Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Zanti Misfits



Production Order #17
Broadcast Order #14
Original Airdate: 12/30/63
Starring Michael Tolan, Robert Simon, Claude Woolman.
Written by Joseph Stefano.
Directed by Leonard Horn.


In an arrangement with the Planet Zanti, the US Government has agreed to harbor their society's exiled undesirables. Everything is on track until a would-be Bonnie and Clyde (Olive Deering and Bruce Dern) crash through the barricades in the cordoned off area and run face first into the extraterrestrial Misfits.

JS: I expect to read dozens of posts calling us crazy for not automatically bestowing this most memorable episode with the maximum Zanti rating. While I'm pleased to report that it does not disappoint even with high expectations going in, it falls short of perfection. In fact, I can forgive the episode almost all of its shortcomings, but one lackluster performance could not be overlooked. Damn you, Olive Deering! Seriously, did this woman have motor control issues? What's with the constant arm flailing and blank stare? Was she instructed to play the role as if drunk? Was she auditioning for the Candace Hilligoss role in Carnival of Souls? The stop motion Zanti movements appeared more natural. Hell, the inarticulate Zantis-on-a-stick were more natural.

PE: I couldn't agree with you more, Scooter. Perhaps Olive had just had her nails done at lunch? Amphetamines maybe? And what's with that goofy smirk at the end of the episode? In an alternate OL-Universe, Bruce Dern was a prick and sent Olive up the hill to investigate the big teapot. We get less Olive, more Dern. Win-win.

JS: Can you imagine sitting in on the pitch for this episode? Picture giant ants with human faces! What could easily have been a laughable bear has proven to be one of the (if not the) most popular, and certainly one of the most memorable creatures of The Outer Limits congregation.

Zanti... Zuni, Zuni... Zanti.
PE: I'll go a step further and opine that many genre geeks (myself included) will tell you that the Zantis are the single most horrifying image burnt into their brains. (As much as I love the little buggers, they've got nothing on the Zuni Fetish from Trilogy of Terror. But we'll put it to a vote. Everyone be sure to cast your vote in the Poll in the sidebar to the right. -JS) We all talk about "I soiled myself when I was a kid watching so-and-so" or "This one gave me nightmares long in to my adult years" and "blahblahblah." But, really, how much of that talk is pure hype or getting caught up in the moment? How many films are "the scariest movie I've ever seen?" How many scenes "stunted my growth?" Anyone seeing the Zantis as a kid was affected. "Picture giant ants with human heads" indeed! Recipe for disaster. And yet, here they are, just as effective to me 40-something years after my first viewing. Imagine one of these little guys crawling up your pants leg, heading for something to munch on. Yeah, the show's got issues (I think, by now, we all know that Stefano had a slight problem with the military and it colored his writing for those characters), but the bugs are so damn cool I'm willing to forgive.

JS: After Dern pisses off the first Zanti, I thought it was cool how in all subsequent appearances his arms and legs are drawn in like a dead spider.

PE: And that's a hell of a shock when Bruce is rolled over and Olive comes face to face with Mr. Zanti.
JS: The only real standout performance for me was Robert Simon as General Hart.  He 's totally committed to his mission, and is not reduced to a two-dimensional cardboard cut-out military man. After their introductions, you might expect that Roger Hill (Woolman) and not Stephen Grave (Tolan) would be more likely to draw first (Zanti) blood. But then Grave flicks an ant off of a post, and later kills the first Zanti in cold blood. Was he trying to start trouble?


JS: Lest we forget this is an episode of The Outer Limits, all the usual suspects are present. In addition to the Zantis, we've got an alien spaceship, a scientific research facility (nestled within a gothic ghost town setting), and  a roomful of eager scientists and military men. While the facility has all the requisite dials and knobs, somebody thought it needed some dressing up, with beads hanging in the doorways.

PE: I'd have liked the stand-off to be a bit longer (and minus Olive of course). When it comes down to it, it's only a few minutes long, albeit an intense few minutes.

JS: While the Zantis get their fair share of screen time throughout the episode, the real payoff comes in the form of the assault on the scientific facility. Plenty are dispatched at point-blank range, by gun, by hand grenade, by bludgeoning—you name it. And there's something endearing about a grown man with a half dozen Zantis attached to his costume rolling on the ground giving it his all. And to leave no stone unturned, yes, there's even a Zanti-in-the-pants.


PE: The shot (captured below) of the dozens of Zanti silhouettes was probably very easy to shoot but incredibly creepy. Imagine how claustrophobic it would be, trapped in a little house, surrounded by carnivorous, Don Knotts-headed creepy crawlies.


Olive Deering during a set break
JS: The episode has a nice wrap up when the Earthlings get the skinny on the situation from the Zanti homeworld, marred only by—you guessed it—the return of zombie Olive Deering.

PE: I like the final shot of burning Zantis (marred only by the omission of a burning Olive). A nice stroll down memory lane, I think.

JS: One last tidbit of "Zanti Misfits" trivia—you may not be aware that between 1985-1987 our very own David J. Schow wrote six Miami Vice novelizations under the ZM-inspired pen name Stephen Grave.


JS RATING:
PE RATING:







David J. Schow on "The Zanti Misfits":




From The Outer Limits Companion, Copyright © David J. Schow, 1986, 1998.  All Rights Reserved.  Used by permission and by special arrangement with the author.

It's Zanti Day at We Are Controlling Transmission!

Come back for more Zanti goodness at 9am!

Next up, we're thrilled to have landed a WACT exclusive Zanti Misfits interview—watch for that at 12pm.

And be sure to check back at 2pm for Steve Mitchell's Spotlight on "The Zanti Misfits."

And since we know there's no such thing as too much (too many?) when it comes to the Zanti Misfits, be sure to check out the Flat Zanti homepage RIGHT NOW to get in on the invasion.

Next Up...

45 comments:

  1. Happy Zanti Day everybody! We've got presANTS piled under the traditional Zanti Tree, and we're all waiting for Zanti Claus to crawl down the--

    Okay, enough frivolity. Oh, ye boys of little faith. If you expect us all to fall all over ourselves in blind Zanti love you may be in for a rude awakening (or, a Zanti in your pajamas--that may be a rude awakening).

    This is not a four star for me, it has some weaknesses (that you guys have mentioned).

    However...it is a total adrenalin shot of psychotronic fun with some little bears that are off the surrealometer for me. Seeing this again, it's pretty amazing just how much stop-motion there is and that they actually chose the most time-consuming effect possible. Incredible. We also have the best scifi-horror siege since crawling brains tried to take the house in FIEND WITHOUT A FACE. The staging of this is a tour de force of editing, choreography and practical FX ingenuity. Aided by that driving Frontiere music that would become the heart of his RAT PATROL scores (as would that ominous piece when Dern crashes the gate, and the guard).

    I also agree about Simon being the most interesting character and performance (giving the Stefano military guys a little balance).

    Anyone else think Woolman looked like a young Hans Conried? Deering was Alfred Ryder's sister by the way.

    Three human-faced bugs.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Only three Zantis?
    What are you guys f**king nuts? You'll both burn in hell. I'll eat your children. I'll eat your children's children.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I vote three Zantis also. The episode does have some flaws, like what is it with the terrible security on OUTER LIMITS? A criminal and his moll crash through a wooden gate and one MP. This is the security for a spaceship of criminal aliens?

    I hate to say it but was Olive Deering's face breaking out in the close ups or did she have warts on her face. And the Zantis look comical with their silly faces but I know I'm in a minority here since everyone loves them.

    I hope I don't get to see another Major mouthing off to a three star General. Still, an entertaining show but full of laughs. I wish the Zantis had won...

    ReplyDelete
  4. One of the most memorable of all the classic front rank segments marred by a hysterically poor performance, others that just aren't fleshed out (Bruce Dern). The rest of the other characters are twitchy ciphers. The best performance by far goes to the extra who gives his all, rushing in where others fear to tread and ends up loaded all over and pulped by Zanti stings.

    What makes the show apart from the little critters, is the sheer gumption of the script and the superb visually inventive direction with splendid POV shots from the inside of the saucer and the capture of fearful men with sweating faces. The essence of it is the 'First Contact' meeting of aliens that is wonderfully realised. The diminutive critters with human visages and beards are the soaking stuff of an elemental, primally surreal dreamscape.

    DJS' review assessment in the Companion is one of his most astute and covers all the salient points.

    I've long suspected that George R.R. Martin's 'The Sandkings' was inspired by this and Sturgeon's 'Microscopic God'.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Context. Nothing freaked me out more at eight then when dead man Dern was turned over and that Zanti popped up.

    There's something still creepy and unnatural about stop motion animation compared to CGI. The monsters in Jason and the Argonauts freaked my kid out more than than anything he's seen with today's 'sophisticated' CGI.

    But just thinking about the original ideas behind these episodes; this one's a doosey ...

    Earth = Gitmo

    ReplyDelete
  6. PS: Does anyone know where I can view the publicity still of the Zantis on the wooden floor? It appears here and there, including David's book, but doesn't seem to be avialble otherwise.

    Three Zantis, for the acting and some cliches, four for the directorial execution.

    ReplyDelete
  7. What amazes me about this one is the sheer ferocity of the ending battle. I was surprised that a show from that era would start off as a typical alien suspense ep., then turn into an all-out action flick similar to movies in the 1980's.

    Talk about fun stuff! Makes me wish a Zanti invasion was imminent as they look so fun and easy to kill. As far as the main title characters go, probably my favorite bear. I could just watch those little suckers for days on end.

    Peter and John, I couldn't agree more about our helpless heroine, Olive Deering. Nice try by the writers that attempted to turn her 'cool' with the last sentence she spoke, whatever that was. Nice photo of the monster toys by the way. Brings back childhood memories of how I always wanted a 'Krusher' toy. Since they were no longer sold in stores in 1985, my only chance was to barter with a neighborhood kid that had one, but alas, he told me his pet cats had torn the poor creature apart. He might have just been lying, to back me off, as I was only willing to trade him 40 paltry Garbage Pail Kids for the green guy.

    Anyway, before I go, please allow me to go into full-blown Bruce Dern worship. If I stated on an earlier thread that Ralph Meeker is a God, then Bruce Dern is our Savior. Here's three movies of his that I would recommend to anyone that hasn't seen them:

    1) The Laughing Policeman- Dern stars as cop in this criminally neglected thinking man's Dirty Harry, set in San Francisco in all of its glorious sleaze. He's partnered up with Walter Matthau. What more could you want?
    2) Black Sunday- Dern takes on Robert 'frikkin' Shaw in a battle between two legends! Dern plays an ex-Vietnam vet trying to blow up the Superbowl.
    3) The Driver- Guilty pleasure movie with Dern again as a cop. Some very nice car chases.

    In conclusion, not that I should have to state the obvious, but 4 Zantis for one hell of an episode.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hey, Ultimate Tactical etal: don't leave out On The Edge (1986), truly a candidate for the ultimate Dern movie

      Delete
  8. I'll take stop-motion animation over CGI anyday. I was going to suggest that maybe it's a generational thing, but I'm glad to hear that Hollywoodaholic's kid was affected by it too--there's hope!

    Zanti Misfits is for me the classic OL case of childhood memories clashing with adult sensibilities. It's still an entertaining episode, but the adult in me recognizes that the script is relatively shallow and there are a lot of dead spaces. Still, when you were young, the Zantis made the skin crawl off you and leave the room, and to this day, when I hear the words "Outer Limits," the image of those little glaring faces is one of the first things that comes up. The creepiness is heightened by their weird-language voices and those POV shots from inside the ship mentioned by Bobby Josson above.

    I am amused that the lab/outpost is one of the few in season one that is actually brightly lit and looks sort of like a real lab as opposed to all the dark, odd-angle haunted house labs in other episodes, yet this is the one that's set in a ghost town called Morgue!

    As for the poll, my most terrifying TV creature isn't listed (sorry, not the Zantis, although they're way up there, and the TZ gremlin gets points too), so I won't vote, but mine's coming up in a couple of weeks on this blog, so I'll describe it then (and then you can all have a good laugh at my expense!).

    ReplyDelete
  9. Love those Zants! Zants in your pants, Zants behind your back, Zants all over your assaulted body... Once seen, these aggressive little cooties are never forgotten. I rather like the premise of Stefano's story, as well... Humans being the designated "executioners" of condemned alien criminals, since we are so practiced in the art of killing. The fact that the e.t.s look like insects just drives home the tale's irony -- these disgusting crawlers have more 'humanity' than we do. And such manners, the nice way they thank us at the end. When we kids first saw this show in '63, we recognized "Zanti"'s stop-motion technique from KING KONG and Harryhausen's films. Seemed to make perfect sense, since OL was THE sci-fi monster TV series, offering just about every kind of BEM one could imagine. Decades later, in the '90s, the Zants were poised for a Topps comic book sequel called "Spawn of the Zanti Misfits," which of course, never materialized (somewhere in my old notes a synopsis is floating around). BTW, I agree with the "three Z" critical rating -- wish Hall had shot this one. But anyway... It's Zanti day, so let's just sit back and celebrate the little buggers. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. My action figures of the Regent and the Prisoner are the most valuable in this short-lived and out-of-print collection. Yeah the desert scenes are laughable, but there's a campy 50's sensibility that runs throughout and some buffo technical work. It's one of the series' most popular hours for sure, and perhaps the one episode that is brought up most often in discussions of the show.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Take a Zanti to lunch!

    I agree with everyone about stop-motion. There's something magical about it that CGI will never quite have, no matter how good it gets. It also has solidity, mass--we know we're looking at actual objects, with real surface textures, and what could be more real?

    I've no doubt it was because of the Zantis and the crawling brains of FIEND WITHOUT A FACE, that I insisted on stop-motion for my crawling foreheads in TRAIL OF THE SCREAMING FOREHEAD. A CG forehead? Don't make me laugh!

    Bobby, was that the same "Sandkings" that became the first episode (and only one I ever watched) of the new OUTER LIMITS?

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'd watched "The Zanti Misfits" so many times that all I could see were its flaws, so I tried to view it with fresh eyes for WACT. Lo and behold, I love it again -- it's definitely back in the top five for me.

    I was blown away by how steeped in death it is, from the opening shot to the last. It's a marvel Stefano got away with this, or maybe the early '60s were just more morbid than I remember. Audacious either way.

    Leonard Horn's direction also really stood out this time, and it made me look at his other OL episodes in a new light; they really move, and make for a nice, no less intense contrast to Oswald's more contemplative ones. I especially like the way he shoots the Zanti ship pre-breakout: The perspective is such that you don't realize how small it is until Dern is standing right next to it, then (as a first-time viewer) you're wondering 1) how bad can the Zantis be if so many of them can fit in there, and 2) WTF!?

    (How do so many of them fit in there, anyway? They must be stacked like cordwood -- no wonder they're so pissed off when they finally get out.)

    Olive Deering doesn't really bother me. She gets the worst, or at least the worst-timed, lines in the episode, and does the best she can with them. Plus her manner seems fitting for the character -- a wealthy, chronically self-destructive flake who's reached the end of her rope and is at least half-suicidal. True, she's no beauty queen, but what beauty queen would glom on to a horse-faced psycho like Ben anyway?

    UTW, Dern gives another great performance in Posse, a 1975 Western directed by and starring Kirk Douglas. It's a hell of a movie.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Mark - the question as to how many Zantis can fit into a breadbox was one that troubled my wife, too. I tried to explain that it was the Zanti equivalent of a clown car.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Is that a Zanti in your pocket, or are you just happy to.....? Whatever.

    OL's most imperfect "what if" episode for me, probably better had it been made as a half-hour show---if only because it would have prevented Joe Stefano from introducing another of his "TROUBLED INDIVIDUALS" that begin to mar his OL scripts.

    Who the HELL cares about Olive Deering's problems, besides Stefano and whatever he was trying to teach us with all of that "rag doll" crap? It really drags this episode WAY down for me. Stefano should have just put her and her cigarettes, mink stole, high heels, ugly sack dress, etc into some other early 60's "social relevance" TV drama and left the show to the cool Zantis (the most uniquely designed aliens of all time, I think) and the detested U.S. military....with which Stefano obviously had a big problem (he tosses in capital punishment here for good measure, and shows us that even an enlightened, idealistic "good guy" like Michael Tolan can become a crazed executioner as he does in the final battle).

    TOP HONORS to the editor(s) who managed to turn a bunch of guys and fake bugs into a climatic, edge-of-the-seat, thrill-fest battle!

    Yes, Robert Simon is his usually solid self, and Bruce Dern should have had far more screen time!

    And even though Stefano's problem with the Military is already wearing thin, the basic premise of his script is fascinating; the big reveal at the end re: "practiced executioners" is brilliant, I must say. Too bad it takes SO long to get there, and that the dead-beat, frowzy, trashy-looking Ms. Deering was, for whatever reason,given the final spotlight. Bad choice, Joe.

    Earth= Gitmo? How about:
    Stefano = Cindy Sheehan?!

    LR

    ReplyDelete
  15. I detect pismire-love all over this site today.
    And I'm not gonna be the one to set it ablaze with a magnifying glass.

    No, I'm very much enamored of this signature episode, probably the most widely cited as the show's calling card. I love the premise, being a pessimist and borderline misanthrope. But I do concede some of the shortcomings noted in other commentaries. It's not quite Zanti-perfection.

    Yes, these little myrme-"cons" lack the blazing speed of a coked-up Zuni doll. ("A Zanti on my trail? Oh, no! I'll have to bust into my most breakneck stroll!") And the inadequate security provided for a planetary-threat situation is purely inane, as Walker Martin observes. But I must point out that it enables one helluva scene transition after the "somebody's dead body" line.

    The overall tension of this unique scenario brushes aside a lot of logical lapses and pushes the right speed-wired buttons for me. This is true for a lot of TOLs. The show just dared, almost consciously, to flout logical thinking in service of presenting audacious drama. And I was willing to grant it a lot of concessions. Something akin there, probably, to the personal, subjective mechanisms that see us raise quirky and unconventional art to the level of cult classic in any field.

    Bruce Dern was born to embody sociopathic aggression. His Ben Garth wakes up and makes perverse plans over breakfast. Robert F. Simon's Gen. Hart is confortably grounded, philosophically, and imparts a lived-in portrait of a seasoned officer to his role. But his concluding thought is revealing of the sort of calculated rigidity (the essence of Gen. Buck "Turgid"son, if you will) that ignites such powderkeg standoffs, even if he was not the catalyst. He ponders, "I wonder how they'll destroy us," potentially his last framed living thought couched in terms of military technological envy and the politics of power.

    Let me be the first (and only?) defender of Olive Deering's Lisa Lawrence. I've always found extreme characters---those who might be categorized as "cyphers"---more engaging and memorable than most we would deem logical in behavior and character arc. They're just more intriguing in their refusal to obey the norm, whatever the gravity of their social context. They step out of the mainstream and make you wonder what labyrinthine paths their thinking follows. Lisa is a totally self-absorbed character who interprets all the world's phenomena, mundane and extraordinary alike, in terms of how it impacts her and her alone. She's developed a self-destructive complex and strives to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. So everything is directed thereat. "Nuclear war broke out? Tuh! Isn't that just the way my life works?!"

    I've known a few Lisas in my life. My wife would tell you I'm not far from behaving like one. Though I don't dispute that her speechifying in the desert scene with Grave comes at a dramatically stultifying moment, I do cut her some slack over her general navel-gazing under Zanti-buzz.

    ReplyDelete
  16. LOL. Stefano was certainly ahead of his time for vocalizing his anti-military sentiments, though.

    Yeah, Deering's troubled social misfit monologue would fit nicely on an episode of "Route 66," where you actually tuned in to hear Silliphant spin gold from some misfit mumbling.

    I've enjoyed Dern's run on "Big Love" the past few seasons, too. And it's a twist to see him play the lead* in "The King of Marvin Gardens" as part of the fantastic Criterion Blu-ray set America Lost and Found that came out recently.

    *(He plays the more aggressive brother to Jack Nicholson's mousey brother, a deliberate casting switch)

    ReplyDelete
  17. TED--

    "PISMIRE"??! I haven't hear that one since the fabulous 1939 film "On Borrowed Time", when little Bobs Watson parades around the house singing "Aunt Demetria is a PISMIRE"...which sent my scurrying to the dictionary to figure out exactly what the little tyke was singing about.

    LR

    ReplyDelete
  18. Grave---Morgue---ghost town---yeah! Let's party!

    Speaking of that ghost town, since it's an abandoned "hotel" the military supposedly occupies, I was never bothered by the bead-curtained doorway.

    Bobby J--- Yes, that was George R.R. Martin's deeply engrossing tale "Sandkings" that was adapted for the new iteration of TOL.

    Mark H--- Good point about the Zanti sardine can. Maybe they fit together like Legos and just broke apart when the door flings open?

    Bruce Dern also effectively employed his I'm-thinking-nasty-thoughts grin as an out-of-control rustler in THE COWBOYS (1972).

    Larry R--- To return to the Olive Deering character: Without a social context at least sketching in already troubled people, it's merely a survival situation with ordinary strangers, albeit an unprecedented one. There's no depth to that beyond our natural sympathy for the plight of any individual in a hostile environment. Granted, a Lisa-type might not arouse your personal sympathy---that's a matter of taste in character psychology. But I'll take her any day over a screaming airhead whose desert campout is being spoiled.

    (The "babe" factor is an interesing adjunct to this consideration. Would a consenses hotter-looking [sans desert fur coat] woman have elicited more sympathy for this role, exactly as written? Probably. But that's a schematic of our own wiring, not hers.)

    Larry B--- YES! FIEND WITHOUT A FACE, bro! One of the best Bs in the biz, when you consider the relative media ink/cyber-noise they generate. And the stop-motion animation (of a primally scary critter) is highly responsible. (Along with some nice practical fx and direction and goose-pimply sound fx.)

    Stop-motion enthusiasts agree that the process is more satisfying than even the smoothest CGI---sometimes for that very smoothness. The more "natural" a fantasy menace seems, the easier it is for the mind to accept it and reconcile it with reality, thereby undermining a bit of its nightmarish terror. It's still deadly, but now more in the realm of anything else out there that can kill you. A stop- motion nasty looks like it's staggered in from some nearby unwholesome dimension, spoiling for mayhem; from a dream-world where there may be worse things waiting than death. Plus, the dimensional texture of stop-motion models lends a deeper sense of surface realism than the often flat result from CGI.

    No question about the welcome value of CGI. I just find stop-motion an appealing, often superior, alternative that we're unlikely to see a lot of in the future.

    Back around the time of CARRIE, Stephen King wrote a Writer's Digest article titled "The Horror Market Writer and the Ten Bears." In it he cites Stefano's printed canons for TOL and their reference to the "bears," which King goes on to specify in his own list of ten fundamental fears. Number 7 was "fear of insects," things that can crawl on you, touch you with those...legs and feelers and-and-and prickly, pointy things. A childishly obvious but nonetheless sound qualification of the basic Zanti discomfort.

    STEP on a Zanti and you might experience Bear #2: "Fear of squishy things."

    Oh---and, of course, there's that little complication of "total annihilation." Can't discount that. A bear by any other name...

    ReplyDelete
  19. Larry R--- Yeah, my Auntie Zanti used to call me her "little pismire." Maybe I should have looked it up before I crushed her with that rock, huh?

    ReplyDelete
  20. TED--

    Now THAT'S funny!

    ReplyDelete
  21. In 1997, “The Zanti Misfits” was accorded a slot in TV GUIDE’s listing of “The 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time,” a footnote that reminds us how the show penetrated to MASS consciousness, as opposed to the more limited spread of genre enthusiasts. (It also helped that genre expert Jeff Rovin wrote the article.) People remember the Zantis in exactly the way other viewers remember “the thing on the wing” from TWILIGHT ZONE or the Zuni fetish doll … from shows they probably could not even name: “There was this thing on TV once …”

    Make this bug hunt a little larger in scale, and … well … you’ve basically got ALIENS, don’t you?

    Long and repeatedly have I discussed the merits of stop-motion. One enduring truism seems to be this: Stop-motion figures, despite their herky-jerky choreography, SEEM more credible to the eye; they enable and abet the willing suspension of disbelief because somewhere back in our primitive hindbrain jelly, we acknowledge that it is a PHYSICAL THING that is being manipulated. A stop-motion model is a physical artifact left behind in the real world. It EXISTS, as opposed to strings of CGI code. It is this knowledge that CGI is entirely virtual that argues against its solidity to even an unsophisticated viewer — the eye KNOWS that it is watching a glorified cartoon, and the plasticine gloss of much CGI betrays it as an overlay.

    Not to take anything away from Olive Deering’s performances in the likes of SHOCK TREATMENT or CAGED! but while she perfectly fits the kind of dumpy, pampered rich bitch upon which a guy like Garth would predate (it seems fairly obvious to me that Lisa’s fate is to get dumped in the desert, which is why they’re THERE in the first place), I also believe Deering’s casting was a result of the kind of thinking that led to OUTER LIMITS’ femme leads of the “earlier” period, like Janet Blair. Compare — or swap, if you like — Lisa with Gaby Christian (a smoking hot Barbara Luna) in the very next episode, “It Crawled Out of the Woodwork;” nothing really changes. And the fact that Stefano did not endow Lisa with one of his more usual and flamboyant character names speaks to her underwritten motivations. It’s almost as if Lisa has wandered into THE OUTER LIMITS from another series entirely — one we have not seen, and thus are we deprived of her deeply disturbed backstory.

    (And my hat is off to Stefano yet again for conceiving of a character name based on a “gabby Christian.”)

    A section that stops me dead is when Graves keeps repeating, “a WOMAN …?” as though he’s never heard of them, or doesn’t know what they are. “A WOMAN …” Nobody was more surprised than I to see Michael Tolan pop up in full song-and-dance mode in ALL THAT JAZZ: “I’m Doctor Ballinger, the CARDIOLOGIST! A-five-six-seven-eight …!”

    And Claude Woolman looks like a lost Tucci brother, doesn’t he?

    Robert F. Simon is rock-hard credible here, as he was nearly everywhere, with a long retinue of military and Western roles. He’s the OUTER LIMITS equivalent of Morris Ankrum or Thomas Browne Henry.

    That’s stuntman Bill Hart doing the infamous staircase tumble, amidst many other utility stunts and monster roles for OUTER LIMITS. He was a mainstay semi-regular on STONEY BURKE via Leslie Stevens, as a confirmed “roper” and rodeo rider. (He’s also “Corporal Delano,” who gets run over in the beginning of the episode.) He survived a long association with Peckinpah (Bill became Warren Oates’ fast friend and go-to stunt double, and yes, he got conked on the head by beam when the bridge blew up in THE WILD BUNCH and he went into the river astride a horse). He’s still with us, and his sons Chuck and Jim are well-known stunties in their own right. Bill has worked with damned-near every single Western star in the history of the planet.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Yep Larry, as Ted has pointed out 'sandkings' was the premiere episode of the fake OL. The original won a Hugo, Nebula and in every Best SF anthology.

    I would love to hear DJS's opinion on the excreable rip off, maybe as an article. Especially with a new big screen version of TOL. Which I don't hold out any hope for!

    ReplyDelete
  23. DJS--- Thanks for the Bill Hart info. I had heard someone got bludgeoned going into the river on that notoriously complicated bridge demolition in THE WILD BUNCH but had no idea it was a stuntman for TOL.

    Woolman does look like the abandoned-at-birth Claudio Tucci.

    Agreed, I could have been interested in a more detailed Lisa back story, if it would have fit the dramatic rhythms of "Zanti." Lisa seems the rank-and-file moral center of the bleak tale, and as such might need more layering, more weight.

    But I liked her sketch, given the time constraints. To me, she's the cynical Greek chorus who probably belabors the theme too sourly and deadeningly for many viewers.

    I'm impressed by some of Stefano's fine-point character naming and I mentioned it to him more than once. Gaby Christian is a cheeky moniker you gotta love. And I've always been fond of "Kassia Paine," which he so cleverly recycled for that metaphorical remark in EYE OF THE CAT:

    "Kassia Lancaster? Sounds like a cell-door closing!"

    ReplyDelete
  24. Oh, Bobby …

    The NOTer Limits (see my earlier post in “Nightmare”). You don’t want to go there. You really don’t.

    I was actually onboard for the last iteration of the OUTER LIMITS movie when it was at Sony. It gobbled up thirteen writers and the script just … got … worse. It choked and died via the “too many cooks” theory.

    I tried to give NOTer about as much attention as it deserved in the revised edition of the book; today, I’d shorten even the brief mention there. Some coverage is mandated because they did remake four originals, and cast OUTER LIMITS vets in a few other shows (Cliff Robertson, Barbara Rush, Peter Breck). Some good people were involved in the very beginning (Alan Brennert, Michael Cassutt, Tracy Torme) but they quickly decamped.

    “Sandkings” very nearly made me physically ill.

    Stefano wrote the remake of “A Feasibility Study” (starring David McCallum) and was never invited back by the new guard, which quickly removed Leslie Stevens’ name from the credits after Leslie died. I mean, Leslie only CREATED the show!

    Bad aside. Stomach acid. Toxic digression. You soooo don’t want to go there.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Smokin' high concept: What if the "Zanti Misfits" premise was reversed, set in the mostly-civilized future, with misfit Earth criminals (paging Willis and Stallone) sent into exile on an alien world called Zanti, unaware that their mostly-unseen jailers are "practiced executioners" poised to destroy them? Forget everything I just suggested... Hollywood might think it's a GOOD idea and decide to move forward!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Gary - You don't even need to reverse the premise. Picture the heads of Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger, etc. on the little Zanti bodies.

    You saw them walking upright in The Expendables... this time, they're on six legs. Here come The Misfits...

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thanks David, I stopped watching the imposter Limits after about 6 episodes. I'm sure that I didn't miss anything in the remaining 7 seasons.

    Comtemptible rubbish made by 4th rate retarded minds.

    I blame the disaster that was Spielberg's trashy 'Amazing Stories' for the failed attempt to launch the show in the mid '80s.

    Arhh, well - we'll always have '63-64.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Always remember that if P&J hadn't built this clubhouse, we wouldn't be in here trashing the furniture and whizzing in the corner. I hereby nominate 30 December, this year and all years forward, as National Zanti Day. Repeat after me (and say it proud): "PLE BEN ZO A LANZ TRI OB TRINSINI!"

    ReplyDelete
  29. Mark-

    Thanks for the 'Posse' reference. Sounds good and I look forward to seeing it.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Are you people telling me I moved into an undisclosed address for the next couple weeks and now I'll not find burning Zantis on my lawn? What's the world coming to when most of the bullpen agrees with John and Peter?

    ReplyDelete
  31. It's telling you that as far as fine dining goes, Zanti is not the new Pigeon. And I echo DJS--thanks for the clubhouse, boys.

    Thanks, Bobby: I also hated "Sandkings" and never watched another fake OL.

    Ted: FIENDS forever!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Ok. I was just over a year old when 'Zantasia' arrived, so perhaps that's the start of my problems, but... There was very little in this episode that didn't make me grimace or laugh in a mocking way (but perhaps that's part of your fun?!?). The story seemed like the worst attempt to evoke the worst Serling-isms into a long, thin-bear hour show. When ever Maximillian R. Hart began his proud platitudes, I couldn't help but feel Simon was secretly auditioning for the role of Cap'n O'Hara on Batman ("That's great Robby, but I think we're looking for something just as blustery and ineffectual, but with a bit of a brogue" Dozier said)... and you've all encapsulated the many flaws of Olive's performance. The other main characters, except Dern, are vapid cyphers whose central purposes is to make the Zantis look animated. And again, this is 1963 so i have to forgive the terrible special effects and just mawkish creature design. Every time we saw them move I was neither frightened nor terrified, except to think the Japanese who would perfect stop-motion filming a year later (with Rudolph, at least from these eyes) would have just cried. Then Hill kills the first mad Zanti with a rock -- i'm surprised that they just didn't take off their shoes and start squishing them. But the big boot had to be reserved for Stefano... desperate time-filling and meandering monologues that made the Zantis speech seem like Martin Luther King's Dream speech.
    I can't even put up a score -- it'd rank as a negative. Pidgeons From Hell may have fell short in my assessment after so much pre-hype, but this one still hasn't hit the ground. It will make a big splat though.
    This is a negative for me, and gave me a whole new appreciation for AHP, TZ and Thriller.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Predictably, I must point out that DJS's "thing on the wing" and Zuni fetish doll BOTH sprang from the mind of Richard Matheson. And I'll join the chorus of those who found "Misfits" reminding them of, and have a deep affection for, FIEND WITHOUT A FACE. Go stop-motion!

    ReplyDelete
  34. I agree with Ted Rypel about Olive Deering not being bad, but I think it would have been interesting if she'd played a part in actually fighting the Zantis in the big final scene. Not because I'm preoccupied with that "empowered woman" image, but because Lisa becomes one of the few "helpless female" characters (the kind SF fans are STILL complaining about) in the whole series.
    Anyone who likes Bruce Dern should see the movie Castle Keep. It has one of his great NON-violent unsettling characters.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I find that ZANTI MISFITS has one of the best "build-up" sequence ever, which climaxes with the Zanti regent attack on Bruce Dern. I stole the
    expression "build up" from a quote from Gerd Oswald who, in TOL
    COMPANION, describes his direction of SPECIMEN UNKNOWN as a "build up towards a final moment". Unfortunately, the "final moment" of SPECIMEN UNKNOWN is predictable and boring. However, the whole "build up" in ZANTI MISFITS is totally effective.

    All the necessary tension and suspense elements are introduced one after the other: the tension in the military compound, as it is established that Earth was coerced into accepting the penal ship; the mention that the military is ready to blow up the Zanti ship if it goes off target from the designated landing area; the coercive voice of the Zanti communications, promising "total destruction to anyone who invades our privacy", the frequent use of the word "enemy" while discussing the Zantis; the killing of the guard by Ben Garth (a no-dialogue, entirely VISUAL sequence); the presence of the intruders in the landing area as we see the Zanti ship coming from the sky; the tension between Ben and his girlfriend.

    It all comes together in that great sequence where 3 simultaneous actions are perfectly edited together: Bruce Dern climbing the hill, General Hart pleading with the Zantis and trying to explain to them the presence of the intruding car, and the inside of the penal ship, where we get a tantalizing glimpse of a zanti antenna (again a great VISUAL idea).

    This sequence is a triumph of editing ! As Bruce Dern rolls up his sleeves, he looks at the Zanti ship on top of the mountain and takes his first step. Right there, the military-style music composed by Frontiere for that episode alone begins (it fits so perfectly). Cut to the inside of the Zanti ship emitting weird screeching noises, AS WE HEAR TRANSMISSIONS FROM GENERAL HART ! Cut back and forth between the penal ship and General Hart at the compound, which help establish that while the Zantis can hear the General, they refuse to respond to his pleas ! Tension keeps mounting ! Then that great shot of Bruce Dern's face AS SEEN FROM THE INSIDE OF THE SHIP, as an antenna appears. We can FEEL something BAD is about to happen ! Then the Zanti response: Total destruction to anyone who invades our privacy !

    Door snaps open, Dern falls, close-up on his face and yes, here's the
    climax, the "cum-shot" (!), the moment we've all been waiting for: our
    first glimpse of a Zanti, gleefully crawling up Dern's arm in all its
    stop-motion animated glory (as Dern screams his heart out) !!

    Man, can anyone find a better "build-up" and "climax" sequence than this one in the whole series ??

    ReplyDelete
  36. Maybe it's been mentioned before, but am I the only one who's surprised by the way Claude Woolman's "twitchy" Major character (of all characters) survives the whole thing? He runs out instead of waiting for them, collapses on that porch, gets COVERED by them, and STILL survives. (A single one climbing up the pant leg is all it takes for one poor soldier.)

    ReplyDelete
  37. Exactly right. This is a 3 Zanti. Can't be any more or less. And I agree its the best bear of the series- those are the episodes I like- when the effects and creations are effective even by today's story. I wish they did more with the Zantis, maybe made them benevolent mutants despite their appearance- there could have been a message in there somewhere. The military men are pretty interesting. Whats up with that crazy woman? Who knows what she's talking about. Still good episode, pretty scary.

    ReplyDelete
  38. This is nitpicking, but I'm always slightly bothered by the sight of them being cremated at the end, dramatic though it is. At the end of "Nightmare," you hear how everything connected with the aliens is going to be studied. But at the end of this story, you see the Zanti bodies being cremated, as if nothing could be learned from THOSE (including how they could kill so quickly).

    The sight of that Zanti with the white fringe of beard is always entertaining. Is he maybe the story's little reference to that veteran prisoner who shows up in so many down-to-earth prison stories? (Maybe he should've had a harmonica?)

    ReplyDelete
  39. To this day I cannot believe that anyone... ANYONE likes this episode, or finds the Zantis scary. Single worst episode of the entire show, and the Zantis have got to be some of the least scary monsters in history. I burst out laughing every time they appeared on screen. Come on, ants with Santa Claus faces? Is this a SciFi Original Movie in disguise? I think it might be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Outer Limits writers had a name for their monster "gimmick" of the week (I forget what the term was) and some realizations of these creatures were better than others. However, good drama is the temporary suspension of disbelief, so if the story's good, I can watch a school play production with cardboard cutout waves to represent an ocean and still enjoy it. What I liked about this episode was the premise that humans are still an inherently violent and often irrational species.

      We evolved from the most aggressive and opportunistic individuals within the species. As Colin Quinn noted in his recent special, "We didn't evolve from the tribe that starved to death waiting for their turn at the dinner table."

      As my pal Bernie the Attorney put it...

      "Nice guys finish last; by design."

      Kurt Vonnegut has this quote at the beginning of "Galapagos" - "You come from a long line of persistent swimmers. Champions, every one."

      Delete
  40. Certainly one of the better uses of Vasquez Rocks, CA as a filming location. Loved the episode. Great website here.

    ReplyDelete
  41. I find that MISFITS has one of the best "build-up" sequence ever, which climaxes with the Zanti regent attack on Bruce Dern. I stole the expression "build up" from a quote from Gerd Oswald who, in TOL COMPANION, describes his direction of SPECIMEN UNKNOWN as a "build up towards a final moment". Unfortunately, the "final moment" of SPECIMEN UNKNOWN is predictable and boring. However, the whole "build up" in ZANTI MISFITS is totally effective.

    All the necessary tension and suspense elements are introduced one after the other: the tension in the military compound, as it is established that Earth was coerced into accepting the penal ship; the mention that the military is ready to blow up the Zanti ship if it goes off target from the designated landing area; the coercive voice of the Zanti communications, promising "total destruction to anyone who invades our privacy", the frequent use of the word "enemy" while discussing the Zantis; the killing of the guard by Ben Garth (a no-dialogue, entirely VISUAL sequence); the presence of the intruders in the landing area as we see the Zanti ship coming from the sky; the tension between Ben and his girlfriend.

    It all comes together in that great sequence where 3 simultaneous actions are perfectly edited together: Bruce Dern climbing the hill, General Hart pleading with the Zantis and trying to explain to them the presence of the intruding car, and the inside of the penal ship, where we get a tantalizing glimpse of a zanti antenna (again a great VISUAL idea). This sequence is a triumph of editing ! As Bruce Dern rolls up his sleeves, he looks at the Zanti ship on top of the mountain and takes his first step. Right there, the military-style music composed by Frontiere for that episode alone begins (it fits so perfectly). Cut to the inside of the Zanti ship emitting weird screeching noises, AS WE HEAR TRANSMISSIONS FROM GENERAL HART ! Cut back and forth between the penal ship and General Hart at the compound, which help establish that while the Zantis can hear the General, they refuse to respond to his pleas ! Tension keeps mounting ! Then that great shot of Bruce Dern's face AS SEEN FROM THE INSIDE OF THE SHIP, as an antenna appears. We can FEEL Dern's gonna get it ! Then the Zanti response: Total destruction to anyone who invades our privacy ! Door snaps open, Dern falls, close-up on his face and yes, here's the climax, the "cum-shot" (!), the moment we've all been waiting for: our first glimpse of a Zanti, gleefully crawling up Dern's arm in all its stop-motion animated glory (as Dern screams his heart out) !!

    Man, can anyone find a better "build-up" and "climax" sequence than this one in the whole series ??

    ReplyDelete
  42. Just wanted you to know that it's almost 2014 and Outer Limits fans are still stumbling onto your brilliant project. The Zanti Misfits popped into my head for some unknown reason today and so I decided to finally look up the quotation, "Mine own executioner," used so well by Stefano in the Zanti ruler's closing speech. Boom -- there was John Donne and then there you guys were! Thanks for your work and for the links to other Outer Limits appreciations.

    And you're right, Olive Deering is just strange, way ahead of her time in the art of cryptic overacting/non-acting that would later become so common in movies. But she does nail the key lines, "Mine own executioner" and later "Practiced executioners.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I'm sure it's been mentioned already, but one of the great emotional moments is the panning from one man to another as they hear poor Ben on the radio. They must know that this is the man who ran down one of their guards, but that doesn't make any difference when it comes to their reactions.

    ReplyDelete