The episode: “Kitten with a Whip,” ep. 615
The riff: Snarked by Crow as a group of young whippersnappers impose on a middle-aged guy and barge their way into his house.
The explanation: “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” is the title of a short story by “Gatsby” scribe F. Scott Fitzgerald, first published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1920. It’s the story of a young girl learning to be more of a “modern woman” to attract the men of the time, and as such I believe Crow is comparing these kids to her hip new friends. He might also be referring to the 1976 TV adaptation of the story that was shown on PBS.
Novelty factor: It’s probably pretty safe to say that few people my age have read any Fitzgerald besides “The Great Gatsby” in school, and as such I had never heard of this before.
The episode: “Outlaw of Gor,” ep. 519
The riff: Exclaimed by Tom as we get our first look at “Cabot,” the film’s reluctant professor-turned sword-and-sorcery hero.
The explanation: Doc Savage was a pulp magazine hero of the 1930s and 1940s, sort of a gun-toting Indiana Jones archaeologist archetype. He was a very popular character in short stories, comics, radio and even a feature film or two, popularizing the stock character of a “fighting professor” who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Shows like “Johnny Quest” and “The Venture Brothers” owe everything to Doc Savage. The series could also be criticized for a certain white supremacist air, as only the wise and noble Doc Savage could fix each situation.
Novelty factor: I’ve read plenty about Doc Savage before, but I’ve never actually read one of the pieces. We may get to see the character again, though, as there is persistent talk of a Doc Savage reboot.
The episode: “Master Ninja I,” ep. 322
The riff: Spoken in a low voice by Joel as ninja Lee Van Cleef (a good guy in this film) clashes with three ninjas in head-to-toe black in a very dark room.
The explanation: All the black silhouettes (besides looking like an early version of that scene from Kill Bill: Part 1) have a very modern dance feel to them, hence the reference to Martha Graham. She was a choreographer with vast, sweeping influence over the whole of modern dance in a career that stretched for more than 70 years. The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance still performs today.
Novelty factor: Never heard of her, actually, but that’s not too surprising as my knowledge of the world of dance is just about zip.
The episode: “The Magic Sword,” ep. 411
The riff: Spoken by Joel in a deeper, TV announcer’s voice as the villainous wizard (played by Rathbone) bickers with his underling.
The explanation: “You Can Negotiate Anything” is the title of a 1982 self-help book by Herb Cohen that is all about winning arguments and negotiations. To do so, one must apparently focus on three variables, which are “power,” “time” and “information.” The book’s advice is all presented in storytelling format, in the form of anecdotes from Cohen.
Novelty factor: Never heard of it before, but I can’t help but imagine for whatever reason that someone who is a self-styled “negotiation expert” would be annoying to be around.
The episode: “Hercules Unchained,” ep. 408
The riff: Added by Crow after someone tells Herc that he’ll be sending “servants, books and provisions” to his brother.
The explanation: They’re quoting a track by the same name, “Lawyers, Guns and Money” by Warren Zevon from 1978. The main character is a ne’er do well of sorts who has gotten himself mixed up into all kinds of trouble in South America. Throughout the song he instructs his dad to send lawyers, guns and money to bail him out of the jam he has found himself in.
Novelty factor: My friend Allison loves this song. She makes me listen to it all the time. Thanks, Allison.
The episode: “The Deadly Mantis,” ep. 804
The riff: Noted by Mike as the film’s sole female character (who I actually think is rather pretty) chats with the male lead.
The explanation: Eve Arden was an American actress who successfully made the leap from radio to television at the beginning of the TV age. On the radio, she was the star of the program “Our Miss Brooks,” where she played a witty high school English teacher. The show was then moved to TV in 1952, where it became a hit as well, spawning a feature film. Years later, Arden would play the principal of Rydell High in the movie “Grease.”
Novelty factor: Although I vaguely remember her in “Grease,” I’d never heard of Arden of “Our Miss Brooks” before.
The episode: “Daddy-O,” ep. 307
The riff: Opined by Tom as a truck driver and a young woman in a luxury car engage in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse in their vehicles. Which is to say, they try to pass each other.
The explanation: “Duel” is the title of an influential 1971 thriller film that was made for TV, largely remembered as being the first feature film of Steven Spielberg’s career. It tells a simple story, that of a man being chased by a trucker for no apparent reason in the desert. The trucker is purposely kept faceless throughout the film, and only his truck is scene. Whereas here in this MST3k episode, we see things from the trucker’s perspective, hence the joke. Weirdly enough, “Daddy-O” was also the film debut of frequent Spielberg collaborator John Williams as a composer.
Novelty factor: I recognized the film reference right away, but I’ve actually never seen “Duel.” I’ve only ever read about it.