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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: 1013- Diabolik

Movie: (1968) Super-thief Diabolik performs several daring heists, then sets his sights on a shipment of gold.

First shown: August 8, 1999
Opening: M&tB discover the SOL employee handbook
Intro: Pearl has a new joystick, which leads to re-entry protocol
Host segment 1: Crow and Mike are packed; while Servo disposes of the many extra hims
Host segment 2: In Castle Forrester, everybody is lining up new gigs
Host segment 3: Crow is worried, so Mike sings a reassuring song
End: After the crash, M&tB settle in to their new home with a familiar pastime
Stinger: “Is that stud coming?”
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (243 votes, average: 4.47 out of 5)


• And so we come to the final episode, and, of course, this is one where the host segments outweigh the movie. Like all the big premise-changing episodes, the host segments are, once again, a marvel of tight, efficient (and funny!) story telling. As for the movie, it’s sort of “Danger Death Ray”/”Double 007” meets “Batman” and, well, yes, it certainly is pretty to look at.
• Last time I called the riffing “steady and workmanlike,” adding that “there’s little that’s memorable.” I’m going to disagree with myself after this viewing. Maybe it was the mood I was in, but I laughed a LOT this time.
• Mary Jo (with an assist from Bill, Patrick and Paul) offers her thoughts.
References. I noticed a couple they missed: “Okay, I’ll go hang with Nova for a while” is a reference to the fact that the woman looks a bit like the female lead of “Planet of the Apes.” Also “Flaming truck at Brixton, 20 minutes late” is a “Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin” reference.
• While this episode was being made, Jim Mallon stalked the halls with a video camera, documenting the event. The footage was later released on video as “The Last Dance: Raw.” The last time through, I watched it before actually watching this episode, and it is interesting in a couple of respects. First, if it does nothing else, it captures the tedium of TV production. There is a lot of standing around waiting, and this gives us a real sense of that. Second, it gives a brief shot of where I scrawled on the back of the SOL set. Since that object no longer exists, to my knowledge, it’s nice that there’s a record of it. Finally, yes, the MST3K process has been described many times, but there’s nothing like actually seeing people doing it. So, if you haven’t given it a look, it’s worth one. But I doubt you’ll want to watch it again.
• I think a lot of MSTies agree that this was a strange choice for a final movie. We discussed it here.
• But I do have one question for the movie: What is the point of covering your face with a form-fitting mask that doesn’t disguise you at all? As proof of this, I simply have to note that, despite the face coverings, every cop who encounters Diabolik immediately knows who he is.
• There are many, many naughty riffs during the “rolling around in the bed full of money” scene.
• In one scene, the lovely Eva climbs into Diabolik’s car and as she does so we get a very brief glimpse of VERY high (stocking covered) inner thigh. Crow is the only one who reacts, and he does so only very quietly. I wonder if they just couldn’t decide whether to make a big deal out of it or not.
• I assume Esso (now ExxonMobil) paid for the blatant product placement: It feels very phony. Having the service station attendant ask Eva if she wants a tail (Esso stations sold little plush tiger tails that one was supposed to attach to one’s gas intake pipe so that, when the gas cap was in place, it looked as if there was a “tiger in the tank”), and actually say “Tiger’s in the tank, ma’am,” is a little over the top.
• I really like the little explosion sound effect they use in segment 1 as Tom disposes of the extra Toms. It’s a very satisfying little “boom.”
• Callbacks: “Welcome, Dr, Meecham!” (MST3K: The movie) “Ha-ha! I’m useless against your weapons!” (Prince of Space).
• Mike references the “giant fiberglass muskie in Hayward Wisconsin,” a landmark that is also depicted in the movie “Blood Hook,” directed by Jim Mallon.
• Crow’s concern about “traffic accidents” echoes a similar concern by little Akio in the movie in episode 312- GAMERA VS. GUIRON. I wonder who on the staff made that connection.
• During the song, Mike produces Crow’s “mother” from episode 602- INVASION USA. Wonder how much they had to dig in the prop room for that!
• I just want to note that the song in segment 3 is the second time in the series that a song rhymes “Earth” with “Colin Firth.”
• The final bit in Castle Forrester makes a reference to the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” finale, where the cast similarly huddled together and sang “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” Or maybe there’s a law that any TV show connected to the Twin Cities has to end that way.
• That’s the voice of Peter Rudrud as the TV announcer.
• The final bit, in which Mike and Bots settle in and start riffing on “The Crawling Eye,” the movie Joel and the bots riffed in the first national episode, is cute and kind of satisfying. But a lot of fans noticed a little goof: We can’t see the screen, of course, but based on their riffing, it seems that the first thing they see is opening credits. The problem is that “The Crawling Eye” doesn’t start that way. It starts with a cold opening, showing some characters mountain climbing (and then one of the characters is killed). The credits don’t begin until several minutes into the movie. Kind of ruined it for some people. But the bit is such a lovely bit of closure I can’t fault them.
• Cast and crew roundup: Director-scriptwriter Mario Bava was cinematographer for “Hercules” and “Hercules Unchained.” Assistant director Lamberto Bava directed “Devil Fish.” Makeup guy Otello Fava also worked on “Warrior of the Lost World.” Score composer Ennio Morricone also worked on “Operation Double 007.” In front of the camera, Marisa Mell was also in “Secret Agent Super Dragon.” Adolfo Celi was also in “Operation Double 007.” John Phillip Law was also in “Space Mutiny.”
• CreditsWatch: Directed by Kevin. “To Earth” — music by Mike; lyrics by Kevin (so you can blame him for the Colin Firth rhyme).
• Fave riff: “Member FDIC…” Honorable mention: “I’m driving with my whipper.”

Next week we will move on to the TV specials, starting with “This Is MST3K.”

201 Replies to “Episode guide: 1013- Diabolik”

  1. PALADIN says:

    ‘Diabolik’ always strikes me as exemplary of the difference between American and European action/adventure films.

    An American-made film about a professional thief would have made a point of giving the protagonist a compelling and sympathetic backstory to make him an anti-hero, but a hero nonethless.

    The Italian ‘Diabolik’ takes it for granted that the viewer is familiar with the titular character`s comic book roots…
    ” Diabolik is a ruthless master thief. He typically steals from criminals (and has no issue with killing them if need be, but rarely, if ever, kills the innocent or the police). He seems to have a deep knowledge in many scientific fields, including chemistry, mechanics and computers. In his first appearances, Diabolik was a more straightforward villain who did not hesitate to murder anyone in order to accomplish his deeds. He was later given a more “Robin Hood”-like persona and was shown stealing essentially from criminals, in order to soften the series’ violence and amorality.”….
    …and the movie just plunges the viewer into the hedonistic heists of this bizarre character, who starts out with apparently More Money Than GOD and goes on to steal even more….seemingly just for something to do.
    ( Sure, maintaining sports cars and a classy blonde-model babe in your own private Batcave MUST cost a load o` bucks…. But after you have enough to roll around in on your Squash-Court-sized bed, you`ld think that it would be time to just enjoy it all instead of ‘going for the gold’ as well. )

    American action adventure films INSIST upon delivering the origin of the hero, even if the hero is Superman, whom I believe babies have actually been born knowing who he is and where he came from for decades. Diabolik must be one well-known character in Italy for a backstory to have seemed irrelevant.

    Fortunately, the forbidding, relentlessly protruding skull of John Phillip Law carries the day and his over-acting is just icing on the cake.


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