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Mystery Science Theater 3000 - The Crawling Hand

Rhino // Unrated // June 11, 2002
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by D.K. Holm | posted August 27, 2002 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

"Is there an abridged version of this movie?" Tom Servo asks of The Crawling Hand when the cheap sci-fi film proceeds to get boring again. Crow replies, "If so, burn it." Servo retorts, "Don't burn your abridges behind you." It's a typical excruciatingly bad pun from the team, and it's funny in context. But, guess what. There is an abridged version. They're watching it.

It's no secret that Mystery Science Theater 3000 abridges the already short, cheap drive-in fodder it victimizes. Otherwise, how could comedy, television commercials, and the film itself all fit into the two-hour format. One of the pluses of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on disc is that there's room for the original film on the other side, if anyone can take such a film seriously after the gang is done with it. It also lets amateurs try to mimic the skills of the MST3K team. But really, kids, don't try this at home!

The Crawling Hand, a Hansen Enterprises release from 1963, is 89 minutes long. This sixth episode of MST3K from its 13-episode first season, is 97 minutes long, including the show's credits, the intros, and skits. You can do the math (I can't). The B side at least gives an idea of what they choose to drop. What is left out is often simple stuff, such as establishing shots and dull, searching panning shots.

This is one of MST3K's early episodes. In fact, for a second you might think that it is the first episode. It begins with Joel explaining the premise. "People of Earth. My name is Joel and I am marooned in outer space. I am the subject of a bizarre movie watching experiment, and now I guess, so are you. I am expecting a call any second now from the two evil scientists who shot me into space for no reason at all." This sounds so preliminary that it must have come from the first broadcast. And in fact, the first nationally broadcast MST3K was a "crawling" movie, only it was called The Crawling Eye.

The Crawling Hand concerns an astronaut returning from a trip to the moon who begs to be killed. What he knows and the ground crew doesn't is that he has been infected with a space parasite that is keeping him alive in airless space. He explodes over earth and his parasite-infected hand is found on the beach by a young pre-med student. The student is strangely drawn to the hand, which goes on a killing spree. In a climax worthy of The War of the Worlds, a simple earth creature destroys the monster. The film was written by a team of writers and directed by Herbert L. Strock (who has a long career in series television and sci-fi films), and starred Alan Hale, Jr., of Gilligan's Island and Peter Breck of The Big Valley.

The Crawling Hand offers plenty of opportunity for the boys to make mock, as it is a nearly incoherent drive-in movie derived from numerous other sci-fi plots. The best jokes probably don't sound so good taken out of context. "This…is…Major…Tom…to…Ground…Control." "If he pushes that he'll be an astro-not." "He looks like a cross between Jerry Mathers and James Dean;—Beaver Without a Cause." "Hey, what's that stuff?" "It's the night time coughing aching sneezing stuffy-head feverish or you're being chased by a human hand medicine."

The Crawling Hand is MST3K number 106 and was first aired in December 1989. This is the one that starts out with Joel offered applause noise by Cambot. Joel's invention exchange is a hand-protecting chain saw (it's a prank, of course, but it does fit in with the theme of the movie he has to watch).

It is an early episode, and so the jokes come less fast and furiously than they do when the series reached its peak in the middle years. Also at least one of the voices is different. Tom Servo is performed by Josh Weinstein, who left at the end of the season, his vocals taken over by the more familiar Kevin Murphy.


VIDEO: The actual MST3K looks great on this Rhino Home Video release, but for obvious reasons they don't really care about the real The Crawling Hand, which is on the B side in full frame. The transfer comes from a scratchy black and white print, and if the transfer has any virtues at all, they come from the film being on DVD in the first place. There are about 10 MST3K on DVD so far, and Rhino also offers The Crawling Hand on its own disc.

SOUND: The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is great for Joel and team, but little help for the source film though it actually is in a DD 2.0 format on the B side.

MENUS: After the standard, amusingly vandalized FBI warning, an animated, musical menu offers 20 chapter scene selection for the MST3K version, and 12 chapters for the original on the other side. When you click play movie a "creeping hand" comes out and clicks the play button after you.

PACKAGING: The keep case cover suggests the MST3K template, with the three viewers shown in silhouette against the movie screen (though it is Mike instead of Joel), with a hand strangling someone. The back cover provides a lot of info about the episode, and shows Joel with the 'Bots. An insert has chapter guides for both the MST3K and the original version. It's a dual-sided disc, so there is no label.

EXTRAS: Supplements are minimal and consist of the original film on the B side, and the theatrical trailer for the uncut movie.

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Highly Recommended

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