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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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And be sure to visit Cinematic Titanic by Joel Hodgson and other original MST3K cast members.

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And check out the official web site of Joel Hodgson.

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Weekend Discussion Thread: Laughing at MST3K at the Wrong Moment

This one’s been sitting in the cue for a couple of years:

Have you ever had MST playing in the background while you were ‘fooling’ around with your wife, husband, or significant other and started laughing at an inopportune time when you heard a funny line?

Well, no, Klisch, but let’s expand this. MST3K is available on YouTube and Hulu (and Retro TV!), plus of course the many DVDs that are out there, so there really are lots of chances to be watching it at, say, work, or school, only to laugh at the wrong moment. I gotta tell you, I have had several instances of watching the show at work and having to desperately stifle my hilarity inside my cubicle.

I suspect others have had this experience. Tell us about it!

(And keep sending those topics!)

Episode guide: K16- City On Fire

Movie: (1979) A disgruntled former refinery worker starts a city-wide conflagration and a star-studded cast, each with their own subplot, must cope with the disaster.

First shown: 3/19/89
Opening: The Mad Scientist League threatens to revoke Dr. F. and Dr. E.’s licenses. Seems they’re merely “mildly peeved researchers.”
Host segment 1: Servo and Crow pull the old “telescope black eye” prank on Joel
Host segment 2: Joel demonstrates his new anti-theft device, “hell in a handbag”
Host segment 3: J&TB perform a military cadence
End: Joel again shows the stuff you get when you join the MST3K Fan Club
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (87 votes, average: 4.08 out of 5)

• The “hell in a handbag” invention in segment 2 would be re-used in episode 103- MAD MONSTER.
• The Brains apparently thought they had done some of their best work in this episode. Portions of segments 1 and 3 and a couple of segments of theater riffing (the “good morning!” sequence and the childbirth scene) were included on the compilation pitch tape that sold the show to The Comedy Channel. That compilation tape was included on the “MST3K Scrapbook” tape that was sold to fans by the Info Club.
• A portion of segment 3 also appeared in the Comedy Central special “This is MST3K.”
• A commercial advertising Joel Hodgson’s stand-up comedy act (with a voice over by Kevin Murphy) aired during the original broadcast of this episode, and is included in many fan copies.
• This is the first reference to the “Mad Scientists League” that is forever checking up on Dr. F and, later, Pearl.
• Local reference: “I haven’t been in research since I was at the U doing kitchen cabinet analysis for Ken Keller’s house.” Keller was president of the University of Minnesota–known in the Twin Cities as, simply, “the U”–in the 80s. He was nice enough to reply to an email I sent him and explain the joke.

“In 1988, renovations to the university president’s house (Eastcliff) were the hot scandal of the day with lots of talk about a $600,000 kitchen. Aside from the fact that there was no such kitchen (that was the price of the whole renovation, but that’s a longer story), it made great headlines for a couple of months. Since I was the president at the time, the headlines were about me and “my house.” So Twin Citians at the time would have known the reference.
Never thought of hiring researchers to do the kitchen cabinet analysis. We did it the old-fashioned way: you buy the cabinets and you hang them.”

• There’s no “movie sign” sequence at the beginning of the movie. It goes right from the Mads, into the movie.
• In the theater, Joel and Servo start talking at the same moment, but this time Joel doesn’t give way and finishes his joke. Instead, it’s Servo who gives way. Joel asks him what he was going to say. Servo tells him what it was (it isn’t very funny). Joel says “I’m glad I interrupted you.” Crow adds: “Hey, we’re beginning to annoy ourselves! Cool!”
• Crow mistakenly identifies the kid who starts the fire as Brandon Cruz of “Courtship of Eddie’s Father.” He does look a little like Cruz, but it’s actually another child actor, Steven Chaikelson. He had a very short career, and with his terrible acting in this movie, you can see why. By the way, the little girl playing his sister Debbie is his real-life sister Janice. Her career was a little longer–but not much.
• You can see that Henry Fonda and Ava Gardner pretty much phoned their parts in. Probably were on the set for a day or two at most.
• It’s almost spring in Minneapolis and it was a balmy 34 degrees when the show started, moving up to 35 later on.
• Coming back from Segment 1, the Barry Newman character is talking about unintelligible symbols and Joel says “sounds like viewer mail.” Wow he’s only started getting mail for a few weeks and he’s already jaded?
• The sound mixing is a little rough in this one: during some of the louder movie scenes it’s hard to hear the riffers.
• After segment 3, Joel again runs down the hallway and is run over by Cambot.
• Servo uses the term “kindler gentler”–a popular, if mistaken, phrase in 1989.
• Crow sneezes in the theater.
• Cast and crew roundup: Special effects guy Thomas L. Fisher, sound effects editor Dennis Drummond, sound recording mixer David Appleby and dialogue editor Martin Ashbee all also worked on “The Last Chase.” In front of the camera, we’ll see James Franciscus again in “Space Travelers.”
• CreditsWatch: Todd Ziegler gets the director credit. Brian Funk is listed as an “additional” writer. Alexander Carr gets the audio credit. Clayton James would do makeup for this episode and the rest of the season.
• Fave riff: “Boil some newspapers! ” Honorable mention: “It’s the creature from the gross lagoon.”

Richard Kiel, RIP

kiel FRESNO, Calif.–Richard Kiel, whose towering height and distinctive baritone voice defined his nearly 50-year career in television and films, most notably as the steely toothed James Bond villain Jaws, died at a hospital here Sept. 10. He was 74.
MSTies will remember him as Dr. Kolos in the movie in episode 420- THE HUMAN DUPLICATORS, the Solarite in the movie in episode 902- THE PHANTOM PLANET and, of course, for the title role in the movie in episode 506- EEGAH!

Entertainment Weekly has an obituary.

Frank & Trace at Scare-A-Con This Weekend

Frank and Trace will be guests at Scare-A-Con Friday through Saturday, Sept. 12-14, at the Turning Stone resort and Casino in Verona, N.Y. The will do a panel on Friday night and another one on Saturday morning. More info here.

Weekend Discussion Thread: ‘Say What?’

A certain regular who asked not to be named opines:

[Recently], several of us [commenters in a certain thread] were commenting about how silly the spam messages were, which you’ve since deleted. They sounded like something weirdly translated into English, and I said this might be a good WDT, perhaps call it, “Say WHAT?” — sentences spoken by an MST3K character that make no sense whatsoever. I don’t mean sentences that are hard to hear or understand, like Buffalo Bill’s “New England journalists!” in “Riding with Death” (which I think was a redneck accented way of saying, “You act like you’re enjoying this,” by the way).

My “Say what??” would be from “Agent for H.A.R.M.” when Adam Chance says, “You think you can’t get hurt, Doctor, because this is America? Apple pie and all that jazz? Well, it’s my job to keep the pie on the table, and nobody asks me how I do it!” Why pie? Why does Chance have to keep it on the table? Where else would it be? My brain hurts…

I’ve got a classic: “Flag on the moon. How did it get there?” WHA? Ya wanna unpack that one for me, there, Coleman, buddy?

What’s your pick?

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Episode guide: K15- Superdome

Movie: (1978) A star-studded cast, each with their own subplot, descends on New Orleans for the Super Bowl, but a killer is on the loose.

First shown: 3/12/89
Opening: In a letter to his uncle, Servo recalls how he almost talked the Mads into bringing Joel back to Earth
Host segment 1: Still writing his letter, Servo recalls when Joel showed Servo what it’s like to feel pain
Host segment 2: Still writing his letter, Servo reveals that Joel isn’t really like his lovable on-air persona. His crabbiness seems to trigger recreations of memorable movie moments in the bots
Host segment 3: Still writing his letter, Servo experiences a sentimental montage
End: Joel and Crow show off some artwork sent in by viewers; then present the stuff you’ll get if you join the fan club.
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (109 votes, average: 4.20 out of 5)

• The host segments in this episode appear to be a spoof of sitcom clipshow, although only one segment, the one in segment 1, features an actual clip from a previous episode (it’s from episode K13- SST DEATH FLIGHT), but the others were made to look like they were.
• For years, the only known existing copy this episode was missing the final host segment. That changed in October 2004, when the missing final segment came to light in the possession of a Minnesota woman named Teresa Dietzinger. She sent some artwork in to the show (it’s the first one shown in the final segment, she says she included her name on the drawing, nonetheless Joel says he can’t remember it and mistakenly assumes a guy did it). She taped the episode and held on to the tape for 16 years. Although her father long ago taped over the rest of the episode with family footage and such, the final host segment remained intact.
• Servo is typing on an old IBM Selectric (probably some KTMA office equipment). For you kids, that unfamiliar object is called a “typewriter.” You couldn’t get Facebook on it, but it was useful sometimes.
• Servo has feet? (He claims to be typing with them.)
• “Is that your head or did your neck blow a bubble?” is a joke already used in an earlier episode. Sounds like it might have been a heckler putdown from Josh’s standup act.
• Callback: “Did these guys fly in on SST Death Flight?”
• This movie’s just chock full of late-’70s casual hooking up. Quite the time capsule.
• Servo coughs and kind of chokes in the theater.
• Servo seems to be malfunctioning in the theater. At one point he falls over into Joel’s lap. Joel casually shovels him back the other way. He recovers, mumbling something about “narcolepsy.” Later he sags to one side and suggests Joel needs to adjust his “equilibrium functions.” For a lot of the episode he bobs up and down in the seat as if Josh is having trouble holding him steady.
• Joel is smoking in segment 2 in order to telegraph that he’s a being a jerk. That segment reminds me of the host segment in episode guide: 608- CODE NAME: DIAMOND HEAD in which Mike is mean to the bots.
• Some of the clips in the montage in segment 3 appear to be from K01, K02 and K03, of which no fan copies are known to exist.
• What do you bet they didn’t clear that Louis Armstrong song they used in the montage in segment 3?
• As they enter the theater after segment 3, Crow gets into his seat and then adjusts his position with a lovely mechanical noise.
• As the fan club address appears on the screen, Crow says, apparently to the audience, “Don’t call. Write.” This would appear to be the official shift away from taking phone calls and in the direction of letters.
• At one point toward the end, Joel admits to being completely unable to think of anything funny to say. This prompts Servo to recall the flashback in the opening segment, in which Crow ruins Servo’s attempt to get the Mads to bring them down to Earth. The two bots begin bickering. It’s a strange moment.
• Minneapolis joke: An overhead shot of the seats in the Superdome prompts Crow to identify it as “The Guthrie.”
• Movie stuff: There are a lot of extras in this thing. Were they all actors, or did they just shoot this on game day? I wonder what marching band that is that gets so much screen time. It’s not named in the end credits.
• Also, the announcer keeps hyping the madness that has descended on New Orleans with the arrival of the Super Bowl. He’s really overselling it. It’s not like New Orleans has never had tourists visit it before.
• J&tB stand up in the theater for the national anthem.
• It’s interesting that the fan club membership cards appear to be the same ones that were handed out for years later. Maybe they bought a whole bunch in the initial order?
• If you want to read that newsletter Joel is holding, it’s here.
• Although the final host segment was saved from oblivion, the closing credits of that show were not. If you have the copy of this that includes the final host segment, that DVD includes the closing credits from episode K20 “just for consistency.”
• Cast and crew roundup: director Jerry Jameson also directed “It Lives By Night.” Score composer John Cacavas also worked on “SST- Death Flight” and “Hangar 18.” In front of the camera, David Janssen was also in “Marooned” aka “Space Travelers.” Van Johnson also appeared in “San Francisco International.” Ed Nelson was also in “Teenage Caveman,” “Swamp Diamonds,” “Night of the Blood Beast” and “Riding With Death. Michael Pataki was also in “The Side Hackers” and “It Lives By Night.”
• Fave riff: “And a gun FOR the doberman!” Honorable mention: “Women cause weak knees. It’s a fact!”

More Joel Appearances Coming Up

This weekend at Baltimore Comic Con, Joel will do a panel on Saturday and will host the costume contest on Sunday. More info here.
September 27 RetroCon at The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center – Joel signs autographs, and does Q and A. More info here.
October 18th, Tide Water Comicon, Virginia Beach, Virginia – Joel signs autographs, does Q and A and performs “Riffing Myself.” More info here.
October 24-26 Chiller Theater Expo Parsippany, N.J. – Joel signs autographs, does Q and A and performs “Riffing Myself.” More info here.

Andrew McLaglen, RIP

McLaglenH2 FRIDAY HARBOR, WASH.– Veteran Western and action movie director Andrew V. McLaglen died Aug. 30 at his home here. He was 94. Although best remembered as the director of a numnber of John Wayne movies, including “Cahill U.S. Marshal” and “McLintock!”, MSTies will recall him as the director of the movie in episode 512- MITCHELL.

There’s a nice long video interview with him here, recalling his career.