321. “…yellow?”

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.


294. “Come on, Quaker Oats for you, it’s the right thing to do.”

The episode:The Killer Shrews,” ep. 407

The riff: Opined by Joel as an old guy with a mustache cheerily leads a couple of young boys off screen.

The explanation: Joel is impersonating actor Wilford Brimley, who appeared in a bunch of commercials for Quaker Oatmeal in the 1980s. “It’s the right thing to do” was actually a slogan, perhaps the first time I’ve ever heard of a moral imperative as far as breakfast is concerned. They made a ton of these commercials.

Novelty factor: I don’t remember this ad campaign, but I find its insistence on oatmeal-eating to be a little unsettling.

242. “It’s the Gom Jabbar!”

The episode:Junior Rodeo Daredevils,” the short in front of “The Killer Shrews,” ep. 407

The riff: Exclaimed by Joel as a couple of kids fiddle around with an old tin can and one kid puts his hand inside while the other holds it.

The explanation: What a splendid reference to one of my favorite all-time sci-fi novels, Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” In Herbert’s futuristic world, the Gom Jabbar is a test administered by the psychic Bene Gesserit Sisterhood to weed out “human awareness” from those who react instinctively like an animal. To take the test, a poisoned needle is placed against the subject’s throat while the subject’s hand is placed into a box. The box radiates waves of pain, but if the subject pulls his hand out, he will be killed by the poisoned needle. The challenge is thus one of rationality over reaction. Those who survive are deemed “human.”

Novelty factor: Clearly, this one is right up my alley. Speaking of “Dune,” if you want to see the story in a good film adaptation, stay away from the awful David Lynch version. Instead, get a copy of the Sci Fi Channel’s surprisingly good miniseries from 2000 or the even better sequel, “Children of Dune” from 2003. With that said, the Gom Jabbar scene is the one part of Lynch’s film that is actually superior, accurately capturing the dread of the test. Leave it to David Lynch to get that part right.

38. “Hey kids, you ever read The Ox-Bow Incident?”

The episode:Jr. Rodeo Daredevils,” the short in front of “The Killer Shrews,” ep. 407

The riff: Asked by Crow as the town sheriff aprehends two mischievious young boys who are up to tomfoolery with a rancher’s horses.

The explanation:The Ox-Bow Incident” is a famous Western novel from 1940. It’s about the dangers of crowd justice and lynch mobs, which are out to catch an kill a couple of suspected rustlers. The book was adapted into a classic film of the same name in 1943, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Crow is basically just making a typically macabre MST3k joke that the boys are about to be hanged for their “crimes.”

Novelty factor: I didn’t know the reference, but oddly I was kind of aware of its meaning. For whatever reason, hearing “The Ox-Bow Incident” immediately reminded me of the title “An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge,” a short story by Ambrose Bierce that is also about hanging. I have no idea why my mind connected the two.