SNL Retro: Christopher Lee/Meat Loaf (3/25/78)

Posted: September 18, 2011 by Brendan Wahl in SNL Retro Reviews
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by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 15)

Keep in mind that immediately upon arriving in New York to Studio 8H, Christopher told all the cast and writers that he did not want to play Dracula in any segments and that he was tired of doing the character he had made famous back in the 1960s within the old Hammer horror films.

The Show:

“101 Dalmatians Get Run Over by 101 Moving Vans” will not be seen tonight…

1. Cold Opening: John’s New Name (2:50)

As Bill Murray and Gilda Radner discuss John Belushi’s newfound fame, Gilda mentions that the network has made John change his name to Kevin Scott as the start of an all-new image for the reckless castmember. “Kevin” soon enters the locker room and tells his compadres to just treat him as they would always have treated him despite the image change.

– There were a lot of these backstage cold opens back in the day and for the most part they’re funny because it gives the cast the opportunity to just be themselves and act loose. This one was pretty decent.
– There’s a really funny bit at the end where Belushi pronounces the “live” in LFNY like a word rhyming with give instead. He then just quickly corrects himself at the end of it and you can noticeably see Bill and Gilda crack up at the very end. I wonder if this was intentional. John made it look so real but the fact that Bill and Gilda broke character makes me think that it might’ve been an honest mistake.
– Gilda’s explanation of how everyone is being bumped up one notch at NBC was pretty funny, especially how Tom Snyder was being replaced on Tomorrow with Grizzly Adams.
Rating: ***

2. Monologue (7:27)

Christopher talks about some awful ideas he’s been given for horror movies and adds that he didn’t accept every one of them. He then shows a trio of movie trailers that he didn’t agree to star in. The Island of Lost Luggage features a young woman (Newman) who suddenly can’t find her suitcase on an island run by a scientist (Morris) and his assistant (Radner). The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave is almost semi-biographical featuring a beastly man (Belushi) who simply won’t leave a couple’s (Curtin & Murray) home. Finally, Dr. Jekyll and Mister Rogers features Vincent Price (Aykroyd) playing scientist Dr. Jekyll, who suddenly transforms into kindly Fred Rogers when he drinks a concoction from his laboratory.

– Longest. Description. Ever.
– Christopher’s dialogue before the trailers was pretty amusing, especially when he mentioned his role as Trixie in The Honeymooners. I also liked some of the other films that he rejected like The Creature from the Black Studies Program.
Lost Luggage was amusing, especially because of Garrett’s strange performance as the scientist. Gilda’s facial expressions were funny as well.
The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave was especially funny because of it being rooted in reality. Belushi was known for his incessant need to crash at friends’ houses and just never seem to leave. That had to be the basis for this hilarious piece. Jane’s over-dramatic screaming made this even better but Belushi was also great with his very dry delivery.
– The final trailer was perhaps the funniest as Aykroyd did a perfect imitation of Price-as-Mister Rogers and I love how that was seemingly more terrifying and dangerous than his creepy scientist character. Also, how did Laraine get changed so quickly to be in this bit as well as the first trailer?
– Tom Davis as the announcer in all three trailers was pitch-perfect, especially his last line: “Just keep saying to yourself… it’s educational… it’s educational…”
Rating: ****

3. Speech Therapy (5:46)

In an obvious take-off of My Fair Lady, Professor Henry Higgins (Lee) along with his assistant, Colonel Pickering (Aykroyd), is assigned to help Baba Wawa (Radner) learn the English language properly. Specifically, he is tasked with the dubious responsibility of teaching her how to pronounce her R’s.

– A clever way to utilize Christopher’s theatre acting background and also a brilliant way to insert Gilda’s Baba Wawa into a sketch where it isn’t just a straight interview with her and some celebrity.
– I like the immediate reference to Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady being an ungrateful woman.
– All the musical cue teases were hilarious and I like how they didn’t turn this into a musical sketch like everyone was probably expecting.
– The ending was especially funny with Christopher and Dan’s characters speaking just like Baba instead of her being cured.
Rating: *** 1/2

4. Meat Loaf sings “No Place to Go” (3:39)

– Christopher Lee’s cheeky introduction to the musical guest was pretty amusing (“I would like you to meet… Loaf!”)
– Great energetic coked-up performance by Loaf here. Everytime I see this guy perform, it makes me appreciate Chris Farley’s impression of him even more because it was so spot-on.

5. UPDATE TEASER w/Jane Curtin (:06)

– David Brenner looks back…

6. Weekend Update w/Dan Aykroyd & Jane Curtin (9:35)
Guests: John Belushi and Bill Murray

Best Jokes: pay-toilets; Spinks/Norton fight; Sesame Street

– Funny introductions.
– In the first commentary, “Kevin Scott” (Belushi) goes into detail about the problems involving giant oil tankers with the aid of a toy model. As he describes the way the tanker moves, John gets some fake oil all over Dan’s face despite his attempts to get out of the way. To be quite honest, this didn’t really get a great reaction and kinda fell flat.
– Bill Murray debuts his Oscar Predictions segment and it gets a great overall crowd reaction. My favourite comments from Bill were about John Travolta, Marcello Mastroianni, the “who cares” comments regarding the supporting actors/actresses, and the way he goes about choosing the best picture winner.
– We get the debut of Point/Counterpoint, which focuses on the notion of the validity of the point/counterpoint concept itself. Jane starts off with a really good string of comments but Dan seals the segment with “Jane, you ignorant slut” and thus, a monster is born.
– Update started off slow, but got really good with the second commentary and the point/counterpoint segment.
Rating: ****

7. Mr. Death (6:08)

Shortly after a young girl’s (Newman) puppy has been killed, she is visited by Death (Lee), who explains to her why he does the ghastly things that he has to do and apologizes for taking away her precious dog.

– This is a fairly well-remembered classic. In fact, in Christopher Lee’s autobiography he mentions that he was approached by Lorne Michaels himself who told Mr. Lee that it was one of the most fondly-remembered sketches in the show’s history.
– This sketch also has a backstory involving Laraine Newman threatening to quit the show unless she was given the main role here as she was tired of getting looked over for major parts on the show. Once she found out it was Alan Zweibel and Gilda Radner who co-wrote the sketch with Gilda in mind for the part she was devastated and felt very badly about it.
– The actual sketch though? It’s a brilliant bit of writing and performances. Christopher’s delivery is wonderfully dry and serves this sketch perfectly. This may have been one of the best pieces ever written by Zweibel, who was a very prolific writer to begin with.
– My favourite parts are Lee looking over his scroll, his comments about Richard Harris and Nick Nolte, Death confessing that he doesn’t like small animals, and especially his remark at the end about visiting the girl again on her 15th birthday.
Rating: *****

8. Suggestions for Sadat (1:35)

Anwar Sadat (Morris) is so frustrated that he asks people to mail in suggestions for what he should do with his regime in Egypt.

– Quick piece and Morris did a decent job here. It was fairly one-note though.
Rating: ** 1/2

9. Gary Weis Film: Cold as Ice (3:08)

A music video set to the “Cold as Ice” by Foreigner in which a young homicidal woman slowly kills a man (Stacy Keach).

– I have done my fair share of criticizing Gary Weis’ oddball taste in filmmaking but I rather appreciated this strange yet well-made video.
– Stacy Keach showing up is a pretty awesomely random cameo too even though no one in this really had any lines or anything. He was still good though with his facial expressions and body language. Whoever played the woman was real good too.
Rating: *** 1/2

10. Del Stator’s Rabbit Hut (1:47)

Del Stator (Aykroyd) presents a restaurant where families can pick out their rabbits from a number of cages right by the entrance.

– Pretty funny commercial parody. I especially liked the little kid nearly crying before taking a bite out of a rabbit and then proclaiming it “better than chicken!”
– Not a classic like some of Danny’s other commercial parodies though but it was still funny just for the premise alone.
Rating: ***

11. Nixon’s Memoirs (6:31)

As Richard Nixon (Aykroyd) finally completes his memoirs, Maureen Dean (Curtin) enlists the help of a vampire slayer (Lee) and his assistant Carl (Belushi) to destroy the book before it can be released upon the unsuspecting public. Nixon does everything in his power to thwart their attempts.

– What do you do when Christopher Lee refuses to play Dracula in a sketch? Why, you cleverly work around that blockade, that’s what! This was a brilliant way to utilize the host in a horror movie setting and also to make mention of the news involving Nixon’s book release.
– Aykroyd was fantastic as Nixon here, making him even creepier than usual to have him resemble Dracula as well as the former president.
– One of the more scathing indictments of Nixon to be sure.  The ending was great too with Nixon starting to type his book all over again after it had been stabbed.
Rating: **** 1/2

12. Stand-Up: Richard Belzer (5:09)

– Not bad. I liked the wedding singer/Rolling Stones medley, his Mick Jagger impression, and the brief bit where his hand was caught in his hair. The Bob Dylan bit at the end was brutal though.
Rating: ***

13. Meat Loaf sings “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad” (3:51)

– Even better performance than the first one. This man has energy up the yin-yang. You don’t think he was chemically-enhanced in any way, do you?!

14. The Mr. Bill Show: Mr. Bill’s Circus (2:20)

At the circus, Mr. Bill is tortured once again by Mr. Hands and Sluggo, this time by cutting off his arm with helium balloons and shooting him out of a cannon for example.

– The usual hijinx. It’s a bit of a waste of time going into details about this recurring segment but this one was pretty funny. This hadn’t really gotten old yet at this point in time.
Rating: *** 1/2

15. Goodnights

– Laraine and Gilda give flowers to Christopher, who looks elated with the whole experience.

 

OVERALL: A pretty strong show that didn’t sport any bad sketches aside from a below-average piece with Garrett as Anwar Sadat, but even that was still okay. Christopher Lee was a really good host, giving everything a sense of class and poise no matter how silly the concepts were. There was a lot of good material on this episode but it also contained two bonafide classics (Mr. Death and Nixon’s Memoirs) and a slew of great performances from cast and host alike. Unfortunately, Mr. Lee would never come back and host but his presence on this one episode is enough to give him a good reputation on the program.

BREAKDOWN:

HOST: CHRISTOPHER LEE – 4 segments (Monologue; Speech Therapy; Mr. Death; Nixon’s Memoirs)
FILMED CAMEO: STACY KEACH – 1 segment (Cold as Ice)

CAST:

DAN AYKROYD – 5 segments (Monologue; Speech Therapy; Weekend Update; Del Stator’s Rabbit Hut; Nixon’s Memoirs)
JOHN BELUSHI – 4 segments (John’s New Name; Monologue; Weekend Update; Nixon’s Memoirs)
JANE CURTIN – 6 segments (Monologue; Speech Therapy; Weekend Update; Mr. Death; Del Stator’s Rabbit Hut; Nixon’s Memoirs)
GARRETT MORRIS – 2 segments (Monologue; Suggestions for Sadat)
BILL MURRAY – 4 segments (John’s New Name; Monologue; Weekend Update; Del Stator’s Rabbit Hut)
LARAINE NEWMAN – 3 segments (Monologue [2 roles]; Mr. Death; Del Stator’s Rabbit Hut)
GILDA RADNER – 4 segments (John’s New Name; Monologue; Speech Therapy; Del Stator’s Rabbit Hut)

FEATURED PLAYERS:

TOM DAVIS – 1 segment (Del Stator’s Rabbit Hut)
AL FRANKEN – none

 

Episode MVP: Dan Aykroyd

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Comments
  1. Daniel says:

    I remember the “Thing That Wouldn’t Leave” bit from the original broadcast… So funny because it is completely accurate – and timeless..I’m sure when people lived in caves there was the guy who just like Belushi would not leave the campfire and go back to his own cave…

    I had heard many times about Laraine’s dissatisfaction with her roles, but watching these episodes it’s not immediately apparent that she’s being excluded, she’s in a lot of sketches – but almost always acting as a supporting player.

    She does not have her own character that could carry a sketch, like E. Buzz Miller or Roseanne Roseannadanna or Baba Wawa that could carry a sketch…

    But hey, doesn’t being in a hit show during it’s first run count for something? Guess not.

  2. […] Christopher Lee/Meat Loaf […]

  3. […] Writer/sometime performer Tom Davis gave in each of the pieces (and thanks to fellow WordPresser “Hot off the Press” for that tidbit). Of course, this was just ONE moment of simulated scares from a classic […]

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