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The Thing That Couldn't Die

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805 - The Thing That Couldn't Die
Air Date March 1, 1997
MST3K Director Jim Mallon
Movie Director Will Cowan
Year 1958
Cast William Reynolds
Andra Martin
Jeffrey Stone
Carolyn Kearney
Preceded by 804 - The Deadly Mantis
Followed by 806 - The Undead

"Oh, E.G. Marshall, you are a bold one"
  — Servo

I hate him, and can take solace only in my own cool detachment.
  — Observer

The Movie


Thing that couldn't die

The Thing That Couldn't Die

A young woman named Jessica Burns (Carolyn Kearney), who claims to have psychic powers, lives on a remote ranch with her Aunt Flavia (Peggy Converse). She discovers an ancient box while water-witching and her Aunt takes it back to their house. Her boyfriend, Gordon (William Reynolds), goes for an archaeologist, arguing the box should be kept intact for appraisal and opening by an expert. However, the Aunt's greedy ranch foreman, anticipating treasure, secretly convinces the slow-witted handyman to break it open. Instead, the box contains the intact head of Gideon Drew (Robin Hughes), a man executed for sorcery 400 years earlier. The head awakens and telepathically takes over the mentally vulnerable handyman.

After murdering the foreman, the head has the handyman conceal it while arranging to have a coffin retrieved containing Gideon's body. After the handyman helps the head take control of a young woman staying at the ranch, it drives him to approach police in a threatening manner holding the knife that killed the foreman. The police had arrived to investigate the theft of the box's remains and the blood left behind from the killing of the foreman. Failing to stop, the handyman died in a hail of police bullets.


Once his head and body are joined, Gideon will be fully able to exercise his powers over all comers. The young woman is aware of the evil and is protected from the head's influence by an ancient cross she wears around her neck, but when her boyfriend removes it, to make a cast so its historical value could be appraised, the head takes control of her mind. So, ironically, though the guest under control of the head was unable to remove it, Jessica was put in harms way by her protector. Jessica then helps find the head's body, previously being against doing so since they only wished to make money out of it as well as fear that it was an evil business. The young woman joins head to body and Gideon arises from his coffin, but the boyfriend, aware of the error of his ways, catches the monster off guard with the cross. This forces Gideon back into the coffin and, when they drop the cross in with his body, they watch the total disintegration of his mortal remains.


  • The opening credits and several scenes reused the music from the opening credits of This Island Earth.
  • Of the 101 films made by director Will Cowan, this was the only feature - all of the rest were shorts. This was also the last film he directed.
  • British actor Robin Hughes playing the warlock Gideon Drew aka "The Thing That Wouldn't Die" also played the similar character of Satan in the iconic ""Howling Man" episode of "The Twilight Zone."

The Episode

Host Segments

  • Observers

    The Observers

    Prologue Tom Servo unveils his newest art show, "Crow: A Thousand Years of Tyranny". As the name indicates, it's less than flattering. Crow is ironically paying for the whole thing and is a bit concerned about the negativity...until clowns on velvet are mentioned.
  • Segment 1 Servo ignores the clowns in his new painting; kittens in a meat grinder is more suitable for Crow. Then, Gypsy alerts them that the Satellite of Love is caught in a tractor beam that drags them to a new planet and creates a temporary Tom Twin. They are now in orbit around the planet of The Observers, which is now also the abode of Pearl and Bobo. The Observers want to observe her experiment and have set their guests up with nice accommodations. The Observers then secretly discuss their plans to dissect and display Pearl and Bobo in their museum.

    "Crow: A Thousand Years of Tyranny"

  • Segment 2 One of the Observers is now on the SOL to observe in person. He annoys and insults the hell out of them, so they eject him from the ship, sans brain.
  • Segment 3 The gang plays Risk until they are interrupted by Finnegan, teleported from Mike's memory via the Observers. Except Mike doesn't know the utterly annoying Irish geek, who beats him up. Crow wants Mike to think of Adrienne Barbeau; Mike mishears him and thinks of Roman Emperor Hadrian, who beats him up. He finally thinks of Ms. Barbeau, who, um, beats him up.
  • Segment 4 Crow debuts his new documentary, Crow T. Robot's Bram Stoker's The Civil War. Per most of Crow's reports and documentaries, his facts are far from straight and the credits are longer than the documentary.

    The Observer observing in person

  • Final Segment Servo and Mike plot to scare Crow out of his mind by using Servo's disembodied head. The wig gives way as Mike thrusts the head forward; repairs ensue. Pearl goes to bed, haranguing the Observers and Bobo the whole time.
  • Stinger The Observers offer you their brains.

Other Notes

Guest Stars



Quotes & References


The Big Valley was a Western TV series from the late 1960s.

  •  "Plug it in Joe!"

Upon hearing the all too familiar music playing during the opening credits, Crow spouts a line from 'This Island Earth'. (The very film that was riffed in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.)

  • The tune Servo sings periodically when Jessica is mentioned is "Jessica," an instrumental song by the Allman Brothers Band.
  • (The title "THE THING THAT COULDN'T DIE" shows on the screen.) Servo:"The Strom Thurmond Story!"
Strom Thurmond (1902-2003) was the U.S. Senator from South Carolina 1954 to April 1956 and from November 1956 to January 2003. At the time of this episode, he was the oldest and longest-serving senator in the U.S. Senate.
  • "They've beamed onto the planet O.K. Corral!"
A reference to the Star Trek episode Spectre of the Gun, in which Kirk trespasses on the territory of the Melkotians and he, Spock, Dr. McCoy, Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott and navigator Pavel Chekhov are imprisoned in an illusion of Tombstone, Arizona on the day that the Earps and Doc Holliday shot the Clanton gang at the O.K. Corral.
  • "Looks like somebody's mama let him grow up to be a cowboy...let him play guitars and drive them old trucks, didn't let him be doctors and lawyers and such."
Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys is a country song made famous by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Servo effectively quoted the first stanza, which goes:
Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don't let 'em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such
  • "Squeaky, we gotta leave, come on!"
Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme was a member of the Manson family and attempted to kill President Gerald Ford.
  • "This is an early version of The Milagro Beanfield War."
The Milagro Beanfield War is a 1988 film based on a novel of the same name. It's strongly concerned with farming and water rights.
  • Why can't I just bend spoons with my mind like everyone else?
Spoon bending is a common trick in stage magic. Since the 1970s, it's become strongly identified as a common way for alleged psychics to prove that their powers exist.
  • "Sonny Corleone, dude."
Mike is talking, not about the 1990s slang term "dude", but about "dudes" as in "dude ranch"--city folk coming to the country to play at being cowboys for a while. William Reynolds, the actor who played Gordon, the character mentioned above, did look a bit Italian and performed many authority roles, though usually as a cop or secret agent rather than the violent son of a Mafia don.
  • "It looks medieval!" "...on yo' ass!"

A reference to a line spoken by Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction.

  • "There's a bright yellow stain on my back-brace...", "Poor Jud is daid", etc.

References to songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!

  • "Old timer Billy Slater is doin' three years community service."

​Billy Slater, old timer, was the catalyst from the Junior Rodeo Daredevils short preceding 'The Killer Shrews' in episode 407 .

  • "Can we scare you to death?"
A reference to the 1971 horror movie Let's Scare Jessica to Death.
  • "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!"

A quote from a 1970s margarine commercial.

  • ("We'll bury the body where none will ever find it.") "... Under Larry Wilcox's career!"

​Larry Wilcox was the co-star of the series CHiPs . His career isn't really big enough to bury anything under.

  • "I dreamed I was in a Hollywood movie....and I was the 'Star' of that movie...."

Referring to lyrics from the song 'Spill the Wine' by the band War.

  • "Have you ever seen The Children's Hour?"

References a play by Lillian Hellman, later adapted into a movie. The story deals with two teachers at a boarding school who are accused of lesbianism.

  • "You'll get my gun...when you can pry it out of my cold dead fingers."

Paraphrasing a popular slogan used by the National Rifle Association.

Memorable Quotes

[The movie opens with the title: The Thing That Couldn't Die.]
Servo: The Strom Thurmond Story!
MikeCouldn't die or wouldn't die?
Crow: Shouldn't?
[Jessica demonstrates her dowsing talent by telling the guests where to find Linda's missing watch.]
Jessica: You can find the watch in a trade rat's nest.
Servo: A trade rat?
Jessica: Look at the base of oak tree beside Linda's cabin.
Servo [as Jessica]: …in Maine.
Mike: You know, the country needs skilled trade rats.
[Linda puts the found watch up against her ear.]
Mike [as Linda]: The rats put in a new crystal!
Linda: It still runs.
Servo [as John Cameron Swayze]: John Cameron Trade-Rat.
[Later, Gordon gives Linda a charm he found near the watch.]
Gordon: Here, I polished this for you. We found it in the trade rat's nest.
Mike [as Gordon]: He had a little tool and die shop down there.
Servo [as Gordon]: I think I got most of the rat droppings off it.
[Flavia hears a noise outside the window.]
Flavia: What's that?
Crow: Eh, it's just those trade rats working the night shift.
[Boyd the ranch hand slouches around.]
Crow[singing] There's a thick yellow stain on my back brace!
[The final shot of the movie, a zoom in on Jessica's necklace and cleavage, fills the screen.]
Crow: The whole movie was leading up to this shot.
Mike [as Announcer]: Brought to you by the Breast Council.
Servo [as Announcer]: Buy breasts where you work or bank!

Video Release



Commercially released on DVD by Shout Factory in March 2014 as part of The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Volume 29, a 4-DVD set with Untamed YouthHercules and the Captive Women, and The Pumaman.

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