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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: 206- Ring Of Terror (with short: The Phantom Creeps, Chapter 3)

Movie: (1962) A seemingly fearless college kid must perform a ghastly task to be accepted into a fraternity.
Short: (1939) West bails out of the car before it crashes. Zorka, still invisible, steals another car and escapes. Everybody heads back to Zorka’s, where the Feds revive Monk. Before they can take him in, the invisible Zorka rescues him and the two escape. Back in his secret lab, Zorka shows Monk the mysterious box holding his powerful formula. As Zorka tries to sabotage Mallory’s research, Monk attempts to betray Zorka and make off with the box, but is nabbed by the Feds. As they drive him back to headquarters, one of the Feds starts to open the box, causing nearby power line towers to topple toward the car.

First shown: 11/3/90
Opening: The bots trick Joel into thinking it’s Movie Sign
Invention exchange: The Mads have an oversized “Operation” game, Joel shows off his “pin-bolus”
Host segment 1: J&tB do a commercial for The Old School
Host segment 2: Joel conducts an autopsy on Mr. Hoover
Host segment 3: The bots use subliminal suggestions as they complain about the movie; the Mads send a short!
End: J&tB react to the short; Frank sings “If Chauffeurs Ruled the World”
Stinger: “Weird. I guess that is the word for it. Weird.”
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (163 votes, average: 3.98 out of 5)

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• This is a middling episode at best, with the highlight coming at the end as Frank belts out a classic song. The movie really drags everything down. Dumb, bad acting, dark, poorly cast … as Crow says in segment 3, it’s a dog. The short doesn’t help much either, though at least there’s some action. The host segments — all of which are at least mildly amusing — really save this one.
• This episode was included in Rhino’s “The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 11.”
References.
• Joel’s has returned to the teal jumpsuit.
• Tom Servo still has his alternate head.
• In the opening we actually see Joel jump into the hatch that we assume leads to the “spiral on down.”
• The “bonk!-thank you!” bit in Deep 13 is a Firesign Theatre reference. And for you members of the Church of the Subgenius, the Rev. Bob Dobson is also mentioned.
• One of the first things Tom does when they get into the theater is look the movie up in Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide. As I’ve noted before, in these pre-World Wide Web days, I get the sense that that book was one of their few movie research tools. No, it wasn’t the only movie book they had, but they seemed to default to Maltin.
• The bit at the beginning of the movie with the gate getting closer and closer is a classic example of how a dull moment in the movie into something funny.
• Instant catchphrase: “Puma? Puma!”
• Callback: “Chili peppers…” (Sidehackers) “Puma?” (Joel notes they’re calling back the same movie… ) “It’s the Power Station.” (Robot Holocaust)
• Naughty almost-riff: Movie character says “It’s going to start getting pretty sticky in here in a minute.” The bots start to respond, but Joel stops them. Also: “Why are you sore?” (The bots whistle and try to sound casual.)
• Then-current word/concept: “Wilding.”
• The first segment is another one of those funny but long-winded season 2 sketches. And it would be 13 years before the Will Farrell movie of the same name. And, all these years later, having Garrett Morris as a speaker would not be that inexplicable.
• One issue I have with this episode is the conflicted message about the two overweight characters in the movie. The riffers mock the other characters for laughing at them — then they proceed to do fat jokes themselves. Later they become aggravated with the continued mockery in the movie, but, hey, let’s remember who called them “the fatties.”
• The second host segment is very funny–but a little gross and NOT to be watched while or immediately after eating!
• Yes, the actors playing the college students are all in their 30s, and the first five or ten comments about it were pretty funny. The second 10 or 20 were mildly amusing. The 20 or 30 after that were a bit tiresome. They overdid it, is what I’m saying.
• A commenter below astutely notes a basic flaw of the movie: are the students depicted post-graduate medical students or are they undergrads? They appear to be med students (in which case they WOULD be older, though not THAT old) but the movie has them doing undergraduate things like rushing for fraternities and living in dorms. The movie can’t seem to make up its mind.
• And I would add: what’s with the apparent “no girlz allowd” policy for the medical school? The college is clearly co-ed, so what’s the deal? Sheesh. And what was with that out-of-the-blue swimsuit beauty pageant sequence (other than pure padding)?
• The third segment features the final time Joel asks the bots to play the “give me a good thing and a bad thing for ram chips” game that was a fixture of the first season. They don’t really do it, just focusing on the bad things.
• This is the only episode in which the short follows the feature, necessitating an unusual return to Deep 13 during segment 3.
• Again, the previous episode of the short said this one would be called “Crashing Towers,” but it doesn’t actually appear on this short, so I am not including it in the title.
• And this is also the final episode we will get of “The Phantom Creeps.” Has anybody seen the rest of it who can give us a little synopsis?
• Frank really comes into his own with his first song, the memorable “If Chauffeurs Ruled the World” (featuring the classic Dr. F. line “Oh, push the button, Judy Garland!”).
• Cast/crew roundup: Editor Jodie Copelan also worked on “Night of the Blood Beast” and “Laserblast.” In front of the camera, Eddie Erwin also appeared in “The Amazing Transparent Man.”
• CreditsWatch: For some reason the credits are very different this week: the font size is smaller and there is less spacing. Trace and Frank are grouped together under “also featuring” but the words “special guest villians” (misspelling and all) are missing. Jann Johnson and Alex Carr get credits as “special guest writers.” Trace was the “Creative Pit Boss.” Frank wrote the lyrics to “If Chauffeurs Ruled the World,” and Mike did the music. For some reason, the “Set Design” credit is not included this week. Randy Davis, who was the editor for all of season one, returns for this episode and never again. Fuller Productions is listed as the “online post-production facility,” again it was used all through season one and then appears in this episode’s credits and never again. I suspect those two credits are related.
• Fave riff from the movie: “Cause I’m gonna coat you with bear grease.” Honorable mention: “Because he’s got a squirrel in his stomach.”
• Fave riff from the short: “Hmm. The plot gets weaker over here.”

121 Replies to “Episode guide: 206- Ring Of Terror (with short: The Phantom Creeps, Chapter 3)”

  1. Johnny's nonchalance says:

    Cane Dewey:
    so you have a load of college-y stuff going on but none of it quite rings true.

    Just like none of it quite rings of terror?

       8 likes

  2. MSTie says:

    Definitely one of my least favorite MSTs. No ring, no terror, forty-year-olds as teenagers, and the riffing, while funny, doesn’t save it for me.

       1 likes

  3. Bruce Boxliker says:

    Love all the host segments. I always feel a little upset when they stop doing a serial part way through, but I completely understand why it happens. They can’t always fit them in, and it’s really hard to make new jokes about the exact same thing over & over (title sequence, re-used footage, etc).
    The opening part of the movie, with the graveyard caretaker & Pyooma, it kind of feels like they were wanting to make this into a series of movies (or TV series?), in the style of Twilight Zone, but about the various people who were buried there. Of course, that means you’d already know how every story would end…
    It was sure nice of someone to not only leave a bale of hay next to the car to make it easier for the snake to get into the car, but to also completely remove the car door for it.

    And really, who names their domesticated house cat after a larger wild cat? That’s just silly. Ah, pardon me, I need to go feed my cat Cougar. (actually, his full name is Dan Cougar)

       3 likes

  4. Terry the Sensitive Knight says:

    Easily one of the worst movies they ever did. The whole thing is just beyond stupid. The worst part is it really can’t decide what it wants to be, a comedy or horror, and utterly fails at both.

    “What about the ring of terror? What about the plot, Joel? AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO CARES!?”

    I also find the riffing to be rather hypocritical. They tell the movie to shut up about the fat couple, yet they go on and on and on about how old the actors playing the students are. One or two jokes is fine, but they really just would not let it go.

    The host segments are pretty good, just don’t watch Pinbolus while eating.

       1 likes

  5. Sitting Duck says:

    Ring of Terror fails the Bechdel Test. The only female conversations concerns their terrible love lives.

    As noted by many posters before, this film is essentially a campfire story padded out to bare minimum feature length. There have been several variants on that theme told while munching on Smores.

    Last week, someone had remarked that the Mads’ invention was oddly fun for something they created. They more than made up for that slip by taking something fun and make it disturbing.

    Joel and the Bots weren’t the only one wishing that the bloviating jackass would be killed.

    While the stinger they went with was pretty good, the Cryptkeeper knockoff going, “Puma?” would have been a good alternate.

    This is the only episode in which the short follows the feature, necessitating an unusual return to Deep 13 during segment 3.

    Though this is hardly the only time where they go down to Deep 13 for HS3, or even the first.

    Since I did post #27, it appears as if someone has expanded the Wikipedia entry I linked.

    Favorite riffs

    “And each marker withholds many stories. Some filled with happiness, some filled with sorrow.”
    Some filled with a creamy nougot center.

    Now let’s see, where was I? Oh yeah. “See Dick. See Dick make a lateral incision.”

    Could you get that, son? Oh, I forgot. I’m a college student.

    Hi, I’m Satan. This is what happens when you do the hanky panky before you marry.

    Stupid old snake, you ruined everything!

    “All part of a doctor’s training. Getting used to the irregular hours of the doctor’s life.”
    And just getting used to being irregular.

    An interpretive dance showing how plate tetonics work.

    “You go by the morgue just before class and slip into a surgical gown.”
    And that’s all. And take a cold shower and hop up on the slab.

    Oh, to be forty again. Idiot.

    And so all fifty-five students crammed like clowns. Their aging brittle bones carefully placed in the station wagon, with not one head rising above the seat. And they kept their blinker on the whole way.

    “Gentlemen, this is your first gastro-vascular dissection.”
    Or at least the first one sanctioned by us.

    Now earlier today, I baked a corpse at 425 degrees.

    I think the only plot was back in the cemetary.

    I’m Satan. I did it, and I’m proud.

       3 likes

  6. Sitting Duck says:

    Of course, you should check out the 1936 film version of Romeo and Juliet for some truly ridiculous geriatric casting. Norma Shearer as Juliet was in her thirties, Leslie Howard as Romeo was in his forties, and John Barrymore as Mercutio was in his fifties (looking every second of it and then some).

       0 likes

  7. Lisa H. says:

    I see a couple of folks in the last round (2011) mentioned that as fun as “Chauffeurs” is, Frank’s singing leaves something to be desired. I tend to agree.

    And what was with that out-of-the-blue swimsuit beauty pageant sequence (other than pure padding)?

    Hey now, how do you know any of those ladies are wearing padding?

    …oh, not what you meant.

       5 likes

  8. senorpogo says:

    In its own way, this might be the worst movie ever done on MST.

    At least when I look back at most of the other experiments, I can see the kind of movie the film makers were trying to make. Oddly, I can look a Coleman Francis film or Manos or Batwoman and imagine what they were trying to do. I can imagine a platonic ideal of those movies and actually they aren’t that bad.

    With this one, the whole thing is so tepid that even if the execution was flawless, the resulting film would still stink. All of it is just so stupid and pointless. Better actors, bigger budget, Hitchcock behind the camera and Ring of Terror would still be stupid and pointless.

       4 likes

  9. pondoscp says:

    I still love this episode

       1 likes

  10. Gobi says:

    “Ring of Terror” will always have a special place in my heart as the first episode I ever saw. I had just moved and my new cable service had Comedy Central. I saw the promos and expected the usual psychotronic films (which I love) and hosts ala Elvira, etc. I was astounded when the movie started and they kept watching and riffing. I was hooked immediately.

    In slight defense of the age of the students, from the late ’40’s to the mid-50’s, it would not have been unusual to see a lot of older students, World War II and Korean War vets taking advantage of the GI Bill.

       1 likes

  11. jen2action says:

    Bruce Boxliker:
    Love all the host segments. I always feel a little upset when they stop doing a serial part way through, but I completely understand why it happens. They can’t always fit them in, and it’s really hard to make new jokes about the exact same thing over & over (title sequence, re-used footage, etc).
    The opening part of the movie, with the graveyard caretaker & Pyooma, it kind of feels like they were wanting to make this into a series of movies (or TV series?), in the style of Twilight Zone, but about the various people who were buried there. Of course, that means you’d already know how every story would end…
    It was sure nice of someone to not only leave a bale of hay next to the car to make it easier for the snake to get into the car, but to also completely remove the car door for it.

    And really, who names their domesticated house cat after a larger wild cat? That’s just silly. Ah, pardon me, I need to go feed my cat Cougar.(actually, his full name is Dan Cougar.)

    @103
    Really? What MSTie wouldn’t name their cat Puma? We did and I got my daughter the “Puma?” shirt for Christmas.

       0 likes

  12. Droppo says:

    5 stars. I ADORE this episode. It’s one of the first I saw and it was a big part of hooking me on MST3K.

    There is so much to love:
    -“Puma? Puma? Puma? Puma? etc.”
    -“Kill that guy!”
    -Every single moment the overweight couple is on screen.
    -The Casey Kasem guy.
    -How incredible lame the film is. Absolutely nothing happens. It’s gloriously boring.
    -I’m sorry – but, every age joke makes me laugh. I cannot get enough of them making fun of the fact that the college kids are in their 40’s.
    -Frank’s song.

    In my top 20 episodes for sure. And perfectly encapsulates the loose feel of Season 2 that I love so much.

       3 likes

  13. thequietman says:

    As has been stated above, I always felt like this was an unsold TV pilot that was padded out to feature length to recoup an investment. This one truly is saved by the memorable host segments, as it’s so boring I keep forgetting how the dang movie even ends, the finale is so underwhelming.

    At least with “Catalina Caper” the failed attempts at comedy were enjoyable because the makers were aiming a little lower and everyone seemed to be having fun if nothing else. Not so here, we don’t even get nice sunny scenery to look at.

    As for the now behind us Phantom, I realize now that Bela doesn’t really contribute much to this serial all told, does he? Most of the run time is devoted to stunts, nondescript guys in fedoras talking or shooting at each other, and that plucky girl reporter.

       0 likes

  14. Angie Schultz says:

    I really like this episode. The movie is the kind of thing that you can watch, or you can just fall asleep in front of it, knowing you didn’t miss much. There’s something to be said for that.

    I do want to punch all these characters for thinking that Lewis’s steady nerves make him some sort of weirdo. Hmm, Gobi (#110) points out that some of these students may be older because they’re vets. I’d like to think that Lewis was a war hero, but didn’t tell anyone about it because, y’know, it wasn’t so much of a much. Anyway, they’d have just thought he was a freak for charging that machine gun nest armed only with a baby pineapple. The Chinese gunners thought was a hand grenade, and fled.

    And I’d also like to think that he was reincarnated as the child of Tiny and Ragdoll, where he grew up surrounded by love (and food). As an adult he became an endocrinologist, and cured his parents’ glandular problems, so that they lived to a ripe and trim old age. Of course, he was always nearby to keep them out of trouble. He could make them thinner, but he sadly couldn’t make them any smarter.

       1 likes

  15. Cornjob says:

    “I did it! I finally broke my damn dirty hip!!”

       4 likes

  16. Dan in WI says:

    Gobi:
    In slight defense of the age of the students, from the late ’40’s to the mid-50’s, it would not have been unusual to see a lot of older students, World War II and Korean War vets taking advantage of the GI Bill.

    But how many GI Bill students were pledging fraternities? With the exception of a non-trad fraternity (and the fraternity in the film was clearly not that), certainly not the entire membership of any given typical fraternity. No there just is no defense of the practice of the time of having late 30 somethings playing high school or college kids.

       0 likes

  17. Dan in WI says:

    Angie Schultz:
    The movie is the kind of thing that you can watch, or you can just fall asleep in front of it, knowing you didn’t miss much.There’s something to be said for that.

    I believe that “something” would be: The movie is slow, boring and bad. :-))

       1 likes

  18. Sitting Duck says:

    Gobi: In slight defense of the age of the students, from the late ’40’s to the mid-50’s, it would not have been unusual to see a lot of older students, World War II and Korean War vets taking advantage of the GI Bill.

    Dubious when you consider that his tomb marker stated that he was born in 1933. I suppose it’s barely possible that he could have served in Korea. But not a chance for WWII.

       0 likes

  19. Bruce Boxliker says:

    jen2action: And really, who names their domesticated house cat after a larger wild cat? That’s just silly. Ah, pardon me, I need to go feed my cat Cougar.(actually, his full name is Dan Cougar.)

    @103
    Really? What MSTie wouldn’t name their cat Puma? We did and I got my daughter the “Puma?” shirt for Christmas.

    I think you completely missed the humor (if one may call it that) of my statement. If you need it explained further, I’ll be glad to do so. Though explaining the joke will only degrade the already small amount of amusement to be found in it.

       0 likes

  20. edward says:

    This was the first episode I saw back in ’92 or ’93 and I don’t think I’ve seen the whole ep since then. I don’t recall much about it other than I laughed a lot and wanted to see more after that. Think I’ll watch it this week.

       0 likes

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

    #70
    (again, an old post; again, so what)

    “Pinkboy” is the name the guys used for Matthew Paul from “Timechasers.” They also pointed out the guy’s resemblance to Michael Medved (whom, at the time, I’d never heard of). For that reason, on those rare occasions when I come across Michael Medved articles or whatever on the internet, he will forever be “Pinkboy” in my thoughts. It reminds me that he should IMHO by no means be taken seriously. Yeah, “Hollywood vs. America,” more like “Hollywood vs. Neo-Conservative Jerks”…

       1 likes

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