton in the wedding dress, which is clearly a physical object–though it is transparent as it runs around the garden) in revenge for what we assume was his murder of her?
• This may not be the worst print of a movie they ever riffed, but it’s up there.
• That’s Barb Tebben as the as operator at Coffins Etc.
• Arty riff: “Pinched lady at Giverny.”
• Jenni disrobes down to her underwear at one point, and I think the movie was trying to titilate the audience a bit, but jeez-louise that is the least sexy bra ever.
• Segment 3 is an all-time favorite, one of those Looney Tunes-style segments that works perfectly. I particularly like the way Mike keeps screaming in horror as he carefully selects just the right golf club.
• Also note, right at the end of the sketch, Mike’s elbow accidentally(?) brushes against Servo’s head — and of course it immediately falls off.
• That’s Patrick in the closing bit as the delivery guy. His “this must be a great place to work” comment is probably something they heard at BBI a lot.
• I have to assume Kevin was boiling in that costume inside a costume.
• And the episode closes out with a little blast from the past: a forced perspective gag. Paging Joel…
• Cast and crew roundup: Executive producers Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson worked on too many MST3K movies to name. In front of the camera, Peggy Webber was in “Space Children.”
• Creditwatch: Directed by Kevin. Andrea DuCane couldn’t do hair and makeup this episode (the only episode in season 9 where she didn’t) so Mary K. Flaa took her place. Barry Schulman, who renewed them one last time just before getting canned, gets a special mention in the credits.
• Fave riff: “Wow, too bad. So…some?” Honorable mention: “GET A BOX!”

200 Replies to “Episode guide: 912- The Screaming Skull (with short ‘Robot Rumpus’)”

  1. kismetgirl88 says:

    I love the episode. The Robot Rumpus” was so much fun Also I was in College and the story the wife is talking about in bed (i can’t remeber the title now) But it about husband and wife going into wilderness and He discover that She was great something he been searching for but too late because she dead. (It really good story) Anyway show that part to my teacher and go A for the class. Thanks MST3k.

       1 likes

  2. It’s called “A Lion in the Jungle”.

    “That’s what I’m expecting on my wedding night.”

       0 likes

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

    The Beast in the Jungle by Henry James ( 1903 ).

    wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beast_in_the_Jungle

       0 likes

  4. Whoops! I’m always doing that…

       1 likes

  5. Lucas D. says:

    The Screaming Skull has never been released on DVD, and I have a nagging suspicion that it’s because it’s too difficult to renegotiate the rights for the Gumby (dammit!) short. It has to be that, since the movie itself is in the public domain.

    My favorite line has to be Crow’s response when Jenni asks how Marian died:

    Pastor: “Why, did Eric tell you?”
    Crow: “He sat on her head!”

       1 likes

  6. DON3k says:

    One thing I took note of in this episode, which is not really MST3k related;

    The Reverend and his wife had the last name of Snow. I recalled while watching that on the TV show Three’s Company, Chrissy’s last name was Snow, and her father was a Reverend.

    Coincidence?! Yeah, I’m sure it is.

       3 likes

  7. bad wolf says:

    #70–“It hasn’t yet been mentioned yet here in this comments thread”
    –actually it was already mentioned in #14 and 23 and i responded to that in #27. But thanks for bothering to look at other people’s postings.

       1 likes

  8. evanthered says:

    I’m pretty sure the movie was implying that Eric killed his former wife and her ghost was coming back to get revenge.

       0 likes

  9. mikek says:

    DON3k says:
    April 9, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    One thing I took note of in this episode, which is not really MST3k related;

    The Reverend and his wife had the last name of Snow. I recalled while watching that on the TV show Three’s Company, Chrissy’s last name was Snow, and her father was a Reverend.

    Coincidence?! Yeah, I’m sure it is.

    Yeah, coincidence, but there’s still a connection. The actor who played Chrissy’s dad was none other than guy who play Adam Chance in Agent for H.A.R.M.

       1 likes

  10. Ator In Flight says:

    I forgot my favorite riff.

    “They’re just like children.”

    “Yeah kids just love hanging drapes.”

       2 likes

  11. Manny Sanguillen says:

    1. I disagree that the short is better than the movie. I like the movie wayyyyy better.

    2. To answer Sampo on the skulls appearing and even frightening dumb eric, I am assuming the movie is implying that there is SUPERNATURAL happenings. I have no clue what theology is being used is, but then again, the world has always come up dumb theologies that contain no follow-through logic.
    I am guessing that somehow the skull represents the dead wife since she fell and hit her head.

    3. I love all the host segments, except for the robot/gumby short based segment.

    4. Great riffing!

    5. An all around excellent episode that has staying power. I can still watch it and laugh a lot, even after seeing it millions of times.

    6. I love these kinds of rogue body part movies. How illogical it is that a skull could be scary in any way, and even move by itself. And knowing that a skull would be no match for even a 3 year old, and that anyone could pick up just about any object close by (like a stapler or the dog’s water bowl, or a can of pork ‘n beans, or a broom, or an onion, or… you get the idea)…and just smack the skull silly, makes me laugh just thinking about it.

    I have always laughed at the idea of even whole skeletons being scary in any way, shape or form.

    7. I like to do things in sevens.

       0 likes

  12. Jamie says:

    Yes! “Shocking-Horror” arrives in style in your 1953 Mercedes!

       2 likes

  13. This Guy says:

    #108:
    By “implying,” you of course mean “beating the audience over the head with the fact that”.

    #111:
    Mundane whole skeletons that just kind of sit around motionless aren’t scary, but supernatural undead skeletons that can kick your ass are a different story.

       0 likes

  14. Cabbage Patch Elvis says:

    I love reading all these posts where folks are really digging deep to understand the logic of this film. I don’t want to discourage it, but it’s funny how hard some people try to tie it all together, where I have NO problem just going, meh, crap film logic again. Yeah, Eric killed his wife, and was trying to drive Jenny nuts, while taking the opportunity to knock Micky around (who can blame him, right? If I thought Micky had books back in the greenhouse, I’d want to dump ’em too!) …then, somehow, the skulls became real, and the ghost of young Mrs. Clampett came to life and dusted his ass. Ah well. You grab the first part of Gaslight, throw in some Rebecca, and when it comes time to make it all seem like new with a really creative twist, um, well.. you have flowers fall over whenever there’s a thunderstorm. OOOOH, SCARY!

       3 likes

  15. This Guy:

    I guess you haven’t seen Scary Movie 2 (or maybe it’s 3). Don’t worry, it’s not very good.

    I’ve always sort of been amused with the scene in Jason and the Argonauts where the evil wizard conjures up a bunch of armed skeletons to fight our heroes in the climactic battle. I mean, why skeletons of all things? Sure, they look totally metal fighting with swords and shields, and you won’t have much luck stabbing them to death, but it was clear that they were still just bone and it would be a simple matter to just sweep them aside with your sword while laughing merrily. That’s not what happened in the movie, needless to say. But once you’ve reanimated dead bones at all you’ve already reached such a towering level of impossibility that you might as well go whole hog with it. That’s entertainment!

       0 likes

  16. Hey, my proboscis doubles as a party favor!

       1 likes

  17. “Remember, it’s our “monkey love” night…”

    “Don’t hit me, Moe!”

    “Hmmm, I’m going to have to hire a wife-killing service. It’s a lot cheaper in the long-run.”

    “Ohhhh Popeye!”

    “It’s the Show Us Your Live Wife and Win A Million Dollars folks! (bad timing)”

    “More skulls arrive in a cab.”

    “Good riddance ya stinkin’ atheist!”

    FIVE STARS!

       1 likes

  18. Doug says:

    This episode happens to contain two of my all-time favorite riffs, both of which reference plays: “Brekekekekex koax koax” (from The Frogs) and “Fruma Sarah!” (from Fiddler on the Roof). It’s nice to see some classical references how and then.

       0 likes

  19. mikek says:

    The Castle Monster says: April 10, 2010 at 12:25 am 115

    I agree that once you have walking skeletons, you just have to go with it and admit how cool it is. And if one must try and explain their usefulness as fighters, think of it this way. If one is going to bother reanimated skeletons, one might as well take the time to make them durable.

       0 likes

  20. Stan McSerr says:

    As a child in the 70’s, I really liked Welcome Back Kotter. Now it plays over and over in my head(make it stop). Any way it was not juan Epstein that said what, where, etc, but Vinnie Barbarino. God help me.

       0 likes

  21. Jeyl says:

    I remember the day when this was the last episode of MST3K to air on TV. My friends and I all watched and mourned after the stinger. Our favorite riff?

    “I think this film should have been called the Search for Mickey.”

       1 likes

  22. mikek says:

    This episode also has two Mr. Rogers references, one regarding Eric’s clothes, “From the Fred Rogers collection,” and the other regarding the music, “It’s Mr. McFeely’s music.” “Busy day, busy day.” References to Mr. McFeely are rare in any context.

       0 likes

  23. Manny Sanguillen says:

    There IS my friend Bob Skull, did I mention him?

       1 likes

  24. losingmydignity says:

    Oh, I like this one just fine…the short too.

    The film recalls Tormented to me more than some of the other famous movies mentioned. Except we are not with the bad guy but the heroine, and the sidekick Mickey instead of the little girl. But the ghost’s doings are just as goofy. A real head trip, if ya get me…both movies. Yep, what with the short this one has a real Season 4 feeling to it. I like it. Doesn’t hold up as well as Tormented on repeat viewings though.

    B+

       0 likes

  25. SAVE FERRIS says:

    “References to Mr. McFeely are rare in any context.”

    Clearly “mikek“, you are a complete stranger to the many Fred McFeely Rogers (yes, that is his REAL middle name!) fansites devoted to our “hero”…………..why, it just so happens I had a vulgar, violent argument with another “fan” regarding the sexual orientation of Mr. McFeely on one of the boards over at the official “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” website, just a few hours ago!!!!!! ;-)

       0 likes

  26. Cabbage Patch Elvis says:

    So, Ferris, what was your take on Mr. McFeely (I feel a little dirty just typing his name!) Even as a kid, he gave me a kind of creeper vibe, but then again, so do most of the characters on that show. In fact, I guess I never bought into the whole “Land of Make-Believe” setup either. I just thought Fred Rogers must have had a really big basement to put all this stuff into…

       0 likes

  27. SAVE FERRIS says:

    Well, “Elvis”, not to dish or anything, but I have it on VERY good authority that Mr. D.J. “Jazzy” McFeely (yes, that is his real first name!), was bisexual……..believe it, or don’t!

    And speaking of “really big things”……….. :mrgreen:

       0 likes

  28. mikek says:

    But Mr. McFeely was married! Does that mean his wife was just a beard? :shock:

       0 likes

  29. Cabbage Patch Elvis says:

    It sounds like he might have given her the occasional speedy delivery….

       0 likes

  30. Cabbage Patch Elvis says:

    Busy day, busy day… :mrgreen:

       1 likes

  31. SAVE FERRIS says:

    ! :mrgreen:

       0 likes

  32. BeefStumpKnob says:

    Great short, great riffing and mostly great host segments!! Oh, yeah–and Gumby’s mom is stacked!! 4.9!!

       0 likes

  33. JimmyBruce says:

    I give this 1/2 a star, not much replay value. The short on the other hand is superb!

       0 likes

  34. Richard the Lion Footed says:

    This is one of the best episodes they did during the SciFi (ScyFy ??) era. The opening segment is classic Best Brains and Segment 3 is one of the best “Mike and the Bots” moments in the series. You could not have had a sketch like that with Joel. This is what distiguishes the two eras.

    As for the movie, it may have been made in 1958, but I remember seeing ads for it on TV and I was not aware then. It must have been “re-released” in the mid 60s. I loved scifi/ horror and wanted to see it all my life. I was very glad that THIS was my introduction to it. They made some great, low budget, films in that time. This was not one of them.

    After seeing the film my family and I went to the zoo. As we entered the peacocks walking around cried out. My kids burst into laughter and we spent the rest of the visit looking for Micky’s patting shed.

    Ahh, the effects of MST3K on child development.

    Favorite riffs;

    “Is he reading from a report?”

    and

    “What’s that up there?”
    “That’s where Micky keeps his gardening things.”
    “Who’s Micky?”
    “The gardener.”

    Crow – As Previously implied

       0 likes

  35. Richard the Lion Footed says:

    Sorry,

    That’s “POTTING” shed.

       0 likes

  36. Scott says:

    This movie is in my top 5. Solid riffing from the short all the way through. Host segments are really good.

    Although I can’t remember the whole sequence, my favorite riffs are when the reverend is explaining to Jenny how Eric’s first wife died.

       0 likes

  37. Dark Grandma of Death says:

    Finally had a chance to sit & read more of the comments here. I must ask you, Finnias Jones (#85), PLEASE don’t talk about Torgo coming to New Mexico! We have Val Kilmer…isn’t that enough, for heaven’s sake?

       1 likes

  38. htom sirveaux says:

    Mike: “When are people going to wise up about hiring guys like this?”

    Crow: “Oh come on, Mike. How is he any different than you?”

    How come nobody pointed out that the “screaming” sounds a heck of a lot like a Godzilla noise.

    “Kids love to hang drapes.”

       0 likes

  39. robot rump! says:

    ‘…i thought it was gonna be about robot rump…’
    i agree with Sampo, this story kind of wanders around, points at some stuff, sits down for awhile, tells a couple of stories about it’s grandma then gets up and wanders off some more. after foiling ‘psycho hubbies’ evil scheme, i’m kind of surprised Micky didn’t get his own detective series.
    ‘i SAW you WITH herr.. TALKING even…’

       0 likes

  40. Dan in WI says:

    I’m not sure what to make of the Tom the butterfly opening. Yes the costume was nice. But the long elaborate explanation when he didn’t look like a butterfly anymore left me flat.

    Then there is the “fast one.” It seems like something that should be right in my wheelhouse yet also fell a bit flat. This might be a case where it was a bit too long of a walk for a thin joke. I do like the explanation how it was Mike’s fault they don’t have penguin costumes though.

    The free coffin host segment was great. How many times has that happened to me? I start out with a crank call and actually end up with a free coffin.

    There’s not much more to say about the Screaming Crow host segment that hasn’t already been said. I love it.

    No doubt about it. This film has a crappy print. But for me this adds to the ambiance of a crappy old movie that belongs on MST.

    Favorite Riffs:
    Short:
    Gumby’s Mom “Well I declare. That was a clever idea.”
    Crow “This way we don’t have to hire illegal immigrants.”

    A robot cuts down a tree. Mike “Hey that’s old growth clay.”

    Gumbo hops into the fire truck to drive home to rescue them from the robots. Mike “I’ll use the company car.”

    Movie:
    During credits: Crow “Betty Jane Lane. I knew a Peggy Sue Turnpike once.”

    Jenni “What’s that up there?”
    Eric “Oh that’s where Mickey keeps his gardening things.”
    Jenni “Who’s Mickey?”
    Eric “The gardener.”
    Crow “As previously implied.”

    During a blackout: Crow “Um, I think she’s nude now.”
    Mike “Oh come on.”
    Crow “Mike, she’s nude. Can you at least give me that?”

    The skull screams. Crow “Ah man a hog calling contest right next door.”

    Eric “No Jenni, it may seem selfish.” Tom “I want everything for me.”

       4 likes

  41. gorto says:

    I hate the main movie. It provides no climax or result; stars gross, annoying people; and is visually dead. It depressed me so much that it turned me away from watching mst3k for a bit. Not a high point to reach in my life, which I can only guess was the intent of the filmmakers: to bring us down to their state of existence.

       0 likes

  42. Smoothie of Great Power says:

    Actually, according to IMDB, John Hudson and William Hudson are different people. John was in this, William was the one in Amazing Colossal Man and She-Creature (but when I first saw ACM I had to double-check to see if they were the same guy).

       0 likes

  43. Sitting Duck says:

    The Screaming Skull passes the Bechdel Test. When they first meet, Jenny and Mrs. Snow exchange general pleasantries.

    A film that has been frequently brought up in comparison to The Screaming Skull is Gaslight. They both have the same premise in a guy who messes with his new high-strung bride’s head. The major difference is that Eric gives some halfway convincing effort in pretending to be concerned for Jenny’s well being, all the while breaking her spirit. OTOH the husband in Gaslight constantly and publicly belittles his wife to an absurd degree. As dull and tedious as it can be, The Screaming Skull still does a better job than Gaslight. There, I said it and I’m glad.

    Since I posted that link in post #18, the Mutant Reviewers have switched to a WordPress blog and have not gotten around to reposting that review.

    Regarding post #95, I have no idea how I got it in my head that The Screaming Skull was in one of the Rhino sets. Guess it was due to the way SciFi constantly had it in repeats after they stopped shooting new episodes.

    I’m going off to have a lie down in my free coffin and listen to some scary tuba music.

    @ #40: You threw me off there. Normally, D&D is used to refer to Dungeons & Dragons, not dull and dreary.

    Favorite riffs

    Clay figures go home.

    Habitat AGAINST Humanity!

    Hey, don’t! That’s Wallace and Gromit’s yard.

    I’m gonna set you on Don Knotts strength.

    Davey and Goliath are moving in next door. There goes the neighborhood.

    Yes, shocking horror rides in style in your 1953 Mercedes.

    The gospel speaks of losers like you.

    Remember, it’s our Monkey Love night.

    Alas, poor Yorick. She threw him well!

    So this movie’s kind of a combination of Tell-Tale Heart, Blithe Spirit, and, well, a piece of lint, I guess.

       4 likes

  44. schippers says:

    This is such a sad, misguided little movie that you can’t help but love it. The opening gambit with the coffin takes balls for a movie as boring as this, and I do admire the filmmakers’ chutzpah, if not their technique and execution.

       5 likes

  45. Of no Account says:

    I thought I died of fright while watching this movie(score! free coffin!), but it turns out I just dozed off from boredom.

    The riffing, however, is excellent, and actually makes the movie semi-watchable. and of course the short is fantastic! In the Screaming Crow segment it looks like Mike is pulling his ‘punches’, but not by much. I can’t believe Crow’s net stayed on (considering the times Joel or Mike just pull it off).

    I have to agree though, I was also hoping the short was about Robot Rumps…

       5 likes

  46. Shrike says:

    Drab and dreary, but M&TBs make it great. Even at it’s slowest parts – which the whole thing could be considered – the riffing keeps me interested.

    The Screaming Crow segment is one of the best ever.

       3 likes

  47. Cheapskate Crow says:

    Decent episode, I remember loving the cartoon but I will have to go back and rewatch it this weekend.

       0 likes

  48. snowdog says:

    Screaming; Skull. Another one of these eps where the dark, slow movie tends to drag the riffing down with it. But HS #3 is one of the show’s all-time classics.

    Fave riff: Van Gogh’s “HowwwwDEE!”. For you youngsters who don’t get that one, look up Minnie Pearl on You Tube. You’ll be glad you did.

       1 likes

  49. "Hotcha!" says:

    I’d love to see mickey and torgo fight.

    Remember: You do not get a free coffin if you die of boredom.

       3 likes

  50. Black Doug says:

    @Hotcha: I think that’s unfair; Torgo’s handicapped. Ortega should sub in for him.

       3 likes

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