Things that can’t die. Death, taxes, sequels, remakes. Monsters fall into canyons, are burned alive, frozen, dismembered, and generally die until the sequel. The titles of their movies push their limits. The Thing That Couldn’t Die (1958), The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962), Die, Monster, Die! (1965), The Dead Talk Back (1957). Nothing ever lasts forever and much of it is “Promises, Promises.” Crow: A Thousand Years of Tyranny, The Observers, On The Site Inspection, Risk, Bram Stoker’s The Civil War, Tom’s Head. “The weather today… The oceans turned black”, “His felt tip pen exploded!”, “So how much of North America did the Elves colonize?” “The Big Valley” or “It’s one of those Hippie Outdoor Weddings”?
Waiiiit a minute. These are all unavailable episodes! You’re just teasing us with things we… have to look a little harder to watch.
I vaguely remembering liking this episode, but all I can really remember is heads and treasure and some kind of witchy dowsing woman or something.
The Mole People (1956) including Episode 803 is available to buy on Blu-Ray. The copies are becoming rarer to locate.
Hmm… I suppose that counts as available.
The Thing That Couldn’t Die is included in the Volume XXIX DVD set from Shout. The only ones that can really be regarded as unavailable (in that they don’t have a proper hardcopy release) are Rocketship X-M, the two Godzilla episodes (though Megalon was briefly part of Volume 10 before Toho said OhNoHo), The Amazing Colossal Man, It Conquered the World, Fire Maidens of Outer Space, Attack of the The Eye Creatures, Terror from the Year 5000, I Was a Teenage Werewolf, The Deadly Bees, and The Space Children. While Quest of the Delta Knights doesn’t have a hardcopy release, it is available for streaming at the Gizmoplex. For some reason, Shout lost the rights for The Final Sacrifice and Soultaker. So unless you snapped up copies of Volumes XIV and XVII when you had the chance, you’re out of luck on those.
The movie’s original title was The Water Witch, alluding to Jessica’s dowsing abilities rather than her being like a waterbender from Avatar: The Last Airbender.
As a movie, it’s okay, though dull in spots. While nothing mind blowing, it manages to hit the horror beats with reasonable competence. One neat aspect is how the head never speaks aloud before being reattached, presumably communicating with his thralls through telepathy. Too bad the climactic scene where the headless body climbs out of the coffin looks so silly.
As a point of interest, it’s quite possible that Gideon Drew was loosely inspired by Thomas Doughty, a member of Drake’s expedition who was tried and executed on charges of treason and witchcraft. Of course, Doughty was nothing like the unrepentantly wicked Drew. Even the treason charge was considered pretty sketchy, both at the time and as analyzed by modern historians. The whole affair certainly doesn’t present Drake in a very favorable light
This is my 2nd favorite episode. I love the heck out of it. It’s so cheesy and absurd, and the riffs are spot on.
“Call me an empiricist, but I need to see the water.”
“They held the tension for a full second!”
“Oh, it’s so tacky!”
I could go on and on, but these are a few that make their way into my regular conversation.
“You’re all evil, and I hope you have snacks!”
I don’t want to be THAT GUY, but the thing in the movie title did, in fact, die.
Oh, gosh, but I love this damn episode.
It’s a gem for introducing us to the Observers. I know that the theme song promised an endless chase, but seriously, I wouldn’t have been mad if we spent a longer chunk of time with the Observer Planet and all the nuttiness there.
I especially love Paul Chaplin’s Observer being a great big jerk to Crow and Mike as he observes. Chaplin’s always rocked it out as one of the show’s around-the-edge supporting players, and his Observer was a joy to watch while he was around. (AND he does double-duty as Finnegan in the Finnegan/Hadrian/Adrienne Barbeau!)
While we’re on the subject, I laughed SO DAMN MUCH at Bridget Jones Nelson as Adrienne Barbeau. “Hi, boys!” [immediately punches Mike]
And props to Mike for getting through that scene without busting up.
As for the movie itself, it’s exactly the right amount of “gee golly gosh” hokum and overwrought dramatics you need out of these Universal monster movies.
I’m a sucker for an episode with good running gags, and we’ve got some great stuff here with the many names of Aunt Flavia (“Aunt Coolio’s gonna flip when she sees this!”), the big dumb ranch hand Mike who keeps going on about his strong hands (“My hands suck, okay?”), the slimy-as-hell foreman who keeps getting parody lyrics from “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” thrown at him, and of course, Jessica and her obsession with evil.
As a villain, the disembodied head really doesn’t do a lot outside of mesmerizing, but he does serve a purpose as a target for prime riffing (“You’re… pulling… my… hair!”).
Plus you have a whole bunch of other incidental elements that all add up to something hilarious, like the trade rats (“There is no trade rat, but there is a skilled artisan rat”) and the paleontologist that seems kinda sweet on Aunt Flavor Flav (“You rocked my world last night, Flavia”).
The movie’s easygoing enough and, I dare say, not TOO bad? As I said elsewhere, Season 8 has this great aura of rewatchability and comfort to it, and MST3K’s treatment of The Thing That Couldn’t Die is kinda representative of that rewatchability and comfort. That’s not to say that the rest of the series doesn’t have that, that’s certainly not my claim; it’s just that Season 8 seems superlative in those regards.
Fantastic episode overall.
You could tell that he was THIS CLOSE to losing his composure on camera!
So, I love the host segments and the spot-on riffs, but the only thing that doesn’t work for me is the stinger (or any of the non-stingers up through The She Creature).
I get that it must have been irresistible to make the visual joke of the Observers lifting their brains towards the camera over the text “A Best Brains Production,” but this stretch of episodes had some sweet potential for stingers, and it’s a shame that they missed out on that.
For a real legit stinger for this episode? I’d probably go with Jessica yelling “I hope a tree falls on you!”
The gang always does such a good job taking down the creeps and pervs* in these movies. I enjoy that.
* to be clear:
- dressing like a pony while your boyfriends feed you Fruit Gushers with their toes = not a perv
- watching a woman undress without her consent = perv
This episode always leaves me tired, probably because everyone involved in the movie seems like they’re phoning it in. Ten minutes after it’s over, I can’t remember a thing about it.
If we’re talking magical severed heads, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is the better work. Sure it’s slimy and sleazy, but at least it has some real bravura to it.
The Observer observing sketch is yet another from this period that feels like it goes on forever. A shorter, punchier take probably wouldn’t have exasperated me so much.
Speaking of beating something barely funny into the ground, the constant sniggering over the women sharing one bed, fully clothed, for all of what? three minutes also makes me want to shin-kick someone really hard. OK, we get it. You’re middle-aged hetero guys and you’re lazy AND boring. PLEASE move on— NOW!
I rarely rewatch this one.