The Great Villain Blogathon 2016: True Crime Folie à deux: In Cold Blood (1967) & The Honeymoon Killers (1969)

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It’s here again! THE GREAT VILLAIN BLOGATHON 2016!

One of the most dread inspiring Blogathons, featuring a slew of memorable cinematic villains, villainesses & anti-heroes… Thanks to the best writers of the blogosphere Kristina of Speakeasy, Ruth of Silver Screenings and Karen of Shadows and Satin!

Folie à deux (/fɒˈli ə ˈduː/; French pronunciation: [fɔli a dø]; French for “a madness shared by two”), or shared psychosis, is a psychiatric syndrome in which symptoms of a delusional belief and hallucinations are transmitted from one individual to another.

a·mour fou (ämo͝or ˈfo͞o)

1. uncontrollable or obsessive passion.

“The puzzle and threat of random violence is one of the defining tropes of true-crime”-Jean Murley

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Scott Wilson as Dick Hickock and Robert Blake as Perry Smith
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The real killers Perry Smith and Richard ‘Dick’ Hickock

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In Cold Blood (1967) is director Richard Brooks (The First Time I Saw Paris 1954, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 1958, Elmer Gantry 1960) masterpiece of modern nightmarish nihilistic ‘horror of personality’.

The film went on to receive four Academy Award nominations: Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Original Music Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Columbia studios actually wanted Paul Newman and Steve McQueen to play the roles and wanted it shot in color. Newman went on to do Cool Hand Luke that year and McQueen starred in The Thomas Crown Affair and Bullitt in 1968. Thank god Brooks got his way and got to do his treatment in Black & White, on location and with lesser known actors, who both went on to earn Oscar nominations for their chilling performances of the murderous pair.

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Robert Blake, Scott Wilson and director Richard Brooks on location for In Cold Blood (1967)
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Author Truman Capote and director/screenwriter Richard Brooks

Life Magazine NIghtmare Revisted

A post-war true crime thriller, what author Elliot Leyton terms Compulsive Killers: The Story of Modern Multiple Murder, the film is steeped in expressive realism about two thugs Robert Blake as Perry Smith a dark and damaged swarthy angel of death & Scott Wilson  (In the Heat of the Night 1967, The Gypsy Moths 1969, The New Centurions 1972, The Great Gatsby 1974, The Right Stuff 1983) as Dick Hickock, who inspire in each other a sense of anti-establishment negativity.

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These two drifters, having heard about a wealthy wheat farmer from a fellow inmate, think there is a safe in the house filled with $10,000. The two dark souls take siege upon the rural Holcolmb Kansas Clutter family in the middle of the night, hog tie them, look for the money, only to find this clean cut humble family has nothing to steal but $43, a bible and pasteurized milk in the icebox. The two proceed to shot gun murder and cut the throats of the entire household so there are… “No witnesses.” Dick Hickock. There are two surviving daughters, Beverly and Eveanna that were spared this horror.

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Robert Blake as Perry Smith, John Forsythe plays Alvin Dewey head of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Scott Wilson as Dick Hickock… being brought in…

John Forsythe plays Alvin Dewey head of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation who goes on the hunt collecting clues and tracking down the killers involved in this sensational crime.

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Alvin Dewey (John Forsythe) Reporter Bill Jensen (Paul Stewart) who writes for the weekly magazine. Reporter Jensen tells Dewey that it’s a strange co incidence that Herb Clutter writes his first insurance check and that the policy paid $40,000 which pays a double indemnity of $80,000. Dewey-“You’re not here to write something new, what is your interest?” Jensen “Fairly basic” Dewey-“What’s basic about a stupid senseless crime… A violent unknown force destroys a decent ordinary family.” Jensen-“No clues, no logic. Makes us all feel frightened, vulnerable” Dewey- “Murders’ no mystery. Only the motive…{…} Someday, somebody will explain to me the motive of a newspaper. First, you scream, “Find the bastards.” Till we find them, you want to get us fired. When we find them, you accuse us of brutality. Before we go into court, you give them a trial by newspaper. When we finally get a conviction, you want to save them by proving they were crazy in the first place.”
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In this semi-documentary police procedural post noir crime thriller Alvin Dewey studies the bloody boot print left at the Clutter murder scene.

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Dewey tracks down these two bad boys, who have fled to Mexico where Perry (Robert Blake) loses himself in fantasies and painful flashbacks of his childhood with a violent father, whoring mother, of buried treasure, and prospecting for gold. Dick (Scott Wilson) gets tired out languishing around listening to Perry’s dreams and convinces him to head back to the States, passing bad checks along the way and winding up in Las Vegas. The police finally catch up with the murderous anti-social duo, where the men are finally broken of their alibi, and they are sentenced to die by ‘the big swing’ hanging.

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Alvin Dewey takes Perry back to the night of the terrible crime…

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Mrs Clutter calmly asks –“Please don’t hurt the children”

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Dick-“Make one move, holler once and we’ll cut their throats.”

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Herbert Clutter: “Why do you boys want to do this? Dick: “Shut up!”
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Perry-“Floyd Wells lied to you. There isn’t any safe.”
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Perry morbidly superstitious and brooding, while Dick entertains a working girl in the bed across the room, has flashbacks to the night his father (Charles McGraw) finds his drunken whoring mother playing around. Perry’s father proceeds to beat her in front of him and his siblings. Painting a picture of Perry Smith’s traumatic beginnings.

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Flashback to Perry as a little boy.

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Some scenes after Mexico…

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In Cold Blood… not quite the kitschy romance and allure of John Schlesinger’s wandering pair in the outré slick Midnight Cowboy (1969) starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight.

on the streets passing bad checks

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In the clothing store, Dick who often refers to Perry as hon or some such affectionate diminutive–wipes the sweat off Perry’s brow and says “Easy baby… look casual.”
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the charming and fast talking Dick passing bad checks around
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Perry tells Dick- “You’re good you’re really good. Smooth. No sweat no strain You’re an artist boy.”
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buying supplies for the robbery/murder
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Dick: “Did you see those guys? They coulda robbed us!” Perry: “What of?” Perry: “That was stupid – stealin’ a lousy pack of razor blades! To prove what?” Dick: “It’s the national pastime, baby, stealin’ and cheatin’. If they ever count every cheatin’ wife and tax chiseler, the whole country would be behind prison walls.”

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Perry is superstitious he watches the nuns with a sense of foreboding… it’s a lurking bad omen for sure.
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stealing cars and changing plates

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Holcomb, Kan., Nov. 15 [1959] (UPI) — A wealthy wheat farmer, his wife and their two young children were found shot to death today in their home. They had been killed by shotgun blasts at close range after being bound and gagged… There were no signs of a struggle, and nothing had been stolen. The telephone lines had been cut.
The New York Times

Perry Smith led by police into the Garden City Kansas courthouse on Jan. 6 1960 charged with first degree murder
the real Perry Smith led by police into the Garden City Kansas courthouse on Jan. 6, 1960 charged with first degree murder.

The film is based on Truman Capote’s non fiction novel that started the True Crime trend. Capote was looking to write a non-fiction novel and had been inspired by the shot gun murders of the Clutter family when the sensational crime hit the news in 1959.

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Defense lawyer Duane West in court with real killer Richard “Dick’ Hickock.
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Capote, Wilson and Blake on the set of In Cold Blood in Kansas…
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The Herbert Clutter family portrait

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The two were arrested on January 2, 1960 in Las Vegas and then executed by hanging on April 14, 1965. For the five years the two remained on death row they exchanged letters with Capote twice a week. Capote actually lived near the prison in Garden City and became very close in particular with Perry Smith and Richard ‘Dick’ Hickock. According to Ralph F. Voss in his book Truman Capote and the Legacy of ‘In Cold Blood’ he writes that Smith had the idea that talking with Capote would spare him from the noose. But when he learns of the working title of the manuscript he winds up confronting Capote, who manages to manipulate him into confessing about the night of the Clutter murders.

Clutter NEWSPAPER CLIP

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Real life killers Perry Smith and Richard ‘Dick’ Hickock… the mug shots…

Capote tells Smith that “The world will see him as a monster if he doesn’t open up and tell Capote what Capote wants to know.” Eventually Perry Smith does open up and relates that brutal night in a vivid confession to Capote that winds up being “memorable lines that appear in the book”. As Voss tells us, “It is during this confession that this film, like the book and like both Richard Brook’s and Jonathan Kaplan’s film’s before it portray the brutal murders of the Clutters. Capote marks the fourth time Herb, Kenyon, Nancy and Bonnie die in artistic representations of their tragedy–once in Capote’s pages, and three times on screen.”

Robert Blake Scott Wilson and Truman Capote

The film doesn’t necessarily convey the emotional conflict that Capote felt for his subjects which is more obvious in his novel, he also created a connection with the killers that would be shared by the reader. According to writer Jean Murley from The Rise of True Crime: The 20th Century Murder and Popular Culture, “The simultaneous evocation of compassion for the murderer and horror at his deeds makes In Cold Blood a new form of murder narration… Capote’s narrative treatment of his subject would draw the reader into an uneasy and unprecedented relationship with killers, creating a sense of simultaneous identification and distance between reader and killer.” Murley asserts that there is a comfortable distance the reader experiences, “a vicarious thrill, a jolt of fear, and a comforting reassurance that the killer is contained.”

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Dick about to hang

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The spectre of the rope behind Perry

Dick faces the gallows

Just one more point about Capote’s novel that Jean Murley makes which I think is pretty revelatory about the killer (Perry) referred to as ‘sweet, suave and fascinatingly fatal’… ‘ who was at once a devious and dangerous loner and a sensitive wounded man’ within that is the notion that Murley distills the ‘ambiguity and intensity of the reader/killer relationship that allows the writer to interrogate notions of good and evil, self and other.” The film while starkly angled from the killers point of view for a good deal of the film, doesn’t quite evoke that same sympathetic enigma, though Robert Blake does an incredible job of portraying a wounded soul.

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The real life angry mug of Richard ‘Dick’ Hickock

Conversely Dick Hickock is described and masterfully pulled off by Scott Wilson as “vulgar, ugly, brutal and shallow; he looks like a murderer (the real Hickock looks like a vicious punk) and he wants to rape Nancy Clutter before before killing her. Perry Smith is sensitive, handsome, artistic, a dreamer; sickened by Hickock’s lust (there is a scene in the film while the two are in Mexico where Hickock is drinking & carousing with a local working girl in the room with Perry) in the film Perry prevents the rape. And in keeping with the book, Perry almost loses his nerve to even go through with the robbery, getting sick in the gas station right up to the time they drive up to the Clutters property. There is some emphasis on Dick’s relationship to his cancer ridden father (Jeff Corey) which showcases the only genuine connection he has to humanity.

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While Dick visits with his sick dad, he takes the opportunity to steal a rifle from the barn.
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(Dicks dad watching the news about the murders ) Mr. Hickock “Terrible thing that happened” Dick replies like this… “I’ve never been so hungry in my life.”

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Dewey comes to interview Dick’s father (Jeff Corey) who is dying of cancer and he tells them the last thing Dick ever said before he left was “Pa, I ain’t never gonna do anything to hurt ya. And he meant it too.”

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Dewey (Forsythe) shows Perry’s dad (McGraw) a photo to confirm his son’s identity.
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Perry’s father was worked in the rodeo back in the day

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Mr. Smith “Well then I guess I haven’t seen him for 5 or 6 years, that’s no surprising though he’s a lone wolf. You guys can rest easy on one thing for sure you won’t be having any more trouble with Perry. He’s learned his lesson for sure. He wrote me from prison I wrote him right back pronto. I taught the boy is you take your punishment with a smile. And I didn’t raise you to steal. So don’t expect me to cry.just because you got it tough behind the bars. Perry’s no fool. He knows when he’s beat you fella’s got him whipped forever. The law is the boss. He knows the difference between right and wrong. You can bet on that because I taught my kids the golden rule. Always tell the truth, always wash in the morning, always be sober and independent. And I showed him how. How to prospect how to trap fur how to carpenter how to bake bread how to be his own boss. Yes he’s a chip off the old block….”

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In particular Capote became very attached to Perry Smith, and struggled with demons about his execution, believed that both men’s natures were impacted by their early roots in poverty. Capote was tormented because he sold his soul to the devil, in order to write this ‘real’ book fueled by a tragic story that ultimately results not only in the murders of the Clutters but in the deaths of his subject of interest Perry Smith who went to the gallows. As Voss calls it, “the cost of literary non-fiction”. He also came to the conclusion that neither man was by himself a mass-murderer, but linked together they fed each-others egos and compensated for their inadequacies, as John McCarty says, “by constantly arousing and bolstering certain expectations of one another, they evolved into a potentially violent third party that was more than capable of murder.”  

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Eventually Capote would publish his true crime tome in The New Yorker in four installments between September and October of 1965, published as the book in 1966, and becoming a huge success adapted to film in 1967.

As Jean Murley points out in Rise of True Crime, The 20th-Century Murder and American Popular Culture “Capote brought together and perfected the nascent conventions of what would become true crime, and his basic formula has been copied ever since.”

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The film is elevated to a level of intense and searing reality due to brilliant cinematographer Conrad L. Hall’s  (Edge of Fury 1958, The Outer Limits television series 1963-64, Harper 1966, Cool Hand Luke 1967, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid 1969, The Day of the Locust 1975, Marathon Man 1976, American Beauty 1999) incredible eye for scoping out a palpable environment filled with dread, tension and instability in the normally ordinary settings. Either mastering the closed in spaces between figures who shape the narrative, he also captures the alienation in the scenes when the duo are driving through the dirty dusty openness of the Great Plains. The additional moody atmosphere is lent a heightened sense of anxiety by Quincy Jones’ cool score. The film cast includes; John Forsythe as Alwin Dewey, Paul Stewart as Reporter Jenson, Gerald S. O’ Loughlin as Harold Nye, Jeff Corey as Mr. Hickock, Charles McGraw as Mr. Smith, Sammy Thurman as Mrs. Smith, Will Geer as The Prosecutor.

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The incredible opening scene when Perry is sitting in the dark of the bus, strumming his guitar and the little girl watches for a brief moment…

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Rev James on phone with Perry at Bus station
In the beginning scene Perry calls his friend Reverend James Post who tells Perry that he’s already broken parole because he quit his job, and not to dare enter into Kansas. It is a warning that Perry still has time to redeem himself before there is no turning back.
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Perry gets off the bus and calls from the terminal waiting for his friend who is getting paroled that day and meeting Perry there. Reverend Jim Post tells Perry “What ever you do don’t cross that river into Kansas”  This scene acts as a premonition while Perry shivers, tears up and just assigns himself to his fate. He was supposed to meet Willy J there. “Can you tell me where he went?… please Jim.” his voice quavers sweaty crying as if he knows that his life is about to turn for the worse. “Its very important, maybe the most important thing in my life” Rev. Jim Post tells him ‘Go back why not see your father.” Perry hangs up. It is his first fateful decision of the film…

The film opens with a starkly gloomy night scene, Quincy Jone’s slick score leading us into the scene, as a Greyhound bus heads toward the camera. Inside, Robert Blake dark and brooding is sitting with his guitar. Conrad L Hall lights Perry’s intense face with the strike of a match he uses to light his cigarette. In a powerful moment it accesses our full attentions. Perry blows the little flame out and all at once the scene is wiped out in one puff! The film begins to peak our senses of danger in much the way Robert Siodmak’s masterpiece of film noir The Killers (1964) opening had led us into the plot.

As Jürgen Müller eloquently says it in his overview of 1960s cinema –“In Cold Blood opes with a flash and stealthily proceeds to trap its prey in a fog of eerie cinematic expression, born of its black and white photography and Quincy Jones’ dark jazz score.”

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In November of 1959 Kansas, two ex-cons and social outliers, the quiet , yet brooding Perry Smith (Robert Blake) and hyper-kinetic egotist Dick Hickock (Scott Wilson) conspire to go out on an adventure to travel 400 miles in a beat up old Chevy, in order to rob the Clutter family farmhouse. The film is part genre of the dark road trip film as the two maneuver, scheme and machinate on their dark road trip toward their fate. True crime flash back, neo-noir, police procedural, the shades of gray between good vs evil and a moral commentary on the death penalty, allowing the narrative to elicit sympathy and a vision from both murderers point of view, the ‘outlaws perspective’. It is still a very sobering view into the minds of the human offal of society.

Perry Smith’s most infamous statement about the crime, “I thought he was a very nice gentleman. Soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat.” 

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Perry talks about his cellmate Willy Jay refer to him (Perry) as being ‘unstable, explosive’ and him laughing about it being true. Dick comments that Willy Jay was a flaming faggot, Perry says he was the best friend he ever had…

Dick had been fed some gossip by an inmate friend, that Herbert Clutter (John McLiam) a wealthy farmer keeps a fortune, $10,000 stashed in his safe at the house. The two decide that it would be an easy job to grab the loot and head for Mexico, leaving their hard lives behind them. What becomes a spiraling coil of nerves, is fed from both Perry’s apprehension about the plot working and Dick’s cock sure attitude. In the twist of fate, it is Perry’s growing inner aggression that becomes the catalyst for the final annihilation of the family. Though Dick acts the part of punk, saying ‘No Witnesses he is not only priming Perry to be the one to have blood on his hands but by this time it is Perry who at first seems hesitant and adverse to violence, explodes in cold nuclear fission of seemingly senseless bloodshed.

The way In Cold Blood is constructed, it begins to release the tightly wound coil as the two draw nearer to the Clutter home, we are introduced to this clean cut American family in their daily life, in the light of the day, showing the family as an ordinary close and loving bunch right before they are about to be slaughtered. By the time the two men arrive, it is the dark and ominous shadow of night cloaking the ranch. Perry and Dick begin to wrangle the family bringing the men down to the basement tied up. But it is the day after the murders once the police arrive and told later on in flashback that we get hints of the savagery, that we could only imagine was about to happen the night before.

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Officer standing-“There’s two more in the basement”

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Officer Harold Nye (Gerald O McGlaughlin) asks Alvin Dewey (Forsythe) in the basement of the Clutter Home crime scene “The old Kansas myth. Every farmer with a good spread is supposed to have a hidden black box somewhere filled with money” He also asks if he thinks it’s the work of just one man. Dewey “It could be one man… a mad man…”

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The Kansas police begin their search in vain, as Perry and Dick make it to Mexico to hide out. Dick who is interested in partying with the senóritas Perry living half in surreal flashbacks to his bleak beginnings as a child with several siblings and his mother a beautiful Native American woman who liked her alcohol and other young men and committed suicide. His brutal father who drew a shot gun on him and chased him out of the house. Perry had a grim, sad and claustrophobic life, and thus he fantasizes. Perry makes a reference to digging for gold just like Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madra 1947. The irony of him finding empty bottles in the dessert that only yield a few cents, which he shares with a young homeless boy and his grandfather is a particularly humanizing scene in the midst of the fatalistic outcome that is inevitable. Perry never meant to amount to anything but a lost dreamer with no home.

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Perry tells Dick -“I think… you’re a bastard…”

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Not only is Perry a dreamer, but Dick is an egomaniac and also has delusions of grandeur. Once the two figure on having to come back to Nevada in order to get some cash, they are quickly picked up by the authorities and charged with the murders. Soon after, they realized they will be facing the death penalty.

Perry revisits that night at the Clutters, flashing moments of the night on the screen. We see them fumbling for the non existent safe. The mass murder that only yielded them a mere $43.  We see Perry and Dick rummaging through the house looking for anything valuable. Hall’s camera finally settles on the family coldly bound, gagged and positioned in a certain way that sends chills up the spine. Ultimately it is here that it is revealed that its the reluctant and quietly brewing fury inside Perry that goes on a single rampage and executes each family member calmly and cold-bloodily.

I guess the only thing I'm gonna miss in this world is that poor old man

Perry starts to break
“I guess the only thing I’m gonna miss in this world is that poor old man.” referring to his father.

Once again, Jürgen Müller-“The contradictions of the characters give the audience an inkling of what might have led to this senseless act of ultra violence.”

There is an element of homo-erotic attraction between Perry and Dick. It is unspoken yet it’s palpable to me, amidst the warm beer, faded treasure maps, dark brooding antagonism, prison scars, tattoos, sweating, greasy hair, aspirin popping, peacockery, wise-cracking resentment toward society and the morally driven nuclear family of the mid to late 50s.

Perry great shot bed tattoo

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From Movie Psychos and Madmen-Film Psychopaths from Jekyll and Hyde to Hannibal Lecter by John McCarty- McCarty’s chapter on Killer Couples points out how Capote’s film was the most “famous example of this type of lethal psychological interrelationship.” And though Smith had boasted to Hickock that he wasn’t a stranger to killing before that fateful night where his pent up aggression turned violent and he cold-bloodily killed four innocent people. Hickock was the one who “earmarked the Clutters for robbery, and it was he who engineered the heist by passing bad checks to buy the materials needed for the job. More important, it was Hickock, who was the dominant half of the pair.” Hickock appears the alpha male who uses the term ‘faggot’ too easy and Smith the submissive lover within the dynamic of their odd relationship. McCarty goes on to write, “Smith looked up to him and slaughtered the defenseless Clutters, toward whom Smith admitted later he never felt any anger, as a way of proving himself to his more glib, brash, and manipulative buddy.”

Deadly Duo

“You’re good. You’re really good! Smith tells Hickock who moves with ease as he proceeds to con a bunch of store owners passing bad checks. And on the flip side, Hickock is also impressed once Smith kills the helpless Clutters whose only provocation to violence is that they are ordinary. McCarty’s insight points out that like Leopold and Loeb, the same function worked for that killer pair, the less dominant wound up being the one who perpetrated the murder, while the more controlling “partner lent immoral support.”

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Will Gear as the prosecutor
Will Gear as the Prosecutor: “Mercy for them. The killers. How fortunate that their amicable attorneys were not present at the Clutter house on that fateful evening. How very fortunate for them that they were not present that evening to plead mercy for the doomed family, because otherwise, they would have found their corpses too. If you allow them life imprisonment, they will be eligible for parole in 7 years. That is the law. Gentlemen, 4 of your neighbors were slaughtered like hogs in a pen by them. They did not strike suddenly in the heat of passion, but for money. They did not kill in vengeance, they planned it for money. And how cheaply those lives were bought. $40. $10 a life. They drove 400 miles to come here. They brought their weapons with them. [picks up a shotgun]… This shotgun. [picks up a knife] This dagger [picks up a rope] “This is the rope they hogtied their victims with. [picks up a vial of blood] “This is the blood they spilled. Herb Clutter’s. They who had no pity, now ask for yours. They who had no mercy, now ask for yours. They who shed no tears, now ask for yours. If you have tears to shed, weep not for them, weep for their victims.” [picks up a copy of the Holy Bible] “From the way the Holy Bible was quoted here today, You might think the word of God was written only to protect the killers, but they didn’t read you this: Exodus 20:13: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Or this: Genesis 9:12: ‘Who so sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.’
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Perry and the spectre of the rope

Here is a recently released article in the Smithsonian about Capote’s long time friend and writer Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird).

Read Harper Lee’s Profile of “In Cold Blood” Detective Al Dewey That Hasn’t Been Seen in More Than 50 Years

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From the Smithsonian.Com Reprinted here for the first time, the article was published five years before Truman Capote’s best-selling book

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Dick: [to Perry, just after arrest] “Hey, Buddy, put in a call for that big, ol’ Yellow Bird!”
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Dick begins to flip on Perry

The Big Yellow Bird he is referring to is a symbol, a warrior angel that comes to him in his dreams It is his savior, a protector he had during his dark days. He describes the bird as being “taller than Jesus, yellow like a sunflower.” 

The irony of the film plays itself out in little subtle commentaries like the insurance salesman who wishes Herb Clutter the night before he is murdered “A very long and healthy life” or the moment in Las Vegas, Dick at the wheel of the car wanting to gamble because he’s feeling lucky, at that split second the police car pulls up next to them and the scene cuts away to the Perry and Dick being brought in to the station.

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Dick: “I don’t know gold dust from diarrhea!”… Dick: [to Perry] “I’m SICK of it, maps, buried treasure, ALL OF IT! So ship it, burn it, get RID of that ton and a half of garbage! There AIN’T no buried treasure, and even if there WAS, boy, hell, you can’t even swim!”
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Perry says to Dick-“You know, there’s got to be something wrong with us to do what we did.”
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Dick: “Next move… Mexico. Once we beat it out of the country.” Perry: “On what? $43 and a smile and bullshit.” [First use of the word ‘bullshit’ in a Hollywood film] Perry: “It’s true! Really true! We’re on our way and never coming back. Never! And no regrets.”
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Dick: “For you. You’re leaving nothing. What about my old man… and my mother? They’ll still be there when my checks start bouncing.” Perry: “It’s nice the way you think about your folks. Dick: “Yeah! I’m a real thoughtful bastard.”
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part of the opening sequence once Perry gets off the bus and heads to the men’s room to wash up

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While at the bathroom mirror Perry fantasizes about being a huge celebrity playing the circuit in Las Vegas.

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Dick: “You guessed it, chief. It’s the smile that does it. Like it says in the commercials, the family that sticks together lives forever.” Perry: [to himself, looking in a bathroom mirror] “Stick ’em up!” Perry: “Hey, buddy!” Perry: [realizing he’s being watched] “How long you been standin’ there?” Dick: “Long enough to catch your late late show.”
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Perry Smith sympathetic
Perry: [quoting his father] “Look at me boy! Take a good look! Cause I’m the last living thing you’re ever gonna see!”
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Dick-“Hey Andy, does it tell anywhere in those big books what happens when you take the big drop?”
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Andy-“Well your neck breaks… and you crap your pants.”

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Dick-“Hey Andy say hello to Mr. Jenson he’s writing the story of my life.” Andy asks “Why?” and Dick giggles and tells Jenson how Andy killed his entire family.  “Andy’s a nut but I like him!” Jensen asks “What about Perry don’t you get along?” Dick says,“Heck there ain’t nobody get along with him. There’s 5 guys waiting in here for the big swing. Little Perry’s the only one yapping against Capital Punishment” Jensen surprised asks,”Don’t tell me you’re for it” Dick answers, ”Hanging will only get ya revenge. What’s wrong with revenge. I’ve been revenging myself all my life…”
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And the most senseless gist of the whole story… Perry explains: “It doesn’t make sense. I mean what happened. It had nothing to do with the Clutters. They never hurt me. They just happened to be there. I thought Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman… I thought so right up to the time I cut his throat.”

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Jensen: “I see, the hangman’s ready. What’s his name?”
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Perry: [his last words] ‘I’d like to apologize, but… who to?’

Continue reading “The Great Villain Blogathon 2016: True Crime Folie à deux: In Cold Blood (1967) & The Honeymoon Killers (1969)”

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon! The Doomsday Bride & Bitter Blood of Lily Mortar

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Thanks to Silver ScreeningsA Small Press Life and Font & Frock–we’re celebrating the work of Miriam Hopkins!

Miriam Hopkins

Miriam Hopkins has a luminous, quiet dreamy beauty.

Born in Savannah Georgia Oct. 18th 1902 she died Oct 9, 1972-a chorus girl in New York city at the age of 20 she made her first motion picture after signing with Paramount Pictures called Fast and Loose (1930).

In 1931, she raised some eyebrows in 1931’s horror thriller Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde directed by Rouben Mamoulian’s.

In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Miriam Hopkins portrayed the character Ivy Pearson, a prostitute who becomes mesmerized by Jekyll and Hyde a tale of sexuality in revolt. Though many of her scenes were cut from the film she still managed to get rave reviews for the mere 5 minutes she spent on the screen.

Frederick March & Miriam Hopikns

Frederick March walked away with the Oscar for Best Leading Man in that horror gem. Miriam Hopkins had been up for the part of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind being that she was an authentic Southern lady, but the part… of course went to Vivien Leigh… “As God as my witness they’re not going to lick me”

Miriam would make three pictures with  Ernst Lubitsch, The Smiling Lieutenant 1931, Trouble in Paradise 1932, and Design for Living 1933. Design for Living being my favorite!

From Wikipedia-Nevertheless her career ascended swiftly thereafter and in 1932 she scored her breakthrough in Ernst Lubitsch‘s Trouble in Paradise, where she proved her charm and wit as a beautiful and jealous pickpocket. During the pre-code Hollywood of the early 1930s, she appeared in The Smiling Lieutenant, The Story of Temple Drake and Design for Living, all of which were box office successes and critically acclaimed.[4] Her pre-code films were also considered risqué for their time, with The Story of Temple Drake depicting a rape scene and Design for Living featuring a ménage à trois with Fredric March and Gary Cooper.

William Wyler revising the film release of The Children’s Hour 1961, had been based on his original theatrical presentation with Hopkin’s in what was called These Three (1936). In the remake, she plays Aunt Lily Mortar to Shirley MacLaine’s troubled Martha, stepping into the role that Hopkins once portrayed.

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These Three (1936) starring Joel McCrea, Merle Oberon and our Miriam Hopkins as Martha Dobie in William Wyler’s toned down version of the Lillian Hellman play

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THE CHILDREN’S HOUR 1961

IMDb trivia: William Wyler cut several scenes hinting at Martha’s homosexuality for fear of not receiving the seal of approval from the Motion Picture Production Code. At the time, any story about homosexuality was forbidden by the production code.  

Directed by William Wyler, cinematography by Franz Planer (Criss Cross 1949,Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1961) working with Wyler they used effective mood changes with his lighting, creating an often provocative atmosphere. The film showcases some truly great performances by the entire cast, Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine and James Garner (who sadly passed away on July 19th of this year.) Including Veronica Cartwright and Fay Bainter. Miriam Hopkins mixes a sad yet infuriating empathy toward her flighty judgmental and often elusive tie to the theatre she harkens back to. She is incapable of being there for her tormented niece.

The story concerns the struggle of two young and independent women trying to make a go of it by running a private boarding school for adolescent girls. The intrusion of a lie, ultimately founded on a malicious rumor concocted by the spoiled young niece Mary Tilford (Karen Balkin) begins to spread like deadly poison that Karen (Hepburn) and Martha (Maclean) are having a lesbian relationship. And the lie proceeds to ruin Karen’s engagement to Joe, worried parents flood to the school to pull out their children at risk of being exposed to that ‘love that dare not speak it’s name!’ and basically causes the ruination of Karen and Martha’s dream.

Whether the idea be true or not, the wake of the devastation of all the lives involved lead to poetic & unfortunate tragedy.

Martha and Karen’s quite independent business relationship and personal friendship seemed to challenge very conventional standards of a woman’s role, creating an uncomfortable pall over the town, the school and the women involved in the scandal, and we sense this dis-ease on film. This all seems to feed the accessibility of suspicion when Mary makes her accusation, fueled by things she’s overheard Aunt Lily recklessly say about Martha.

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Mrs. Lily Mortar“Friendship between women, yes. But not this insane devotion! Why, it’s unnatural. Just as unnatural as can be.”

Mrs. Lily Mortar: Any day that he’s in the house is a bad day. You can’t stand them being together and you’re taking out on me. You’ve always had a jealous, possessive nature even as a child. If you had a friend, you’d be upset if she liked anybody else. And that’s what’s happening now. And it’s unnatural. It’s just as unnatural as it can be.

Mrs. Lily Mortar: God will punish you.

Martha: He‘s doing all right.

Miriam Hopkins, is an added unpleasant moral eccentric and parasite who feeds off Karen and her niece Martha who have always had an apparently strained relationship because she’s money-grubbing, spineless and a user right from the beginning.

Miriam Hopkin’s Aunt Lily glides through the film like narcissus’ secretary waiting for that great part that is never coming. Supposedly on tour with a drama company, or just avoiding the scandal, when she could have cleared the women’s reputations and saved the school from being shut down.

At time’s she histrionic, over-theatrical, melodramatic and a relic of bygone days. Like an obsolete thespian Harpy who lingers around the house, tormenting poor Martha who is struggling with her own inner demons that Aunt Lily seems all too well to recognize.

Aunt Lily trying to stir up dramaturgical dust while teaching her pupils elocution, she shows herself to be out of fashion, a bit of an outcast, and as dried up as the dead flowers, the young conniving and at times socio-pathic Mary steals from the garbage to give to Lily as a ruse for being late to class.

Aunt Lily is needful, maneuvering and scheming as she insinuates herself into the lives of Karen (Audrey Hepburn) and her niece Martha (Shirley MacLaine) A non stop know it all… with a showy flare for dramatics.

At the school, Aunt Lily teaches the girl elocution lessons, music and theatre which is perfect for her narcissistic compulsion to inflate her own ego while pushing her highfalutin ideas of breeding “breeding is everything”. Lily is materialistic, money hungry and will use Martha for whatever she can get out of her.

After Lily accuses Martha’s relationship with Karen as being ‘unnatural’ And how her mood changes when ever Joe, Karen’s fiance (James Garner) is in the house. Martha throws her out. Paying her off so she’ll stay away. Hopkins does a truly perfect job of being the parasitic opportunist who offers nothing but grief.

I loved Miriam Hopkins  as the gutsy Mrs. Shipton -‘The Duchess’ in The Outcasts of Poker Flats 1952.

Until 1970 when like most great screen sirens, who seemed to inevitably get handed that part of Grande Dame Guignol caricature of the fading Hollywood star. Hopkin’s last film was the brutally disturbing Strange Intruder in 1970. She playing the recluse Katharine Parker, who is befriended by a psychopathic woman hater, then terrorized by him- John David Garfield (Yes son of the great John Garfield). Gale Sondergaard plays her companion Leslie who staunchly remains at her side to no avail.

While Miriam Hopkins who played Martha in the original film These Three (1936) agreed to play the part of Martha’s Aunt Lily,  Merle Oberon, who played Karen in the original film, turned down the part of Mrs. Tilford.

Mr. Happy… Bosley Crowther once again fangs the performances of The Children’s Hour with his serpentine wit. Published in The New York Times review March 15th 1962

“But here it is, fidgeting and fuming, like some dotty old doll in bombazine with her mouth sagging open in shocked amazement at the batedly whispered hint that a couple of female schoolteachers could be attached to each other by an “unnatural” love.

If you remember the stage play, that was its delicate point, and it was handled even then with a degree of reticence that was a little behind the sophistication of the times. (Of course, the film made from the stage play in 1936 and called “These Three” avoided that dark hint altogether; it went for scandal down a commoner avenue.)

But here in this new film version, directed and produced by the same William Wyler who directed the precautionary “These Three,” the hint is intruded with such astonishment and it is made to seem such a shattering thing (even without evidence to support it) that it becomes socially absurd. It is incredable that educated people living in an urban American community today would react as violently and cruelly to a questionable innuendo as they are made to do in this film.

And that is not the only incredible thing in it. More incredible is its assumption of human credulity. It asks us to believe that the parents of all twenty pupils in a private school for girls would yank them out in a matter of hours on the slanderously spread advice of the grandmother of one of the pupils that two young teachers in the school were “unnatural.”

It asks us to believe the grandmother would have been convinced of this by what she hears from her 12-year-old granddaughter, who is a dubious little darling at best. And, most provokingly, it asks us to imagine that an American court of law would not protect the innocent victims of such a slander when all the evidence it had to go upon was the word of two children and the failure of a key witness to appear.

In short, there are several glaring holes in the fabric of the plot, and obviously Miss Hellman, who did the adaptation, and John Michael Hayes, who wrote the script, knew they were there, for they have plainly sidestepped the biggest of them. They have not let us know what the youngster whispered to the grandmother that made her hoot with startled indignation and go rushing to the telephone. Was it something that a 12-year-old girl could have conceivably made up out of her imagination (which is what she was doing in this scene)?

And they have not let us into the courtroom where the critical suit for slander was tried. They have only reported the trial and the verdict in one quickly tossed off line.

So this drama that was supposed to be so novel and daring because of its muted theme is really quite unrealistic and scandalous in a prim and priggish way. What’s more, it is not too well acted, except by Audrey Hepburn in the role of the younger of the school teachers. She gives the impression of being sensitive and pure.

Shirley MacLaine as the older school teacher, the one who eventually admits in a final scene with her companion that she did have a yen for her, inclines to be too kittenish in some scenes and do too much vocal hand-wringing toward the end.

Fay Bainter is fairly grim as the grandmother but little Karen Balkin as the mendacious child is simply not sufficiently tidy as a holy terror to make her seem formidable. James Garner as the fiancé of Miss Hepburn and Miriam Hopkins as the aunt of Miss MacLaine give performances of such artificial laboring that Mr. Wyler should hang his head in shame.”

 

Continue reading “The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon! The Doomsday Bride & Bitter Blood of Lily Mortar”

There is nothing wrong with your television set… Do not attempt to adjust the picture, we are controlling transmission: The Transendental Heartbeat of The Outer Limits 1963-1965

THE OUTER LIMITS 1963-1965

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

The show used writers like Leslie Stevens, Donald S Sanford, Lou Morheim, (The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms 1953) Harlan Ellison, and Seeleg Lester.

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.

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Cliff Robertson appears in the shows first The Galaxy Being…

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.

THE ARCHITECTS OF FEAR-broadcast date September 30th 1963

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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?

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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…

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Allen-“You know what we really need to stop fighting among ourselves. Something else to fight, Somebody else. Really something else has to come along that will scare us all out of our skins!” Yvette “We stop fighting each other, we start fighting a scarecrow… that’s a gorgeous solution” Allen-“Well we don’t exactly fight it, but we fear it… So we unite against it. And if the threat continues long enough we gradually become used to being united. We actually grow to like it. Yvette-“Some scarecrows don’t even scare… crows!” Allen-“One might”
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“Mark against Evil”

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Allen goes off on a tangential soliloquy induced by the wrong reaction to the drugs he’s been given. He mentions Prometheus… how fitting that these mad scientist are creating a modern day monster by playing God...
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“Listen there’s more to this levitation than just the physical. I’m really able to fly. Are you aware of that! No, you’re no Phil Gainer, Professor Gainer, Dr Gainer. Hello Dr Gainer, allow me to present (in a german accent) these mad doctors here. Constant as you are of the space time continuum. There’r globules of solid (cackles in a whisper) propellant To send me on my long journey…. through the underworld or the —listen you gotta put pegs on my eyes Phil tells him to lye down According to ?’s law ( makes like his hands like ray guns and shoots…) laughing “I see you all, you got fat faces you know that. Baby eyes over baby pouts. Come on. Skidder along on your little rats feet. I am Callahan, Callaban. (he chuckles to himself) with a PhD. Ba Ba Black Sheep Have you any krell upstairs, downstairs in my baby’s nightshade. All around the town crying through the lochs how the children in their beds know it’s 8’O’Clock Stay back, stay back you think your putty little hands can hold Prometheus Odysseus Tycho Star…”

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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.

Continue reading “There is nothing wrong with your television set… Do not attempt to adjust the picture, we are controlling transmission: The Transendental Heartbeat of The Outer Limits 1963-1965”