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I hear his theme music, he's around here somewhere...
  — Crow


The Movie

Main article: Master Ninja I (film)

Synopsis

A hot-headed young man encounters an American ninja who has recently returned from Japan. They help the owner of a small airfield who is being harassed by land developers, then aid the owner of a dance club that is in similar dire straits.

The Episode

Host Segments

Crow's model car

Prologue: The Bots make up their own model car while Gypsy quotes the lyrics to "Born to Run", and Magic Voice is a bit cranky.

Segment One (Invention Exchange): The Mads make Boil-In-A-Bag IVs, while Joel and the Bots make pop-up books for adults including Anna Karenina and Naked Lunch.

Boil-In-A-Bag IVs

Segment Two: Crow discusses the conspiracy that is... the "Van Patten Project"!

Segment Three: Crow, Tom Servo, and Joel have a war of background music.

Segment Four: Joel and the Bots demonstrate alternatives to nunchucks.

The Van Pattern Project

Segment Five: The SOL crew starts their own funk-fusion action band to chase away the bad movie blues, and create the "Master Ninja Theme Song". Frank smothers Dr. F.

Stinger: "To them it’s some kind of ritual."

MST3K cast

Trivia

  • Unusual credits: Joel and the Bots sing the "Master Ninja Theme Song" instead of "Mighty Science Theater" being played.
  • Frank Conniff and Michael J. Nelson provided additional music for this episode.
  • Forrester and Frank nearly smother each other with a pillow. This is later how Forrester meets his demise between the seventh and eighth seasons.
  • This episode aired second during Turkey Day '92.

Callbacks

Goofs

  • The hockey mask portion of Crow's head falls off early in the second theater segment, and remains off until Joel and the Bots leave the theater.
  • They mispronounce Clu Gulager’s last name twice.
  • Timothy Van Patten is not Dick Van Patten’s son. He’s Dick’s half-brother.
  • Crow refers to the third season of The Good Guys, in which Rufus got rid of the taxi and helped out more in the diner. The Good Guys only ran for two seasons. Crow is describing Season Two, not Three.

Obscure References

  • "Wrap your hands 'cross my velvet rims, and strap your hands 'cross my engines!"

Gypsy is slightly misquoting lyrics from Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run".

  • "...William Burroughs' Naked Lunch."

A book about a series of sometimes surreal vignettes which, despite the crew's reluctance to open the book, does not center around an indecent mealtime.

  • "A Wand'ring Ninja I..."

The title reminds Servo of the song "A Wand'ring Minstrel I" from The Mikado, an operetta set in feudal Japan (but which does not involve any ninjas).

  • "Mmmm..." "Ax!" "MAX!"

A reference to an Electric Company segment from the 1970s.

  • "I do like the John Cage soundtrack."

John Cage was an experimental music composer best known for his work 4'33", in which performers are instructed not to play their instruments during the entire duration of the piece. The piece consists of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed, although it is commonly perceived as "four minutes thirty-three seconds of silence."

  • "Tonight on Bravo, Martha Graham's new dance company!"

Bravo is a cable TV network that initially focused on art & culture programming. It later shifted to more sensationalist reality-based shows. Martha Graham was a modern dance choreographer.

  • "Cripes, it's those turtles! They moved next door!"

Presumably a reference to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

  • "Meanwhile, in the movie 1941..."

1941 is a 1979 action comedy directed by Steven Spielberg, set in California shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It features John Belushi as a reckless Air Force pilot.

  • "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Gerbil."

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a 1986 film loosely inspired by the confessions of Henry Lee Lucas.

  • "I hope Stephen J. Cannell was in that car."

Stephen J. Cannell was a prolific TV producer, writer, novelist, and occasional actor known for creating such series as The A Team, The Rockford Files, and Renegade.

  • "Only you can prevent car explosions."

“Remember... Only YOU can prevent forest fires.” was Smokey Bear's slogan from 1947–2001 for the Wildfire Prevention Campaign.

  • "He looks about as much like a ninja as Irene Ryan."

Actress Irene Ryan is best remembered for playing Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies.

  • "It's Over the Top!"

Over the Top is a 1987 movie about arm wrestling starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert Loggia. It later became one of the first solo-riffing presentations by Michael J. Nelson for RiffTrax.

  • "I'll just die if they find my Tiger Balm!"

Tiger Balm is a brand of heat rub.

  • "He broke ape law."

Claude Akins (appearing here as Mr. Trumbull) played the ape Aldo in the film Battle for the Planet of the Apes. MST3K later spoofed several plot twists of the original Planet of the Apes sequels during the first episodes of Season 8.

  • "He's the Ugly." "No, he's the Bad!"

A reference to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but more subtly a reference to the infamous trailer which confused Van Cleef's ominous Angel Eyes (the Bad) with Eli Wallach 's tainted soul Tuco (the Ugly).

  • "He's a William Daniels wannabe!" "Michael..."

Actor William Daniels is known for voicing KITT on Knight Rider, as well as his work on St. Elsewhere, Boy Meets World, and the musical drama film 1776.

  • "A man's gotta know his limitations."

A line spoken by Clint Eastwood in the first Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force.

  • "...lifted from Then Came Bronson."

Then Came Bronson is a TV series from 1969–1970 about a disillusioned reporter who quits his job and starts wandering the road on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle as a form of soul-searching. He meets various people, helping some and educating others.

  • "Is that Mrs. O'Leary's barn?"

The O'Leary Legend is an apocryphal account that the Great Chicago Fire was started when a cow owned by Mrs. O'Leary knocked over a lantern in the barn where it was kept.

  • "Looks like Edie Sedgwick fell asleep again!"

Edie Sedgwick, who appeared in several films directed by Andy Warhol, was severely burned in 1966 after falling asleep with a lit cigarette.

  • "The Van Patten Project!"

A riff on the Manhattan Project, which was the code name for the American-led effort to develop a functional atomic weapon during World War II. The Manhattan Project Organization Chart includes the names of staff working on the project, similar to Crow's chart.

  • "Don Van Vito Patten Corleone!"

Vito Corleone is the Don of the Corleone crime family in Mario Puzo's The Godfather.

  • "What, now he's a Wallenda?"

The Flying Wallendas are a well-known family of circus acrobats and daredevil stunt performers.

  • "It's a Woozle, his name is Peanut."

Peanut the Woozle is a sarcastic monkey-ish creature who is one of the longstanding members of comedian/ventriloquist Jeff Dunham's act.

  • "Hey, here comes Betty Jo!"

On February 27, 1947, a P-82B fighter plane named Betty Jo made history when it flew nonstop from Hawaii to New York without refueling. It remains the longest nonstop flight ever made by a propeller-driven fighter, and the fastest such a distance has ever been covered in a piston-engined aircraft.

  • "Oh, it's The Other Side of the Mountain!"

The Other Side of the Mountain is a 1975 film based on a true story of ski racing champion Jill Kinmont. It follows Kinmont's difficult journey to recuperate after she is paralyzed from a near-fatal skiing accident. Her best friend suffers the same fate after contracting polio.

  • "That's not dancing." Servo: "That's typing."

"That's not writing, that's typing" was Truman Capote's reaction to Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road.

  • "Terry and the Pilots!"

Terry and the Pirates is an action-adventure comic strip created by cartoonist Milton Caniff. There was also a short-lived TV series of the same name based on the comic strip.

  • "Boy, that parquet floor must really sting." "Butter."

Joel and Servo are describing two different things. Joel is referring to parquet flooring patterns, known for its intricate, geometric designs in such a small space. Servo is referencing the famous Parkay butter commercial catchphrase.

  • "Out you pixies go!"

A quote from Sheldon Leonard's character Nick the Bartender in It's A Wonderful Life: "That's it, out you two pixies go! Through the door or out the window!"

  • "You're practically Leo Buscaglia..."

Leo Buscaglia was a professor, author, and motivational speaker whose impassioned public speaking technique gained a wide audience by being broadcast on American Public Television in the 1980s.

  • "The ninja creeps in on little cat feet."

A reference to the poem "Fog" by Carl Sandburg: "The fog comes / on little cat feet. / It sits looking / over harbor and city / on silent haunches / and then moves on."

  • "Quick! Take a turn here on Steven J. Cannell Boulevard!"
MST3K_322_Promo

MST3K 322 Promo

As mentioned above, ​Steven J. Cannell was a TV producer, writer, novelist, and occasional actor.

  • "This is no place for a convertible!"

A quote from the 1963 comedy film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

  • "Hey, it's Mrs. Ironside."

Ironside is a 1967–1975 TV crime drama starring Raymond Burr as Robert T. Ironside. Ironside is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair.

  • "I left my liver in San Francisco."

"I Left My Heart in San Francisco" is a popular song, written in 1953 by George Cory and Douglass Cross and best known as the signature song of Tony Bennett (recorded in 1962).

  • "Niagara Falls... Slowly I turned... inch by inch... step by step..."

A slight misquote ("Slowly I turned... step by step... inch by inch...") of the popular sketch "Slowly I Turned" wherein a character is relating a story and is triggered into violent outbursts when the listener inadvertently utters a triggering word or phrase. There are many depictions, but the "Niagara Falls" version is familiar to fans of The Three Stooges and Abbott and Costello.

  • "Well at least we can enjoy another Film Ventures International credits sequence, huh?"

Film Ventures International is the distributor of this and several other movies riffed on the show. FVI films are exclusively re-releases with altered title and ending credit sequences that use variations of the same "blur, pixelize, add stutter, and make the colors washed out" filter, often with background footage coming from other sources (often unrelated films, but in the case of Master Ninja it's stock footage of a man doing exercises in a martial arts class).


Video releases

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