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Sampo & Erhardt

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Visit our archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.

Goodbye Sci-Fi

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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Episode guide: 101- The Crawling Eye

Movie: (1958) After some mysterious deaths in the Swiss Alps, a U.N. troubleshooter is sent to assist a scientist who is investigating the situation. But a pretty young psychic may be the most help.

First shown: approx. 11/25/89? (See below).
Opening: None
Invention exchange: Electric bagpipes, canine anti-perspirant, welcome to Deep 13
Host segment 1: Crow and Tom fail to understand why losing your head is a big deal
Host segment 2: Gypsy uncoils
Host segment 3: J&TB discuss the whole “giant eye” premise
End: Good thing/bad thing, the Mads are happy
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (166 votes, average: 4.14 out of 5)


• In the months between Memorial Day weekend (when the last KTMA episode aired) and the end of November (when this episode first aired), the Brains put together a nine-minute pitch video with what they considered to be the funniest moments from the show (that video was later included on the Scrapbook Tape). Joel called in some favors and managed to get meetings with executives at The Comedy Channel and Ha!, the two competing 24-hour comedy basic cable channels that had just started up, or were about to. Joel and Jim headed to New York with high hopes. The Ha! executives took a pass (the show really didn’t fit in with their lineup of mostly sitcom reruns) but the Comedy Channel executives liked what they saw–especially the fact that the show would be two hours long, really helping to fill their programming grid. Stu Smiley, a well-regarded TV producer who was then working at HBO (The Comedy Channel’s parent company) once told me that the other reason they went with the show is that the executives knew and trusted Joel. They offered a 13-show deal and Jim and Joel signed. Jim and Kevin quit their jobs at the KTMA (it wasn’t THAT courageous a leap–the station was circling the drain), and, with Joel, Trace and Josh, incorporated as Best Brains Inc. in July. A friend had some empty warehouse space in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie. It was just what they needed. They moved in and set about building new sets, new bots and generally rebooting the whole show. This is the result.
• Do I like it? It’s such an icon that, like the Taj Mahal, it almost seems above my likes and dislikes. Yes, the riffing is funny and steady, but the whole thing is still pretty rough. Really it’s not much more than a somewhat polished KTMA episode, not even close to the level of entertainment we’d get even later this season, and certainly in season two and forward. But there are definitely some fun spots, and it’s where it all began.
• This episode is part of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Vol. XVII.
• The Comedy Channel went live on Nov. 15, 1989, and we now believe, thanks to the diligent work of Tom Noel, that the first episode actually aired was episode 102- ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY, on Nov. 18, and that this episode appeared the following weekend, on Nov. 25. Cast members have said, somewhat casually, that it first ran on Thanksgiving day, 1989. That year Thanksgiving fell on the 23rd, but we do not believe an episode actually aired on that date. That was a Thursday, and the show aired on Saturdays. But, let’s face it, back then, nobody was keeping track of this stuff. If somebody has TV Guides or some other TV schedule from the second half of November, 1989, and it lists The Comedy Channel, let us know!
• The stretch between the end of the KTMA season and the beginning of season one (if we assume the first episode aired on Nov. 18) was 173 days, the fifth-longest amount of time MSTies had to wait between episodes.
• Firsts (in addition to being the first national show): The first episode to be fully scripted, first mention of Gizmonic Institute, first invention exchange, first episode to be filmed at Best Brains studios, first movie to have a film used with permission, first episode with Jim doing the voice and puppeteering for Gypsy and the first episode with scenes set in Deep 13. Also this was the first episode to end its credits with: “Keep circulating the tapes.”
• Changes from KTMA: A completely redesigned dog-bone shaped satellite, a new door sequence, new sets and new theme lyrics.
• A little about The Comedy Channel (since there is VERY little video of it on YouTube that I could find): The premise was that it was going to be a comedy version of MTV — MTV the way it was back when it first started and actually showed music videos, that is. When MTV started, they had hosts (veejays as they were called) who introduced the videos and generally chatted between videos. The Comedy Channel wanted to emulate that setup: It called its hosts “ceejays” and they generally showed clips of comedy shows (they had all all those HBO comedy specials in their vault) and movies. But, one by one, most of the ceejays evolved their shows into something else. Alan Havey turned his into a talk show. The Higgins Boys and Gruber turned theirs into a sketch comedy show, and so forth. But not all the programming was like that. Rich Hall had a terrific series (hey Shout! get the rights!) called “Onion World.” And then, of course, there was MST3K. Initially they ran it on Saturday morning, playing off the idea that it was a parody of a kid’s show, but it also played in the wee hours. One last note: The Comedy Channel was not available in many areas of the Twin Cities when the show debuted. BBI staffers found a bar that carried it and went there to celebrate and watch it when this show first debuted.
• During the theme song, we see Joel (as the lyrics say) “working” and “cleaning up” but in these shots we can see that he’s in Deep 13 and on the SOL. We never actually see him working at Gizmonic Institute. You’d think they could have just had him go out into the hallway at the BBI offices and shot some footage. Maybe that footage in Deep 13 is from when he cleaned up that Flubber spill? I know, it’s just a show…
• During the opening theme, you can spot Jim’s head sticking up–it’s during the section where Joel sings “…to make his robot friends…” You can also spot the PVC pipe that was used to work Crow.
• There is no opening host segment between the theme song and the first commercial, something that became institutionalized later.
• In Deep 13, Dr. F. appears to be controlling the camera with some sort of remote control device that looks like a little satellite antenna. In season two, they would create the notion of the Mole People assisting on camera and such … and then they just stopped worrying about explaining who was behind the camera.
• We get as much information as we’re ever going to get about Deep 13 in that first host segment.
• Joel wore a tan jumpsuit in the KTMA episodes. With this episode he switches to bright red and the red jumpsuit continues through the entire season. In season two, he switches up the colors a bit, but we’ll deal with that when we get there.
• The “electric bagpipes” used in the invention exchange were the first of many props from Joel’s old standup act that would re-appear as inventions.
• During the KTMA shows, Joel and the bots (usually Servo) used to signal the approach of a commercial during the theater riffing. It’s a habit they continue in this episode and for many to come before it fades away.
• Both Tom Servo and Crow have been rebuilt. Tom is built slightly different from later eps–larger shoulder thingies and a larger white beak.
• Trace has pretty much abandoned the “baby” voice he used for Crow during KTMA, though we get occasional, er, traces of it.
• Note that there are no buttons on the table: At Movie Sign, Joel just sort of slaps the table! Movie Sign is a somewhat lifeless affair all the way around…no flashing lights, just a little camera-shaking.
• During this season, BBI experimented with making the theater seats different colors, to see if the signature visual element of the show might be a little easier to see especially during dark scenes. In this episode they are just sort of a dark gray.
• BBI was using a “thinner” bluescreen level than they would use later–the result is that Crow’s “net” seems to vanish, and you can see some odd gaps between Servo and the theater seats.
• Even taking the bluescreen level into account, you may notice that Crow’s silhouette in the theater looks a little strange. According to an informed source, BBI used the KTMA Crow for the theater segments here–all they did was add an extra floralier tray and clean him up a little.
• Tom walks into the theater by himself in the first movie segment, just as he often did during the KTMA episodes. Joel carries him in after the first and second host segments, and Tom seems to like it.
• Of course, this is the movie that Mike and the Bots were watching at the end of the final episode of Season 10. As we discussed then, it was a cute “full-circle” kind of thing, but the writers forgot (or decided not to care) that this movie doesn’t start with the credits. It has a “cold” opening right into a mountain climbing scene. Maybe Mike and the bots tuned in late?
• Fans of the terrific cartoon series “Freakazoid” may recall an episode that did an almost scene-for-scene (in spots) takeoff of this movie.
• I was still pretty new to the show when I saw this, and when they said “directed by us!” during the credits, I thought that was some sort of catchphrase that they were going to say every week. I later figured out that they were just referring to the fact that an arrow was pointing at them.
• A couple of times Joel does a funny bit where he provides the the voice of the other person on the telephone when somebody is talking on the phone. Cracks me up.
• You can see the shadows of the puppeteers on the wall during the second host segment. Cambot should not have pulled back quite so far.
• We meet a whole new Gypsy in segment two. She’s completely redesigned and has a new person running her and doing her voice, but her mouth mechanism squeaks so much you can barely make out what she’s saying. And that whole comment from Tom about discovering something that “narrows down” what Gypsy’s sex is–that’s just odd. Also, her light isn’t on. And this is the one and only time Joel removes her “eye”–something that seems to upset her quite a bit.
• Joel blows a line in the the theater: “Pick up some ice and some cubes.” They just keep going.
• I like the radio conversations between the pilot and the guys on the ground, clearly written by somebody with no aviation experience. The guys on the ground address the pilot as “plane.” The pilot addresses the guys on the ground as “party.”
• We get the origin of the “Richard Basehart” running gag in the final host segment. If you ever wondered what the whole Richard Basehart thing was about, it was just a weird non-sequitur.
• Cast and crew roundup: Special effects guy SFX: Les Bowie also worked on “Moon Zero Two.” In front of the camera, Warren Mitchell also appeared in “Moon Zero Two.”
• CreditsWatch: The basic credits for season 1 are: Writers: Trace Beaulieu, Joel Hodgson, Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy, Mike Nelson, Josh Weinstein. Featuring: Joel Hodgson’s Puppet Bots.Associate Producer: Kevin Murphy.Production Manager: Alexandra B. Carr. Editor: Randy Davis. Art Direction: Trace Beaulieu, Joel Hodgson.Set Design: Trace Beaulieu, Joel Hodgson.Lighting: Kevin Murphy. Make-up: Faye Burkholder, Clayton James. Costumes: Bow Tie. Gizmonic Devices: Joel Hodgson. Production Assistants: Jann L. Johnson, Steve Rosenberer, Sara J. Sandborn. Production/Post Production: Fuller Productions, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Production Staff: Ken Fournelle, Jim Fuller. Production Assistant: Jim Erickson. Special thanks: Randy Herget, Skyline Inc., Bryan Beaulieu, KTMA TV23, The Teachers of America, David Campbell, Rick Leed. Keep circulating the tapes.
• Favorite riff: “o/` I’m Popeye the sailor man…I’ve got a guy’s head in my hand… o/`” Honorable mention: “Fannie Flag and Groucho and Carl Sagan…..”

75 Replies to “Episode guide: 101- The Crawling Eye”

  1. Jack McRobbie says:

    I looked it up on MST3K temple, and it says for the transmission date:
    11/25/1989 Saturday 12n/12mid 101 NEW


  2. Sampo says:

    Jack is referring to this:

    Tom, who I bow to on this arcane stuff, says that some early viewers say that episode 102 actually aired first, on 11/18 and that they ran once a week after that (leaving out 104, which ran later). If that is true (and it’s unconfirmed) that would make TODAY the 21st anniversary of this show’s debut.


  3. mstgator says:

    Sampo – true, but it also says in that first paragraph that the episode that aired on 11/18 may have been in fact #102 (Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy)… if true, it would stand to reason that #101 debuted the following Saturday (11/25). Strange stuff…


  4. Sitting Duck says:

    There may be a market for the electric bagpipe.


  5. Alex says:

    I always wondered why Crow’s net dissapeared in the sillohette. I wasn’t aware they apparently used the KTMA puppet of him. Oh, and a nice start for the Comedy central era. :)


  6. Jimmy says:

    This promo definitely seems to indicate that 102 was aired before 101


  7. Kenneth Morgan says:

    While this one isn’t as funny as later episodes, it still works pretty well. I am glad that they were constantly improving as the season (and series) continued.

    As for the “starting with the credits” gaffe in the final episode, maybe the station just lopped off the teaser for time. As a veteran of the butchering that WABC used to do with “The 4:30 Movie”, it’s certainly possible. (Yeah, I know. It’s just a show…)


  8. Kouban says:

    #6: Is it just me, or is Billy West announcing at the end?
    Also, I wish they’d put those promos on the DVDs, that would be a great extra.


  9. kismetgirl88 says:

    I remember “Freakazoid” when they did this movie. I acutely KNew what they were referencing. I think some them were Mistes.


  10. Keith Palmer says:

    Probably because of the (completely unreasonable) thought “if I can’t start with ‘K01,’ I’ll just skip that whole part of the show,” this is where I come in with Mystery Science Theater. For some reason, though, I keep wondering about potential allusions in this episode to “previous experiments”… of course, that sort of viewpoint is my fault; we get all the introduction we need in the theme song, every time.

    Since the official DVD release of this episode, I have let some impressions be shaped by Joel Hodgson’s introduction to it, including his comment that things start off slow but seem to pick up at the “third act” of the movie, which could be seen as an early “type specimen” for the series… he also seems to suggest there just wasn’t time to put a control button on the desk, and I wonder if there also wasn’t time to attach the “found objects” to the Satellite of Love set walls.


  11. Lazlow the MST Guy Episode 14 is upon us:

    In this episode Lazlow takes on Mystery Science Theater 3000 KTMA 17, Time of the Apes. A Japanese TV show strung together to make the movie.


  12. jjb3k says:

    @ #8: Could be. There’s another early MST3K promo on the Scrapbook tape that has an announcer who sounds EXACTLY like Billy West. “Mystery Science Theater 3000…You figure it out.”

    This is a fun episode, and a nice introduction to an audience who likely had never seen anything like this before, though the riffing is weak in some spots – it essentially dissolves into a non-stop barrage of “eye” puns in the last fifteen minutes. Nonetheless, the guys do demonstrate much of the wit that they’d come to be known for (“The hills are alive, and its getting scary/That cloud over there wasn’t there before…”, Servo’s Rain Man and Popeye voices, etc.).

    It’s also fun to see the making of this episode on the aforementioned Scrapbook tape. I watched it with my girlfriend the other day, and she was shocked by the fact that the actors had to build their own sets.


  13. OTL says:

    I had The Comedy Channel back then, and can state that “The Robot (yay!) vs. the Aztec Mummy (boo!)” aired the week before “The Crawling Eye”. (I stumbled across “Aztec Mummy”, but then made it a point the next week to catch “Crawling Eye”.)

    Unfortunately, I can’t really *prove* that, but at least I know I’m not the only one who remembers that order…


  14. Mysteryman says:

    Hmm, I remember seeing 102 before 101, but I didn’t know it might have aired first. I might have seen the very first broadcast.

    While I got the Comedy Channel in my area, the problem was that the local TV listings did not include it, so I didn’t know when MST3K would be on. I saw pieces of the first few episodes before figuring out the schedule.

    I’ve never thought about it before, but the CC announcer does sound a lot like Billy West. It’s very similar to the announcer voice he somtimes uses in Futurama.


  15. Hopkins says:

    Definitely much closer to the halcyon days to come. I also think this episode is really helped by the movie which I think is entirely watchable in its complete insanity. Muffiny, octopus-esque monsters, English telepathy sisters, chubby mountaineers…laugh a minute stuff.


  16. Brandon says:

    “Trace has pretty much abandoned the “baby” voice he used for Crow during KTMA, though we get occasional TRACES of it.”

    Was that a word pun, dude?

    I’ve watched segment 2 over and over, and that doesn’t look like the puppeteers’ shadows. I think they’re just the shadows of Gypsy projecting on both walls, due to odd lighting positions.

    Unfortunately, J&TB are still “forecasting” upcoming scenes in the movie.

    “Now she’s gonna run into Forrest Tucker.”

    “Now cut to another scene!”

    That was so annoying when they did that, and it was usually Josh doing that, and he kept doing that as late as episode 106.

    Josh’s face can be seen below the desk during the intro when Joel sings, “To make his robot friends!” ALso his hand is on the desk at the first Movie Sign.


  17. Tork_110 says:

    I remember that Ha! thought that “Take my wife, please!” was the funniest thing ever. It used the phrase in all its promos.

    I don’t remember much about The Comedy Channel. I do remember that they used to show Fractured Flickers during the first or second season of MST3k. It was basically the Bullwinkle and Rocky voice actors adding their own dialogue to
    chopped up silent movies. I’m sure they thought it was a good match for MST3k.


  18. dsmany71 says:

    I love this episode & wanted it on DVD for years and its here and I love the coverage and love you have written on this episode…all those details of things
    In Robot Monster you can see Josh’s head in one of the segments too by the way :)


  19. Brandon says:

    I wonder if the “Ha!” executives were the ones who cancelled MST3K years later.


  20. Dan in WI says:

    Season 1 Cambot is the KTMA Gypsy with modifications.

    After watching predominantly KTMA episodes these last several months, it takes some getting used adjusting back to the large theater seats.

    The third host segment reminded me of the Manos host segment where they explored scary exaggerated body parts.

    On a couple of occasions Tom refers to the female leads as babes yet no mention of Mango juice. Did KTMA own the rights to that?

    What’s with Joel’s Ed Grimly hair in the theater?

    In a lot of ways this felt like an early KTMA episode. The riffing is much more sparse than the later part of the KTMA season. There is also a much higher percentage of state park jokes. I can understand having more of those in an improv setting, but in a scripted setting you should be able to hold those down better.

    Sampo mentions that Tom Servo is motionless in the host segments. I didn’t think it was so bad. But in the theater he is a statue.

    Favorite Riffs:
    Ann collapses in F-Troop guy’s lap and Crow says “Dibs on anything in my lap.”
    The climber’s shack is shown: “Meanwhile at Daniel Boone’s house.”


  21. Brandon says:

    Here was my old review from the Review forum:
    Movie plot: A monster appears in a tiny town of Trollingburg. A giant eye with tentacles. Stars Forrest Tucker.

    Host segments:
    #1. Invention Exchange- J&TB’s Electric bagpipes; Dr. F. presents a shot that makes humans lose sweat glands.
    #2. Joel explains to the bots that for humans, if they lose their heads they die.
    #3. Gypsy has an itch and uncoils herself.
    #4. J&TB discuss the plot, and the flaws in the film.
    #5. It’s time for ram chips.

    Memorable Riffs:
    -Character in Movie: “His head! It was torn off!” Servo: “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

    -The “Directed by” credit appears over J&TB. They say in unison, “Directed by us!”

    -Servo: “Trollingburg. Home of the Crawling Eye. All stops lead to a horrible death.”

    -Servo: “Dang. I’m just too fat to be climbing a mountain.”

    -Joel: There’s only one bed! Guess they’ll have to flip for it.” Servo: “He’s too fat to flip.”

    -Crow: “Dear Diary, once again, the fat guy got the bed.”

    -Crow: “Why’d they bring so much licorice?”

    -Girl is twitching around in bed. Crow: “She’s chasing rabbits in her sleep!”

    -Guy opens bag with dead body in it. Joel: “All right? S’alright.”

    -Servo: “Someone with a really big butt, sat there.”

    -Servo: “Am I gonna have time to change my pants when we get there?”

    -Joel: “What’s a giant eye going to do to you anyway? Pick you up and wink you to death? It’s just not practical.” Servo: “Well, we’re all eyewitnesses.”

    -Crow: “Saved him in the blink of an eye!”

    -Servo: “Whoever cast this movie had an eye for talent.”

    Stuff I noticed:
    -First of all, it’s odd how Dr. F. warns Larry that “No one must know we’re down here doing this.” He’s referring to the people of Gizmonic Institute. But, later it’s revealed that Dr. F is selling these experiments to cable television. Don’t you think SOMEBODY at Gizmonic Institute would turn on the TV, flip to, say Comedy Central and notice their former employee Joel Robinson stuck in space, and Dr. F sending him bad movies? Oh, it’s just a show, I should really just relax.
    -Unfortunately, at this early point, the host segments are more clever than the theater segments. Dr. F’s invention section is quite well done. I’m amazed Josh could catch that doggie treat that Trace flips in the air. How many tries did that take? Or is it a talent of Josh’s?
    -In the theater, during the boring drinking scene, watch carefully, the address to the Info Club flashes on for maybe 2 milliseconds. I wonder what happened there.
    -I’ve often wondered where the gag of calling Crow a reindeer originated. To me he doesn’t look like a deer, but according to Mike Nelson, a viewer upon seeing this episode when it first aired referred to Crow as a reindeer in a letter. Well, while watching this episode, and looking at the bad shadowrama effect, and Crow’s badly positioned net, Crow does look kind of like a deer almost.
    -During segment #2, Servo remarks, “Julie Andrews Quality? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?” Now surely, a joke like this would seem funny back in 1989, but today, the joke seems very tasteless. One of the first examples of a joke on MST3K aging terribly.
    -Interesting bit when they return to the theater. Servo asks Joel to carry him in and out from now on. Joel tells him he’ll put wheels on him. I find this interesting, since, Joel obviously never got around to doing that.
    -Wizard of Oz reference: Joel riffs, “It was all a dream, and you were all there…”
    -A few things I want to say about segment #3. First of all, on the Satellite News guide, it says you can see the puppeteer’s shadows on the walls. I’ve watched this segment over and over, and… well… you actually don’t. The shadows that you see are Joel’s and Gypsy’s being casted on both sides of the set, due to poor lighting. SN also mentions this is the only time we see Joel remove Gypsy’s eye. But, it’s not the last time we see her without it. In 320-The Unearthly, she briefly has a video camera in it’s place.
    -SN comments on how weird Gypsy acts in this early episode. I don’t know what the Brains’ original idea on Gypsy’s persona was supposed to be either, but I get the feeling that Gypsy was intended to have an autistic quality. Obviously something that would be scratched by season two.
    -Joel tells Gypsy she’s supposed to use the service portal to enter the bridge. What the heck is that supposed to be? Some kind of “doggie-door” for Gypsy? Also, Joel reveals that Gypsy’s stuck in the bridge door. But, what irks me is that the bridge doors are closed all the way. If Gypsy’s body was stuck in there, wouldn’t the doors be open a little? Unless… well, Gypsy does say she has “an itch.” Yeah, I’ll say.
    -One thing that Servo/Josh does that’s a bit annoying is how he keeps “predicting” what’s going to happen, and then lo and behold, it does! Like when Servo says, “Cut to another scene,”, the movie in fact does. Or when the psychic girl leaves the lab, Servo says, “She’s going to run into Forrest Tucker.” Guess what? She does! It’s really obnoxious, and is a total giveaway that they’ve seen the movie before, during writing. Thankfully they’d eventually stop doing this. Joel also mentions during the movie that a commercial is coming. They’d eventually stop doing this as well.
    -The child in the movie crying when the monster attacks her, is quite obviously, an adult male imitating a girl whimpering. This poor, case of dubbing is a common theme in most B-movies of this era.
    -When Forrest Tucker reaches for the letter opener to stab his attacker, Joel tries to get the joke in, “It’s a letter opener!” An obvious joke like that would come to be known as a “state park joke” (see the entry for 420- The Human Duplicators in the ACEG). The Brains would heavily try to avoid these kinds of jokes in later seasons.
    -Towards the end of the film Servo/Josh and Joel try to one-up each other with bad “eye” puns. It’s actually quite funny.
    -I wonder what a “barium power flush” is. The bots don’t seem to care for it, though.

    Favorite riff: -Forrest Tucker: “These blankets are frozen stiff.” Joel: “He must have slept with his hand in lukewarm water.”

    Best segment: I’ll pick segment 4. I don’t know why. I think I just like Crow’s comment at the end a lot. “Joel, I think we spent more time examining this plot then the writers ever did.”
    Worst segment: Segment #3. I don’t know why. I guess because it’s such a clumsy introduction for the character of Gypsy, and the whole bit is just one big, failed, lead-up to a bad Fibber McGee joke. Something most viewers won’t even get now.

    Overall: I used to find this to be a weak episode, despite its milestone status. But after rewatching, I’ll just say, that it actually does have some decent riffing. It’s very slow moving the first hour, but after segment #4, the jokes do pick up. The segments are a little bland, but the invention exchange is kind of funny. Also, a rare instance where Dr. F’s invention is slightly better than Joel’s. No offense to Joel, but I don’t see the appeal in electric bagpipes.
    Rating: **


  22. ck says:

    I thought the movie was above average for mst3000, not unwatchable
    in its own—with a kind of film noir feel. And the holding back on
    showing the monsters resulted in their being an eyeful when they appeared.

    On the other hand, ze scientist running the observatory did remind you
    of a certain scientist in The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman.
    (Think about it, won’t you)?


  23. Spector says:

    This is obviously a considerable upgrade over the KTMA episodes. It’s also amongst my favorites of the first season of the Comedy Central era. As silly as the movie was it wasn’t unwatchable, though the premise of crawling giant eyeball creatures living in sharp mountain peaks was so absurd I had to wonder what the screenwriter was smoking when he came up with it.

    There’s obviously still a long way to go before this series would round out into the well-oiled machine it would later become from Season Two onward but the improved production values (such as they were) definitely give the show a much more professional feel than the well-meaning but amateurish efforts of the KTMA years. That’s particularly true of the ‘Bots, which finally have the overall appearance they would have (with minor adjustments) throughout the remainder of the show’s history.

    Still lots of dead space as far as the riffing goes compared to the following seasons but there’s still plenty for the Brains to work with in this episode and some really funny bits right off the bat, including Joel quipping “going down” when the headless mountaineer goes plummeting off the cliff, or as the train rolls into Trollenberg and Servo announces, “Trollenberg: home of the Crawling Eye, all stops lead to a bloody death”.

    As much as I like Josh’s version of Servo I never did enjoy his Earnhardt character as one of the Mads. That voice was just too whiny and annoying. It’s nice to see Trace’s Dr. Forrester wasn’t much different in this season than it was for much of Trace’s run with the show.

    Overall I give this one 3.5 out of five. A good start for what would become one of the most beloved cult classic shows in TV history.


  24. Watch-out-for-Snakes says:

    Sampo, very thorough write-up, I think you covered it all. If you’re looking for old TV Guides, I think George Costanza’s dad has a whole collection of them. :smile:

    Also, is there going to be another interview with the Best Brains crew, a follow up to the last question and answer session???

    As for this episode, the first episode proper, I have to say, while it is an important one (being #1 always is), it doesn’t really light me on fire. Pretty weird movie, kinda bland though, and the riffing is infrequent, like late KTMA’s. It’s amazing the jump in quality of the sets and bots from the KTMA season. It still looks wonderfully low budget, but quite a jump.

    I don’t really have much to say about this one, but I did notice that that one guy out in the cabin sure did suffer a lot of “fat” jokes. Even the psychic lady in the movie called him “the fat one.” Sheesh. . . . .

    Well, after all that turkey and stuffing, I feel like the fat one. Happy Thanksgiving all, and to all a good nap!!!



  25. Lee S. says:

    I agree that this is an unusually good movie for the show. I watched it back before I knew it was riffed on “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” and I found it very engaging.


  26. Pemmican says:

    Rock on, no.’s 15 and 21 – the overweight geologist “Catching a noggin'” before his mountain climb is the best in-movie riff the Brains could have asked for…

    My fav, although it doesn’t make too much sense, is:
    Crow: He keeps a pistol in his pajamas?
    Joel: What do you think that pocket’s for?


  27. H says:

    What can you say about an episode like this? It was good, still pretty rough but enjoyable. The movie’s pretty good, the first of our rogue body parts films. The host segments are pretty good as well.


  28. mst3ktemple says:

    Great notes Sampo. I like this episode, especially for their efforts to explain the SOL, Deep 13 and the reason for the experiments.

    As far as the original broadcast dates mentioned above, the information on my website is accumulated from a lot of sources, including contact with MANY early MST viewers on The Comedy Channel (which sadly I did not get at that time). I state that the dates I list are estimated because I haven’t been able to find any documented source to use. Obviously The Crawling Eye was made to be the first episode shown, but I have been told by so many early fans that the Robot vs the Aztec Mummy actually aired first that I’m going with that. Also, that very early Comedy Channel promo on the Scrapbook tape says “the experiment begins with the Robot vs the Aztec Mummy.”

    If anyone out there taped the episodes the first time they aired and left the commercials in I’d love to get copies. I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out the exact date they aired by clues in the commercial breaks. (contact me at if you have any old Comedy Channel tapes.)


  29. fireballil says:

    At the date of first air is November 19, at IMBD it is November 18. Someone somewhere has to know the truth!


  30. Fart Bargo says:

    This flick came out when I was 5 years old and my parents would not let me go see it. My older cousin, brother and I SWORE we would see the disney movie but promptly went to see the Crawling Eye. With this history, this episode has a special meaning for me.

    When I was a kid, I hid under my jacket for the most part. As an adult, I laughed at the ‘scary eye balls’. Wow, Forrest really knocked back the booze in virtually every scene!? How did the folks of Trollenberg do anything with out Forrest around? Big Ole White Guy boozin Americans always know what to do, like order air strikes on the building they are HIDING IN!? I think Forrest ordered the air strike because he did not want to waste anymore booze on moltov cocktails. I did like the psychic chic angle although she could have been more helpful than mumbling incoherent warnings.

    Concerning the issue of when this episode was first shown, “There are some things Man is not meant to know.”


  31. bobhoncho says:

    Quoteth the video that #6 (Jimmy) had us all look at: “And the experiment begins!” Nationally, anyway. I don’t know if Ann Arbor, MI added The Comedy Channel right away (I was born just before the beginning of the second season), but I do know that in November of ’89, my parents had just been married, so Mom might have been watching this episode (when she married Dad was when she got her first exposure to glorious cable TV, which by this time, Dad had already had for 9 years).


  32. losingmydignity says:

    This has a few good moments…enough to keep me watching and I have fond memories of watching the unmstied version on TV as a kid. I really can’t make heads or tails (or tales) of the plot. As I was saying yesterday to a friend as we watched Night of the Lepus, I just never pay attention to the plot details, but I’ll notice that some extra in the background looks like so and so and that kind of thing. Just the way my mind works, but good for watching MST I think.

    I’m not a fan of the season one’s I’ve seen so far. But I’m going to give them a chance now.


  33. crowschmo says:

    Hey, back in the game. I don’t have any KTMA’s and have never seen them, so didn’t comment on those. I am curious to see what they were like, but I don’t know if I should buy any or not (I’m ascared).

    I have this one, though. It was pretty slow, and compared to later seasons (and even later Season 1 eps), it’s not really ranked up there with my faves.

    At this point in their incarnation it still seemed like it was mostly about the movie – you’re just watching some cheesy Saturday morning fare with some “friends” who occasionally make comments. The wraparound host segments are just like those monster movies with hosts like Elvira and Svenghoulie or whatever his name was, and instead of just talking in between segments (although they do that as well), they just happen to go into the “theater” with you.

    Cute premise, not overly funny yet, but got you to smile.

    Not like later years, when all that would go out the window (thank God), and they just talked a mile a minute whenever the hell they felt like it, and if you wanted to hear the whole movie, well, you just had to go out and find an unMSTed copy. So, nyeh. (And they actually got people interested in these movies and drummed up some business for them, so I don’t know what all those complainers about them “ruining” the movie are bitchin’ about).

    I think at one point during the opening credits (when it looks like a hectic “Movie Sign” moment), you can see someone’s hands in front of the camera. I’ll have to go back and check that to be sure.

    Not much to write home about in this ep.
    The sound wasn’t too great, I couldn’t understand what most people were saying half the time. Movie was dull. We would get some more “eye” humor later with “Attack of the the Eye Creatures”.

    Some fave lines:

    Of course the, “Directed by US?”

    Servo: “Why didn’t they give him something to say that he could pronounce?”

    Crow: “Dear Diary: Once again, the fat guy got the bed.”

    Servo: “Are we EVER going to see the monster, Joel?”

    Joel: (Commenting on the flippy psychic gal) “What color is the sky in your world?”

    Joel: (During a scene when people are saying, “negative” back and forth) “Everyone is so NEGATIVE.”

    Not the best of episodes, but, thankfully, they’d keep on improving. :)


  34. Like some (old?) people here I also remember seeing the movie long before MST3K got a hold of it, and it had terrified me as a child — funny that such a silly looking monster could have that effect (then again, those were the 50’s when almost anything was terrifying, including giant phony looking ants). The whole ESP thing with Janet Munro (who I had a crush on) was very cool to me as well.

    So seeing them do this particular movie is a lot of fun for me and it’s hard to be objective about how good a MST3K episode it is. I’ve never cared all that much for season one, but in comparison to the KTMA stuff they look like masterworks. So it’s all relative (like time, which goes much more slowly when your relatives are staying over).


  35. MiqelDotCom says:

    Hard to believe this was just a few months after the last KTMA episode! The new set and pre-written script give the show a much more professional feel.
    I rarely watch season 1, & didn’t clearly remember the first moments. They kinda jump straight into it with little exposition beyond what’s provided in the intro … 15 seconds in and were already having an invention exchange! Then a brief bit about moving to Deep 13, a button-less slap on the desk and were into the theater.
    The silhouettes look oddly gray, i guess they were still experimenting with the green screen. The riffing isn’t anything too special, but much more consistently funny than the KTMa shows.
    2.5 stars


  36. Richard the Lion-Footed says:

    As I have said before, this has to be the luckiest program ever to hit the airwaves.

    First, it started on a local UHF station that had a film library and time to fill.
    Then it was given an incredible amount of time to find itself and perfect its craft.
    THEN it went to a small cable station that already specialized in “hosted” programming, so the idea of a “hosted” movie did not seem at all strange.

    A few years either way and this major accomplishment in television and entertainment history would never have made it past the demo tape.

    As much of a work of genius as this show was, it was incredibly fortuitous.


  37. Richard the Lion-Footed says:


    The episode of Freakazoid! that used this movie was called “The Cloud.”

    In the remote Teutonic mountains of Schnitzel, a spooky cloud seems to be transforming people into clown zombies. Freakazoid arrives to solve the mystery.

    Just an FYI – It is on Youtube


  38. Watch-out-for-Snakes says:


    I agree, Richard. I thank the stars on a semi-regular basis that this show happened at all, let alone was on TV for TEN YEARS!

    Everything happens for a reason, and when things go right in the world, it makes me believe that good truly can conquer evil (or in this case, bad movies).


  39. JeremyR says:

    I actually really love this movie (and so have never seen the MST3ked version of it).

    It’s actually fairly Lovecraftian. It’s sort of like they took ideas from several of his works. The basic plot from the Whisperer in the Darkness (a race of alien beings living on mountains of the world) and sort of pasted together a tentacle-eye monster from other stuff.

    It’s not really fleshed out though, especially the psychic angle (which really isn’t Lovecraftian but can be found in some pastiches) and the special effects are pretty poor. And the psychic lady is really drop dead gorgeous. Shame she didn’t make more movies.


  40. Ben says:

    Ah the Comedy Channel, a channel I can sort of remember that kind of morphed into CTV the Comedy Network, I think before becoming Comedy Central. Who could forget Dead Comics Society with Robert Klein or Inside the Comedy Mind with Alan King? The endless reruns of CPO Sharkey and McHale’s Navy and Phyllis and Phil Silvers. Short Attention Span Theater with an unknown Jon Stewart and a not-remembered Patti Rosborough. Two Drink Minimum with Wil Shriner, later hosted by Jake Johannsen and Comics Only with Paul Provenza. And of course Stand-Up Stand-Up. Alan Havey’s show wasn’t bad though. Granted these shows kind of blur the timeframe of Comedy Channel/CTV/Central, but MST was right in the heart of this.


  41. JeremyR,

    If you like Janet Munro, you really need to rent (or buy) the DVD of “The Day the Earth Caught Fire”. A great SF film in its own right, the film has some great scenes of her cowering naked in her bath tub (you’ll have to see the film to understand the context) and when I was young that was always hot, but the DVD also contains stills of Ms. Munro partially nude (yep, the English were always a bit more comfortable about this stuff than we Americans are), apparently done on the set when they filmed the scene.

    I grew up with a crush on her from “Darby O’Gill” and “Swiss Family Robinson”, so it was kind of a dream come true to discover these.

    The sad details of her life and untimely (38) death is not something I’d like to dwell on — I prefer to remember her bubbling and sexy presence captured on film.


  42. CMWaters says:

    This episode also confirms why I think of this season as the TRUE start of MST3K and KTMA as just a pilot (similar to how “Head of the House” or whatever it was called was a pilot for “The Dick Van Dyke Show”. …look it up. I’m only 28 and I know these things, you younger ones can to).

    First off, the spaceship look. I can understand why the insides would change, as we’d see next season (OK, to an extent on the inside changes. Still don’t get how they’d explain the theater doors changing, but whatever. It’s just a show), but the outside wouldn’t change.

    Plus the simple fact…in KTMA, I believe he was ALWAYS known as Joel Hodgson. Here, he’s known as Joel Robinson, and would be all the way through the series.

    As for this episode itself…it’s nice to see where most of the viewing public would have seen it. I only saw this ep recently, on DVD. It’s not bad, but it it kinda lackluster compared to later seasons.

    Still, pretty fun for the time, and to see just how much tubing Gypsy actually has. Does explain how the first appearance of the Umbilicus worked.


  43. Slartibartfast, maker of Fjords says:

    I liked it very much. Had the first of many creepy girl appearances (Janet Munro as Ann Pilgrim) and really bad special effects. Of course the riffing and host segments were not up to later standards, just as a rookie usually does not perform at veteran levels. I give it three stars due to its being first and the fifties feel of the movie.


  44. finniasjones says:

    Servo: “Hans is on the Fritz.”

    (This is mostly a re-write of my thoughts about this episode from my review of Shout Factory’s Vol. XVII from the MST3K Discussion Board, circa April 2010)

    SF DVD Intro: Glad they got Joel for this. Helps adjust one’s expectations for what they are about to watch.

    The riffing is casual and sparse, with only 1/3rd of the jokes landing for me. It may have been scripted, but it’s not very well rehearsed: they often step on each others lines and insert ad-libs after punch-lines which go nowhere. The ‘Bots make lots of puns, which Joel eventually gets sick of, then begins making some of his own. He later threatens to remove their “free will” which is pretty harsh. Host segments are awkward, but endearing. At this early date, it really plays like a kiddie show, but the chemistry between the three in the theater is clearly there, even if the execution isn’t.

    The audio defects throughout the movie are so distracting (esp. on headphones), I’d almost classify this as unreleasable. But they aired it like this back then and here it is on DVD now. Yay? For all the good decisions Shout! has made on these sets, they’ve managed to release my least favorite episodes of my least favorite season. At least the Wade Williams licensing deal promises more goodies for us in the future.

    The movie itself is OK, with some creepy bits, decent FX, and two lovely ladies (who look nothing like sisters). The main scientist at the observatory is oddly reminiscent of Prof. Neon from Batwoman (maybe the Trollenberg Terror drove him insane?). Forrest Tucker is pretty bland and unfortunately the “F Troop” jokes mean nothing to me, though I noticed that the Coen Bros. also referred to it in last year’s A Serious Man, set in 1960’s Minnesota.

    And here it is, the first official “Don’t open that door McGee” joke by Crow at the end of host segment 2. Also before my time, but other MSTies have enlightened me as to it’s origin…

    2 stars. The opening credits and song are an obvious improvement from the KTMA’s, as are the color and video quality. Pity they wasted it on a slow B&W movie with a faulty audio track.

    Joel: “Maybe that’s what those eyes want is contacts!”


  45. Richard the Lion-Footed says:

    JeremyR – Just because you love a movie is not a reason not to watch the MSTiee version.

    I grew up watching half the films they did on this show. Earth Vs. Spider, Amazing Colossal Man, Beginning of the End, Giant (insert bug here) are some of my favorite films even today. I would watch them before Phantom Menace any time.

    As Joel said in a recent interview, they do not hate these films and the riffing is not mean spirited. It is more an homage than a smack down.

    Mike “ex-genius” Kelley@41 – I have always been a fan of Janet Munro and, like you, I think “Day the Earth Caught Fire” is one of her best roles. Small film that the British do so well. I recommend it to all Mistiees as an example of what little money, but talent, can do.

    finniasjones@ 44 – Check out “F-Troop” clips on the net and the jokes will make more sense. Also, he did a Saturday morning show called “Ghost Busters” (I beleve) in the early 70s, which was a hard fall from a solid career.


  46. Johnny Ryde says:

    For some reason, I think this one is more like “regular” MST3k than some of the other episodes in Season One. The riffing seemed a little livelier than the rest of the season…

    They never explain the purpose of the invention exchange.

    Note that Joel says “This is the last time,” when carrying Tom Servo into the theater. Ha!

    The movie didn’t seem that bad to me. I was reminded of the 1960s (Patrick Troughton) era of Doctor Who.


  47. Kali says:

    There’s a rumor that Comedy Central has comedy on it. Kind of like this strange idea that “MTV” stands for “Music Television,” since we all know it really means “Morons To View.”

    I really do miss the old Comedy Central, especially “Short Attention Span Theater.” I remember that was good.

    I actually saw this film first without the MSTing – I thought it was pretty good, but you cannot deny the Brains improved it. And F-Troop fans? Forrest Tucker CAN act…

    Janet Munro really was pretty good in this one. And RE: 41, I agree with you, “The Day the Earth Caught Fire” is one of her best. Although, I would like to see Cinematic Titanic tackle it – just for curiosity’s sake.


  48. “I don’t have any KTMA’s and have never seen them, so didn’t comment on those. I am curious to see what they were like, but I don’t know if I should buy any or not (I’m ascared).”
    For heaven’s sake, there’s no need to *ever* buy a non-commercially available MST3K episode… Just get them from the Digital Archive Project. And, yes, you should get them.

    As for the episode, I certainly enjoy it, but in some ways, I find the visual upgrade quite unsatisfying. It looks too cheap to be a “proper” network TV show, yet not cheap enough to have the allure of a truly cheap local TV show. It just looks like what it is, an incomplete upgrade slapped together to get the show off the ground. The SOL just wouldn’t look legitimate again to my eyes until season 2.

    Still, good, solid effort to kick off the second phase of the show. 3.5 stars.

    (No Log Book entry for this one. I never made it past Season K.)


  49. WhereTheFishLives says:

    Finally, out of the fog that is the KTMA episodes. This episode is mediocre even for a season 1 episode, though it is still an important episode as it is the first “True” ep. This is one of those episodes that I always dream of the Brains revisiting because of the ridiculousness of the movie at times, and the lack of riffing power that Msties are accustomed to in later seasons. 3 stars


  50. Kevin says:

    I’m gonna have to add my voice to the “legion” of fans remembering seeing “Robot vs the Aztec Mummy” first, and “The Crawling Eye” the following week.

    Man, this Comedy Channel talk takes me back. I can remember a TV Guide mini-preview of all the CC shows, and how they predicted Rachel Sweet’s “The Sweet Life” would be the breakout hit, and how “MST3K” was barely worth a mention and would soon be gone. Ha!


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