Monday, December 5, 2011

MST3K: Episode K04 - Gamera vs Barugon

I mentioned earlier that I would be attempting to watch all the episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

I'll be getting to the episodes everyone knows about -- the Comedy Channel, Comedy Central, and Sci-Fi Channel episodes -- soon enough. But, before they hit the big time, they were a hit local show on KTMA (now WUCW) before they moved national. And hard-core fans of MST3K consider those the first season, or Season Zero.

The first three of the 21 KTMA episodes are not available. However, there are copies of the other 18 KTMA episodes that are floating around. I obtained copies of those from this Website.

The quality of the recordings isn't great, because the "circulating tapes" were recorded on VCRs from over-the-air broadcasts in 1988 & 1989. Then, they were dubbed out for others, and eventually copied to DVD. While the quality isn't great, for many episodes, it's good.

With that background information, let's dive in to the first official episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 ... that's available.

Episode K04: Gamera vs Barugon

First aired: KTMA on 4 December 1988

While this if the fourth episode of MST3K, this is the first one that's available. The movie the crew is riffing was redone during Season Three. It's a Gamera film. I'm not a huge fan of the Japanese Silly Monster movies, so I hated the film. But, that allowed me to root for the crew trashing it.

From the opening, the Mad Scientists. They don't appear in Episode K04.
In this episode, the Mad Scientists don't appear, other than in the opening theme. In the opening, the Mads aren't made up quite as much. Clayton Forrester doesn't have the familiar wig, mustache, glasses, or green suit. Erhardt isn't quite fleshed out, either.

Since the Mads don't appear, there's no opening interaction and no invention exchange. Joel goes by his real name, Joel Hodgson, and after some quick welcome comments, goes straight to the movie. The Bots joined Joel inside.

Servo was beginning to take shape.
Crow's voice is recognizable, though stilted, sort of like the Lost In Space robot. Servo (not Tom Servo, just Servo) has a different voice than I'm used to, and it reminds me of Marvin the Martian's voice.

The recording I have has several "problem with the VCR" kind of spots. 20 years ago, I wouldn't have noticed them.

While J&tB do some of the riffing we're used to, there's also some just plain commenting. For example, Joel responded to a comment a movie character made by saying, "That makes no sense," and then there was a brief discussion about that. I would have expected Joel to make his point by making a series is nonsensical statements. So, in this, the 4th episode, they're still developing the format.

There are times where long gaps between riffs occur.

Cambot looked very different in Season Zero.
Joel & the Bots don't always wait until a break to leave the theater. The movie continues to play after they left. It's like the premise of the TV show is actually showing a movie, and J&tB are watching it along with us. During Comedy Channel/Comedy Central/Sci-Fi years, the main thing is us watching J&tB watching the movie. So, they're still developing the format.

Gypsy appears, and is referred to as a female, unlike in the demo/pilot.

Around half-way through the episode, J&tB did more standard riffing and less discussion of the flaws of the movie.

Crow looked the most like the Crow we all know.
My favorite line from the episode: "Remember, never stick anything in your ear larger than a pirate."

About the film: In the first Gamera movie, Gamera was a villain. When Gamera finally appears (excluding flashbacks) about half-way through the film, he's still a villain. In short order, the Turtle Monster starts to fight with the lizard villain Barugon. The lizard wins, and Gamera disappears until the end of the movie, when the mosters fight again. After Gamera beats Barugon, the turtle flies away. In other words, a Japanese monster movie.

Gamera will appear in the next four episodes, by the way. You have been warned.


  1. "The episode was hard to watch, because the movie was hard to watch."


    From Season 6, "Red Zone Cuba" and "The Beast of Yucca Flats" spring to mind.

    Just painful.

  2. There are some episodes I remember that I'd just as soon forget. I've read some of the comments the crew made about some really awful movies, and one of them is upcoming in Season Zero. They re-did it in a later season, so while one of the crew considered it a horrible experience, others must have not felt so adversarial against it, since they re-did it after they went national.

    I don't dispute your characterization of Red Zone: Cuba, but something about The Beast of Yucca Flats, as bad as the movie was, was also fascinating. Maybe I just have a soft spot for Tor Johnson. His famous line from Bride of the Monster, "Time for go to bed," won me over. I will watch anything he's in.


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