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Hey, leave my father out of this!
October 3, 2011 9:16 PM   Subscribe

On May 25, Betty L. Prentis passed away in West Palm Beach, FL at the age of 89. Mrs. Prentis was preceded in death by her husband of 41 years, Edmund "Ned" Prentis, in 1997. Prior to her marriage, Betty Luster had enjoyed a long career as an actress and dancer on stage in London (where her career got started in 1938), Broadway, Miami, and Philadelphia. In her last acting role before marrying Ned, Betty performed in a promotional film sponsored by C.G. Conn, makers of brass band instruments. The 1956 (or 1957) film, "Mr. B Natural," is undoubtedly the most infamous of the shorts to ever air on Mystery Science Theater 3000, so as a final tribute to Betty, it's time to snap on those tights and torment young Buzz for one last time.
posted by stannate (62 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
C'mon and buy some crap from us!
You know that you want to!
And the white race shall salute you,
as we prance and gad about, ba-rum-pa-pum-pum!

Satellite News notes, about Mr. B Natural, that the scene where the titular horror meets Buzz was missing from the Brains' copy of the short, and may actually be lost to the ages. It probably fell victim to some collector's clips reel along the way.
posted by JHarris at 9:23 PM on October 3, 2011


"Wow Mr B, you're hot!"
posted by sourwookie at 9:28 PM on October 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have seen "Mr. B Natural" more times than is healthy I can possibly count, and I have never once made it all the way through without completely losing it at least once.

We're white, we're white / we're really, really white
we're really, really, really, really whiiiiiite....


Oh, and


posted by tzikeh at 9:45 PM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Much thanks for Mr. B♮


posted by ZeusHumms at 9:59 PM on October 3, 2011



posted by gc at 9:59 PM on October 3, 2011


Poor Buzz, such a slacker. Good thing that Mr B was there to bring the Spirit of Music to him!


posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:36 PM on October 3, 2011


Oh god. I teach orchestra and I'm really tempted to just show this to potential beginners instead of doing my usual fine string instrument demonstrations next year- I think it would have the same effect...
posted by charmedimsure at 10:59 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing that gets me more and more about the short is how nakedly self-serving it is. It's just an advertisement for school band instruments designed to look like an instructional short! It has Mr. B outright state to the impressionable kids that, if the parents don't shell out for an instrument, that they don't know their kids. It just adds this extra slimy tinge to the whole thing.
posted by JHarris at 11:10 PM on October 3, 2011


For some reason, as soon as I read the first sentence of this post, I immediately thought "I bet that's Mr. B Natural." Even stranger, I only thought of her by her maiden name, Betty Luster.

And the clock on the wall says it's "that's all" for the Stridex Medicated Band. Farewell, Mr. B, and may a cacophony of coronets sing thee to thy sleep.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:04 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


♮♩
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:17 AM on October 4, 2011


Buzz... This time, don't make so much noise when you 'read.'


posted by delfin at 4:22 AM on October 4, 2011


"A trombone can let you show the world a big laugh..."

That must have been the line I fell for.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:23 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


C'mon and buy some crap from us!
You know that you want to!
And the white race shall salute you,
as we prance and gad about, ba-rum-pa-pum-pum!


If I didn't have any context for this, I would have guessed it's from a Thomas Pynchon novel. Totally in the style of the ditties in his books.
posted by The Michael The at 4:35 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Klaus Kinski used to study this short to better understand what it means to be truly committed to a performance. It's what drove him mad.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:48 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


[If we could not derail into a "MST3K: yay or nay?" discussion, that would be nice.]
posted by taz at 4:54 AM on October 4, 2011


MST3-YAY!
posted by ShutterBun at 4:55 AM on October 4, 2011


And now he grandstands at every opportunity.
posted by subbes at 5:01 AM on October 4, 2011


Mr. B is almost a little too painful to enjoy. As far as the shorts go, my rallying cry will always be "NO SPRINGS!"
posted by Wolfdog at 5:05 AM on October 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm guessing this is her costar, Bruce D. "Buzz" Podewell.
posted by gubo at 5:06 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing that gets me more and more about the short is how nakedly self-serving it is. It's just an advertisement for school band instruments designed to look like an instructional short! It has Mr. B outright state to the impressionable kids that, if the parents don't shell out for an instrument, that they don't know their kids. It just adds this extra slimy tinge to the whole thing.

He's pretty up front about it according to the Wiki page. Nads the size of an elephant. Or was that normal back then? Would getting a FREE MOVIE be a huge deal back in those days? I wonder how many music teachers took up the offer to show his advert?

Conn provided details about the film in the Spring 1957 issue of their magazine, The Baton, distributed to public school music teachers: "Mr. B Natural is the spirit of music in everyone...a sort of LepreCONN who is always no more than an inch away from the fingertips of anyone. Mr. B has a code however, that prohibits him from showing himself for anyone unless he reaches out and calls for the spirit of music. In full color, Mr. B Natural entertainingly answers the call of Buzz, a shy, reticent teen-ager and for twenty-six minutes and forty seconds explains how music and playing a musical instrument will help develop posture, breathing, self-confidence, coordination and in general a young person's character. Mr. B gives both youthful and adult audiences ease to take instruction in the values of music. The Film is being made available by the Band Instrument Division of Conn through Conn dealers everywhere."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:13 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apologies, that first paragraph is quoting JHarris.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:14 AM on October 4, 2011


It's just that the things they snark at are generally wonderful enough in their own way that they do not need added snark, especially snark as obvious as MST3K comes up with.

Hmm. Cook up a batch of popcorn, chill some Mountain Dew, and invite over some friends who'll giggle at everything if supplied with enough caffine and popcorn. Rent "MST3K: The Movie", which takes apart "This Island Earth", which is a classic of the science fiction genre, and one of the best science fiction movies of the '50s. You get the feeling they'd just as eagerly take on 2001 or Blade Runner - they're doing their thing to a good movie that they like. They also take a year to get the writing honed.

It's utterly, utterly brilliant.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:26 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


for twenty-six minutes and forty seconds explains

God, I can't believe there were nine and a half minutes more of this that I've never seen. Somebody put up the Prelinger signal!
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:26 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Knew your father, I did!"

Biblically, Mr B?

*shudder*
posted by inturnaround at 5:28 AM on October 4, 2011


I think I have a different taste in shorts. (Heh.) I can't watch B Natural because of Betty's terribly hammy delivery. I like the monotone disinterest of Industrial Arts or that How To Have The Most Boring Date Ever one better.
posted by DU at 5:33 AM on October 4, 2011


Today I don't feel like a Happy King.

.
posted by Spatch at 5:37 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


You get the feeling they'd just as eagerly take on 2001 or Blade Runner - they're doing their thing to a good movie that they like.

Since Rifftrax doesn't seem to have done either of those, I'm thinking that's just aiming too high... Really, how would you make fun of 2001?

The guys came to a showing of Jaws with the rifftrax playing at Stone brewery two summers ago... It was cool to meet them, and they were actually very funny in their pre-show comments. They drank a lot of beer, too, I think. As did I, so I'm not actually sure they were funny.
posted by Huck500 at 5:42 AM on October 4, 2011


Mr. B is almost a little too painful to enjoy. As far as the shorts go, my rallying cry will always be "NO SPRINGS!"

A Case of Spring Fever is probably the most bizarre of all the shorts they ever aired. On top of being strange in itself, there doesn't really seem to be any point to it. At least Mr. B is selling something, and the other shorts typically are, too, or they have some sort of moral message.

But what's the point of Coily terrorizing that poor guy? To highlight the danger of dissing springs? I mean, I guess it's kinda-sorta educational in the sense that it highlights the horrors of a springless world, but other than that...
posted by Kosh at 5:54 AM on October 4, 2011


Really, how would you make fun of 2001?

Silently and with great pomp.
posted by DU at 5:54 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's like watching something with your stoned teenage buddy who's not as funny as he thinks he is and says things about a second after you've already thought them. Maybe I have funny friends, but my friends are funnier than that. I just wish they'd shut the fuck up already.

Maybe you too should watch it stoned?

LOVE MST3K. It was our marathon show to watch while I was in labor. Now Cinematic Titanic? That show blows.
posted by stormpooper at 5:57 AM on October 4, 2011


Oh Mr. B, what would YOU know about dignity?
posted by dr_dank at 6:03 AM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I liked Mr. B, but my heart belongs to Industrial Arts, Are You Ready For Marriage, and Catching Trouble.

Also, I not sure I can believe this news is true. Mr B can't be dead. His dark lord Lucifer wouldn't allow it.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:05 AM on October 4, 2011


Today I don't feel like a Happy King.

Damn it, this is the exact comment I was going to make.

WHY DON'T THEY LOOK?
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:23 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The thing that gets me more and more about the short is how nakedly self-serving it is. It's just an advertisement for school band instruments designed to look like an instructional short!

I can't believe anyone thought the short was anything but a promotional. Were people really such rubes back then?
posted by 2N2222 at 6:26 AM on October 4, 2011


[Come on folks, that's like textbook derail "don't do that to other people's threads" behaviour. Go to MetaTalk or drop someone an email if that's all you have to talk about.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:31 AM on October 4, 2011


She's dancing with Torgo in heaven now.

...but the best short ever was "Young Man's Fancy" before _The Violent Years_ with the squishy girl and her electric stuff.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:41 AM on October 4, 2011


Well, that clock on the wall says that's all from the Stridex Medicated Band...
posted by Scoo at 7:50 AM on October 4, 2011


They named him Mister, and I for one believe they knew what the hell they were doing!

I guess we're in a whole weird area here...

.
posted by cereselle at 7:52 AM on October 4, 2011


You're deep, Ernie Mr. Bad Example.
posted by dr_dank at 7:54 AM on October 4, 2011


but my heart belongs to Industrial Arts

Every good short has at least one line that will cause sptonaeous grinning just by thinking it, for Industrial Arts it's " ...and not a killer!"
posted by The Whelk at 7:55 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Well, excuse ME, sexless man-woman!"


posted by Chrysostom at 8:47 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if she even knew about MST3K and all the attention given this one small gig of hers, originally destined to be seen only by a few kids trapped classrooms. I had a friend (since passed) whose first film role was in I Was a Teenage Werewolf, and he considered it lost to time. When I told him that I'd seen his performance, but on MST3K, and explained the show's premise, etc., he got really excited. I scoured the internet and finally found a copy, watched it again alone...and decided not to share it with him. Actors are sensitive, and I'd forgotten how much they skewered his performance. His death scene, especially, he was quite proud of and remembered proudly: Mike and the bots savaged him. I ended up telling him that I couldn't find a copy, since it had been off the air for ten years, but that he had a whole new generation of fans.

Also, from her wikipedia page:
Photo of Betty Luster and Lillian Reese in Time Magazine
From the New York Public Library archives.
IMDB: Looking like a peacock dancing with Jack Stanton.
posted by zylocomotion at 8:49 AM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow, Mr. B was hot.
posted by Spatch at 9:16 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, I'm in marketing.
posted by The Whelk at 9:31 AM on October 4, 2011


Industrial Arts it's " ...and not a killer!"

I disagree. It's clearly "I love the smell of fresh woodchips, and sawdust." "I put them in my underwear!"

As for Mr. B, I'm fond of "The faces that he's wronged float up at him!"
posted by cereselle at 9:31 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


A Date With Your Family - "Emotions are for ethnic people"

Robot Rumpus - "That squares my breasts"

Johnny At The Fair - "And then, a feeling of elation!"

Design For Dreaming - "Unfettered avarice by Madison Avenue"

Once Upon A Honeymoon - "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO OUR LIVES?!"

Century 21 Calling - "..and you can go back to your DRINKING AND YOUR PILL POPPING!"
posted by The Whelk at 9:40 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bad touch.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:45 AM on October 4, 2011


I still can't believe they got away with this one in Johnny At The Fair:

(A calf runs up to a cow to nurse, and then quickly runs away)
SERVO: Whoops! Sorry, Dad!
posted by Spatch at 9:52 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


uncanny hedgeman, quoting Wikipedia quoting CONN's statement:
Conn provided details about the film in the Spring 1957 issue of their magazine, The Baton, distributed to public school music teachers: "Mr. B Natural is the spirit of music in everyone...a sort of LepreCONN who is always no more than an inch away from the fingertips of anyone.

Ugh. It seems slimier than ever now! Way to interpose your company between kids and their subconscious, CONN.

Mr. B has a code however, that prohibits him from showing himself for anyone unless he reaches out and calls for the spirit of music.

Why am I reminded of the unseen thing from "The Music of Erich Zann"?

zylocomotion:
I scoured the internet and finally found a copy, watched it again alone...and decided not to share it with him. Actors are sensitive, and I'd forgotten how much they skewered his performance. His death scene, especially, he was quite proud of and remembered proudly: Mike and the bots savaged him. I ended up telling him that I couldn't find a copy, since it had been off the air for ten years, but that he had a whole new generation of fans.

That's a shame, because most of MST3K is rather good-natured, for all the pointing and laughing. It is easy to imagine a show built off of mockery to come across as mean, but MST3K had done a good job of not taking it too far, most of the time. (Sandy Frank's infamous reaction to the show notwithstanding.) I think, if the show had sharper teeth, it wouldn't be nearly as popular as it is.

On laugh-out-loud lines from shorts:

Catching Trouble (one of the funniest early shorts): "What's next Ross? Hurting those you know and love? Chasing rabbits on a minibike until their hearts explode?"

Circus On Ice: "Circus? On ICE?!" Also, "Oh, these two they make quite a pair! They both come from your worst nightmare! They will haunt your soul forever! And now, when you see pink, you're gonna think, 'we're doomed!' They are agents of Satan...."

Here Comes The Circus: "Here comes the devil! It's Beelzebub the clown!" (I obviously find it hilarious when circuses are compared to the hoary depths of the underworld.)
"Oh no, they're doing it clown-style!" "I've been a bad clown!" And, at the "The End" card: "Ah, my favorite part of the circus."

Design for Dreaming: "GRRRRR! GRRRRRRRR!" (You have to see it.)
posted by JHarris at 10:22 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


(Sandy Frank's infamous reaction to the show notwithstanding.)

Joe Don Baker also once said he'd punch out any of the MST3K guys if he met 'em, but I think he says that to anybody who's not handing him the bourbon.

He said that after they did Mitchell, and I love how they repaid the kindness later on in Final Justice by calling him "The last thing a sausage sees" Among other things.
posted by Spatch at 11:05 AM on October 4, 2011


She's dancing with Torgo in heaven now.

Called to her eternal reward by the last movie sign. Mr. B, you were indeed a wonderfully, spritely—albeit annoying—woman.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:10 AM on October 4, 2011


JHarris: "That's a shame, because most of MST3K is rather good-natured, for all the pointing and laughing. It is easy to imagine a show built off of mockery to come across as mean, but MST3K had done a good job of not taking it too far, most of the time. (Sandy Frank's infamous reaction to the show notwithstanding.) "

Yes-the Time Chasers guys were quite supportive, and the Hobgoblins guy, too, as I recall.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:12 PM on October 4, 2011


Honestly, I want to see MST3K alumni go beyond the Star Wars Holiday Special and take on an Ewok Movie, Phantom Menace, or even Star Wars itself.
posted by ZeusHumms at 4:56 PM on October 4, 2011


Rifftrax has done all six movies.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:02 PM on October 4, 2011


Industrial Arts it's " ...and not a killer!"

I disagree. It's clearly "I love the smell of fresh woodchips, and sawdust." "I put them in my underwear!"


You're both wrong, since it's obviously:

"We're looking for people who can read.

Lines, and interact with others."
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:04 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sandy Frank's infamous reaction to the show notwithstanding

Not sure if this is news to you or not, JHarris, but most of (if not all) of the Gamera episodes of MST3K have just been added to Netflix instant.

Oh, and Horace, you're both wrong. The correct answer is: "I sleep with me head in a catcher's mitt."
posted by ShutterBun at 1:23 AM on October 5, 2011


Design for Dreaming: "GRRRRR! GRRRRRRRR!" (You have to see it.)

The Shick Electric Razor Car!

(actually it was a Chevy Impala doing the growling)

Speaking of which, is it wrong to fantasize about some kind of an...event* featuring Mr. B Natural and the Design for Dreaming gal? Maybe throw in the Selling Wizard and Jody, the "squishy" girl from "Young Man's Fancy" just for fun?

*Like, a weenie roast.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:34 AM on October 5, 2011


Any such event must also include the girl from Teenagers From Outer Space.
posted by subbes at 5:12 AM on October 5, 2011


The best line (and assorted carrying on) is from Are You Ready For Marriage, when the reverend (First Federal Church, Member FDIC) shows that a relationship is like a rubber band. If you stretch it too far, it might snap:

(Actual lines from actors)
Man: Where did it go?
Woman: It's gone!

(MSTies) He's a SORCEROOOER!
posted by Ghidorah at 6:46 AM on October 5, 2011


(From Industrial Arts)

"Oh you never would believe where those Keebler Cookies come from."

"I'm making it for the grand wizard."

and my favorite

"Someone got a PhD in Industrial Arts?!"
posted by Ghidorah at 6:48 AM on October 5, 2011


Teenagers From Outer Space.

Would this event include TORTURE?
posted by The Whelk at 7:33 AM on October 5, 2011


Houston, MO, in the south-central part of Missouri, is Emmett Kelly's hometown. During the last weekend in April, the town hosts the Emmett Kelly Clown Festival (which would not be for the clown-phobic among us) to celebrate Kelly's famous "Weary Willie" character. If I were to go, I'd wear out my voice by constantly riffing, "Emmett Kelly's still eating! And it's still funny!"
posted by stannate at 10:59 AM on October 5, 2011


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