Monday, April 2, 2012

MST3K: Episode 411 - The Magic Sword

I'm watching all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes in order. More about that here and here.

Episode 411: The Magic Sword

First aired: Comedy Central on 29 August 1992

Magic indeed.
This one's special.

It's the first episode I remember watching. It's not the earliest-aired episode I've seen. There are shows from earlier seasons that I know I'd seen before, but with as many times as shows were rerun over the years, I don't know that I saw them before I saw this one.

No, my earliest viewing of a show that I remember involved viewing this episode. I can't say it was the first show I saw, but it is the earliest viewing that I remember.

Why do I remember this one? Well, for a couple of reasons. I remember watching this episode with the children. At least, there were present for part of it, and I was present for part of it. But I remember them laughing at a couple of the riffs.
"Endora!""Petticoat ... Dungeon."
The fact that there was something that both they and I thought were funny made this episode stand out. What were they? References to old TV shows from the 1960s. Shows that I watched when I was their age. Shows that they knew from Nick At Nite.

In one scene, the sorceress appears, and Joel simply says, "Endora!" The children were fans of Bewitched, and got the reference. In another, when the heroine is thrown into a dungeon, and we discover she is there with two other young women, Joel sings, "Petticoat ... Dungeon" in the manner of the Petticoat Junction theme song. The children were familiar with that show, too, and laughed.
Basil Rathbone looks fabulous!Look! They made a funny!
The movie also featured the most famous actor to share my name: Basil Rathbone. Perhaps best known for his 14 big screen appearances as Sherlock Holmes, I first came to know him for his role as Sir Guy of Gisbourne in 1938's The Adventures of Robin Hood. He has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one each for his work in radio, motion pictures, and television.

It goes without saying that he got his stars before this film came out. 26 months before, in fact.

The one thing about this episode that I didn't like was Joel & the Bots' inability to pronounce Basil Rathbone's name correctly. No, they got the "Rathbone" part right. It's "Basil" that people seem to have a problem with. J&tB made the common error of pronouncing it with a long "a," as in "BAY-sill" or "BAY-zil," when that pronunciation means the herb. A short "a" -- like bat, cat, hat -- is how the name is pronounced. It's from Greek name Βασιλειος (or "Basileios") which came from βασιλευς (or "basileus"), which means "king." Remember that.
It began with "Saaayyyy..."... and ended with a fright!
They also had some fun with Estelle Winwood. J&tB did their "Saaayyyy..." gag, where the scene shows something that they interpret as sexy, just before the camera makes its final reveal. It's often unintentional by the movie-maker. But, probably not so unintentional in this film.

Crow drops Kim Cattrall for Estelle
When the talented Miss Winwood first appeared, the camera slowly panned across the room, then came upon a shapely form, to which J&tB offered, "Saaayyyy..." Then, it slowly panned up to reveal ... Estelle Winwood. She was 79 when The Magic Sword was released, and looked it -- in the face, anyway.

Keep in mind, Miss Winwood made her debut on Broadway in 1916, at age 33. Her first film appearance was not until 1933, at age 50. Her last film appearance was at age 92 (Murder By Death), TV appearance was at age 96 (Quincy, ME), and her last stage appearance was at age 100 (My Fair Lady).

Notice that I've spent most of the time talking about the actors and not the actual film. There's a reason. It's not a good film. Of course, that's the very reason it gets the MST3K treatment. It's a film by the Notorious B.I.G. -- no, not Christopher George Latore Wallace, but Bert I. Gordon -- who had a total of eight films featured on MST3K. This is the fifth.

In this film, George, a young wanna-be knight is raised by a sorceress. He falls for a beautiful princess and with a crew of knights rescues her from a evil sorcerer with a two-headed dragon. The knights and the evil sorcerer die. Boy gets girl. Estelle Winwood lives a long life. The end.

Not the worst movie every made. Not the worst movie the MST3K crew ever riffed. In fact, it's one of the best. Which isn't saying much. Then, again, it could be this episode's special status that makes me like it. Since it's never been released on video, I hadn't seen it since it aired on Comedy Central. They showed it 17 times, and I saw it once. Until I obtained a fan copy.

This was the first episode I remember watching. And, as of this writing, the most recent. I enjoyed it every time.

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