The episode: “Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders,” ep. 1003
The riff: Spoken as dialog by Tom as the film’s Julie Haggerty lookalike tells her husband “you’re scaring me,” picks up the aforementioned items, and leaves.
The explanation: This is a dual riff. “I’m taking the ___, that’s all I need,” is part of a hilarious running joke from the 1979 Steve Martin comedy “The Jerk.” As he walks out on his wife, he keeps insisting he doesn’t need anything, but then stops to pick up random objects like a paddle game, a lamp and a chair. A “Longaberger basket,” on the other hand, is made by The Longaberger Company, a longtime manufacturer of a wooden lattice baskets. Even their corporate headquarters is shaped like a giant basket.
Novelty factor: I love this bit from “The Jerk,” but I had no idea what a Longaberger basket was.
The episode: “Jack Frost,” ep. 813
The riff: Spoken by Crow as the titular character of Jack Frost applies ice and snow to a stand of trees in a long, protracted scene.
The explanation: Crow is playing off the title of 1997 Danish film called “Smilla’s Sense of Snow,” based off a 1992 Danish novel, “Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow.” The book and movie are thrillers about a young woman investigating the death of a child in her housing complex. It was well known for its bizarre ending, which involved a plot to harness energy from a fallen meteorite.
Novelty factor: Never heard of it before in my life, but it really sounds like the film had one goofy ending.
The episode: “The Final Sacrifice,” ep. 910
The riff: Credited by Servo as the camera quickly cuts a demonic, fanged carving that is oddly colored and lumpy. It kind of looks like bad papier mache.
The explanation: Red Grooms is an American multimedia artist and painter who is known for his expansive, three-dimensional depictions of urban life and decay. The face in the film more closely resembles some of the paintings he did of celebrities and famous people. Additionally, the structure of the joke, calling it “Red Grooms’ Dracula” is probably a play on the 1992 adaptation of the classic Dracula story, “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” starring Gary Oldman.
Novelty factor: I’m familiar with the Oldman movie but I had to look up who Red Grooms was.
The episode: “The Thing That Couldn’t Die,” ep. 805
The riff: Asked quizzically by Mike after one of the characters says “…Jessica?” in a questioning manner.
The explanation: “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” was the title of a 1971 low-budget psychological horror film. The movie starred Zohra Lampert as a woman recently released from a mental institution who moves into a creepy farmhouse. She begins to see nightmarish visions, and the plot revolves around whether they are real or if she is slowly losing her mind. It had both VHS and DVD releases.
Novelty factor: I’m a connoisseur of old horror movies, but this is one I’d never heard before. Love the grindhouse-style title, though.
The episode: “Attack of the Eye Creatures,” ep. 418
The riff: Muttered by Joel as a deputy hands an officer a breathalyzer that looks kind of like a hand puppet.
The explanation: This seems to be a reference to the 1979 action-comedy “The In-Laws,” starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin. In the movie, a sort of action-oriented “Odd Couple,” the pair run up at one point against an insane Central American dictator played by Richard Libertini. On his hand he has a crudely painted puppet, in the style of Senor Wences, and he talks to it as his personal adviser. The puppet is of course named “Pepe.”
Novelty factor: I’ve heard of the film before, but this reference took a fair bit of Googling to figure out.
NOTE: You can see the puppet itself at 2:23 in the trailer below.
The episode: “Danger! Death Ray,” ep. 620
The riff: Gaped by Mike as a spy’s boss compliments him and says “You deserve a special prize for your work.”
The explanation: Irving Thalberg was the co-creator of the movie studio MGM and was one of history’s most storied and successful film producers. Known as “The Boy Wonder” for his great success at a young age, he passed away at only 37 years old from pneumonia. The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Awards were established and are awarded sporadically at the Governors Awards ceremony to “Creative producers, whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production.” The most recent recipient was director Francis Ford Coppola in 2010.
Novelty factor: My film education taught me who Thalberg was, but I actually haven’t heard of the award before.
The episode: “The Killer Shrews,” ep. 407
The riff: Asked out of nowhere by Joel after a woman tells a man “You seem so disinterested in everything. Aren’t you the least bit curious?”
The explanation: This is actually a rather clever reference to a 1967 Swedish drama film called “I Am Curious (Yellow),” which then had a sequel called “I Am Curious (Blue).” In the United States, the film obtained a degree of infamy after its realistic scenes of sex caused it to be banned as pornographic in Massachusetts. However, after going through appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, it was found not to be obscene.
Novelty factor: Never heard of this film at all. This is the kind of crazy reference they would make on MST3k with a single word.
WARNING: This clip may contain boobs.