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Recap / Mystery Science Theater 3000 S 09 E 12 The Screaming Skull

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Okay, who turned up the heat on the hot tub?

Films watched: Robot Rumpus (short) and The Screaming Skull

"Remember folks, if you die of boredom you do not get a free coffin. Sorry."
Crow T. Robot, Mystery Science Theater 3000

Notable for being the last MST3K that ever aired on cable TV, when its rerun contract with the Sci Fi Channel expired at the end of January 2004. Also notable for being the only episode in the original run to riff an animated feature.


The Segments:

  • Servo changed into a beautiful butterfly! His proboscis grosses out Mike though.

Segment 1

  • Mike finds Servo back to normal, but the proboscis is still there. At Castle Forrester, Pearl urges Mike, Crow and Servo to put on their penguin costumes. They put on their animal costumes, but reveal the futility of Pearl's prank.

Segment 2

  • Traumatized from today's short, Crow and Servo show Mike their clay world, where well meaning robots are oppressed by quirky clay mounds. As the two Bots break down from the clay mounds' prejudice, Mike makes a note for Pearl to go easy on Gumby shorts. And also to please send Dizzy Grizzlies for the bots.

Segment 3

  • Crow and Servo crank call the film's distributors for their free coffins, but their plan goes too far ahead as Servo ends up ordering one.

Segment 4

  • Crow scares Mike as a screaming skull, but Mike goes overboard with fear.

Segment 5

  • The coffins arrive at the SOL, which Mike signs for an unwilling Servo. Bobo, in a monkey costume, calls Mike and the Bots for his urgent message, but receives their disapproval. He gets shrunk by Brain Guy for his trouble.

The presentation of Robot Rumpus as examples of:

  • Blooper: In Universe, Mike calls out the tip of Gumby's head being on the wrong side (viewer's left instead of right) at the Clokey Production vanity card.
  • Brain Bleach: The ending of the short causes Servo and Crow to go into Heroic BSoD.
    Servo: AHHH! They hung his head! Oh...
    Crow: Now I'm ready for years of powerful Adlerian therapy, Mike.
    Servo: They hung his head. Aaugh, this is worse than Se7en!
  • The Chew Toy:
    Mike: (as Gumby) Hey, you can throw things through Dad! I'm gonna get an anvil.
  • Comfort Food: Crow asks Mike to get them Dizzy Grizzlies note  to get them through the trauma of the robot slaughter from the Gumby short.
  • Creator Breakdown: In-Universe. After seeing the short, Crow and Servo spend a host segment doing a skit about poor innocent robots being victimized by obnoxious clay creatures. They can't even finish it because they're so distraught.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Mike implies that Gumba has "threatened to make [Gumby] into a bowl" for all the damage the robots have done.
    • Again at the end when Mike riffs that Gumby's parents have put him to hard labor without food or water for seven days running.
  • Dodgy Toupee: The guys briefly debate whether the black object on Gumbo's head is a matador's hat or one of these.
  • Fantastic Racism: What does Mike think one of the robots is painting on Gumby's house?
    Mike: "Clay Figures Go Home!"
  • Groin Attack:
    Mike: (as Gumbo) Thank goodness for the internal genitalia.
  • Large Ham: Ruth Eggleston, the woman (yes, adult woman, not child)note  who voiced Gumby has a delivery that is somewhat stilted, high-pitched, and shoutynote . Servo and Crow cringe at this.
    Crow: "One of my classmates died in the kiln today, mo-ther!"
  • Naked People Are Funny: During Robot Rumpus it was never an issue in any of the Gumby series, but MST3K brought it up.
    Narrator: But on this day, something unexpected happened.
    Mike: Gumby was nude.
    • And later when they first see Gumbo:
      Servo: So he just goes to work starkers?
  • Oh, the Humanity!: "Oh, in the name of all that is clay!"
  • Running Gag: Pokey taking a dump during Robot Rumpus.
    Mike: (as Pokey) My tail's lifting!
  • Shout-Out:
    • Riffs mentions both Wallace & Gromit and Davey and Goliath as Gumby's neighbors.
    • After Gumbo has a wrench thrown through his body and it heals itself, the crew gasp loudly, then Servo says "I'm liquid metal!"
    • When Gumbo says to Gumby in a James Earl Jones-like voice, "There's only one way to stop that robot now," Servo follows with, "On CNN."

The presentation of The Screaming Skull as examples of:

  • Author Appeal: The Forced Perspective gag with Bobo, according to Best Brains, was an Homage to all the B Movies they watched that employed the cheap effect.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: invoked Mike sees Mickey the groundskeeper as a dangerous serial killer masquerading as a simpleton. Servo throws it back in his face.
    Crow: C'mon Mike, how is he any different than you?
  • Comical Overreacting: Mike screaming at the sight of Crow as a skull for minutes on end in Segment 4.
  • Continuity Nod: While neither Mike nor the bots make a riff directly comparing Mickey to Torgo, Servo does make the same goat bleats during Mickey's introduction that were a Running Gag throughout Manos.
  • Crusty Caretaker: Discussed.
    Mike: You know, have people wised up to hiring people like this?
    Crow: Oh c'mon Mike, how is he any different from you?
  • Epic Fail: Pearl's penguin costume prank, as described in Overly Preprepared Gag, required so much setup for such a minor payoff, that it makes her (and Bobo and Brain Guy) look dumber than the intended victims. Pearl desperately tries to save face, but Bobo and Brain Guy are resigned to it.
    Brain Guy: (sobbing) We're so stupid!
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: "In the name of all that is good and decent, gentlemen, put on your penguin costumes!"
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: While Pearl explains the setup for her penguin costume prank, Bobo and Brain Guy stand just behind her, their faces falling as they realize how dumb the prank was. Pearl gets all the way through the explanation before realization hits her.
    Pearl: It was so simple!
    Brain Guy: Actually, it was a titch pathetic of us, I'm afraid.
  • Faking the Dead: In order to try to scam his way to a free coffin, Servo calls up the film's distributors and claims that he his friend died while watching it. He panics and tries to back out, but ends up having to pay shipping both ways on his coffin (on Mike's credit card).
  • Forced Perspective: A gratuitous shot of Bobo being held in Brain Guy's fist, as punishment for dressing up like an ape.
  • Golf Clubbing: Crow pretends to be a screaming skull and Mike panics and attacks him with a golf club.
  • Gone Horribly Right: During a host segment, Crow has set himself up like a screaming skull in order to scare Mike. One little "Raarh" sends Mike into screaming hysterics. Worse, Mike (still gibbering in panic) gets a hold of a bat and then a golf club...
    • Then they calm him down by convincing him it's just Crow pulling a prank. Only for Crow to perform another little "scream", sending Mike into screaming hysterics again and swinging the golf club, taking the top of Servo's head in his panicked attack.
  • Hearing Voices: Referenced and parodied.
    (Faint ambient siren noises are heard in the distance as Rev. Snow stares, distraught)
    Crow: Meanwhile, inside the Reverend's head, a fire raged on.
  • Henpecked Husband: The crew portrays Eric as this to a certain extent, even from his first wife beyond the grave:
    Crow (as Marion, as Eric is looking upon her tombstone): Oh, and I suppose you screwed up the murder of your second wife, too! Why can't you kill properly, like the other husbands?!
  • Hypocritical Humor: After the Mads' failed prank with the penguin costumes, Tom Servo and Crow make fun of the ridiculous costumes, completely ignoring that their own goofy animal costumes.
    Servo: [wearing silly reindeer antlers] Hehehe, boy, do they look stupid.
    Crow: [dressed as a sheep] Yeah, at least we maintained our dignity.
  • Informed Attribute: Many jokes are made from almost the beginning of the movie about how creepy Mickey is, but he doesn't really do anything that threatening or even disgusting in the film. He's seen skulking around, but since he's the gardener and actually lives on the grounds, that's not very unusual at all.
  • Jump Cut: During the movie, there's a very noticeable skip in the film stock, causing Servo to dub Jenni's voice: "The film broke and it was horrible!" as she fearfully runs into Eric's arms.
  • Kubrick Stare: How Mike and the Bots react to Bobo's failed prank.
  • Make-Out Point: Partway through the movie, Tom realizes that, at that point, people would be starting to neck instead of being frightened and invites Mike to have a go. Mike is disgusted instead and tries to shoo him away.
  • Metamorphosis: In the first host segment, Tom Servo has become a beautiful butterfly! By the second segment, he's back to normal.
    Servo: I'm still a beautiful butterfly, Mike. I've just had a few unfortunate happenstances, such as my wings being torn off in an industrial accident. Well that depressed me, so I ate a lot of Mallomars and gained all the weight back, but I was soon feeling better and went back to work. But alas, someone turned on the Extruder while I was cleaning it, and my bottom two pairs of delicate butterfly legs were ripped from me. Again depressed, I hit the Pecan Sandies - hard - and gained my remaining weight back in my remaining arms. My arms, by now in a metabolic frenzy, started to leech fat from my antennae, which made them so thin as to be invisible. But I am still a beautiful butterfly, Mike, and butterflies are free to fly... fly away... high away... bye-bye...
    • Almost normal.
      Servo: (brightly) But I still have my proboscis!
  • Nightmare Retardant: Invoked:
    Crow: Remember, folks, if you die of boredom you do not get a free coffin. Sorry.
  • Noodle Incident: This little gem.
    Servo: That reminds me, Mike: we're out of embalming fluid.
  • Obligatory Joke: Lampshaded when the titular skull rises from a misty pond:
    Mike: You guys might be tempted to make a "Smoke on the Water" reference here, but I urge you to refrain.
    Crow: Okay.
  • Offer Void In Nebraska: Crow's response to the disclaimer at the film's start. "Offer void in Utah, Florida, and Arizona. Taxes and acquisition fee not included. Must take delivery of dealer's stock."
  • Overly Long Gag: Mocking the movie's premise (that a skull is, by itself, inherently terrifying), Mike goes on freaking out at the sight of a screaming skull ("Raaarh.") well past the point where it's obviously Crow. He starts out slapping Crow with a bag of chips, runs away and comes back with a bat, leaves again and comes back with a whole bag of golf clubs, spends several moments selecting the right club to use to bash Crow, and then a few more nodding as Servo compliments his driver. At no point during all this does he stop screaming.
  • Overly Preprepared Gag: Pearl's plan to embarrass Mike and the Bots is really a badly-thought-out and lame plan on Pearl's part.
    Pearl: All we had to do was call fifty-three costume shops to find one that had three penguin costumes, reserve them eight months in advance with a huge cash deposit, then pay a balance of eight hundred and ninety-nine dollars per costume to rent them for an hour, then put them on, then wait until you guys woke up and finished breakfast, then call you and make believe that we had set up an appointment for you all to wear penguin costumes, and then... you fell for it! It was so simple!
  • Padding: Invoked. Many jokes are made of the movie's attempt to draw out the suspense way too much.
    Tom: It's like they had two servings of tension that they're trying to stretch out for seven people.
    Crow: (as Jenni hems and haws over investigating the strange knocking) Can we help you, movie lady?! Do you need a push or something?!
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Crow's "skull" in Segment 4 is just his detached head with the eyes taken out, painted white with cartoon teeth drawn on.
  • Pun:
    • As Mickey is in the greenhouse:
      Mike: He's growing pot!
    • Also as Mickey picks up a lily pad:
      Mike: Nice pad he's got there.
    • And when Eric tosses a (wooden) stool:
      Crow: Wow, did you see that!? He just scooped up his stool and threw it at her. That was a hard stool. He should have at least used some stool softener—
      Mike: Okay, okay!
    • Later:
      Mike: Now that's a real dead head.
      Servo: Oh, Mike...
      Mike: Well, it is.
  • Running Gag:
    • Referring back to the movie's promise of free burial services if you die of fright while watching it.
    • Mickey having a victim or victims in his shed.
  • Screaming Woman:
    • When Eric hears Jenni's screams.
      Crow: Oh great, she's playing her Yoko Ono albums.
      Mike: I think the title was supposed to be Screaming; Skull.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The skull's knocking is compared to Gandalf and Martin Luther.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: During one of the interminable sequences of doors being knocked on and not answered, Mike quips about Martin Luther hammering each of his theses to the door individually. There were 95 of them, which would certainly have padded out the filminvoked.


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