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'How Do Animals Learn?' Well, as long as they learn to taste good, I don't really care.
  — Crow T. Robot


The Short: Century 21 Calling

Synopsis

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An informational short featuring two enthusiastic teens who witness the amazing phone of the future! They marvel at the ground-breaking, state-of-the-art features such as call waiting, call conferencing, and touch-tone dialing.

Information

The Movie

Synopsis

The Space Children

A glowing, pulsating brain-like alien creature teleports to Earth (witnessed only by two boys) and establishes base camp in a cave on the beach near a military rocket launch site. It communicates telepathically with the children of the engineers and technicians involved in constructing and flying the latest in Cold War technology, an orbiting H-bomb platform to be launched atop a "six-stage" rocket. With 12-year-old Bud Brewster as "the leader" (he can immobilize people, prevent them from speaking, etc, with the blob's help), the kids start willingly doing the alien's bidding as the adults try to figure out what's happening.

The blob is powerful. When an enraged, drunken stepfather (Russell Johnson) chasing after his wife's kid makes ready to assault the boy with a three-foot branch, the blob kills him. When Hank Johnson (Jackie Coogan) discovers the existence of the blob in the cave, his "mind is taken away" and he winds up in the hospital. When technician Dave Brewster tries to tell his bosses what is going on, his son Bud (who has walked through base security) shows up and prevents him from writing or speaking.

The Episode

Host Segments

  • Prologue Servo starts a kissing booth on the SOL to raise enough money to open his own chain of kissing booths. Mike requests a "dry, perfunctory grandma kiss," but complains that it's a little too aunt-like.

    The new phone system

  • Segment 1 Pearl sets up a network of telephones for each person on the SOL and down in the castle so everyone can communicate more efficiently via a conference call. The resulting chaos urges Pearl to make Mike and the 'Bots watch the informational short Century 21 Calling... to teach them "how easy the phone of the future is!"
  • Segment 2 Mike gaily portrays the peppy kid in the short to an apathetic Crow and Servo. They decide to stop Mike the only way they know how: by hitting him with a wrecking ball.
  • Segment 3 While Mike and the 'Bots experiment with a model rocket on the SOL, things kind of blow up in Mike's face due to a slight miscommunication. Meanwhile down in the castle, Bobo gets prepped for the first launch of Pearl's very own fledgling space program.

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  • Segment 4 Crow forces Mike and Servo to view his new "Fashion Means Coogan" line of lingerie.
  • Epilogue The "holy blob" from the movie visits the SOL to coax Servo out of getting rid of the nuclear weapon he bought at an estate sale. Down in the castle, Pearl and Brain Guy successfully launch the rocket—without Bobo in it.

MST3K cast

Regular cast

Guest cast

Obscure References

Host Segment 1

  • "Dial *69."
In times before caller ID, *69 (pronounced: "star sixty-nine") was a vertical service code that a person could punch into their touch-tone phone that would tell them the time and the phone number of the last call they received.
  • "Hello." "Hello." "Hello."
The opening to the popular barbershop ballad, "Hello My Baby" by Ida Emerson and Joseph E. Howard. It was often sung by The Three Stooges when they would introduce themselves.

Short: Century 21 Calling

  • "They want their little gold jacket back."
Century 21 Real Estate is a real estate company whose employees wear gold jackets as part of their marketing campaign.
  • "Look! It's Pearl Jam!"
Pearl Jam is a rock group that hails from Seattle, the city where this short takes place.
  • "Is the kid in a Jack Nicklaus cult or what?"
Jack Nicklaus is considered by many to be one of the greatest golfers of all time.
  • "Oh boy! Our first visit to Pat Boone World!"
Pat Boone was a successful pop singer in the 1950s and early 1960s. He is well-known for taking songs recorded by African-American artists and re-recording them with alterations that would be considered more palatable to mainstream Caucasian listeners, thus earning a reputation as a symbol for bland "white-ness". He later went on to become an actor and motivational speaker, and eventually became notorious for his arch-conservative political views.
  • "Let's start Microsoft here!"
A riff on the fact that Microsoft headquarters is located in Redmond, Washington which is actually considered part of the Seattle metropolitan area. However, Microsoft was actually founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • "Did Leni Riefenstahl direct this?"
Leni Riefenstahl was a female film director and actress who filmed propaganda movies for Hitler during Nazi Germany. She also pioneered a few film techniques that especially had to do with background and location shots, hence Crow’s comment on all the different shots of buildings and landscapes. Perhaps also a slide riff on the German-looking kid and the Gifts from Germany store.
  • "Celebrating Pride Week at the fair."
Pride Week is an annual event held in Toronto, Ontario, but observed in many parts of the United States as well. It celebrates the LGBT lifestyle and advocates diversity. A major headliner of Pride Week is the Pride Parade, which is what’s being referred to in this riff and the subsequent comments.
  • Servo's beeping.
Near the end of the woman's lecture and right before the close of the short, Servo beeps a short tune. This is the theme for Maxwell House. The blinking tubes here are reminiscent of the percolating coffee.
  • "Sounds like something from Side Five of 'Sandinista!'"
"Sandinista!" is a three-disc album by The Clash.
  • "-You can see it all." "...at the Annie Sprinkle show."
Annie Sprinkle is an adult film actor-turned-performance artist known for the explicit sexual content of her work.
  • "Someday, you will ache like I ache!"
"And someday, you will ache like I ache" (repeated) is the chorus of the song "Doll Parts" by Hole.

Movie Act I

  • "It's Linda Hunt!"
In the 1982 film The Year of Living Dangerously, Linda Hunt portrays Billy Kwan, a male dwarf.
  • "Bugsy Siegel and his family arrive to start Las Vegas."
Bugsy Siegel was an American gangster who is widely credited with founding Las Vegas and building the first casinos there.
  • "Wow, there’s a selkie stuck in the oil slick."
In Norse and Celtic mythology, a selkie is a mythological being that can transform from seal to human form by shedding its skin. It can also revert to seal form by putting the skin back on.
  • "Driving on the beach with my kids in the car…"
"Standing on a beach with a gun in my hand" is from the 1978 song "Killing an Arab" by The Cure. The song refers to a classic book called L'Étranger by Albert Camus in which the main character shoots and kills an Arab man.
  • "They drove a thousand miles to get their pictures developed, huh?"
A reference to Fotomat, a former chain of photo development drive-thru kiosks located in shopping center parking lots. Their main product was overnight film development, but they were also one of the first companies to offer movies for rent on videocassette.
  • "Grendel? You home?"
Grendel is one of the three antagonists in the ancient Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf. Grendel is a feared creature who lives in a cave with his mother and emerges only to terrorize a small community of warriors nearby. He is dispatched by the hero of the story, Beowulf, after he follows Grendel into the heart of his cavern home.
  • "Lord of the Flies action figures!"
William Golding’s 1954 classic novel Lord of the Flies chronicles the lives of a group of children stranded on a deserted island. The children quickly devolve into following their basest instincts to survive on the island, including greed and murder.
  • "Say, have any of you said the darnedest thing lately?"
"Kids Say the Darndest Things" was a feature of Art Linkletter's House Party from 1952–1969 on CBS. It consisted of young children (from when they’re old enough to talk intelligently but before they’re old enough to have accumulated life experience, a sense of restraint, or knowledge of how the world works) being asked questions and encouraged to respond with the first thought that occurred to them. It inspired books, a revival series hosted by Bill Cosby on CBS from 1998–2000, and another revival hosted by Tiffany Haddish on ABC from 2019–2020. The series is moving to CBS and will premiere in 2021 with Haddish returning to host.
  • "Yes, I will take money from my dad's wallet and send it to Soupy Sales."
Soupy Sales was a comedian who hosted an extremely popular children’s show Lunch with Soupy Sales (1953–1966). On New Year’s Day in 1965, Soupy ended his live broadcast by encouraging his young viewers to take money from their parents and send it to him so he could take a vacation to Puerto Rico. Although various accounts credit Soupy with having received up to $80,000 through the mail, Sales himself has revealed on numerous occasions that he netted only a few real dollars, along with a lot of play money, green Monopoly money, and other forms of fake currency. Sales said he had been joking and that whatever real money had been sent would be donated to charity.
  • "Niels Bohr is using the toaster."
Niels Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. In 1943, he joined the British Tube Alloys nuclear weapons project, and was part of the British mission to the Manhattan Project.
  • "It's Uncle Fester in shorts!"
Jackie Coogan, the actor here, is best remembered for his role as Uncle Fester on the 1960s TV series The Addams Family. Mike and the 'Bots make numerous references to this throughout the rest of the movie.
  • Servo humming the Gilligan’s Island theme.
The actor who plays the abusive, dipsomaniacal live-in boyfriend here is Russell Johnson, who is best known for his role as the Professor on the 1960s sitcom Gilligan's Island.

Movie Act II

  • "Must be having Gilligan flashbacks." "He's going to use his coconut-powered spanking machine on me!"
On Gilligan’s Island, the Professor is always creating ingenious devices, usually out of coconuts (see later coconut-related riff), that promised to, in some way or another, get everyone off the island. Inevitably, clumsy Gilligan would inadvertently destroy the device somehow, frustrating the Professor.
  • "Imagine having your butt whooped by 'and the rest.'"
In the first season of Gilligan’s Island, Mary Ann and the Professor are only mentioned in the opening lyrics as "the rest." The lyrics were rewritten for subsequent seasons to include the names of all of the characters.
  • "I want you to get a hold of a man named Mr. Howell."
Thurston Howell III and his wife Lovey are millionaires who are also castaways on Gilligan's Island.
  • "This blob is mine, kids gave this blob to me..."
Spoof of the chorus written by Pat Boone for Ernest Gold's "Theme of Exodus". The original chorus is "This land is mine, God gave this land to me."
  • "Looks like they're having lunch with Smaug."
Smaug is a dragon and the main antagonist in J. R. R. Tolkien's 1937 novel The Hobbit, his treasure and the mountain he lives in being the goal of the quest.
  • "Oppenheimer took my stapler."
Robert Oppenheimer was an American physicist who was deeply involved in the Manhattan Project, the code name for the project that created the first nuclear bombs.
  • "Put a light bulb under his tongue!"
One of Uncle Fester’s trademark gags on The Addams Family is the ability to illuminate light bulbs by putting them in his mouth.

Movie Act III

  • "She's been asked out so many times by Seinfeld."

When comedian Jerry Seinfeld was 38, he began a romantic relationship with then-17-year-old high school student Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss. They dated for approximately four years, from 1993 to 1997, before the relationship ended.

  • "Come on, minoxidil, kick in!"

Minoxidil, applied topically, is widely used for the treatment of hair loss. It is effective in helping promote hair growth in people with androgenic alopecia regardless of sex.

  • "I think I just got the bends from that analogy."

Decompression sickness, commonly known as "the bends," is a condition resulting from a very sudden change in pressure on the body. It is often experienced by divers who fail to surface properly from deep underwater.

  • "I can't believe you like making love at midnight at the dunes on the cape! This is gonna be great!"

"If you like makin' love at midnight/In the dunes on the cape" are lyrics from the 1979 song "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes.

  • "Bud...Weis...Er!"

Slogan from a series of Budweiser beer commercials in which three frogs croak the name Budweiser.

  • "At least we got powdered orange drink out of all this hoo-ha."

A reference to Tang, a powdered, orange-flavored drink produced by General Foods Corporation. In 1965, NASA astronauts used the drink during the Gemini space missions, and that fact became an integral part of Tang's marketing campaign.

  • "Mandatory toques and back bacon!"

In Canada, a toque is the term primarily used for knit caps. Back bacon is a cut of bacon that includes the pork loin from the back of the pig. It is very lean and tastes more like ham than traditional bacon. "Canadian bacon" or "Canadian-style bacon" is the American name for a form of back bacon.

Memorable Quotes

Century 21 Calling (short)

[In the opening credits, we see: Century 21 Calling.]
Mike: Oh! They want their little gold jacket back.
[A monorail is moving through Seattle over the opening credits]
Crow: Oh, these monorail designers - they have a one-track mind.
Mike: Why do you lash out like that?
Crow: I don't know.
[Shot of the Space Needle over a soundtrack of organ music.]
Servo: The only bathroom in the fair is up there.
Crow: Well, I'm glad to know the future has CONSTANT ORGAN MUSIC!
[Nerdy guy pauses a moment to look at marquee with ladies' legs.]
Crow [as nerdy girl]: Oh, come on! You're gay and you know it!
[Mike notices a sign that says "Gifts From Germany."]
Mike: Gifts From Germany? What's that? Braunschweiger, cars with heaters that don't work, and identification papers?
[At the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, we see a science exhibit entitled How Do Animals Learn?]
Crow [as Man]: "How Do Animals Learn?" Well, as long as they learn to taste good, I don't really care.
[A lady at the How Do Animals Learn? exhibit thrusts a bird into the face of a nerdy kid at the fair.]
Mike [as lady]: Here, you're a geek. Why don't you bite the head off this bird?
Bell Woman: ...All you'll have to do is give the telephone company a list of the numbers you dial most frequently. The electronic brain's memory will do the rest.
[The blond-haired, blue-eyed couple look at each other in excitement.]
Crow [as nerdy guy]: The Führer will like that!
[A little girl phones her grandmother.]
Grandma: Hello?
Little Girl: Hello, Grandma?
Crow [as little girl]: Where's my money?
[A Bell Telephone representative talks about future features as a video runs to demonstrate them.]
Bell Woman: [voiceover] Want someone else on the line?
Servo [as Customer]: No.
Bell Woman: [voiceover] That's easy, too. Flip the switch button, then dial a code number and the number you want, and… presto!
Mike: Well, andante, maybe.
Crow [as Bell Woman]: Soon you'll have all your friends hanging up on you and dreading your calls.
[In a promotional film from Bell Telephone, we see two dogs on a well-manicured lawn.]
Bell Woman: [voiceover] It may even be possible to call and water the lawn during that dry spell when you are many miles away on vacation.
[The sprinklers are then turned on by telephone operated remote control, and the dogs run away.]
Crow: Yeah, how do you like it when the lawn piddles on you?!
Mike: ...And in the future there will still be a two dollar surcharge for using this service despite the technology having proliferated EVERYWHERE ON THE PLANET!

The Space Children (movie)

Crow: Remind me to never be a child.
[Outside the cave, the kids stare at a shaft of light descending from the sky.]
Crow [as Bud]: [mesmerized] Yes — I will take money from my dad's wallet and send it to Soupy Sales.
[Tim flees from his violent, drunken stepfather (played by Russell Johnson), but is finally caught.]
Crow: Whooh. Imagine having your butt whooped by "And The Rest"!
[As her children pass along commands from the blob rock, Anne tries to comprehend what's happening.]
Anne Brewster: How does it tell you, and why?
Bud: I don't think you'd understand.
[Anne lets go of her son in disgust and turns away.]
Mike [as Anne]: Oh, I'll just go wish myself into the cornfield.
[Project head Dr. Wahrman confronts Brewster about the space blob.]
Dr. Wahrman: And what does it look like?
Crow [as Brewster]: Well, it's got a good personality…

Video releases

A home video release of this episode is not currently forthcoming. However, the host segments are available on the Satellite Dishes disc included in Volume XXXIX, and the short is included as a bonus feature on the disc for The Killer Shrews on Volume 7.