MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000
THE UNOFFICIAL EPISODE GUIDE
SEASON ONE: THE COMEDY CHANNEL, 1989-1990
Movie: (1958) After some mysterious deaths in the Swiss Alps, a U.N. troubleshooter is sent to assist a scientist who is investigating the situation. But a pretty young psychic may be the most help.
First shown: approx. 11/25/89? (See below).
Invention exchange: Electric bagpipes, canine anti-perspirant, welcome to Deep 13
Host segment 1: Crow and Tom fail to understand why losing your head is a big deal
Host segment 2: Gypsy uncoils
Host segment 3: J&TB discuss the whole “giant eye” premise
End: Good thing/bad thing, the Mads are happy
• In the months between Memorial Day weekend (when the last KTMA episode aired) and the end of November (when this episode first aired), the Brains put together a nine-minute pitch video with what they considered to be the funniest moments from the show (that video was later included on the Scrapbook Tape). Joel called in some favors and managed to get meetings with executives at The Comedy Channel and Ha!, the two competing 24-hour comedy basic cable channels that had just started up, or were about to. Joel and Jim headed to New York with high hopes. The Ha! executives took a pass (the show really didn’t fit in with their lineup of mostly sitcom reruns) but the Comedy Channel executives liked what they saw–especially the fact that the show would be two hours long, really helping to fill their programming grid. Stu Smiley, a well-regarded TV producer who was then working at HBO (The Comedy Channel’s parent company) once told me that the other reason they went with the show is that the executives knew and trusted Joel. They offered a 13-show deal and Jim and Joel signed. Jim and Kevin quit their jobs at the KTMA (it wasn’t THAT courageous a leap–the station was circling the drain), and, with Joel, Trace and Josh, incorporated as Best Brains Inc. in July. A friend had some empty warehouse space in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie. It was just what they needed. They moved in and set about building new sets, new bots and generally rebooting the whole show. This is the result.
• Do I like it? It’s such an icon that, like the Taj Mahal, it almost seems above my likes and dislikes. Yes, the riffing is funny and steady, but the whole thing is still pretty rough. Really it’s not much more than a somewhat polished KTMA episode, not even close to the level of entertainment we’d get even later this season, and certainly in season two and forward. But there are definitely some fun spots, and it’s where it all began.
• This episode is part of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Vol. XVII.
• References. http://www.annotatedmst.com/episodes/crawlingeye/index.htm
• The Comedy Channel went live on Nov. 15, 1989, and we now believe, thanks to the diligent work of Tom Noel, that the first episode actually aired was episode 102- ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY, on Nov. 18, and that this episode appeared the following weekend, on Nov. 25. Cast members have said, somewhat casually, that it first ran on Thanksgiving day, 1989. That year Thanksgiving fell on the 23rd, but we do not believe an episode actually aired on that date. That was a Thursday, and the show aired on Saturdays. But, let’s face it, back then, nobody was keeping track of this stuff. If somebody has TV Guides or some other TV schedule from the second half of November, 1989, and it lists The Comedy Channel, let us know!
• The stretch between the end of the KTMA season and the beginning of season one (if we assume the first episode aired on Nov. 18) was 173 days, the fifth-longest amount of time MSTies had to wait between episodes.
• Firsts (in addition to being the first national show): The first episode to be fully scripted, first mention of Gizmonic Institute, first invention exchange, first episode to be filmed at Best Brains studios, first movie to have a film used with permission, first episode with Jim doing the voice and puppeteering for Gypsy and the first episode with scenes set in Deep 13. Also this was the first episode to end its credits with: “Keep circulating the tapes.”
• Changes from KTMA: A completely redesigned dog-bone shaped satellite, a new door sequence, new sets and new theme lyrics.
• A little about The Comedy Channel (since there is VERY little video of it on YouTube that I could find): The premise was that it was going to be a comedy version of MTV — MTV the way it was back when it first started and actually showed music videos, that is. When MTV started, they had hosts (veejays as they were called) who introduced the videos and generally chatted between videos. The Comedy Channel wanted to emulate that setup: It called its hosts “ceejays” and they generally showed clips of comedy shows (they had all all those HBO comedy specials in their vault) and movies. But, one by one, most of the ceejays evolved their shows into something else. Alan Havey turned his into a talk show. The Higgins Boys and Gruber turned theirs into a sketch comedy show, and so forth. But not all the programming was like that. Rich Hall had a terrific series (hey Shout! get the rights!) called “Onion World.” And then, of course, there was MST3K. Initially they ran it on Saturday morning, playing off the idea that it was a parody of a kid’s show, but it also played in the wee hours. One last note: The Comedy Channel was not available in many areas of the Twin Cities when the show debuted. BBI staffers found a bar that carried it and went there to celebrate and watch it when this show first debuted.
• During the theme song, we see Joel (as the lyrics say) “working” and “cleaning up” but in these shots we can see that he’s in Deep 13 and on the SOL. We never actually see him working at Gizmonic Institute. You’d think they could have just had him go out into the hallway at the BBI offices and shot some footage. Maybe that footage in Deep 13 is from when he cleaned up that Flubber spill? I know, it’s just a show…
• During the opening theme, you can spot Jim’s head sticking up–it’s during the section where Joel sings “…to make his robot friends…” You can also spot the PVC pipe that was used to work Crow.
• There is no opening host segment between the theme song and the first commercial, something that became institutionalized later.
• In Deep 13, Dr. F. appears to be controlling the camera with some sort of remote control device that looks like a little satellite antenna. In season two, they would create the notion of the Mole People assisting on camera and such … and then they just stopped worrying about explaining who was behind the camera.
• We get as much information as we’re ever going to get about Deep 13 in that first host segment.
• Joel wore a tan jumpsuit in the KTMA episodes. With this episode he switches to bright red and the red jumpsuit continues through the entire season. In season two, he switches up the colors a bit, but we’ll deal with that when we get there.
• The “electric bagpipes” used in the invention exchange were the first of many props from Joel’s old standup act that would re-appear as inventions.
• During the KTMA shows, Joel and the bots (usually Servo) used to signal the approach of a commercial during the theater riffing. It’s a habit they continue in this episode and for many to come before it fades away.
• Both Tom Servo and Crow have been rebuilt. Tom is built slightly different from later eps–larger shoulder thingies and a larger white beak.
• Trace has pretty much abandoned the “baby” voice he used for Crow during KTMA, though we get occasional, er, traces of it.
• Note that there are no buttons on the table: At Movie Sign, Joel just sort of slaps the table! Movie Sign is a somewhat lifeless affair all the way around…no flashing lights, just a little camera-shaking.
• During this season, BBI experimented with making the theater seats different colors, to see if the signature visual element of the show might be a little easier to see especially during dark scenes. In this episode they are just sort of a dark gray.
• BBI was using a “thinner” bluescreen level than they would use later–the result is that Crow’s “net” seems to vanish, and you can see some odd gaps between Servo and the theater seats.
• Even taking the bluescreen level into account, you may notice that Crow’s silhouette in the theater looks a little strange. According to an informed source, BBI used the KTMA Crow for the theater segments here–all they did was add an extra floralier tray and clean him up a little.
• Tom walks into the theater by himself in the first movie segment, just as he often did during the KTMA episodes. Joel carries him in after the first and second host segments, and Tom seems to like it.
• Of course, this is the movie that Mike and the Bots were watching at the end of the final episode of Season 10. As we discussed then, it was a cute “full-circle” kind of thing, but the writers forgot (or decided not to care) that this movie doesn’t start with the credits. It has a “cold” opening right into a mountain climbing scene. Maybe Mike and the bots tuned in late?
• Fans of the terrific cartoon series “Freakazoid” may recall an episode that did an almost scene-for-scene (in spots) takeoff of this movie.
• I was still pretty new to the show when I saw this, and when they said “directed by us!” during the credits, I thought that was some sort of catchphrase that they were going to say every week. I later figured out that they were just referring to the fact that an arrow was pointing at them.
• A couple of times Joel does a funny bit where he provides the the voice of the other person on the telephone when somebody is talking on the phone. Cracks me up.
• You can see the shadows of the puppeteers on the wall during the second host segment. Cambot should not have pulled back quite so far.
• We meet a whole new Gypsy in segment two. She’s completely redesigned and has a new person running her and doing her voice, but her mouth mechanism squeaks so much you can barely make out what she’s saying. And that whole comment from Tom about discovering something that “narrows down” what Gypsy’s sex is–that’s just odd. Also, her light isn’t on. And this is the one and only time Joel removes her “eye”–something that seems to upset her quite a bit.
• Joel blows a line in the the theater: “Pick up some ice and some cubes.” They just keep going.
• I like the radio conversations between the pilot and the guys on the ground, clearly written by somebody with no aviation experience. The guys on the ground address the pilot as “plane.” The pilot addresses the guys on the ground as “party.”
• We get the origin of the “Richard Basehart” running gag in the final host segment. If you ever wondered what the whole Richard Basehart thing was about, it was just a weird non-sequitur.
• Cast and crew roundup: Special effects guy SFX: Les Bowie also worked on “Moon Zero Two.” In front of the camera, Warren Mitchell also appeared in “Moon Zero Two.”
• CreditsWatch: The basic credits for season 1 are: Writers: Trace Beaulieu, Joel Hodgson, Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy, Mike Nelson, Josh Weinstein.?Featuring: Joel Hodgson’s Puppet Bots.?Associate Producer: Kevin Murphy.?Production Manager: Alexandra B. Carr.?Editor: Randy Davis.?Art Direction: Trace Beaulieu, Joel Hodgson.?Set Design: Trace Beaulieu, Joel Hodgson.?Lighting: Kevin Murphy.?Make-up: Faye Burkholder, Clayton James.?Costumes: Bow Tie.?Gizmonic Devices: Joel Hodgson.?Production Assistants: Jann L. Johnson, Steve Rosenberer, Sara J. Sandborn.?Production/Post Production: Fuller Productions, Minneapolis, Minnesota.?Production Staff: Ken Fournelle, Jim Fuller.?Production Assistant: Jim Erickson.?Special thanks: Randy Herget, Skyline Inc., Bryan Beaulieu, KTMA TV23, The Teachers of America, David Campbell, Rick Leed. Keep circulating the tapes. (This was the first time this exhortation appeared.)
• Favorite riff: “o/` I’m Popeye the sailor man…I’ve got a guy’s head in my hand… o/`” Honorable mention: “Fannie Flag and Groucho and Carl Sagan…..”
Episode guide: 102- The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy (with short: “Radar Men from the Moon,” Episode 1: Moon Rocket)
Short: (1951) A jet-pack-equipped scientist and his team investigate reports of sabotage by spies from the moon and their hired thugs.
Movie: (1957) A mad scientist builds a robot to battle the mummy guarding an Aztec treasure.
First shown: approx. 11/18/89? (See below.)
Invention exchange: Joel demonstrates the airbag helmet; The Mads unveil The Chalkman, and then show off Deep 13’s new security system.
Host segment 1: Demon dogs attack; Tom takes them on, and fares poorly.
Host segment 2: Talks with Enoch, the demon dog king, don’t go well.
Host segment 3: Crow’s attempt to impersonate Enoch also fails.
End: Joel’s trick fools the demon dogs…or does it? Doh!
• As discussed in last week’s entry, it appears that this episode was actually the first one The Comedy Channel showed, just days after going on the air.
• Again, no opening segment.
• Again, the early Tom Servo design
• Again, no buttons on table, so Joel just slaps it.
• No Bots are present during invention exchange.
• Say what you will about Josh, he was really “inside” Tom Servo; Kevin never used a phrase like “You can look me in the bubble and say that??” as Josh does here.
• The thinner bluescreen level makes Tom Servo look very odd in the theater–kind of elongated. Tom is also VERY animated in the theater–a stark contrast to his wooden behavior in the host segments.
• The “demon dogs” were made out of a “Masters of the Universe” toy called “Battle bones,” painted red and black and added with some contruction paper ears.
• That is clearly Jim Mallon doing the voice of Enoch, the king and charismatic leader of the dog people. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to make out what he is saying thanks to the incessant clacking of the puppet’s mouth.
• Josh makes an odd comment during host segment 2, calling the SOL “the 2525″ and telling Cambot that the SOL’s schematics are under “2525” in his files. Is this weird Zager and Evans reference?
• Watch carefully early in the feature during the flashback of the Aztec ceremony scene, as Joel covers the irritating singing lady’s mouth: Joel clearly has something in his hand–between his two fingers, as one would hold a cigarette. Was Joel smoking in the theater? Gasp!
• In addition to smoking, reportedly this was the only episode in which the riffers were drinking while shooting the theater scenes.
• There are also two spots where the Brains experimented by playing with the sound. In one spot, as the men stand in a row with their backs to the camera in a way that suggested that they were relieving themselves, they added the sound of liquid streaming. And in the aforementioned musical ceremony, when Joel covers the lady’s mouth the sound cuts back as if he is muffling her. They
never seldom did it again.
• The demon dog in the theater at the end is the first of many unexpected guests who would invade the theater over the years.
• The “airbag helmet” was another bit from Joel’s standup act.
• Favorite riff: “We’re hitting people!”
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).
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.
• This one, eh. I used to think this felt like a KTMA, but that was before I saw the KTMAs. 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.
• Again, no opening segment.
• Again, no buttons: table slapping.
• Again, no Bots during invention exchange.
• Both inventions, “hell in a handbag” and the thunder lizard, props from Joel’s standup act.
• Is this the first we get the classic unison line “THANK YOU!” from the Mads?
• 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-nerdy.
• Fave short riff: How come they got Groucho Marx mustaches on their helmets?
• 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 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.
• 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?
• 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 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.0
• Fave movie riff: “Now, Bingo is his name-o.” Honorable mention: “Now I’m going to go turn my daughter into a woodchuck.”
Movie: (1966) A spaceship crashes on a prehistoric world, and its companion ship heads back to search for survivors.
First shown: 02/10/90 (unconfirmed)
Opening: Joel has redecorated
Invention exchange: Clay & Lar’s Flesh Barn, toilet paper in a bottle
Host segment 1: During “This is Joel’s Life,” a strange machine appears outside the ship, so Joel brings it inside
Host segment 2: J&TB try to disarm the Isaac Asimov’s Literary Doomsday Device, but the instructions are no help
Host segment 3: The device explodes, with horrific consequences
End: The effects wear off, letters, the winners of the “name the plant guy ” contest.
• I’m out of order?? This episode’s out of order! The whole show’s out of order!! Sorry. Yes, this is the episode with the weird production number. In the ACEG, the Brains confirmed what many fans had long suspected: that this was the final episode BBI shot for season one but, for reasons that remain murky, it was given a production number of 104, indicating it was the fourth one shot, which it wasn’t.
• It was pretty clear to fans that something was up long before the Brains admitted it: this episode features a number of innovations that would arrive later in this season, including an opening segment before the commercial, buttons on the desk in the SOL, and a Movie Sign that looks much more like the Movie Sign we know. Another major clue was the references to several LATER episodes, most notably in the closing segment when Joel announces the WINNERS of a contest that will not be announced until episode 110- ROBOT HOLOCAUST. Also in that segment, a letter refers to episode 105- THE CORPSE VANISHES and episode 109- PROJECT MOONBASE.
• So why aren’t I waiting to do this one at the end of season? It’s about consistency. I have no idea what other episodes were produced out of order from their production numbers. If I had a complete, definitive list of every episode in the order it was produced, I might do them in that order. But if I can’t do them ALL like that, I’m not going to do any, and I will stick with the only ordering system we’re sure about.
• I’ve told the story before, but this was the episode that I stumbled on to when I discovered the show for the first time. I’d actually seen this movie on TV several years before and had been looking to catch it again, so my first delight was in seeing the movie I’d been looking for for so long–then that delight was compounded by the commentary. I was hooked.
• So, all that said, this is definitely one of the best of season 1. The riffing is full-on and fierce, at full season 2 level. It’s got a big, bright, wacky movie with smug John Agar, drunken Wendell Corey, a young Angel from “The Rockford Files,” the stupid “hi-keeba!” racist comic relief guy and on and on. It has a nice story arc set of host segments that are, admittedly, more clever than funny (a problem we’ll encounter often in season 2), but they’re fun all the same. You can really see greatness in their future.
• In the opening bit, Joel says he has “redecorated.” That appears to mean only that they’ve lowered the desk and added a somewhat ratty-looking couch. Nothing else appears to be different.
• This episode contains the first original song on the national series: the “Clay and Lar’s Flesh Barn” jingle (and I would love to know who that is playing the kazoo in the background).
• The catchphrase “Wonder what SHE wanted?” arrives.
• When Joel wants to see the alien spacecraft that’s approaching, he shouts: “Give me an exterior of the ship.” No Rocket No. 9 just yet.
• Joel’s line “…and he’s nobody sweetheart” is a Firesign Theatre reference.
• This show features the first speaking role for Mike Nelson (he’s the voice of the killer satellite).
• Tom twice refers to one of the leading men as “Johnny Longtorso,” a name that would later be used in an invention exchange in episode 421- MONSTER A-GO-GO.
• Of course, this episode is where the oft-repeated phrase “Hi-keeba!” came from, shouted by actor Paul Gilbert (NOT Wendell Corey, as the ACEG incorrectly states).
• Great line from segment three: “Ah, the Samuel Becket method!”
• I never noticed before, but this movie contains several needle-drops of some very familiar incidental music. I tend to think if it as the musical sting from “This Island Earth” (o/` Da-da-daaaaaaa! o/`) but maybe that was a needle-drop too. Any movie score experts out there know what movie this music was in first?
• Favorite riff: “Oh, I’m gonna go spank myself!”
Episode guide: 105- The Corpse Vanishes (with short: Radar Men from the Moon, Chapter 3–Bridge of Death)
Short: (1951) After Cody and his team escape, Retik sends his hired thugs on Earth to set up an ambush.
Movie: (1942) A series of brides die on their wedding days, then their bodies are stolen. A feisty lady reporter investigates.
First shown: 12/9/89 (unconfirmed)
Invention exchange: Dr. F has a gift for Larry, Joel demonstrates the chiro-gyro, the Mads show off the flame-throwing flower
Host segment 1: Crow and Tom are reading “Tiger Bot” magazine
Host segment 2: J&TB play tag
Host segment 3: Joel gets a haircut
End: Good thing/bad thing (Tom’s head explodes).
• The best way to describe this one is: They’re getting better. The presence of Bela saves this otherwise dopey movie, the riffing is getting stronger each week and the host segments are really coming along. Nowhere near where it’s going to be, but showing improvement.
• We’re back in the early days of season one: There’s no opening segment after the theme, no Bots are present during the invention exchange and possibly no buttons on the table (the table is not visible during movie sign, so we can’t be sure).
• Some online episode guides list this as the oldest movie the show did: Actually it’s a tie–this and “Mad Monster” were both released in 1942. And in any case “Undersea Kingdom,” made in 1936, beats them all.
• Shadowrama is green this week.
• More Asimov references in the sketches, although technically the two shows where he’s mentioned were made seven episodes apart, so it’s not like they were intentionally piling on.
• The “chiro-gyro” and the “flame-throwing flower” were props from Joel’s standup act.
• Joel calls the Mads “The professors” as he walks in to the theater after the opening. Weird.
• Servo’s had some alterations and is slowly evolving into the Servo we know: his weird fat white beak has changed to the familiar silver one. Also: Servo’s arms are working in segment 1.
• There are two mentions of driver’s ed jargon (“hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel, signal your intentions…” ) in this one. That’s what happens when you have a 17-year-old writer.
• Gypsy’s light is still off during segment 2 (a do-over of a segment from K11- HUMANOID WOMAN).
• At the end of segment 2, Joel runs down the doorway sequence and is run over by Cambot. This is the first time he’s done it in the national series, but he did it twice (I think?, somebody correct me if I’m wrong) in KTMA episodes.
• The third host segment is another classic moment from season one, a re-think of a sketch originally done for episode K10- COSMIC PRINCESS. Great line: “They’re STILL pickin’ up clown noses!”
• Tom Servo’s head blows up for the first time in the final segment. It won’t be the last.
• Fave riff from the short: “Nipple, nipple, tweak, tweak, fly! fly! fly!”
• Fave riff from the movie: “Hey, lady, art exhibit in my nose!”
Movie: (1963) An astronaut’s capsule crashes in the ocean and his severed hand (controlled by an unknown alien force) washes up on a beach, where it is found by a moody teen. Soon both are on respective rampages.
First shown: 12/16/89 (unconfirmed)
Opening: Joel explains the premise
Invention exchange: Joel demonstrates his scary safety saw; the Mads demonstrate the limb lengthener
Host segment 1: J&TB bowl, then Crow and Tom don’t want to play any more games with Joel
Host segment 2: J&TB do Shatner with the crawling hand
Host segment 3: The bots: Why is a dismembered hand scary?
End: Good thing/bad thing, letter, Larry’s limbs are still lengthy.
• Not too much to say about this one: bad print of a talky black and white teen scifi thriller (with a notable cast-see below); riffing is adequate but not outstanding; host segments are relatively weak, particularly segment three, where the arrival of Gypsy in a giant hand costume is a “WTF” ending to a labored bit.
• THIS episode, not episode 104, is the REAL first time for the opening segment. It’s also the first episode where we can see buttons on the table. Joel explains the show’s premise slowly, like he’s talking to kindergarteners. He makes a point of gesturing to the buttons when Deep 13 calls. However, there are still no Bots are on the set during the invention exchange.
• This show is the first time we see Joel pop a grape into his mouth after tapping the buttons. Joel would later explain that the point of the bit was that the Mads were doing a behavior modification thing by rewarding him with a treat for pushing the button.
• Joel starts to mention the “vacuflowers” during the invention exchange. Vacuflowers were mentioned, I am told, in the first few KTMA eps, unfortunately fan copies of those episode don’t exist.
• Segment 1 is a re-do from episode K14 – MIGHTY JACK.
• The theater seats are, again, green.
• Of course, this episode is our first encounter with Alan Hale Jr., best known as the Skipper on TV’s “Gilligan’s Island.” He also appears in episodes 810-THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION and 622-ANGELS REVENGE.
• Another actor we’d see again is Allison Hayes. In 1949, when she was still Mary Jane Hayes, she represented the state of Washington in the Miss America pageant. By 1954, she had signed a contract with Universal. We’ll meet her again as Grace Thomas in 320-THE UNEARTHLY; scheming bar owner Erica Page in 511-GUNSLINGER; and the witch Livia in 806-THE UNDEAD.
• And, of course, that’s Peter Breck of TV’s “The Big Valley,” who we’ll meet again as “Moon” in episode 415- THE BEATNIKS.
• The role of moody teen Paul Lawrence is played by moderately successful teen idol Rod Lauren. His real name was Roger Lawrence Strunk, and in later life he became known as “the O. J. Simpson of the Philippines.”
In 1964, Lauren went to the Philippines to make a movie, and met Nida Blanca, a then-rising Filipino film star. The two became a couple and he married her in 1979 and moved permanently to Manila. Blanca eventually became a huge star in her native land. She would appear in more than 100 comedy, drama, horror and action films and in more than a dozen television shows, and was a beloved show business personality.
On Nov. 6, 2001, Blanca’s body was found in a parking garage, stabbed to death. The crime stunned the nation, and sparked a media frenzy. Suspicion immediately fell on Strunk: Authorities believed he hired an assassin to kill his wife because she had threatened to divorce and disinherit him. Filipino justice dragged on for a year or two (the alleged assassin and his cohort at first admitted the crime, then recanted claiming the confessions had been extracted by force) and Strunk was about to be charged at last when word came that Strunk’s mother in California was terminally ill. In a move that stunned many, authorities allowed him to return to the U.S. to be with her. She died not long after he returned home, and, to nobody’s surprise, he announced he would not return to the Philippines to be tried. Filipino officials mounted an extradition effort, but their presentation to a U.S. magistrate was a contradictory mess, and the judge denied it. He lived a low-profile life after that, but died July 11, 2007, from a fall from second-floor motel balcony (which many observers assumed was a suicide). He was 67.
• What’s “murder ball” in the context of bowling? Or did Joel want to play a completely different game?
• Crow’s apparently still sensitive about the whole “foreshortening” lecture Joel gave him several weeks ago, because he’s still harping on it.
• This episode also has the first appearance of a “I thought you were Dale!” joke, which would become a staple of season eight.
• Then-current reference: “The Book of Lists.” It was a big seller at the time. Also: Roland Gift of the Fine Young Cannibals.
• This episode also gives us the deathless line: “Dames like her always have beer around.”
• Fave riff: “Wow! Look! She really IS smart!” Honorable mention: “And then the tape ran out.”
Episode guide: 107- Robot Monster (with shorts: Radar Men from the Moon, episode 4-Flight to Destruction and episode 5-Murder Car)
Short 1: (1951) The thugs kidnap Joan and take off with her in a small plane but Cody is in hot pursuit.
Short 2: (1951) Cody saves Joan but is shot down. The thugs blow another heist and are on the run again.
Movie: (1953) After invaders from space wipe out most of humanity, a surviving family confronts their robot nemesis.
First shown: 12/23/89 (unconfirmed)
Opening: Joel explains the premise
Invention exchange: The Mads demonstrate their methane whoopee cushion; Joel has the cumber-bubble-bund
Host segment 1: Reality vs. Commando Cody
Host segment 2: Crow and Tom play Robot Monster, but Joel misunderstands
Host segment 3: Crow and Tom trying to understand surrealism
End: J&TB’s tribute to Ro-Man pageant baffles the Mads
• I would say that it is with this episode, about halfway through the season, that the show really hits its early stride. You can feel them get more comfortable and begin to explore the premise they’ve created. This show has some very funny riffing, decent host segments and, of course, an iconic bad movie. It’s one of the better episodes of the first season.
• It’s always been my theory that, by riffing this movie, the Brains opened themselves up to the endless “When are you going to riff ‘Plan 9’? questions. Somehow, in some people’s minds, those two movies are intertwined (a little like how some people saw riffing “This Island Earth” as an affront to “The Day the Earth Stood Still” ).
• Joel is wearing a robe in the opening segment, for some reason.
• Joel once again explains the premise in the opening segment (very slowwwly).
• The Bots are present during the invention exchange for the first time.
• Gypsy’s light is still off.
• You know, it’s a little embarrassing to hear Josh say that this movie stars “no one.” Not really true. Maybe George Nader wasn’t a recognizable Hollywood face at this point, but he became one. We’ve already encountered him in episode K18-THE MILLION EYES OF SU-MURU and we’ll meet him again in episode 420-THE HUMAN DUPLICATORS.
• The theater seats are again green.
• Josh sneezes in the theater during the first short. They just keep going. Joel expresses some surprise at this, but Josh covers well. Trace just says “‘zunt!” (Short for “gesundheit,” I guess.)
• When something that looks like a dartboard appears during the short, Joel’s produces a giant dart. The bots plead with him not to use it.
• Elmer Bernstein, whose name Tom Servo seems to find amusing during the credits, went on to do some great scores (including “The Magnificent Seven” and “The Great Escape” ). This one really isn’t that bad, in fact.
• Yet more jokes at the expense of Isaac Asimov. I’d never noticed how often they do that in this first season.
• Servo’s head explodes for the second time in the national series during the first host segment, while thinking about bumblebees–followed by Crow and Cambot for the first and only time (I think).
• Segment 3 is a rethink of a segment in episode K11- Humanoid Woman.
• This episode features the first of several references to a supposed movie called “Yards of Leather.” At the second convention, I asked The Brains if that movie actually existed or what? They all looked at me like I was crazy. Google is silent on the title.
• Thanks to the Urban Dictionary, I finally know what “the zacklies” are. Gross.
• Highlight: Joel’s riotous narration of the love scene.
• Daddy-O reports:
– The cave scenes for this flick were filmed on location in California’s Bronson Canyon. That location was also used also in the filming of episodes 210-KING DINOSAUR, 311-IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, 315-TEENAGE CAVEMAN, 317-VIKING WOMEN, 319-WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST, 404-TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE and 701-NIGHT OF THE BLOOD BEAST.
– The house foundation scenes were done at a demolition site near Dodger Stadium.
– The dinosaur scenes are from “One Million B.C.,” and rocket scenes from “Flight to Mars.”
– Producer/director PHIL TUCKER tried to commit suicide after the film received awful reviews.
• Um, why are J&TB wearing trash bags in the closing segment?
• Fave riff from short 1: “What are the physics of a broken jaw, college boy?”
• Fave riff from short 2: “I think we’ve all reported to the moon at one time or another.” Honorable mention: “I’m surrounded by idiots–of my own design!”
• Fave movie riff: “Okay, now tilt the camera down a little.” Honorable mention: “Mother, keep digging graves. Better do two. This isn’t going well.”
Episode guide: 108- The Slime People (with short: Radar Men from the Moon–episode 6, Hills of Death)
Short: (1951) Krog sends the thugs to bomb a volcano, which causes widespread flooding, for some reason. Cody tracks the thugs to a diner, where a fight ensues and Ted is kidnapped. He soon escapes and Cody is after them again.
Movie: (1964) A sportscaster/pilot flies into Los Angeles and finds it deserted. He soon learns that reptilian monsters from beneath the Earth have conquered the city. With the help of a scientist, his two daughters and a marine, he mounts a counter-offensive.
First shown: 12/30/89 (unconfirmed)
Opening: Joel and Tom are sleepy, but Crow is a morning bot; Joel explains the premise again
Invention exchange: Joel is playing three-card monty with the bots when the mads call. His invention is cartoon eyeglasses; theirs is screaming cotton candy
Host segment 1: Crow and Tom take Commando Cody to reality court
Host segment 2: J&TB discuss how dumb the movie is, and suggest ways to make it better
Host segment 3: Inspired by the movie, the Bots fill the SOL with smoke
End: Joel bakes a pie, letter, the Mads are sarcastically happy
• I’m not sure this one quite adds up to the sum of its parts. The riffing is about average for season one. The short, well, as you’ve been saying, Commando Cody is wearing thin. And then there’s the talky, smoky, completely nonsensical movie. I’d put this in the good-not-great column.
• This is the first episode of the season that doesn’t have any noticeable innovations. All the elements are pretty much in place.
• Joel is again in a robe and I think the commenter last week might be right: they realized this show was on Saturday morning and he’s dressed for Saturday morning.
• Joel calls Tom Servo “Crow” and Servo corrects him.
• Joel calls the Mads “quasi-evil.” Hmm.
• Again, both inventions are props from Joel’s standup act.
• The theater seats are black again and they stay that way, I believe.
• Crow and Joel again duck out of the way so people can read the text at the beginning of the short. Tom doesn’t bother.
• Segment 1 is pretty much a continuation of the segment from the previous show where they again rail against the absurdity of the way Cody’s rocket belt supposedly works.
• The MST3K Wikipedia entry says “This is the first film to have a black and white movie with a blue effect on it. It would remain this way for future black and white movies/shorts, until 404 – Teenagers from Outer Space.” I don’t see it.
• Segments 2 and 3 do a good job of summing up most of what’s wrong with this stooopid movie. One thing they missed: The opening few minutes with our hero flying in to L.A. do not in any way suggest that he is flying close to the surface of the ocean, which the characters later insist he did.
• Joel does the “Love-ly…love-ly” riff for the second week in a row.
• One thing about first season episodes is that they seemed to be following the movie more closely than they would be in later seasons. At least Josh was. At one point in this episode, Servo points out: “Why are the guys carrying guns? They have no effect on the Slime People! We know that!” Leaving aside the fact that it’s a major state park riff, it’s hard to imagine that kind of a plot-intensive riff in later seasons.
• No Tom Servo in the closing segment.
• Fave riff from the short: “Come and get me! I’m a fuzzy little rabbit! I’m bring bad!” Honorable mention: “Hip? Not! Ick!”
• Fave riff from the movie: “Honestly, Bonnie, the slime you bring home.”
Episode guide: 109- Project Moon Base (with shorts: Radar Men from the Moon– episode 7, Camouflaged Destruction and episode 8, The Enemy Planet)
Short 1: (1951) The thugs have a new ray gun in a disguised truck, but Cody and Ted are after them.
Short 2: (1951) Cody and his team return to the moon and drive off with a cache of lunarium, but some moon men give chase.
Movie: (1953) In the far future — 1970 — the U.S. space program plans its first flight around the moon, but a commie spy plans sabotage.
First shown: 1/6/90
Opening: Joel has been cleaning up the robots
Invention exchange: Joel shows off special paddles that let him juggle water, the Mads have invented the insect-a-sketch
Host segment 1: J&TB are playing Commando Cody and the moon man
Host segment 2: J&TB show off their line of neckties of the future
Host segment 3: SPACOM!
End: Crow and Tom are upside down reading letters
• I’m going to give this one a good-not-great rating. The movie is just so much fluff, with very little substance and Commando Cody is really overstaying his welcome. The riffing is fine and the necktie and SPACOM host segments are first-season gems, but, even grading on the season one curve, it’s not that memorable.
• Tom Noel has somehow unearthed a Cable Guide from the week this first aired and has confirmed the debut date, one of only two confirmed debut dates for season 1.
• Joel’s in a robe again in the opening. I can’t believe I never noticed this before.
• The juggling water bit is from Joel’s standup act, but I’m pretty sure the insect-a-sketch is new.
• This episode has “thin” shadowrama. Crow looks a bit strange.
• Fun moment in the theater: during a fight scene, Joel’s produces “Batman” (the 60s TV show)-style letters saying things like “biff!” A very Joel moment.
• During the second short, J&TB sing the lovely Commando Cody theme song.
• It’s interesting (to me, anyway) to compare “Project Moonbase,” in which a sinister nation is worried about America’s preeminence in space, and “Rocket Attack USA,” (shown in season two) in which a worried America frets about a sinister nation’s preeminence in space. Guess that’s the difference between the optimistic world view of 1953 and the nervous world view of 1961. Did I just give somebody a poly sci/communications masters thesis idea?
• The Wikia page says this movie is “cobbled together from several episodes of the unsold TV science fiction series, ‘Ring Around the Moon.’ ” That’s a new one on me.
• Another funny bit in the theater: Joel holds up cue cards to help “Dr. Bellows” with his little speech about gravity.
• This ep features the first use of the riff “By this time my lungs were aching for air.” In fact, they use it twice, once in the short and again in the movie.
• The word “hexfield” pops up in the second host segment.
• I think this is also the first use of the little “buckawow” song, meant as shorthand to indicate a spot where the sex starts in a dirty movie.
• And I think this is also the first use of the riff: “Get your shoes on, we’re at Grandpa’s/Grandma’s.”
• An example of how casual this show is: There’s a lovely closeup of Crow’s hand (claw?) during “mail call” and nobody has bothered to fix the chipped-off paint.
• Fave riff from short 1: “It’s me! It’s always going be me. Whoever calls you, it’s me!”
• Fave riff from short 2: “I can’t believe we’re trying to annihilate you! This is delicious!”
• Favorite riff: :::as Polly Prattles::: “You’re over by a metric ton!” (Isn’t it interesting how adding the word “metric” makes that riff funnier?) Honorable mention: “Spanking IS protocol in the high echelons of NASA.”
Episode guide: 110- Robot Holocaust (with short: Radar Men From The Moon–Episode 9, Battle in the Stratosphere)
Short: (1951) Cody and Ted escape the pursuing moon men and make it back to the ship. They blast off and … the film breaks.
Movie: (1986) In a post-apocalyptic future that looks a lot like Central Park, the cruel Valaria is the chief henchwoman of the all-powerful Dark One. But a rag-tag band of rebels is determined to overthrow them.
First shown: 1/13/90 (unconfirmed)
Opening: Joel sings the human blues
Invention exchange: Joel demos his “nitro-burning funny pipe”; The Mads have invented the stocking mask of the future
Host segment 1: Crow and Tom, in the “We Zone,” make Joel do tricks
Host segment 2: Cambot’s sitcom simulator malfunctions
Host segment 3: J&TB play Robot Holocaust, but Crow and Joel aren’t having fun
End: Joel announces the “name the plant guy in the movie” contest and reads a letter
• It’s clear that, in 1994, Best Brains thought this is one of the better episodes of season one; it was the one of the ones they chose to show at the first Conventio-con, despite the fact that in general they were down on season 1 at that time. And it was a good choice. The movie is bizarre and it’s in color. The riffing is very strong for season one. The host segments are nothing to write home about, but they’re not terrible either. All in all, lots of fun. And the line “It was after the apocalypse…” became a catchphrase.
• The puppetry mechanism connected to Crow’s jaw seems extra noticeable this week. Also, Crow seems to be clacking a lot this episode.
• Another open flame in the invention exchange this week.
• The “SM of F” looks like something from Joel’s standup act, but I’m not sure. I think the “funny pipe” is new.
• Another use of “By this time, my lungs were aching for air.”
• The whole “the film broke” thing serves as our farewell to the “Radar Men from the Moon” series. I assume they discovered that the full short and movie together were a few minutes too long, so they decided to cut the short to the length needed. I don’t really care that much, but it seems like there’s a really long closing credit sequence at the end of the movie, where the riffs are a little thin, that might have been cut back instead. In the ACEG, Kevin also says they were sick of “Radar Men” by this point, so that may be the reason why the short got short shrift, as it were.
• Also note: They cut the entire opening credits for the short, which, of course, we’ve already seen eight times. (Hence the episode title screen instead of the main short title screen above.) I don’t blame them. YOU try to come up with nine sets of jokes for the same three minutes of footage. Eight was enough!
• After the film breaks Joel gets up from his seat and walks back to Cambot to investigate, giving us a rare sense of the empty space between the camera and the seat backs.
• For those who care, the Wikia page for this episode kindly provides a brief summary of what happens in the remaining installments:
“After Krog repeatedly fails to kill Cody, Retik comes to Earth so he can defeat Cody personally and oversee the plan to invade Earth. Krog’s henchmen almost kill Cody’s pals, but the bad guys are caught and arrested. Cody convinces the police to release the criminals so he can follow them to their secret hideout. Cody storms the villains’ HQ, and eventually kills Krog and his two henchmen. Afraid of being caught, Retik takes off in his rocket ship. Cody uses Retik’s own giant ray gun to shoot at the departing rocket, destroying Retik and his plans to invade Earth.”
• Joel does a turtle impression in the theater. Silly.
• Recognize that music during the opening and closing credits of the movie? It’s the same music used in “Laserblast” and several other Charles Band films (Band was the uncredited executive producer and the music is by his brother Richard).
• I’m somewhat amazed that Daddy-O didn’t know this one: director Tim Kincaid (born Tim Gambiani) is also known as Joe Gage, a name he used as a gay porn movie director (and he is apparently a well-regarded one at that). A LOT of stuff in this movie starts to make sense when you know that. Fangoria has an interview with him here, though he doesn’t discuss “Robot Holocaust” very much in it.
• Joel guesses that a particular shot was done in Central Park. He may be right. The IMDB says the locations were shot there, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Roosevelt Island.
• I just want to note a weird coincidence. In this movie there’s an evil robot named Torque, aka “Crusty.” “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” has a robot named Torg. Then there’s the evil henchman named TORGo… Then there’s TOR Johnson… I think there’s a lingusitics masters thesis in there somewhere.
• Segment 1 should probably have been shown later in the episode. We have no idea why Tom and Crow are dressed in furs and talking about the “We Zone” until later in the movie when we meet women in furs talking about the “She Zone.”
• I do enjoy Joel’s “crazy duck face,” but it’s too bad we don’t get to see “snow storm in China,” which reportedly is a stunning magic trick involving lots of confetti.
• “I kinda miss Earth, you guys.” Poor horny Joel.
• This movie makes the classic mistake of not letting us know ANYTHING about the protagonists, in an attempt to create a sense of mystery, I suppose. The result is that when our hero from the wastelands is battling Torque in the climax of the movie, we feel nothing. Even that stupid robot is a more sympathetic character.
• Crow’s never heard of George Clinton? What is he, a Gramercy Pictures executive?
• In the letter Joel reads, the little kid says his favorite riff is: “He’s out of bang bang.” Everybody draws a blank. I remember it. It was in a “Radar Men from the Moon” episode, when one of the characters’ gun jammed.
• It’s in this episode the we get the famous explanation as to why Servo wants Joel to carry him into and out of the theater (although over the years he made it in and out himself lots of times). As they leave the theater at the end of the movie, Servo says, “Hey Joel, you gotta come lift me over this heating grid.” It isn’t mentioned again until Mike’s first episode, when Crow refers to it as an “air grate.”
As explained in the FAQ, the off-screen reason why they had to do this is: “When they entered the theater, Joel/Mike could walk in, and Trace/Bill could slide over with Crow from the right, but Josh/Kevin had to be already sitting in Tom Servo’s spot. So Joel/Mike had to carry Tom Servo in and hand him to Josh/Kevin, and carry him out at the end.” It does seem like Josh is crawling in with Servo in some of the KTMA eps, so it’s unclear when they decided this would be the procedure. I’ll try to remember to ask ‘em at some point.
• The winner of the “Name the plant guy” contest was announced in episode 104- WOMEN OF THE PREHISTORIC PLANET.
• Fave riff from the short: “Taste my steel, Jughead!”
• Fave riff: “I think somebody’s forgettin’ who’s holdin’ the pink slip, little lady!” Honorable mention: “Where IS the room of questions?”
Movie: (1969) On a colonized moon, the services of a disaffected former astronaut turned “moon ferry” pilot are needed by sinister tycoon and a woman looking for her brother, who’s a moon miner.
First shown: 1/20/90 (unconfirmed)
Opening: Joel explains the premise and suggests viewers go get a nutritious snack
Invention exchange: Larry’s hair is lifeless, but the invention exchange must go on. Joel demonstrates his food teleporter; the Mads have invented celebrity mouth-to-mouth toothpaste
Host segment 1: J&TB perform a moon landing pageant
Host segment 2: J&TB conjecture about games of the future
Host segment 3: Crow and Tom fight over the women in the movie, in zero gravity
End: The bots play the “good thing/bad thing” movie review game and Joel reads a letter. Larry’s hair is better.
• I’m going to put this one, just barely, in the “good” column. The movie is just so goofy, but actually pretty watchable. (It’s interesting — to me, anyway, since I lived through that time period — to see an enactment of the future a lot of people considered almost inevitable right after the moon landings took place: that NASA would smoothly continue, colonizing the moon, beginning passenger space travel, then mounting expeditions to other planets. I think if you went back in time and told the movie makers that, in 2011, we haven’t done any of it, they’d be amazed.) The riffing is also quite good. It’s the host segments that drag the thing down. All of them seem to be long, not-very-funny setups for lame punchlines or sight gags.
• This is the first episode in which the opening segment begins with Magic Voice announcing “30 seconds to commercial sign.”
• That twine attached to Crow’s chin is again very noticeable.
• Joel once again explains the premise, using almost the exact same language as in previous openings.
• The Bots are uncharacteristically silent during the opening segment and the invention exchange.
• Joel is playing with something as the invention exchange begins. Some sort of magnetic game? Anybody know what it is?
• As the Mads call, Joel says: “Try not to look so happy, you guys.” One of the interesting things about the first season is the way Joel didn’t seem to be that upset about being stranded in space. It was only in later seasons that his character seemed to become more anxious to get back to Earth.
• Joel’s invention is one of his lamer efforts, I’d say. You can pretty much see the mechanisms of everything. Or is that the point?
• Joel still has part of his invention exchange on his head when he comes into the theater.
• I have a question about our hero’s space ship. The movie takes place in the 21st century, so it’s been at least 30ish years since the Apollo program. The bad guy says Kemp’s “moon ferry” is 10 years old–so that means it was built in the 1990s at least. So, it’s not like it’s a leftover Apollo lunar module. So, why does it look exactly like a lunar module? (I know, the real answer is probably because the filmmakers thought audiences would immediately recognize it as a space vehicle.)
• Josh reads that whole moon landing sequence in segment 1 like he had it memorized, but I asked him on Twitter and he said he wasn’t that big of an Apollo buff–he just read the script they gave him.
• Also one minor fact is wrong. The Eagle landed on the moon on July 20, not July 22.
• Crow is still wearing his helmet when he returns to the theater after the first host segment. Joel later removes it, causing Crow to yell “Ow! Ow!” It’s those little touches that make Trace’s performance so amazing.
• “I kinda miss the moon, you guys.” Joel is still horny.
• Obscure reference: “Thnooperth and Blabberth!”
• Then-current (and somewhat dark) reference: “Just ask John Landis.”
• Several times, the bots sing snippets of “The Wiener Man,” a campfire favorite. I remember there was much excitement about this when it aired. It was mentioned in one of the early newsletters and there was an entry about the song in the FAQ for a while. There are a number of variations to the lyrics, but I think the most standard one (the newsletter notwithstanding) is:
I know a wiener man
He owns a hot dog stand
He gives me everything
From wieners on down.
Someday, I’ll be his wife
And then we’ll live the wiener life
Hot dog! I love the wiener man!
• We get another reference to “Yards of Leather.”
• One of the waitresses on the moon base is played Carol Cleveland, who, that same year, began making regular appearances on a little TV show called “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”
• Toward the end of the show, they come back from commercial and only Joel and Crow can be seen in the theater. After a few moments, Tom Servo pops up from the last seat on the left and heads over to his seat, saying: “Got my gum back.” Did he leave it there at the end of the last theater segment?
• Gypsy’s light is on at last! She again answers “Richard Basehart” when asked a question, and is again rewarded for it.
• Favorite riff: “Fourth floor: Tyrannical tycoons, loose women.” Honorable mention: “In space, no one can art direct.”
Movie: (1957): Two hitchhiking sisters are sentenced to 30 days labor at a cotton farm run by a scheming farm boss.
First shown: 1/27/90 (unconfirmed)
Opening: Joel explains the premise, again. Meanwhile, Tom has a tape-worm
Invention exchange: Joel shows off the “never-light” pipe; the Mads have invented tongue puppets
Host segment 1: J&TB perform a pageant dedicated to Greg Brady
Host segment 2: Crow recalls when J&TB rigged up Cambot so they can see what Gypsy is thinking
Host segment 3: Gypsy’s sick, and Tom is no help
End: Joel tires to explain the goofy guy from the movie, and reads some letters.
• I was really looking forward to this one. First of all, the movie marks a real departure for the series: It’s the first non-horror/sci-fi movie of the national series. (In fact, all the movies in season one except this one would have fitted easily within the restrictions Sci-Fi Channel initially imposed on the Brains.) Secondly, well, there’s Mamie. My memory of it was very positive. In the previous iteration of this guide, I called it “probably the best episode of season one.” But this time, through, I gotta say, I’m not so sure anymore. The movie’s reasonably watchable, but the riffing is really only so-so and the host segments, like last week, seem to be either long marches to nowhere (segment 1) or disjointed messes (segment 3). Maybe I just had too-high expectations for it, but this time this one left me feeling a little disappointed.
• Crow still has the thick chin twine.
• Tom Servo observes: “That’s the only torso I have.” That would not be true for long.
• Joel again tells the bots to “look downcast.”
• The bots wince in pain when Joel strikes a match on them. Nice touch. And Joel doesn’t seem to care!
• Born Joan Lucille Olander, we’ll meet Mamie again in season six’s “Girls Town,” and you might remember Mamie’s appearance on the 1994 Turkey Day bumpers hosted by Adam West. You can read about her life in her autobiography “Playing the Field” (now out of print, but copies are available). Mamie’s also very tech-savvy: You can visit mamievandoren.com, visit her Facebook page or follow her on Twitter @mamievandoran. Mamie’s now semi-retired from film, but she’s still singing: she has an album out called “Still a Troublemaker.”
• They may not be able to make a cotton picker out of him, but Tom’s wrong: they WERE able to make a singer out of him! That’s rockabilly star Eddie Cochran, playing a character named “Bong” (it was a simpler time). He was only 19 here, and only a couple of years away from his death in a car crash at the age of 21. (Cochran holds the dubious distinction of being the youngest person to die in our MSTory database.)
• We’ll meet Lori Nelson again in “Revenge of the Creature.”
• “Untamed Youth” was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency, but reportedly it only increased the film’s popularity.
• You can definitely see the blue tinting in this one.
• Inexplicable line from the movie: “I’ll give ya an Italian haircut.” The phrase “Italian haircut” is not explained anywhere on the web (other than the literal meaning). Any idea what it means?
• There was a certain type of MST3K fan who, when you asked them why they liked the show, would say something like “because that guy Joel is SO HIGH.” Why that would be a positive attribute of a TV show escapes me, but that’s just me. I don’t think Joel was ever stoned on camera, but, I gotta say, in host segment 1, he sure LOOKS it. I’m going to attribute it to Joel’s acting skills.
• Joel also almost falls over as the segment starts (though, to be fair, there was only a very small platform behind the desk for the host to stand on–the rest was an open trench where the puppeteers stood; I once stood there, and I can attest to the fact that it would be very easy for even a completely sober person to accidentally misstep and almost fall).
• I was never that much of a “Brady Bunch” fan, so I don’t really get why the detailed minutiae about the show they spout in segment 1 is funny. These season one “pageants” don’t really stand up well to repeat viewings.
• I wonder why they added the flashback element to host segment 2. Doesn’t seem necessary and certainly doesn’t add anything. To add time?
• LOTR reference: “Sauron’s dark army?”
• Callback: “No dancing.” (Crawling Hand)
• We get several more uses of “Wonder what (s)he wanted…”
• Gypsy enters the theater for the first time in this episode: Joel calls her into the theater to produce cotton in response to Tom Servo’s query about what real cotton feels like (though how exactly Tom Servo would “feel” the cotton is unclear–I know, it’s just a show). Joel tells her to use her “teledyne vector” to perform this function. Whatever that is.
• Gypsy’s lips fall off during a very hectic segment 3. They keep going.
• While we’re more used to Joel stumbling over his lines, in the last half hour in the theater, Trace commits what is probably his worst line flub ever with: “Hey, it’s Grg-brg-grg-brg-Greg Brady!” They keep going.
• With this episode, the MST3K “Fan Club” becomes the “Information Club” in the end-of-show announcement.
• I think a brief explanation of the final musical number is called for: In 1957 (as this movie was being made) Harry Belafonte scored a HUGE hit with “The Banana Boat Song.” The song was mostly a hit because of its different sound and of course Harry’s charming singing style. But music promoters, as music promoters so often do, completely misread the public and decided that what the teeners wanted was calypso, calypso and MORE calypso. They didn’t, and the whole fad folded in a matter of weeks, but not before Les Baxter threw a little calypso number into this movie. (Also THIS travesty got made. Needs to be seen to be believed.)
• Favorite riff: “Wait…so you’re my grandma, my sister, my mom…did you marry Bill Wyman?”
Movie: (1957) Giant black scorpions emerge from a Mexican volcano and go on a rampage.
First shown: 2/3/90
Opening: The robots are throwing a party for Joel
Invention exchange: Joel has invented a man-sized party favor; the Mads have mutated
Host segment 1: J&TB attempt to speak Spanish
Host segment 2: Crow and Tom ponder the strange habits of Joel, failing to notice — until it’s too late — that Gypsy is going through some changes
Host segment 3: The Bots’ put on a puppet show; J&TB discuss stop-motion animation
End: J&TB read some letters; the Mads are starting to feel better
• This is a fun, kind of middle-of-the-road episode. The movie is really not that bad; indeed there are moments where you really can get caught up in the story (though the romance between Richard Denning and Mara Corday is completely flat). The riffing keeps up with the movie, and it’s pretty funny, which makes it, overall, a fun experience. But the host segments continue the trend of the last few episodes: they’re mostly long setups that don’t pay off.
• Nice spit take from Joel in the opening.
• Josh’s make up in this show is remarkable! Quite a job. Faye Burkholder and Clayton James are listed as the makeup people in the credits. Kudos to them if they are responsible.
• Thanks to several commenters for pointing out a big goof in this episode: In the opening, Dr. F says the movie features special effects by Ray Harryhausen. It does not, the effects are by Willis O’Brien. In segment 3, Joel correctly describes Harryhausen as O’Brien’s protege, even though he doesn’t seem to be aware that O’Brien’s work is featured in the film he’s watching. In the early days, BBI didn’t do much in the way research. I suspect that, until about season six, the closest thing they had to a research library was a dog-eared copy of Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide.
• They do love that “Fentonville, east of Muncie” joke, don’t they? We’ll hear it several times in the episodes ahead.
• In the ACEG, Mike apologizes for the use of a peeing sound effect in episode 102. But he fails to mention the applause sound effect used every time Ramos is introduced in this ep. Who’s supposed to be clapping, anyway?
• Gypsy’s scorpion tail falls off in host segment 2.
• Crow’s Bing Crosby sounds a LOT like his Dean Martin–and vice versa.
• There’s about five minutes after segment 2 when they seem to do nothing but golf riffs. Not really sure why. The scenery in the movie doesn’t really resemble a golf course.
• This episode includes one of my all-time favorite Joel riffs: “Remember that bad thing we saw? It looked just like this. This is bad.”
• We get a couple of uses of the “SEEMED like [fill in the blank] … At first!” bit in this episode.
• Then-current reference: Manuel Noriega (tinpot strongman in Panama who had been recently toppled by U.S. forces when this show aired).
• Somebody refers to a “Dan Witkowski halftime show.” He is referring to this. Thanks to commenter Unga Kahn for figuring this one out.
• At the end of the closing segment, Josh simply says “Bye!” and walks off the set. And the first cast member departure takes place. Weinstein gets short-shrift by many, and I don’t feel this is deserved. Looking back, Weinstein was clearly a gifted young man with a sense of humor and style well beyond his years. He certainly held his own in many ways with co-stars many years his senior. And Weinstein deserves credit for one other achievement–it was Weinstein that spotted struggling comedian Michael J. Nelson and suggested he be hired.
• Favorite riff: “It’s the Oaxaca steps sequence.”