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Goodbye Sci-Fi

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

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Episode guide: 207- Wild Rebels

Movie: (1967) A down-on-his-luck stock-car racer is recruited as getaway driver for a biker gang planning a robbery spree. He wants nothing to do with it until the cops ask him to go undercover.

First shown: 11/17/90
Opening: Something’s wrong with Gypsy but to find out what it is, Joel must shut down most of the ship’s higher functions of the SOL
Invention exchange: Gypsy was just a little depressed but she’s feeling better; the Mads unveil their hobby hogs; Joel shows off his 3-D pizza
Host segment 1: Joel explains that most famous intellectuals rode in biker gangs
Host segment 2: J&tB do a commercial for Wild Rebels cereal
Host segment 3: Joel and Gypsy have a nice little stroll, and he serenades her, a la the movie
End: Joel explains how to appreciate a bad movie, then he and bots start to party, much to Dr. F’s astonishment. Joel reads a letter and Dr. F puts a partying Frank down for the night
Stinger: None.
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (145 votes, average: 4.24 out of 5)

• I have to agree with the folks who have been saying, for several weeks, that this is the best of the three biker movie episodes in season 2. This ep is definitely a lot of fun. You’ve got a dumb but watchable movie, good and steady riffing and memorable host segments. All in all, plenty of KICKS!
• Joel, still in a green jumpsuit, is now sporting a cheesy goatee.
• This episode was included in Rhino’s The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 9.
• Tom Servo’s regular head returns. No explanation is given.
• The opening explains Gypsy’s role on the SOL, a bit that came in response to fan questions about her. In the ACEG they sheepishly admit that it was a little uncomfortable that the only female character on the show was distinctly cow-like. By the way, I never noticed before that Joel actually turns a little knob on the back of Gypsy’s head in order to turn off the “higher functions.”
• Trace and Frank are very funny in the invention exchange. Dr. F finally tries to get to the bottom of “eyukaeee,” but nothing doing.
• Joel twice calls the theater the “Mystery Science Theater”–the first and last time he would do that.
• J&tB take note of a really glaring continuity mistake early on, as the guitar is present on the car Rod is trying to sell, and a moment later it isn’t.
• We get Gypsy’s second appearance in the theater (her first was in episode 112- UNTAMED YOUTH) about ten minutes into the movie when somebody mentions “Voyage to the Bottom of Sea.”
• The club where our hero meets the bikers was an actual place, a Dade County dive then called Trader John’s.
• The band playing in the background at the bar are “The Birdwatchers,” a surf-rock band out of Tampa. Drummer Eddie Martinez died in the ’80s. Lead guitarist Joey Murcia’s whereabouts are unknown. As of a few years ago, keyboardist Bobby Puccetti was a party deejay in Florida and bassist Jerry Schills, who founded the group, lived in Dubuque, Iowa, and still played in a band. Lead singer Sammy Hall was a minister until he died in 2013. There’s a really extensive look at their career here. Schills, Hall and Puccetti reunited in 2012 to play a concert called “Geezerpalooza.” I got an email from Schills, who said “I don’t remember much of the movie other than the whole 5 or 10 minutes we had in it took the whole damn day to film. We weren’t the problem, it was just the way they do movies.” Still, he says “It was an unforgettable time of our lives.” I spoke to Hall on the phone for a bit. He also remembered that he was told to be there very early, and he was, but the filming still took all day. He also said he was the only one of the group who was actually called upon to act, “since I had to pretend I was playing the trumpet.” Incidentally, the song they sing, “Can I Do It?”, was never released commercially until a retrospective album came out in 1980.
• The bartender is played by then-Miami radio deejay Milton “Butterball” Smith.
• Callbacks: “The driver is either missing or he’s gone.” “Thees will seemplify everything!” (both The Phantom Creeps)
• Segment 1 is another intensely written but very funny sketch, typical of season 2, including the great line “Everyone thought Joseph Campbell was tough, but that was just a myth.”
• Segment 2 is an instant classic. Great line: “Like getting hit on the back of the head with a surfboard of flavor!” It’s not in the credits, but that’s Alex Carr as the voice of “Mom.”
• Movie observation: No gun dealer, no matter how naive or smitten, would ever load a gun for a customer.
• Instant catchphrase: “That square bugs me!”
• This was an era in the show when any character in any movie saying the words “I will…” was enough to get somebody shouting “I WILL KILL HIM!” as Sting did in the movie “Dune.” They were obsessed with it.
• Joel says “J. Gordon Liddy.” That’s G.
• The driver of the lead cop car in the scene where the cops are pursing the bikers through the swamps is then-Miami radio deejay Dutch Holland.
• Other than in the Marvel universe, I can’t find a Citrusville, Fla. I believe Jupiter, Fla., stood in for it. There is a lighthouse in Jupiter, too, but it’s unclear if that’s the Jupiter lighthouse in the final scenes of the movie. If anybody knows for sure, I’d love to find out.
• Also, the racing scenes were shot at the Palm Beach Fairgrounds Speedway.
• Segment 3 is just so adorable. Great line: “You know, I kinda feel like Mac Davis on ‘The Muppet Show.’ ”
• The closing segment really gives viewers a primer the MST3k way to look at a movie.
• Joel says “…dark, tarry…” Hmm.
• A balloon explodes in mid-letter, the bots react in character and they just keep going.
• For some reason, this episode has no stinger. Maybe they just forgot. Stinger suggestion: “That square bugs me…”
• A record album by Steve Alaimo, “Every Day I Have to Cry,” hung on the wall at the Best Brains studio. That appears to be the one Mike gives Crow in episode 512- SANTA CLAUS. You can briefly see the back and it looks like it’s been matted like something you would hang on the wall.
• Cast and crew roundup: None. Nobody who worked on this worked on any other MSTed movie.
• CreditsWatch: The font size and spacing are back to normal this week. Trace and Frank are, again, “special guest villians” (misspelled). This week’s Creative Pit Boss: Jim Mallon. Jim’s name, and Jann Johnson’s name, appear along with Kevin’s and Alex Carr’s names, in the Post Production Supervision credit, for this episode only. After an episode off last week, Tim Paulson returns as editor and will remain in that job for the rest of the season.
• Fave riff: “Personally, I like guys in clown suits.” Honorable mention: “Here comes the sermon on the Gran Torino.”

Two Eps Added to Shout’s Streaming Site

There are two new exclusively streaming episodes of MST3K starting today on Shout! Factory TV: “The Final Sacrifice” and “The Wild World of Bat Woman.” There are 38 episodes on the site currently.

A Brief Book Review

bookreview Here’s a brief review of “The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000: Twelve Classic Episodes and the Movies They Lampoon” by Chris Morgan.
I need to start this by apologizing that I have waited this long to get to this. The book has been out about a month; I finished it about three weeks ago, and life has intervened since then.
In any case, I would like to recommend this book to anyone who enjoys MST3K, including casual fans. I would also recommend it to loved ones of MST3K fans, who don’t embrace the show and wonder why the person they love is so devoted to it. This book will help explain.
It’s hard for me to express how much I enjoyed reading this book, and how much that surprised me. I have no concrete reason to be surprised, of course, since I don’t think I’ve read Morgan’s writing before. It’s more that I approach all attempts to write about MST3K with a certain amount of (often well-justified) trepidation. Most attempts to explain what the show “means” leave me cold, and I feel like they miss the point.
I was feeling that trepidation when I started reading this, and in only a few paragraphs, that feeling evaporated. To fully explain this sensation, I need to recall a comment made at a “Museum of TV” panel back in – memory is failing but I’m going to say ’95. Somebody asked what they thought of the movie “Ed Wood.” They all gushed a bit and Trace said something I’ll always remember: “We felt like it was written specifically for us.”
Similarly, the more I read of Morgan’s book, the more I got the feeling that Morgan was speaking specifically to ME.
Morgan has adopted just the right tone, light and offbeat one minute and earnest the next. His observations about the show are often original and spot-on. Reading this, I was in that extremely pleasant situation of actually looking forward to what Morgan’s book would say next.
In his book, Morgan has selected 12 “experiments,” one from each season, plus the movie. In each chapter he examines the movie itself and discusses what was going on at BBI while that show was being shot, and also places that episode into the context of the season it was in. I’m not sure I would have selected the same 12 episodes if I was doing it, but these work.
My scant negative observation: Somebody used to sell a T-shirt that read: “MST3K: I get it (mostly)” and that quote is apt here. Very occasionally, Morgan expresses bafflement over a riff (or a series of riffs) and it’s fairly clear the point of the joke has just gone over his head. But that’s rare, and mostly Morgan impressed me with the depth of his understanding of the writing team’s creative process.
So if you are looking for a light quick read about the best TV show ever, this one’s got my thumbs-up.

Weekend Discussion Thread: ‘Kinkiest’ Riff or Host Segment

Cornjob suggests:

Some time ago we had “Favorite/notable gay sex riffs” as a topic. Part of the premise was that there was nothing wrong with homosexuality and that sex, gay or straight, is just inherently funny. Recently I referenced Irving Klaw in a discussion of “Women of the Prehistoric Planet” and someone else asked me if my favorite movie was “Yards of Leather.” This got me thinking. With “50 Shades” in theaters, how about “Favorite BDSM, kinky sex or fetishism riffs” as a topic for discussion?
Examples for me would include when the mothers in Gamera vs Guiron are upset at their missing children and one expresses an intent to spank her son, Tom, 40 times, to which Servo blurts out, “I’m Tom, spank me!”
During Crows Houdini act at the beginning of Space Travelers when he describes the, “merciless, unrelenting — and strangely pleasurable — chains” he is wrapped in. Not that I’d know anything about that sort of thing.

I guess we can take a shot at it, with two caveats. First: Let’s keep things PG-13-ish, okay? Second: A lot of these riffs were written one or two decades ago, and, well, the world is a little different now. What was fodder for humor in 1991 is a legitimate alternative lifestyle in 2015. So let’s start with the basic assumption that nobody is belittling anybody else’s way of life. We all have our little things we enjoy, and we’re just sharing a few funny riffs between friends, okay? That said…

The riff that immediately came to my mind was a line in the short “X Marks the Spot.” The guardian angel says: “I don’t want to say he was lookin’ for trouble…” and the riff is: “…but I DID see him down by the waterfront wearin’ a spartan costume.”

Not that I would know what that’s like… :::hides spartan costume:::

What’s your pick?

New Commentary Track from RiffTrax


Download it here.

Leonard Nimoy, RIP

Nimoy BEL AIR, Calif.–Actor/director Leonard Nimoy, who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died Feb. 27 at his home here. He was 83.

MSTies have heard any number of references to and impressions of him during MST3K’s run. One memorable moment came in episode 503- SWAMP DIAMONDS when Crow and Tom Servo became obsessed with the “This Side of Paradise” episode of “Star Trek,” with Crow as Spock.

The New York Times (somebody probably wrote most of this years ago) has a nice obit.

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

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

First shown: 11/3/90
Opening: The bots trick Joel into thinking it’s Movie Sign
Invention exchange: The Mads have an oversized “Operation” game, Joel shows off his “pin-bolus”
Host segment 1: J&tB do a commercial for The Old School
Host segment 2: Joel conducts an autopsy on Mr. Hoover
Host segment 3: The bots use subliminal suggestions as they complain about the movie; the Mads send a short!
End: J&tB react to the short; Frank sings “If Chauffeurs Ruled the World”
Stinger: “Weird. I guess that is the word for it. Weird.”
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (155 votes, average: 3.95 out of 5)

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

MST3K on the Big Screen in New Jersey

The Rosebud Theater in Westwood, NJ, will be showing an MST3K episode every Sunday night in March at 7:00pm. Up first – MST3K: The Movie (plus a rare screening of Assignment: Venezuela). You can see the full schedule here. And you can visit their MST Facebook page here.

RIP Paul Napier

Napier SHERMAN OAKS, Calif.–TV and commercial actor Paul Napier has died after collapsing outside his home here. He was 84. Longtime MSTies will recall that he played Eddy in in the movie in episode K13- SST: DEATH FLIGHT.

His hometown paper has a nice long obit.

Thanks to Timmy for the heads up.

Weekend Discussion Thread: Best Rock Music Reference

The ever-resourceful Susan suggests:

While watching clips of “Beginning of the End” to get the words right in one of my responses, I heard the “All riiiiight, playing Tull out the window, man, woo!,” riff when the weird frequency is being played over the loudspeakers to attract the giant grasshoppers. So, “best rock music reference?”

Gotta go for Crow’s comment that “KISS were never cool.”

What’s your pick?