Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Expanding Human



Production Order #08
Broadcast Order #04
Original Airdate: 10/10/64
Starring  Skip Homeier, Keith Andes, James Doohan.
Written by Frances M. Cockrell.
Directed by Gerd Oswald.


A strange serum that expands the human brain as well as the cheekbones may be behind a series of brutal murders and good nights at the craps table.

PE: The opening of this show gave me a "1950s Mexican Monster Movie starring Santo" vibe. Same kind of grainy photography (or is that the transfer?), nice shadowy hallway shot, and cheesy Mr. Hyde make-up.

JS: And are you saying that is a good thing or a bad thing?

PE: Classic OL moment: Lt. Branch (Doohan) talks Akada's manager into letting him into Akada's apartment. There the pair find the body of Akada, lying on his sofa. The camera gives us a very tight close-up of Branch's weathered face. "Oh boy," he mutters. Priceless!

JS: Jimmy (Scotty) Doohan's brief appearance outshines Leonard Nimoy's OL cameo in "Production and Decay of Strange Particles"), and for that matter, The Shat's in "Cold, Dead Hands." As far as lost spin-off pilots of OL characters go, I could imagine watching The Adventures of Lieutenant Branch. "Oh, boy," would be his trademark line.

PE: Talk about good timing: Akada (Aki Aleong) wakes up on the morgue slab just before being eviscerated.  Good thing too because he had some dinner at Chico's just before lights out. Could have been nasty. As the slightly hyper Akada, Aleong does a good job of nearly stealing the show, along with Doohan, despite their brief air time. But someone's going to have to explain to me what the significance of the Akada character is.

JS: If ever an actor playing a not-quite dead character should have stayed dead, this was it. He was convincing as a corpse—not so much as a living, breathing human being. And having him wake on the autopsy table as the ME's sharpening his scalpels is just plain silly.

PE: I'm still trying to figure out how Roy Clinton added a crafty Las Vegas gambler, a superhuman good Samaritan and a vicious night watchman murderer together to come up with the same guy. Isn't that stretching it a bit? And yet, Lt. Branch says he'll check it out. It's lucky Clinton didn't throw in the old lady who works the 7-11 on the corner of 15th and 8th Street in Brooklyn. (I'll just add, after watching the entire show, that maybe Clinton was going off some bit of memory left in his brain from his Vegas jaunt. -PE)

JS: Yeah, that puts Lt. Branch in the caliber of the Thriller cops we got to know so well. Although there's an interesting party game to be made of that scene. Play Alibi! I know you saw me at the scene of the crime, but here's what I think happened: A 93-year old lottery winner from Des Moines was involved in a drive-by shooting in Oakland, and continued their crime spree by breaking into my next door neighbors house and killing his wife. All wearing the clothes he snuck out of my closet. Does that seem reasonable???

PE: Am I the only one here who thinks Keith Andes is a dead ringer for Jeff Morrow in This Island Earth?


JS: You may be onto something there...

PE: L-OL dialogue! Clinton forces Peter Wayne to drink the serum:
Clinton: Now then, if you'd care to sample this, I'll promise that you'll be charmed with its effect. You may find it slightly reminiscent of cucumbers. A characteristic I'm unable to account for at the moment.. but it's... not bad at all!

PE: More L-OL: After Clinton unceremoniously drops dead from his bullet wounds, Peter burns the formula in an ashtray in Clinton's apartment just as the brilliant detective and sleuth, Lt. Branch ,walks up and says "Well, we've torn this place apart and can't find any notes for the formula. Any ideas? "(He leans over and lights a cigarette off the still burning papers). "I'm stumped!"


JS: I'm surprised you didn't mention the return of your Hydra's Teeth theme from "The Invisible Enemy" when evil Clinton was around. Did anyone else think, when the landlady comes running out of Akada's apartment, that we were about to launch into Lalo Schifrin's Mission: Impossible theme? I have to admit, I'm a big fan of Skip Homeier, who played opposite Don Knotts in one of my all-time favorites, "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken." I thought they did a decent job hiding 'Clark Kent' Clinton behind the 'Superman' Clinton make-up.


PE: Where has this show been all my life? "Expanding Human"would have fit in nicely with the series of horror flicks released in the 1950s: Son of Dr. Jekyll, Daughter of Dr. Jekyll, Blood of Dracula, Monster on the Campus. Those all had better monster make-ups (Clinton/Hyde looks like freakin' Arnold Schwarzenegger!) I'll admit, but this is a fun little time-waster. There's never really any doubt who the crazed killer is. And the scenes of Clinton/Hyde roaming the streets and entering an office building without drawing notice (he even talks to a secretary at one point without so much as a gasp!) are a hoot. Is it my imagination or does the transformation even change his shoes? This episode has all the lapses of logic of those nutty monster flicks and provides the same kind of entertainment. I'll roll this one on a triple bill with "The Invisible Enema" and "Cold Feet, Warm Intestines" the next time the ladies are over. The only disappointment, of course, is that Clinton doesn't try to colonize Mars in the end.

JS RATING:
PE RATING:







David J. Schow on "Expanding Human":


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




EXPLODING HYMEN

Doc Clinton has cheekbones a-swelling
And a Nazi agenda a-jelling
    But Scotty shoots first
    And hits him the worst
The ending? Well, that would be telling.




 Be sure to check back later today for Larry Blamire's Spotlight on "Expanding Human."

Next Up...

18 comments:

  1. As noted in the book text, this is Francis Cockrell's only produced OUTER LIMITS script, but he also adapted Robert Sheckley's 1953 story "The Watchbird" into a complete script that was never filmed ... until 2007, at least, when an entirely different take on the same source story was done for the short-lived MASTERS OF SCIENCE FICTION series on the Sci-Fi Channel, before it morphed into SyFy. Even then, "Watchbird" remained one of the un-broadcast episodes because the series tanked so quickly. It's available on the DVD set for the curious (and looks about as bad as you're probably imaging, right now).

    Long ago, Bill Lenihan pointed out to me the similarly between the Watchbird and the military Predator drones that came into fashion about a decade ago. Doubly interesting, because in the Cockrell script, the flying countermeasure devised to knock down the Watchbird is called a "falcon."

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  2. I'll have to agree with the OUTER LIMITS COMPANION on this episode. Everyone interviewed thinks this one was a real low point in the series. It's amazing that they were still capable of producing a good show like "Demon With a Glass Hand". It looks like everyone was waiting for the ax.

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  3. "Blow my mind, Scotty."

    "Oh, boy."

    A very tired Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde rip off, right down to the same ending with the damage received by the Hyde Clinton killing the reverting Clinton. They could have done so much more with this story, but just punted went through the motions.

    There's further evidence here that all the trendy writers and performers in town were aware of the LSD being administered by their friendly Beverly Hills neighborhood analyst at the time. But the take here on expanded consciousness, as in "The Sixth Finger," contra-intuitively goes the path of the homicidal egotist willing to sacrifice other humans for their own benefit, rather than any kind of 'we are all one' benevolent enlightenment. At least Akada is here to 'expand' a bit on that side of the coin. Easily the humorous highlight of this episode for me.

    This one didn't do anything for me as a kid, and the only buzz I got this time around was the Akada ressurection, and recognizing the bank building I used to live two blocks from (and do business at) when I first moved to L.A. at Wilcox and Sunset. I used to have to step over passed out heroin addicts and crazy people waddling around claiming they were penguins to get my pizza slice dinner at Two Guys from Italy on Hollywood Blvd. Back then Hollwood and was far scarier than anything this episode provides.

    But in direct contrast to the production and decay of second season episodes, our host commentators are definitely 'peaking.'

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  4. Way back in the dim past, I was extolling the virtues of TOL to a friend of mine who seemed interested. So, one Sunday she decided to check out the local UHF weekly broadcast to see what the excitement was all about. And guess which episode was being shown that day?

    After a lenghty explanation (one of those "I know you must think I'm insane" deals), I convinced her to tune in the following week for "Demon"....and my credibility was, for the moment, restored. There IS a bit of pathos at the end of this one, but it's a total time-waster for me (though I look forward to Larry B's commentary to see how he deals with it).

    As usual, I find the spin-offs and digressions far more interesting than these weak episodes themselves. I fondly remember a life-changing experience back in March of '68---seeing the touring production of "Man of La Mancha", one of the truly great works of the American theater, starring Keith Andes as Cervantes/Quixote. Damned good onstage, and a fine singer to boot (he had starred in 1960 opposite Lucille Ball in the musical "Wildcat"--something to do with oil fields in Texas..)

    Also in the "La Mancha" cast that day were our old Thriller/OL/TZ pal Sandy Kenyon as Dr. Carrasco/Knight of the Mirrors, the "heavy" of the show (yes, he survived the experinece of OL's "Counterweight") and Tony Martinez -- Pepino of The Real McCoys---as Sancho Panza (Mr. Martinez played the role onstage for over 20 years). In the smaller role of the Housekeeper was Lu Leonard who, among other historic film appearances, married Larry Fine in one of the Stooges all-time worst shorts in 1955.

    Can't beat fun at the old theater!

    LR

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  5. Larry R: Didn't know Andes sang. The lead in La Mancha no less!

    Yes, I have a Spotlight coming. Oh, what have I done?...

    Forgot to mention, original title, when script was more Learyesque: "Expanding You, Man".

    Re: Larry Fine: it is important that the Stooge presence lingers on the OL blog.

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  6. This is a film that gradually "Peters" out after a signature Gerd Oswald stylish opening. The story is mundane '50s sf procedural: MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS, by way of the new countercultural preoccupation with C.E. drugs, filtered through Robert Louis Stevenson and leftover fascist super-race anxiety, to produce a mishmash of JEKYLL & FRANKENSTEIN.

    Truly weird teaser death scene--the night watchman literally has his life's breath squeezed out of him. Cheeky Roy (hardly any mystery that it's Skip Homeier; I don't think it was ever an issue) nicely displays this "expanded" entity's thorough contempt for Homo Simplex with his very original murder method. But then the story plods along its kids'-menu, connect-the-dots narrative line to a whimper of an ending: Our villain collapses due to nothing more dramatic than exhausted villain-juice. Say, what?

    Skip Homeier decently fills his role, another future TREKker in an episode swarming with them. But it's not their fault that this one doesn't work.

    Keith Andes is blandly functional here as the chronic hardware-buying, stunned-to-staring Dr. Peter Wayne. Good old Vaughn "The Guests" Taylor and Mary Gregory are fun to see, she of the three TZs, including my fave, "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." (She was still acting in 2010.)

    And, of course, we get James Doohan's non-Scottish Lt. Branch, a pleasant enough dim-bulb detective role. Years ago at a convention, I was a very minor writer guest and got to meet the personable and down-to-earth Jimmy Doohan, who was probably Guest of Honor. He would only smile and say nothing when asked about The Shat (not by me). But he was pleased and relieved to be remembered for his considerable non-TREK involvements, like this one.

    The music really calls attention to itself here. Of course we get the Sand Shark theme that echoes Bernard Herrmann. The ONE STEP BEYOND woo-wooing cue seems to artificially inflate Akada's rhapsodizing about the thrill of a mind-enhancing trip. It fits more naturally during Peter and Roy's discussion over the cucumber cocktail. But what's with the screaming-crescendo overkill when Roy regards the "Bellaire" note? We've heard the guy's name once but never met him. We're not invested in him enough to quiver at his impending death. The drama is pushed at us with these blaring music cues.

    Peter's coincidental sighting of Roy at the bank building is too convenient. And while the "Skip-nosis" scenes work about as well as any of these sf mind-control movie moments, the self-hypnosis point doesn't quite jive with Roy's confusing agenda. He seems oblivious throughout, then suddenly he waxes slyly sinister with Peter in the apartment. It feels inconsistent.

    Bizarre closeups of Roy near the end, emphasizing his sinister eyes and brow. The cop-toss is another nice indicator of his amoral contempt for puny humans. Another cucumber shot, and he'd be ready for some Gwyllm Griffiths-style telekinesis.

    But again, it all trips and falls hollowly in the parking lot in the anticlimactic fizzle of a conclusion. That's no payoff. When Alec Guinness had his "What have I done?" moment in RIVER KWAI, the consequences were obviously mounted on a theatrical scale, but nonetheless had more jarring resonance on a personal level. Here it seems forced, anticipated. You expect his next melodramatic line to borrow from Henry Hull in WEREWOLF OF LONDON: "Thanks for the bullet."

    We encounter another thematic, almost political, difference between a more progressive, ground-breaking TOL S1 and the generally more conservative S2. As in "Purple Twilight," the creator destroys his creation in an indictment of tinkering with "things man was not meant to know."

    Do you believe that Allan Maxwell stopped probing the heavens after the tragic Andromedan fiasco?

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  7. Another misfire, although at least it's trying to be topical and a little different... a Jekyll/Hyde variation within the context of current ('60s) academia and the emerging drug culture. OL never looked so tired and anemic. But cheer up, cousins... "Demon" is next!

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  8. Some spillover thoughts (wish the blog machine provided a running word-count)...

    Our hosts, Peter and John, get my props for an unusually savvy and entertaining analysis. And yes, Peter, your episode namesake Keith Andes could easily qualify as a LOWBROW Metaluna denizen. He looked like even more of one in his TREK turn in "The Apple," where I thought he was miscast and seemingly lost.

    I've never found Skip Homeier to be a "powerful" actor, but I don't get this business of his being envisioned as a prototypical Nazi because he played one at 14. That says more about people's skewed vision of how art relates to life than his youthful performance. He was so good in his first role that he limited his character parameters for life? That must be one helluva memorable performance. Haven't seen it in ages and now am compelled to dig it up.

    I still love the line "the faintest echo of the tiniest whisper in the thunder of time" as a poetic evocation of the vastness of eternity.

    Did anybody else think that Mrs. Wayne was petulantly calling her husband to see if he'd come home and help her finish zipping up the back of her dress?

    Keeping the Stooge referential legacy alive, I'd posit that Roy/Hyde would have looked great in one of those late Shemp episodes, with Kenneth MacDonald and his cohorts trying to scare the Stooges out of a house they were robbing. Or with Emil Sitka ("Hold hands, you lovebirds!") as a professor with a monster that breaks loose and menaces the prof's daughter, Christine McIntyre, while the boys mug their way through "protecting" her.

    "Hey, Moe---I think I've got 'im! Eep-eep-ep-eep-eep-eep-eep-eep!"

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  9. UPDATE: Ghadafi 'villain-juice' running low; needs spike of CE.

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  10. Ted: Absolutely--Dr. Clinton as the new Duke York!

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  11. Kenneth MacDonald (the slimy bad guy): "Angel?"
    Angel: (the hunchbacked, fright-wigged, buck-toothed goon played by Duke York) "Hmmm?"
    MacDonald: "Strangers in the house...."

    Yeah...I can see Skippy Homeier/Dr Clinton as the new Duke, chasing the stooges around the house with the machete.

    But let's not forget:

    Moe: "You had an illusion!"
    Shemp: "No, I had a hunk of pipe!"

    LR

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  12. Larry R---

    LOVE that "hunk of pipe" line! As a kid I always liked Shemp better than Curly because of line deliveries like that. A tribute to their talent, that the two brothers playing off Moe were so different in style and yet both worked beautifully.

    ---With the great Larry Fine as the glue to hold the chaos together! (He was always my dad's favorite Stooge. They both played violin.) I enjoy watching Larry's performance when the other two are commanding the frame, as most often happened. His reactions are always spot-on supportive. A genuine trouper.

    And when Larry would innocently stick his nose in for a comment---"You should live so long!"---SLAP!---twice as funny a moment as any of the other eye-poking fun!

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  13. TED--

    When you watch--REALLY watch--what those guys did, you realize that, regardless of your opinion of the style/content of their comedy, the Stooges were VERY good at what they did.
    True pros.

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  14. First off, high five to Ted for calling out Larry as the Stooge worth watching. His hapless reactions are always precious, and is there anything funnier than the repeated shots of Larry running madly down the street in "Punch Drunks"?

    Now, to "Expanding Human". Okay, I'm going on record and stating I LOVE this episode. There is a hypnotic appeal to its mid-century look and to the nearly somnambulistic but riveting performance of Keith Andes and the strong, commanding and compelling presence of Skip Homeier.

    Skip Homeier -- such tragic figure here as Roy, just a nice, decent brainiac scientist who is genuinely shocked when he discovers his transformation misdeeds. What a delivery he has; every line as the transformed Roy takes on a portentous quality, making his speeches either chilling or sort of funny, both of which work to make this an entertaining episode.

    The real stars of this one are the utterly bleak and sun-bleached streets and venues of So. Cal. Lots of mundane location shots really bring to life the fairly bleak existence of these guys. Roy doesn't even have a proper bedroom, though thank goodness he seems to have a shower that he pretends to just step out of to avoid Mrs. Merrill the landlady. His kitchen is so 1960s, with its now-retro and perfect wallpaper, where he concocts his potion. The whole apartment building is limiting and claustrophobic, though bright, a sunny film noir setting of sorts.

    Keith Andes as Peter Wayne seems bewildered most of the time, understandably as he keeps catches glimpses of a weird guy in an ill-fitting suit who kind of reminds him of his brother-in-law, and more so as he finds out the truth. He has a dishy wife but that relationship is laid out in the mundane admonition she hands out: "Just don't buy out the hardware store like you did last week...". So suburban and of course it's fun to see him using a pay phone.

    Maybe the evolved Roy is no more than some cheek implants and crazy forehead ridges, but he's still scary. He walks with a deadly purpose and confidence, almost Frankenstein-like in his gait and like Medusa when he looks at you. You're doomed. Homeier's deep voice is particularly good when he's laying out one of his pronouncements: "I want to see Mr. Bellaire" or "I said, the 19th Floor", or any of the great lines when he finally gets Peter in the apartment and starts to go to work on him. "Peter, the watchman wasn't going to live forever." And of course the "faintest whisper" line -- absolutely terrific. "We'll have to start bringing you over!"

    (This is going long so I have to split it in two -- as I just found out when I tried to post it...)

    -to be continued

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  15. -continued-

    The whole dosing scene is great. Peter trying in his bewildered way to figure a way out, and Roy gabbing on as he mixes and offers the potion. "Don't try to pour out the drink and replace it with water. I'll know if you do..."

    "I promise you'll be charmed with its effect. You may find it's slightly reminiscent of cucumber in effect, a characteristic I'm unable to account for at the moment." And then, like a wine aficionado, he adds "...but it's not bad at all." Also, this is a weird speech, because what is the "effect" of a cucumber, anyway? I always thought that line must have been dubbed wrong, since we don't see Homeier's mouth and probably the word was "taste" rather than "effect" -- or am I misunderstanding something about cucumbers that everybody else knows?

    Another great Roy line: "All it takes is a look and a quiet word." And of course "We'll just have to increase your dose!"

    This episode is "Expanding Homeier" through and through. He manages to combine menace with a deep sense of decency that culminates in his last line when he's lying on ground nearly dead. "What have I done?" he asks, ashamed and scared as he knows he is about to die. Which he does. Roy didn't mean to do any of those terrible things, not regular Roy.

    When Keith Andes gets a chill when the formula's taking hold -- I would have loved to have seen one glimpse of him in his Expanded facial mode! Even more like Exeter, perhaps!

    I also love Prof. Akata. How many times did my sister and I riff on "I see ALL leaves falling..." -- great scene and funny as well as thought-provoking.

    I like this one *because* it's ordinary and yet extraordinary and weird. I also like it because the more you watch it the funnier it gets. This is "The Roy and Peter Show" and they're definitely the Odd Couple.

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  16. No relation to Al Leong, Aki Aleong is the SAME Aki Aleong that remains standing today as a fundamental pillar of the surf music scene, with his bands Aki Aleong & the Nobles, and The Deadly Ones.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzD4BBllzsY

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhppQqMAitM

    ... and so on.

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  17. I also love Prof. Akata. How many times did my sister and I riff on "I see ALL leaves falling..." -- great scene and funny as well as thought-provoking.

    Every time I see Instructor (man, these academics are protective of their titles) Akada say ". . . . whether what we see in everyday life is reality and all of it, or . . . . " I can't help wanting to pause the show, jump into the scene (ala Purple Rose of Cairo), and grill him on what he means by "and all of it".

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  18. I can never help liking that scene. Any given scene with a "tripping" character is all right with me.

    SPOILER

    I can understand the jokes about Peter burning the formula almost right in front of the police. It reminds me of the end of "Cousin Tundifer" on THRILLER. Seeing that woman toss Edward Andrews' I.D. into a fireplace right in front of the police - and get away with it - somehow makes me dislike her a lot more than him.

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