Movie: (1974) An astronomical event endows an ant colony in the Arizona desert with sentience. Two scientists are sent to investigate, but who’s testing whom?
First shown: 1/15/89
Opening: The Mads are running low on funding
Host segment 1: Joel discusses Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics
Host segment 2: J&tB discuss the first thing they plan to do when they get to Earth
Host segment 3: A game of “I spy” becomes a performance of “Wipeout.”
End: Joel programs Crow and Gypsy to recite a new robotic law
• This episode is the first episode (not counting KTMA episodes 1-3) to feature a non-Gamera movie, and the first episode featuring a movie that would not be riffed on the show later. As such I will, with this entry, begin the “Cast and Crew Roundup” feature (I will do the Sandy Frank titles when they come back around in season 3).
• There’s lots going on in the opening. It’s the first time the show has started with The Mads instead of Joel. It’s also the first time we get a sense that there is somebody with authority over The Mads (btw, the nickname “Old Leadbottom” is from a ’60s TV show called “McHale’s Navy.” Look it up, kids!). We also get the first mention of “the madscientist-mobile,” which would come up again.
• Also this is the first time, as far as we know, that Joel did the “getting run down by Cambot” routine, which both he and Mike would do again in the future.
• One thing that has surprised me is: there’s been no explicit mention so far of Gizmonic Institute! Clearly The Mads are transmitting FROM Gizmonic Institute during KTMA (Joel once directly confirmed that to me). I guess he had not come up with the name yet?
• I saw this movie when it first came out. I thought it was a pretty good little sci-fi thriller and I still do. The ant photography, as well-done as it is, goes on a little long and slows the pace down too much, and the acting by the humans is pretty low-key, but it’s not really a “cheesy” movie.
• The Brains must have thought so too. They seem to get into it. Several times they say something like “uh-oh” when a plot development unfolds, a sure sign they are caught up.
• However, Josh never seems to quite get the premise of the movie. “Yes, because most ants have the power of reasoning…” he says sarcastically when the movie suggests that they do. Later he yells: “They’re ants!!” when a character suggests that there is an intelligence behind their actions. That’s the premise of the movie, Josh!
• A segment of riffing in the theater, starting at about 7 minutes into the episode (not counting commercials), was included on the pitch tape that was used to sell the show to the Comedy Channel. That tape was included included on the MST3K Scrapbook tape. Question: Was that really the most sparkling few minutes of riffing the whole season?
• Servo extends his head again in the theater.
• Another first in segment 2: The first time a bot mentions his “load pan.”
• Now-dated reference: When a high-pitched sound makes some glass break, Crow says “Ella!” That’s a reference to a then-popular Memorex commercial featuring jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald.
• Uh, could Segment 3 get any more random? It’s completely stream-of-consciousness. Were they are just killing time?
• At one point in the theater somebody drops something and it makes a rather large noise, so loud the performers feel they can’t ignore it, so they acknowledge that it happened. Then there is a strange scraping noise, which they don’t acknowledge. Was someone dragging whatever it was away?
• Movie observation: For a science lab that was just built, it sure has a lot of shelves full of spare parts laying around, like a warehouse that has been sitting there for years.
• Joel calls Gypsy Gipsum again.
• Cast and Crew Roundup: Screenwriter Mayo Simon also wrote “Space Travelers. Camera operator Jack Mills also worked on “Gorgo.” In front of the camera, Alan Gifford was also in “Devil Doll.”
• Fave riff: Meanwhile Grandma and Grandpa are patty melts out on the lawn. Honorable mention: Hope nobody’s eating rice at this point…