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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: 301- Cave Dwellers

Movie: (1984) An evil overlord imprisons a wise man in order to learn the whereabouts of a powerful weapon. Ator the barbarian and his pals are determined to rescue him.

First shown: 6/1/91
Opening: J&tB consider new names
Invention exchange: The renaming thing gets out of hand, while in Deep 13, Dr. F loses patience with Frank’s “Mike Douglas Show” recreation; Joel’s invention is a smoking jacket, while the Mads demonstrate robotic arm wrestling
Host segment 1: J&tB reenact the half-screen slo-mo credit sequence
Host segment 2: Joel explains how giving extraordinary names to ordinary things can dress them up a bit
Host segment 3: Joel gives a foley demonstration
End: J&tB rail against the movie, which pleases the Mads
Stinger: “Thong! The fish is ready!”
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (203 votes, average: 4.69 out of 5)


• This one takes a little while to get going (it doesn’t help that a big chunk of the first part of the movie is flashbacks to the movie this is a sequel of), but once it does, the riffing gets up to speed and it really is hilarious. The host segments are mostly in the more-clever-than-funny variety, but we’re so comfortable with these characters by now, clever is usually enough. The movie, as Joel and the bots note in the ending segment, is a bit of a hard ride, but it’s perfect for our experiments.
• One of the first things Joel says is: “Looks like we’re back on, everybody!” implying that there’s been some sort of break in communication. And, well, there had been, but not that long: The stretch between the end of season 2 and the beginning of season 3 was 119 days, the ninth-longest (or second-shortest, depending on how you look at it) amount of time MSTies had to wait between episodes.
• This episode was included in Rhino’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 2.”
• It was with this episode that the real heyday of the series began. In the ACEG, Kevin notes it was the first of SEVENTY-TWO contracted episodes (in fact, they’d do at total of 96 episodes from this point before Comedy Central grew weary of them). It was an almost unheard-of situation in the TV business, and you can almost feel them settle in for the long haul.
• That massive contract is perhaps the best evidence of how much CC officials considered this the network’s “signature series.” More evidence: June 1 was the day CC officially went on the air (after two months as “CTV” ): this episode was one of the shows that ran that day.
• Many of the catchphrases that we’d hear again and again are heard for the first time in this episode, including “…later…later…,” “bite me, it’s fun!” “It’s not a comic book, it’s a graphic novel!” “they’re kinda dumb and easy to kill” and “Go to bed, old man!”
• Dr. F. gives the whole “stranded in space” premise a boost by asking Joel, “How did you fare going through the asteroid belt?” (Apparently not well. Jeepers, ow.)
• Tom is wearing a fez.
• The whole “Mike Douglas Show” bit (a decade before “Seinfeld” would explore similar terrain) establishes the “Man in My Little Girl’s Life” as a piece of mental furniture for this show.
• In the invention exchange, Dr. F. is wearing his baseball cap backwards in a homage to the movie “Over the Top.”
• Before, FVI got hold of it, this movie was called “Ator The Invincible.” On video it was titled “The Blade Master.” It was a sequel to “Ator the Fighting Eagle” (1983) and the prequel to “the Iron Warrior” (1986).
• One of the commenters identified the movie that the clips used during the opening credits came from. It’s a sword-and-sandal flick called “Taur: the Mighty.”
• Oddest non sequitur: Joel says, “and…bring me the head of Gallagher!” apropos of nothing on the screen.
• Segment one just kind of establishes the premise then kills time. The credits are moderately amusing, though.
• Segment two feels very season two-ish: very wordy but funny.
• Segment three also feels like something out of early season two, akin to Joel’s zero-gravity or gobos lectures.
• At the end of segment three, Trace does the voice of TV’s Madam, but gets mixed up and makes Crow’s mouth move for a moment. Oops! They keep going.
• Callbacks: “The driver is either missing or he’s dead!” (Phantom Creeps); “Pyuma?!” (Ring of Terror) “I say it’s foggy!” (The Crawling Eye) “It’s the Aztec mummy!” “What’s Your Dream?” (Rocketship X-M)
• Obscure riff: As the cave man eats human heart: “I wanna Barney Clark bar!” In 1983, Clark was the first person to receive a permanent, implanted artificial heart; he lived 112 days.
• Vaguely dirty riff: “It’s the speedy delivery guy and has he got a package!”
• Great wordplay: “I think it’s the Kurds.” “And whey?” “Yes, way!”
• Tom’s little “Ator’s kite” song is great, and Joel’s little harmony at the end really makes it charming.
• I just love that face Joel pulls at the beginning of that final host segment.
• How much Keeffe does this movie have? Miles O’Keeffe, perhaps best known for 1981’s “Tarzan the Ape Man” with Bo Derek, apparently doesn’t take his acting ability too seriously. He reportedly contacted BBI after seeing this episode and told them he loved it.
• Cast and Crew roundup: Art director Massimo Lentini also served that role on the “Escape 2000” and Casiomeister Karl Michael Demer is back doing the credits music as mentioned previously.
• CreditsWatch: Several changes have taken place in the credits. For one, former production assistant Jann Johnson is now production coordinator (while Alex Carr remained production manager–wonder how that worked). That’s intern Christopher Wurst as the moleman Gerry, refereeing the robot arm wrestling. Wurst must have put his foot down during the making of this episode about how hot it was inside the mask: Gerry and Sylvia would never be seen again. Trace and Frank are no longer “Special Guest ‘Villians’ (misspelled)” as they were throughout season two. The lines “Special Effects and Other Fancy Stuff: Trace Beaulieu” have been removed, as has “Additional Visual Effects: Industrial Plumbing and Heating,” which I suspect was just a joke anyway. The “Hexfield Viewscreen Designed and Constructed by: Mark Gilbertson” credit, which began with episode 205, is gone. New to the credits are technical supervisor Timothy Scott and manager of business affairs Heide LeClerc. And in the thank yous: Randy Herget has been removed and Bill W. has been added (probably at the urging of Frank Conniff). The interns were Thomas Alphonso, Cyn Eells, Tom Henderson and Christopher Wurst. Wurst also got a “Contributing writers” credit, along with Briget. Also, the music during segment 1, which he titled “Jupiter,” were written and arranged by Mike. I tweeted him about what “Jupiter” means and he replied, “that may have simply been the name of the tone on the keyboard.”
• Fave riff: “Gomez! I’ve invented the wheel!!” Honorable mention: “I say: You could drive a Mack truck through your cues! Tempo! Tempo!”

181 Replies to “Episode guide: 301- Cave Dwellers”

  1. Sitting Duck says:

    Cave Dwellers passes the Bechdel Test, but just barely. The key moment comes when an old peasant woman tries to dissuade her granddaughter from volunteering as a sacrifice.

    Dr. F. has finally gotten rid of that horrible ponytail. And there was must rejoicing. Yay.

    The Defiant Ones crack is quite appropriate, since those guys in the opening credits do kind of look like Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier.

    Perhaps it’s because of Dull Old Guy having so many pauses, but there seem to be a lot of tack-on riffs in this episode.

    So was the dog suppose to be in the scene where Ator was patching up Mila, or did it just wander on set and they didn’t bother to reshoot?

    Favorite riffs

    The hills have eyes, but they have glaucoma right now.

    “I’ve always wanted you to be wise…”
    But we’ll settle on looks.

    “The next most important thing…”
    Is peanut butter.

    “As Ator nursed his wounds…”
    I nursed a Scotch.

    “When you seem to have reached the ends of the Earth…”
    Ask for Earl.

    Lady, can we have our arrow back?

    Don’t they want their capes?
    No, they’d have invisible blood on them.

    Tuesdays are Human Sacrifice Day at The Sizzler.

    “The Kungs have always demanded the blood of Man.”
    Yeah, they’re funny that way.

    Who is this gentle stranger with pecs like melons and knees of fringe?

    “He was a proud, courageous man…”
    But dumber than a box of hammers.

    Drink it all. Sometimes the poison’s on the bottom.

    Henry Kissinger says Merry Christmas!

    “I’m not afraid of you.”
    Well, maybe a little.

    Hey, thanks a lot, Dong. I’ll visit you in prison and bake you a rice cake with a saw in it, buddy.


  2. schippers says:

    Personally, I think this movie represents Cave Dwellers’s best work.

    Regarding my post of four years ago in #67 – I have absolutely NO memory of the film I mention. I must have watched it, but it is gone from my head. Probably didn’t take anything all that valuable with it when it left.

    The second Ator movie (this one, in other words) spends a lot of time recapping the first one, but the Ator character is much changed from his origins. For one, he’s no longer hot for his sister. (I guess maybe she died?)


  3. Lisa H. says:

    @149 “Servo made Fezzes cool, before they were cool” – kinda makes me want to dress up Tom and Crow as Eleven and, oh, probably Ten, although some other options for Crow could be fun too.


  4. Murdock Hauser says:

    I remember seeing only a few episodes of MST3K in the early and mid 90’s when I was a kid. I thought the show was interesting and neat, but most of the riffs flew over my head and I grew up in a large family, so getting the TV to yourself was impossible. It’s the year 2000, I’m fourteen years old with some left over Christmas money and some paper route money in my pocket at a Sam Goody. I look around for a bit and find a VHS copy of MST3K: Cave Dwellers on the self and decided to pick it up. I took it over to a friend’s house that afternoon and after watching it I became a fan instantly. It’s still by far my favorite episode,so I have to give it five :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:.


  5. Johnny's nonchalance says:

    Dan in WI:
    For my money this experiment was below average all around. The movie is horrible… this genre in general does nothing for me and that is probably coloring my opinion of the episode as a whole.

    Favorite Riffs:

    Guy is tossed in snake pit. Joel: “Ouch, I landed on my eight sided dice.”

    People sure are a bundle of contradictions. If that was your favorite riff I’d have wagered big money you’d love this genre. I agree, that’s one of my favorite riffs. But, unlike you, I love this genre!

    Tits all over for you Ator…


  6. Into The Void says:

    “Played here by Jimmy Carl Black of the Mothers of Invention.”


  7. snowdog says:

    A few observations from this viewing:

    The “How much Keeffe…” riff is one of the rare moments that the Brains feel the need to explain a joke by having Servo answer “Miles O’ Keeffe”. I’m glad they never made a habit of that, as it would have made for a lesser show, imo.

    As I mentioned above, this is my first ep. I was hoping each show would end with J&tBs pointing out flaws and continuity errors in the film like they did here. It didn’t turn out that way, but no matter… Still a fave after all these years.


  8. Bruce Boxliker says:


    Actually, yes! This is a fantastic episode. And a fantasy episode, too! A Fantastic Fantasy episode! ….Yeah, anyway it’s a great start to one of MST3k’s best seasons.
    I’ve been using the overly dramatic ‘Noo!’ line fairly regularly ever since I first watched this episode.

    I loved the robot arm wrestling, since I actually had one of those robot arms way back in the early 80s. Don’t think I ever arm wrestled another robot arm with it, though.

    All the host segments in this were great. I’m also one of those people that learned about foley from this episode.

    You can’t really call Ator a barbarian, since he’s actually (supposedly) pretty smart. Just because a guy runs around in leather underwear & carries a sword does not make him a barbarian. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to deal with that generalization mys…uh… never mind.

    @112 – I’ll bet he had a jeep or something tucked away somewhere, thus the tire tracks!


  9. sol-survivor says:

    I wonder whose idea the doorbell riff was…


  10. david f white says:

    Cave Dwellers is my Favorite Mst3k!!!


  11. Lex says:

    “god, I love Seinfeld.”

    This episode had a Seinfeld joke. I saw this not so long ago and couldn’t believe Seinfeld was on yet. I didn’t remember that. It didn’t really get popular until around 94. After a few years, your emotional timeline gets warped I guess.

    The pixelated Film Ventures International movie sequences at the beginning were so strange. I never understood why they were there. I still wonder. Not to mention they changed the name of some of the movies. I guess this was a sequel. I could swear they actually played the first on one of the Turner networks.

    Personally, I love the episode.


  12. JCC says:

    Mike in Portland:
    Agreed that this season and the next one were the heart and soul of the series.

    I always felt like the movie was a little rough to get through on this one, but something interesting happened recently.
    In our last MST3K-watching meetup here in town, we watched Cave Dewllers and then Deathstalker.The room of around 20 people laughed loudly and frequently through Cave Dwellers, and not much at all during Deathstalker.I also found myself enjoying Cave Dwellers more.Go figure.

    And the Mike Douglas Show bit kills me every time.

    I figure there has too be a bit of laugh fatigue going on during the second half of an MST3k double feature. Deathstalker is F’ing hilarious, packed with great riffs.


  13. Terry the Sensitive Knight says:

    One of the best episodes, a great start to season 3.

    Does anyone else find it odd that it takes Mila all of 5 minutes to reach Ator’s place “at the ends of the Earth” AND with an arrow stuck in her… yet it takes forever to get back to the castle?

    I still want to know what that movie is that FVI used for the credits.


  14. Cornjob says:

    See #112 for my musing on whether this movie is supposed to be prehistoric or post apocalyptic. I’m still not sure. Most of the movie has a prehistoric feel, but post apocalyptic would explain the atomic nucleus talk and the hang glider.

    Hilarious episode. One moment that sticks with me is when Ator declared that they must take immediate action and everyone just stands there. Way for the director to make the actors look dumb by having the blocking contradict the dialogue.


  15. can you feel me near you? says:

    Great episode. One thing always bugged me about the movie. Is it supposed to be pre-historic or post-apocalypotic?

    Out here in the fields
    I fight for my meals
    I get my back into my living
    I don’t need to fight
    To prove I’m right
    I don’t need to be forgiven

    Don’t cry
    Don’t raise your eye
    It’s only teenage… caveman!


  16. thunder bucket says:

    Cabbage Patch Elvis:
    #131 MikeK – I always thought it was a Little Richard reference, although the voice is a bit deeper.

    I always thought it was a take on James Brown, the hardest working man in show business!


  17. JCC says:

    Terry the Sensitive Knight:
    One of the best episodes, a great start to season 3.

    Does anyone else find it odd that it takes Mila all of 5 minutes to reach Ator’s place “at the ends of the Earth” AND with an arrow stuck in her… yet it takes forever to get back to the castle?

    I still want to know what that movie is that FVI used for the credits.

    This was answered in #17, Taur The Mighty.

    Hopefully FVI released the movies used in the credits for our MSTied films with blurry, pixellated clips from the MSTied movies for the opening credits.


  18. Bruce Boxliker says:

    I was just looking at the title slate at the top of the page. Is that the saddest one for any movie here? It’s got to be near the top of the worst title images. Especially taking into account that the freeze-frame above the title is from an entirely different movie. I know it’s FVI, but still…


  19. senorpogo says:

    re: Crow’s mouth moving as Trace does the Madame voice

    I always took it as Crow’s attempt at ventriloquy for the Madame puppet, just not doing all that well at first. Yeah, I’m pretty forgiving.


  20. Angie Schultz says:

    One moment that sticks with me is when Ator declared that they must take immediate action and everyone just stands there. Way for the director to make the actors look dumb by having the blocking contradict the dialogue.

    That was when the the two girls from the village come across their camp? I’ve always thought the delay was to give the girls a chance to do something that would reveal their motives to Ator. Like run away. But he walks into the trap anyway. So this bit was supposed to show the subtlety of our hero, but it failed.

    The last time I watched the movie I noticed that those same two girls are feeding Ravanni(sp?) his poison. I’ve watched the movie a thousand times, and never noticed that.


  21. Cornjob says:

    I was thinking of Teenage Caveman while typing my post. The exercise machine, the surgery, the chemistry beakers in Ator’s and the old guy’s labs, all hint that maybe it’s all post apocalyptic. Or maybe it’s just the improvised script. In any case, “We’re All Caveman!”


  22. pondoscp says:

    I actually followed the plot this time. I guess I’ve finally seen this one enough that it’s started to make some sort of sense to me.


  23. EricJ says:

    thunder bucket: I always thought it was a take on James Brown, the hardest working man in show business!

    Way, way, back, four years ago in @43, I had it pegged for his resemblance to Redd Foxx in the shot.
    (And certainly not the first or last Sanford & Son reference to ever grace the series.)


  24. ahaerhar says:

    yeah, given they they later exactly bring up “Crow isn’t very good at ventriloquy” I figured that was what was going on.


  25. Thom Sirveaux says:

    Count me among those for whom this was an early episode. I was aware of the show, but the local cable affiliate did not carry Comedy Central yet. I picked up this episode on Rhino Home Video one day at Suncoast. It was love at first viewing.


  26. thequietman says:

    “They’ve just jumped into a Kurosawa film!”
    “So it’ll start making sense?”

    No such luck, Crow, no such luck…

    I hadn’t watched this one in a long time, and it probably would have been even longer had it not been for this weekly episode guide. I don’t think there’s really much left to say, except I wonder if the wise sage type person (the guy the villain kidnaps) was hired because of his resemblance to Burgess Meredith, who was in the 1981 version of “Clash of the Titans”.


  27. littleaimishboy says:

    5 stars.

    What is the riff, “I’m the best looking man of the middle ages!My, my my!” in reference to?Crow says it when that snake worshiping guy with the mustache and turban is standing there.

    It’s definitely a Little Richard reference. “I am the handsomest man in rock and roll!” he avowed from time to time in his typical understated way.

    Interesting (OT) trivia: Richard had a guy called Maurice James in his band, troublemaker who wouldn’t follow the rules, finally had to can him. Probably all for the best.


  28. Dan in WI says:

    Johnny’s nonchalance: People sure are a bundle of contradictions. If that was your favorite riff I’d have wagered big money you’d love this genre. I agree, that’s one of my favorite riffs. But, unlike you, I love this genre!

    Tits all over for you Ator…

    I’m not sure what you see as my contradiction here. I’m coming out and saying my favorite episodes are largely from movie genres I do enjoy. So chances are your wager would be right on the money.


  29. Thad says:

    Continuity by:


  30. mnenoch says:

    My very first Joel episode. Rented the tape of this sometime in 1997 after catching the first run of episodes on SciFi. With that said it’s one of my favorites. I love these cheesy 80’s sword and sandal type flicks and this certainly is an awful one.

    The skits are fun and the riffing is fantastic including many riffs that would become the staples of Joel episodes for the rest of his run.


  31. with 3 you get "pizza" says:

    At/or + cokeenuts
    Always wondered if that faint murmering during the opening reenactment was on the Jupiter track, or a female voice on-set directing J&tB’s to “do what they do”.


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