by Sean Marten
Marjoe Gortner? That’s my favorite Trader Joe’s spice.
Marjoe Gortner is an ex-evangelical preacher/con man whose documentary exposé about himself, Marjoe, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1972. After that success, Gortner embarked on a brief acting career, with roles in the film Earthquake (1974), the 1973 pilot for the TV detective series Kojak, and, of course, Starcrash. Marjoram is actually an herb, not a spice, similar to oregano. (Herbs are made from the leaves of a plant, while spices are made from the seeds, bark, or roots.) Trader Joe’s is a chain of “fresh format” grocery stores, providing gourmet, organic, and environmentally friendly items. Based in Monrovia, California, as of 2017 there were about 475 Trader Joe’s locations.
Caroline Munro—the store brand Marilyn Monroe.
Leggy British model Caroline Munro had numerous forgettable bit parts in various films, including a string of horror flicks for Hammer Films, before scoring her biggest part: the lethal assassin Naomi in the 1977 James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. “Store brand” grocery items are cheaper versions of popular national brand grocery products, like graham crackers or breakfast cereals, but sold only in one particular chain of stores. Marilyn Monroe (b. Norma Jeane Mortenson, 1926-1962) was an American actress who became one of the top “blond bombshell” sex symbols of the 1950s and remains a pop culture icon to this day. Two of her better-known roles were as showgirl Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and singer Sugar Kane in Some Like It Hot (1959).
Starcrash: The Halle Berry Story.
Halle Berry is an American actress; as of 2018 she is the only black woman to win a Best Actress Academy Award (for Monster’s Ball in 2002). In February of 2000, Berry was involved in a late-night car crash in West Hollywood that sent both her and the other driver to the hospital, where she received 22 stitches in her forehead. Unfortunately, she drove away from the accident, later claiming amnesia from the blow to her head. She was charged with leaving the scene of an accident, pleaded no contest, and was fined and given probation and community service. The other driver sued and settled out of court. Berry was also involved in a car crash in 1997, which some alleged was a hit-and-run, but no charges were filed, and in 2007 she crashed her car into a wall, claiming she was being chased by paparazzi.
And we have Hasselhoff!
David Hasselhoff is an American actor best known for starring in such action-oriented TV series as Knight Rider (1982-1986) and Baywatch (1989-2001). On the latter series, he spent a great deal of time on the beach in a swimsuit, and since he was thirty-seven when the series began, he was mocked for the amount of heroic gut-sucking his role required.
[Sung to the movie’s theme.] Star Wars … this isn’t Star Wars … even with Plummer … it’s not even close. And Lewis Coates did his darnedes … oh.
Starcrash came out in 1978, the year after the first Star Wars film, A New Hope, was released and became a monster hit. The director has claimed that the film was already written before Star Wars came out. Christopher Plummer is a Canadian actor with over 200 roles to his credit, including Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music (1965) and Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King (1975). It’s been reported that Plummer was paid $10,000 a day for his work in Starcrash, most of which was filmed in a single day. Plummer himself has claimed he only took the job because it filmed in Rome, saying “I’d do porno in Rome.” Lewis Coates (real name Luigi Cozzi) is an Italian film director who specializes in science fiction, horror and fantasy movies, including the 1983 version of Hercules starring Lou Ferrigno.
And we open with an upskirt shot of a spaceship.
“Upskirt” photography is the practice of surreptitiously taking pictures from a low angle to get a shot of unsuspecting women’s underwear (or lack thereof). Unfortunately, existing law has proved ineffective to deal with upskirt photographers, so thus far (as of 2018, anyway), they have generally gotten away with it when they’ve been caught. (A few states, including Virginia, Washington, and Massachusetts, have made it expressly illegal, but courts in others have ruled it is not prohibited by law, and lawmakers there have not yet addressed it.)
They finally launched the Mall of America.
The Mall of America is the second-largest shopping mall in the United States (after the King of Prussia Mall outside Philadelphia) and one of the largest in the world. It has more than 500 stores, an aquarium, a miniature golf course, a full-scale amusement park including several roller coasters, and other attractions too numerous to mention. It is located in Bloomington, Minnesota, just outside Minneapolis.
Christopher Plummer arrives on set.
See above note.
Your Hot Pocket is ready.
Hot Pockets is a brand of microwaveable turnovers introduced in 1983 and acquired by Nestlé in 2002. There are more than 40 varieties of Hot Pockets, including breakfast and fruit pastries, but the most popular are various meat, cheese, and vegetable combos, especially pizza.
Man, it just doesn’t feel like a Tuesday, does it?
This is the punchline to an old joke, which legend holds was Tonight Show host Johnny Carson’s favorite. The joke is too long to reproduce in full, but it involves a deadly encounter between a crocodile and a young wildebeest at a watering hole. The crocodile has just slithered back into the water with the dead and bleeding body of his prey when two hippos surface, look around lazily, and one sighs, “It doesn’t feel like a Tuesday.”
Oh, look, each of us appears to have become a red bubble in an ever-churning lava lamp.
Lava lamps are an icon of 1960s culture, featuring a diamond-shaped glass tube filled with colored water and a waxy ooze that, when heated by a light bulb, flows around the lamp in undulating patterns that are extremely fascinating to people under the influence of mind-altering chemicals. They were invented by British accountant Edward Craven Walker, who originally called them Astro lamps, in 1963. Lava lamps are still sold, made by the original British company, Mathmos, as well as in China by Lava Lite.
Oh no, Glinda the Good Witch is multiplying at an alarming rate.
In the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, makes her appearance in a glowing sphere that floats down from the sky. In the series of children’s books by American author L. Frank Baum that began in 1900 with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Glinda is actually The Good Witch of the South, and is the most powerful sorceress in the Land of Oz, having overthrown the Wicked Witch of the South.
Ahhh! It’s like we’re at Coachella and somebody dosed us!
Coachella is short for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, an annual outdoor event that takes place at the Empire Polo Club, in the desert-ish landscape of Indio, California. The festival is held over two consecutive three-day weekends in April, with dozens of bands playing on multiple stages. “Dosing” refers to putting a mind-altering drug in someone’s beverage or food without their knowledge, though they’ll find out soon enough. The classic drug for surreptitious dosing used to be the colorless, odorless, and flavorless LSD; nowadays it’s more likely to be ecstasy (MDMA).
99 Luftballons floating in the summer, ahhhh!
“99 Luftballons” is a 1983 song by the German band Nena. An English-language version called “99 Red Balloons” came out the following year, but the German version was actually more popular, reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100. An anti-war song, it tells the story of a global conflict triggered by 99 children’s balloons floating in the air. Sample (English) lyrics: “Ninety-nine red balloons/Floating in the summer sky/Panic bells, it’s red alert/There’s something here from somewhere else/The war machine springs to life.”
Ahhh! In space no one can hear you scream, it’s so loud!
“In space, no one can hear you scream” was the tagline for the 1979 science fiction/horror film Alien.
Slim Goodbody, 2525.
Slim Goodbody is a character created by performer John Burstein to teach children about health: a slender man in a unitard painted with pictures of internal organs. He has appeared on his own PBS series (The Inside Story with Slim Goodbody, 1980), on Nickelodeon, and in a series of educational shorts for grade-schoolers, and toured the country appearing in schools. “2525” is a possible nod to the hit 1969 single “In the Year 2525” by Zager & Evans (Denny Zager and Rick Evans). Covered more than sixty times and frequently parodied, the song lists various years, each separated by 1,010 years, and details the deterioration of mankind. Though it was a number one song in both the U.S. and U.K., the duo never had another charted hit. Sample lyrics: “In the year 2525, if man is still alive/If woman can survive, they may find/In the year 3535/Ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lies/Everything you think, do and say/Is in the pill you took today.”
Whoa, Battlestar’s on.
The original Battlestar Galactica TV series ran from 1978-1979 and spawned a few spinoffs, including a short-lived TV show (Galactica 1980), books, video games, and so on. Starring Lorne “Bonanza” Greene as the commander of a ship searching for the legendary planet Earth, it featured Star Wars-styled spaceship models and very simplistic plots. The 2003 reboot did better, lasting for four seasons plus a miniseries.
Taste this rainbow!
“Taste the Rainbow” is a longtime slogan for Skittles brand fruit-flavored candies, which were first introduced to the U.S. in 1979 and are made by the Wrigley Company.
Taste the rainbow again!
See previous note.
[Sung.] Believe it or not, I’m not William Katt …
“Believe It or Not” is the theme song from the early 1980s TV series The Greatest American Hero, which starred the blond, curly-haired William Katt as a barely competent superhero. Written by Mike Post and Stephen Geyer and sung by Joey Scarbury, it became a Top 40 hit in the summer of 1981, topping out at number 2.
I’m totally down with clown.
“Down with the Clown” is a 1997 song by Insane Clown Posse, off their album The Great Milenko. Sample, uncharacteristically G-rated lyrics: “What about when the carnival comes to your town? (I’m a be down with the clown)/I’m a be down/I’m a be down/Down with the clown till I’m dead in the ground.”
This is one small step for a woman, and one … oh, my God, I’m actually falling. I’m actually falling.
A reference to first man on the moon Neil Armstrong’s first words on the moon in 1969: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” He had actually meant to say “That’s one small step for a man.” For years he insisted that he had said it, and it was simply obscured by static in the transmission, but he finally admitted his mistake.
I’m seeing Spock’s space coffin. That can’t be right.
Mr. Spock was the pointy-eared, half-human, half-Vulcan character on Star Trek (1966-1969), Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973-1974), two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and eight feature films. Played by Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015), Spock was the USS Enterprise’s first officer and science officer. He was originally going to be half-Martian; it was changed because Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry thought humans might reach Mars during the series’ run. “Spock’s space coffin” refers to a three-movie story arc that began in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), which ended with Spock’s death and “space burial,” in which his black, capsule-like coffin was launched into space.
Well, may as well get my nebulizer treatment out of the way.
A nebulizer is a medical device that delivers medication in the form of a mist that the user inhales. It is often used to treat asthma, cystic fibrosis, and other conditions that involve the lungs.
I had a roommate who had a bong like that. Whoo!
A bong is a water pipe used to smoke tobacco and marijuana. The water cools the hot gas and removes cinders, making the smoke easier to inhale without diluting any of its, ahem, desirable effects. The name comes from the Thai word bong (or baung), meaning a pipe or tube made out of bamboo; a 1944 Thai-English dictionary describes using a bong as a water pipe for smoking hashish or hemp.
I think it’s Will Forte.
Will Forte is an American actor, comic, and writer best known for his 2002-2010 run as a cast member of Saturday Night Live and as the star of the TV sitcom The Last Man on Earth (2015-present).
Perfect time for a little Candy Crush.
The highly addictive browser game Candy Crush and its video game cousin Candy Crush Saga are simple match-three puzzle games. Candy Crush Saga is one of the most successful “freemium” games, meaning it’s free to play, but players can purchase special actions to get out of tough spots; at one point in 2014, the game generated more than $490 million in revenue in three months.
A nod to an iconic scene in the classic 1941 film Citizen Kane, which was cowritten, produced, directed by, and starred Orson Welles. The film begins with a prostrate and dying Charles Foster Kane speaking his last word: “Rosebud,” which remains the central mystery of most of the movie, until it’s revealed that (spoiler alert) “Rosebud” was the name of the beloved sled from his childhood, seen being thrown in a furnace at the end of the film.
Red Monsters? That’s the ultimate energy drink.
Two of the most popular energy drinks are Red Bull, introduced in 1987 and made by Red Bull GmbH, and Monster Energy, introduced in 2002 and made by Monster Beverage Corp. (formerly Hansen Natural Company).
That’s one really fancy Hot Topic.
Hot Topic is a chain of retail stores—mostly located in malls—that cater to a younger clientele with clothes and accessories, particularly licensed merchandise related to music and video games.
An imitation of American character actor Frank Nelson’s (1911-1986) famous catchphrase. Nelson got his start in radio, first gaining fame on The Jack Benny Program, usually playing a long-suffering and deeply sarcastic sales clerk. He carried that persona—and his “Eee-yeeessss?” catchphrase—onto television, appearing in sitcoms ranging from I Love Lucy in the 1950s to Sanford and Son in the 1970s.
Oh look, we’re behind the scenes at the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Pirates of the Caribbean is an attraction featuring animatronic pirates at Disneyland and several other Disney parks. It first opened in 1967, the last attraction to be personally overseen by Walt Disney before his death. The ride has since spawned a multibillion-dollar franchise of feature films, novels, video games, and more.
Arrakis … Dune … desert planet …
Arrakis, also known as Dune, is a fictional desert planet in the 1965 science fiction novel Dune by Frank Herbert, and the series of books that followed. In the 1984 film version directed by David Lynch, Paul Atreides (played by Kyle MacLachlan) repeats the phrase “Arrakis, Dune, desert planet” again and again during a dream sequence. The film was a critical and box office disappointment at the time, but has since become a cult favorite.
They’re gonna chew you up and spit you out.
This idiom, meaning that the person is going to be destroyed or treated very roughly, originated in the 1920s. The alt-rock band Concrete Blonde had a song on their 1986 self-titled debut album called “It’ll Chew You Up and Spit You Out.”
Legoland is a series of theme parks based on the children’s building toy. The first park opened in Denmark in 1968, and there are locations in Germany, England, California, Florida, and Malaysia, among others. The parks are aimed at children under 11.
No one escapes from the world’s largest gumball machine.
A frequent pronouncement made by Colonel Wilhelm Klink (played by Werner Klemperer), the inept commander of the WWII POW camp in the TV sitcom Hogan’s Heroes (CBS, 1965-1971), was “No prisoner has ever escaped from Stalag 13!” In fact, his prisoners used the camp as a de facto espionage headquarters, and came and went whenever they wanted to.
[Sung.] We don’t need no education …
A line from the song “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2),” from Pink Floyd’s 1979 concept album The Wall. In the 1982 film The Wall, the adaptation of this song features rows of prisoner-like schoolchildren, marching in lockstep in an industrial setting. Sample lyrics: “We don’t need no education/We don’t need no thought control/No dark sarcasm in the classroom/Teachers leave them kids alone.”
I want to see you maggots relaxing!
A riff on R. Lee Ermey’s legendary portrayal of the drill instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, in the 1987 Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket. Ermey, who played a brutal, foul-mouthed Marine Corps sergeant getting recruits ready to ship to Vietnam, actually served as a drill instructor during the Vietnam War and ad-libbed much of his dialogue. A sampling: “From now on you will speak only when spoken to, and the first and last words out of your filthy sewers will be ‘Sir.’ Do you maggots understand that? … If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon. … But until that day you are pukes. You are the lowest form of life on earth. You are not even human fucking beings. You are nothing but unorganized grabasstic pieces of amphibian shit!”
Been there, done that.
This phrase originated in the U.S. in the early 1970s in shorter form as simply “Been there.” “Done that” was added about ten years later, in the early 1980s. And ten years after that, it was lengthened again, with the addition of “Got the T-shirt.”
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy universe of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books, Sting is a knife or dagger (which serves as a sword to the tiny hobbits who carry it) that was forged by the Elves, has the magical ability to detect nearby orcs or goblins (by glowing blue), and is supernaturally sharp.
A beating with a Fruit Roll-Up.
Fruit Roll-Ups are a brand of flat, pectin-infused fruit-paste snacks that are smeared on a plastic sheet and rolled up; they were introduced in 1983 and are made by General Mills.
Mike Ditka is an American football hero, a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Chicago Bears (once as a player and twice as a coach). He also played for the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys before becoming a coach and TV football commentator.
We now return to Starcrash of the Apes starring Stella Star and the Apes, who are not pictured here.
An early scene in the classic 1968 science fiction movie Planet of the Apes shows primitive tribespeople being chased through tall grasslands by apes on horseback. The Planet of the Apes franchise encompasses five films made between 1968 and 1973, a short-lived live-action TV series as well as an animated one, numerous books and graphic novels, a poorly received 2001 film remake directed by Tim Burton, and a successful reboot of the film series beginning in 2011. Based on a 1963 novel by Pierre Boulle, the stories revolve around an Earth of the future where humans clash with intelligent apes who rule the land.
Looks like an evenly matched fight, Stella. They’re in a warship and you’ve got a sword-gun designed by Prince.
Minneapolis musician, songwriter, and producer Prince (1958-2016) was one of the seminal musical talents of the 1980s; in particular, his albums 1999, Purple Rain, and Sign o’ the Times were phenomenally successful. While embroiled in contract disputes in the early ‘90s, he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, called the “Love Symbol,” which vaguely merged the ancient symbols for man and woman. He then had several guitars made in that shape.
Filmed on the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey.
Wildwood is a town on the southern shore of New Jersey, part of the Ocean City metropolitan area. A popular resort destination, its population can swell from just over 5,000 in the off-season to more than 250,000 in the summer.
[Sung.] The Gallifrey cruisers and the dudes of Arrakis/They all leave us alone cause they know what the facts is/Got four fusion chambers and a tachyon hull/And a cherry pair of flux chillers keeping it cool/On the Kessel run, yeah, nobody can touch her/Let me be the Picard to your Beverly Crusher/The gangway’s extended and we’re ready to go/Won’t you come along baby in my UFO?/Surely no danger getting in a stranger’s UFO/She looks like a kitty cat but rides like an ace/Serenity and Slave I can’t keep the pace/Whitley Strieber and Roy Neary gonna join in the race/Yeah, my UFO’s the coolest GTO in space/From Altair IV to New San Francisco/We’ll be catching gamma rays in my flying disco/Bring your pointy gun thingy/And Tom and Crow/Yeah, won’tcha come along baby in my UFO?/Klaatu barada, nanu nanu/Make it so/And climb into the side of a complete stranger’s UFO … Don’t do it. What a mistake. No!
A ton of science fiction references (and one muscle car reference), sung to the tune of the 1964 hit song “G.T.O” by Ronny & the Daytonas. Here we go:
Gallifrey is the original home planet of the Time Lords in the Doctor Who franchise, first named in the 1973 episode “The Time Warrior.”
Arrakis is the desert planet in the Dune franchise (see above note).
In physics, a tachyon is a hypothetical faster-than-light particle. In science fiction, the concept of tachyon particles making FTL travel or communication possible dates back to the early 1970s.
The "main stage flux chiller" is a component of a starship's warp drive in the Star Trek universe.
In the Star Wars universe, the Kessel Run is a route used by smugglers. In the original Star Wars film, Han Solo famously (and nonsensically) brags about having done the Kessel Run “in less than twelve parsecs.” (A parsec is a measurement of distance, not time, so this is the equivalent of boasting that you got to the store in less than two miles.)
Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) is the captain and Dr. Beverly Crusher (played by Gates McFadden) is the chief medical officer of the starship USS Enterprise in the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series and films.
Serenity is the name of the spaceship in the Firefly TV series (2002), the film based on the show (also called Serenity; 2005), and various comics and graphic novels.
Slave I is the spaceship used by Boba Fett, the bounty hunter introduced in Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back, and Boba Fett’s father, Jango Fett, in Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones.
Whitley Strieber is an author; his 1987 book Communion: A True Story describes his alleged ongoing abductions and interactions with nonhuman, possibly extraterrestrial, intelligent beings. Prior to the publication of Communion, Strieber was a horror novelist (The Wolfen, The Hunger); following Communion, Strieber published four more nonfiction accounts of his encounters with these mysterious entities, although he also continued to write horror fiction. Strieber also wrote the screenplay for the 1989 film Communion, which starred Christopher Walken as the author.
Roy Neary (played by Richard Dreyfuss) is the close encounter-having protagonist in the 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The Pontiac GTO was an American automobile built from 1964 through 1974; it’s considered one of the original “muscle cars,” and is the car being praised in the Ronny & the Daytonas song being parodied here.
Altair IV is the distant world that is the setting for the 1956 classic sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet. Altair is a real star, located in the constellation Aquila. It is one of the brighter stars in our night sky, and lies a mere 16.7 light-years from the sun.
New San Francisco is the setting of the Tex Murphy adventure video game series: the city has been rebuilt after the apocalyptic devastation of World War III. (Many of the Star Trek films show a futuristic San Francisco, as that’s the location of Starfleet Academy, but it isn’t called “New San Francisco.”)
Gamma rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation produced by the radioactive decay of atomic nuclei, and found in things like black holes, supernovas, neutron stars, and pulsars, which makes them very useful to astronomers. They are also beloved by comic book writers, who most famously used them to transform Bruce Banner into the Hulk.
“Klaatu barada nikto” was an alien language phrase in the 1951 sci-fi movie The Day the Earth Stood Still—it was the command used to make the Earth-destroying robot Gort stop being quite so Earth-destroying-ish.
“Nanu nanu” was the alien greeting often spoken by Robin Williams in his role as absurdist alien Mork in the TV sitcom Mork & Mindy (ABC, 1978-1982).
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series and feature films, Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard frequently says “Make it so” after issuing an order.
An imitation of Scooby-Doo, the anthropomorphic Great Dane that first appeared in the animated television series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (CBS/ABC, 1969-1970, 1978). He was voiced by Don Messick. The show spawned several other series, TV movies, videos, and live-action films.
How many more ways can they rip off Star Wars? –That’s because it came out after Star Wars. If it came out before, it would have been pretty cool.
There are a couple of sci-fi movies that came out before Star Wars—specifically, Silent Running (1972) and Dark Star (1974)—that were early adopters of the “lived-in” look that the original Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope is often credited with pioneering. A few of the set design and special effects people from those films went on to work on Star Wars.
I feel like I’m watching a community theater production of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a superhero team in the Marvel Comics universe. A 2014 movie launched a film franchise, which was produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios. It was followed by Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in 2017, with a third installment slated for 2020.
The third-season episode of Steven Universe titled “Beta” has Steven and Amethyst visiting friends in the country and viewing their art, which the friends refer to as “meep morps.”
A riff on the Star Trek franchise, which began with Star Trek: The Original Series (NBC, 1966-1969), as well as the Shrek franchise, which is based on a 1990 children’s picture book titled Shrek! by William Steig. The solitary green ogre has appeared in multiple computer-animated films, a TV series and various TV specials, short films, a Broadway musical, video games, comics, and theme park attractions.
[Sung.] So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye …
Lyrics from the song “So Long, Farewell” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1959 musical The Sound of Music, and its 1965 movie adaptation, which starred Christopher Plummer as family patriarch Georg von Trapp. Sample lyrics: “So long/Farewell/Auf wiedersehen/Goodbye/I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye.”
[Imitating.] If the Force is awakened, it’s already back asleep, I tell ya.
An imitation of Rodney Dangerfield (1921-2004), a standup comedian known for his self-deprecating routines, boisterous manner, and bulging eyes. His main catchphrase was “I get no respect.” Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens (2015) is a continuation of the Star Wars film franchise, the first Star Wars movie not produced by creator George Lucas, following Disney’s 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm Inc.
Are we in hyperspace or are we looking at a screensaver?
Hyperspace is a handwave method of enabling faster-than-light travel in science fiction, involving the spaceship dropping into an alternate dimension coexisting with our own, through which near-instantaneous travel is possible. It appeared in sci-fi stories as early as the 1920s and ‘30s, and was used in novels like Asimov’s Foundation series and films like the Star Wars franchise. In the early days of personal computers, CRT monitors were very susceptible to “burn-in” (images left on the screen too long, which could leave permanent shadows), so screensavers were actually essential. A popular choice was “Starfield Simulation,” a screensaver bundled with Windows, which showed white dots whizzing past on a black background, suggesting the look of space travel.
[Imitating.] Hmmm, it’s not easy being green.
An imitation of Kermit the Frog, a Muppet created by Jim Henson for the Washington, D.C.-area television puppet show Sam and Friends in 1955. He was one of the original Muppets to appear on Sesame Street (PBS/HBO, 1969-present), and he acted as the host and showrunner of The Muppet Show (ITV/syndication, 1976-1981). On both those shows and in the subsequent Muppet feature films, Kermit was performed by Henson until Henson’s death in 1990; Steve Whitmire then played Kermit until being replaced by Matt Vogel in 2017. “Bein’ Green” is a popular song Henson performed as Kermit on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. Big Bird sang it at Henson’s memorial service; it has also been covered by Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Cee Lo Green, and others. Sample lyrics: “It’s not that easy being green/Having to spend each day the color of the leaves/When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold/Or something much more colorful like that.”
Pigs in Space!
“Pigs in Space” was a beloved recurring sketch on The Muppet Show, a puppet variety TV show that aired from 1976-1981. Each skit began with a portentous announcer (Jerry Nelson, better known as Sesame Street’s Count von Count; see note below) intoning the above words.
Grant Wood’s Intergalactic Gothic.
American Gothic (1930) is a well-known painting by American artist Grant Wood (1891-1942). It depicts a salt-of-the-earth couple standing in front of their Midwestern home, the man holding a pitchfork. The painting has become an icon of hardscrabble Americana.
[Imitating.] All right, all right, all right, Space McConaughey.
An imitation of actor Matthew McConaughey in the 1993 movie Dazed and Confused, in which he plays David Wooderson, a “twentysomething loser who still hangs out with high school kids” and speaks the often-quoted lines “All right, all right, all right … That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”
Damn you, you blew it up! I don’t know what it is, but you blew it up!
A paraphrase of Charlton Heston’s final lines in the 1968 science fiction classic Planet of the Apes (see above note). (Spoiler alert) On a deserted beach, Heston discovers the remnants of a destroyed Statue of Liberty and realizes he’s on a post-apocalypse future Earth. Actual lines: “Oh my God. I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was … We finally really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
Tremendous? I say stupendous!
Possibly a reference to the song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Small,” sung to the tune of “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and performed on Sesame Street. Sample lyrics: “You say enormous, I say tremendous/I say humongous, you say stupendous. Enormous, humongous/Tremendous, stupendous/Let’s call the whole thing big!”
And chili peppers burned its guts.
Show 202, The Sidehackers, is the origin of the often-repeated MST3K riff “Chili peppers burn my gut.” The dialogue from the movie actually goes: “Hey, Rommel. You like those chili peppers that Lois gets?” “Yeah, yeah, but they burn my gut.”
[Sung.] Hypodermics on the shore, planets under martial law/We didn’t start the Starcrash/Yeah, this planet was thrashin’ since the star’s been crashin’ …
Riffing on the Billy Joel song “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” the lyrics of which list more than a hundred different well-known people and events between 1949 (the year of Joel’s birth) and 1989 (the year of the song’s release). The chorus: “We didn’t start the fire/It was always burning/Since the world’s been turning/We didn’t start the fire/No we didn’t light it/But we tried to fight it …”
Oh, they’re doing improv now.
Improvisational theater, often shortened to “improv,” is a kind of theater, usually comedy, that is performed unscripted, with situations made up by the performers or suggested by audience members.
“We are in the Evil Count’s domain.” Sesame Street?
One of the many Muppet characters on Sesame Street (PBS/HBO, 1969-present), Count von Count is a friendly vampire, clearly inspired by Bela Lugosi’s interpretation of Dracula. He has a singular obsession with numbers and counting, and was voiced by Jerry Nelson from his first appearance in 1972 until Nelson’s death in 2012; Matt Vogel then took over.
“Probably they’ve set up a fully independent kind of civilization.” Oh, libertarians, yeah.
Libertarianism is an umbrella term to describe a batch of political philosophies that emphasize liberty, autonomy, and self-ownership, and are deeply skeptical of all levels of governmental power.
Oh, yeah, that’s on my bucket list, ha ha!
Put simply, a “bucket list” is a wish list of things you want to do before you die, or “kick the bucket.” The phrase got a lot of cultural traction after the release of the 2007 comedy movie The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman and directed by Rob Reiner. It got mixed reviews but did well at the box office. (It’s unclear whether the phrase existed prior to the film.)
Should we be alarmed that the horses have Crocs on their heads?
Crocs are a style of shoe, originally designed as a boating shoe, that are made of brightly colored foam resin, bulbous in the front and open in the back. Despite claims of medical benefits, some podiatrists discourage all-day wearing of Crocs, or any backless shoe. (Backless shoes force the toes to clench to keep the shoes on, which long-term can lead to tendinitis, corns, and other unpleasantness.) Crocs Inc. was founded in 2002 and is based in Colorado.
Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bot.
Sam Peckinpah (1925-1984) was an American film director celebrated for his violence-steeped Western epics, especially The Wild Bunch (1969). Peckinpah’s style involved filming from multiple angles, quick edits, jumps between normal and slow motion, and lots of blood—all wildly innovative techniques at the time. He influenced later directors like John Woo, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino.
In the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, based on the 1900 children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, “oil can” are the first, tentative, and barely audible words spoken to Dorothy by the Tin Man, a.k.a the Tin Woodman. He is asking her to oil his joints so he can speak and move.
I smize at your foolishness.
On the TV show America’s Next Top Model, host Tyra Banks is known for a number of “Tyra-isms,” among which is the word “smize.” It stands for “smile with your eyes,” a technique she uses to make herself more attractive in photographs.
“Two packs of murdering guardians are there to watch and protect it from intruders.” Juggalos, and more Juggalos.
Juggalos (“Juggalettes” for women) are hardcore fans of the hip-hop group Insane Clown Posse (see above note) and similar groups on the Psychopathic Records label. In the mid-2000s, criminal gangs began using the Juggalo name and imagery, leading to “Juggalos” being classified as a criminal street gang by the FBI; Juggalo criminal gang members are notable for extremely brutal violence involving hatchets and machetes. How do violent criminal gang Juggalos differ in appearance from law-abiding rap-fan Juggalos? That’s the fun part: they don’t. However, some law enforcement officials have argued that all Juggalos are gang members, although this viewpoint appears to be in the minority; most make a distinction between the music fans and the criminals.
“Release her or I’ll blast your queen.” With authentic hickory-smoked barbecue flavor. It’s bold!
A reference to Show 612, The Starfighters. In one of the few invention exchanges that then-new host Mike Nelson was involved in, the SOL’s invention was “Cowboy Mike’s Ricochet Barbecue Sauce.” Its defining characteristic: it’s bold. Mighty bold. Bold enough to bulldog your taste buds and hogtie your tongue.
Think of me as a laser-powered neti pot.
A neti pot is a small, teapot-like device used for nasal irrigation: flushing out the nasal cavities with a saline solution for personal hygiene or to treat sinus problems. There are many modern, plastic devices for this purpose, but an old-fashioned neti pot is generally ceramic, with its origins in an old yogic technique from India called jala neti.
It’s Talos with breasts.
Talos is a figure from Greek mythology: a giant bronze automaton (i.e., an ancient robot) who would circle the island of Crete three times a day to defend it from invaders. He was finally done in by the sorceress Medea, who removed a bronze peg from his ankle, causing all the ichor (the blood-like substance found in Greek gods and other immortal beings) to drain from his body.
Listen, we can all agree Harryhausen was a genius, don’t get me wrong, but he didn’t really get the blood pumping like this guy.
Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013) was an American/British artist and Academy Award-winning visual effects designer, famous for pioneering stop-motion animation. His best-known works include The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963); modern-day directors who’ve said they were greatly inspired by Harryhausen’s work include George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and J.J. Abrams. For Starcrash, the models were made by several Italian artists, but the special effects were filmed—in fits and starts, thanks to budget problems—by American effects houses, so it’s uncertain exactly who “this guy” responsible for the stop-motion effects might have been.
Okay, now he’s the king of England. There’s your literary reference. Classy, right? I’m out.
Excalibur, the legendary sword of King Arthur, may or may not have had magical powers (depending on which version of the legend you’re reading) and (again, depending on the version) granted whoever wielded it rightful sovereignty of Great Britain. In early stories Arthur’s sword was called Caledfwlch (Latinised as Caliburnus or Caliburn). Sometimes Excalibur is the same sword Arthur pulls out of the stone to become the king of Britain, but more often the Lady of the Lake gives it to him after he has already become king. (Some early versions even had Gawain carrying Excalibur instead of Arthur.)
Come on back. The heck with Deadpool, you’re the next Bugs Bunny.
Deadpool is a superhero—more of an antisuperhero, really—in the Marvel Comics universe. Created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza and introduced in 1991, Deadpool (real name Wade Wilson) is a sarcastically talkative and mentally unstable mercenary, with superhuman strength and self-healing powers. Ryan Reynolds played him in the 2016 feature film Deadpool and its 2018 sequel. Bugs Bunny is the star of the long-running series of animated shorts by Warner Brothers. He was created in the 1930s by a team of animators including Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, and Tex Avery and voiced by longtime WB voice artist Mel Blanc. He is one of the most popular and enduring animated characters of all time, rivaled only by Mickey Mouse. Fans sometimes argue over which of them would win in a fight; the general consensus seems to be that the rabbit could take the merc.
Ashes to ashes … rust to rust.
“Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” is a line from the funeral service in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, which was originally published in 1549. Separately or together, the phrases have been appropriated for the titles of countless books, plays, TV series or episodes, movies, songs, and albums.
One ship. Two ship. Red ship. Blue ship.
One fish two fish red fish blue fish is a children’s book written by Dr. Seuss (b. Theodor Seuss Geisel, 1904-1991), first published in 1960. Publishers Weekly ranked it at number thirteen on its list of the “All-Time Bestselling Children’s Books.”
Oh, I love a good red velvet planet. –They’re delicious.
Red velvet cake is a red or mahogany-colored chocolate cake, usually with white cream cheese icing. It is traditionally served for Christmas or Valentine’s Day. The red color used to be the result of pigments in the cocoa, but nowadays it comes from food coloring.
“I found the positions to both the third launch and the mothership.” P-Funk’s mothership?
Funk band Parliament’s 1975 concept album is titled Mothership Connection. One of their best-known songs, “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker),” is off this album. Parliament is part of the “psychedelic soul” collective Parliament-Funkadelic, headed by George Clinton, which has taken many forms under various names since the 1960s; “P-Funk” is actually the name given to their style of playing.
“Red fogs. High winds. Low gravity.” Oh, it’s like Delaware.
Delaware is a Mid-Atlantic state that borders New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The Atlantic Ocean moderates its climate, but it does get some snow, especially in the northern end of the state. The gravitational pull in Delaware appears to be comparable to the rest of the United States.
“However, the entire planet is covered with ice and snow.” Like Delaware.
See previous note.
“And you must be extremely careful when the sun sets. The temperature drops thousands of degrees, and in an instant everything freezes over.” Like Delaware!
See previous note.
[Imitating.] Once again the penguins return to their Arctic spaceship, a crude knockoff of the Millennium Falcon.
The Academy Award-winning 2005 feature-length nature documentary March of the Penguins (original French title: La Marche de l’empereur) follows the annual migration of emperor penguins in Antarctica. Co-produced by the National Geographic Society and co-written and directed by French director Luc Jacquet, the French version of the film is narrated from the point of view of the penguins themselves, whereas the English version is narrated in the third person by American actor Morgan Freeman, who is being imitated here. In the Star Wars universe, the Millennium Falcon is a heavily modified Corellian Engineering Corporation YT-1300F light freighter, which, over the course of the Star Wars saga, has moved in and out of the command of roguish smuggler Han Solo and his first mate, the Wookiee Chewbacca.
At least I’m getting in my 10,000 steps.
The fitness goal of walking 10,000 steps per day originated in Japan, in the runup to the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. At the time, pedometers were all the rage; these early fitness trackers were dubbed the Manpo-kei, which translates into “10,000” (man), “step” (po), and “meter” or “gauge” (kei). Modern fitness trackers such as the Fitbit still set a default goal of 10,000 steps, which is about five miles, though not all health experts agree that is an ideal goal for everyone. But they do all agree that any movement is better than no movement at all.
“… and that tin policeman …” So steampunk.
Steampunk is a subgenre of sci-fi/fantasy that revolves around 19th-century steam-powered technology and aesthetics, usually incorporated into an alternate history timeline, such as Victorian-era Europe or the American Wild West. Authors include Phil and Kaja Foglio (Girl Genius) and China Miéville (Perdido Street Station). Steampunk-inspired fashions involve top hats, goggles, brass fittings, and lots and lots of gears.
Goldarn it, it just do not compute.
“Does not compute” is a cliche used by robots and computers when faced with a logical paradox. It has been used on several TV shows, most often on the TV sitcom My Living Doll (CBS, 1964-1965), in which Julie Newmar played a sexy, sexy android, and on Lost in Space (CBS, 1965-1968), where it was used by the Robot.
Ah, don’t do that. She’s putting you in the friend zone, you don’t want that.
The term “friend zone” originated in the early 1990s and was popularized by an episode of the TV show Friends (“The One with the Blackout,” which aired in 1994). In that episode, Ross (who was in many ways the prototypical “nice guy”) wailed that he had waited too long to make his move on Rachel, and was now stuck in the friend zone.
I am a Mennonite.
Mennonites are a Protestant sect found mainly in Africa and North America; they are a variant of Anabaptist, a denomination that also includes the Amish. They were originally a separatist sect, but they have since become more involved in mainstream society. They generally refuse to take oaths or serve in the military and are noted for their commitment to social causes.
Are you there God? It’s me, Stella.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is a YA book by Judy Blume, first published in 1970, about a young girl dealing with her spiritual doubts and her burgeoning adolescence. Not surprisingly, there have been frequent attempts to have the book removed from libraries or school curriculums.
Ooh, right in the Shatner.
That would be William Shatner, of course, in his role as Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise in the Star Trek franchise, which began with Star Trek: The Original Series (NBC, 1966-1969). Kirk did a lot of fighting on the show, and took a lot of punches to his sometimes ample midsection.
H.R. Giger’s filing cabinet.
H.R. Giger (b. Hans Ruedi Giger, 1920-2014) was a Swiss surrealist artist with a penchant for disturbing “biomechanical” images. He is best known for designing the titular “xenomorph” in the 1979 film Alien, as well as other memorable sets and creatures; he shared the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects with the other designers on the film. He redesigned the alien creature for the 1992 sequel, Alien 3.
Go … to … bed!
A possible reference to Tor Johnson, and his immortal line as the hulking lab assistant Lobo in Show 320, The Unearthly: “Time for go to bed!” The line became a running gag on MST3K, used as a riff on many episodes.
Daniel “Dee” Snider was the lead singer for the heavy metal band Twisted Sister. He has a curly mane of long blond hair and wore garish makeup onstage. In 1985 Snider spoke eloquently before Congress against the Parents Music Resource Center, a group led by then-Senator Al Gore’s wife, Tipper, which was seeking a music rating system similar to the one used for movies. Snider and his fellow musicians (Frank Zappa and John Denver also testified) won, sort of: kids could still buy albums with naughty words, but the infamous “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content” label was born, and many retailers refused to carry albums with the label, leading to self-censorship and declining sales for bands with more explicit lyrics. Snider left Twisted Sister in 1987; he has toured with a couple of other bands since then and has hosted multiple radio and TV shows, including the syndicated heavy-metal radio show The House of Hair with Dee Snider (1997-present) and the reality TV show Growing Up Twisted, which aired briefly in 1997. Twisted Sister reunited in 1997 and occasionally performed together over the next couple of decades before their final concert in Mexico in 2016.
Your crappy effects are powerless against me!
A riff on Show 816, Prince of Space, in which the titular hero frequently taunts his beak-nosed space alien adversaries by declaring, “Your weapons are useless against me!”
I learned to kill at Juilliard.
The Juilliard School, located in New York City, was founded in 1905. It's considered one of the most prestigious performing arts conservatories in the world. Notable alumni include Jessica Chastain, Robin Williams, and Yo-Yo Ma.
Magritte did spaceship paintings?
René François Ghislain Magritte (1898-1967) was a Belgian painter who specialized in surrealistic renderings of everyday objects in strange contexts; one of his most famous paintings, The Son of Man, shows a man in a formal business suit and a bowler hat with a leafy green apple floating in midair in front of him, obscuring his face. There are artists who specialize in renderings of imaginary spacecraft and alien landscapes; Christopher Foss is one of the best known. Their work generally appears on science fiction book covers or as illustrations in sci-fi magazines, and they are often called upon during the design phase of sci-fi movies. (Foss helped design the spaceships in the 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy, among other movies.)
A long-standing urban legend has held that theme park and movie studio founder Walt Disney’s (1901-1966) body—or, according to some versions, just his head—has been cryonically frozen, in the hopes that some future technology will be able to bring him back to life. Sometimes the story claims the Walt-sicle is hidden beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. Disney’s daughter Diane wrote in 1972, “There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that my father, Walt Disney, wished to be frozen. I doubt that my father had ever heard of cryonics.” In reality, Disney was cremated, and his ashes are interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Just set it and forget it.
“Set it and forget it!” was a slogan, repeated like a mantra, in TV infomercials for the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie, first marketed in 1998. The man who coined the phrase, and did most of the chanting on TV, was Ronco founder and bald-spot spray paint enthusiast Ron Popeil, who also popularized the phrase “But wait, there’s more!”
Wow, his hands have a really strong wi-fi signal.
Getting Internet connectivity over a wireless local area network using IEEE 802.11 standards is known as wi-fi; the term is actually trademarked by the Wi-Fi Alliance. A very early forerunner of wi-fi, using a UHF wireless network, first connected the Hawaiian Islands in 1971.
[Imitating Andrew Dice Clay.] Oh! A frosted flake, hickory-dickory dock …
Andrew Dice Clay (b. Andrew Clay Silverstein) is a standup comedian and actor who was most popular in the late 1980s. One of his early routines involved reciting filthy nursery rhymes in his stage persona, which was something like a New York tough guy dressed in biker leather. (MTV banned him for more than 20 years for declaiming two of them on the MTV Video Music Awards in 1989.) Here’s one: “Rockabye baby on the treetop/Your mother’s a whore, I ain’t your pop.” Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereal was introduced in 1952 as Sugar Frosted Flakes; along with many other cereals, Kellogg’s dropped the word “Sugar” from its name in the mid-1980s when consumers started becoming more health-conscious. The nursery rhyme “Hickory Dickory Dock” was first recorded in 1744, published in Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book.
A couple more of these dissolves and she’ll turn into Lon Chaney Jr.
Lon Chaney Jr. (1906-1973) was an actor known for his parts in horror films—particularly his portrayal of Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man (1941); he was often overshadowed by his father, the great silent film star known as the “Man of a Thousand Faces.” The man-to-werewolf transformations in The Wolf Man and its sequels used a series of dissolves to shots of Chaney in increasingly heavy makeup that would be considered laughably simple today, but at the time were state-of-the-art visual effects that scared the hell out of everybody. Chaney played the title role in Show 409, The Indestructible Man.
She’s changing into an Ooompa-Loompa.
The Oompa-Loompas are diminutive men who work in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and spontaneously burst into song at odd moments with strangely appropriate lyrics and well-planned dance moves. They first appeared in Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where they were described as African pygmies. That didn’t go over well, so in later editions Dahl changed their appearance to white skin with golden hair. In the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, they were orange-skinned with dark green hair (but white eyebrows); in the 2005 film, they were all played by Deep Roy, a Kenyan-English actor of Indian descent.
We’re going on three minutes for this resurrection scene, and as much as I like her, she’s no Spock.
After Spock died at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (see above note), his space coffin was shown nestled on the terraformed Genesis planet. Originally, actor Leonard Nimoy had planned for Wrath of Khan to be his final appearance as Spock, but enjoyed shooting the film so much that he changed his mind. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) thus centered on the character’s resurrection, which initially takes the form of a child and rapidly ages over the course of the film into his final, Nimoy-ish form. There is a lengthy ceremony on Vulcan, presided over by legendary British stage actress Dame Judith Anderson, to join the mindless body with Spock’s consciousness, which has been hanging out in Dr. McCoy’s brain since the second film.
We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.
The first two lines of the 1873 poem “Ode,” by British poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy. In the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka (played by Gene Wilder) recites these lines, somewhat out of the blue, to Veruca Salt; many people associate them only with the film and don’t know they’re originally from a poem. Here’s the first stanza:
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
“Ode” is also the origin of the now-commonly used phrase “movers and shakers.”
Now whoever she sees first she’ll imprint on and assume is her mother.
The phenomenon of filial imprinting, in which a baby animal learns behavior immediately after birth from its parent, was first described in the 19th century by amateur biologist Douglas Spalding. He was working with chickens, but better known is the work done with geese by 20th-century biologist Konrad Lorenz. Lorenz showed that goslings would instinctively imprint on the first moving object they saw after hatching—including Lorenz’s boots and a box placed on a model train—and follow it as if it were their mother. Similar behavior has been seen in ducks and raptors.
You guys, let’s just stay in and Netflix tonight, okay?
Streaming media and DVDs-by-mail giant Netflix was founded in 1997 as a DVD sales and rental service, complete with late fees. It was founded by Central California entrepreneurs Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings, who shared an admiration for Amazon’s business model and a disdain for Blockbuster Video’s. Since then, it has grown into a behemoth, with more than 100 million subscribers worldwide, and shifted its focus to streaming video. In 2013 it also began producing original films and TV shows, many of them critically acclaimed, including House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and Stranger Things.
[Sung.] Hello … hello … hello …
An imitation of an oft-repeated shtick made famous by The Three Stooges. By way of greeting, each of the Stooges would sing “Hello” on ascending notes, and then say it one last time in unison.
Bubbles, get thee behind me.
In the New Testament, Jesus says “Get thee behind me, Satan” three times (Luke 4:8, Matthew 16:23, and Mark 8:33). In Luke, he says it directly to the devil, during his time in the wilderness when he is tested by Satan. In Matthew and Mark, he says it to his disciple Peter, rebuking him for suggesting that Jesus would not be raised from the dead. Irving Berlin wrote a song titled “Get Thee Behind Me Satan” for the 1936 movie Follow the Fleet.
[Sung.] Goodbye … goodbye … goodbye …
See previous note.
A possible riff on the deliberately cheesy Sharknado disaster/horror/comedy/science fiction TV movie franchise, which began in 2013. As of 2018 they were up to six films, a documentary, and a mockumentary. RiffTrax riffed the first two films in the series live in theaters in 2014 and 2015, respectively. A much more obscure possibility is the Freedom Day episode of Futurama (“A Taste of Freedom,” December 22, 2002), which displayed a sharkapult among the other obsolete weapons in the Museum of Ancient Weaponry.
There’s craters in them thar hills.
In the 1840s, Matthew Fleming “M.F.” Stephenson worked as the assayer for the Dahlonega Mint in Georgia, which had seen a gold rush in recent years. When news of the gold strike in California hit in 1849, many miners in Georgia packed up and headed west, although Stephenson urged them to stay, arguing there was gold aplenty yet to be found where they were. “Why go to California?” he asked a group of them in the town square. “In that ridge lies more gold than man ever dreamt of. There’s millions in it.” Over the years, Stephenson’s speech has frequently, and famously, been misquoted as “There’s gold in them thar hills.”
Good thing I wore my Glad brand Dress’n Seal.
Glad Press’n Seal is a brand of plastic cling wrap used to preserve food, pretty much the same thing as Saran Wrap. The Glad Products Company is co-owned by Clorox (80 percent) and Procter & Gamble (20 percent).
Lionel Richie? Why?
Lionel Richie is a five-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter who was a member of the Commodores in the 1970s and had a successful solo career in the 1980s.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Starcrash …
A parodied line from Psalm 23 in the Old Testament of the Bible, probably the best known and most often recited of the Psalms. The actual text: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
It’s just a big Solo cup. Look at that.
The Solo Cup Company, founded in 1936, also makes disposable plates and bowls, but they are best known for their iconic red plastic cups, which have ferried countless gallons of beer into the bloodstreams of partygoers since the 1970s. The company was acquired by Dart Container in 2012.
The untimely death of Baymax from Big Hero 6.
Big Hero 6 is a 2014 computer-animated film produced by Walt Disney about a team of young superheroes in a near-future metropolis. It was (very) loosely based on a comic book of the same name published by Marvel Comics. Baymax is the squashy white robotic bodyguard/father figure to the team’s leader, Hiro.
[Imitating Bill Cosby.] A vanilla Jell-O Pudding Pop. –Hey, Stella, are we far enough in the future we can make Bill Cosby jokes again? Boy, I hope so.
Bill Cosby is an American comedian, actor, and writer. After early success as a standup comic, he went on to greater success in television. Among many other projects, he co-starred in the 1960s series I Spy (1965-1968), and in the late ‘80s he produced and starred in the sitcom The Cosby Show (1984-1992), which held the number one slot for five years running, and stayed in the top 20 for its entire run. For many years he was an ad spokesman for Jell-O products, best remembered for his ads touting frozen Jell-O Pudding Pops. Cosby was long shadowed by rumors of sexual abuse against female employees or associates, which finally emerged into the open in 2014: more than 50 women have since publicly accused him of sexual assault, usually involving date-rape drugs. Many lawsuits followed, and a felony sexual assault trial in Pennsylvania ended in a mistrial in June 2017. A 2018 retrial found Cosby guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault and facing ten years in prison; an appeal is planned. Cosby now presents an increasingly common conundrum to the entertainment industry: how to deal with an entertainer who has left a large body of undeniably good work, but is also accused of unforgivable behavior in his private life.
Ha-ha. Dy-no-mite! Well, that one’s Jimmie Walker.
Jimmie Walker is an actor and comedian who is best known for playing J.J. Evans on the TV series Good Times, which aired from 1974-1979. His catchphrase “Dy-no-MIITE!” became famous.
I’m filling my stillsuit.
In the fictional universe of the Dune books and films (see above note), a stillsuit is a tight-fitting bodysuit worn by inhabitants of the desert planet Arrakis, which collects and recycles all moisture expelled by the body, including urine.
[Sung.] Movin’ on up … movin’ on up …
A line from the theme song to the TV sitcom The Jeffersons, which aired from 1975-1985. Sample lyrics: “Well we’re movin’ on up (Movin’ on up)/To the east side (Movin’ on up)/To a deluxe apartment in the sky …” The song was written by Ja’net Dubois and Jeff Barry and performed by Dubois (backed by a gospel choir), who also played neighbor Willona Woods on Good Times (see previous note).
Cirque du Surprise!
Cirque du Soleil (French for “Circus of the Sun”) is a Canadian circus entertainment company and the largest theatrical producer in the world: at any given time there are nearly a dozen touring Cirque du Soleil shows in cities around the world, with permanent shows in Mexico, Florida, and Las Vegas (Vegas has seven different shows). Cirque du Soleil is famous for its animal-free approach to the traditional circus arts, emphasizing character-driven acrobatics, juggling, trapeze, dance, costuming, and live music.
When Croods attack.
The Croods is a 2013 computer-animated movie about a family of prehistoric cavemen and various creatures. Produced by DreamWorks Animation, it features the voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, and Cloris Leachman. It was a critical and commercial success, bringing in more than $500 million at the box office.
I’m comin’, Elizabeth!
While not an imitation of Redd Foxx per se, this was one of Foxx’s signature lines in his role as Fred Sanford in the TV sitcom Sanford and Son (NBC, 1972-1977). When Fred wanted to manipulate his son Lamont, he would fake a heart attack and call out to his dead wife, “It’s the big one! I’m comin’, Lizabeth!”
Ah, might as well jump. Jump!
Riffing on the Van Halen song “Jump.” It became a number one hit in 1984—the band’s most successful single. Sample lyrics: “Ah, can’t you see me standing here/I’ve got my back against the record machine/I ain’t the worst that you’ve seen/Oh can’t you see what I mean?/Might as well jump. Jump!/Might as well jump/Go ahead and jump. Jump!”
Yosemite Sam is a diminutive, hot-tempered gunslinger known from dozens of appearances in Warner Bros. animated shorts, in which he squared off primarily against Bugs Bunny. Sam and his huge red mustache first appeared in 1945’s Hare Trigger.
Uh … go ahead and jump.
See previous note.
[Sung.] Og love a parade, the trampling of feet, I love every beat, I hear of a drum, Og love a parade, when I hear a band, I just want to stand, and cheer as they come, the rat-a tat-tat, the blare of a horn, a rat-a tat-tat, a bright uniform, Og Og …
Paraphrased lyrics from the song “I Love a Parade,” written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler for the 1931 revue Rhyth-Mania, which was staged at the legendary Cotton Club nightclub in New York City. Actual lyrics: “I love a parade, the tramping of feet/I love every beat I hear of a drum/I love a parade, when I hear a band/I just want to stand and cheer as they come/That rat-a tat-tat, the blare of a horn/That rat-a tat-tat, a bright uniform …”
[Imitating.] What, leftovers again? Oh! The bag seals in the natural juices. She makes her own gravy. Little Miss Muffet … Oh!
See above note on Andrew Dice Clay. The earliest known print version of the nursery rhyme “Little Miss Muffet” appeared in 1805, although some attribute it to Thomas Muffet, an entomologist who died in 1604. The rhyme itself: “Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet/Eating her curds and whey/Along came a spider, who sat down beside her/And frightened Miss Muffet away.”
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Caveman Forever: The Musical at the Winter Garden. Seats still available at popular prices.
Andrew Lloyd Webber is a British composer and musical theater producer. Some of his better-known musicals include Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, and Cats. The Winter Garden Theatre is located at 1634 Broadway; it was built in 1896 as the American Horse Exchange and remodeled into a theater in 1911. The original Broadway production of Cats opened at the Winter Garden in 1982 and closed in 2000, after nearly 7,500 performances. Its advertising slogan, based on its longevity, was “Now and forever.”
Mexican bootleg Lisa Simpson?
Lisa Simpson is the intelligent, saxophone-playing, vegetarian, feminist, Buddhist, and environmentalist eight-year-old middle child of the fictional Simpson family, in the long-running animated TV sitcom The Simpsons (Fox, 1989-present). She’s drawn, as are the other two children, with somewhat spiky yellow hair. In the Simpsons episode “A Star Is Burns,” Mr. Burns hires Señor Spielbergo, “Steven Spielberg’s Mexican non-union equivalent,” to direct a short film about his life for a film festival.
Zardoz is a 1974 post-apocalyptic science fiction movie that prominently features a giant stone image of a human face; Sean Connery stars.
The Flintstones vs. the Jetsons.
The animated TV series The Flintstones ran on ABC from 1960 to 1966. A prehistoric take on The Honeymooners, it starred the voice talents of Alan Reed (as patriarch Fred Flintstone) and Mel Blanc (as Fred’s pal Barney Rubble). The show was the first animated series to become a hit on American prime-time television. The 1994 live action film version of The Flintstones starred John Goodman as Fred and Rick Moranis as Barney. It did well at the box office, but most critics panned it. Animation house Hanna-Barbera followed up on the success of The Flintstones with The Jetsons (ABC, 1962-1963), which portrayed a typical family set far into a space-age future. In 1987, Hanna-Barbera produced the made-for-TV movie The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones, in which the Jetsons accidentally travel back in time and the Flintstones end up in the future. Jetsons: The Movie came out in 1990.
Puma man? –Pyuma-man. –Pyoo-meh-min.
Show 903, The Pumaman, skewers a 1980 movie about a reluctant and inept superhero; the story also involves a hypnotic golden Aztec face mask. The villain, played by British actor Donald Pleasence, stubbornly pronounces the hero’s name throughout as “Pyooma Man” (the standard British usage), while everyone else in the film uses the American pronunciation, “Pooma Man.” Also a possible reference to Show 206, Ring of Terror, which features a graveyard caretaker with a pet cat named Puma, who he repeatedly calls to as “Pyoo-mah.”
Visit scenic Mucous Chamber at Loogie Caverns in Crossroads, Tennessee; just 45 minutes outside of Lexington, we’re on the beltline.
Crossroads, Tennessee, is a small town in southern Tennessee with no tourist attractions to offer. There is also a fictional Cross Roads, Tennessee, that features prominently in the webcomic “Johnny Bullet.” Lexington, Tennessee, is a small city (about 7,500 people) about halfway between Memphis and Nashville. The two are roughly 50 minutes apart, so the riff is pretty accurate if you speed a little. There are some absolutely beautiful caverns in Tennessee, by the way, including Cumberland Caverns and Ruby Falls.
It’s just the Burger King mask painted gold.
The first appearance of the “king” mascot for the fast-food chain Burger King was in 1955, on a sign at the chain’s first location in Miami, Florida. Its first appearance in advertising was in a series of animated TV ads; the character was voiced by Allen Swift, who also provided the voices for the villainous Riff-Raff and Simon Bar Sinister on the Underdog show. This riff specifically references the “Creepy King” iteration of the mascot, an intentionally unsettling man wearing a bearded and crowned plastic mask that was featured in a series of TV ads from 2003-2010, including the “Wake Up With the King” commercials, in which a sleeping man or woman would open their eyes to find the “Creepy King” standing next to their bed and staring down at them.
I’m chocolate with almonds, couldn’t you tell by the foil?
Traditional Hershey’s Kisses, introduced in 1907, are wrapped in silver foil. The look is so iconic that the foil wrapper was issued a registered trademark in 1976 (the small paper tag sticking out of the top had already received a trademark in 1924). When Hershey’s began offering Kisses with Almonds in 1990, it distinguished the varieties by wrapping the new candies in gold foil. Later varieties also came in different-colored foil: Hugs came in brown and silver striped foil, Cookies ‘n’ Creme came in blue and silver, Dark Chocolate Strawberry came in pink, and so on.
“My name is Simon.” I’m a pieman.
The nursery rhyme “Simple Simon” was first published in the form we’re familiar with today in 1764; the character of Simple Simon dates back to 1685. The first verse: “Simple Simon met a pieman,/Going to the fair;/Says Simple Simon to the pieman,/Let me taste your ware.”
[Imitating.] Heh heh heh heh heh … we’re hunting wabbits.
Elmer Fudd is a character in Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes cartoons: a hunter with a speech impediment usually pitted against Bugs Bunny (and sometimes Daffy Duck). One of his most imitated lines was “Be vewy, vewy quiet—I’m hunting wabbits. Heh heh heh heh heh.” He first appeared in 1940’s Elmer’s Candid Camera and was voiced by Arthur Q. Bryan from 1940 to 1959. After Bryan’s death, he was voiced by Hal Smith, Mel Blanc, Jeff Bergman, Greg Burson, and Billy West, among others.
Let me tell you about Amway!
Amway is a multilevel marketing company founded in 1959. Over the decades, it has been repeatedly accused of being a pyramid scheme; many cases went to court around the world, but none proved successful, although in 2010 Amway settled a class action lawsuit in California, without admitting wrongdoing, for $56 million. In many media portrayals, Amway is depicted as cultlike and their agents as annoying and fanatical.
Thin Mints or Samoas?
Thin Mints, a crunchy, chocolate-coated mint cookie, are the most popular variety of cookies sold by Girl Scouts of the USA, with more than 50 million boxes sold each year. Samoas, a vanilla cookie coated in caramel, sprinkled with coconut, and striped with chocolate, are the second most popular, selling more than 38 million boxes a year.
Sounds like they’re being attacked by a gang of Eddie Vedders.
Eddie Vedder (b. Edward Severson III) is a singer-songwriter best known as the lead vocalist of the rock band Pearl Jam. He often sings in a baritone growl that critics have compared to Jim Morrison of The Doors.
Actual footage of David Hasselhoff at Comic-Con.
See above note on David Hasselhoff. The name “Comic-Con” (with a hyphen) is trademarked by San Diego Comic-Con International, although this has been challenged in court. That annual gathering of comic and comic-related movie and TV show fans and creators, which is held every July at the San Diego Convention Center, is indeed the granddaddy of them all, founded in 1970. However, there are hundreds of similar conventions held throughout the year all over the world—everywhere from Slovakia to Dubai to the Philippines.
Oh, now they’re just openly ripping off Spaceballs.
Spaceballs is a 1987 Mel Brooks film that is a full-bore parody of the original Star Wars trilogy, with a few jabs at the Alien, Planet of the Apes, and Star Trek franchises. Though similarly specific parodies by Brooks, such as Blazing Saddles (1974, westerns) and High Anxiety (1977, Alfred Hitchcock films) were quite successful, Spaceballs saw a lukewarm reception upon release. However, it has since become a cult favorite on video.
Og invent titty twister.
A titty twister is a fairly self-explanatory technique that bigger kids/siblings use to torment smaller ones.
[Sung.] At the hop …
“At the Hop” is a 1957 doo-wop song written by Artie Singer, John Medora, and David White that was a number-one hit for Danny & the Juniors, even reaching number three on the country music charts. The tune got a second life in the late 1960s as a signature song of doo-wop revival group Sha Na Na, and it was used in George Lucas’s 1973 coming-of-age-in-the-‘60s film American Graffiti.
“There’s no need to continue …” Because the budget just ran out. The end! Let’s go, guys.
With a supposed $4 million budget, Starcrash’s six-month shooting schedule came to a grinding halt several times due to “financing problems,” and the original distributor, American International Pictures, refused to release it after they got a look at the finished product. (Pause for a moment to consider that AIP was willing to release films like Show 418, Attack of the Eye Creatures; Show 704, The Incredible Melting Man; and Show 1012, Squirm.) New World Pictures released it instead.
Cavefish once had eyes, but after many years of evolution, they became blind.
True enough: there is a family of freshwater fish, Amblyopsidae, also known as cavefish or blindfish, that have adapted to living in the total darkness of caves by basically losing their eyes, freeing up the visual cortex of their brains for other duties.
[Sung.] You’re out of the cave, here’s lots of new junk for you to absorb …
“Optimistic Voices” is a song from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, featuring music by Herbert Stothart and Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg. Sung by an unseen female chorus (also called Optimistic Voices), the song plays when Dorothy and her companions awake from their poppy-induced slumber and continue on toward the Emerald City. Its presentation briefly breaks the fourth wall: Scarecrow reacts to the song and looks around as if to find the invisible chorus. Sample lyrics: “You’re out of the woods/You’re out of the dark/You’re out of the night/Step into the sun/Step into the light/Keep straight ahead for the most glorious place/On the face of the earth or the sky.”
Step back, folks, welcome to CrowMart. Lotions and notions, Level 2; elder pumps, Level 3; lady things, Levels 4, 5, and 6. –You’ve never been in a store, have you? –No, and I’ll sit down.
For many years, elevators in high-rise buildings required employees to manually operate them. In department stores, the operator would often announce to the passengers what products and services were available on each floor. By the way, in this context, “notions” means small items used for sewing clothes, such as buttons and snaps, or sewing tools and supplies, such as pins and thread.
“Here’s the nerve center of the entire operation.” They call it a “Genius Bar.”
Apple retail stores have tech support areas called Genius Bars, where trained and certified employees help customers resolve issues with Apple products. Usually there are two lines for the Genius Bar: one for Mac computers, and another for mobile devices such as iPhones. Apple has referred to Genius Bars as “the heart and soul of our stores.”
Actually, Scrubbing Bubbles.
Scrubbing Bubbles is a brand of bathroom cleaner manufactured by S.C. Johnson. TV commercials for the product feature anthropomorphic talking bubbles with scrub-brush feet, who are very happy about what they do. In the 1970s, the “leader” of the animated bubbles was voiced by Paul Winchell, the beloved voice of Tigger in the Winnie the Pooh cartoons; modern versions feature digital animation.
It’s set to free play, so there’s no need for tokens. Go crazy.
Back in the 1980s when arcades were popular, games were coin-operated, and fun was paid for one quarter at a time. Rumors abounded about ways to cheat the machines, but most were wishful thinking. However, most games did have a “free play” mode that the owner of the machine could enable, usually requiring them to open the cabinet and fiddle with the innards. Once free play was turned on, you could play endlessly without having to pay. Now that the old arcade games are mostly in the hands of private collectors, who don’t want to screw around with keeping a pile of quarters on hand, the free play setting is turning out to be very useful.
Dallas-Fort Worth Airport: The Movie.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Texas is the third-busiest airport in the world and the hub and headquarters for American Airlines. It’s so big it has its own ZIP code. The airport itself doesn’t look particularly futuristic—it just looks kind of airporty—but it has a large and much-praised art collection, including many modern sculptures, so perhaps those are what Crow was thinking of here.
You know, this shot was all done in one take.
Long, continuous takes in films—where the camera follows the action in one single shot, without any cuts—are among the most famous in cinema, largely because they are so technically difficult. Some of the best-known: the Copacabana sequence in Goodfellas (1990), where Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco enter through the kitchen of the club and gradually make their way to their table, meeting and greeting people along the way; the opening sequence of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958), in which a man plants a bomb in a car trunk and the camera follows the car through traffic for three agonizing minutes, only to have it explode offscreen; and the hallway fight sequence in Oldboy (2003), in which the title character battles his way through a phalanx of bad guys armed only with a claw hammer.
Who wants a Slurpee?
Slurpee is the name of convenience store 7-Eleven’s brand of flavored ice drinks, first sold in 1967. The Slurpee was not created by the chain. Instead, 7-Eleven licensed slushy drinks from the ICEE Company and just changed the name. The lids for Slurpee cups are clear plastic domes, so you can fill the cup above the rim.
[Sung.] Y’all ready for this? Na na na na …
“Get Ready for This” is a 1991 song by Dutch dance group 2 Unlimited, their only Top 40 hit in the United States. It is frequently played at sporting events, and was the opening song for the Green Bay Packers at the 2011 Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sample lyrics: “Y’all ready for this?/Get down with the sound/House on the ground/Freeze when I squeeze/Drop to your knees/You must’ve bet/I’m in here to stay/Ready to take you around the way.”
“The Emperor will be blown to pieces, along with the rest of you.” Meeces.
“I hates those meeces to pieces!” was the catchphrase of Mr. Jinks, the cat who co-starred with the two mice Pixie and Dixie on the recurring cartoon segment “Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks,” which aired as part of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Huckleberry Hound Show (ABC, 1958-1961). Mr. Jinks said the line whenever the mice thwarted his schemes, which was often. The character was voiced by Daws Butler, doing a Marlon Brando impersonation; Butler also voiced Dixie, while Don “Scooby-Doo” Messick supplied Pixie’s voice.
“He’s on his way here now at top speed.” Appropriate for conditions, of course.
In some western states with lots of wide-open spaces, there may be long stretches of highway with no posted speed limit. Rather, there are signs advising motorists to “Drive to Conditions.”
He’s like the white Count Chocula.
Count Chocula is a chocolate-flavored children’s cereal that was introduced by General Mills in 1971. The Count himself, bearing a strong resemblance to Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula, appeared in animated commercials for the cereal; he was voiced by Larry Kenney. He was followed by a series of “monster” cereals—Franken Berry, Boo Berry, Fruit Brute, and Fruity Yummy Mummy—but Count Chocula remained the most popular. His complexion has actually varied considerably over the years—he was fairly dark-skinned on the original box, as befitted a chocolate-flavored cereal, but he’s quite pale on the current packaging.
The Bionicles hear and obey!
Bionicles is a line of Lego construction toys first introduced in 2000 (it launched in the U.S. the following year); it was discontinued in 2010, and rebooted in 2015 through 2017. It has proved one of the company’s most profitable products. The Bionicles themselves are cyborgs—part robots, part organic beings—and the toy line spawned an entire fictional universe told through various media: books, comics, video games, computer-animated movies, etc.
The Crotch Gang. On FX.
FX—which originally stood for “Fox Extended”—is a basic cable and satellite TV channel that was launched by 20th Century Fox in 1994. FX provides a mix of original drama and comedy programs, sports, movies, and reruns of broadcast network shows. Some of its shows include Archer, American Horror Story, Fargo, and Atlanta.
“An hour goes by quickly.” When you’re in a nitrous booth. [Hissing sound.]
Nitrous oxide is a colorless, non-flammable gas that is used as a mild anesthetic and analgesic in dentistry and minor surgery. Its euphoric effects have led to its recreational use (which was seen as far back as the late 18th century) and the nickname “laughing gas.”
Do you think it’s too soon for another Bionicle reference? –Yeah, but who’s counting?
See above note on Bionicles.
I was gonna say “May the Force be with you” but just forget it.
First uttered by General Dodonna to the Rebel pilots in Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope, “May the Force be with you” became an immediate catchphrase, was ranked at number eight on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years … 100 Movie Quotes” list, and led to May 4th (“May the fourth be with you …”) being unofficially dubbed “Star Wars Day.”
Shipstad and Johnson’s Starcrash-capades!
Shipstads & Johnson Ice Follies was a touring ice show, featuring elaborate production numbers and performances by Olympic skaters, that was formed by Eddie and Roy Shipstad and Oscar Johnson in 1936. Later known as just the Ice Follies, it eventually morphed into a number of different shows under the “… on Ice” banner: Holiday on Ice, Disney on Ice, etc. (including the somewhat redundant Frozen on Ice). The Ice Capades was a completely separate but similar entity founded in 1940. The Disney on Ice shows are still touring; the Ice Capades closed down in 1997. Two attempted revivals, in 2000 and 2008, were financial failures.
[Sung.] People … people who need people … are the luckiest …
“People,” often called “People Who Need People,” is a song written by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill for the 1964 Broadway musical Funny Girl, starring Barbra Streisand. Streisand’s recording of it was a number one single in 1964, and it became one of her signature songs. Sample lyrics: “People/People who need people/Are the luckiest people in the world/We’re children, needing other children/And yet letting our grownup pride/Hide all the need inside.”
[Sung.] Robots … robots who need killing … are the ahhh!
See previous note.
Oh! Right in the flux capacitor!
In the Back to the Future comedy/sci-fi film franchise of the 1980s, the flux capacitor is a key component of the DeLorean/time machine built by Doc Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd). It’s a lit-up Y-shaped thingy encased in glass.
Dee Snider’s Strangeland.
See above note on Dee Snider. Snider wrote the screenplay for and starred in the 1998 horror film Strangeland, which focuses on the strange rituals supposedly practiced by underground groups of body modification enthusiasts. The movie was almost universally panned; it holds a 6 percent Tomatometer rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Now he’s gonna come back as a ghost in the sequel.
After Obi-Wan Kenobi (played by Alec Guinness) was killed by Darth Vader in the first Star Wars film, he returned as a glowing spirit to helpfully guide Luke in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
You killed my brother.
A reference to a famous movie misquote. American actor James Cagney (1899-1986) never actually says “You dirty rat, you killed my brother ...” in the 1932 film Taxi!, as he is often quoted as saying. The real line, as he is talking to his brother’s killer through a locked door, is: “Come out and take it, you dirty, yellow-bellied rat, or I’ll give it to you through the door!” Accepting the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1974, Cagney proclaimed: “I never said ‘You dirty rat …’”
Ever been killed by anyone as beautiful as this?
A possible reference to the 1971 song “Vincent” (also known as “Starry Starry Night,” the first line of the song) by singer-songwriter Don McLean. The relevant verse: “And when no hope was left in sight on that starry, starry night/You took your life as lovers often do/But I could have told you, Vincent/This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.”
Hassel slash! Hassel thrust! Hassel parry! Hassel duck! Hassel hoff!
An imitation of Daffy Duck in the 1958 Warner Bros. animated short Robin Hood Daffy, in which Daffy is practicing his quarterstaff technique: “Ho! Ha-ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!” Parries and thrusts are actual moves used in quarterstaff fighting; there are several varieties of each.
A possible reference to Darryl and Darryl, the longhaired, silent brothers of Larry the backwoods handyman in the TV sitcom Newhart (CBS, 1982-1990), which starred Bob Newhart as a writer who owned an inn in Vermont. Larry, Darryl, and Darryl were played by William Sanderson, Tony Papenfuss, and John Voldstad, respectively.
Fast Akton Tinactin.
Tinactin (generic name tolnaftate) is an over-the-counter medication to treat athlete’s foot and ringworm. Their long-running ad slogan is actually “Tough Actin’ Tinactin.”
Al Gore arrives for the Global Warming Summit. Ahh … Al Gore continues to arrive for the Global Warming Summit.
Al Gore is a Democratic politician and environmental activist who served as the vice president of the United States under Bill Clinton, from 1993-2001. He ran for president in 2000 but lost the disputed election to George W. Bush. He has often been mocked for his stiff manner (including by himself). Gore was an early adopter and proponent of climate change awareness, so he’s attended many international conferences on the subject, none of which was actually called a “Global Warming Summit.”
And now the emperor’s colonoscopy presented in its entirety across the galaxy.
A colonoscopy is a medical procedure in which the large bowel and part of the small bowel are examined with a flexible tube with a tiny video camera on one end. The procedure both detects and removes pre-cancerous polyps from the colon.
[Sung.] It’s not easy being Akton, when you’re the color of a wet Cheeto, and your crotch is bound up in leather, and your hair looks like Carole King, and you seem to be avoiding suffering because you pretend to know everything…
See above note on “Bein’ Green.” Cheetos are a brand of cheese-flavored snacks manufactured by Frito-Lay and first made in 1948. Carole King is a singer-songwriter with wildly curly blond hair. Her biggest success as a performer came in the 1970s, with hits like “It’s Too Late” and “Jazzman,” but she has also written more than 100 songs for other musicians, including “Some Kind of Wonderful” for The Drifters and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” for Aretha Franklin.
Hey, Owen Wilson … on fire.
Owen Wilson is an actor, comedian, and screenwriter best known for his movies with filmmaker Wes Anderson, including The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), a string of movies in which he teamed up with Ben Stiller (including Zoolander and Starsky & Hutch), and as the voice of Lightning McQueen in Pixar’s Cars franchise.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Starcrash Casino, in association with Steve Winwood and AEG, present Liberace and his All-Boy Army! Man-size action!
Steve Winwood is a Grammy Award-winning English musician and singer-songwriter who was a key member of several seminal rock groups in the 1960s and ‘70s; he enjoyed even greater success as a solo artist in the 1980s. He is not, however, a player in the hotel and casino industry. The writers must have been thinking of Steve Wynn, who built and operated such glittering Las Vegas landmarks as The Mirage and the Bellagio. AEG Live (owned by the Anschutz Entertainment Group) is the second-largest producer of live entertainment events in the world, surpassed only by Live Nation. Władziu Valentino Liberace (1919-1987) was a flamboyant, piano-playing entertainer who enjoyed his greatest success from the 1950s, when he had his own television series, through the 1970s, when he was a Las Vegas mainstay and toured internationally. He remained a popular act in Las Vegas until his death from AIDS in 1987. His trademarks included elaborate stage costumes, a candelabrum perched on top of his piano, and a lisping, affected manner of speech. While Liberace never publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation, Oscar Wilde only wished he was this gay.
Come on, girls, we’ve got a star to crash.
A possible riff on a line from the 1974 Mel Brooks western spoof Blazing Saddles, in which a male dancer says indignantly to the rest of the all-male chorus: “They hit Buddy! Come on, girls!”
“He is supremely confident that he can overcome us with the greatest of ease.” The daring young count on the flying trapeze?
Paraphrased lyrics from the 1867 song “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze,” written by George Leybourne, Gaston Lyle, and Alfred Lee. The song is about trapeze artist Jules Léotard (the leotard is named after him). Sample lyrics: “He’d fly through the air with the greatest of ease/The daring young man on the flying trapeze/His movements were graceful, all girls he could please/And my love he purloined away.”
Excellent read, Nathan, there are no small parts!
“There are no small parts, only small actors” is a show-biz saying generally attributed to method-acting teacher Konstantin Stanislavsky, although its precise origin is unclear.
Introducing the most incredible line of die-cast metal vehicles, from Paranoid Pictures’ Starcrash: The Motion Picture!
Star Trek: The Motion Picture was the first feature film based on the 1960s cult sci-fi TV series. It was released in 1979 by Paramount Pictures and despite mixed reviews did well enough at the box office to merit a sequel, and then another, and another … Hot Wheels die-cast cars were introduced by Mattel in 1968, and like many other children’s toys have become a popular item among adult collectors. Now brace yourself for a long run of fictional names for Hot Wheels cars:
There’s Akton’s Perm-Wing Fighter!
Aside from the obvious nod toward Marjoe Gortner’s luscious curls (which appear to be natural, by the way—he had them as a child preacher in the 1940s), this is also a reference to the Rebel Alliance’s X-wing fighters in the Star Wars films, such as the one flown by Luke Skywalker when he destroyed the Death Star. In 2015 Hot Wheels began producing small die-cast versions of various X-wing fighters, in addition to other Star Wars spaceships.
Stella’s Permanent Waverider!
“Permanent wave” is the long form of “perm,” the more familiar term for using chemicals and heat to create permanent curls in hair. The Waveriders were part of the Surf’s Up collection of Hot Wheels cars: trucks with “Waveriders” decals on the side.
Ella’s Southern Comfort!
Southern Comfort is an alcoholic liqueur; it’s whiskey-based and sweet, with fruit and spice flavors.
Step aside for the Grover Cleveland!
Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) was the only president in American history to serve two nonconsecutive terms, from 1885-1889 and from 1893-1897. He lost the 1888 election to Benjamin Harrison, although, like Al Gore and Hillary Clinton after him (and Andrew Jackson and Samuel Tilden before him), he won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College. His wife reportedly told the White House staff to take good care of the place, because they would be back in four years; she turned out to be right.
The Lactose-y Intolerant! The Bauhaus Brawler!
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest the sugar found in milk and other dairy products (lactose), leading to all manner of gastrointestinal distress. Bauhaus was a German art school that operated between 1919 and 1933; it championed a design style combining crafts and fine arts that itself became known as Bauhaus. Well-known adherents included architects Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, and artists Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.
The Wii Remote!
Nintendo’s Wii gaming console, introduced in 2006, features the Wii Remote, a slender white handheld controller with a wrist strap, also called a “Wiimote.”
Hootie & the Blowfish is an American rock band hailing from South Carolina. Their 1994 debut album, Cracked Rear View, sold more than 16 million copies, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time.
There goes the Meat Wagon. Toot toot!
The Meat Wagon, an old-fashioned hearse-style ambulance, was one of six cars in the Johnny Lightning Fright’ning Lightnings Episode 2 series of die-cast cars released in 1999. Other cars in the series included the Munsters Koach, the Heavenly Hearse, and Carl Casper’s Undertaker.
And his friend, Mr. Monsters Creature Car!
Creature Cars were a line of Hot Wheels released in 2009: die-cast cars that either resembled or had pictures of animals on them. The Croc Rod, for example, looked like a crocodile on wheels, while the less exciting Power Panel was merely a purple van with a squid painted on the side. They came in packs of five.
How ‘bout buying a second Wii Remote, so you can play with friends?
See above note.
And don’t forget The Repeater! –The Groundhog Day!
Groundhog Day is a 1993 comedy/fantasy movie, starring Bill Murray and directed by Harold Ramis, about an arrogant TV weatherman who gets trapped in a time loop, living the same day (specifically, February 2nd) again and again. A moderate success when it was released in theaters, the film has become a critical and fan favorite over the years, so much so that the term “Groundhog Day” is used to describe repetitive situations, particularly in the military. A 2010 thriller called Repeaters used much the same conceit, only with a bunch of drug addicts instead of an unlikeable weatherman. It was less well received.
And their friend Memento.
Memento is another film, like Repeaters and Groundhog Day, in which the timeline plays a central role. The main character, Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), has anteretrograde amnesia and cannot store recent memories for longer than a few minutes. Despite this handicap, he is searching for the people who killed his wife. One section of the film is told in backwards time, where the events of the previous segment are explained and given new meaning by the next one, and black-and-white flashbacks are told in normal time. The two timelines converge at the end of the film.
Christopher Plummer’s Little Helper! –Mother’s Little Helper.
See above note on Christopher Plummer. “Mother’s little helper” was a nickname given to the tranquilizer Valium (generic name diazepam), due to the medication’s popularity among harried housewives in the mid- to late 1960s, when doctors would frequently prescribe Valium to female patients complaining of stress. (This was before there was adequate evidence of its damaging and addictive qualities.) From 1968 to 1982 it was the most-prescribed medication in the United States; at its peak in 1978 the manufacturer sold more than 2 billion pills per year. The 1966 Rolling Stones song “Mother’s Little Helper” is about that very topic, and hinted at the hypocrisy of “straight” America condemning the counterculture’s experimentation with drugs like marijuana and LSD while dosing themselves with Valium and alcohol.
And my brother from another mother!
“Brother from another mother” is a colloquialism describing a friend who is so close, and has been a friend for so long, that they are more like a sibling. The female equivalent is “sister from another mister.”
Don’t forget Tupac Shakur!
Tupac Shakur (b. Lesane Parish Crooks; 1971-1996) was an American rapper and one of the best-selling musicians of all time. Following years of street gang-infused rivalries with other rappers and record labels, Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.
I really should jump the Snake River Canyon one of these days.
Robert Craig “Evel” Knievel (1938-2007) was a flamboyant daredevil famous in the 1970s for his spangled white leather jumpsuits and for jumping his motorcycle over various things (mountain lions, Mack trucks, buses)—and, occasionally, for not jumping over things, such as Idaho’s Snake River Canyon, although he escaped with only minor injuries. (Stuntman Eddie Braun attempted the jump again in 2016, using a replica of Knievel’s rocket-powered motorcycle, and made it safely across the canyon.) Although his many injuries over the course of his career earned him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for “most broken bones in a lifetime” (433 total fractures), he ultimately died peacefully in bed at the age of 69.
You get Meeny, Miny, and their friend Moe!
The children’s rhyme “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” appears to have its origin in an ancient British counting system known as the Anglo-Cymric Score, which was used by peasants to keep track of sheep, count their daily fish catch, etc. That system looks something like this: “Yan, tan, tethera, methera, pimp/Sethera, lethera, hothera, dovera, dick.” Incidentally, in “Eeny, meeny,” kids didn’t originally catch a “tiger” by the toe; that word was substituted very abruptly once the n-word was no longer considered socially acceptable.
“Kill! Kill!” Faster, pussycat!
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is a 1965 exploitation movie by soft-porn director and large-breast aficionado Russ Meyer. It stars Tura Satana as the leader of a trio of go-go dancers who set out to rob a crippled old man and his dimwitted sons. The movie was a box office failure when it was released, and critics deemed it a cheap “skin flick,” but it has since gained cult status and filmmakers such as John Waters and Quentin Tarantino have praised it highly. The glam metal band Faster Pussycat took its name from the film.
La Cage aux Death!
La Cage aux Folles was originally a 1973 French stage play by Jean Poiret, then a 1978 French-Italian film (followed by two sequels), then a 1983 Broadway musical. In 1996 an English-language film version titled The Birdcage was released, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. The story centers on a middle-aged gay couple who run a notorious drag nightclub; one of them has a son from a brief liaison with a woman, and the son now wants to get married to the daughter of a conservative politician. The gay couple thus has to pretend to be straight and come up with a “wife” for the father. Hijinks ensue. A much ridiculed (by MST3K, anyway) convention for naming an episode of a ‘70s TV mystery or detective show was to replace a word in a common phrase or title with either the word “death” or “murder.”
The company laser tag team-building exercise had a surprisingly high casualty rate. Johnson, from HR, is dead.
Laser tag is a game in which players run around shooting each other with guns that fire infrared beams, while wearing vests or other equipment containing infrared-sensitive targets. Indoor laser tag arenas that cater to the sport can be quite elaborate. Large corporations often send their employees on team-building exercises, which focus on strengthening interpersonal relationships and collaboration, as opposed to team-training exercises, which focus on improving efficiency.
I pity the fool.
“I pity the fool” is the catchphrase of actor Laurence Tureaud, better known as Mr. T, famous for his distinctive mohawk, multiple ropes of gold chains, and his role as B.A. Baracus on the 1980s TV series The A-Team. In Rocky III (1982), he played boxer Clubber Lang, the role where “I pity the fool” was born.
I call this Dude Descending a Staircase. –What? –It was the hit of the 1913 Armory Show, it introduced modern art to … ah, forget it.
Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 is a painting by French artist Marcel Duchamp. First shown in Paris in 1912, it was rejected by other artists in the Cubist movement, and when it was shown at the Armory Show (full name: International Exhibition of Modern Art) in New York City in 1913, it created a ruckus among American patrons of the arts, who were more accustomed to naturalistic art. It is now regarded as a classic example of Modernist art.
Space Mountain with the lights on. They never show you how many people get killed on that ride. I took a secret Disney tour.
Space Mountain is the name of Disney theme parks’ popular (and dark) space-themed indoor roller coasters; the first opened in Walt Disney World in 1975. Some were retooled as “Hyperspace Mountain” after Disney bought Star Wars. You can find some videos online of people riding the roller coaster with the lights on, which are actually somewhat creepy and claustrophobic. As of 2018, one death, one paralysis, and a handful of injuries have occurred on the various Space Mountain rides, but other than some OSHA fines related to a worker’s injury (he fell down the outside of the ride and broke some bones), Disney has always been found to be blameless. If there is such a thing as a “secret Disney tour,” information about it is impossible to verify. Because: secret.
Team Rolo’s down!
Small, bucket-shaped, caramel-filled chocolate candies, Rolos were first produced in 1937 in the U.K. by Mackintosh’s. In the U.S., they are currently made by Hershey. They are packaged stacked atop one another forming a tube, or roll—hence the name.
“No.” [Sung.] No no no no no no no no …
The song “Nobody But Me” was written and originally recorded by The Isley Brothers in 1962; a 1968 cover by The Human Beinz became a Top 10 hit (The Human Beinz’s one and only hit song). The Human Beinz version repeats the word “no” 31 times in a row and more than 100 times total in the course of the 2:16 song; The Isley Brothers’ version repeats the word 34 times in a row.
The Floating City.
In science fiction, the concept of a city that is somehow suspended in the sky dates as far back as Jonathan Swift’s 1726 book Gulliver’s Travels, which introduced the magnificent floating island metropolis of Laputa. Floating cities have appeared in sci-fi TV shows such as Star Trek, Firefly, and Stargate SG-1, and films such as Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back and Hayao Miyazaki’s animated Laputa: Castle in the Sky, which borrows the name of Swift’s floating city.
Starcrash Vehicles presents the Silver Series …
The Hot Wheels Silver Series originally came out in the mid-1990s.
Perhaps you don’t recognize me with my red arm.
A paraphrase of a line spoken by fastidious protocol droid C-3PO as he makes his first appearance in Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens. The actual dialogue: “Goodness! Han Solo! It is I, C-3PO! You probably don’t recognize me because of the red arm.”
Baby, I never ease out of anything. I’m that intense. Get ‘er done.
“Get ‘er done,” written as “Git-R-Done,” is the catchphrase of standup comedian and former member of the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour” Larry the Cable Guy (Daniel Lawrence Whitney).
And the starship Container Store moves into action.
The Container Store is a chain of retail outlets that specialize in storage and organization products. They are headquartered in Texas and have about 90 locations in the U.S.
Oh look, Barrel of Monkeys, some of mom’s rollers, Hungry Hungry Hippos, there’s a Rubik’s Cube …
The game Barrel of Monkeys was released by Lakeside Toys in 1965 and is now made by Hasbro. Players attempt to link plastic monkeys in a chain using their arms. The phrase “more fun than a barrel of monkeys” dates to the late 19th century and appears to have originally been a “box” of monkeys, not a barrel. Hungry Hungry Hippos is a children’s game, also made by Hasbro and introduced in 1978, in which players compete to see whose plastic hippo can snork down the most marbles. The Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by Erno Rubik. It was a fad toy during the 1980s, consisting of a cube with different colored sides that rotated; the object was to get all the colors to match once you had scrambled it.
Dixie Cup dispenser, Thermos, couple of garters, one marble …
The Dixie Cup brand of disposable paper cups was developed in 1907 by two Boston entrepreneurs trying to prevent the spread of germs from shared glasses or dippers at public water dispensers. A thermos is an insulated container that can keep liquids or foods hot or cold for extended periods; Thermos LLC is also a major manufacturer of said containers.
Pac-Man is one of the most famous and popular arcade games of all time, creating a veritable merchandising craze during the 1980s and causing millions of teenagers to blow their allowances on quarters. It was created by Japanese game designer Toru Iwatani in 1980.
[Sung.] School’s out … for Starcrash …
“School’s Out” is a 1972 song; it was a Top 10 single and the first major hit for Alice Cooper (which at the time was the name of the band, but was later appropriated by the band’s founder and lead singer, Vince Furnier). Sample lyrics: “Well we can’t salute ya can’t find a flag/If that don’t suit ya that’s a drag/School’s out for summer/School’s out forever/School’s been blown to pieces.”
Elle’s been using the Michelin Man Butt Blaster workout DVD, I see.
The Michelin Man is an advertising figure for Michelin tires; designed in 1898, he is intended to look as if he is made out of a stack of tires. His given name is Bibendum, which first appeared in 1908. Want to know why he’s white? Before 1912, rubber tires were beige or grey-white. Modern tires are black because carbon is added to the rubber to strengthen them. While there are any number of videos on YouTube or written exercise routines that go by the name “Butt Blaster” or a similar title, there is no commercial DVD sold under that name.
“Yee-haw!” The Starcrash tribute to Slim Pickens.
A reference to an iconic scene at the conclusion of the 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. American Air Force Major T.J. “King” Kong, played by Slim Pickens, in trying to dislodge a stuck nuclear warhead from his plane, ends up riding the missile to the ground like a rodeo cowboy, waving his cowboy hat and shouting “Whee-hoo!”
[Sung.] I read the news today, oh boy!
Though sung to a different melody, these are lyrics from “A Day in the Life,” the final song on The Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. To wit: “I read the news today, oh boy/Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire/And though the holes were rather small/They had to count them all/Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.”
James Hetfield ruins yet another Metallica concert.
James Hetfield is the co-founder, lead singer, rhythm guitarist, and primary songwriter for the heavy metal band Metallica. In 2000, Metallica sued the file-sharing network Napster, which alienated a lot of fans, but onstage Hetfield is known as a hard-rocking, crowd-pleasing professional. It’s possible they’re referring to a horrific 1992 incident in Montreal, when a mistake with the pyrotechnics led to Hetfield being badly burned onstage. His injuries cut the concert short; the second band on the bill, Guns N’ Roses, was two hours late taking the stage and left early, and the audience ultimately rioted, causing almost $500,000 in damages.
Me, I’m gonna be hootin’ and hollerin’ Southern robot! Kids love cowboys, they love robots, I’ll be like Woody and Buzz Lightyear.
Woody is the toy cowboy and Buzz Lightyear is the toy astronaut in the Pixar computer-animated Toy Story film franchise.
“Oh, some dark force, no doubt, will show its face once more.” In Starcrash 2: The Search for Thor.
The second Thor film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, released in 2013, was called Thor: The Dark World. See note on Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, above.