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.
1886: Willis O’Brien, who did the special effects for the movie in episode 113- THE BLACK SCORPION.
1901: Ben Pivar, producer of the movie in episode 702- THE BRUTE MAN and writer of the original story for the movie in episode 802- THE LEECH WOMAN.
1903: William Haade, who played Rocky Rockford in the movie in episode 611- LAST OF THE WILD HORSES.
1905: Jean Hayworth, who played Mrs. Adams in the short A YOUNG MAN’S FANCY, seen in episode 610- THE VIOLENT YEARS.
1907: Patrick Whyte, who played Philip Varden in the movie in episode 615- KITTEN WITH A WHIP and a guard in the movie in episode 803- THE MOLE PEOPLE.
1921: Richard Hazard, musical score composer for the movie in episode 520- RADAR SECRET SERVICE.
1938: William “Jim” Begg, who played Larry in the movie in episode 204- CATALINA CAPER and Fatso in the movie in episode 523- VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS.
1942: Lou Reed, whose song “Satellite of Love” was sung by Joel and the bots in episode K08- GAMERA VS. GUIRON.
1944: Katherine Crawford, who played Dr. Abby Lawrence on the TV series “Gemini Man,” episodes of which were seen in episode 814- RIDING WITH DEATH.*
1945: Tommy Goodwin, foley mixer for the movie in episode 516- ALIEN FROM L.A.*
1962: Jennifer Delora, who played Nyla in the movie in episode 110- ROBOT HOLOCAUST.*
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.
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?
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.
Movie: (1962) A seemingly fearless college kid must perform a ghastly task to be accepted into a fraternity.
First shown: 11/3/90
• 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.
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.
Thanks to Timmy for the heads up.
The ever-resourceful Susan suggests:
Gotta go for Crow’s comment that “KISS were never cool.”
What’s your pick?
You already know this. We didn’t even need to say anything. (But we will.)
Yesterday RiffTrax announced another Kickstarter campaign to fund four live shows for 2015. In less than a day, the $75,000 goal was reached and at this writing it’s about to climb into six digits.
For the record, the four shows are: “The Room” (May 6–take note–a WEDNESDAY); “Sharknado 2″ (July 9); “Miami Connection” (Oct. 1); and “Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny” (Dec. 3).
I knew nothing about “Miami Connection” but I just saw some youtube clips. Wow.
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