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Episode guide: K13- SST-Death Flight

Movie: (1977) Aboard the maiden transatlantic flight of a supersonic plane, mechanical problems and a killer virus cause a crisis for an all-star cast.

First shown: 2/19/89
Opening: Dr. F. is back from Vegas, bringing money, gifts and this week’s movie. They send it to Joel, catching him off-guard
Host segment 1: Joel shows Servo what it’s like to feel pain
Host segment 2: Gypsy has a sexy new voice … or does she?
Host segment 3: Joel, Crow and Gypsy have a limbo contest; Servo provides the music.
End: Viewer mail.
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (132 votes, average: 4.36 out of 5)


• This is a movie I’d have loved to see them tackle again. It’s got everything: stupid plot, a huge “Fantasy Island”/”Love Boat” cast, hackneyed story lines, the works. And it sure is a breath of fresh air after so many weeks of Sandy Frank.
• The opening is very similar to a segment in episode 105- THE CORPSE VANISHES.
• Portions of the theater segments were included on the MST3K Scrapbook tape.
• Local jokes: “We can bail out Midwest Federal.” “They look like they got their suits at Foreman & Clark.”
• At one point Crow mispronounces a word and Tom immediately mocks him for it. It’s the kind of thing they seldom did later on.
• Pre-riff: I said, “You sank my battleship!” a few seconds before Servo did.
• In between segments one and two, in a jump cut between two scenes in the movie, it looks like they stopped tape and then restarted it. Servo is suddenly off his chair and Joel says “Whoa! Turbulence!”
• That’s make-up lady Faye Burkholder doing the sexy Gypsy voice and some puppetry in segment 2.
• Wow, can I just say that John DeLancie really does a good job of being a jerk. I met him once. He seemed really nice.
• Firsts: Crow mentions ram chips,” the Mads mention “pushing the button, “we get the very first reading of letters to the show and the first mention of Cambot’s “stillstore” function, which, at this point, appears to be a piece of cardboard and some masking tape.
• My DVD contains what is apparently a commercial for the show in which J&TB perform the “SST Death Flight Theme Song.”
• Cast and crew roundup: Cinematographer Joseph Biroc also worked on “The Amazing Colossal Man” and “Kitten With A Whip.” Score composer John Cacavas also worked on “Superdome” and “Hangar 18.” In front of the camera: Peter Graves was also in “It Conquered the World,” “Beginning of the End,” “Parts: The Clonus Horror” and did some narration in “Attack of the the Eye Creatures.” Burgess Meredith was also in “The Last Chase.” Robert Reed was also in “Bloodlust.” Robert Ito was also in “Women of the Prehistoric Planet.” Tom Stewart was also in “Space Travelers.” Walter Maslow was also in “Human Duplicators.” Lorne Green was the narrator for the short “Johnny at the Fair.”
• CreditsWatch: We now begin an ongoing feature in which we note changes in the closing credits. In all the previopus episodes (as far as we know) Vince Rodriguez is listed as director and Todd Ziegler is credited with handling the audio. For some reason, in this episode and the next one, both their credits have vanished.
• Fave riff: “If I could do that I wouldn’t leave the house!” Honorable mention: “Put the masks on the important stars first!”

71 Replies to “Episode guide: K13- SST-Death Flight”

  1. goalieboy82 says:

    this was my first KTMA episode i watch in full (on youtube). watch it last year.


  2. Lisa says:

    @ #50 Bruce Boxliker, well yeah, kind of light brown before:


  3. pondoscp says:

    This is one of my favorite KTMA’s, if not the favorite one. It holds up to repeat viewings, and is almost to the level of a polished season one episode.


  4. Cornjob says:

    “It smells like space”.

    I love that line.


  5. Cheapskate Crow says:

    This was the first KTMA episode I ever watched about 20 years ago, back in the days where you had to trade tapes with fellow MSTies to see any of them. It was cruel as this actually set a relatively high bar for the other KTMA episodes that they typically didn’t live up to. I haven’t seen all of them but I remember of the ones I have seen, only this and the Million Eyes of Su-muru were the only ones I had even the faintest desire to ever see again.

    I loved the Arsenio slam as I used to have to see Arsenio every day in my previous life as a TV master control operator. And what was the deal with disaster movies in the ’70s? I was a kid at the time and don’t remember what prompted them all.

    Favorite line:
    Movie: “see a sight that few but the astronauts have ever seen.”
    I can’t remember who: “An oncoming plane.”

    Missed joke:
    Peter Graves: “A strong Constitution is our best chance.”
    No D&D joke?


  6. Cornjob says:

    The Deathflight was so loaded down with B actors and emotional baggage it’s a miracle it could get off the ground.


  7. Cornjob says:

    This is probably my 2nd favorite season K episode after Phase 4. Watchable movie and some good riffing. As late as Lost Continent in Season 2 this episode was being referenced.

    John DeLancie certainly was a convincing jerk. Rude, selfish, cowardly. You can see why his girlfriend was attracted to him. Aside from Q in Star Trek DeLancie did a fine if depressing performance in Season 2 of Breaking Bad. But then again everything was depressing in Breaking Bad.

    And kids, if it needs to be said, never sabotage an aircraft you’re going to be a passenger on. And while we’re on the subject, never sink a boat you are on board. Was the idiot in this movie on the Titanic?


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

    This is pretty much the only thing I know about Dakar.


  9. PALADIN says:

    One of the best of the KTMA shows, and one of my favorite eps….It`s effectively a ‘who`s-who’ of 70`s tv series guest stars, wrapped up in a PERFECT made-for-tv movie !

    Everybody plays according to their strengths;

    Peter Graves is worldly and wise…
    Burgess Meredith is the crusty and witty curmudgeon…
    Doug McClure is the dashing & daring risk-taker…
    Martin Milner is the solid, dependable heroic type ( was he EVER anyone other than essentially, Officer Pete Malloy???)
    Bert Convy is the flawed, but likeable ‘oridinary guy’…..
    Robert Reed is the by-the-book Company Man….
    Tina Louise is the beautiful gal-with-too-many- memories….
    And Misty Rowe is a BLONDE DITZ !

    …Oh, I could go on and on……I grew up in the 70`s…..Thomas Wolfe was wrong… You CAN go home again, on board a cheap model SST in a cheezy tv movie…..I`ve gotta go watch this one again…



  10. Sitting Duck says:

    Cheapskate Crow #55: And what was the deal with disaster movies in the ’70s? I was a kid at the time and don’t remember what prompted them all.

    Some would argue that the Seventies were a disaster in their own right.


  11. PALADIN says:

    To ‘Sitting Duck’ ; Re: “what was the deal with disaster movies in the ’70s? I was a kid at the time and don’t remember what prompted them all”…

    Answer : MONEY $$$ ! Seriously…. The big-screen $ucce$$ of ‘The Towering Inferno’ prompted many, many more Disaster movies.
    $ucce$$ always leads to EXCESS in Hollywood.
    Unfortunately, more often than not, the formula is : $ucce$$+Excess=SUCKsess, as quality goes down the toilet in favor of expediency.

    Still… I cannot complain here…I have the day off, it`s a muggy 95 degrees outside, and I just finished an enjoyablee re-watching ‘SST Death Flight’…. !

    As if TSA were not bad enough, now I shall never fly again.


  12. schippers says:

    #61 – Not to get all Comic Book Guy on you, but the phenomenal success of 1970’s Airport and the even more phenomenaler success of 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure ensured that Hollywood would keep flogging disasterporn throughout the 1970s, although to much diminishing returns.

    Really, it’s sort of the inverse of what seems to be happening with the comic book movies today. They just keep getting dumber, but they just keep raking in more (or at least a consistently obscene) amount of dough.


  13. snowdog says:

    Yep, this is probably the most consistent KTMA I’ve seen, thus far. The opening segment with the mads runs a bit long, I think, especially since Dr F is still underdeveloped as a character. On the other had, we do get our first “Push the Button”. There was a surprise movie sign here Joel scooped up Servo, and I thought he might carry him into the theater for a second time, but nope. Still waiting.


  14. AndrewJ says:

    #61 – Not to get all Comic Book Guy on you, but the phenomenal success of 1970?s Airport and the even more phenomenaler success of 1972?s The Poseidon Adventure ensured that Hollywood would keep flogging disasterporn throughout the 1970s, although to much diminishing returns.

    Everybody talks about the “New Hollywood” of the early 1970s (e.g., Altman, Coppola, Scorsese, Ashby, Bogdanovich). The disaster films of that era (along with the bloated movie musicals) were clearly the last vestiges of “Old Hollywood.”


  15. Cornjob says:

    I also liked the way the antagonist asked why he wasn’t promoted after revealing that he sabotaged the plane. A better question might have been, “Why didn’t you fire me?”, or “Why am I not in jail or a mental hospital?”


  16. The KTMA season isn’t exactly my favorite season, for a lot of obvious reasons, but it’s still fascinating to watch once in a while for the same reason I like to break out my box set of early Beatles BBC performances from 1962 and ’63 — it’s always fascinating to watch a good group in the process of becoming a great group.

    I’ve seen four or five KTMA episodes — and have copies of them in my collection because I’m a compulsive completist — but SST Death Flight is the only one that made it into my rotation, partially because the movie is a finely-aged slab of ’70s made-for-TV cheese, and also because the riffing approaches the levels of Comedy Central Season 1, both in terms of quality and “density”.

    Out of all the movies from the KTMA season that were redone in Seasons 3, I would’ve totally exchanged this one for Time Of The Apes. Seeing the classic Season 2-5 cast of Hodgson, Murphy and Beaulieu rip this one up would’ve been beyond awesome. It would’ve been another Mighty Jack — and I mean that in a good way.


  17. Johnny's nonchalance says:


    Keep your damn dirty hands off episode 306!


  18. jaybird3rd says:

    @#65: That seems to be a common storytelling device in these movies. The crazy guy who started the blaze in “City On Fire” was also passed over for a promotion, as I recall.

    Obviously, this episode is a great entry in the KTMA library. As others have said, the “all-star disaster movie” genre is a good one for riffing because there are always lots of opportunities to mine the actors’ earlier work for jokes, and J&TB certainly do that a lot in this one. As hokey and formulaic as these movies are, it’s hard to blame the actors for taking roles in them: an interviewer once gave Charlton Heston a bit of a hard time about “Airport 1975”, and he confirmed that all the major stars did these movies in the 70s because they paid extremely well and amounted to about two weeks’ worth of work.

    The genre was really getting tired by 1977, though, making “SST Death Flight” seem at first glance to be just another carbon copy. But for the kind of movie that it is, it’s entertaining enough in its own right, and it has some interesting elements which help to differentiate it. #59 makes a great point about the cast: the actors bring so much implied history to their roles that the story doesn’t have to spend much time on characterization, which I’m sure is one of the reasons these movies always use all-star casts in the first place. Somebody obviously put a lot of thought into the casting on this one, and in addition to being well-matched to their roles, all the actors deliver pretty good performances. Aside for the ones #59 mentioned, John de Lancie is very good in this early role in his career, about ten years before he became famous as “Q” on Star Trek, and Brock Peters is also a strong presence as the doctor (but of course, Peters was good in everything he did). The story also has its moments, and sets up an interesting moral dilemma near the end.

    It may not be a great movie, but “SST Death Flight” is one of the three featured on KTMA that I wouldn’t mind watching on its own, “Phase IV” and “Hangar 18” being the other two.


  19. jaybird3rd says:

    … and I agree with #67. I wouldn’t lose “Time of the Apes” for anything. Both #306 and K17 are among my favorite episodes!


  20. mnenoch says:

    This is probably the first KTMA episode I would watch again just on it’s on. I don’t know what it is about these 70’s disaster all-star cast mashups that are so goofy that I like. They are just serious enough that they try to be believable yet hilariously far fetched in both plot and characters. Joel & the bots did a pretty good job riffing for the most part. It seems like they get sucked in watching the movie during certain parts as well. I wish that some more of these Made-For-TV 70’s movies had made it on in later years. I could especially see Mike & the bots ripping these apart.


  21. Eric Hoffman says:

    My wife and I watched this one tonight – her first time, my third or fourth. This is a decent KTMA episode- some good riffs, a few memorable ones,
    As when the captain asks the passengers to move to the back of the plane and Joel riffs over the “leadership” comments (“nothing to worry about”) of an obnoxious passenger “just a little stroll uptown.” As disaster movies go,this is a fun, lightweight entry of the already crowded 1970s airplane disaster movies, and obviously in the minds of the Zucker Bros when they made Airplane! The wife and I love disaster films and MST3K so this just seemed a natural choice.


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