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Goodbye Sci-Fi

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

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This Date in MSTory

1903: Rory Mallinson, who played Hank in the movie in episode 611- LAST OF THE WILD HORSES.
1911: George Mathews, who played the guardian angel in the short X MARKS THE SPOT, seen in episode 210- KING DINOSAUR.
1913: Johnny Downs, who played Tom Gregory in the movie in episode 103- THE MAD MONSTER.
1917: Jus Addiss, assistant to the producer of the movie in episode 109- PROJECT MOON BASE.
1918: Paul Dubov, who played Johnny in 808- THE SHE-CREATURE and Radek in THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED (riffed by fans in Sci-fi Channel’s “MST3K: The Home Game”).
1924: Edward D. Wood Jr., producer/directer/writer for the movies in the movie in episode 423- BRIDE OF THE MONSTER and episode 613- THE SINISTER URGE, in which he’s also briefly seen in the knife-fighting scene. Wood also wrote the screenplay for the movie in episode 610- THE VIOLENT YEARS.
1926: Richard Jaeckel, who played Vince Elliott in the movie in MST3K’s pilot, THE GREEN SLIME.
1927: Dana Elcar, who played George Woodruff in the movie in episode 614- SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL.
1957: Tammy Curtis, make-up artist for the movie in episode 904- WEREWOLF.*

1971: Christopher Dark (age 51), who played Henry Jaffe in the movie WORLD WITHOUT END, which was riffed at MST3K’s first live show.
1971: Al Martin (age 74), screenwriter for the movie in episode 418- ATTACK OF THE THE EYE CREATURES.
1974: James Sullivan (age 65), production designer for the movies in episodes 418- ATTACK OF THE THE EYE CREATURES and 602- INVASION U.S.A.
1979: Fred Graham (age 70), who played the sheriff in the movie in episode 402- THE GIANT GILA MONSTER.
1988: John C. Chulay (age 65), assistant director for the movie in episode 406- ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES.
1992: James Seay (age 78), who played Col. Hallock in the movie in episode 309- THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN and Captain James Barton in the movie in episode 517- BEGINNING OF THE END.
1997: Hans-Joachim Kasprzik (age 69), assistant director of the movie in episode 211- FIRST SPACESHIP ON VENUS.
1998: Marvin Gay Sr. (age 84), mentioned in a host segment in episode 616- RACKET GIRLS.
2003: Edward Czerniuk, who had a role in the movie in episode 205- ROCKET ATTACK U.S.A.
2004: Christopher Reeve (age 52), who was mentioned in a host segment in episode 201- ROCKETSHIP X-M.

1984: The movie “The Blade Master,” seen in episode 301- CAVE DWELLERS, is reviewed in Variety.

This Date in MSTory is written and compiled by Steve Finley, Chris Cornell and Brian Henry. Copyright © 2015 All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce This Date in MSTory items in any form without express written permission from the authors.
* = According to the IMBD this person is alive. If you can supply evidence that he or she has died, and when, please let us know.
** = If this appears next to a birthday, the IMDB indicates that the person has died, but the IMDB does not have a full death date (probably just a month and year or just the year he or she died). If you can give us the exact date (with some sort of proof we can check), please let us know.
** = If this appears next to a death date, the IMDB does not have this person’s full birthday. If you can provide it (with some sort of proof we can check), please let us know.

New Short from RiffTrax…


Oh, Boy! Bridget and Mary Jo! Stream or download it here.

This Date in MSTory

1888: Hank Patterson, who played Henry in the movie in episode 309- THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN, Hugo in the movie in episode 313- EARTH VS. THE SPIDER and Dave in the movie in episode 517- BEGINNING OF THE END.
1902: Freddie Young, cinematographer for the movie in episode 909- GORGO.
1908: Carroll Young, who wrote the original story for the movie in episode 208- LOST CONTINENT.
1914: Charles Gross, editor of the movies in episodes 311- IT CONQUERED THE WORLD and 511- GUNSLINGER.
1919: Jason Wingreen, who played Senator Whitman in the movie in episode 614- SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL.*
1932: Gene Lebell, who played a border guard in the movie in episode 403- CITY LIMITS.*
1937: Brian Blessed, who played the Mentor on TV’s “Space: 1999,” episodes of which were seen in episode K10- COSMIC PRINCESS.*

1990: Ashley Cowan (age 69), who played Capt. Mel Lockhart in the movie in episode 106- THE CRAWLING HAND.
2005: Theodore “Ted” Peshak (age 87), director of the short APPRECIATING YOUR PARENTS (seen in episode 320- THE UNEARTHLY) and the short WHAT TO DO ON A DATE (seen in episode 503- SWAMP DIAMONDS).

1993: episode 511- GUNSLINGER first shown.

1959: The movie in episode 601- GIRLS TOWN has its premiere.
1974: The movie in episode K09- PHASE IV is reviewed in Variety.
1985: The movie in episode 1008- FINAL JUSTICE is reviewed in Variety.

This Date in MSTory is written and compiled by Steve Finley, Chris Cornell and Brian Henry. Copyright © 2015 All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce This Date in MSTory items in any form without express written permission from the authors.
* = According to the IMBD this person is alive. If you can supply evidence that he or she has died, and when, please let us know.
** = If this appears next to a birthday, the IMDB indicates that the person has died, but the IMDB does not have a full death date (probably just a month and year or just the year he or she died). If you can give us the exact date (with some sort of proof we can check), please let us know.
** = If this appears next to a death date, the IMDB does not have this person’s full birthday. If you can provide it (with some sort of proof we can check), please let us know.

Episode Guide: 402- The Giant Gila Monster

Movie: (1959) A 30-foot killer lizard is loose in the woods near a small town and its gang of hot-roddin’ teens.

First shown: 6/13/92
Opening: Joel has made Crow and Tom the Thing with Two Heads
Invention exchange: J&tB show off their sitcom radio, the Mads demonstrate their renaissance festival punching bags
Host segment 1: Crow and Tom disrupt Joel’s soda shop sketch
Host segment 2: J&tB discuss the funny drunk
Host segment 3: “Servo on Cinema” looks at Ray Kellogg’s “Leg Up” directorial style, but Crow and Joel horn in
End: J&tB have formed the rock group Hee-La, Joel reads some letters (including one from TV’s Frank!)
Stinger: Old guy gags on sody pop
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (250 votes, average: 4.44 out of 5)

• It’s hard to go wrong with this episode. It’s got it all: weird movie, great riffing and some great host segments. I love it. It’s also pretty good as a starter episode.
• This episode replaced episode 212- GODZILLA VS. MEGALON when Rhino released “Volume 10.2.”
• This episode became infamous in the 1995-1996 period on Comedy Central, as a number of other episodes dropped out of the rotation due to movie rights issues. The movie in this episode is in public domain, which meant that CC could play it as often as it liked, and it played it a lot, so much so that some online MSTies began to grumble about (yes, topic number 386 of the things online MSTies grumbled about).
• You’ve got to assume there were multiple puppeteers in the trench for that bit with the decapitated bots. Must have gotten a little crowded.
• That’s Mike, of course, as the radio announcer
• We get more trashing of the Renaissance Fest, last bashed in episode 303- POD PEOPLE. “Bite me, Frodo.”
• You can see Dr. F’s mic cord during the invention exchange
• Servo does his great coughing car sound, sort of an impression of Mel Blanc as Jack Benny’s car.
• Mildly naughty riff: “Old rubber? No! No!”
• Tom and Joel spit in the sheriff’s hat! Ew!
• The sound in this movie is uniformly terrible. One of the problems with a PD movie is that nobody takes care of it.
• Part of the plot of this movie involves our hero eavesdropping on a party line, a long-dead technology almost everywhere, and I sometimes wonder if young people even understand what’s going on. Our hero also has one of those Hooterville/Mayberry put-the-thing-to-your-ear-and-talk-into-the-thing-on-the-wall phones. Did people really still have those in the 50s?
• Another “broken sketch” sketch this week: this time it’s the bots who sabotage Joel’s sketch.
• Gypsy must be in a goth period. She’s got black lipstick.
• This is the episode that would give us the “sing whenever I sing whenever I sing” bit they’d do in many future episodes whenever somebody was banging or pounding on something.
• For those who have no idea who Crazy Guggenheim was, check out this piece by comedian Larry Miller, who, by the way, is also mentioned by in this episode. He takes a bit to get to his point, but it’s worth it.
• The little bit Joel and the bots do in unison at the end is a popular reading from AA meetings. Surely this was a contribution from Frank.
• Tom notices the reel change. I do that all the time.
• Joel does a little impression of comedian Kevin Meaney.
• Joel asks: “Was the ‘Richard Speck’ a popular haircut back then?” Yes, Joel. Sadly, it was.
• Movie note: Not that I expect much from this movie, but I feel I must note that in the scene where the old drunkie guy is racing the train, there’s footage of at least three, maybe four different trains that are all supposed to be the same train.
• There’s a nice little TV in-joke during Tom’s “Servo on Cinema” sketch when Tom turns to face a non-existent second camera during his introduction and has to be corrected by Joel.
• Nice film editing by Cambot!
• Joel (sort of) sneaks in the name of beloved cult band “They Might Be Giants”
• Callbacks: J&tB sing the “Wild Rebels” theme song. Also: “Glenn is 50 feet tall.” (War of the Colossal Beast)
• For those who wondered why Pearl called Crow “Art” many seasons later, it’s because of the illustration that accompanied one of the letters Joel reads in this episode. Apparently the young letter writer had just seen episode 203- JUNGLE GODDESS, in which Joel imitates the way Jackie Gleason would introduce his cast and the end of the show. For those who remember it, he would always save longtime pal Art Carney for last, shouting “ART CARNEY!” over the already-applauding crowd. Joel, in a takeoff of that, shouted “ART CROW!” The little letter writer, not understanding the reference, just assumed Crow’s name was Art.
• Watch and listen to Crow during the closing segment. Note how he says not a word, and when spoken to only sort of hums, exactly the way somebody WOULD do if they had a giant rolled-up tongue in their mouth and was waiting for the cue to unfurl it. I love it.
• Cast and crew roundup: Executive producer Gordon McLendon, a Houston media and real estate tycoon, fancied himself a movie mogul, but he only mad this movie and the movie in episode 407-THE KILLER SHREWS, and he did so with most of the same crew, including producer Ken Curtis (yes, Festus of TV’s “Gunsmoke”), director Ray Kellogg (who also wrote the story), script writer Jay Simms, cinematographer Wilfred Cline, editor Aaron Stellm makeup artist Corrine Daniel, produiction manager Ben Chapman (who was also a stuntman on “The Mole People”), Art director Louis Caldwell, set designer Louise Caldwell (who also worked on “The Amazing Transparent Man”), sound man Earl Snyder (who also worked on “The Amazing Transparent Man” and “The Crawling Hand”) and sound effects guy Milton Citron. In front of the camera, Don Sullivan was also in “The Rebel Set.”
• CreditsWatch: Host segments directed by Jim Mallon. The name John Carney appears at the end of the list of writers; he would not appear again. Bridget Jones was added to the writers list for the rest of the season. Dr. F’s last name is still spelled Forrestor.
• Fave riff: “Not the coda! No!” Honorable mention: “Things make sense when yer all liquored up!”

RIP Leon Varjian

He’s never had anything to do with MST3K, but he was part of the mythos that led to it. He’s Leon Varjian, Jim Mallon’s partner in crime when he was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He and Jim masterminded the famous “Statue of Liberty in the lake” prank, as well as the equally famous “pink flamingoes in the quad” prank.
When he died on Tuesday, he was a beloved math teacher at Midland Park High School in New Jersey.

His obit is here.

Varjian Mallon

Here’s a photo of Leon and Jim, celebrating their achievement.

Thanks to Tom Noel for the heads up, and the photo.

Weekend Discussion Thread: Nicknames of Movie Characters

Alert reader Sitting Duck asks:

During the course of a film, the riffers will sometimes refer to one or more characters by (usually derisive) nicknames. Which of these are your favorites? Mine come from Time Chasers, where crooked CEO J.K. Robertson is referred to as “Bob Evil.”

My pick: “The Load” in “Mole People.”

What’s yours?

New Streaming Eps

There are two new episodes of MST3K streaming on Shout! Factory TV: “Night of the Blood Beast” and “The Corpse Vanishes.”

RiffTrax Live: Your Thoughts?

An open thread for your thoughts about tonight’s show.

As always, hold any spoilers until after 11 eastern, when the west coast show starts.

Episode Guide: 401- Space Travelers

Movie: (1969) In a re-edited version of the movie “Marooned,” various obstacles hamper attempts to rescue three NASA astronauts trapped aboard a crippled space capsule.

First shown: 6/6/92
Opening: The Great Crowdini attempts an astounding escape.
Invention exchange: J&tB demonstrate The Dollaroid, while the Mads show off their “facial” tissue
Host segment 1: J&tB present a list of space race advancements
Host segment 2: Reenacting the movie so Crow can do his killer Peck
Host segment 3: J&tB wonder: If one of them had to sacrifice themselves…
End: Magic fun, letters
Stinger: Hackman, demonstrating that he’s good in anything
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (213 votes, average: 3.85 out of 5)

• And so we begin the second of four 24-episode seasons BBI pumped out. You can really feel how settled in and relaxed they are. As they said in the ACEG, they were luxuriating in that rarity of rarities in the TV world, job security. We start off with a very good but not spectacular episode. The riffing is comfortable and steady, and we haven’t had a star-studded, very watchable movie like this since the KTMA days. None of the segments are clunkers, either, so it’s a great way to start the season.
• This episode was included in Shout! Factory’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXXII.”
• The stretch between the end of season 3 and the beginning of season 4 was 133 days, the eighth-longest amount of time MSTies had to wait between episodes.
• “Marooned,” the movie Film Ventures International chopped up to create “Space Travelers,” is the only MST3K movie that actually won an Oscar. It won for Special Visual Effects, and was also nominated for cinematography and sound.
• In episode 201- ROCKETSHIP X-M where Joel asks “Why didn’t you just show us ‘Marooned’?” and Dr. F replies “We couldn’t get it!” Guess they could get it after all.
• The opening bit is a little complicated. You’re supposed to notice that Crow accidentally drops the all-important key and nobody thinks to retreive it for him before he is blown to kingdom come. But you could easily miss it.
• Joel’s invention really doesn’t make sense, but they got a good bit out of it anyway.
• In the ACEG, they tell a story about meeting Dennis Miller, whose only comment to them was that he wished they hadn’t riffed “Marooned.” He likes it. It was an early instance of the response they would get a lot with “This Island Earth.”
• The riffing in this one starts a little slowly, largely because the movie itself starts a little slowly. It seems insane now, but I was alive then and I can tell you: The workings of NASA fascinated most Americans, and just watching them work was captivating enough for a lot of people. I’m sure the filmmakers thought nothing of beginning their movie with 10 minutes or so of random NASA footage. But there’s not a lot you can say about it.
• For a moment, J&tB do ethereal “eeeee” singing bit — a reference to the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” — that they used to such good effect in episode 205- ROCKET ATTACK USA.
• Then-current reference: Somebody mentions the president, and Servo says he’ll “vomit on some Japanese people.” Here’s a report on the incident he’s referring to. Also: Baby Jessica. Jessica, by the way, is married with kids now.
• Crow’s Gregory Peck is truly killer. Joel also attempts a Peck impression and pales by comparison.
• Servo, on the other hand, does a very good Burt Reynolds laugh.
• This ep has not one, not two, but three Firesign Theatre references!
• Host segment 2 is another “broken sketch sketch” — essentially Joel/Mike and the bots try to put on a sketch and the whole thing goes to hell — that was a MST3K staple throughout the years. Not all of them were that funny but this one is pretty good.
• Callback: Crow recalls that he “called dibs” on the ability to say who lives and who dies, back in season 3. Also, “That was number 9!” (Sidehackers)
• The wonderful “aaaaaaaahhh!” closing bit by the Mads became a great way to say goodbye to MSTie pals for years.
• Cast and crew roundup: It probably shouldn’t be surprising that most of the people listed for this movie also worked on KTMA movies, many of which were much more mainstream. 2nd unit director Ralph E. Black was a production manager for “Invasion U.S.A.” Script writer Mayo Simon also worked on “Phase IV.” In front of the camera, David Janssen was also in “Superdome.” James Franciscus was also in “City on Fire.” Tom Stewart was also in “SST: Death Flight.” And Walter Brooke was also in “Bloodlust” and “San Francisco International.”
• CreditsWatch: Additional Contributing Writer: Bridget Jones. Host Segments Directed by: Jim Mallon, but, unlike most of last season, they will take turns as the season goes on. Trace and Frank are no longer “villians” but Dr. F’s last name is still spelled “Forrestor.” Frank is, beginning with this episode, “TV’s Frank.” The new season means a new set of interns, most notably this episode marks the arrival of Patrick Brantseg. Also there was Nathan Devery, Brendan Glynn, Suzette Jamison and Steven Sande. Bryan Beaulieu and Bill W. are gone from the special thanks credit. Instead it’s Skyline Displays Inc., Teachers of America, Mark Gilbertson, all MSTies coast-to-coast, the authors of the 1st Amendment. This episode also marks the arrival of Bradley J. Keely, as assistant editor. For the entire season, they had the services of Rob “the engineer” Burkhardt in engineering. Clayton James comes in for a two-show stint in hair and makeup.
• Fave riff: “Oh they’re dead. How’s the rabbit?” Honorable mention: “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!”

RiffTrax Live Preview

James Tutten of the Orlando Sentinal previews tonight’s RiffTrax Live show, and talks with the creator of the movie they’ll be riffing, “Miami Connection.”