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

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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.

This Date in MSTory

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.*

1992: Robert Clatworthy (age 80), art director for the movies in episodes 802- THE LEECH WOMAN and 804- THE DEADLY MANTIS.
1994: Bill Lukather (age 64), assistant director for the movie in episode 1010- IT LIVES BY NIGHT.
2001: Peggy Converse (age 95), who played Mrs. Obringer in the movie in episode 702- THE BRUTE MAN and Flavia McIntire in the movie in episode 805- THE THING THAT COULDN’T DIE.
2003: Fred Freiberger (age 88), screenwriter for the movie in episode 517- BEGINNING OF THE END and producer of the TV series “Space: 1999,” two episodes of which were turned into the movie in episode K10- COSMIC PRINCESS.
2014: Gail Gilmore, aka Gerber (age 76), who played Elsa in the movie in episode 523- VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS.

1996: episode 705- ESCAPE 2000 first shown.

2002: Timothy Van Patten, who played Max Keller in episodes 322- MASTER NINJA I and 324- MASTER NINJA II, shares a Writers Guild of America award for best episodic TV drama for “The Sopranos” episode “Pine Barrens.”

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.

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 (151 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?

RiffTrax KickStarter Quickly Funded (Again)

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.