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Sampo & Erhardt

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Goodbye Sci-Fi

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

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Episode guide: 202- The Side Hackers

Movie: (1969) A mild-mannered mechanic/pioneer in a new motorcycle “sport” runs afoul of a violent, megalomaniacal stunt rider and his scheming girlfriend.

First shown: 9/29/90
Opening: Joel’s been busy giving the bots a bath
Invention exchange: Joel introduces Gretchen the living slinky; Dr. F. has a slinky train body
Host segment 1: J&tB sing “Sidehackin’.”
Host segment 2: J&tB provide terminology for the sport of sidehacking
Host segment 3: J&tB have Rommel hats; JC and Gooch visit on the Hexfield
End: Joel croons: “Only Love Pads the Film,” letters, Frank “will” push the button.
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (164 votes, average: 4.09 out of 5)

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• In the past, this has never been a favorite. I know some folks love the biker movies, but they mostly leave me pretty cold. Still, in more recent viewings I liked it a bit better than I did in the past. Maybe it was because I completely followed the plot of the movie (such as it was). Maybe it was the nice clean print on the Rhino disk that helped make everything a little easier to follow. The songs are fun and the segments are entertaining so, overall, it’s somewhere between fair and good.
• This episode is included in Rhino’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 3.”
• Joel’s jumpsuit is still teal.
• Gypsy has an eyelash.
• Boys with brothers (and any sisters who had to use the same bathroom) will get the “we were havin’ sword fights” line. Ew.
• Apparently a mole person has taken over the camera work in Deep 13: Hence the confused camera work when we go to Deep 13 during the invention exchange. But we can also see two mole people on screen. So are there more than two mole people?
• The Rhino release comes with alternate takes and outtakes. Perhaps most interesting are the many, many takes for the invention exchange segment in Deep 13, where the back end of the slinky train prop seems to have given them no end of problems.
• A very astute observation in the credits: In these early season two episodes, Dr. F. is, for some reason, performing the invention exchange experiments on himself. That would change.
• Crow’s arm works in the opening.
• Movie observation: It is implied that J.C. is some sort of motorcycle stunt performer, mostly because he wears a bespangled, Evel Knievel-esque outfit in one scene. But we never see him do anything (other than fall off a sidehack several times in Rommel’s back yard). I haven’t seen the full movie, and maybe it was cut, but a scene of Rommel watching JC do his stunt act might have established the premise — and his megalomaniacal character — a little better.
• Cambot makes a rare movie riff: a sarcastic ESPN-like readout.
• Up to this point, except for the “Clay and Lar’s Flesh Barn” jingle and Josh humming tunes occasionally, there really hadn’t been a lot of music on the show. That would change with this episode, which features not one but two songs. “Sidehackin’,” in segment 1, is a classic and completely original.
• Before segment 2, Tom Servo attempts a little play-by-play of the sidehacking, only to be frustrated by the fact that the sport is so new that it doesn’t have any terminology yet. Then, sure enough, in segment 2 (another densely written — almost overwritten — segment that’s more clever than funny, fairly typical of season two), what do we get but terminology for sidehacking. You can pretty much see the genesis of the segment in the earlier riff. This sort of thing would happen in future eps, but they usually weren’t as obvious about it.
• In a story that has been repeated by the cast many times (including in the ACEG), this was the episode where BBI learned to watch the whole movie before agreeing to riff it. Up to this point, apparently, they’d watched a little at the beginning of any movie they were considering, maybe skimmed a bit through the rest of the movie and made a decision. When they did that with this movie, they missed a brutal and graphic scene in which J.C. and his gang beat Rommel to a pulp and rape and murder his girlfriend, Rita (if you are morbidly curious, a link to the scene is in the comments). They tried to back out of doing the movie, but were told it was too late. So they cut the scene and did their best to write around it. (J&tB leave the theater to do segment 2 just before the mayhem begins, and when they return to the theater, the movie picks up as a bloodied Rommel wakes up from his beating.) During the morose montage of Rommel wandering the countryside mourning, Crow fills the audience in by saying: “For those of you playing along at home, Rita is dead.”
• Callbacks: “There was nothing left after the…Robot Holocaust.” As Lloyd Bridges: “Now that you’re dead I can tell you about a thousand wonderful hours…” (Rocketship XM). “No drumming…not allowed.” (Crawling Hand). “Hikeeba!” (Women of the Prehistoric Planet).
• The first time J.C. explodes, he lashes out at the black guy, and, we can assume, uses a slur. We can’t actually hear it, but based on the reaction of J&tb, we can guess. Later the bad guys, joking around, use a gay slur that we CAN make out. So, we really hate these guys, is what I’m saying.
• You may be wondering: What in the world does “Five the Hard Way” (the original title of the movie) mean? Turns out they called it that in order to cash in on the Jack Nicholson movie “Five Easy Pieces,” released earlier the same year.
• We get more choruses of “The Weiner Man,” and “The Happy Wanderer.”
• The movie has a few hamfisted attempts at analogies to the Christ story, with Cooch in the Judas role betraying Rommel at the behest of J.C. (J.C.! Get it??) It’s dumb.
• Catchphrases that came from this episode include: “That was number 5!” “He hit big Jake!” and the “It’s pretty good!-It’s not half bad!” interplay in the garage. And, although Hagen never actually says it, the line “Chili peppers burn my gut,” in a Ross Hagen-like growl, would be heard many times after this.
• The Hexfield has had a slight reworking. The window shade has been mounted on the bottom of the opening and it has some sort of mechanism to raise it at the end of the bit.
• When Joel sings his second song of the episode, I found it interesting that they made no attempt to rewrite the insipid lyrics sung in the movie, except for changing “…only love, only love.” to “…only love pads the film.” (Joel also sings it a bit in the theater.) Also, I wonder if we are treated to ALL THREE verses of this dopey song because they had to fill the time created when they had to cut the movie.
• That, of course, is not a real keyboard Joel is “playing” in the final segment, and the real keyboard work, as always, is being done off-camera by Mike.
• Gypsy, wearing tambourines for earrings, joins Joel, Crow and Tom for the final number and steals the show, cracking Joel up with her contribution to the song.
• Stinger suggestion: “NUM-BER EIGHT!”
• Cast and crew roundup: Scriptwriter Tony Houston also performed in “The Hellcats” and wrote “Attack of the the Eye Creatures.” Score composer Jerry Styner also worked on “Mitchell.” In front of the camera: We’ll meet Ross Hagen was also in “The Hellcats.” Gus Trikonis appeared in “The Hellcats.” Warren Hammack appears in “The Hellcats” and “Attack of the the Eye Creatures.” We previously encountered Michael Pataki in “Superdome” and we’ll meet him again in “IT Lives by Night.” Richard Merrifield, Eric Lidberg and Tony Lorea were all also in “The Hellcats.”
• CreditsWatch: Dr. F is still a “special guest villian” (misspelled). Mole person Jerry is played by intern Nathan Molstead and mole person Sylvia is played by intern Amy Kane. J.C. was Mike, “Gooch” was Frank (the character in the movie’s actual name is Cooch but Pataki seems to call him “Gooch” several times in the movie, hence the confusion.) Host segments directed (last episode it said “produced”) by Jim Mallon. Toolmaster Jef Maynard is listed twice.
• Favorite riff: “Even these oil fields seem to remind me of her. Can’t put my finger on it…” Honorable mention: “You taste good too, but you’re lips … are … drugged!”

137 Replies to “Episode guide: 202- The Side Hackers”

  1. ck says:

    Nope. No one’s going to make 100th post. It’s just going to stay at 99. No way it will…..do!

       1 likes

  2. Cronkite Moonshot says:

    Sidehackers has always been one of my favorite episodes. It was only the second one I ever saw, and it was the one that turned me from “person who greatly enjoyed Rocketship XM and was interested in seeing more” into “insanely obsessed MST fan for life”. It showed me right off the bat (being only my second viewing of MST) that the series didn’t just have to be about bad black and white science fiction B movies from the 50’s. My favorite episodes have mostly swayed towards the non-science fiction films like Sidehackers, Daddy-O, Hellcats, Wild Rebels, Catalina Caper, Master Ninja, etc. I still love the good old sci-fi movies (how could I love the show so much if I didn’t?), but for some reason I’ve always just had a little more fun watching them riff on the non-sci-fi stuff. Anyway to me Sidehackers is one of the shining moments of MST3000.

    Incidentally, as someone who has no interest in any sports, Sidehacking and Vince Rommel are the only sport and athlete that I have listed in my interests on Facebook.

       2 likes

  3. Cronkite Moonshot says:

    @ #86 Charles… I just popped in the DVD to remind myself of the Gretchen the Slinky sketch, and it seems pretty obvious to me that Joel was not reading cue cards at all. Not to ruin the illusion of the trick for you, but Joel was actually controlling the Slinky himself (the hand over on the right side of the box was not his), and it seems pretty obvious to me that he was most likely looking over at a monitor that was showing him the camera’s view so that he could better see what was going on with the Slinky inside the box, and get all the tricks right. The lines he says aren’t even that complicated, and in fact it mostly sounds like there isn’t really any strict script he needs to adhere to, but that he just knows what is supposed to happen in the sketch and is just winging it with what he actually says. And in fact when he’s doing the most talking he is usually looking around into the box as if he’s talking to the Slinky. He only really looks over off camera just before, or while he is doing something more complicated with the Slinky, and would need to be able to see what was going on better. Yeah I would say that sketch is definitely not an example of “bad line reading”.

       1 likes

  4. fathermushroom says:

    @ #103 Cronkite @ #86 Charles:

    I have noticed several instances of Joel looking “stage right” during sketches and I always assumed he was watching a monitor to make sure he was aligned properly. Still makes me conscious though.

    Though I already said my piece about “Sidehackers” (not a big fan of the movie itself), I will add that there is at least one piece of genuinely-prett-good-filmmaking in it ( ! )

    I refer to the extended panning shot of the last fight scene in the quarry, where the camera follows J.C. and Rommel as they kick, punch, and tumble across the scene. That is actually pretty good camera work.

    Nobody’s mentioned it yet, but isn’t that the EXACT SAME SHACK AND QUARRY in the early scenes of “Hellcats”? Pretty sure it has to be.

       0 likes

  5. losingmydignity says:

    Well, Sidehackers is basically a Western with sidehackin’ instead of side saddles…the showdown in particular highlights this, but nearly all the other elements are there from that genre.
    Fathermushroom: JC is basically a beatnik gone bad…69 seems a bit late to be beating up on beatniks but there you have it.

    I still keep this in the so-so category. There are some good laughs, but the host segs are the best overall. I love both songs, esp “Love Pads the Film.” They seem to be getting how to do host segs at this point.

    Favorite riffs:
    “Finished in there?”
    and
    “Nice sweater.”

    B

       0 likes

  6. erasmus hall says:

    No longer enjoy these dark ugly violent films-not appropriate for little bots-

       0 likes

  7. toot-tootoot-toot says:

    This was the first MST3K video I ever bought! Very strong for season 2, and a pretty fun movie…and, oh, by they…number 8!! HAHAHAHAHA.

       0 likes

  8. bobhoncho says:

    My earliest ep that I have on DVD, and if the Original Air Date is correct, I was 10 days old! And it was my brother Dave’s 6th birthday.

    Number 12!! Hee-hee.

       1 likes

  9. rainmakerrtv says:

    Interesting to see Robert Tessier (who played Shokner in the original Longest Yard) with hair. I always figured he was Canadian and his name was pronounced “Tessy-ay” in the French Canadian fashion since he is of Algonquin descent and appeared in a number of Canadian commericals, but apparently he was born in Lowell, Mass. “You hit Big Jake!”

       1 likes

  10. Bruce Boxliker says:

    Rommel, you magnificent bastard! I watched your horrible greasy little movie!

    And how greasy it was. Once again, no Sci-fi, no Fantasy, just immensely stupid people doing profoundly stupid things. The riffing, though, is top notch. It also provides many callbacks that’ll be used for years to come. Great host segments, too. Unfortunately, it’s just not enough to make me like this episode all that much. Too slimy, even without the rape scene.

    Oh, & just a nitpick, but the people who make the gay slur are not the bad guys. It’s the ‘good’ guys (and in fact, spoken by the very man who was previously slurred). That’s OK though, since I don’t think were supposed to like them either.

       3 likes

  11. bobhoncho says:

    You didn’t give us a stinger suggestion, Sampo.

    Mine would have been, “MY OWN FLESH I DON’T LOVE BETTER!!!!”

       1 likes

  12. Joseph Nebus says:

    I wondered before, and I still wonder: does anybody know whatever happened to the California Sidehacking Association?

    I can kind of buy this sport existing, I guess, and I’m curious what its history is, besides “probably a little piquantly sad”.

       2 likes

  13. schippers says:

    I have a soft spot for this slimy little movie. I think the reason is because it turns into a “let’s assemble the team” kind of movie at the end. The team members even sort of have “powers” (Big Jake is super strong; the “number 5!” guy wields [sort of] a lance). Also, I gotta love any movie that ends on a downer note. Those kind of go against the grain of modern sensibilities, and yes, I know that as a product of the downer ’70s this film was NOT going against the grain, but you see the movie through your own eyes, not the eyes of people 40+ years ago.

    [UPDATE: I didn’t think to check the date of release before I commented, and I see it was 1969. So, NOT the “1970s,” strictly speaking. However, I think you can cut off the “1960s” as a distinct decade at around Altamont, and so I apply for this film’s honorary inclusion in the 1970s.]

    Also, Ross Hagen’s portrayal of Rommel seems like an accurate depiction of the kind of guy who would wind up in that situation, and how he would react. There’s a truth to that character, is what I’m saying. Now, J.C. is overplayed so comically that I can’t really say the same for him. Still, his is an enjoyable performance, regardless of its lack of truth.

       2 likes

  14. Sampo says:

    bobhoncho:
    You didn’t give us a stinger suggestion, Sampo.

    Mine would have been, “MY OWN FLESH I DON’T LOVE BETTER!!!!”

    Aw geez, thanks for reminding me. My pick (now added) is “NUM-BER EIGHT!”

       1 likes

  15. pondoscp says:

    I saw Joel perform Riffing Myself here in Tucson a while back. I got to ask him about Sidehackers. I asked would Comedy Central had allowed the Brains to turn in this movie uncut, and he basically said that the Brains were good at policing themselves. Which meant they’d chop out inappropriate parts. I was always curious about that. “Here’s this ugly, violent movie, now riff it!”
    I watched this one uncut and unriffed, and let me tell you, it’s no walk in the park. This episode is a testament to the powers of the Brains, to be able to take this dreary movie and spin it into comedy gold. I have an even greater appreciation for them after watching Sidehackers uncut. Ouch.
    I do love this episode, and I always have. It’s been properly neutered down into a hilarious mess for MST, and it’s easily one of my go to episodes when I’m feeling down. Weird, right? I also use Catalina Caper in much the same way.
    IT Lives By Night is much funnier when you realize JC is in it. And speaking of JC, I saw him in an episode of WKRP last night, and I cracked up. He played one of the cops that falsely arrested Venus Flytrap for a jewelry theft. Classic.

       3 likes

  16. dafs says:

    This film took on a new level of squick for me when I realized that it was released only three months prior to the Tate/LaBianca murders.

       1 likes

  17. Torgo's Pajamas says:

    “Got a dopey hat?”

    “There’s a ladder in the way!”

    “Get out of the way of the butt!”

    “All done in there?”

    This was it: the episode that hooked me way back when, like, almost 25 years ago. I remember how excited I was for the original Rhino VHS release, like, almost 15 years ago. I am old. Time flies.

       1 likes

  18. senorpogo says:

    Joseph Nebus:
    I wondered before, and I still wonder: does anybody know whatever happened to the California Sidehacking Association?

    I can kind of buy this sport existing, I guess, and I’m curious what its history is, besides “probably a little piquantly sad”.

    I did a little Googling and came across a July 11th, 1979 issue of a magazine called “Cycle News” that has an article about the Southern California Sidehack Association holding an exhibition race back in June of that year.

    Considering that the article is from 1979 and that Sidehackers was filmed a decade earlier, it seems that there was at least something to the SCSA.

       1 likes

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

    #115:

    Just at a glance, Rifftrax seems to have mostly avoided “ugly, violent movies.” I see on the list on Wikipedia (so, you know…) that they’ve tackled “Saw” and “House of Wax” (2005) but I’m not noticing anything super-hardcore-nasty like “Last House on the Left” or “I Spit on Your Grave.” Not sure even the Brains could wring humor out of material like that.

       1 likes

  20. big61al says:

    this has much to not like…I do not play often but it does have some riffs that hit the mark…

       2 likes

  21. Sitting Duck says:

    The Side Hackers fails the Bechdel Test. None of the female characters converse with each other.

    For the stinger, I’d go with J.C. trying out side hacking.

    Regarding side hacking in Ah My Goddess, when does that occur? All I’ve seen is the first season of the TV series.

    Another Sordid Crime movie, another slog. It actually starts out fairly promising, but the descent into death and despair is a bit too much. Not surprisingly, all my favorite riffs are in the first half, as I just couldn’t make it through all the way.

    Favorite riffs

    That’s no way to kill hemorrhoids.

    “We’re having some trials this weekend.”
    Hey, this whole movie is a trial. (No kidding.)

    “Filled with thrills and spills, such as you’ve never seen before.”
    And you won’t see now.

    Well, it was about this time the old Duke Boys decided to show Boss Hogg what side hacking was all about.

    Hurl him in the ground and dose-do, make him sing like a soprano. Fall off the bike flat on your ass, and you fill up your butt with prairie grass. You stick your can up in the air, and show us your can like you don’t care.

    “Where’s your buddy?”
    Kind of personal, isn’t it?

       1 likes

  22. MontagTheMagician says:

    This is by far my favorite episode. It makes me laugh non stop from beginning to end. Favorite riff: Oh magic lock, take me to the freeway!

       1 likes

  23. Cornjob says:

    One of my first favorite episodes from back in my College days when I was living with my idiot best friend and we’d watch MST on the weekends.

    What was the deal with the no guns rule? Was Rommel trying to be the world’s first pacifist vigilante? He was OK with killing JC but not shooting him? We can see how well that worked out.

       1 likes

  24. Bruce Boxliker says:

    Sitting Duck: Regarding side hacking in Ah My Goddess, when does that occur? All I’ve seen is the first season of the TV series.

    It was in the Ah! My Goddess Movie, I believe.

       0 likes

  25. thequietman says:

    It’s been a long time since I watched this episode, mainly because of how aimlessly nasty it is. But more than that, especially in the second half, I just find myself losing interest. Don’t get me wrong, the jokes are still funny, but I kind of start wishing they’d just hurry up. For some reason this exchange is what stuck in my mind between then and now:

    Number 8: Hey, Rommel Boy!
    Servo: Yes, rock stupid hillbilly boy?

    But watching it again I thought of something I hadn’t before. Rommel reminded me an awful lot of Charles McGraw, another gravel-voiced, granite-faced guy who turned up a lot in films noir in the 40s and 50s. The same barking voice, and even the same trials and tribulations that leave him either dead or very much changed at the end of the film.

    By the way, shouldn’t Rommel’s puffy hat have a filthy saying on it? It’s one of the few things that isn’t filthy about this film.

       1 likes

  26. maclen says:

    Watching the extra footage of the outtakes I am pretty amazed at how unrehearsed the show seemed to have been taped. Looks like they were figuring it all out while taping. For instance, an entire scene is ruined when no one seems to realize that Magic Voice has a line. When no one reads as Magic Voice, Joel has to ask, “Who’s doing Magic Voice?”. And when they film the scene where Joel is playing the keyboard, no one seems to notice until he begins to sing there is no music playing and again Joel has to stop and mention there is no music. I think this fact is confirmed when Joel stops singing “Sidehackin” and comes out and says, “you know I really could use a rehearsal for this one.”

       0 likes

  27. asgdasdg says:

    I’d completely forgotten about the sidehacking in the AMG movie.

    I need to dig up my copy of that to show my MSTie buddy.

       1 likes

  28. JeremyR says:

    A lot of late 60s movies, early 70s movies were just nasty in tone. This is one of those. (Also a lot of stupid kooky comedies, half of them starring Shirley Maclane)

       1 likes

  29. Cornjob says:

    Maybe 5 the Hard Way refers to there being 5 people in Rommel’s crew at the end. That’s including himself and the infiltrator Cooch/Gooch/Pooch/Whatever.

       1 likes

  30. pondoscp says:

    Saw Pataki in another episode of WKRP, this time playing someone else

       1 likes

  31. Cornjob says:

    Rita had a bit of a Carrie from The Girl in Lovers Lane vibe in that she seemed like a sweet lady who didn’t deserve the awful things that happened to her. Maybe there could be a version of Sidehackers somewhere where Rita and Rommel don’t die, recover and get married, JC goes to jail and his girlfriend gets loads of therapy. Just a thought.

    Between this and Fugitive Alien girlfriends named Rita had rough time.

       2 likes

  32. bad wolf says:

    I was listening to the Adam Carolla Podcast a few weeks ago and was surprised to hear him talking about sidehacking, of all things. He was describing a guy who works at Jay Leno’s classic car garage and said the guy was a Swede who was a champion side-hacker. “In the world of motorsports there’s nothing crazier than this particular sport.” Of course no one knew what he was talking about so he described the whole sport to the others present. He also mentioned that the guy built his own motorcycle for it, so maybe (Rommel being a mechanic) that’s just part of the scene?

    The link is in my handle (starts at about the 56 minute mark) and you can see some recent pictures of modern side-hacking at the bottom of the page.

       1 likes

  33. Sitting Duck says:

    One more question regarding the side hacking in the Ah My Goddess movie (it’s not available from Netflix so I’m unable to check it immediately). Assuming the characters are participating in the race rather than just watching it, I’m guessing that Keiichi is the driver. But who does the side hacking? It’s just that I have a hard time visualizing Belldandy doing something so undignified.

       0 likes

  34. Bruce Boxliker says:

    Sitting Duck:
    One more question regarding the side hacking in the Ah My Goddess movie (it’s not available from Netflix so I’m unable to check it immediately). Assuming the characters are participating in the race rather than just watching it, I’m guessing that Keiichi is the driver. But who does the side hacking? It’s just that I have a hard time visualizing Belldandy doing something so undignified.

    In fact, it IS Belldandy doing the sidehacking. My problem isn’t her doing it, it’s that she probably weighs what? 70-80 lbs or so? How effective is she really going to be?

       0 likes

  35. Sitting Duck says:

    You sure you’re not thinking of Skuld? As well as being the one more likely to weigh in at the 70-80 lb. range, I could visualize her doing something as undignified as side hacking.

       0 likes

  36. littleaimishboy says:

    Because so many people have been asking, the current World Champion sidecarcross team is driver Ben Adriaenssen of Belgium and rider Ben van den Bogaart of the Netherlands.

       1 likes

  37. mnenoch says:

    One of the first Joel episodes I saw because of it being available to rent on tape early on. The sidehacking part is goofy enough but it sure does get dark quickly. Overall a fairly good episode despite the darkness. The skits are great, plus the songs are classics for me.

       0 likes

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