As much as I am passionate about Boris Karloff’s anthology television show THRILLER, I throw my enthusiasm to all things science fiction & fantasy toward the 60s series that brought to life some of the most memorable monsters and thought provoking story lines that was The Outer Limits.
As a kid I remember how the shivers of excitement ran through my veins as soon as the control voice began to usher in a new segment as the wavy white lines trembled on the screen. The voice was odd, yet familiar like an intimate stranger who could read your thoughts and knew your deepest fears.
I knew I was in for something majestic and beyond the realm of belief. While THRILLER tapped into my core fears of things that lurked in the shadows of this earthly domain, somehow The Outer Limits managed to propel my fears into the outer reaches of the universe. Still the things that go bump in the night, but more like the night sky.
And so I fondly assign a few of my favorite stories here at The Last Drive In, with follow ups to some more down that unknowing wavy road of life. If you’re not already a fan of this uniquely mind broadening show, then do yourself a favor and a try and catch an episode or two. You’ll see some favorite actors I’m sure, and I bet a Zanti under your bed… if you’re not even moved just a little by it’s poignant– strange and at times grotesquely whimsical way of painting a fantastical moral with some gorgeous visual cues and dynamic acting style to drive the message home and articulate thought provoking & philosophical themes.
The ground breaking postmodern metaphysical world of science fiction & fantasy from the brilliant mind of executive producers Leslie Stevens and Joseph Stefano was far ahead of it’s time. Created by Leslie Stevens. Story consultant Lou Morheim and transcendent musical score by Dominic Frontiere (first season from 1963-64 ) The heavenly awe inspiring music never fails to make my chest heave, as the celestial melody creates the mood of a living breathing universe expanding, a near religious experience of the magnitude of awe that Science Fiction evokes in the hearts of dreamers.
The music for the second season was scored by Harry Lubin. There were 49 episodes in total….
Perhaps the first television show that was truly pioneering, unprecedentedly radical, inventive and even sociological in it’s contribution to the genre. It boasted some remarkable visual effects, and still remains a memorable collection of thoughtful plays that stretch the boundaries of imagination.
The Outer Limits could be considered Science Fiction/Fantasy genre, An anthology series created by Leslie Stevens and narrated by Vic Perrin who was the voice behind the Control Voice. Similar somewhat to The Twilight Zone with more of an earnest tone given rise to more Science Fiction oriented stories
A Daystar Productions–Villa DiStefano. United Artists Television originally aired on ABC with a run from September 16, 1963 – January 16, 1965
With cinematography by Conrad L.Hall, (American Beauty 1999, Marathon Man 1976, In Cold Blood 1967, Cool Hand Luke 1967, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid 1969) You can imagine the vision that framed the stories behind the camera from the genius of Hall’s cinematic eye. John M Nickolaus (House of the Damned and The Day Mars Invaded Earth 1963 both very unique films partly due to the way they were lensed by Nickolaus) and Kenneth Peach.
Utilizing some of the greatest directors like Byron Haskins (Arsenic and Old Lace 1944, War of the Worlds 1953, Robinson Crusoe on Mars 1964) John Brahm (The Lodger 1944, The Twilight Zone, Boris Karloff’s Thriller) Laslo Benedek (The Wild One 1953), Leslie Stevens, Gerd Oswald, Paul Stanley, John Erman, Robert Flory, James Goldstone, Leonard Horn, Felix Feist, Charles Haas, Alan Crosland Jr. and Abner Biberman
Featuring some of the greatest character actors like Martin Landau, Sally Kellerman, William Shatner, Cliff Robertson, Jacqueline Scott, Sidney Blackmer, Robert Culp, Geraldine Brooks, Donald Pleasence, David McCallum, Jill Hayworth, John Considine, Shirley Knight, Jeff Corey, Harry Townes, Harry Guardino, Gary Merrill, Salome Jens, Ed Nelson, Martin Sheen, James Shigeta, John Anderson, Scott Marlowe, Ed Asner, Kent Smith, Joan Camden, Mark Richman, Nina Foch, Phillip Abbott, Gladys Cooper, Ralph Meeker, Jay Novello, Michael Tolan, Bruce Dern, Olive Deering, Henry Silva, Carroll O’ Connor, Barry Morse, Miriam Hopkins, John Hoyt, Marsha Hunt, Don Gordon, George Macready, Neil Hamilton, Walter Burke, Simon Oakland, Ruth Roman, Alex Nicol, Tim O’Connor, Warren Oates, Luane Anders, Gloria Grahame, Nellie Burt, Russell Johnson, Nick Adams, Nancy Malone, Marion Ross, Macdonald Carey, Sam Wanamaker, David Opatoshu, Joyce Van Patten, Signe Hasso, Allyson Ames, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Duvall, Vera Miles, Barbara Rush, Cedric Hardwicke, Malachi Throne, Peter Lind Hayes, Joan Freeman, Abraham Sofaer, Eddie Albert, June Havor, Howard DaSilva, Marianna Hill, Warren Stevens, Robert Webber, Michael Constantine, Crahan Denton, Grant Williams, and Peggy Ann Garner to name some of the acting highlights.
The Control Voice: There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We can reduce the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to… The Outer Limits.
Much of the episodes could be considered stagey and theatrical, with the acting a bit dramaturgical or heavy handed for a science fiction/ fantasy television drama, but as writers David J Schow and Jeffrey Frentzen say in THE OUTER LIMITS:The Official Companion “… embroidered quality of their performances. At times the dialogue seems hammy and intemperate, but since good theatre is not a reflection of the world, but a mirror distortion of its exaggerated for-point-making purposes, the bigger-than-life nature of the players is fitting.
First let me say that I’m a huge fan of Robert Culp! So naturally this episode is very special to me. Culp appeared in a few more episodes of the series, this one being my favorite. At time his performance going beyond sublime. Directed by Byron Haskin with Conrad Hall as director of photography. Dominic Frontiere’s gorgeous score.
One of the most compelling of all The Outer Limits episodes. With Allen’s dilemma torn between his love and devotion to his wife Yvette and the scientific ideals he adheres to. Out of hubris –These misguided scientists trying to do a good thing for humanity, make huge mistakes and wind up destroying one of the blessed things about the world… a family (Yvette finds out she is pregnant right before Allen fakes his death) who has a right to life and love.
The Cast- Robert Culp as Allen Leighton, Geraldine Brooks as his wife Yvette, Leonard Stone as Dr. Phillip Gainer, Martin Wolfosn as Dr Herschel
Is this the day? Is this the beginning of the end? There is no time to wonder, not time to ask, “Why is it happening, why is it finally happening?” There is time only for fear, for the piercing pain of panic. Do we pray? Or do we merely run now, and pray later? Will there be a later? Or is this the day?
An altruistic group of scientists theorize that in order to unite all the people of the earth, there must be a common enemy! Sounds feasible right… So they re-configure in larger size an alien being called a ‘Thetan’ rhymes with cretan…
To unify all the nations around the world against a frightening invasion of extraterrestrials. Essentially, they design to manufacture a ‘scarecrow.’ After pulling names out of a bowl to see which one of the scientists will undergo the grueling intensive physiological transformation by surgical transplantation, reassignment and exposure to environmental conditions similar to that of the planet Theta so he can be turned into a larger version of the little Thetan they keep in a cage. Although the creature is mostly seen in shadow, the sound it makes is hilarious and yet compelling at the same time. Somewhat as if you put a gag on a nasty muppet…
Physicist Allen Leighton (Robert Culp) gets to be the lucky guy. Once transmogrified into the alien, he will pilot a spaceship that will land in front of the UN while in session to confront the General Assembly with a laser gun…
Of course the idea is that every nation will band together to fight this one enemy, but ahhh often the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray… Allen’s ship accidentally lands by the United Labs facility, and as he moves through the woods, with his oversized scaly arms, giant head , bug eyes and backward -jointed bird like clawed feet he is a lumbering monstrosity with a tube up it’s mouth breathing in nitrogen. He uses his laser gun to disintegrate a station wagon to scare a pack of hunters and their dog. The men wind up mortally shooting him.
First the group fakes Allen’s death, whose wife is not only a little psychic but deservingly cynical about the facts surrounding her husbands plane crash. Yvette insists on hanging around the research lab. She has a special psychic link with Allen, and feels sympathetic pangs when he is near. In a touching scene in the beginning the two have a gesture they share where Allen uses his fingers to mark her forehead “Mark against evil”
At the end when Allen finds his way back to the lab, Yvette again feels her husband’s presence and his pain. She runs to the lab where she fins him dying. Just before as the monster, he makes the ‘mark against evil’ on her head. This very special ritual confirms that this was her husband.
Scarecrow and magic and other fatal fears do not bring people closer together. There is no magic substitute for soft caring and hard work, for self respect and mutual love. If we can learn this from the mistake these frightened men made, then their mistake will not have been merely grotesque. It will have been at least a lesson-a lesson at last to be learned.
The monster suit created a huge outpouring of fan mail for the show. Byron Haskin brought in a Hungarian stuntman and acrobat named Janos Prohaska to play the alien. He used stilts that raised him up nearly two feet off the ground. Within the costume, he gripped armatures inside the elbows, he balanced himself to look like a man leaning forward on his crutches. The giant head was designed by Wah Chang, and included functional eyelids, pulsating veins and a bellows-mouth all propelled by air cylinders. Prohaska was literally sealed inside the rubberoid skin, then situated forward on his stilts- he was able to see out of the nose!
Everyone at Projects Unlimited contributed to the costume, though Byron Haskin designed it.
This episode was written by Joseph Stefano (screenwriter for Psycho) and directed by Byron Haskin. Director of Photography was John Nickolaus
The Main Cast: Sam Wanamaker plays Dr. Simon Holm, Phyllis Love is his wife Andrea, David Opatoshu plays Ralph Cashman and his wife Rhea is the marvelous Joyce Van Patten.
The planet Luminos: A minor planet, sultry and shimmering. Incapacitated. Earth scientists have concluded that there could be no life on Luminos, that it is too close to its own sun, and that is inhabitants would be victimized by their own blighting atmosphere. But there is life on Luminos- life that should resemble ours, but doesn’t. Desperate life, suffering a great and terrible need. The Luminoids have begun to search the universe in an effort to gratify that need. They seek a planet on which life is healthy, vibrant, strong and mobile. They need such people to do their work, to labor and slave for them, to manufacture their splendored dreams. The Luminoids need slaves, and they have chosen the planet off which their slaves will be abducted. Not too many at first, a neighborhood-full, perhaps. A neighborhood like mine or yours. Those who will be abducted sleep in dreamy ignorance, unaware that they are about to become the subjects of a grotesque and sophisticated experiment… a feasibility study.
In this poignant and at times startling commentary on human connection, Joseph Stefano’s script tells us about a six block section of Beverly Hills whose residents awake one morning to a strange an altered landscape. The air is filled with a strange particulate rain. The automobiles won’t work, and the phone lines are threaded with a constant static like the scraping of cricket legs along the wires. The entire neighborhood has been engulfed or bordered by a smothering wicked kind of fog. Opatoshu who plays Ralph Cashman drives straight into the nefarious cloud and becomes confronted by aliens in rags who have growths that look like rocks not tumors. Luminous open sores, metallic and stone scabs with oozing lava.
What’s more the landscape is a nightmarish volcanic place of desolation. Ralph is pursued by three tattered rag wearing aliens who are partly composed of a silvery material. When he realizes that they are not on Earth anymore, he manages to escape to warn the rest of the neighbors. The entire episode has a very Lovecraftian tone and texture.
Ralph has already been contaminated by the gaseous cloud, he now shows signs of the luminous silvery mineral growths on his skin. Like a mutant, he barely has the strength to appear before his wife and friends without frightening them. Right in front of his wife Rhea and his close friends Simon and Andrea Holm, shocked…. Ralph is taken away by the teleportation beam.
Simon (Wanamker) discovers a teen hiding in a house.- With the same rebellious nature of any teenager who pushes back against authority he is resistant to his elders. He was spying on the earth people, and shows the same curious eruptions of mineral shiny clustered growths all over his face and body. It’s an effectively creepy scene when he is dared by Simon to come out and show himself-“I’ll go away, if you will!” he says in an odd warbled kind of voice. Suddenly he jumps out into the smokey atmosphere of the manufactured daylight showing his crusty shiny self and forces Andrea to drive him back into the choking white cloud.
Simon chases after them and discovers a “Contemplative Energy Plant” This is like an arena like forum where thousands of these Luminos aliens collectively think and manufacture their dreams. Having lost the ability to be mobile. Most of these aliens have been incapacitated by the growths, unable to move about anymore. The growths grow more rapidly turning from nodules to full grown masses of rock, leaving the alien like an immobilized bolder.
An elder Alien , the Authority reminisces that “vain flesh men” of Earth would prefer slavery to being infected by the touch of the Luminoids and becoming grotesque, motionless rocks. Enough neighborhoods would survive to give them enough man power. This would justify the infection of a few of the earth neighborhoods to collect the rest of Earth’s population.
In his dictatorial commentary he tells Simon, “Since no single fraction of life-energy is wasted on meaningless movement… all energy, all the mad, monstrous force of it is made available to the mind. Can you comprehend the scope and skill of minds that are never drained, never dulled? Minds like nuclear birds, soaring to the most splendored dreamings in the universe.”
Simon arranges a meeting in the local church, and discovers that his wife Andrea has too been infected by the disease. Just by merely breathing in the air inside the car with the Luminoid teenager.
Then Ralph Cashman comes into the church, the disease progressing much more quickly now, like a leper he is at first shunned. Simon asks these chosen people, to make this feasibility study unsuccessful by allowing themselves to all be infected. That way no one on Earth would be a viable slave for their work.
In a most powerful scene, one which usually continues to make me tear up, the group all join hands, people of different ethnicity, faith, and uninfected to stand as one people to fight this terrible abduction and enslavement of the Earth. To sacrifice themselves to save the rest.
“Do not enter upon or cross this area. Do not touch or remove possibly radioactive dirt or rocks. If you have any knowledge concerning this disappearance, please contact your nearest police department.” It could have happened to any neighborhood . Had those who lived in this one been less human , less brave, it would have happened to all the neighborhoods of the Earth. Feasibility study ended. Abduction of human race:infeasible.
According to Joe Stefano, A Feasibility Study is the most humanitarian script of the series. The characters in this episode are very strong and defined. Andrea is a very independent woman, who is considering leaving Simon to go off and do her work as a photographic journalist. Pushing back on the notion that she must remain by Simon’s side as a dutiful wife. By the end, Andrea has had her adventure and Simon has emerged more open minded as well as less complacent and more courageous. The thing that finally bonds the shakily married couple together.
The arrogant toned voice of the Authority was provided by British character actor Ben Wright (he played the head of the Nazi party in The Sound of Music ) whose clear and dulcet yet air of pretension set him apart from the earth characters.
“That Veil of gas clouds you wandered through is little more than a deterrent, similar to those brick and mortar things you erect on Earth. But the humming you hear, that is what will keep you strong and useful. As anyone who has listened to a great, demonic speaker will tell you, wound waves can reach and subjugate the most recalcitrant organism.” -The Authority
The episode while science fiction in it’s pure narrative, comes across like a gothic and ghostly scare story, with the use of fog and lumbering beings in the shadows. Perhaps one of my all time favorite episodes for it’s acting and moodiness, I am also taken by it’s humanitarian out cry for human nature to ascend to it’s best potential.
As noted in THE OUTER LIMITS:The Official Companion- The set where all the Luminoids go to commune and dream called the Contemplative Energy Plant does resemble a Dantean Hell, in contrast to the very ecumenical church that the abducted earthlings wind up joining hands in common sacrifice.
Written by Jerome Ross and directed by Laslo Benedek. Conrad Hall was the director of photography.
The Cast: Donald Pleasance plays the unassuming everyman Harold J. Finley, trapped in a thankless career and loveless marriage to Vera (Priscilla Morrill) his boss at the university Dean Radcliffe is played by Edward C. Platt
In the course of centuries Man has devoured the Earth itself. The Machine Age has dried up the seas of oil. Industry has consumed the heartlands of coal. The Atomic Age has plundered the rare elements-uranium, cobalt, plutonium -leaving behind worthless deposits of lead and ashes. Starvation is at hand. Only here, in the void of space, is there a new source of atomic power. Above us, in the debris of the solar system, in the meteorites and asteroids, are the materials needed to drive the reactors. Yet in their distant, silent orbit, these chunks of matter are beyond the reach of human minds. Driving along a country road in an ordinary car is a modest man: Harold J. Finley, quiet and profound.
Donald Pleasance has always been masterful at playing the common man, the simple man, yet the profoundly thoughtful man driven by principles and intelligence walking solitary against the system. Here as Harold Finley, he conveys such a sympathetic anguish to contribute something of himself to the world. The episode opens with a truck filled with workmen pruning the limbs of trees. They are blocking Harold’s passage home. He is a passive college instructor who is demeaned by his boss, brow beaten by his harpy wife and now intimidated into going out of his way home, instead of just being allowed to simply pass.
Not long after he detours, a nefarious blistering electrified smokey cloud spewing sizzling sparks and white hot bolts of arcing fire manifest in the sky above. This deathly cloud annihilates the tree trimmers with one zap.
Harold is tired of his work at the college and wants to participate in an experiment in space research. He has invented something called a ‘link-gate’ which when implanted in the human brain triggers an energy force, allowing them to harness cosmic power that is then synthesized into a laser beam. The surgery is done on Harold, who then demonstrates how he can levitate a half-ton meteor fragment, just by focusing his thoughts on the object. The implant leaves a grid like scar on the forehead that pulses when ever Finley begins to manifest his Id like rage.
The team of scientists are encouraged to see a simple man, a meek and mild man able to do an extraordinary task, imagine the ‘link-gate implant in one of their best astronauts who could telekinetically work on their mining operation in space.
Harold’s feeling of inferiority and wish-fulfillment is best demonstrated here when talking to Astronaut Steve Crandon. “You astronauts have brought a whole new vitality to bear on the business of living. There’s been nothing like you since the old pioneering days. You make up for all the kicks in the teeth that the rest of us have to bear. Just do me one favor-don’t wait til you’re my age to make your mark. Do it while you’re young and strong and vigorous. Do it right now!”
But poor Harold has so much repressed anger and resentment that this new power that’s been bestowed upon him has given birth to this unconscious electrical cloud monster that appears every time Harold is feeling dismissed or demeaned. Harold has harnessed this hostile energy which now destroys anyone who he perceives to be his enemy. Influenced by Harold’s growing rage, the cloud vaporizes his boss who doesn’t approve of Harold’s project diminishing his self-worth Harold’s anger brews until the crackling cloud emerges Dean Radcliff’s bedroom and vaporizes him right in his own bed right in front of his horrified wife. Later it attacks his nagging wife Vera when she humiliates Harold who brings astronaut Steve Crandon from the group of scientists working on the project home to have supper with he and his wife. Naturally Vera is rude and demeans Harold in front of Steve. Suddenly, the cloud blasts Vera off a ladder while she is cleaning the windows, then later again in the living room, Vera begs Harold to spare her life when the angry mass throws her around the room a bit. For the first time in their marriage, Vera finally has a little respect for her humble husband, the man with the power.
Harold has too much moral integrity and realizes that the ‘link-gate’ is too powerful a force to be left in the hands of humans. That emotion and human nature are a dangerous unexamined factor in owning such a force.
Harold protests the implantation of the ‘link-gate’ into the young astronaut Steve Crandon (Fred Bier). They give Harold a sedative to keep him quiet realizing that he might try to sabotage the surgery, but his unconscious mind is so powerful that the cloud stops the surgery taking out a nurse and a surgeon along the way. Poor Harold realizing that he doesn’t have the right to own such power says regretfully, “If I have such power, then I don’t want to live” ….
The snarling snapping crackling bolts of energy and gaseous gray matter vaporize Harold Finley into oblivion…
Deep beyond the kindest gentlest soul may lurk violent thoughts, deadly wishes. Someday… Man will learn to cope with the monsters of the mind. Then, and only then, when the human mind is truly in control of itself, can we begin to utilize the great and hidden powers of the universe.
Leslie Stevens had a tremendous amount of input, although uncredited on the creative aspect of this episode, as well as the entire series. As quoted in The Outer Limits: The Official Companion-“I became very much a part of “The Man With The Power” and the concept of the ‘energy flux’ which was “the cosmic substance of the universe” It was his notion of how “A simple little nobody gains power over the whole world”
Written by Milton Krims. based on a Dan Ullman script titled Project Vulcan. This episode is directed by Charles Haas and Kenneth Peach as Director of Photography.
The cast includes: Brig. General Jefferson Barton played by the melodramatic actor William Shatner. His wife Ann Barton played by Geraldine Brooks. General Matthew Claiborne played by Lloyd Gough, Dr. Mike by character actor Malachai Throne
The most brilliant planet in our solar system is Venus, named for the goddess of love. It is closer to Earth than any other planet-twenty eight million miles away. Until sometime in the last half of the twentieth century it is still a planet shrouded in mystery, enveloped in a heavy blanket of clouds and steam. Because it’s surface temperature was believed to be several times that of Earth’s. it was not thought possible for Man to reach Venus and come back… until one day, somebody did it.
Astronaut Jeff Barton manages to reach far into the universe during his mission called Project Vulcan. A colonization of the planet developed for human settlement on Mars. Barton successfully lands on Venus. But once he returns home, he can not recall what happened during a radio black out. Plus, strange things are happening to his body temperature. He can not maintain a warm enough level, as it drops to ninety one degrees. Constantly craving heat, drinking as much steaming hot cups of coffee and taking super heated steam baths. While in the steam room, Barton has a terrifying nightmarish flashback of the Venus mission. He is assailed by Venusian creatures who look almost demonic plant species. Ethereal boogeymen with glowing eyes, pineapple skin and wild hair like those little troll dolls of the 70s.
These little space imps peer through the porthole at Barton, beckoning him in a frightening, menacing manner. When He awakens from his trance in the steam room, he has grown scaly skin and webbed fingers. It seems that his body has somehow adapted to the conditions of the Venusian planet. Barton conceals his transformation because he wants to continue with the project. Jeff just can’t get warm enough. He accidentally sets his arms on fire, in front of his friend Dr. Mike who spills the beans with NASA. Their specialists conceive of a way to revert Jeff back to his old comfy temp, by putting him in an isolated pressure chamber set at two hundred degrees. Once they do this, they find that his hemoglobin has also been converted to an alien strain which has been reassigning his metabolism.
So… up goes the thermostat which forces the aliens out of Jeff’s body, he gets the go ahead on his project, though he has to wear gloves because he has burned his hands, but the first sign of sweating after another treatment proves that his body is back to normal, and these eerie extraterrestrials are no longer in control.
The eternal never-ceasing search for knowledge often leads to dark and dangerous places. sometimes it demands risks not only of those who are searching but of others who love them. These, in their own special way, know that knowledge is never wasted, nor is love.
Written by John Mantley, originally title “The Reluctant Monster” Story by William R. Cox, based on the novel Flatland by Edwin Abbott first published in 1884-a story about a two dimensional world.
Make up artist Harry Thomas designed the Eck costume, before electrification and after.
The actual episode was intended to be a comedy. Much of it due to Eck’s almost conscience-stricken nature. Like the monster who doesn’t really understand til it’s too late that he’s really frightening! Also ironic is the fact that Eck has four eyes and needs glasses! Eck is a very likable character, though comical bordering on cartoon like. His dilemma is compelling as an accidental tourist who wreaks havoc in a trendy city where no one understands him. Another comedic aspect to the narrative is how Eck becomes electrified when he bumps into a television set… Perhaps an inner joke about the state of television and the modern world.
“I’m sorry to have caused so much difficulty” -Eck
Byron Haskin directs with cinematography by Kenneth Peach. The cast includes Peter Lind Hayes as Dr. James Stone, Joan Freeman as Elizabeth Dunn, Parley Baer as Dr.Bernard Stone, Douglas Henderson as Det. lt. Runyon, Jack Wilson as Sgt. Jackson, Marcel Herbert as Miss Willet, Sammy Reese as George Wilkenson and Eck himself Lou Elias.
Since the first living thing gazed upward through the darkness, Man has seldom been content merely to be born, to endure, and to die. With a curious fever he has struggled to unlock the mysteries of creation and of the world in which he lives. Sometimes he has won. Sometimes he has lost. And sometimes, in the tumbling torrents of space and time, he has brief glimpses of a world he never even dreams…
Dr. James Stone (Peter Lind Hayes) discovers an other worldly being named Eck, a four eyed four appendaged electrified blintz that has an animated quality to it. Eck is a wayward drifter from a two-dimensional world, who falls through a rift, a sort of tear in the universe where he finds himself on Earth. Unable to convert himself back to the two dimensional perspective so he can slip through and find his way home, he relies on Dr. Stone who is an Optometrist.
Eck smashes his way through several optometric labs in the New York City area and terrorizes anyone wearing the special prescription glasses 109, which are made from quartz taken from a Meteor. This special lens makes Eck visible to people! Eck has the ability to pass through any Earthly matter, as long as he turns himself sideways that is. He manages to create havoc when he mistakenly runs through a thirty seven story office building splitting it in half!
Dr. Stone gets a glimpse of Eck in his lab when he puts on the Prescription 109 glasses, right before he gets whacked in the face by the wild and flat guy. He theorizes the existence of a two dimensional being, and befriends Eck being the altruistic scientist that he is.
Eck too is a compassionate traveler who seeks desperately to repair the tear in the dimensions of the universe so we don’t all tumble into oblivion.
Of course conflict arises when Dr. Stone the benevolent pacifist’s militant brother Bernard just wants to blast Eck to smithereens! He leads the police equip with flame throwers to his brother’s lab. But they fail to destroy the four eyed cutie… Once the police leave, Eck shows himself to Dr. Stone who quickly prepares a special lens just for Eck, so that he can see clearly to finding his way back through the rip… Behold… Eck escapes this hostile world and goes back home to Flatland.
The control voice cradles us with this consequential reminder…
Paradoxically Man’s endless search for knowledge has often plundered his courage and warped his vision, so that he has faced the unknown with terror rather than awe, and probed the darkness with a scream rather than a light. Yet there have always been men who have touched the texture of tomorrow with understanding and courage. Through these men, we may yet touch the stars…
John Hoyt is the man behind the gentle Bifrost alien of The Bellero Shield. Let’s face it, he’s one of the cutest most endearing aliens to ever fall to earth on a brilliant beam of light.
Written by Joseph Stefano. Loosely based on a short story by Leo Zagat called The Lanson Screen published in the December 1936 Thrilling Wonder Stories. Directed by John Brahm. Cinematography by Conrad Hall. Starring Martin Landau as Richard Bellero Jr., Sally Kellerman as Judith Bellero and as Bellero Sr. Neil Hamilton. With a guest appearance by Chita Rivera as Mrs. Dame.
There is a passion in the human heart that is called aspiration. It flares with a noble flame, and by its light Man has traveled from the caves of darkness to the darkness of outer space. But when this passion becomes lust, when its flame is fanned by greed and private hunger, then aspiration becomes ambition–which sin the angels fell.
Inventor Richard Bellero Jr’s newest laser device fails yet again to impress his militant-pacifist father(Neil Hamilton) who plans on passing him over for the position of chair at the Bellero Corporation. The laser beam device accidentally intercepts an alien being from a plain of existence that ‘hovers just above the ceiling of your universe’ Literally a world of light.
Richard and the Bifrost alien are both explorers, curious about the universe and driven by their desire to navigate it’s mysteries. They share this passion and are both akin in that way. Yet Richards good intentions and the glowing ‘light’ of the benevolent Bifrost alien can not over shine the darkness that looms at the Bellero estate.
Richard asks- “How did you come here?”
Bifrost Alien answers- “Hum, I am more urgently concerned with the question of how shall I survive here. If I may remove my shield.”
Richard- “Please please you may… do!… That shield”
Bifrost -“Without it we could not travel into such un-serene universes at this. Your meteors and your random radiations. I shall go!”
Richard pleads with him.. “No don’t!”
Bifrost Alien- “I already see another of your weapons… distrust.”
Judith breaks in- “Perhaps you could explain to him that we’re not all scientists Richard. In our world naiveté and mindless courage are reserved for very small children and very dedicated scientists. The rest of us will just have to struggle along with our distrust of monsters.”
Bifrost Alien- “I’m not afraid now and I apologize.”
Richard asks him to stay. The bifrost alien asks him how he was able to create a solid cylinder of amplified light.
the kindly alien is curious how he could have synthesized compounds that had properties of his planet’s atmosphere he could not have known about….
The Bifrost alien glows a brilliant soft white, his radiance and aura show him possessed of a refined sense of gentility and keen perceptibility. His luminous glimmer almost shines from within, Both Stefano and director Brahm intentionally wanted him to be perceived as having an inner light. “We did a lot of experimentation on that” said Gene Warren. “We tried Scotchlite, a beaded front-projection material invented at 3M. It reflects light” But the problem was that it only reflected from one angle, and since the camera and alien moved around a lot it wouldn’t project the shimmer that was needed. What wound up being used by cinematographer Conrad Hall was a glob of vaseline on a pane of glass, held in front of the camera and kept in sync with Hoyt’s movements. “The light reflected through the vaseline and spread out in emanating rays” said Hall.
The Bifrost alien shows Richard his ability to create an impenetrable shield that allows him to travel along a beam of light between his world and the earth. Richard sees this as the ultimate defense against impending wars to come. But Richard’s wife Judith (Sally Kellerman) is an opportunistic femme fatale who is only interested in her husbands success and status. All she wants is for Richard to be awarded the chairmanship at Bellero Corp. Judith and Richard’s father have hated each other for years, but finally sees this visitation as a way to win favor with Bellero Sr.
Judith shoots the kindly alien, who quickly understands her nefarious persona, but cannot stop fate from playing it’s hand. Judith hides him in the wine cellar with the help of Mrs Dame (Chita Rivera) There is a certain lesbian undertone to the two women’s relationship. Not unlike Mrs Danvers from Rebecca, her worship of her mistress is beyond mere servant. Rivera is a wonderfully dark and sinister lady-in-waiting as she creeps around the house bare footed like a jungle cat always stalking in the shadows. When we first see Mrs. Dame the camera focuses purposefully on her bare feet. Stefano envisioned her character that way. Stefano was also inspired by the relationship between the two women murderesses in Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques (1955)
Judith steals the alien’s device which is a little palm held button that is part of the alien’s anatomy connected to a vein. When she removes it it leaks a white liquid.
The thing could protect her whole country from attack but it would do no good with out one of his people handling it.
when the bifrost alien says he didn’t promise to wait for Richard to bring back his father, Judith shoots him.
Judith and Mrs Dame bring him into the cellar. It’s ghoulish and very poe like. Dame is like Danvers with her adoration of Judith.
Richard’s father is summoned to the house by Judith who proceeds to demonstrate his son’s “Bellero Shield” But as fate often punishes those who meddle with nature in these Outer Limit’s morality plays– Once Judith is surrounded by the invisible shield, she discovers that while the force field is impervious to bullets and bricks and lasers and the like, she also trapped eternally inside the impenetrable shield. Oh and, there’s a limited amount of oxygen to go around. Poor dear…
When Bellero senior finds out the truth about the alien he goes to the wine cellar to see for himself. Mrs. Dame being a protective ‘what ever she is’ is enraged by Bellero Senior’s accusations and bitter remarks about Judith and clunks him on the noggin and he falls down the cellar stairs where he lands near the alien, whose eyes suddenly open.
The Bifrost alien weakened by the ordeal manages to make it back to the laboratory. He hasn’t lost his gentle trusting nature. He is like an innocent wanderer who can’t believe in the evil’s of man.
“When she borrowed the thing, she accidentally broke the vein. My fluid is like your blood… the prime ingredient.”
The Bifrost alien’s voice is so mesmerizing and humanely sympathetic that it’s stayed with me for years. I love John Hoyt although it would be hard to see passed the Bifrost alien’s make up to recognize the actor with the wonderful make up by Fred Phillips, John Chambers (Wah Chang– Planet of the Apes)
The benevolent alien uses some of it’s milky white lifeblood to free Judith from her self-imprisonment and then bursts into a glorious show of sparkling white light.
Judith has become mad from having caused such terrible events, while not necessarily remorseful she’s definitely in shock. When she tries to approach her husband she stops short, moving her hands across an invisible barrier that is no longer there. She whispers, “Nothing will ever remove it” Not unlike Lady Macbeth who rubs her hands together trying to get out that damned spot, having been driven mad from her malicious deeds. A close up shows a little smudge of alien blood on her hands, to make the point.
Stefano openly touted the fact that The Bellero Shield was inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth. And in keeping with the theme of utilizing Shakespeare as a point of reference in film, the name of the space ship in Forbidden Planet a sci-fi take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest was called the Bellerophon. The name Bellero is in fact a derivation of the Greek story of Bellerophon, the son of Poseidon. great grandson of Atlas who dared to fly too high for Zeu’s liking, finding his wanderlust arrogant, knocking him off his high horse (Pegasus). “Like Richard, Bellerophon roams the globe in sadness for the rest of his days”–Schow and Frentzen. In perhaps the most telling line that harkens back to Macbeth, it is delivered by Neil Hamilton who plays Bellero Sr. “Great men are forgiven their murderous wives!”
The control voice brings us back home with this little farewell missive–
-When the passion called aspiration becomes lust, then aspiration degenerates, becomes vulgar ambition, by which sin the angels fell-
The Bellero Shield is particularly dear to me, not only for its message and the fine acting, but the Bifrost alien is so gentle natured and innocent that he grips my heart with the kind of pathos Frankenstein had done years ago and still does in the classical horror genre sense. When the Bifrost alien asks Judith what a minute in earth time is, she spouts a poetic riposte “It passes unnoticed when you’re content. For the needy it can be a string of endless lifetimes” Judith is a maudlin, brooding figure who cannot be satisfied in life. Her husband also has the innocence like the Bifrost alien of a child whom discovery is like a new toy filled with wonderment.
He approaches the humans with a sweet kind of courtesy, as Schow & Frentzen put it “he is The Outer Limits most elegant visitor.”
So much of The Outer Limits worked as morality play, combining a science fiction sensibility with much of the classical, psychological themes found in Norse, Greek and Biblical Mythology and psychological noir lensed shots with it’s take on the darker sides of human nature and even pseudo-religious undertones of faith, fate, ethics, retribution and consequence.
The control voice speaks of sinning angels, allusions to the bible. The Bifrost alien himself is sort of an angelic figure who literally falls to earth from a place drenched in ‘light’
Mrs. Dames calls the alien a ‘ghost’ His presence strikes fear in her heart because to her it is proof of life after death and eternal damnation. She had killed her husband. She realizes that she will have to pay for her sins. She asks if the alien is “…. Something dead? That won’t die?” Judith tells her, “No, it isn’t a specter Mrs.Dame. It’s real. And it’s alive. And it’s ours.”
Judith refers to the Bifrost as the “Trembling Way’ an evocation to the rainbow bridge that leads to Asgard, home of the Norse gods and to Midgard, the world of mortals. She even calls the shield, “our Bifrost… to what for me would be heaven–power, far-flung holdings, undiminishable authority”
In Norse mythology, Heimdall guards the Bifrost, he like the alien has a keen perception, he can hear the sounds of grass growing. Stevens really wanted to infuse The Outer Limits with an attachment to the fantastical stories of myth and literature, to give it an epic sense of revelation.
Much like the very first episode The Galaxy Being starring Cliff Robertson (an episode I will cover later on) His universe probing wanderlust of the heavens brings another benevolent visitor down to earth. Another alien who like his inquisitive earthling counterpart is intercepted when he fiddles with radio waves.
Also like the misunderstood Galaxy Being, The Bifrost alien is far more humane than the human monsters who lurk about, plotting and divesting the kindly custodians of the universe of their lives and their good works. Judith and Mrs Dame are the dark and malefic forces who wander the halls of the house causing ruin and blood shed. Even if that blood is milky white.
The Bifrost alien is sympathetic as well as unaware of the manipulative humans who are using him for their own purposes. This is what ultimately is his undoing. And while Richard is quite aware of his wife’s darker more self serving intentions, his blindly ignoring her, also leads to a kind of self-destructive end.
WE NOW RETURN CONTROL OF YOUR TELEVISION SET UNTIL THE NEXT TIME!!!!!-YOUR EVER LOVIN’ MONSTERGIRL