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Sampo & Erhardt

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Episode guide: 502- Hercules

Movie: (1957) Hercules helps Jason, the true king, wrest the throne away from pretender Pelias and his son Iphitus, while wooing the lovely Iole.

First shown: 7/17/93
Opening: J&tB “wing it” with the intro
Invention exchange: The Mads demonstrate the cellular desk, J&tB demonstrate Instant Karma
Host segment 1: Tom has updated the constellations for the ’90s; Crow disapproves
Host segment 2: Crow and Tom want to know about Hamilton Joe Frank and Reynolds
Host segment 3: Crow valiantly performs a solo version if the ‘Match Game’
End: The bots discuss Amazons, then some visit on the Hexfield; Frank is now at the desk
Stinger: “It’s like something out of a bad dream!”
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (161 votes, average: 4.22 out of 5)


• Pardon if it seems like I’m channeling Leonard Maltin, but I’d give this one two-and-a-half stars. The host segments are fair at best, and the movie is so cut up that it’s almost impossible to follow. It has its moments, but the episode is a bit frustrating.
• This episode was included in Shout!Factory’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXXII.”
• It’s clear that the Brains chose to make most of their cuts at the commercial breaks, but the result is that half the time the characters are in the midst of one plot development before the commercial, and by the time we get back they’re somewhere else entirely. Important plot information was apparently cut as well. Why does the floor make a sound when Jason crosses it? We’re never told, but it seems an important point to everyone in the movie. How does Herc go from retrieving a discus to fighting a lion? No idea. How do Herc and his pals escape the Amazons? One minute they’re being fed sleeping potions and watching dancers, after the commercial break they’re back on the ship. You almost have to treat each of the eight movie segments separately. The riffing is good, and they have plenty of weird stuff to work with, but I’m afraid this episode is less than the sum of its parts.
• This was a widescreen movie, but in this print we see about half of the screen at any moment. It’s not even pan-and-scan. It just sits in the same spot no matter what’s happening on the screen.
• Callbacks: “Where is the sampo??!” (Day the Earth Froze) “Hey, its’ Commando Cody!”
• As noted in the previous writeup, despite being episode 502, this was the first episode shown in season 5. In the previous writeup, I offered a guess as to why.
• During the invention exchange, the third “instant karma” bag leaks. They keep going.
• Many of the riffs in this episode were used in that MST3K program for Windows 3.1 somebody created. For those who weren’t computing then, it put shadowrama at the bottom of your screen and played one of only about 15 quick sound bites every so often. It got very old very fast and, worse, it turned out to be a very invasive program that was hard to remove. Anybody remember that?
• The first host segment is clever but creating modern constellations that make about as much sense as the old ones do is really not an original idea. That said, they put a great spin on it.
• Arcane reference: something is said to resemble a Jim Dine sculpture.
• Tom Servo channels every naughty third-grader with: “Claude Balls, ladies and gentlemen…”
• Note the completely unremarked-upon box of Capt’n Ron cereal sitting on the desk in the second segment.
• If you’re wondering, they were a trio, Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds, composed of Dan Hamilton, Joe Frank Carollo and Tommy Reynolds.
• One I don’t get: When the Amazons surround our heroes and raise their arrows, Crow says, in a very stilted voice, “even the archers are beautiful!” What the heck?
• The Match Game bit, while funny, is another one of those “huh?” sketches.
• One of the cleverest bits comes right at the end, as they sit through the closing credits and Tom explains what happened to the characters after the story. Pretty funny stuff, but why do they sit through the credits when large chunks of the film were excised?
• Mary Jo makes her first physical appearance on the show, and Bridget makes her first appearance since season three, as the Minnesota amazons.
• Cast and crew roundup: Many of the same people also worked on the sequel “Hercules Unchained,” including American executive producer Joseph E. Levine (who also brought you “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”), director Mario Bava (who also directed “Diabolik”), director/screenwriter Pietro Francisci, screenwriters Ennio De Concini and Gaio Frattini, editor Mario Serandrei and score composer Enzo Masetti. Executive assistant Massimo DeRita also worked on “Puma Man” and art director/set designer Flavio Mogherini was the art director on “Diabolik.”
Similarly in front of the camera, Steve Reeves, Sylva Koscina, Fabrizio Mioni, Mimmo Palmara (who also appears in “Hercules and the Captive Women), Gabriele Antonini, Andrea Fantasia, Aldo Fiorelli, Gino Mattera, Willy Colombini, Fulvio Carrara and Aldo Pini were all in “Hercules Unchained.” In addition, Ivo Garrani was also in Hercules and the Captive Women and Luciana Paoluzzi was also in “The Green Slime.”
• Creditswatch: Host segments directed by Kevin Murphy. Hair and makeup by Clayton James (one of only two times this season).
• Fave riff: “Stay away from their powerful hind legs!” Honorable mention: “It’s the Andrea Dworkin memorial cemetery!” “Do you have a reservation for Hercules? It might be under Heracles…”

110 Replies to “Episode guide: 502- Hercules”

  1. littleaimishboy says:

    Sitting Duck:
    In my remarks about the Match Game host segment in post #90, I should have said morose rather than morbid.

    Either works. So does “mordant.”


  2. Ro-man says:

    I dreamed I kissed Gavin McCloud!


  3. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Sitting Duck:
    Don’t feel too bad, we all make goofs. In my remarks about the Match Game host segment in post #90, I should have said morose rather than morbid.

    Don’t worry. The right people got it. ;-)


  4. Sitting Duck says:

    Perhaps it’s just me. But it seems as if, whenever there’s a minstrel type character in one of these swords and sandals films, it’s always Orpheus.


  5. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    #43: I believe there were rumours that were going to change it to Frankly Joe Hamilton Fish…

    Hamilton Fish (1870-1936) was a child killer and cannibal, one of the most heinous serial killers in American history, so deciding not to use that name was a decision well made.


  6. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    %50: It’s always struck me as kind of weird the way that most of the personalities from Greco-Roman mythology are usually known by their Greek names, yet Heracles/Hercules is almost always referred to by his Roman name

    But if Herk were Heracles, what would we call him? “HER”? That ain’t gonna work.


  7. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    (multiple comments in a row again, tsk tsk)

    #53: Something about Joel just having a bowl of cereal, and that not even being in on the sketch’s joke, and for that matter bringing the cereal into the theater, also really really gets me. It’s a quiet, ignorable little beat and yet it makes everything more interesting.

    Such casual domesticity just shows he’s accepted that, for better or worse, the Satellite of Love is his home now; his situation isn’t that much different than Joy Newsome’s in “Room” (2015); *we* know he’ll eventually escape, but he probably takes it for granted that he’ll be there until he dies (and with little opportunity for life-threatening activity and as healthy as he seems to be, that’d be in, what, 2055 or so?).

    Even the eventual death of Dr. Forrester (who seems to be older than Joel) wouldn’t guarantee any change; Dr. F has by now (then?) probably made certain that Frank has no idea how to bring the Satellite back to Earth, and who else is there? Dr. F (who, of course, knows that the Satellite is programmed to self-destruct in a few years, anyway, so the last thing Joel has to worry about is dying of old age, stranded in space) is crazy but that doesn’t *necessarily* mean that he’s stupid. About *everything*.

    Fortunately, we know everything turns out all right for everyone in the end. Except for Dr. Forrester, of course, killed by his own mother. Poor dope. Sad, really.


  8. Cornjob says:

    #105 Is Hamilton Fish another name for Albert Fish?


  9. touches no one's life, then leaves says:


    Correct. It was his real first name. However, he didn’t like it because the other kids in the orphanage where he grew up teased him about it, calling him “Ham & Eggs,” so he took to using the name of his dead brother, “Albert,” instead. He apparently didn’t start killing until age 54, so it seems that it took him quite a while to go full-blown pants-crapping insane, but once he did…

    #57: With a few shorts the Brains could have kept the movie intact and shown it in two parts. Then it would have been 502 and 503

    Did they ever do that before? They never did that, it’s so funny you’d think they would do that, they never did that….



  10. terrorcotta says:

    “…even the archers are beautiful.”

    I always assumed it was a reference to ‘Cabaret’ and the ‘Wilcommen’ song because I always loved Joel Grey’s smarmy delivery of that line-

    “Leave your troubles outside,
    So- life is disappointing? Forget it!
    We have no troubles here! Here life is beautiful… The girls are beautiful… Even the o-r-c-h-e-s-t-r-a, is beautiful.”

    (And, if you recall, referring to the orchestra as ‘beautiful’ was….ummm, politic.)


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