Monday, January 31, 2011

ZZZZZ



Production Order #21
Broadcast Order #18
Original Airdate: 1/27/64
Starring Philip Abbott, Marsha Hunt, Joanna Frank.
Written by Meyer Dolinsky.
Directed by John Brahm. 

Can a queen bee (Frank), transformed into a beautiful but half blind (due to her 1960s hair) lab assistant, convince a brilliant entomologist (Abbott) to leave his wife (Hunt) and join her in an orgy of royal jelly and bad dresses?


PE: Joseph Stefano's beautifully realized portrait of class struggles in the 1960s, racism, and that taboo of all taboos, old guys and young babes. You wouldn't see anything like this on today's two-scoops-of-vanilla-ice-cream boob tube. Not many, including OL's archivist and chief apologist David J. Schow, know that Meyer Lapinsky was actually one of Joe Stefano's pseudonyms used during the OL run. I managed to acquire canceled Stefano checks (at one of Forry Ackerman's garage sales) in the names of Lapsansky, Leslie Stevens (Stefano, Stevens, get it?), Ellis St. Joseph (Joseph Stefano, get it?), Stephen Lord (man, this research stuff is so easy!), as well as a couple made out to Robert Culp (I'm still trying to figure that one out), clearly establishing that Stefano wrote a whole big bunch of scripts he never took credit (but took checks) for. I have it on good authority that Stefano wrote The Outer Limits Companion as well. Anyway, I was floored by the grace, beauty and chutzpah exhibited here. ZZZZZZ is truly one of a kind, nothing like it in the whole wide world.

JS: Very funny...

PE: Our first glimpse of Queen Bee/Regina is a beautiful cacophony of erotic twirls, an initial mating dance, if you will. It's a portensic glimpse of the swirling emotions and desires we will feel all through the drama. Some may deride the scene for its "low rent special effects" but spfx mean nothing to me when you have a story this thick with intensity and psycho-sexual interplay. I defy anyone to not feel some kind of propensity, rapaciousness, relish, or even voracity while watching the sinful samba of this lovely Apis Mellefera. I hesitate to call this a tv show as it more resembles a play (perhaps performed at The Old Vic in London), sparse in its supporting characters but not in its swirling emotions and desires. I have not a good enough grasp of the American Language to properly convey the deep underlying tones found in ZZZZZZZ, but, based on the comments left after OL episodes I haven't liked quite as much, our readers will be able to invoke these swirling emotions and desires. I've always taken comments like "Enfantino, you haven't a fucking clue" or "What a dipshit this guy is" or "Enfantino don't like it unless it's in a pulp!" as constructive criticism.

JS: But...

PE: I remember seeing the "next week" teaser ("Five times the excitement, thrills and sensuality of Costa-Gavras' Z") and thinking there was no way it could meet such expectations but ZZZZZZZZ more than lives up to its "buzz" (if you'll pardon a pun).

JS: Actually...

PE: Joanna Frank, portraying the sumptuous Regina, brings to her role a commitment to her craft not seen again until Sofia Coppola's haunting representation of the child of the cosa nostra (the mob) in The Godfather III. I think Frank's performance here outshines even her star-making turn as the doomed (but beautiful) Carla Lanz in the "A Dipperful of Water from a Poisoned Well" episode of Ben Casey the following year. I know, a very controversial statement, but there it is. Notice the fire in  Regina's eyes and her constantly wagging tongue and you can tell that she wants nothing more than to fellate the professor. Can you argue the point when confronting Frank's most soul-squishing scene:
Regina: Don't let me die without knowing love, Ben!
Ben: ...it's only food poisoning. It's very painful but not fatal.
Regina: (anguished) Love me, Ben!!
Philip Abbott's transformation from cold, unloving bee scientist to cold, unloving widower foreshadowed his similar role as the cold, bureaucratic fed Arthur Ward on The F.B.I. beginning the following year. One of the longest-running Hollywood chestnuts is that Abbott turned to his wife the night Efrem Zimbalist Jr. won his seventh consecutive Emmy for playing Inspector Lewis Erskine on The F.B.I. and said "Anybody can play a Fed. Let's see Efrem try playing a sex-starved bee scientist!" My request for an after-life interview with Abbott was pooh-poohed by Boze Hadleigh. Abbott here does wonders with the part of a twenty-something year old entomologist (at one point he tells Regina he'd like to have kids "before I turn 25!") trapped in a loveless marriage with an old sack of laundry.  Largely ignored in the cast are Marsha Hunt and Booth Colman. Even Bob Johnson, as the stern and impassioned voice of Commander Bee, finds himself overshadowed by the towering performances of Abbott and Frank. It seemed Johnson's lot in life to be lost in the shuffle despite having the vocal range of an Italian tenor. He would see similar fates as the Zanti commander ("The Zanti Misfits"), the police radio dispatcher (The Black Scorpion), first Talosian on the right ("The Cage" Star Trek), and perhaps his most beloved role, as the Christmas Tree stolen from Who-ville (The Grinch Stole Christmas, the original with Boris Karloff, not the superior remake with Jim Carrey). 


JS: Uh, Peter...

PE: A beautiful expression of love, "A grief shared is half a grief but a joy shared is twice joy," is attributed to a Honduran proverb. David J. Schow relates in his wonderful (but ghost-written) biography of The Outer Limits that, when it came time to write that portion of the script, Joe Stefano actually flew to Honduras, thus using up three quarters of the budget and negating the elaborate Queen Bee costume designed and built by a then-unknown Carlo Rambaldi. According to an interview with Rambaldi in Schow's book: "Hydraulics would-a lift the Queen's wings and her bigga tits. She would-a been able to fly into the sky." (OLC page 186). Those thinking Stefano was a real straight up guy might do well to remember this transgression.


JS: Hold on...


PE: In this episode I can finally get behind all the raves that rain down whenever the name Conrad Hall is mentioned. Truth to tell, until this episode, I thought the shadows and prisms and triangles and nonsensical window pane shadows and "wtf" lighting and goofy hallways were distracting. Hall's sensitive display of flowers shadowed all over the Fields' bedroom walls speaks to ice queen Fransesca's infertility and sexually starved Ben's frustration. Flowers symbolize... well, flowering... and infertility doesn't. Did I perceive, at one point, a projection of a bail of hay as well (a symbolization of Ben's inability to get a "roll in the hay" so to speak) on the laboratory wall? It's a marvel that Conrad morphed from the actor in bit roles like Patrolman Jamie in Plan 9 From Outer Space to lighting up unlighted hallways in OL.


JS: Uh oh...


PE: As usual, Dominic Frontiere's booming score is booming. I especially like the cue, labeled "March of the Swarm" on my rare music sheets, that begins "Dum-dum-dum-da-dee-duuuuuum-Hmmm-Rump-Bump." Stirring. OL buffs will recognize this masterwork of melody immediately as it's included in every single episode of The Outer Limits, Stoney Burke, The R.A.T. Patrol and The Andy Griffith Show whenever a benevolent menace is depicted. Unrelated trivia: Frontiere now owns and manages an aluminum recycling plant.


JS: Um...



PE: And how about that laboratory. Considering that, as mentioned already, Stefano had used $750 of the episode's $1000 budget for his "research", the OL spfx crew came through in the clutch. We don't get just a bunch of lights and toggle switches (ostensibly labeled "Human" and "Bee"), we get our first look at a pallophotophone (look it up) and an honest-to-gosh Bumble Bee translator. Considering that, at the time, scientists had yet to create a way for bees to talk like humans (fairly commonplace now), I think at the very least an Emmy was in order for Projects Unlimited.


JS: Yeah...

PE: Stefano's most virile bit of writing may be when Doctor Warren (The Warren Commission? More underlying political themes courtesy of Stefano), in an allegory meant to stand in for communism, tells Ben that Regina is not who he thinks she is:
Warren: Ben, she's a medical anomaly. I've never seen blood fluid like hers. Her plasma levels are up from 55 to 70 per cent, the eurythocites and lucralites are totally out of balance and the entire serum is a floating mass of cholesterol globules. Ben, she's the closest thing to a complete mutant I've ever seen.
Ben: You mean...
Warren: Yes, she can bear you the one million children Fransesca never could.
JS: Okay now...

PE: Director John Brahm's greatest overall achievement in ZZZZZZZZZZZZ is his direction of a swarm of angry killer bees at the climax. Can't be easy. Brahm does an admirable job and there's not a drone out of place. I'm sure the actual attack scene was cut due to Standards and Practices worries. The white background behind every scene of the attacking swarm symbolizes... I'll get back to you on that.

JS: Point of order - wasn't she a tad light skinned for a Nigerian Queen Bee?

PE: Perhaps the only flaw to this perfect science fiction pudding is that we never really find out who takes care of the Fields' vast garden. Since it looks a bit run down when we arrive, I'll venture the guess that it's Ben himself who's expected to push a mower now and then. This would fit in with Stefano's emasculation of Ben Fields and his obvious hatred of women. Do you blame Ben for expressing frustration with a frigid wife who won't pick up a pair of clippers now and then? This particular area of man/woman relations would be explored to its utmost in the second season episode "Behold: Eck!" I'd tell you what those concepts are but then I wouldn't have anything to write about in a few weeks. Just stay tuned is what I'm saying.

JS: Okay folks, I'm going to take Peter to see Doctor Warren. I've been a bit concerned since "The Invisibles," but I'm sure he'll be right as rain come tomorrow. I hope. For now, here's my take on "ZZZZZ."

Entomologist Ben Fields (Abbott) has perfected a machine for translating human and bee speech, no sooner than a queen-bee turned bombshell, Regina (Frank), lands on his doorstop to be his assistant. Unfortunately for Ben's wife (Hunt), Regina is interested in making him her honey.

JS: While the title begs to be made fun of, I was pleasantly surprised that "ZZZZZ" did not put me to sleep. When it started off with Ben stumbling across Regina in the garden, I wonder if he, like I, was struck with recollections of the majestic peaks of Italy and Ursula Andress in "La Strega." Think what you want of Field's ability to communicate with bees—that pales in comparison to the bee's own collective ability to morph their queen into a teenage temptress.

JS: Did I hear Fields correctly when he said he wanted to have kids before he was 25? Or did he say his 25th anniversary? The filmmakers went out of there way to clearly indicate the gap between the young Regina and Ben's old lady, but he wasn't exactly look to be a spring chicken himself. Did folks just look older in the 60s?

JS: When you're discussing an episode in which one of the areas to suspend disbelief revolves around a guy speaking English to a bunch of bees, it's hard to have high expectations for credibility, but I have to ask. Why were the bee's unaware of so much (like being part of the experiment), and yet when necessary, they were able to point out that the wife was standing in the doorway? I could understand if they were just bees, but between that and their plot involving Regina, there was clearly more going on, right?

JS: There were several nice shots throughout the episode, such as Regina's reflection in the glass of the beehive.

JS: The effects were pretty pedestrian this time out—I kept waiting for a full Wasp Woman transition that never arrived, settling for the occasional dissolves into a close up on a bee's head. And while we had a brief digression into appropriate alien voices for "The Zanti Misfits," I was unimpressed with the voice of the bees, although a reasonable case can be made that the voice was the robotic machine, and therefore somehow appropriate as delivered.

JS: Abbott does a good job not only projecting that OL scientist so caught up in his work that he doesn't notice the bosom so often heaved in his direction by young Regina, but also in his establishing the love for his wife. You can't write him off as completely clueless; he's just so in love with Francesca that he's impervious to Regina's charms. I do think he was surprisingly underwhelmed when he discovered the recordings of Regina speaking to the bees. As an entomologist, wouldn't the ability to speak to an intelligent insect in human form be the least bit interesting to you, regardless of how she looked?

JS: I couldn't quite figure out why, in her last communication with the hive, Regina started acting like she had one of "The Invisibles" on her back.

JS: When Regina unleashed the bees on Ben's wife, I thought now we're cooking! My excitement was somewhat tempered by the appearance of the static black blob being moved across the screen, and even moreso when it became clear these bees would come in third place in a race against the Invisibles and Zanti Misfits. Apparently, the bees ultimately found their way to their target, as the next shot we got was a celebrated coffin shot, and not just some coffin in an abandoned warehouse soundstage shot, but an honest to goodness box in a hole in the ground shot!


JS: While it's only Monday, the Babe of the Week voting is likely going to spike today.  I'll be curious to hear how Joanna Frank's scene in the garden french-kissing the flowers played to those of you who watched it at an impressionable age.


JS: Another bit that reminded me of Thriller was the choreographed tumble out the window ("The Watcher," which—like this episode—it's worth noting also nearly led Peter to jump out the window). I thought for a second Frank was preparing for a dive into a swimming pool below.



JS: My wife and I kept trying to figure out why Joanna Frank seemed so familiar, and then realized if someone ever needed to remake "ZZZZZ" (Hey - I said if), Vanessa Lengies from American Dreams is the go-to Bee girl.








JS RATING:
PE RATING:







David J. Schow on "ZZZZZ":



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







Check back at 10am for David J. Schow's Spotlight on Robert H. Justman.

And be sure to check back at 2pm for Mark Holcomb's Spotlight on "ZZZZZ."

Next Up...

30 comments:

  1. This is my least favorite episode, so I can understand John's one Zanti rating but Peter's four Zantis must mean he is continuing his comic review. Or maybe he is in love with Joanna Frank? I didn't like much of anything in this show. I'd rather rewatch INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS or WASP WOMAN.

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  2. Oh boy, just what we need from a "scholarly" Outer Limits blog. Infantile MST3K commentary. Pfffft.

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  3. Pity Poor Peter ...

    After crashing through his own TV screen, he got his face mutilated in the Arctic before they put him on life support and tried to change him into a time-traveling alien with a huge head full of Puffed Wheat and deadly flowers, whereupon the hairy-handed spies surveilling him tortured him in a prison camp, released him to duty on a moonbase, where he ate some tainted prehistoric fish sucked through a vacuum cleaner and developed the power to zap with mindclouds before talking rocks convinced him he had plummeted into a paranoiac fantasy world where secret agents were trying to posses him using mobile meatball sandwiches. As you can see, it did not end well. He's got this great doctor now, named Eva or Dion or Ian, who's got him back on a strict coffee-and-cigarettes regimen to obscure the fact that his entire neighborhood was teleported to an alien planet where little bugs crawl all over him, kinda like that whole LOST WEEKEND deal.

    And then he met Regina.

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  4. Crickets... You're a tough act to follow, Peter.

    I'm picking up my rotten-vegetable-proof suit from the cleaners for the Spotlight today (they're scraping the pulp off), so get ready to let 'em fly: I like this episode and take it seriously. Sue me, just don't make me watch "The Mutant" again.

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  5. Mark-

    You can borrow my pigeon-crap-proof suit if you'd like. "The Mutant" is my favoritest episode (except for zzzzzzz) and I can't wait to review it. I need new synonyms for "Holymackerel" and "bestest." Luckily, my Amazon thesaurus (11th edition) arrives this week!

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  6. >>Oh boy, just what we need from a "scholarly" Outer Limits blog. Infantile MST3K commentary. Pfffft.

    Everybody's a critic around here.

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  7. I kinda liked dis episode. The dame was pretty hot. Was she really a bee? Cool. It would have been more awsome-er if she turned into a giant bug at da end and the old dude kills her wit a Civil war Sabre (like that show 'Branded') or a bazooka. I give it one Zanti and a high five.

    Um, are we still in that "Golden age or era," youse guys refer to?

    Peter- LMAO, still I'll take the snarky cliff notes any day.

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  8. Uhhh... Yeah. In general. Love those twin peaks. Va-va-va-voom, as Art Carney used to say. That flower-kissing scene really rocked. Sultry teenage vixen. Mmmm-mmmmm! Played right into Dr. Fields' bondage fantasies. And mine. Official review? Ten thousand Zantis, to match Dean Martin's bedrooms.

    On the other hand...

    A reasonably interesting episode, with some eerie moments (mostly in the garden) and a very grounded, very credible performance by Marsha Hunt. I always got the impression that the Fields were roughly around the same age, and that Regina was indeed a stand-in for the daughter they never had. There's an interesting, somewhat unexplored dynamic here: petulant Regina is annoyed that her seductive feminine charms didn't exactly work on "Ben," revealing the angst-driven emotions of a frustrated teenager. Ben and his wife discuss how easy it would be for him to be "touched" by such an alluring young creature -- what middle-aged guy wouldn't be? But he's also touched by her genuine unhappiness, and this mutual vulnerability adds something to their unique relationship. Another possible direction for this story would have a repentant Regina calling off the planned invasion after tasting human emotion (I said EMOTION, guys), only to be destroyed by her own "people." Indeed, regal Regina, treated like a ugly duckling by her actual mother and unexpectedly emotionally conflicted by her experience with the Fields, is one of the more tragic and strangely sympathetic characters in the OL universe. The fact that she's adolescent, pretty and female only adds to the sadness. Ironically, Marsha Hunt's character needs to bestow a mother's love to the daughter she's never had (think of Jessica Tandy in THE BIRDS), and even though Regina's been "assigned" to seduce Ben, what she really requires is maternal love (think of Tippi Hedren in THE BIRDS). So yeah, the "decent couple takes in a spoiled teenage princess" theme of this story has many interesting permutations, if you'll forgive the expression.

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  9. I think Peter scared everybody today. (Although I also give him a LMAO--thank you! I think you reached the apex (apogee?) (apotheosis?) of your critiquing skills--such inventive commentary and unbridled passion!)

    If you're a full-blooded male, you have to watch this episode twice, because the first time you're too distracted and discomboobulated by Joanna Frank to notice what the heck else is going on. (And to John--I'm way past my impressionable age, but in the garden scene with the leaf-licking, I was definitely one with nature.) On SECOND viewing, some good things become apparent. I think Abbott was fine--he did indeed display his devotion to his wife and his stodgy dedication to his field (although I agree with John that once he heard the tapes, he should have been jumping all over the place yelling "They talked! The fricking bees talked!") And yet, despite his fidelity, in a couple of scenes with Regina you could definitely tell that he was . . . thinking about it.

    I liked the moonlit scenes in the garden (aside from Frank--just the look of them!) And in Abbott's final speech, he's lit in such a way that little reflections jump off his eyes like sparks, which was pretty effective.

    If you take away the bee stuff, the whole thing is really in the Southern Gothic Bette Davis mode, as regards the triangle between the three, culminating in the scene where Regina comes in wearing the bridal veil, and . . . um . . . I'm sorry, I was looking at the pictures of Joanna Frank again and forgot what I was saying.

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  10. John Townsley RiddleJanuary 31, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    Defying the Buzz-Killers

    Typically, when citronella fumes are blown "ZZZZZ"'s way, they look something like this: What's with the puritanical Prof.? He's got a wife as barren as Vasquez Rocks and a bee-girl who ain't no virgin queen trying to seduce him, so what does he do? He blocks his own? WTF? He's got a chance to get laid and he lays a religious tract on us instead? I'd have hit that. Got your honey-nut cheerios right here, baby. I'd have hit that bee-girl so hard, Rachel Carson would've tried to ban me.

    Allow me to pinion that opinion. Why would a fortysomething, God-fearing, happily married, scientist express anything other than avuncular kindness toward a twenty-year-old, homeless, socially retarded, proto-SuicideGirl with a rockin' bod? Oops, I just answered my own question with that bit about the rockin' bod.

    Let me try that again. When Regina shows up in Ben's bedroom to provide this episode with a belated monster of the week — The Beast With Two Backs — some commenters on other sites have expressed the desire to swap places with our supposedly bluenosed beekeeper.

    Now, I wouldn't want to lose caste by coming across as excessively hidebound in the eyes of the more-libertine-than-thou set, but...

    What kind of stone cold perv would want to get it on with a transmogrified bee who offed his soulmate?

    The kind who lies dying in a pool of blood with his junk torn out by the roots like all the drones before him.

    The non-cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs case against "ZZZZZ" goes something like this: Meyer Dolinsky's original teleplay examined the dynamism-stunting effects of tradition and the enfeebling consequences of matriarchal sway. In rewrite, Stefano turned royal jelly into slumgum by grafting his family man perspective onto what was initially a much more provocative vision.

    A valid critique — if this were 1963. But in 2011...

    I'm thinking : In 2011, "ZZZZZ" is a cliche-buster.
    You're thinking: In 2011, "ZZZZZ" is a cliche, buster.

    Hey get rid of that comma and put the hyphen back where I had it! Alright smart-ass, let's try that again.

    I'm thinking: In 2011, "ZZZZZ" is as much a cliche-buster as Regina is a bra-buster. (Gotcha.)

    You're thinking: Exactly, "ZZZZZ" is as padded as Joanna Frank's bra.

    Sigh. Look, in the right frame of mind, the averted tropes of yesteryear can function as the subverted tropes of today.

    Today, we expect Ben to be tempted, to succumb, and to either pay for his indiscretion, or to somehow be rewarded for his interspecific kinkiness by an "edgy" filmmaker eager to give the middle finger to Middle America.

    Modern audiences do not expect the main character to turn into a God-botherer in the last act with no prior warning as to his inclinations. Where are all the obvious Catholic trappings unimaginative filmmakers use to tell, instead of show, devoutness?

    Stefano subverted current stereotypes by saltpetering the sexual tension, and by realistically depicting a man of faith who leans on his beliefs when the going gets weird, but doesn't constantly call attention to the crutch under his arm.

    After decades of reductio ad nauseam in entertainment, experiencing an undeconstructed theme is like taking a Dramamine.

    Yes, but does "ZZZZZ" put the drama in Dramamine, or does it put its viewers into the log-sawing state its title implies?

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  11. John Townsley RiddleJanuary 31, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    How a garden-variety beehive hyperevolved into the insectile equivalent of Gwyllm Griffiths, I'll never know.

    If the bees were mad-skilled enough to do a bang up job on Regina's physique, why did they bollox up her circulatory system? (Maybe they're "bumble" bees.)

    Ben, Francesca, and Regina form an obtuse triangle: none of them are particularly good at picking up each others cues. Regina's a bee, so we'll cut her some slack — but what's Ben's excuse? The ol' absentminded professor routine? Not buyin' it.

    According to Doc Warren, Francesca was poisoned to death, but the bee stings didn't kill her. Hmm, maybe Regina's only guilty of attempted murder. Could someone have slipped poison into Francesca's nightly cup of mead? Suspicion falls on Mr. Lund. This series has taught me to not trust Robert Johnson.

    Regina in human form is dead. Regina in bee form is alive and well. You could bring on a migraine trying to get your head around that one.

    At the concept level, the supersedure of a housewife by a mutant bee in order to mate with her husband and produce a mega-brood of world-conquering hybrids is pretty damn cool. At the concept level.

    According to the OL Companion, Joanna Frank felt abandoned on the set by director John Brahm, whose only advice was to "go with your feelings." I'd like to think that Brahm, interpreting her character as an alien, intentionally alienated Frank, in order to accentuate the awkwardness a stranger in a strange land (and body) would feel. I'd like to think that. I'm delusional that way.

    Whatever the reason, there's something remarkably quirky yet natural, retro yet contemporary, about Frank's look, voice, and mannerisms; something beyond mere photogeneity.

    Speaking of photogeneity, Conrad Hall's camera sure seems to think she's the bee's knees: it loves her so much it sends her gifts in the form of Rembrandt lighting, diffusion-glace portraiture, and sparkle-a-plenty starbursts for her eyes.

    Bombing out as science fiction — but da bomb as fantasy, "ZZZZZ" is honeycombed with pitch-pipe performances, a crack-pipe premise, and budget-defying sets — all splashed in cloudbursts of saturated imagery.

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  12. John Townsley RiddleJanuary 31, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    "ZZZZZ"'s climax is one of the few OUTER LIMITS scenes capable of offending a modern audience.

    A character spouting a Defense of Marriage Act as though he were reading someone the riot act could be nearly as mellow-harshing to a latter-day viewer as, say, a plot involving a hapless hetero receiving relationship advice from a gay guy would've been to a Kennedy era viewer.

    To me, (born ten years after its cancellation) THE OUTER LIMITS represents the sweet spot between the extremes of Production Code tampering and institutionalized transgression.

    These days, art tends to crap on the transcendent. Beauty is fragile and difficult to achieve; ugliness is bulletproof and nearly effortless. Whatever its shortcomings, "ZZZZZ"'s sensitive themes offer a respite from habitual cacophemism.

    When you come to a cultural cul-de-sac there's nothing left to do but retrace your steps. The only way to break the law of diminishing returns is to return to what has been diminished.

    Anything old can be new again. Old cliches are fresher than new cliches because they are less familiar. Familiarity breeds contempt. I'm all too familiar with detournement and recuperation, and I'm starting to feel contemptuous toward a dominant culture that self-gratifyingly pretends it's still the counterculture.

    Anyway, "ZZZZZ"'s climax gives off not the whiff of fire and brimstone, but the whiff of camphor: bitter and sentimental.

    A viewer who willfully fails to differentiate between righteous anger and self-righteousness, between sanctity and sanctimony — confuses forward thinking with froward thinking — and has donned a beekeeper's hat and veil to protect against "ZZZZZ"'s throat-lumping, eye-bedewing sting.

    Put yourself in Ben's lab coat. If the events that have befallen him, befell you, you might find yourself repelling a mutant queen bee over a balcony rail with nothing more than some DDT-strength sermonizing and the asteriated glint in your eye.

    No, I don't have a bee in my bonnet, I'm not drunk on honey jack, and I didn't kick the hornet's nest just for the hell of it. "ZZZZZ" showcases much of what makes THE OUTER LIMITS nonpareil: it affirms life in the midst of morbidity, hides profundity within silliness, and fashions an off-kilter and alluringly spooky universe.

    I will defy the buzz-killers to the end and I'll never refer to this episode as "The Bees." I'm no sell-out.

    Two and a half Zantis.

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  13. I think Peter was reacting to my poking fun at his ratings ("Invisibles"), which I swear I will never do again, understanding now what I know now about what I understand but didn't know about before.

    I think my enjoyment of this one hinges on first accepting it as a total fantasy, which the soft artificial look of the one stifling location seems to underline (four sets?). Once there, most of my fascination centers around Joanna Frank (yeah, yeah, yeah, as a kid had a crush on her, etc.).

    The question of her acting is almost moot, since it's her "beeing" that is most effective (sorry). She simply is. She inhabits the role and there is some kind of (feral? otherworldly? crazy nutty magical?) quality that enters the lens when she's on. I mean, hell, the way she uses her teeth (careful)--there's "teeth acting" here. Well, if there's acting at all. And we're not just talking alluring here--at times she is downright creepy. And Hall's shots of her in the bushes with some well-placed leaf shadows are transfixing.

    If a bee could turn into a woman, this is her. And Frank's magnetism carries this show. Not a favorite OL for me, but one I do find entertaining, thus able to revisit way more then many other episodes (you know who you are).

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  14. Lady Gaga could be Regina's spawn of pollination.

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  15. David Horne--- I think what you're suggesting is that Peter reached the "apiary" of his critiquing skills with this one.

    Not a favorite episode but still compelling enough that it could only have emerged from TOL's hive of psychological inquiry. The casting is solid: the ever-earnest Phillip Abbott; dignified Marsha Hunt; (I'll pass on Booth Coleman, whom I can only ever see as the effete schemer in WORLD WITHOUT END); and of course the ethereal Joanna Frank, who possessed the perfect exotic aura for the role. (How might the story have played if she had been, indeed, the "ugly duckling" she claims? Pure pathos?)

    Was there ever a woman who looked more like a Steve Ditko drawing? Exaggerated, sweeping facial lines (a la Nichelle Nichols). A caricaturist's dream. She plays regal hauteur with relish, preening like a bug with that un-self-conscious characteristic hair-sweep.

    Wild logical lapses and shaky science aside (Did her "drone" have to be Ben? If any pollinator would do, humanity was doomed.), the bees' plot---and Regina's alternating directness and deception in advancing it---seems in keeping with insectile efficiency. The remorseless dispatching of Francesca is certainly concordant with their ruthlessness.

    It's rather like "The Local Zantis," with technology arbitrarily evolving the intellect of a native perfectionist society that finds man at best a disposable resource for their aims.

    While I might be curious to see Dolinsky's original vision for the story, just for the sake of the alternative character dynamics, I've always found the veil scene reasonably satisfying as Ben's personal statement; never extracted old-school corn from his heartfelt valediction appealing to the inviolate nature of HUMAN social ritual. It makes Regina's arrogant self-assurance crumble with a more certain finality than did food poisoning. And it served notice to the would-bees that "the devious methods they themselves employ" are not necessarily the most potent weapons in the human arsenal.

    Fair-to-middlin', but elevated by the only face to commission a TOL story. Without Joanna Frank this slightly more ambitious rustic cousin of THE WASP WOMAN might have remained as sterile as a stamen without a pistil.

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  16. My instinctive reaction to this episdoe is to cry out: "Oh, Meyer..what hast thou wrought"?, or some such drivel--since Dolinsky's two previous OL scripts were so damned good. But then I am reminded by DJS's tome that, in fact, what we witness on screen is largely Stefano's rewrite--in addition to the fact that Dolinsky was assigned the script by Stefano based on nothing more than Joanna Frank's bee-coming (oops) allure.

    And ALLURING she is, especially when Hall gets through lighting and filtering her uncannily exotic visage; say what you will about this episode (and most of it ain't good) but the close-ups of Frank are wondrous to behold.

    But what happened to the plan to take her out shopping for some new duds that was mentioned in the show? Bee or not, a little "freshening up" of the costume plot might have been in order.

    Jack Poplin's elaborate
    garden/house/window/balcony set is one of this episode's few stand-out features; interesting that they would have gone to such expense (it somewhat reminds me of the overgrown graveyard set in Thriller's "God Grante That She Lye Stille"--is that how ye spell it?). But the "ZZZZ" set, far more massive and detailed than one would expect from even your average B-feature (ha! fooled you that time), lends an ephemeral, shimmery ambience to this strange tale.

    Philip Abbott and Marsha Hunt are real troopers; they successfully convey total sincerity and naturalness in their performances. Ms. Hunt in particular demonstrates a restrained and realistic approach to a role that would have become annoying, hysterical and self-pitying in the hands of many other actresses. Excellent work.

    Incidentally..it's somewhat ironic that all eyes are (for obvious reasons) glued to Ms. Frank's extraordinary features, while poor Marsha Hunt--for all of her gentle, elegant beauty, must suffer by comparison, due to her age. But it wasn't always thus! Check out Ms. Hunt's scenes in the 1943 MGM feature "The Human Comedy"--especially in the party scene at her parent's home---and you will see a vision of exquisite, winsome and ravishing femininty that positively GLOWS with beauty. To die for.

    Still, time marcheth on....

    (And I believe Marsha Hunt is still with us).

    LR

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  17. What I found amusing was that Regina came full clothed! Highly illogical but there wasn't really any other choice in those times.

    Aside from that, this one does have a weird, quaint charm - in plot terms and concept, it's so ludicrous and bizzare (and not really worthy of Dolinsky after two classics) that it falls into the emerging second breath of TOL, as a kind of surreal fantasy.

    Hall and Frontiere put the magic in it.

    1 zanti

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  18. A story primarily undone by the fatal error of casting "name" actors Philip Abbott (a pal of Leslie Stevens who was also in "The Borderland" and the premiere episode of STONEY BURKE) and a post-blacklist Marsha Hunt, whose ingenue roles had come before Joanna Frank had even been born. For contrast, imagine Michael Forest and Sally Kellerman as Dr. and Mrs. Fields — THEN the sexual conflict really would have crackled.

    The flipside of Regina's sudden appearance in a bridal veil comes in the very next episode, "Don't Open Till Doomsday," with equally catastrophic results.

    Shortly after Dolinsky died in 1984, three big packets of his OUTER LIMITS work went up for auction: Drafts, notes, letters and ephemera related to each of his three episodes. I could not afford them and so, to this date, have never seen his original draft of "ZZZZZ." Some collector with a bigger wallet is sitting on them even now.

    A lot of people don't know that Joanna Frank is the older sister of Steven Bochco. Former Stefano assistant Tom Selden drove me to meet Joanna shortly after the birth of her son, Robby (with husband Alan Rachins), who then lived on LarraBEE Street in West Hollywood (right off Sunset Strip). It gets worse; they were both investigating a health regimen that included — yes! — BEE POLLEN. I'm not kidding; I'm not making this up; I could barely contain myself. Joanna was completely open, earthy and funny, so much so that some of her recollect I dare not recount here. It was startling to see her with curly red hair (which she apparently affected for most of her life). I GOT an (unsolicited) HUG AND A KISS FROM THE BEE GIRL. Eat your hearts out, boys.

    I hear Pete is on the bee-pollen regimen and is feeling better now.

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  19. >>I hear Pete is on the bee-pollen regimen and is feeling better now.

    I'll bee back later today.

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  20. Peter, you are bloody brilliant! You tread the fine line between genius and crazy with grace. Your review here was nothing short of a masterpiece. I am in awe.

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  21. >>Your review here was nothing short of a masterpiece. I am in awe.

    As well you should be, young lady!
    I think it's very telling that a school teacher, a member of our most beloved and cherished profession, finds grace, charm, intellect and, dare I say, fortitude, in my graceful, charming, intellectual, and fortitudiful commentary and yet I'm mocked by a bunch of guys who eat lunch in their pajamas? Oy! Pffft!

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  22. The last time I saw it I couldn't help noticing that in one way, Ben and Francesca go together with Jonathan and Ethel of Wolf 359, and that's that they partly break the "not in the same bed" rule. In the scene where Francesca is in her robe and nightgown watching Regina in the garden, you see Ben sleeping in the only bed in the room. So even though you never see her in bed WITH him, it's still playing around with that rule.

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  23. Regarding John's last comment in his review: while apparently not an official remake, the episode "Flower Child" from the final season of the Showtime-Sci Fi reincarnation of The Outer Limits has a very similar premise, except that Regina's character is recast as a woman who is actually a form of extraterrestrial plant life.

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  24. The good doctor should have followed his instincts and given Regina what she wanted. He could have DRONED on and on until he expired. Joanna Frank had a great body, pretty face and great hair: she seemed perfectly cast in this Sci fi: she was sweet as honey.

    MMMMMmmmzzzzzzz

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  25. Yes. Or maybe he could have become a drone who SURVIVES, by saying on and off "Not tonight, HONEY."

    I've always thought that Marsha Hunt was very good in this, the way she constantly wavers between "Am I jealous, period?" and "Is something really weird going on?"

    One question I have is, is this the only Outer Limits with a genuine "villainess"? (In some ways Judith Bellero counts as one - along with Mrs. Dame - and in some ways she doesn't.) Al I know is, Regina's great "hot villainess" moment is when Francesca finally sees what she's doing for certain, and she gives that wonderful laugh.

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  26. 3 1/2 Zantis. This is one of the very best episodes of the series. I had never heard of Joanna Frank before, but what a babe! My first question would be are the real? Whether they are or aren't, they're emphasized the way that Billy Wilder shot Marilyn Monroe. I thought she gave a touching, believable performance, she's so odd that she seems truly alien, yet sympathetic. Is this the inspiration for Invasion of the Bee Girls? The Scientists early line "ordinary bees are already in the normal range of human intelligence"- news to me. A great visual when the bees swarm over the glass as she talks to them. Within its unlikely premise, the episode seems truly credible. Also I like the idea that the creatures we are studying may be studying US!

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  27. she Joanna frank was truly sexy and then some, seeing her in the fugitive and Outer limits inspired me for my heroes love interest. http://www.amazon.com/The-Planetary-Patriot-Edward-Marcus/dp/0956739806/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350841107&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Planetary+Patriot -- why did she not do much more, seeing her in color would have been amazing to. sexy forever she is on film now.

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  28. Schlow p.4 = bad link when clicked or opened in new tab. Right-click, save picture as does work

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  29. Every time I watch this episode, Joanna Frank reminds me of Carole Ann Ford, who played "Susan" on DOCTOR WHO back in 1963-64.

    Meanwhile, my most-watched Philip Abbott appearance is him as an Aiur Force officer who turns up in a 2nd season NIGHT COURT episode, where he gets to cross paths with Stella Stevene (hubba hubba) and somebody I find REALLY sexy-- Ellen Foley.

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