If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em, Then Beat ‘Em

Toad Warriors – This episode seems to be a favorite, or at least it is with the guys who host the podcast on Hard Times. I can’t say I disagree, as I tend to like it when Toad takes a starring role. I can’t say I’ve seen any of the Mad Max movies, but I know they’re set in a post-apocalyptic Australia, which appears to be only slightly different from modern Australia. The plot of the second one, The Road Warrior, involves a desert compound guarding some reserves of gasoline, which is a precious commodity in that society. In the Mario universe, the precious resource is instead tomato sauce, with King-of-the-Road Koopa having stolen most of it, planning to sell it back at inflated prices. The Mario crew learns about a fort where Mushroom rebels are making their own sauce. As Toad is driving the others through the creatively named Car Land, a State Troopa with a mohawk pulls them over. Some of the rebels recognize their Princess and take her to the fort in a helicopter made from a trash can. Toad distracts the Troopa by taunting his Bob-omb, allowing the Marios to escape. As Mario is driving down the road, there’s another bit with him admiring himself in the rear view mirror. Mario, Luigi, and Toad jump from their car before it hits a truck, ending up in the sky where Toad grabs a star. They land in the rebel fort on top of mattresses. Koopa and Mouser, who have some interesting outfits this time around, bring in the Thunder Birdo, a giant Birdo who spits explosive eggs, to attack the fort.

“Thunder Birdo” is actually pretty clever (for this show), as it seems to be playing on both Thunderbird cars and the Thunderdome.

Mario drives a tanker truck full of sauce, although the tanker looks more like a ketchup bottle, away from the fort, and he and the Princess take out the pursuing Troopas. Luigi flies the helicopter, despite insisting that he can’t fly, and can’t even drive. I’m trying to remember if we see him driving at all in the show. I know he flies a biplane in a later episode. And moving beyond the show, there’s Mario Kart, although a kart isn’t exactly the same as a car. Toad, meanwhile, uses his star and becomes the Toad Warrior (the name actually being suggested by the Princess), with a leather jacket, a spiked helmet in place of his mushroom cap, and a motorcycle.

He distracts Koopa by drag racing with him, and the villain ends up falling in the Grand Koopa Canyon, which Toad jumps across on his bike. When the star’s power runs out, the motorcycle turns into a tricycle for some reason. And Mouser is blown up a few times for good measure. The episode ends with Mario drinking sauce directly from the tanker, but we never find out whether the good guys ever get back the sauce that Koopa stole.

E.C. the Extra Creepy – Mario, who is wearing his usual outfit but with a tie, is going on a computer date, who turns out to be an alien robot named E.C. It seems like the writers weren’t sure whether to go with alien or robot jokes, so they do both. Despite the title, it really doesn’t have anything to do with E.T. When E.C. shows up, she immediately does a bit that’s both taking a metaphor literally and removing a body part, hence combining two common robot gags into one. She later eats a wrench and gets caught in a feedback loop. She reminds me a bit of Frankenhooker, actually. The only particularly noteworthy thing I see that the actress who played E.C., Clare Carey, was in prior to this was Waxwork. The “computer date” bit at the beginning is to set up a later line from Luigi that Mario is actually dating a computer, although she’s also from space. It ends with her being recalled to the mothership because Brooklyn cannot support quality life. This segment makes heavy use of the wacky music that’s one of three or so recurring pieces not originating in a Mario game.

The Fire of Hercufleas – “Hercufleas” might be one of the silliest parody names used on this show, although it’s a pretty tough competition. As usual, there’s no real joke to it; it just sounds goofy. This was an episode that the Hard Times podcasters apparently did review, but it was lost somehow and they aren’t anxious to redo it. Anyway, the legendary hero is an old friend of Toad’s who lives in the city of Mythis, and the Mushroom Retainer thinks he can help defeat King Koopa. As usual, the reptile just happens to be in the same place. Mouser drives by in a chariot, and Mario and company pretend to be statues, something that would happen again in Super Mario RPG.

The gang finds that Hercufleas has grown fat and lazy, and now works as the guardian of the Great Balls of Fire, a bunch of magical floating fireballs inside an urn. Some Beezos in Corinthian helmets show up to steal the urn, and Koopa intends to use the fire for destruction and to lower his heating bill.

There’s a scene where Mario and Luigi jump into a fountain to escape the fireballs, and while you don’t see it for very long, the statue there appears to be really busty.

Anyway, the brothers use the Official Brooklyn Plumbing Academy Workout to get Hercufleas back in shape, which happens in pretty much no time. Maybe it’s part of his being a demigod or something. Of course, Mario doesn’t get any thinner from the workout, but he’s super-athletic despite being pudgy. We also see that Toad can lift Hercufleas, going along with his unusual strength from Super Mario Bros. 2. When Mario, Luigi, and Hercufleas go up against Koopa, they knock away his fireballs with pipes and a pillar. Toad falls down a hill and grabs a Fire Flower, meaning he’s powered up in two consecutive episodes. His color scheme in super mode is the same as in the first few cartoons, with his cap being red with white spots.

Koopa uses up the Great Balls of Fire in a fight with Toad, and escapes in a chariot. The song in the original airing was, of course, Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire,” which was also used in the Super Mario Bros. 3 episode “Princess Toadstool for President.” Obviously, it’s cut from the DVD releases in both cases. Toad is then able to reignite the fire with his fire power, even though I thought it was supposed to be some kind of mystical sacred flame. But then, we really don’t know how any of this works. We see that there’s now a statue of Toad in Mythis to celebrate the mushroom’s heroism, but we don’t know who carved it or how they did it so quickly. I have to wonder why Triclyde wasn’t in this episode, since one of Hercules‘ labors was to kill a snake with multiple heads.

The Marios Fight Back – This segment parodies something I wasn’t really familiar with, although the concept is fairly simple, a show called Fight Back! that tested advertising claims, hosted by David Horowitz, who just died ten months ago. Horowitz is the guest star here, investigating whether Mario Brothers Clog Cleaner can actually remove any clog in three minutes. He apparently brought a sink to the apartment, because what else can you do when you only have one set? After applying a bunch of cleaner to the sink drain, and also using a wrench in the basin for no apparent reason, Mario accidentally knocks out Horowitz with the cleaner can. Ever notice how much unconsciousness there is in these bits? Mario and Luigi, now out of clog cleaner, instead use plant food that I guess they also invented in the drain, then leave to get pizza. When Horowitz comes to, he finds out that the clog has turned into a one-eyed monster that attacks him, then he runs away. As such, there’s no real resolution, but I have to suspect the broadcast wasn’t very helpful to the brothers’ plumbing career.

Count Koopula – This is one I had on VHS, complete with the cover song, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The Mario gang is in Turtlevania during a rainstorm, and when Mario tries to eat some spaghetti that he was keeping in a Chinese take-out box, a Tweeter bat steals it.

There are also Snifit spiders later in the episode. The writers only had two games to work with at this point, so they were limited somewhat in terms of creatures they could use. Later games would introduce both bat and spider enemies. Anyway, they pursue the bat to a creepy castle that Luigi says looks like a boarding house for vampires, to which Mario insists, “Nobody believes in vampires anymore!” Didn’t they meet vampires at least twice while still living in Brooklyn, according to the live-action segments? When they enter the castle, they’re greeted by a disguised Mouser, whom nobody recognizes until Toad rips off part of his costume.

Mouser has his own alter-ego this week, Mousigor, despite the fact that I associate Igor more with Frankenstein, and he didn’t use this name in the later “Koopenstein.” The character doesn’t appear in either novel, and the hunchbacked assistant in the 1931 Frankenstein film is actually named Fritz, but somehow a hunchback named Igor came to be a stock assistant not just for Frankenstein but for Dracula as well. If they’d wanted to go for accuracy, I guess Mouser could have been Renfield (Rodentfield?), although he was a worshipper of Dracula rather than an assistant. The bat returns and drinks the tomato sauce from Mario’s spare ravioli, although when they show the inside of the box it’s totally empty. What happened to the pasta? Count Koopula, who is also a tomato sauce sucking vampire, shows up to taunt the heroes, but they escape through a laundry chute into a cellar where sauce is stored in wine bottles on racks. The Princess using a fire-breathing Piranha Plant to take out some Snifit spiders, while Koopula turns his Troopas into wereturtles, basically turtles with lupine features.

Toad mocks one of these monsters by saying, “Naughty turtle! You’ve been hitting the SAUCE again!”, and then throwing another bottle in its mouth. Were kids not supposed to get the reference to drunkenness? Mario and company enter a trapdoor that leads to a factory where zombie Goombas are crushing tomatoes for sauce. When Mario tastes the product and comments that it needs garlic, the Goombas start flinging tomatoes at them. They’re off-screen at the time, so I’m not sure how they do this without hands. Koopula takes his enemies to Count Koopula’s Torture Chamber, Wax Museum, and Dungeon of Horrors, a pretty good joke even if there aren’t any wax figures that we can see. Mario is waterboarded, Luigi’s foot tickled with a feather, and Toad stretched on a rack. The Count takes the Princess away to turn her into a vampire. The others get away when Toad tricks Mousigor into turning the rack too much and breaking it, which is pretty far-fetched. At least have someone comment on how flimsy it looks first. They do another stake/steak pun, after which Toad suggests using garlic, which was missing from the sauce because vampires hate it. The three of them eat cloves that Mario happened to have in his overalls, and Toad doesn’t like it. But then, I like some things with garlic in them but wouldn’t want to eat a whole clove, so there’s nothing particularly strange about that. Toad pulls down a curtain to expose sunlight and Mario breathes garlic in Koopula’s face, causing him to turn into a bat and fly away. The Mario Wiki points out that we never learn how Koopa became a vampire, or why he apparently isn’t one anymore after this. Maybe whoever bit him in the first place was killed, breaking the curse. That’s a thing with vampires, right?

Magician – Luigi learns the magic words to make objects disappear from Harry Blackstone Jr., whom I remember appearing regularly on Square One TV. He starts with a basketball, which Magic Johnson had made vanish in an earlier bit accompanying a Zelda cartoon. Blackstone leaves to have lunch with Eric Estrada, and Luigi makes a bunch of stuff disappear, including eventually Mario. Mario apparently just becomes invisible instead of actually vanishing, as he can still talk and attack Luigi. Finally, Blackstone comes back and tells Luigi the words to make things reappear.

Pirates of Koopa – I’ve seen this one listed as “Pirates of THE Koopa” before, which I guess is supposed to be like Pirates of the Caribbean. What’s weird is that a few characters in this mention the Caribbean, like they forgot they’re in another world. Why didn’t they just go with “Kooparibbean”? Do I have to do the writers’ job for them thirty years later? It starts out with Mario and friends working on the ship of Captain Clump, a guy whose pegleg is longer than his regular one, meaning he has to hop around a lot. I’m not sure why he can’t get it trimmed down, but I guess that wouldn’t be funny, not that it’s especially so anyway. He also has a parrot named Patches. They’re on the ship because they’re on their way back to the Princess’ castle, which I thought it was established Koopa had taken over. It would be just like this show to only mention retaking the castle in passing, but it’s even more like it to not keep this consistent. I wonder where they’re on their way back from. Turtlevania, perhaps, although I don’t think these are aired in any particular order. I’d like to map out the locations from the show, but there’s often no real indication as to where anything is. I suppose Car Land must be somewhere in the Mushroom Kingdom, as the Toads there acknowledge the Princess. Mythis could potentially be in or near the Lake Kingdom from Super Mario Odyssey, as it had some Greek-style architecture. Could Turtlevania be in the Ruined Kingdom? That seems appropriate. Captain Clump is the only one who will sail through these waters, as Blackbeard Koopa has established a reputation there. The ship is surrounded by clouds, which Mario saws through to look at his surroundings. Blackbeard Koopa shows up on his ship with a bunch of Troopas, Goombas, and Bob-ombs. What he doesn’t have is a beard, despite his alias.

He captures the Princess, ties the others to the mast, and drills holes in the ship so it sinks slowly. Mario’s advice is to jump up the mast, which almost works until they hit their heads on the crow’s nest. When Patches hits his head, it’s surrounded by cartoon stars, and Mario gets the idea to use one as a star to enter his super state. Mixing cartoon and video game physics again, are we? They’d actually do this same basic thing again in the Super Mario World cartoon. Mario knocks out the Trouters in the water, and the crew sails in the detached crow’s nest toward Pirate’s Port. I’m not sure how they know they’re going in the right direction, or for that matter how Clump knows where it is anyway, but they reach it as Koopa is holding an auction for the Princess. Doesn’t he want to take over her kingdom instead of just selling her? It’s especially weird considering he tried to buy her from the Sultan back in “Mario’s Magic Carpet.” Anyway, Mario and Luigi show up in disguise as Long John Spaghetti and Captain Kidder. Luigi orders a milk at the bar, and Mario adds “in a dirty glass,” a gag that appears to have originated with the Road to… movies, like several others in this show. It looks like it was lemonade there, but apparently milk is sort of a theme in this episode, as earlier Luigi tried to sing “One Hundred Bottles of Milk” while they were tied to the mast. Hey, Mario would eventually be in a “Got Milk?” commercial.

Anyway, Luigi bids a billion gold coins for the Princess, and while Koopa is excited and distracted, Toad unlocks her cage and she uses the cage door to knock out her captor. The song during the ensuing fight scene is “Limbo Rock,” which doesn’t make a lot of sense. There weren’t any pirate-related, or at least sailing-related, songs they could use? The good guys take over Koopa’s ship and throw their nemesis out into the sea. Why don’t they keep him captive and insist that he free the Mushroom People? Maybe that’s not something heroes are supposed to do, or maybe they think his innumerable minions will save him. It didn’t go so well for Mario when he imprisoned Donkey Kong’s son. More likely, however, is that the writers just didn’t even consider it, and considered the temporary defeat enough of a resolution. Regardless, I thought it was a pretty fun episode.

Do You Believe in Magic? – This is Magic Johnson’s second appearance on the show. Why didn’t I write about the first one? Well, because it accompanied a Zelda episode, and I haven’t been reviewing those. In that one, “Magic’s Magic,” he showed up in Mario and Luigi’s medicine cabinet, told them he’d always wanted to be a magician, and practiced some magic tricks that kept going awry. And yes, this means there have been three live-action bits so far with some form of the word “magic” in the title. This time, he’s back in the cabinet, likely because his parts were filmed remotely, and asks Luigi to fix his trophy. Kind of a weird job for a plumber, but whatever. When Luigi leaves the room, Mario throws a bunch of stuff that’s lying around into the furnace. Luigi comes back and suspects that the trophy was among this stuff, and they end up beating a piece of metal into a trophy, only for Magic to say that wasn’t his. It turns out Luigi was using the actual trophy to stir spaghetti sauce, while the metal that Mario threw into the furnace was Luigi’s favorite shaving mug.

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