Short: (1946) A look at the Clyde Beatty circus, featuring legendary clown Emmett Kelly.
Movie: (1959) Nordic fantasy tale, based loosely on the Kalevala, about a wicked witch’s schemes to get, and later regain, a magic mill.
First shown: 1/16/93
Opening: J&tB try to pose for a family photo
Invention exchange: J&tB have invented Snack-tion; The Mads show off their “unhappy meals”
Host segment 1: The bots have some ideas for clown acts but Joel is no help
Host segment 2: So, what’s a sampo?
Host segment 3: Gypsy’s presents her one-woman show: “Gypsy Rose…Me!”
End: The bots are imprisoned wind, Joel reads a letter, Frank is also wind and still mad
Stinger: “What’s going to happen to us now?!”
• I just love this episode. Fun, goofy, watchable movie, great riffing, great host segments, one of this series’ crowning achievements and the beginning of what became known as the “Russo-Finnish trilogy,” a memorable trio of terrific episodes.
• As you might have guessed, this episode had a big effect on me. For a long time it was my all-time favorite. Up until this point, on the Prodigy MST3K boards I had just been “Chris in Phila.” The night this was shown (or maybe the next day, I forget), I officially announced that I was taking the handle Sampo, and I’ve had it ever since.
• How do robots spit? I know, I know…
• The unhappy meals are truly an evil invention. I love Dr. F’s Charles Nelson Reilly laugh as he describes them.
• The announcer says “pamalino horses.” The hell?
• The circus in the short is never named, but it’s the Clyde Beatty Circus.
• The acrobat is both Dag Hammarskjöld and Albert Speer. Both references are pretty out of the blue…
• In the short, during the part toward the end when the lady is dancing with the elephants, you can easily see that one of the elephants has rolled in some poop. Gross.
• This movie (originally titled “Sampo” but cheesily renamed to trick American audiences into think it was sci-fi) was based on the Kalevala, the national epic of Finland. (As an aside, J.R.R. Tolkien was heavily influenced by the Kalevala, and his “Silmarillion” was originally begun as an attempt to create a sort of British Kalevala.)
• Increasingly obscure reference: “Hey, it’s Skylab!”
• The “Scandinavian sketch” is obviously drawn from their personal experiences. What I find amusing is how much those Minnesota accents sound like the accents of folks in the Northeastern corner of Pennsylvania, where I now live. There’s probably a linguistic explanation.
• As I noted in 1993 when I introduced this episode on national TV during Turkey Day, the movie DOES explain what a sampo is. J&TB are just in mid-riff when the explanation comes. I wonder if they did that on purpose, just so they can do the “what’s a sampo?” sketch?
• Local riff: “Mini golf at Crosslake.” It’s still around.
• I was very amused by Servo’s grumbling about “Half & Half.” This sounds like a disgruntled husband speaking from a real-life experience.
• Another obscure reference: Crow’s silly voiced: “I thought it was a costume ball!” is a reference to a movie called “Start the Revolution Without Me.”
• My copy is from the ’94 Turkey Day, but I don’t know if it would be fair to do an “annoying commercial” item since this ran at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. (Eastern and Pacific) so ALL the commercials are pretty low-rent and annoying. Art instruction schools, Sally Struthers asking if I want to make more money, stuff like that. Oh and I should note that in his introduction, Adam West mistakenly says that this is episode number 424.
• Callback: “I sing whenever I sing…” (Giant Gila Monster)
• Naughty riff: “HE’s got delusions of grandeur.
• There are not one but two Ross Perot references in this episode. I guess it counts as “then-topical” but I would hope most people would remember who he is.
• Of course, one highlight is the classic “failure” song. Joel even gets up to dance!
• Jim gives a real tour de force in “Gypsy Rose ME!”
• Tom gently joshes fellow Minnesota entertainer Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” during the long, tedious harp attack.
• Cast and crew wrapup: Russian director Alexsandr Ptushko also directed “The Magic Voyage of Sinbad” (originally “Sadko”) and “The Sword and the Dragon” (originally “Ilya Muromets”).
Georgiy Millyar was in “Jack Frost,” Mark Troyanovski was in “Magic Voyage of Sinbad,” the narrator, Marvin Miller, was also the narrator of “King Dinosaur” and “Phantom Planet” and Valentin Bryleyev was also in “Jack Frost.
• Creditwatch: Host segments directed by Trace Beaulieu. “Gypsy Rose Me” was written and arranged by Mike, with lyrics by Mary Jo.
• Fave riff from the short: “You know, don’t laugh, but, in a way, this is this town’s Passion Play.”
• Fave riff from the movie: “Great wedding. You get half a buzz on and you’re sent home with a torch.”