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.