A Case of Spring Fever (1940)

Noooo Springs!!! Bwee – boo!

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like without springs? Wonder no further. A Case of Spring Fever is one of the classic short films featured on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 that enforces a timeless lesson: be careful what you wish for. When Gilbert Everyman is stuck fixing his couch all afternoon, he screams out in frustration that he never wants to see another spring again, damn it! As he says this, an animated talking spring named Coily appears before him and grants his wish. That’s right. One frustrated remark against his people and Coily exacts revenge by eliminating every spring in the universe.

Coily ‘springs’ into action.

Gilbert quickly realizes just how much he relies on springs in his everyday life. He can’t close the blinds or use the phone. He can’t start his car or use the pedals. It’s a nightmare! Especially since every time Gilbert tries and fails at something that requires springs, Coily is there to mock him with his cackling cry: “NOOOO SPRINGS!” And it’s always accompanied by a bizarre two tone noise (‘bwee boo!’). I have no idea what that noise is intended to mean.

Maybe that’s how Coily farts.

Once he learns his lesson, Gilbert asks Coily if can take back his wish. “Okay,” Coily says, “but just this once.” Just like that, springs are back and all is right with the world. Coily’s gone, though the animation is so awful that he was barely visible in the first place. This may be due to a poor film transfer, but Coily is often placed against a white, overexposed background that he blends into throughout the short. In Coily’s absence, Gilbert spends the rest of the film annoying his golf buddies, describing the minutia of every single different way springs are used in everyday life.

There is a certain paradox, considering that Coily is a spring himself. With all the springs of the world taken away, should he not be vaporized as well? Is he some kind of God of springs, since he introduces himself as a ‘spring sprite’? In the end, he’s still shaped like a spring, and the word spring is in his title, so it stands to reason that he shouldn’t exist in a world without springs.

But the question that truly plagues me is, why? Why does this short exist? What purpose does a film like this serve? Nothing happens here – springs are taken away, then given back. Our protagonist learns to ‘appreciate’ springs as a result. But what’s the point? Usually these old black and white specials are either promoting some product or spreading propaganda for some war effort. A Case of Spring Fever doesn’t advertise anything specific, just springs and elasticity in general. So let’s investigate Coily’s message and try to figure out why someone thought it was important to share with the world.

Jam_Handy_Entrevista_(GuiaMartinez)Wikipedia to the rescue!

It turns out that A Case of Spring Fever was produced by Henry “Jam” Handy, a former Olympic swimmer who earned a Bronze Medal in the 1924 Olympic Games. Handy was an athlete-turned-producer responsible for a lot of bad promotional advertisement type films, especially for auto companies like general motors. Another short produced by The Jam Handy Organization, Hired!, also ended up on an earlier episode of MST3K.

According to tvtropes.org, A Case of Spring Fever was commissioned as an educational film to teach high school physics students the concept of Hooke’s law, which essentially states, you guessed it, that springs rule the world. Now if it’s true that you learn something new everyday, I just met my quota.

This film is in the public domain, so take eight minutes to watch it here. Or if you really want to laugh, watch it with the MST3K riff here.


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    by Dane Youssef

    IT’S THE KIND OF THING that happened all the time back in those days. And by such, I mean that they had these sort of tales in books, movies, magazines and tales around a roaring campfire. They were everywhere at the time. The whole “It’s A Wonderful Life” gimmick applying to some product or device. Ordinary average people cursing the frustration of some product—and wished it away with all their heart.

    A man in the glorious year of 1940 is simply tired of looking at springs when he has to fix the busted couch in his home. He misses a golf game with his buddies. Fed up with even so much as the sight of springs, he utters those words that a lot of the folk in these things would utter: “I wish I’d never been born—er, I mean I wish this particular substance doesn’t existence anymore!” Then right on cue, a little Jiminy Cricket-like cartoon conscience-like character pops up—obnoxiously cheerful and perky. He’s literally a cartoon spring—goes by the moniker of “Coily the Spring Sprite.” Why bother wishing upon a star?

    And we then have to witness how every product that uses this substance just instantly falls apart. He wishes that “I never have to look at a spring as long as I live.” And… every product with a spring in it… now… simply doesn’t.
    Little “Coily the Spring Sprite” casts a spell… sending all the springs in the dear man’s life away. Forever and ever… Well, no. Just until our hero wises up. Not even a full minute, I think.

    Our hero, after getting the inevitable good fortune to un-wish a world free of the burden of springs, is a changed man. He is now over the moon that springs exist. And when he’s finally able to play a game of golf with his buddies, he kills on the golf course. His game puts theirs to shame—while he bores and irritates them to tears by talking about the importance and usage to springs. His pals p It’s like he just had a near-death experience. He becomes the spokesman for spring use. Well, thanks Mr… Hey, you know… they never gave us his name.

    Jam Handy made a nice little string of films to let you know how important and life-crucial the products he and his company was cranking out were.

    How good it is? Oh, it needs to be seen. Why? Because the good people at the affiliate of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” gave it a good once-over.

    Now we’ve all heard that immortal expression metaphor more than one point in our lifetime: “You can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.” I mean… how do you do that? Well, you can turn literal you-know-what into grade A+++ fertilizer. And that’s what “MST3K” always did. Hell, it’s what everyone seems to be doing nowadays. Huh. We’re all living in a very good time.
    “A CASE OF SPRING FEVER” is pretty much pure camp… entirely laughable all by itself. We might not even have needed our beloved angels of salvation from “MST3K” to roast it at the stake. But… I say we should be grateful they showed up anyway. Hell, no one in this day and age would have seen this now-embarrassingly tacky educational ad newsreel if the “MST3K” band hadn’t had their way with it. God Bless them. And everyone else bless them too.

    But… our beloved friends, our guardian angels… the boys at MST3K give it the essential treatment it deserves.

    Jam Handy wants you to know damn well they’re making a product that’s as important to life on this planet as water—as oxygen itself. OK, OK, OK. Springs serve a vital purpose. But we all knew that already. Still… Point made.

    –Now Fully Realizing The Importance of Springs, Nostalgia and Spoof, Dane Youssef

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