Mystery Science Theater 3000: THE CRAWLING HAND
June 20, 2014 6:53 AM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

(1963, B&W, Horror, Sci-Fi) The capsule of an astronaut returning from the moon is detonated. While he doesn't survive, his weird mutated hand does, and it and a teen it "manually controls" go around fulfilling the ambition of all disembodied hands: strangling everyone it can. Its reign terror is ended when it gets eaten by a kitty-cat. "Jolting Space Shocker! Astronaut Ordered Blown-Up! Terrifying Menace from the Moon!" YouTube video. Original airdate: probably December 16, 1989. One of the better first season episodes, this was the first first season episode to get released on DVD.

DVD on Amazon (stand alone) -- warning, costs $85 new!

Satellite News - Annotated MST3K - MST3K Wiki - Daddy-O's Drive-In Dirt

IMDB [2.8 stars]
"The hand of a dead astronaut comes crawling back from the grave to strangle the living."
Directed by Herbert L. Strock.
Written by Bill Idelson, Herbert L. Strock, Joseph Cranston and Robert M. Young.
Starring Peter Breck, Kent Taylor and Rod Lauren.
posted by JHarris (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Michael Weldon, in The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, said:
Young Peter Breck (Shock Corridor) is a confused young teen taken over by the living hand of an astronaut who exploded in space. The hand kills people on its own, then gets the kid to help. The standout memory of this cheap little horror (by the director of I Was a Teenage Frankenstein) is the soundtrack. The ultimate rock song--"Papa Oom Mow Mow" by the Rivingtons--is heard twice! With Kent Taylor, Rod Lauren, Alan Hale, Jr., Richard Arlen (Island of Lost Souls), Tris Coffin, and Allison Hayes. Also introducing "the sex iceberg" Sirry Steffen. A cat eats the hand in the end. A landmark production.
Mike Nelson, in the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, wrote:
It seems as though Hollywood never tires of movies about rogue body parts. Personally, the horror is lost on me because I can't get past the physical problems inherent in a ten-pound arm having enough leverage to toss around and strangle an adult male. I will admit human organs are pretty scary, though admittedly limited in their athletic capabilities. There is little danger of being overcome by a pancreas.

I should note that Alan Hale, Jr. tried his hand at serious acting in this thriller. Even then it was obvious that he was destined to become a greeter at The Skipper's seafood restaurant.
A few firsts here:
This episode is the first one produced (104 not withstanding) that uses the through-the-tunnel opening after the credits, going directly to the Satellite Of Love, and it's also the first with the "traffic lights" bank of buttons on the desk in the SOL's bridge. It's also the first "appearance" of the disembodied computery Magic Voice announcing the commercial, (who doesn't get named until Season Two). By the way, while there's been two or three different Magic Voices over the course of the series, I always thought of the one in the early season as the "real" one.

This is also the first time the full premise has ever really been explained to cable viewers. The first episodes just sort of rolled on, almost like they expected everyone to be familiar with the KTMA TV-23 run (which ended not that many months before).

After Joel slaps the traffic-light buttons in the initial host segment, he puts something in his mouth. He also does that just before the movie, later on, and in several other episodes too. It's never explained what that is. My perhaps-baseless assumption was it was a Pavlovian-style reinforcement set up by the Mads, like, hit the button and get a treat. When they come back from commercial, Joel talks a little about the problems with being marooned in space, and shows off his Vacuum Flowers (which I think were the subject of a KTMA sketch or two).

When the Mads call in, Forrester calls him his "spunky little space sock." A good number of the gags and references from the early days died out in the first couple of seasons, but Forrester's nicknames for Joel persisted throughout the Comedy Central run. Larry simply calls Joel "skanky boy."

In the Invention Exchange, when Joel's "fingers" get cut off, beforehand you can see he's wearing a ring. I don't think he wears that in later episodes. After the bit, the Mads actually look a bit distraught!

After Clayton demonstrate the Limb Lengthener on Larry, Joel comments, "I have a feeling you're violating someone's human rights, basically, Dr. Eauhart's." Mads: "THAAANK YOOOU!" But wait, Larry's thanking Joel for noting his accepting the violation his own rights?

Host segments:
Pre: Joel explains the premise. Invention exchanges: Joel plays a joke with a "safety" bandsaw, the Mads show off the Limb Lengthener.
1: The guys try to play games but it doesn't go to well. The bots ditch Joel.
2: Everyone does Shatner getting strangled. A classic bit that gets replayed as a clip in the second season.
3: About the danger level posed by ambulatory hands, assisted by props.
Post: Good and bad thing about the movie, reading letters on air (with kid drawings of the guys), Larry strangles Clayton.

Unlike what the Psychotronic quote above says, the teen's name is named Paul, and according to the IMDB is played by Rod Lauren.

The silhouettes in this episode appear to be a dark yellow.

According to Daddy-O, the Swedish girlfriend-then-fiance of Paul is a former Miss Iceland, and did a nude scene for this movie for foregin markets, I'm guessing at that scene on the beach where she undresses behind the rock.

In the movies leading up to this one we've gotten lots of "Skipper! Little buddy!" jokes, and this one's no different considering that it contains The Skipper himself, Alan Hale Jr., who Daddy-O identifies as having been in two other MST movies, 622: ANGEL'S REVENGE and 810: THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION.

There's an extended bit of riffing near the start, the "Tell him I'm smoking" bit while the lead scientist is on the phone.

When the astronaut's face appears on the screen, Joel: "Max Headroom's Dad!"

After the astronaut gets blown to bits, one of the scientists spins a ridiculous theory about what happened, and the other jumps from that, through a thought process obscure to the viewer, to say: "Now wait a minute. What you're saying is, life might mutate or fully evolve in a matter of hours, or even minutes?" It's almost as bad as the explanation of time dilation from Women Of The Prehistoric Planet! It turns out to be right, of course. The purpose of this scene isn't to explain anything to the viewer at all, but just to pad out some time before the killings begin.

Right after that scene we jump immediately to a jumping teen hangout spot, a soda fountain with music playing, and a classic line: the gruff proprietor telling the teens "No dancing, no dancing! Not allowed!" Servo: "No acting! Not allowed!" Later on another classic phrase, spoken by an orderly: "Dames like her always keep beer around."

Crow: "He looks like a cross between Jerry Mathers and James Dean."
Servo: "Beaver without a cause!"

The overall structure is similar to that of Monster A-Go-Go, one of the worst movies MST ever did and a real trial. The story, thankfully, doesn't go for Monster's weird shaggy dog ending, but it does have the titular monster get eaten. By a CAT. World saved! Thanks Mittens!

Daddy-O informs us that a young Burt Reynolds screen-tested twice for the teenager who goes off on a killing spree under the evil hand's influence, but was rejected for wooden acting. Heh.

In the first host segment, after the bots ditch Joel, he complains aloud. "Yeah, that's right, I get it. Thanks Joel! Thanks for emptying our load pan! Thanks for creating us, Joel! Thanks for making us intrinsically human, Joel! Cambot, come in a little bit. Cambot, I want you to remind me of something. Next time I make a robot, no more free will. That's it."

Early on there's a sequence of fish puns. If puns are the lowest form of wit, then fish puns are the lowest form of puns. But that's followed up by a number of... hand-me-downs, about the crawling hand.

In the scene after the teen's landlady gets strangled by the hand, there'a a one-second shot where she's supposedly dead and staring sightlessly, but she's clearly breathing.

Troubled Kid's transformation into Strangling Kid is accomplished simply by giving him heavy eye shadow, but the effect is enough to make his girlfriend scream and scream.
posted by JHarris at 11:58 AM on June 20, 2014

The group watching room is up and cycling at:

The official viewing should be around 8 PM, but it will cycle the movie, and a collection off shorts, skits, and RiffTrax clips, until then. Afterward the main event, we may have a viewing of a completely different terrible movie, to be determined.
posted by JHarris at 12:01 PM on June 20, 2014

Fish puns foreshadowing future episodes 911 - Devil Fish, and of course, 908 - The Touch of Satan ("this is where the fish lives").
posted by Chrysostom at 12:37 PM on June 20, 2014

A good place to find out about the early years of the show is the MST3K Wiki page on Joel.
posted by JHarris at 3:10 PM on June 20, 2014

We got up to four people this time. Ah well.

Up until now we've been kind of limping along. The movies have all been gray (or faded color) 40s-60s fare with white white actors and moral systems out of Leave It To Beaver. 104 was a slight bit of a respite, but the riffing and sketches have been gradually improving (we had a couple of great bits this time IMO).

But next week we have our first really bad movie: 107 ROBOT MONSTER. It's also old and black and white, but it's really truly strange. It was originally released as a 3D movie in fact. It's a legendary movie with gigantic flaws, and yet it also has a certain whimsical charm to it. It's a world in which a man in a gorilla suit with a fishbowl on his head, living in a cave with a bubble machine parked out front and frequently calling his home planet on his Detecto set, can wipe out all of human kind except for one family -- who live within a short walk of his base. See you then!
posted by JHarris at 7:41 PM on June 20, 2014

For me it's just that season 1 is, well, not so great. Starting in season 2 it's one of the best things ever to be done with television, but the first season tends to be so draggy and the host segments have Dr. Earnhardt, who I've never found funny. I'll be a lot more active in these threads and viewings once we hit S2.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:49 PM on June 21, 2014

Mmm, I think Dr. Erhardt might have worked a lot better in later seasons, when the writing was tighter. Josh is pretty funny on Cinematic Titanic.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:47 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Robot Monster is so weird that I would watch it without MST3K commentary. It's like a fever dream.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:31 PM on June 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, huge fan here but this season is just not that good and the host segments can be downright hard to watch. I'm looking forward to participating in season 2.
posted by werkzeuger at 5:28 AM on June 28, 2014

I noticed both of the invention gags were hand-related.
posted by ckape at 10:50 AM on January 22, 2017

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