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Sampo & Erhardt

Sci-Fi Archives


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: 103- The Mad Monster (with short: Radar Men from the Moon, Chapter 2: ‘Molten Terror’)

Short: (1951) Cody and Ted manage to steal the Moon Men’s gun, but are soon cornered.
Movie: (1942) A discredited scientist succeeds in turning his servant into a werewolf, and begins to plot revenge.

First shown: 12/2/89 (unconfirmed)
Opening: None
Invention exchange: Hell-in-a-handbag, acetylene-powered thunder lizard
Host segment 1: Tom hits on a blender
Host segment 2: Crow and Tom have questions about the werewolf in the movie
Host segment 3: Joel switches Crow and Tom’s heads (it’s Servo-Crow-ation!)
End: Good thing/bad thing. The Mads are not happy
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (134 votes, average: 3.58 out of 5)

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• This one, eh. I used to think this felt like a KTMA, but that was before I saw the KTMAs. It’s better than that, at least. The riffing rate is, of course, much higher than most of the KTMAs and the pre-written jokes are more consistently funny. But there are plenty of klunkers and state park jokes. The segments DO feel very KTMA-like — perhaps because one of them IS a re-do of a KTMA sketch — but at least these all have a beginning, middle and end. And I’m not sure whether it’s the cheapness of the movie or the horribleness of the print, or a little of both, but the movie is just barely watchable.
• This appears in Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Vol XIV
• “Mad Monster” is tied with “The Corpse Vanishes” as the oldest MSTed movie. Actually, the oldest film is the serial “Undersea Kingdom,” released in 1936.
References.
• Again, no opening segment.
• Again, no buttons: table slapping.
• Again, no Bots during invention exchange.
• Both inventions were previously shown on KTMA and “hell in a handbag” is from Joel’s standup act.
• Is this the first we get the classic unison line “THANK YOU!” from the Mads? (Last time around, commenters noted that, no, that line was used last week.)
• Great line from the opening bit: “No, that’s when I became a SCIENTIST.”
• As Joel enters the theater, he is grumbling about having to carry Servo, and mutters “I gotta get wheels for you…”
• During the short, when the opening text appears, Joel and Crow duck out of the way so people can read it. Tom doesn’t care.
• The blue screen is still somewhat “thin” making Tom look a bit strange.
• The seats are again dark gray.
• I am going to guess that it was Josh who was the big NASA fan on the writing staff. His mention of Alan Shepard and his golf cart is incredibly space-program-nerdy.
• Host segment 1 is a first-season classic, as Tom Servo puts his best moves on an unsuspecting blender. It’s also an almost word-for-word do-over of a segment from episode K11- Humanoid Woman. Great line: “Nobody drinks from my gal!”
• This movie has a plot we will see again and again on MST3K: The mad scientist determined to prove his detractors wrong–just before he kills them, preferably by way of the very invention at which his detractors scoffed. But there’s an interesting twist to this plot: This guy may be mad, but he’s a patriot! He plans to give the war department his invention to help them build an army of werewolf soldiers to win WWII!
• It’s amazing that this movie came out in 1942. It feels like 1932, especially the sound, which sounds like an early talkie.
• The plot is somewhat similar to the “Phantom Creeps” serial of season 2 and I swear some of the same sets were used. If not they’re pretty similar.
• Movie comment: Does the title refer to the doctor? It can’t refer to poor Petro. And is the monster angry mad or insane mad? Wolf Petro is pretty surly but I don’t think you can call him mad.
• Joel’s hair is never in good order on the show but in segment 2 it’s particularly weird.
• Joel calls Servo “Crow” at one point…they both react with irritation.
• There’s a reference to Doonesbury at one point. Remember when Doonsebury was relevant? (This offhand comment caused some ruffled feathers in the comments section last time, and for that I apologize. I didn’t mean to diss Trudeau, who I think is very talented. I just think there was a period in the previous century, when the comics page was part of a daily ritual for most people — me included — where Doonesbury part of the daily conversation. With the decline of newspapers, that’s not really the case any more. That’s all I meant by it. Again, my apologies to Trudeau fans for the flip remark.)
• Joel turns the bots off at the end of segment three. Something he did not do much.
• There’s a comment about keeping one’s computer plugged in. This is at least a couple of years before people began to buy home computers in any real numbers. These guys were ahead of their time.
• In segment three, they again reference the idea that Tom Servo looks like a fire hydrant. I don’t really see it.
• Naughty line: “You’re very well equipped.” “Thank you, I didn’t think you could tell through the trousers.”
• In a very KTMAesque move, J&TB leave the movie before it is over and we get about 20 seconds of empty theater.
• Gypsy is still barely understood over her squeaking jaw joint, and her light is still off.
• Cast and crew roundup: Producer Sigmund Neufeld also produced “Lost Continent.” He is not to be confused with director Sam Newfield, who also directed “Lost Continent,” “I Accuse My Parents” and “Radar Secret Service.” (Perhaps his most infamous film was made in 1938: “The Terror of the Tiny Town,” a Western featuring an all-little-people cast.) Cinematographer Jack Greenhalgh also worked on “Lost Continent” and “Robot Monster.” Makeup guy Harry Ross also worked on “Lost Continent” and “Viking Women and the Sea Serpent.” Go-to makeup guy Harry Thomas also worked on “Project Moon Base,” “The Unearthly,” “Bride of the Monster,” “Invasion USA,” “Racket Girls,” “High School Big Shot” and “Night of the Blood Beast. Production manger Bert Sternbach also worked on “Lost Continent. Production Designer Fred Preble also worked on “Radar Secret Service.” Nobody in front of the camera was ever seen in another MSTed movie.
• What’s your pick for stinger? Mine is: Petro, sitting in the chair, “gettin’ a whiff of his own overalls.” Or Zucco laughing as he holds up a vial of his serum.
• Fave short riff: How come they got Groucho Marx mustaches on their helmets?
• Fave movie riff: “Now, Bingo is his name-o.” Honorable mention: “Now I’m going to go turn my daughter into a woodchuck.”

86 Replies to “Episode guide: 103- The Mad Monster (with short: Radar Men from the Moon, Chapter 2: ‘Molten Terror’)”

  1. bad wolf says:

    #46–you’re right, this was probably a bad week for Sampo to make that crack, since Trudeau’s got a new book he’s promoting. and yes, it’s always been a topical strip, so it’s not something that people only remember from 20 years ago.

       0 likes

  2. Flying Saucers Over Oz says:

    The really scary thing, of course, is that it’s a MAD Monster. A contented monster is scary enough, but when you get hold of a Mad Monster…

    It’s probably a good thing we didn’t get the planned sequel, ‘It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Monster.’

    And I’ll have to agree with a couple other folks. If there was ever a movie that cried out for Bela Lugosi…

       0 likes

  3. crowschmo says:

    I still don’t get why people think Legosi was a good actor. (Or is it maybe just a fun-to-watch-OVER-actor?).

    Anywhooo – I watched this a while ago and didn’t really feel like watching it again for this. Maybe I’ll give it a shot, I don’t know.

    Lines I do remember that I thought were pretty good:

    The nice caboose, wait, I’m her father, I am mad one, of course.

    Servo: “I may be mad, but you’re transparent.”

    Servo: “That felt good – now I’m gonna go turn my daughter into a woodchuck.”

    Crow: “Hey, don’t slam the bookcase on the way out, pal!”

    On the whole, not a great one.

       0 likes

  4. big61al says:

    Sometimes you have to riff the movies you can get. Although the film has so much promise for lots of laughs it is a very hard watch. I like to watch these a different way. If the riffs are sparse or not well written simple insert your own. It takes a lot of work but it is fun and fills the dead spots nicely. I have written an entire script of riffs for A*P*E (1976) for a MST3K parody which never got to the filming stage. Are my riffs funny? Yes. Is every one funny? No. Sometimes I got to a scene and got nothing. Other times I think my riffs are as good as anything from this early in the show. There is no such thing as a bad episode of of MST3K. Just a few that need some help from you! Won’t you JOIN US!

       0 likes

  5. Gorn Captain says:

    #53 Probably because Bela was pretty good in his early career. Unfortunately, he did get typecast in horror roles. The “anything to pay the rent” parts came later when his life and career were in decline.

    It’s a shame there’s no filmed record of his performance on stage as Dracula.

       0 likes

  6. Chief?McCloud! says:

    Pop culture riffs: “Skipper?!”….”Little Buddy?!”
    “Do not disobey Ape Law”

    Literary riff: “Tell me about the rabbits again George”

    PG13 riff: “Now for the thorough examination, just relax….now cough”

    Fave riff: “You’re very well equipped”….”Thank you, I didn’t think you could tell through the trousers”

       0 likes

  7. Clouseau says:

    #38 This attitude by early Comedy Channel execs is pretty obvious in one of the early advertisements for the show on the scrapbook VHS. One of the ads had a bit of the film segment, and it highlighted around the riffer as they made each joke so no one could possibly be confused.

       0 likes

  8. Johnny Ryde says:

    I rewatched this one last week in order to participate in this discussion… But… Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

    One thing about the Groucho Marx riff is that I think they would have done the joke slightly differently in later seasons. Instead of just saying the helmet looked like Groucho Marx, I think they would have done a Groucho impression while quoting one of his more familiar lines…

       0 likes

  9. Sitting Duck says:

    An example of that happens in I Accuse My Parents when Jimmy approaches the bank teller who resembles Groucho. One of them riffs, “What’s the secret woid? Say the secret woid and win a hundred dollars!”

       1 likes

  10. Johnny Ryde says:

    That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout, Sitting Duck.

       0 likes

  11. losingmydignity says:

    This one doesn’t bother me as much as most of you. I find the film rather charming–like getting a glimpse of some surreal chamber play from the 1800’s (just watched Rifftrax’s Maniac and there are similarities in the movies–to paraphrase one of their riffs: “was this filmed in the 17th century?”)

    Occasional good riffs and overall better than the first two eps.

    They were really trying to capitalize on Chaney’s success as both Larry and Lenny (the Wolfman and Mice and Men) with Glenn’s strange turn, yes? Maybe the reason Zucco was standing in for Lugosi was the the fact the Bela was busy with Chaney on the Universal lot–the former reprising his Igor role. Name the film, but you won’t get a prize ; )

    Still, can’t wait until we get to Season Two.

       1 likes

  12. finniasjones says:

    The Ghost of Frankenstein?

       0 likes

  13. losingmydignity says:

    We have a winner!

       0 likes

  14. Cornjob says:

    Movie bad.

    Doonsebury good.

    Episode get better over time.

    Cornjob tired.

       2 likes

  15. Cornjob says:

    “Time for go to bed”

       2 likes

  16. “You know, I never understand these Far Side comics. There’s a caveman, and a bear…”

       2 likes

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

    The scientist, Dr. Lorenzo Cameron (two first names, that’s bound to be a sign of…something), was ahead of his time. Any number of works of fiction have since depicted governments pursuing the goal of werewolf soldiers, sometimes in stories *set* during WWII.

    Every now and then, some mad scientist or another, having succeeded where detractors expected failure, should get rich and famous as a result of the successful work (in this case, maybe even win the war three years early) and let the detractors take a big steamy GAWK. Living well is the best revenge.

       1 likes

  18. Sitting Duck says:

    Mad Monster passes the Bechdel Test, but by the skin of its teeth. The Shirley Temple clone and her mother briefly negotiate on how late the former could stay up.

    For the stinger, I’d say one of the instances where the Granny goes on about it being it a werewolf.

    This episode is a textbook example of how the low riffing rate of the first season could be a major detriment. There’s just so much dead air in this one that would have been filled with riffs in later seasons.

    Anyone care to speculate as to why figure skating figures so prominently in Dr. F becoming a scientist?

    They were clearly going through a pyromaniac phase for the Invention Exchange during the first season.

    As to why Cody et al might have brought some nitrous oxide, one of its applications is as an oxidizer for rocket motors.

    Tom flirting with the blender is a classic.

    Cameron’s plan to use it as a supersoldier serum has some issues. From what we can see, the wolfman transformation reduces the subject to animal intelligence. As well as the problem of directing them against the foe, they would be unable to use firearms. In a modern war zone, that would make them effectively useless. Automatic weapons and artillery are in a completely different league from a lone swamp person with a shotgun.

    A point of interest to Crow in HS2, I doubt a wolfman would eat the bones and such as well.

    This is the first use of the, “Move his spine a lot,” riff that they employ whenever an injured character is incorrectly carried.

    It’s amazing that this movie came out in 1942. It feels like 1932, especially the sound, which sounds like an early talkie.

    Well this was filmed by PRC. I would imagine they were working with outdated equipment.

    Favorite riffs

    Commando Cody fights the Moon Men in an effort to escape Retik, who plans to disintegrate him with a ray pistol.
    Then they’re going to work things out.

    Rock a bye monster on the little bed.
    When you wake up, some townsfolk will be dead.

    Gardening always takes a back seat to science.

    That felt good. Now I’m going to turn my daughter into a woodchuck.

    Sleep tight. Don’t let the wolfman bite.

    He was the one of five doctors who didn’t choose Bayer.

    Poor Pedro wants to be out with his friends, people of his own kind, playing and killing.

    “That ain’t imagination with me, mister.”
    It’s a way of life.

    It was the way they treated him in Doonesbury that got him really mad.

    Don’t shoot. You’ll hit the dead guy.

    Hey, it’s Skipper! Dad lied when he said he ran over him with the car!

    It’s a wolfman! Compliments of Spiegel Catalog, Chicago, Illinois 60609.

       3 likes

  19. snowdog says:

    Having suffered through most of the KTMA’s now, it’s interesting to watch season one from the point-of-view of a local Minnesotan who has watched his local cowtown puppet show go big time. The riffing seems almost stiff compared to the casual “three-friends-watching-a-movie-with-you” feel of last season. The guys try to make it feel spontaneous, but they don’t have that perfected yet. Also, the “right-people-will-get-it” approach hasn’t really been adopted yet. If you notice, they take pains to explain many of the jokes, something that would definitely be dropping away soon. But we’re on track for the greatness to come…

       2 likes

  20. Bruce Boxliker says:

    I think the ‘Mad’ in the title doesn’t refer to any one individual, but rather the madness of creating such a monster. Thus, the monster itself IS madness, without being emotionally or mentally mad.
    The incredible contrast in action & pacing between Commando Cody & the movie is really quite jarring. There’s also way to many moments of dead silence (except for the hissing static of the bad sound). It feels like there’s more dead silent moments in this than some of the later KTMA’s.
    As I said last week, I love Commando Cody (but not that way….). It’s the good old days when scientists were also excellent brawlers, and could take on hired thugs. There’s absolutely no reason a person can’t be a brilliant scientist & be in excellent physical condition. The idea that all scientists are wimps is a sad stereotype that was inflicted on the public and is probably one of the factors that’s lead to the decline of the sciences in the US.
    And yes, terror is usually enough without being molten (though the molten lava does look more like an oozing malt). Being molten is just the painfully hot icing on the terrifying cake (…that then melts from the molten icing).

       3 likes

  21. Goshzilla says:

    Seems to me that the Nazis would’ve paid Lorenzo better for an army of werewolf soldiers than the US would have, so I guess he gets points for patriotism. Or maybe the Nazis already had their own werewolves by that point?

    I wonder how Lorenzo’s werewolf army might have fared against Bela’s rice of atomic supermen? Now that’s a movie!

       2 likes

  22. Jeff McM says:

    Sam Newfield and Sigmund Neufeld are not to be confused, but they were also brothers.

       1 likes

  23. Goshzilla says:

    They were the Martin Sheen and Joe Estevez of Poverty Row.

       2 likes

  24. schippers says:

    #71 – Not in 1942, but in 1944 Otto Skorzeny was in charge of planning Werwolf, which was supposed to be a Nazi resistance movement operating behind Allied lines (which by that time were handily rolling up the territory the Nazis had gobbled up in the early period of the war).

       0 likes

  25. pondoscp says:

    I like this episode. Sure, the movie’s slow and bad, but that’s where the fun lies. I enjoy it more each time I watch it. Originally, I used to be a naysayer of this episode, but not anymore. Season 1 is just pure, unfiltered, home grown goodness. They’re trying to get the show we know and love up and going, and I really enjoy the casualness and breeziness of these episodes. Much better than later on when… whoops! Not going to talk about other episodes I dislike, sorry!

       0 likes

  26. JCC says:

    @72 – Yeah, they were in separate lines at Ellis Island.

    I’m not a big fan of The Blender Sketch. Dare I say it’s *dripping horror letters* OVERRATED!? It’s worth it for the Mr. Coffee punchline though.

       2 likes

  27. Joseph Nebus says:

    You know, something about me likes those little stretches when the movie is just playing before the Brains enter, or after they leave, the theater. It’s never for anything important (I guess the title on one of the Godzilla movies was the most important thing they ‘missed’), but that slice of uninterrupted movie adds something to the proceedings. It makes the experiment more something we peek in on, I think. I’m not sure.

       1 likes

  28. Cornjob says:

    “No, that’s when I became a scientist.” Great opening bit.

    If a werewolf army could only be hurt by silver they could do serious damage before the opposing side retrofitted their munitions. And if they were of animal intelligence they might be stuffed into bomb casing and dropped from an airplane. That would be a new take on biological warfare.

    “Every now and then, some mad scientist or another, having succeeded where detractors expected failure, should get rich and famous as a result of the successful work (in this case, maybe even win the war three years early) and let the detractors take a big steamy GAWK. Living well is the best revenge.”

    This is why I like the scientist in The Wasp Woman. When his funding was cut he didn’t declare war on the human race. He just packed up his kit and found another backer and proceeded to be scrupulously thorough and follow all safety protocols. Things only got out of hand when his new backer sabotaged things by cutting corners and experimenting on herself because she was afraid of aging out at 27. The scientist was eccentric perhaps, but not mad.

    And maybe the movie was called Mad Monster because the monster was a result of the scientist’s madness. Or maybe the scientist was the mad monster in the sense of being a “human monster” like a serial killer, or telephone psychic, and the lycanthrope he created was just one of his victims since the lycanthrope didn’t act out of malice the way the scientist did. I think we have officially put more thought into this than anyone associated with making the movie.

       2 likes

  29. Johnny's nonchalance says:

    pondoscp:
    I like this episode. Sure, the movie’s slow and bad, but that’s where the fun lies. I enjoy it more each time I watch it. Originally, I used to be a naysayer of this episode, but not anymore. Season 1 is just pure, unfiltered, home grown goodness. They’re trying to get the show we know and love up and going, and I really enjoy the casualness and breeziness of these episodes. Much better than later on when… whoops! Not going to talk about other episodes I dislike, sorry!

    Glad you are considerate enough to not complain

       1 likes

  30. pondoscp says:

    Johnny’s nonchalance: Glad you are considerate enough to not complain

    As I was typing, I stopped myself because I realized nobody wants to hear it. I don’t like to read that kind of stuff myself, so I shouldn’t write it.

       1 likes

  31. senorpogo says:

    This is driving me nuts, but I vaguely recall an interview with J. Elvis where he was specifically asked if he was the one behind all the moon/NASA stuff. I believe the guy doing the interview was all about the space program so he had a bunch of question regarding the moon pageant from the Moon Zero Two episode.If memory serves, Josh really wasn’t that much of a NASA fan. But apparently my Google-fu isn’t strong today because I can’t find it.

       0 likes

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

    #74:

    And, of course, Operation Werwolf had nothing to do with werewolves (well, I mean, obviously, since we’re talking about the real world), because the entire point of an operation/project codename is for people to NOT know what you’re doing. ;-)

    #78:

    Silver would have no particular effect on a *science*-based lycanthrope; it’d just be another kind of metal.

    Besides, the “silver kills werewolves” thing was invented by Universal Studios; it has no basis in real legends (so to speak). And even then, it didn’t keep Larry Talbot from rising again and again, just like nothing keeps Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees and the rest down for long (and they don’t even have particular weaknesses).

    I think that might be part of why films and TV so frequently depict serial killers as conforming to particular guidelines (choose victims according to a specific profile, kill only in a particular way that leaves a “message,” taunt the police, etc.), to convey the impression that serial killers have “innate restrictions” no less so than the vampire, the werewolf, and others. Alas, in real life, serial killers are rarely that predictable.

       1 likes

  33. thequietman says:

    I notice for the second time in a row the Mads flub the title of the serial, calling it “ROCKET Men from the Moon”.

    Also, I wonder if Trace regrets his ‘accessory’ glasses during the Thunder Lizard demonstration.

    I won’t lie and say this episode isn’t ponderous, but it is interesting since they didn’t often tackle films of this age (WWII and older) and they didn’t seem to have to do much editing to get the film to fit the run time of the episode. So, while we might have seen every plot point coming a mile away, at least there aren’t any editing-induced plot holes.

    Someone mentioned earlier the ‘Our Gang/Laurel & Hardy’ style scoring. Well, ironically enough, our go-getting reporter Johnny Downs was a member of the Our Gang troupe during their silent film period…

       0 likes

  34. JCC says:

    I think those glasses were part of Joel’s act? A bit with Godzilla as Lassie or something like that. Different times…

       0 likes

  35. Graboidz says:

    Not a great episode, but I have to show some love to the melting rock F/X in the short!! That was pretty cool…kinda dug the Moon-Car too!!

       0 likes

  36. Mnenoch says:

    I’m not a big fan of movies like this. It is interesting that it is set during WW2, don’t see many of those in the MST3K series. The short is fun again. The movie is slow and the guys don’t do a whole lot with the riffing.

       1 likes

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