The episode: “Catalina Caper,” 204
The riff: Observed by Crow as a group of hotties at the beach all get angry in unison and slap their various menfolk for a perceived slight to the group.
The explanation: “Lysistrata” is an ancient Greek comedy written in 411 B.C. by the Greek playwright Aristophanes. It’s a classic comedy about the battle of the sexes, wherein the Greek women attempt to end the Peloponnesian War by electing to withhold sex in unison until their men agree to seek peace. It is still staged to this day, almost 2,500 years later.
Novelty factor: I’ve never heard the title before, but I could swear I’ve heard the plot of this play before.
The episode: “Teenagers from Outer Space,” ep. 404
The riff: Offered as a possibility by Joel after the female lead tries to reassure the good guy alien that things will be alright and he replies he’s worried about “what I know is coming here.”
The explanation: “Lend Me a Tenor” is the title of a theater comedy that started on London’s West End in 1986 and opened on Broadway in 1989, winning nine Tony Awards. It’s a farcical comedy of errors that revolves around a missing opera singer, and is often performed by community theater groups. The name implies that it would be a musical but it isn’t–however, a musical version was created later.
Novelty factor: Weirdly enough I’ve never heard of this, for a show that apparently has been performed so many times. Pretty cheesy title, though.
The episode: “Robot Holocaust,” ep. 110 (Note: I once saw the non-MST3k version of this movie and it’s pretty funny on its own. Also, it’s funny to see where they cut out the original film’s nudity.)
The riff: Sung by Joel as lilting music plays and a ragtag band of human survivors travel across the really crappy-looking “wastelands.” Joel plays air violin at the same time.
The explanation: The music clearly reminded them of the opening of the song “Stranger in Paradise” from the 1953 Broadway musical “Kismet.” The show, which won the 1954 Tony Award for best musical, is set in the magical old Baghdad of “Arabian Nights” and features actual Muslim characters who would no doubt ignite some sort of insane protest if it was staged today. The actual song was originally a lover’s duet between a girl and the young caliph/king of Baghdad, but it later became more known as a solo male song. The most famous recording was by Tony Bennett, but versions by Tony Martin, Bing Crosby and Four Aces were also successful.
Novelty factor: That’s a big zilcho as far as my comprehension is concerned. I think we’ve pretty much established that I don’t know vintage musical theater very well at this point.
The episode: “The Incredible Melting Man,” ep. 704
The riff: Exclaimed by Crow as an elderly couple trades good-natured ribbing as they drive deserted roads in the middle of the night: Of note: In a show filled with bizarre people, these are two of the weirdest folks to get screen-time in an MST3k episode.
The explanation: This seems to be a fairly obscure theater reference to a show of the same name, “The Gin Game,” from 1976. The minimalist drama stars only two people, an elderly couple who meet at a nursing home for senior citizens. It is so named because the long conversations they engage in take place as the pair of seniors battle in consecutive games of gin rummy.
Novelty factor: Totally new to me! Sounds like an absolutely riveting premise.
The episode: “What to do on a Date,” the short before “Swamp Diamonds,” ep. 503
The riff: Insisted by Joel as the short’s wimpy milquetoast hero reluctantly calls a girl for a date.
The explanation: “Forever Plaid” was an off-Broadway musical revue from 1990 that satirized harmonizing pop quartets of the 1950s, in the style of groups like The Four Aces. The gang is making fun of the supposed “everykid” image that our hero possesses–that ubiquitous, clean-shaven, high-waisted look that often appears so silly to modern observers.
Novelty factor: I feel like I’ve heard of the show before at some point, but either way I could guess at the meaning of the riff from the context.
The episode: “Revenge of the Creature,” ep. 801
The riff: Sullenly intoned by Tom as the captured Creature from the Black Lagoon morosely kneels in his underwater enclosure.
The explanation: It’s a quote from “Hamlet”–more accurately, the beginning of Hamlet’s first soliloquy in Act 1, Scene 2. At this point he is distraught over his father’s death and mother’s re-marriage, and laments that suicide is frowned upon by the higher power. It’s just typical MST3k writing–applying Shakespearean quotations to black and white movie monsters.
Novelty factor: I don’t know Shakespeare nearly well enough to actually recognize specific quotations (although a few readers of this blog will), but when you hear the way Tom speaks the line, it’s pretty clear he’s probably quoting The Bard from the context.
The episode: “Operation Double 007,” ep. 508. A James Bond parody starring Neil Connery, Sean’s brother, made in Italy. Yes, this is a real movie.
The riff: Sung by Tom as the film pans down to a death thug who has just been dispatched by Neil Connery’s deadly martial arts prowess.
The explanation: This is a snatch of song from the stage musical “Oklahoma!” It’s part of a song sung by the character Jud Frey as he imagines how much everyone would miss him and feel bad about their treatment of him if he committed suicide. Beyond the fact that a dead guy is on screen, though, I’m not sure what made the writers think of this particular riff. The thug who gets killed has never been introduced before, and I’m pretty sure he bears no real resemblance to Jud Frey.
Novelty factor: I had to think about it for a moment, but then I remembered the source of the quote. I saw “Oklahoma!” last summer as part of my job as an entertainment reporter, so for once I’m familiar with the source material.