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Sampo & Erhardt

Sci-Fi Archives

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: 1001- Soultaker

Movie: (1990) After they are killed in a car wreck, the spirits of some teens try to elude the “soultaker” sent to collect them.

First shown: April 11, 1999
Opening: The bots are confused about why their “wet T-shirt contest” is so dull; commercial sign malfunctions
Intro: The malfunctions on the SOL get worse; nobody in Castle Forrester cares
Host segment 1: With Gypsy malfunctioning, Mike tries to take command, with the expected results
Host segment 2: Everything goes wrong on the SOL; in Castle Forrester a soultaker has appeared–and it’s TV’S FRANK!
Host segment 3: The mysterious visitor who saved the ship appears on the bridge–and it’s JOEL! He fills in the bots on what he’s been up to, and he and Mike share a tender moment
End: Joel’s completes repairs on the SOL, says hi to Frank, and departs with some uplifting words to M&tB; in Castle Forrester, Bobo and Frank hit it off
Stinger: Mom ogles her daughter (ew!).
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (292 votes, average: 4.70 out of 5)


• Season 10 begins with a big episode, and it was especially big for Erhardt and me because, well, we were there. More on that in a minute. Personal stuff aside, I have to say this ep is a pretty good one. Legendary host segments, of course, but also a watchable but supremely dumb (and somewhat creepy — and not in a good way) movie and very strong riffing.
• The stretch between the end of season 9 and the beginning of season 10 was 197 days, the fourth-longest amount of time MSTies had to wait between seasons.
• Paul offers his thoughts here.
• References are here. One small mistake is “Frank Booth cam!” which they mishear as “Frank Booth camp.”
• This episode was included in Shout’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Vol XIV.
• This season got a new set of theme song lyrics that incorporate the whole Castle Forrester premise.
• Okay, so here’s the story. BBI invited us to attend the taping and, despite that fact that I couldn’t afford it and couldn’t really take time away from work, I dropped everything and got on a plane. Brian was able to get there ahead of me and witnessed the Castle Forrester scenes being taped. I got there after the taping was over. The next day we both got to watch (and then contribute to) the SOL scenes being taped (the theater scenes had already been done).
• It was my first face-to-face meeting with Joel (we’d exchanged emails, but had never actually met) and he did not disappoint. Brian and I sat down with him in a conference room for a little while and began to pepper him with some really obscure MSTie-level questions about the show, stuff I’d knew only Joel could answer. I was a little worried he would find this stuff tedious, but he seemed delighted to delve into it. He then went off to read lines with Paul and, as he notes in his ACEG entry, immediately began rewriting his dialog. I never saw a script, so I don’t know what changed, but he later said he was just making the dialog more comfortable for him to say.
• They were getting ready to shoot the first scene, but there was some sort of delay. Apparently somebody hadn’t shown up. Brian and I were milling about on the set when Jeff Stonehouse turned around and looked at us and asked: “Hey would you want to help us out, here?” It was thus that we became “guest interns,” as you can see if you check out the credits at the end of the show. I was given the job of pulling open and pushing closed the right side door at the back of the set (through which Joel entered). Brian was given the job of controlling a studio light and, later, the left side door. I wrote my name on the back of the door (many others already had).
• There seems to be more stuff sitting around in Castle Forrester. To send Mike the movie, Observer puts the movie can into what appears to be the same projector used by Dr. F in “MST3K: The Movie.” He never needed to do this before. And in segment two, Bobo dashes away from Frank, only to bonk his head on the same object Dr. F gets bonked with in “MST3K: The Movie.”
• As the first movie sign goes off, Mike heads straight through the doors and is run over by Cambot. My memory is that this was not planned—it seemed to be ad-lib, though I suspect it was a little acknowledgment of Joel being there, since he did something very similar in a couple of episodes.
• Callbacks: The appearance of Joe Estevez prompts several callbacks to “Werewolf,” including the use of the word “yannaglachi.” Also: “Aren’t you due on the set of ‘Werewolf’?”
• At one point Mike takes Servo to task for reading in the theater. What was Servo reading?
• Here’s a rare opportunity: A chance to argue about which take they used. They did five or six or more takes of each sketch, and the performers made a point of varying their performances and doing their lines a little differently each time, hoping to get something special. Later on, of course, somebody had to choose which of the takes to use. While I agree with the choices for all the other host segments in this episode, I have to say that I would not have used the take of segment 1 they chose. I think they—specifically Mike—did it funnier in a different take. Just my opinion.
• Joel does a terrific job in his segments and seems completely at home, though he and Mike sort of have to crowd in on that little platform. I’ve stood there, and it’s really not a space for two sets of feet.
• Joel gives props to the band Man or Astroman, which have been playing the MST3K theme song as part of their set for a long time.
• A lot of fans (including me) wished this episode could have featured Joel in the theater. And it was talked about. But ultimately Joel wanted to be part of the writing process if he was going to do that, and he just didn’t have the time to devote to that. It’s too bad.
• When Joel said: “I…don’t really want to…” I was standing about 15 feet away in back of the set and his delivery was so perfect I wanted to bust out laughing. Instead I had to walk quickly away to the far end of the room and chortle into my hands as quietly as possible. It’s lucky I didn’t trip over something in the dark!
• Classic line: “Don’t compare yourself, man. It ain’t healthy.”
• Another St. Blaise mention.
• Movie comment: The laws of physics in this movie are really confusing. Even the riffers begin to notice toward the end. The ghost characters seem to be able to manipulate some things but not others. As Servo says, “A 7-iron knocks him cold but a gun does nothing.” Later they’re capable of pressing an elevator button. They appear to be subject to some sort of gravity, but not enough to get hurt in a fall. It’s confusing.
• Remember gorditas? I was in a Taco Bell not long ago (don’t ask) and they still have them!
• At one point, a little dog appears and Servo says: “Humphrey!”
• Classic theater moment about midway through the show as Crow gets something in his eye just as nudity appears about to break out. During that bit, Gypsy makes a comment to Crow, which we can hear in the theater. That’s something that’s never happened before.
• Yet another great “talking over the closing credits bit in which the bots take Mike to task for assuming that a rosy future lies ahead for our heroes.
• Cast and crew roundup: Special effects guy Jerry Kitz also worked on “Space Mutiny.” In front of the camera, Joe Estevez was also in “Werewolf” and Robert Z’Dar will be back in “Future War.”
• CreditsWatch: Directed by Kevin. After taking the last two eps of season 9 off, Mary Jo is back on the writing staff for the entire 10th season. Interns Erin F. Erskine and Josh Huschke begin their run of episodes.
• Fave riff: “I’ve just got to write mom out of this story.” Honorable mention: “The movie’s story arc.”

173 Replies to “Episode guide: 1001- Soultaker”

  1. Depressing Aunt says:

    This is one of my most-watched of the Sci-Fi era. Good thing it’s on DVD. I have a terrible memory for stuff like this, but I suspect my pleasure in seeing Joel and Frank turn up in the episode was muted by my certainty that this *had* to mean MST3K was coming to an end, sooner than I thought. (But then, I thought that from the beginning–“How is it possible no one has canceled my most favorite show ever yet?”)

    That gordita looked tasty! Frank’s performance was splendid.

    Tom’s line “touseled but tawny” has been mentioned. Why tawny, though? Doesn’t that word basically mean a light brown color? Natalie is a fair-skinned strawberry blonde, so I’ve always wondered. Anyway…

    Zeppelin’s NEVER wrong, man! Five Stars.


  2. Cornjob says:

    I hope we loop back to the KTMA episodes and go up through season four or so at least. I really wouldn’t mind pushing beyond that and just keeping looping through to see what new people or just four years time passing brings to the mix. Personally I kinda like seeing what I posted four years ago, and having the opportunity to add anything I didn’t have the time or energy to share the last time it was current.


  3. Sitting Duck says:

    @ #146: Huh. Well you learn something new every day.


  4. Sitting Duck says:

    @ #148: Coily is clearly a minion of Satan, or at least Stan.


  5. schippers says:

    The guy who plays Brad, David Fralick, can be seen looking REALLY ripped and doing some martial arts in the live-action version of Fist of the North Star. It’s not really a good movie, and is probably worse if you love the animated movie from 1985 (like I do), but it’s not a complete waste of time.


  6. schippers says:

    Okay, so when Joel came out to Tucson to do his Riffing Myself show (great show, BTW), and we got to the Q&A part, I asked him about his experience coming back to film his segments for Soultaker. Specifically, I asked him to confirm what I had read (somewhere) that the reason why he did not participate in the theater riffing was that he had not had time to write riffs, and he did not want to deliver riffs he had not had a hand in writing. He clarified that he HAD been interested in riffing in the theater along with Mike, but that when he showed up at BB, he was given the cold shoulder by Jim. So (I guess?) he contented himself with just the host segments. I admit, the cause and effect chain here doesn’t make 100% sense to me, but then again he was answering a question some anonymous loser asked him in a semidarkened theater.

    Anyway, just wanted to pass that along.


  7. ck says:

    One bothersome point in this movie: didn’t the Soultaker cause
    the accident by standing in front of the car. The drugs, drinking,
    fast driving didn’t seem to directly cause it. So shouldn’t one of
    the Estevez’s have soultaken himself? :)


  8. unsung zero says:

    The actress who played Amy (Paige Sullivan) in Hobgoblins sure looks a hell of a lot like the chick who silently turns down Tommy in Soultaker (at 17 minutes into the episode).


  9. Season 10 gets off to a great start.
    New theme song (better late than never).
    The return of Frank!
    The return of JOEL!!
    And a pretty enjoyable bad movie in SOULTAKER.
    Season 10 is probably my favorite of the Sci-Fi years (almost every episode is great, in my opinion).

    Let’s talk Souuuuullltaker!

    Like I said, it’s great, a classic even. The return of Frank and Joel is what puts this one over the top for me. The Host Segments (including the opening wet T-shirt contest) all work really well together, with Mike’s “I broke the hexfield” in HS#1 leading to Joel’s handyman appearance in HS#3 really nicely. Frank’s appearance in HS#2 is silly and fun, just like a Frank appearance should be. My favorite lines in that segment though are from Gypsy when she tells Mike the he “didn’t do jack” and that he should “Jump up my tube, white boy.”

    Back to Joel’s return… I like the slow lead up, first with the strange ship spotted outside the Satellite of Love, then the staticy transmission from Joel (or was it Martin Van Buren?), followed by the return of gordita loving Frank, all in service of Joel reappearing to fix the ship and offer some kind words (not a ride home though; for that you’re on your own, Nelson [it’ll make a man outta ya!]). It was (and still is) very nice to see Joel and Mike together on the SOL. It’s like a MSTies dream (not wait, that would be Joel and Mike riffing together). Joel with the bots, though, is the best (“oh you changed your bowling pin!”).

    Reading through the comments I see some debate and talk over how old the Satellite of Love is (ten or a hundred time-travelly years) but I don’t think anyone’s mentioned this “it’s really just a show, relax” continuity problem: what about the Nanites? Why couldn’t they fix the ship? It’s what they do. Right? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t like any of the Nanite sketches of Season 8/9 and I’m glad they didn’t factor into this episode (or this season), but it’s still a continuity error (which will happen when you write a dues-ex-machina type of characters like the Nanites).

    Anyway, SOULTAKER is a really funny episode.
    Here’s some

    Crow: “Does anything really STAR Joe Estevez?”

    Crow: “Bet you can never get the smell of Hardee’s out of that car.”

    Mike: “This must be the all-Whitesnake station.”

    Natalie looks in the mirror,
    Crow: “You’re dead, Nancy Kerrigan!”

    Crow: “That took my soul, right there.”

    Crow: “Yum, half a mushroom-swiss burger just waiting for me under the floormat, man.”

    Crow: “The lead singer of Mr. Mister is concerned.”

    about Robert Z’Dar,
    Crow: “God, he’s a catcher’s mitt with eyes!”

    Crow: “He’s flashing back to other people’s memories.”

    Crow: “No messy soul residue!”

    Servo: “Bus-taker.”

    movie: “Where are you taking me?”
    Mike: “Administration and Billing.”

    Mike: “That bites. Wanna get baked?”

    movie: “Natalie?”
    Mike: “Chick harshes my buzz, man.”

    Servo: “Can I still have butter if I’m a soul?”

    Soultaker is a fun bad movie; if I hadn’t seen it on MST there’s a good chance I might of rented this one if given the chance. Robert Z’Dar’s face is reason enough to rent almost anything (I recommend Samurai Cop to all the MSTies out there). Like I said up at the beginning, this is a great start to Season 10.

    I give it 5 out of 5 little green glowy rings


  10. Captain Cab says:

    schippers, #156:

    “He clarified that he HAD been interested in riffing in the theater along with Mike, but that when he showed up at BB, he was given the cold shoulder by Jim.”



  11. Brandon says:

    Joel had said in another interview that he wanted to try and patch things up with Jim during production, but Jim didn’t bother showing up to the studio, which is likely what Joel meant by Jim giving him the cold shoulder.

    Mike confirmed once though (I forgot where), that by Season 10, Jim rarely, if ever, showed up at BBI.


  12. thequietman says:

    I can’t deny it, this is one of my all-time favorites. Once when I was deployed, one of my co-workers turned out to be a die-hard MSTie (albeit a bigger fan of Joel than of Mike). One day we were in the exchange and he held up a DVD of some cheapjack movie with Joe Estevez’ name on the cover. Without missing a beat I said “Does anything really STAR Joe Estevez? Isn’t that kind of an oxymoron?”

    Anyway, as a Looney Tunes fan I also got a kick out of Mike calling “Belvedeah! Come heah, boy!” when we first see Natalie’s antebellum (or is it anti-Bellamy Brothers?) home. For a person who had only seen the cartoon they were referencing (“Dog Gone South” from 1950) once or twice before the short went AWOL for a long time on Cartoon Network, I always liked the fact that someone on the writing staff could be just as much of a LT nerd as I am.


  13. itsspideyman says:

    # 156

    And a GREAT possible moment is lost to history!

    If true, Mallon, you a$$…….


  14. Cornjob says:

    First off a shout out to Joe Estevez for being a good sport in the DVD interview. And 2nd what the heck was riff near the beginning about the name Lucile being pronounced oddly and loudly like “Leew-seeel”. And third, are we gonna rock?

    I read a review of this movie by Joe Bob Briggs when it was released, and years later, but pre-MST, I watched it and thought it was hilarious. There were several points where my own riff on the movie was the same or identical to what MST did later. In particular the “Look, you wrote this crap” riff when Rob Lowe is getting frustrated with Natalie’s inability to comprehend that they’re dead; the “that door is ragging on me like my idiot friend used to” moment, though my riff was more like “my a$$h0le friend got re-incarnated as a door”; and finally when Joe Estevez runs out of time and Robert Z’Dar pops up and tells him that if they were taken now they would be lost forever, and a riffer wonders, “from who, where, why, and is that good or bad.

    My Father taught Philosophy for two years at Fullerton and taught me to spot metaphysical nonsense. And this movie is a treasure trove of metaphysical nonsense which the last riff I referenced above sums up nicely. This aside from the whole vision of the afterlife being run by middle managers that couldn’t hold down a job in their Father’s business, human consciousnesses being stuck in glowing carnival rings, dislocated souls that can’t be seen or heard but can open doors and ride in elevators, shape shifting teleporting soultakers that can’t be touched by bullets but are vulnerable to golf clubs (maybe they had been blessed like the golf clubs in Dogma), Heaven being a utility room on top of a hospital, not to mention the high level of paranormal activity relulting in a distortion of the space/time continuum that resulted in a 5 minute span of time lasting half an hour.

    This film had me cracking up without any riffing, so I knew I was in for a treat when I heard that this movie was slated for the MST treatment. Joel and Frank were extra cherries on the ice cream Sundae. Joel in the theater would have been nice, but you can’t have everything. Where would you put it. One of MST’s best.


  15. Cornjob says:

    All the above was stuff I wanted to share last time through and didn’t have time or energy to, so I really don’t mind cycling through all the episodes to discuss here again.


  16. schippers says:

    Most of Soultaker’s hokum metaphysics I can let pass without caring too much about, but the bit where Natalie’s BF revives with the glow ring containing Natalie’s soul in hand goes a bit too far. Why would the little glow ring-thingy have any tangible existence in the “real” world? Is it like Freddy, pulled from the stuff of dreams and suddenly given mass? That Vivian Schilling wrote herself into that predicament is probably evidence of why her scriptwriting career did not propel her into the upper stratosphere.


  17. thequietman says:

    @164: I think “Lew-cille” is a reference to Mr. Mayor’s resemblance to Gale Gordon of Lucille Ball’s post “I Love Lucy” sitcoms.


  18. Sitting Duck says:

    Cornjob #164: This aside from the whole vision of the afterlife being run by middle managers…

    If there’s one thing C.S. Lewis taught us, it’s that the only afterlife which would be run like a bureaucracy is Hell. Add in the sinister demeanor of the Soultakers and I think it can be safely assumed that they’re collectors of damned souls.


  19. jaybird3rd says:

    Stories of this kind always have to take some liberties with the laws of physics. Star Trek fans might remember an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” called “The Next Phase”, in which two of the characters are altered by an alien weapon which renders them invisible and able to pass through solid objects. They’re shown on the Enterprise walking through walls and closed doors, and yet they can ride on elevators and walk on solid floors like anyone else. If the script were fully consistent, they would have fallen right through the ship and died in the void of space, which wouldn’t have made much of a story.

    If I were in the mood for a “life after death” story, I’d still pick “Soultaker” over “Ghost” any day.


  20. Dan in WI says:

    #169> I have to disagree a bit with you. If a “ghost” (for lack of a better term) is not subject at all to physical forces then they would also not be subject to gravity or the like either. So in the Star Trek example the characters couldn’t “fall” into the void of space either. But since most ghost type beings do have the ability to “float” there is no reason they couldn’t float “in place” in a moving elevator. :-))

    Not criticizing. That is just the way I’ve reconciled selective physical phenomon like that. A sentient floating ghost should be able to pick and choose when it wants to give the appearance of conforming to phyics for appearance purposes. It’s the “gun doesn’t hurt him but a nine iron knocks him out cold moments” that I have a problem with.


  21. jaybird3rd says:

    #169: That’s a good point. The characters in the Trek episode weren’t actually ghosts; they were supposedly “altered” in such a way that they had no substance. Assuming that were actually possible, the laws of gravity wouldn’t apply to them; if their mass is zero, then the force of gravity acting on them ( G(m1*m2)/(d^2) ) would also be zero. That wouldn’t give them the powers of levitation, though, so to show them walking on floors or riding elevators at will is still a bit of storytelling license (in my opinion, anyway). Whether that’s relevant to “Soultaker” depends on whether you believe ghosts or souls have any mass.

    In the Trek episode, the characters could be killed by phasers that had also been zapped by this alien weapon, so that’s how they avoided a “nine iron” moment in that story. “Soultaker” was indeed a bit lazy in that respect; they should have come up with a more internally consistent way for the characters to get away from Joe Estevez.


  22. Savvy says:

    I’ve only seen this movie a few times, but it’s a good one!

    – I love how they just stare as commercial sign malfunctions.
    – Gypsy is an adorably vicious malfunctioner.
    – Pearl, Brain Guy, and Boba are playing monopoly. Bobo moves backwards, has only $1, then steals $500 from Pearl as she presents the movie.
    – Crow: “That’s not Natalie, that’s Tonya Harding!”
    – What’s with the blond-dude’s hair? He’s balding!
    – Crow: “I just gotta hang around and be John Stamos for a while, sorry.”
    – What is the big hurry?! Don’t speed! I wish this blond-guy was real so I could beat him up! Sorry, I hate reckless drivers.
    – Mike: “Please let my Billy Squier tape still be here!” Yeah, Billy Squier’s cool.
    – I like how Pearl tries to protect Bobo from the soultaker until she realizes it’s Frank. “Get your stinkin’ paws off my monkey!”
    – Hey I thought the John Stamos guy was LEAVING!
    – I like the ‘bots’ reactions as Natalie takes off her clothes.
    – “Our bodies are being kept alive by machines at the hospital.”
    Mike: “My body’s hooked up to a snowblower!”
    -Art Garfunkel!


  23. thequietman says:

    Here’s my take on the “Soultakers are murderers” conceit. I’m thinking it’s more that the Soultakers become visible to their victims at something like a ‘point of no return’ where there’s no avoiding death. Note that Father Dude didn’t take Art Garfunkel’s soul until she entered what could be argued were her ‘death throes.’ As far as Joe Estevez causing the car crash, I notice that Joe’s standing in front of a “road closed” sign so if Brad hadn’t swerved and hit the tree he would probably ended up wrecking when the paved road ended anyway.

    But it’s just a show, I should really just relax…


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