28 February 2007

MST3K (801)

801 - Revenge of the Creature - Wow. Fancy lighting, a modified SOL bridge, a new set for monkeys to play on, a new theme song, and new characters. It's a fresh start! Wait... what's the hell is wrong with Crow? He's reverted halfway to his KTMA baby voice and, worse, seems kinda listless. Bill himself explains in the ACEG: "Crow seemed to have suffered a stroke during the 500 years he hung out on the Satellite." Fair enough. He'll get better.

I'm impressed that they picked up exactly where 706 left off and explained each and every change to the show. The crew of the SOL returns from the edge of the Universe and reverts from pure "something" into their normal forms in the prologue. Crow off-handedly mentions that he redecorated the SOL bridge. Pearl explains both why she's in the future (frozen) and why Dr. F is gone (smothered). Mike winks at the audience and tries to find out what's different with Crow. The embarrassing secret of Mike's great-grandchildren reveals the source of the intelligent apes on Earth. You have to hand it to the Brains: they know their core audience. They knew, if left unexplained, the changes to the show would drive the fans nuts and cause a barrage of letters and Internet arguments. Wise move, fellas.

It's a fairly decent start on the new network. The movie selection reveals that Sci-Fi's film access is going to provide some new options for the Brains to pick from. The riffing is perhaps a tad rusty and Bill is still getting used to his new job. There was lots of interesting stuff going on in the host segments. Much of it was devoted to explaining what had happened over the past 500 years, but it was fun. I'm curious to see where they take them next. Blows the water out of the last episode to inaugurate a new network, anyway.

"Do you need any milk? Sir!" (7/10)

film d. Jack Arnold (1955)
mst d. Jim Mallon (1 Feb 1997)

MST3K (season seven closing thoughts)

Goodbye, season seven.

You packed a strong punch. There wasn't an episode in the entire season that I didn't like, a feat I don't see repeating in the future. It helped, of course, that there were only six episodes; there wasn't a lot of room for things to go bad. It might have also helped, for me, that all but two of the movie selections were from "my era." Movies -- especially bad ones -- from the 1970s and 1980s are my favorites and I enjoyed watching the guys take them on. I think that had this actually been the final season of the show, this would've been an excellent send off.

With the close of the final episode of this season, every single original cast member from the KTMA days has left. It's odd to think that so many of the creative forces that shaped the show are gone. The fact that MST3K went on to survive for years after so many losses suggests that the concept, if handled intelligently and with care, will work no matter how badly the show gets shaken up.

Before I started this project, I'd most recently taped from reruns, converted to DVD and watched Sci-Fi era episodes. I've seen a great deal of seasons 9 and 10 and most of the last third of season 8. That, however, was three years ago. Now, I can't remember the sound of Bill Corbett's Crow or what the new set looks like. This huge transition is going to be interesting. I wonder how much they'll reference the Comedy Central era? Will Pearl mention what happened to her brand new star baby Clayton? Will the riffing still reference previous movies from the other network and previous riffs said about those movies? Will Sci-Fi's mandated host segment storyline ruin that part of the show, or shake it up and make it more interesting? I'll find out soon.

The Numbers

Total Length
10 hours, 23 minutes, 19 seconds
(92 min average for 6 episodes)
(24 min average for 3 specials)

Years Spanned
(1972 average)

Shorts Years Spanned
(1952 average)

Time to Watch
13 days
Time to Broadcast Originally
106 days

Turkey Day Episodes
1 (17%)
701 (23 Nov 1995)
Number of "CLAYDIN!"s said
Black and White to Color Ratio

27 February 2007


Assignment: Venezuela - Originally, this was a short to be included on the MST3K: CD-ROM. This disc was supposed to come out in "the spring of '96," according the Trace in the Turkey Day '95 bumpers. Instead, the company publishing the CD scaled back its business and Trace, who'd been heading the project, left the show. All that remains of this PC/MAC program is this short, which was first shown at the ConventioCon ExpoFest-A-Rama '96 and later released on VHS and DVD by Rhino. According to one website, the full disc was to contain:

  • Two complete shorts, "Mylar: What's it to You?" and "Assignment: Venezuela;"
  • An "MST flight simulator" (complete with simulations of the taxi ride to the airport, metal dectectors, and hilarious seatpocket contents);
  • "Cyst" and "The Making of Cyst," a satire of popular 3-D games;
  • "Bot-builder," a program to build your own robot friends;
  • "Chess Bastard 2000," a blatantly cheating chess game;
  • "Madworks," evil scientist Dr. Forrester's customized desktop interface including satires of popular software;
  • A virtual pet hamster, a time-wasting meter, and much more.
Supposedly, also, the riffing during both of the shorts was to be randomized. How they were going to accomplish that, I'm not sure. I supposed they could've written, say, three different sets of riffs for each short, then pulled riffs from random sets as it played along. I don't know how entertaining that would really be. It seems like you'd hear mostly the same jokes over and over, with a random new one sometimes popping up.

Anyway, all we have left is a vintage oil boom industrial short from the 1950s. It's quite funny and definitely has the energy that season 7 had in it. I listened to detect if any of season 7's recurring riffs got used (skinny people, test audiences, etc.), but I didn't notice any. I wonder when it was written?

At 24 minutes long, it's almost a quarter of a full episode and about twice as long as the average short. I found the length to be perfect. If MST3K were to return, a series of riffed shorts like this would work extremely well as a half-hour TV show. It's not too long to give the network timeslot headaches and the audience attention deficit issues, plus it would be easier to sustain dense, quality riffing throughout the entire episode.

"They'd asked me to give up the pinky from my left hand." (8/10)

short d. Jack Tobin (1956)
mst d. ?? (Aug 1996)

MST3K (706)

706 - Laserblast - This movie made no sense, but it was my kind of no sense. In high school, Charles Band was my Roger Corman. I gorged on Full Moon's VHS offerings of murderous puppets, 12-inch-tall alien policemen and surprisingly great Stuart Gordon flicks. He produced the sort of movies I could see myself making: low-budget, rag-tag affairs involving spaceships or vampires or "the most powerful gun in the Universe." Ah, I can still smell the salsa-Velveeta concoction we ate during movie nights back then.

Even for a proto-Full Moon movie, this film was a particular mess. This, of course, makes it excellent fodder for the show. Though I got very tired of the "are you ready for some football?" riffs, the rest of the show was solidly funny. Somewhat fittingly, whenever Crow would speak for the turtle-alien-things, he'd use a higher-pitched voice than normal. It sounded a lot like his original voice during the KTMA episodes.

Trace-as-Crow's last word: "me." Trace-as-Dr. Forrester's last word: "poopie." Depending on how you count, Dr. Clayton Deborah Susan Forrester tortured the residents of the SOL for 2733 days (7 years, 5 months, 25 days) and forced them to watch 150 movies (141 unique movies) and 56 shorts, or he did it for 2374 days (6 years, 6 months, 1 day) and sent 129 movies and 56 shorts. Eight seasons playing two different characters is quite a run. It's going to be hard getting used to Crow's new voice and the lack of a quintessential, perfectly-portrayed mad scientist. I think I'll survive. After all, the show itself takes these changes in stride and makes them look easy.

"Every time I come close to not hating him, I see those feet on the side of the van." (8/10)

film d. Michael Rae (1978)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (18 May 1996)

26 February 2007

MST3K (705)

705 - Escape 2000 - "I normally like a movie with silver guys jumping out of trucks, but I gotta say I'm a bit disappointed with this one." I'm right with you, Mike. You've got your dystopian future with your evil corporatocracy duking it out with your underground freedom fighters. There's lots of gun battles and explosions and slow-mo people flying through the air. Sound great, right? Eh, not so much. I'm sure what it was, but the movie just wasn't very likable. One too many silver guys slow-mo'ing through the air, I suppose.

Also exactly what I was thinking when Mike said it: "I better get over to the Zombie Nightmare set" when Trash first appears onscreen.

"Have you seen a knife like this? But, wait! There's more!" Great riffing in this episode. There were funny names to play with (Trash, Moon, Toblerone), an annoying slogan to repeat ("Leave the Bronx") and an extremely dim-looking main character to mercilessly poke fun of (aforementioned Trash). That's a winning MST3K combo if I've every seen one.

In half the host segments, the SOL kept catching on fire. Not a little, put-out-with-your-countertop-fire-extinguisher fire, either. The whole ship was a mass of flame. I'm thinking this is the crew's way of saying that the writing is on the wall. It doesn't look like Comedy Central is going to pick the show up at this point. There's a final episode to write and characters to send off and new jobs to find. What the hell, might as well burn up the model from the movie!

Mike as Toblerone: brilliant. Is it possible that Mike can go back to playing all of the guest characters again? I forget how good he as at diving into an absurd role after watching him play straight-laced Mike Nelson for 2.5 seasons.

♫"Working on a sex farm..."♫ (8/10)

film d. Enzo G. Castellari (1983)
mst d. Jim Mallon (2 Mar 1996)

25 February 2007

MST3K (704)

704 - The Incredible Melting Man - The MST crew attempts some healing by working through their painful movie experience. This involves them doing what the do best: making fun of people with puppets. I didn't really find this episode's Hollywood exec-filled host segments particular funny, but I understand their need to do them anyway. Them L.A. folks sure do like them some bottled water, eh?

Quite the year for Rick Baker this was. First he gets to work on a tiny sci-fi picture called Star Wars, then he upgrades to melting men. This has got to be the goriest movie ever broadcast on the show. I was surprised, given the large kid audience the show has, that, for example, the scene where the decapitated head breaks open on some rocks was left in. As a horror fan, I like that sort of thing, but I sort of felt bad for Mike and the bots. I feel that whenever there was something extra-gooey onscreen, they did double-time with the riffing. It was like they were trying to cover the gore with comedy.

"Meanwhile her baby is discovering the wonders of goofballs." That's close to what I was thinking, Servo. After a couple of miscarriages, Mrs. Ted Nelson is finally pregnant with her first child. Dr. Ted treats her gently; he doesn't even want to tell her about the wandering, murderous melting man for fear of the stress it might cause her. What's he do after she freaks out over a broken bottle of milk? He shoots her and the fetus full of sleepy drugs. Good plan.

"His parka's keeping me really involved in the movie." (7/10)

film d. William Sachs (1977)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (24 Feb 1996)

24 February 2007

Guest OLR: The Number 23 (2006)

Further proof that even if he has a reasonably talented cast and a decent budget, Schumacher can only make good movies on accident. (5/10)

d. Joel Schumacher

OLR: Cecil B. DeMented (2000)

While I appreciate the manic energy and themes, Terror Firmer did it better. (6/10)

d. John Waters

OLR: Die Hard 2 (1990)

Good ol' action fun. (7/10)

d. Renny Harlin

21 February 2007

MST3K (703)

703 - Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell - "I wish I was the kind of man who could kill a woman." Our hero, ladies and gentlemen. Though there isn't any magical hang glider building, the magic of editing does have the similar effect of making Deathstalker nigh-invincible in this film. The editor's help may explain Relson's personality. The man is more arrogant and grating than Ator and Cabot combined. I was rooting for the sassily dressed, shiny-headed bad guy to win for the entire movie.

Such a character in such a low-budget flick does make for some good riffing. It wasn't quite on Outlaw's level, but it was damned funny anyway. The crew's post-movie energy continues. Season 7's looking good. "I just heard an eagle meow."

The random "Would You Like to Super-Size It?" host segment was a surprising treat. In the middle of the being annoyed by his mother, Dr. F calls the SOL. For no apparent reason at all, the crew of the SOL decides to pretend that they're teenagers staffing a fast food restaurant. Dr. F's flabbergasted frustration as the SOL crew insists on sticking to this concept is very funny.

This is the infamous episode in which Pearl cries "Clayton! Clayton!" over and over again. I was expecting the worst, given what other fans say about it. I really didn't have a problem with it, though. Sure, it's not Dr. F killing TV's Frank yet again, but there was some funny in there. I think Mary Jo and Trace salvage what could've been some incredibly tedious segments with their spot-on acting. Mary Jo does this thing where she sort of widens her eyes when shouting "Clayton!" that somehow makes it work. Plus, these segments give us the immortal line: "There was a small, golden man reading to me from a dirty book."

"That's one of the most clearly printed Rs I've ever seen." (8/10)

film d. Alfonso Corona (1988)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (17 Feb 1996)

[Strangely, this is the 703rd movie I've watched since I began keeping track at the end of 2003.]

19 February 2007

OLR: Dumb & Dumber (1994)

I still have no idea what the real plot was and I don't care. (8/10)

d. Peter Farrelly & Bobby Farrelly

18 February 2007

MST3K (702)

702 - The Brute Man (w/ The Chicken of Tomorrow) - Jean Yarbrough: the Coleman Francis of the '40s? Maybe I'm being too hard on the guy? I've really only seen two of his 107 movies. Considering this film, in which a poor man with a bone disease wanders around dark alleys in-between chatting monosyllabically with a blind woman, and the worst werewolf film ever made, She-Wolf of London, I bet my assessment is close to the truth.

My favorite part of this episode by far happens during the infamous "cranky grocer" scene. The owner of the grocer store inexplicable spends a solid five minutes just berating a hapless delivery boy. Never has a crankier gentleman walked the earth. Halfway through the grocer's rant, Mike starts cracking up in his chair. He's not chuckling quietly to himself; he's laughing normally, rocking a bit back and forth in his chair. The guy must've seen this movie a half dozen times before filming started and this crotchety old man still made him laugh. I love it when unscripted bits of fun like that make it into the show. "Creeper, creeper, creeper... you give me the creeps!"

So far so good. I've read others complaining about the Mother Forrester bits in this season, but they're not bugging me at all. In fact, I rather liked the hideously true-to-life quality of single mom Pearl bringing home some scuzz-bag date. Best character Paul has played on the show so far, with apologies to Pitch. I dig the cheap, costume store chicken costume for when Paul was "transformed' into the chicken of tomorrow, eye slits and all.

"Lick your eggs or have a friend lick them." (7/10)

film d. Jean Yarbrough (1946)
short d. ?? (1948)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (10 Feb 1996)

OLR: Rabid (1976)

Drive-in fare to be sure, but with a nice layer of delicious Cronenbergian sauce to sweeten. (7/10)

d. David Cronenberg

OLR: Predator 2 (1990)

What's weird is that the final act takes up nearly half the movie. (7/10)

d. Stephen Hopkins

15 February 2007

MST3K (701)

701 - Night of the Blood Beast (w/ Once Upon a Honeymoon) - My working theory: the bad experience BBI had making their movie improved season 7. The riffing in this episode, the first after they finished their Hollywood torture, was crackin'. It might be my imagination, but I think I detected a little more cynicism in the jokes in this episode. They also brought back a favorite riffing technique: the misheard name. Somehow, they got the impression that every male in the movie was named "Steve" and they ran with it. Classic. Whatever the change was, there was a noticeable improvement in the funny since the last episodes of season 6. It felt really good to belt out some solid out-loud laughs at riffs again.

Even the host segments felt rejuvenated. I'm not sold on the Pearl-Dr. F dynamic, but the SOL segments were enjoyable. The first segment actually helped explain the short to me. I had no idea what the point of Once Upon a Honeymoon was. Were they selling something? Teaching a lesson? What the hell? Gypsy's helpful song about telephones revealed all: it was something to do with phones. I still don't really know what about them, but I'm less clueless thanks to the SOL crew. I also enjoyed the "Crow is Pregnant" segment quite a bit. It was nice to have two segments playing off what was seen in the short/movie. Servo: "Crow, they kinda look like peel-and-eat shrimp." Crow: "Thank you."

Note: the non-Turkey Day version of this episode is definitely the "real" one. The host segments in 701T have nothing to do with the movie at all. They're really just extensions of the Turkey Day bumpers from earlier in the marathon. If you watched 701T as a stand-alone episode, you would be essentially missing the early "host segments" that aired before the start of the show; it really wasn't written to air outside of the marathon.

"You know I had an angel rotting in my chimney once. Sad." (8/10)

film d. Bernard L. Kowalski (1958)
short d. Gower Champion (1956)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (3 Feb 1996)


Poopie Parade of Values - In addition to the short promotional bits found in between the bumpers during the Turkey Day '95 marathon, BBI also got an entire half hour to fill with an infomercial. This vaguely humorous 30-minute commercial finds Mike, Kevin and Trace selling Poopie! and The MST Scrapbook VHS tapes. Regularly priced at $15 and $22.50 respectively, the trio offer a one-time Turkey Day deal of $30 for the both of them. Not really that much of a discount. It's also a bit of a strange price point. Stupid as it is, $29.99 just feels cheaper than $30.00. Though, I suppose $30 just sounds like a straight-shootin', down-home price. Something you might expect from MST.

It's hard to remember at this point in time, but fans of mid-90s late night TV will recognize that they're spoofing a certain series of real infomercials from that era. Hence, Trace speaks in an Australian accent, they shoot it in the BBI kitchen and the three of them all wear sweaters. It's a joke thankfully lost to time. One thing they really lacked was shots of a deliriously excited studio audience. That would've "sweetened the deal," as they say.

Having just watched both Poopie! and the Scrapbook, this was a bit tedious, given that half of the show is clips from these tapes. I still laughed at bloopers again.

"It's tragic, really. You know, we could buy both tapes but we're seven dollars and fifty cents short." (5/10)

mst d. ?? (23 Nov 1995)

MST3K (TD95)

Turkey Day '95 - After two years of non-BBI-produced Turkey Day bumpers, we finally get the real deal. Wisely, the crew went back to the best Turkey Day ever -- '91 -- for their inspiration. Once again, Dr. F hosts a turkey dinner (due to some invitations sent out by Frank before he died). The guests this year are Pearl Forrester from 607, Jack Perkins from 310, Pitch from 521, Mr. B from 319, Michael Feinstein from 312, and Kitten With a Whip from 615. Crow also manages to make it down to Deep 13 to join the meal. Overall, a much better guest list than we saw in '91. I especially loved Jack hitting on Mr. B.

Interspersed between the bumpers, there are tons of short promotional bits created by BBI. These 10-second snips feature Trace, Kevin, Mike, Jim and others from the company hawking various MST3K products or talking about their feelings on the current episode in the marathon. It's some fun behind-the-scenes stuff. In these, there's the only glimpse of the lost short Mylar: What is it to You? that was to be included on the canceled CD-ROM. These bits also pump up the not-yet-released movie, the upcoming second convention, MST Hour and the episode guide book. I have a feeling all of this time spent on promotion was a part of the deal they made with Comedy Central in order to produce the bumpers this year.

The selection of episodes in the marathon -- though the fewest of any of the Turkey Days -- was excellent. Other than the awful The Skydivers, every choice is a winner:

23 Nov 1995
09:00 106 - The Crawling Hand
11:30 424 - Manos: The Hands of Fate
13:30 512 - Mitchell
15:30 519 - Outlaw
17:30 609 - The Skydivers
19:30 612 - The Starfighters
21:30 Poopie Parade of Values
22:00 701 - Night of the Blood Beast

Goodbye, Turkey Day. Though I didn't sit through all of the episodes in the marathons, I've always enjoyed the bumpers that came in between. They show the warmth and fun of the show... and they were a good excuse for me to pig-out on delivery food. It's hard to beat a belly-full of food and some MST3K.

"Sir, allow me to kiss you." (7/10)

mst d. Jim Mallon (23 Nov 1995)

14 February 2007

OLR: The Fifth Element (1997)

Strangely Hollywood movie for a French guy to make, but colorful and fun. (7/10)

d. Luc Besson

13 February 2007

MST3K (M01)

M01 - This Island Earth - I still don't really understand why there was a great need to bring MST3K to the big screen. At its heart, the show was a modern revival of the local channel horror host shows. In fact, the show started on a local station itself. Though its subject matter is film, it's really about film as it's presented on late night TV. Moving this concept into a real movie theater doesn't really seem to make sense to me. Sure, everything is bigger, better shot, better composed and better constructed, but that's not what MST3K is all about. It makes for a fun one-off experiment, though.

Any fan of the show not privy to the inside scoop will immediately be able to tell that there's a host segment missing somewhere. Instead of the normal three segments interrupting the movie, there are now only two. That partially explains why this "episode" is so much shorter than the ones found on regular TV. This lack of a host segment also contributes to a sense that they're completely extraneous. I can see non-fans emerging from the theater wondering what the point of the Dr. F bits were at all.

Speaking of: poor guy. All by himself, Dr. F is forced to carry the Deep 13 segments without any backup. Trace is great at hamming it up as a mad scientist, but it was odd not to have the ever-likable Frank there as his foil. I guess this is the first Frank-free episode in 6 years, after all.

"Then I ram my ovipositor down your throat and lay my eggs in your chest. But I'm not an alien." The riffing was pretty funny. It should be, as this was the movie the guys practiced with during live shows. Though not a terrible movie, This Island Earth had enough goofiness in it for the guys to rip into.

For a special cinematic experience, this was the very first movie I watched on my new HDTV that was delivered today. It looked good. Even though the DVD had a non-anamorphic transfer (Universal: special edition, please), it looked just fine on zoom. Weird to see all of those new empty seats to the left of Servo, though. The theater is so lonely in widescreen!

"Oh, please say we can get the Sci-Fi Channel. Please-oh-please-oh-please." (7/10)

film d. Joseph M. Newman & Jack Arnold [as Joseph Newman] (1955)
mst d. Jim Mallon (19 Apr 1996)

12 February 2007

MST3K (season six closing thoughts)

Goodbye, season six.

I have to be honest: this project started to really wear on me during this season. Part of the problem was that I fell behind schedule during the holidays. For most of this season, I've been struggling to catch up. I felt obligated to watch an episode every single day in order to do so, which is not something I'd recommend and not something I was able to stick to all of the time. I'm still 4 episodes behind. Watching episodes began to feel like a job after I got home from my real job; something to suck 2-2.5 hours of my free time everyday. Add in the constant issue of failing DVD-Rs, and I wasn't going into many of these episode in the best of moods.

I think the other part of the problem is that show has started to falter at this point. Things are starting to feel stale. The riffing seems to be filled with variants of jokes we've already heard multiple times. The host segments are often lacking that spark of zany creativity often seen in the Joel era (the Poopie! video reminded me of this). The first 2/3rds of the season were pretty good, but these problems became apparent to me during the last 8 or so episodes. I wonder if Frank felt the same way and that's a reason he felt a need to take off? It seems likely Comedy Central felt this way, given their semi-insulting quarter-season episode order for the following year.

Despite all of this, the BBI crew seemed to be putting even more work into the show than ever before. The end of season 6 marked the beginning of an explosion of non-episode MST3K content. They published an episode guide -- a real, live MST3K book -- covering the first six years of the show. They created their first stand-alone TV special, poking fun at the Oscars. The Info Club released it's first non-episode video tapes. They began working on a movie -- a real, live theatrical film -- with Gramercy Pictures. They also began working on a CD-ROM for PCs, which was to include never-before-seen riffing on two never-before-seen shorts. Earlier in the year, they held their first fan convention, the ConventioCon ExpoFest-A-Rama, and even performed a live show there. The guys from BBI were quite busy during 1994 and 1995. Did this impact the amount of energy they could focus on the actual episodes? I don't know. That might be the most logical explanation for the dip in quality I detected.

I've never seen any of the season 7 episodes, so those should be a treat. It looks like they have some interesting movie picks. Melting Man looks right up my alley. I'm not terribly excited to see Dr. F interact with his mother. From the glimpses I've seen of those host segments, their relationship appears to be a tired TV cliché. But, before that: The Movie. As soon as the delivery guys drop off my new toy and I get it hooked up and running, I'll be ready to take on the MST3K cinema experience.

The Numbers

Total Length
39 hours, 32 minutes, 44 seconds
(92 min average for 24 episodes)
(41 min average for 4 specials)

Years Spanned
(1962 average)

Shorts Years Spanned
(1954 average)

Time to Watch
51 days
Time to Broadcast Originally
253 days

Turkey Day Episodes
5 (21%)
601, 604, 615 (24 Nov 1994)
609, 612 (23 Nov 1995)
Total Coleman Francis Movies
609, 619, 621 (13%)
Total Bodybuilders Beating the Crap Out of People Movies
604, 605, 615, 616, 617, 624 (25%)
Total Episodes with Mike's Goatee
611 (4%)
Total Episodes with Frank's Goatee
620 (4%)
Black and White to Color Ratio

11 February 2007


The MST Scrapbook - Exactly as the name suggests, this is a compilation of pieces of show history taken from its first seven years. Never released on DVD, this tape was only available from the MST Info Club. It's now out of print and I suspect it'll never see the light of day again. For one, it has a very limited audience. More problematic, given today's legal climate, is that it probably couldn't pass the "fair use" test anymore. In the background of one of the KTMA host segments, monitors play random movies that station KTMA-23 owned. At MST Live, Joel performs ventriloquism with two volunteers, making the masks they're wearing sing a Mo-Town song. While BBI builds the set for the cable series, random music plays from a radio. At MST Alive!, we get to see Joel and the bots riffing on a scene from World Without End. Lesser instances of "background intellectual property" have brought down more popular documentaries in this era.

Here's everything that can found on the tape:

  • K00 host segment
  • KTMA Sales Tape
  • Season KTMA Opening
  • K02 host segment
  • K03 host segment
  • K04 host segment
  • K07 host segment
  • K16 host segment
  • K19 host segment
  • K21 host segment
  • MST Live (1989)
  • Comedy Channel Pitch Tape
  • Birth of Best Brains
  • Season 1 Opening
  • Season 1 TV Spot 1
  • 102 TV Spot
  • Season 1 TV Spot 2
  • Season 1 TV Spot 3
  • Season 2-5.5 Opening
  • Turkey Day '91
  • This Is MST3K: Scraps from the Cutting Room Floor
  • Death & Taxes Marathon TV Spot
  • MST Alive! (1992)
  • 513 Opening & Host Segment
  • American Red Cross TV Spot 1
  • American Red Cross TV Spot 2
  • ConventioCon ExpoFest-A-Rama '94
  • Photo Slideshow
The behind-the-scenes stuff is the gold here. The near-useless This Is MST3K is redeemed with the "Scraps from the Cutting Room Floor" bits on this tape. Finally, we get good, long looks at the writers' room, behind the console on the SOL's bridge and in front of the theater's seats. This is what I wanted to see in that show, not Penn Jillette mugging for the camera. "Birth of Best Brains" is fascinating camcorder footage of the season 1 sets being built. There's a long discussion about hanging Trace that is pretty bizarre. I love how down-to-earth the show was. How many other television programs that ran for more than a decade had their sets partially built by the onscreen talent?

The scenes from the lost KTMA episodes were interesting. They reminded me just how not-great the show was back then. Thank Torgo the robot Beeper didn't make it past the pilot. You think Josh's Gypsy voice is annoying? A show full of him beeping all of the time would've been torture.

After the behind-the-scenes footage, the second best bits were from the MST Alive! show and the ConventioCon ExpoFest-A-Rama. Outside of the staged Turkey Day '93 bumpers, I've never seen real-live MST fans geeking out over their favorite show. We're not a pretty bunch of folks, but we come from all walks of life it would appear. Also: I will have the image of Frank dressed in a skintight leotard burned into my retinas for the rest of the week. Thanks a lot, guys!

It seems unlikely at this point in time that we'll ever get a really comprehensive documentary on the show. Combing this tape with the upcoming The Making of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is probably the closest we can get.

"I was afraid I'd look ridiculous." (7/10)

mst d. [various] (Spring 1995)

MST3K (P!1)

Poopie! - I laughed more during this reel than I did during all of season 6's host segments. It's a compilation of 103 bloopers from seasons 2-6 (plus Little Gold Statue Preview Special). They alternate very well between Joel, Mike and Deep 13 clips, so we never get stuck on one thing for too long. It's great that Kevin and Trace always continue to move the bots' mouth even as they screw up. Here's a listing of what is included.

I was little surprised they let the word "shit" go uncensored on the tape. Given the show's sort-of clean-cut presentation and its large kid audience, it's was a little strange. I guess they figured only adults would be nutty enough to order this tape from the Info Club. They did censor the word "fuck," so I guess there was some thought into this on BBI's part.

Other than that, there's nothing else to say. It's the cast screwing up over and over. It's funny. I laughed.

"Ah, shit. Shit. I couldn't think... my brain locked up!" (8/10)

mst d. Jim Mallon & Kevin Murphy & Trace Beaulieu & Joel Hodgson (Spring 1995)

OLR: The Descent (2005)

Technically well-made and I like the ending, but I didn't get the sense of claustrophobia I was hoping for. (7/10)

d. Neil Marshall

OLR: Crank (2006)

It's one hundred and one percent pure adrenaline. (8/10)

d. Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor

10 February 2007

MST3K (624)

624 - Samson vs. the Vampire Women - I've always wanted to see a Santo movie. I'm completely in favor of a super hero who's also a professional wrestler. Sounds like a great idea to me. Unfortunately, this was a pretty boring film. Most of it is reminiscent of a bad Universal horror movie, with vampires in basement crypts filled with cobwebs. Santo doesn't even show up until the middle of the movie and it takes him even longer to get to the wrestling. His wrestling was fun, thought the photography of it was terrible. It's hard to top a match between a national hero and a werewolf-vampire. Still, not a good movie. Can anyone recommend a good Santo movie to check out?

"Ah, I see the spanking service has arrived." Finally, I got to laugh out loud at the riffing. It's been a while. Though not stellar, the guys had a decent amount of funny comments for the silver-masked wrestler and his vampire enemies. "It's a vampire wilding!"

The tongue on Servo's hotdog that was licking him... that's just weird. Torgo the White = Torgo + Jack Perkins? Spooky.

Frank's last word: "uck-ah-yooh." Frank's departure might not have been as traumatic as Joel's, but, unlike Joel and with apologies to Brain Guy and Bobo, he was never successfully replaced. Both Joel and Frank brought a certain childlike quality to their work on the show that I'm going to miss. Even though his character only got a handful of minutes of screen time per episode, he was very endearing. I'd vote for him as the most likable character to have appeared on the show. MST3K without out its big, dumb, easy-going teddy bear isn't going to be the same.

"There are no bum knees in my world, child." (7/10)

film d. Alfonso Corona Blake (1962)
mst d. Jim Mallon (25 Mar 1995)

08 February 2007


MST3K Little Gold Statue Preview Special - "Fortunately, we do have these nifty promo tapes. Heck they give them away for free. You can tape over them if you want to." That line from the show probably reveals the origin of this special. This was more than likely filmed right before they went to work on The Movie. At the time, the BBI guys from Minnesota were suddenly rubbing elbows with the suits from Hollywood. I'm sure a number of these Oscar promo tapes landed in their lap during their power lunches and executive meetings and whatnot. It was only natural that once the MST3K folks got their hands on such things, they would turn around and poke some fun.

It's a good idea. On the regular show, they never get to touch big budget Hollywood fare. Though they aren't in the theater, Crow and Servo show clips from the nominated movies and make cracks from the SOL's bridge. They were definitely on the right track when they played, for example, a clip of Andie MacDowell talking about how many men she'd slept with from Four Weddings and a Funeral. The bots are mystified as to what she's talking about and Mike has to whisper the explanation to them, grossing them out. Similarly, instead of playing a clip from a "Best Song," they play a clip of Emma Thompson talking about menstruation from Junior. Abusing the clips in ways the Hollywood suits didn't intend is exactly what they should be doing with this special.

Still, it's very odd that the clips themselves play unmolested. There's no riffing here. As such, the special feels a little unMSTie-like. The show is basically an extra-long host segment. It's fun, but I could've used a little more ripping on the movies. I wonder how this Comedy Central special compares to the next one on Sci-Fi?

"Well, why not just walk up to Gabe Kaplan, and when you're good and ready, just go right ahead and spit in his face?" (7/10)

mst d. Kevin Murphy (22 Mar 1995)

MST3K (623)

623 - The Amazing Transparent Man (w/ The Days of Our Years) - Crow pinned to a giant piece of Styrofoam and spread eagle to world is the image from this episode I'll take with me. Finally, a host segment that got my attention! Crow makes for a beautiful Crowtus Robotus horriblis butterfly and looks utterly pathetic squeezed into an enormous bell jar.

The Days of Our Years is the second education short from our friends at Union Pacific Railroad. It's not as good as Last Clear Chance. It's actually a bummer, despite the funny commenting going on. Wives doomed to support neckless freaks, old men imaging their neighbors hate them because they pull down the shades and blow torches in the eyes make for this fun-filled festival of folly. "Gentle pressure!"

Frank's joy over getting to see Squanto: A Warrior's Tale was a joke that was probably out-of-date by the time this episode aired. Apparently, it was a movie that immediately bombed at the box office back in 1994. I don't remember it all. I suppose it's funny seeing Frank get on his knees and do his best Wrath of Khan by shouting the name of the movie he wouldn't be seeing.

The movie itself I'm afraid I can already barely remember. I immediately began to fight off the dozes as soon as the AIP logo came up. My impression was that it was a typical "Mad Scientist in a House and There's Something About Nuclear Radiation" movie from the '50s. I don't remember there being really that much transparency involved at all.

"So his name is Joe Joe?" (6/10)

film d. Edgar G. Ulmer (1959)
short d. Allen H. Miner (1955)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (18 Mar 1995)

05 February 2007

MST3K (622)

622 - Angels Revenge - The movie was a nice change of pace. We've been stuck in the '50s and '60s for quite some time and we haven't had a movie that was supposed to be funny on its own since Catalina Caper. It was entertaining. It probably helped that I'm a heterosexual male and didn't object too strenuously to the tight jumpsuits and jiggling flesh. Which was all good, as the riffing wasn't anything to write home about again. With Jack Palance in this film, I wasn hoping for some of that old Outlaw magic, but it wasn't to be.

This episode had another of the "Crow Writes a Script" host segments, but it was a disappointment. Everyone was dressed completely funkified in order to read from Crow's newest, Chocolate Jones and the Temple of Funk. I was hoping the cast was going get into some solid blaxploitation dialogue. You know, they could have a little fun with it. Instead, Mike reads one line -- "Girl, don't fink on soul brother" (a reference to Frank's line in a host segment from 209 that appears numerous times in the upcoming Poopie! video) -- declares himself not funky enough and that's about it. Lame.

The rest of the host segments were similarly useless. The Mads dress as '70s sports figures. Meh. Crow and Servo -- way out of character, I think -- kill Mike for imitating The Fonz. Maybe they were confused and this was supposed to be a Frank and Dr. F sketch? Aaron Spelling's mansion flies by in the following segment, which lacked any kind of payoff. The final segment's "Shame-o-Meter" was a bit retro for the show. That was something Joel would've invented. It was mildly amusing. Joel would've used way more clips from the movie and made it into a montage, though. Man, I can't remember the last episode with a host segment to actually make me laugh.

"In the '70s, you could take an abstract concept like 'shining your love' and just go with it." (6/10)

film d. Greydon Clark (1978)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (11 Mar 1995)

04 February 2007

MST3K (621)

621 - The Beast of Yucca Flats (w/ Money Talks! + Progress Island U.S.A.) - Ugh. I can't believe I've now seen Coleman Francis' entire directorial output. As expected, the film was terrible. It was -- this seems impossible -- even worse than his other two films. I don't think I could make a worse film even if I were intentionally trying to make a bad movie. Monster A-Go Go is still the worst MST3K film so far, but this one is close. Very close.

Again, I didn't find this episode laugh-worthy. The riffing was forgettable. The host segments were dull. I was not into the faux election stuff at all (you can tell this was written during the '94 midterm elections). I was hoping the pair of shorts might be a bright spot in this Coleman Francis-filled show, but they were not. The riffing was far too sparse in the first short. In the second, it seemed like half of all of the riffs were just Servo negating what the narrator was saying (Narrator: "The Fortress of San Felipe del Morro..." Servo: "...is to be avoided at all times."). Either I'm in a rut, or the MST crew is.

For a RAM chip treat, let me think of some things I actually did like about this episode. Frank's face during the final host segment was quite funny. He put on this stone-still dejected expression that you can't help but crack a smile at. Mary Jo and Bridget did a great job as the mullet-haired, trailer trash partiers. I did laugh pretty hard at one riff in the first short. Just as Ben Franklin is disappearing from the boy's bedroom, Servo gives him a quick parting line: "Oh, and kill your parents."

"Greasy scarecrow boy not invited." (5/10)

film d. Coleman Francis (1961)
short 1 d. ?? (1951)
short 2 d. ?? (1973)
mst d. Jim Mallon (21 Jan 1995)

[Wow, I am sick of having to re-burn the DVDs I got from "traders." If you're going to be taking money from people in exchange for content burned onto DVD-R, do some damned research first. That spindle of 50 DVDs for $3.99 at Wal-Mart is not likely the best choice for long-term storage. A simple Google search will tell you which brands of discs are to be trusted. I'm so happy that 99.9% of seasons 7-10 come in the form of official Rhino DVDs and not-so-official (but self-burned) DAP discs. Another season full of episodes freezing in the middle and I'm libel to throw a rock at the TV... which would be a good excuse to upgrade to HD, come think of it.]

03 February 2007

MST3K (620)

620 - Danger!! Death Ray - This film suffers from a terrible lack of Sean Connery's little brother. And a lack of plot coherence. And a lack of, strangely, dialogue. And what the hell kind of name is "Bart Fargo" for a super spy? C'mon.

"You know, they were going to call this Danger!! Wall-Mounted Guns, but it wasn't a very good title." I really liked all of the wall-mounted gun riffs at the end of the movie. Those were well-written, fun and filled in the long, dialogue-free stretch. Other than that, I didn't laugh at all during this episode. The host segments were mostly useless again, too. The bit in the prologue with Crow's extremely contact lens-distressed eyes was disturbing. I liked it. Everything else barely rated a smile. A quintessential "blah" episode."

I noticed that the Frank was given a new credit in this episode. He's listed under Mike's "Head Writer" credit as "Script Consultant." I wonder if this was an effort to keep Frank on? He's leaving in four episodes. Maybe he hadn't made the decision to take off yet and the guys at BBI were trying to sway him their way? Throwing him a fancy title -- maybe a pay raise -- apparently wasn't enough, unfortunately.

"I gotta get a bigger body closet." (6/10)

film d. Gianfranco Baldanello [as Frank G. Carroll] (1967)
mst d. Kevin Murphy (7 Jan 1995)

02 February 2007

OLR: Groundhog Day (1993)

The best praise I can give this film: every time I see it, it makes me want to better myself. (8/10)

d. Harold Ramis

MST3K (619)

619 - Red Zone Cuba (w/ Speech: Platform Posture and Appearance) - "Actionlessness." That's it, Crow. This movie forces us as a species to invent a new word just to describe it. I think I might be comfortable declaring Coleman Francis the worst filmmaker to have ever walked the planet and I've only seen two of his creations. I can't believe I have another of his movies to watch just two episodes from now.

Nearly as bad as the film was the MST crew's failure to do anything with it. Take a look Coleman Francis. Go ahead. Not a pretty man, by any stretch. Not in great shape, either. His voice sounds like a busy day at the scrap yard. He has the cheery demeanor of a medieval town being visited by the plague. Not only did he direct the film, he cast himself as the main villain. This should be a comedy goldmine of Mitchell-like proportions. It wasn't so much. Deep into the episode, Mike began using his mock, gravely Coleman voice to insert lines into the director's mouth. There were some jokes about wanting to eat frog legs. Both were too late to save the proceedings.

The short was just ground already covered. Speech: Using Your Voice and Posture Pals got together way back in season 3 and produced this mutant child. I wasn't a fan of the first posture short and I didn't care for this one that much, either. In both this short and the film, I felt like the guys had a lack of energy for the making of the funny.

The host segments were forgettable. I know this because I've seen this episode before and remembered none of them one iota. Most of them were concerned with Dr. F's fight for life after his encounter with a mob debt collector. I guess they were trying to turn the tables by having Frank as the torturer and Dr. F as the tortured. It didn't work so well. The happy song the guys sing at the end was on the right track, but I feel like we've seen that bit before.

There were really only two things I liked in the episode. The recurring knee gag taken from the short was nice. Frank forces the bandaged Dr. F to do it, which was pretty amusing and disgusting. Mike does it in the theater to help himself get through the movie, which was a rare sight. Joel was the guy move around during the film. I don't think I've seen Mike ever do anything in there other than taking hats off of robots. The other bit I liked: the egg shell in Frank's hair. He eats a hardboiled egg in one of the earlier host segments and a piece of the shell stays in his hair for the rest of the show. Neat.

"Smells like Coleman Francis in here." (5/10)

film d. Coleman Francis (1965)
short d. Arthur H. Wolf (1949)
mst d. Trace Beaulieu (17 Dec 1994)

[watched at work on a laptop during lunch "hour."]