Friday, January 7, 2011

Architects of Fear

Production Order #05
Broadcast Order #03
Original Airdate: 9/30/63
Starring Robert Culp, Leonard Stone, Martin Wolfson, Geraldine Brooks.
Written by Meyer Dolinsky.
Directed by Byron Haskin.

A group of Star Chamber scientists decide the best way to avert a global holocaust is to get countries of the world to unite against a common enemy. Allen Leighton (Culp) draws the short straw and is selected to be transformed into a Thetan. As is to be expected, such a decision is destined to have a negative impact on his marriage.

JS: Wow. Where to begin. A killer concept, well executed. Robert Culp is fantastic as Leighton who, even after discovering his wife's infertility issues are resolved and that he's going to be a father, doesn't deviate from his task at hand.

PE: Do you think Culp had it in his contract that he had to wear the same white tennis shoes and high water pants in every role he played?

JS: I want to know what happened to the Thetan after Leighton sets him free. Did he crawl back into his cage all on his own? I'd like to believe there's a deleted scene where all the scientists are chasing the little rascal around the lab (with fake mustaches and cigars? -PE). And speaking of the little critter, despite only being seen in shadows or silhouette I immediately recognized him from my youth. He had, of course, been rechristened as "Suckerman." Tell me that the resemblance is not uncanny.

Thetan, or Suckerman?
I vote Suckerman.

PE: I was thinking he may have been of Zuni origin.

JS: The transformation make-up on Culp is extremely effective, and his performance ratchets up as he becomes more "Thetan" and less human. The resulting Thetan monster suit is chillingly effective (in no small part due to the way it was shot).

PE: Agreed! I think Culp is, like in most of his early to mid-60s TV work, dynamic and interesting. Remember that Culp cut his acting teeth on TV westerns. Looking at those intense and determined eyes, you can see why he excelled in that genre. I can think of several stand-out performances off the top of my head, most notably Hoby Gilman in Trackdown for two seasons (for my money, aside from Sam Peckinpah's The Westerner, Trackdown was the best half hour western show and spun off Steve McQueen's Wanted: Dead or Alive). Culp was a chameleon, able to drift from one genre to another, be it the western (in addition to Trackdown, he also guested on Rawhide, the aforementioned The Westerner, Outlaws, and The Rifleman), suspense (Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Naked City), espionage (the old-timers among us remember Culp best as Kelly Robinson on I, Spy), comedy (the youngsters among us will no doubt know Culp as Debra's dad on Everybody Loves Raymond), and, of course, science fiction (his three legendary appearances on Outer Limits). Culp was also an accomplished writer and director. As a matter of fact, my favorite Culp role is that of Frank Boggs, the disheveled detective of Hickey and Boggs, a project that Culp directed and reunited him with good friend (and I, Spy co-star) Bill Cosby. Here's a little-film-that-could that deserves to be re-examined by today's audiences. Can you tell I'm a big Robert Culp fan?

JS: I think the IMDB just threw up in our blog. (all of that information came straght out of my encyclopedic brain. -PE) And yet somehow you managed to omit his role as Bill Maxwell on The Greatest American Hero?

PE: That's 1980s TV, youngster, so it don't count.

JS: Do you think the scientists built their own rocket or borrowed one of the Flash Gordon jobbies off the Universal lot?

PE: An early prototype of Jim Danforth's Penile Rocket from Flesh Gordon, perhaps?

JS: I thought it was interesting that rather than recoiling in terror, Leighton's wife (Brooks) gives the Thetan a sultry look when she runs into the him in the lab. Before she even realizes that it's Allen, her eyes appear to be saying, "Your planet or mine?"

PE: Definite "Outer Limits Babe of the Week." I really dug our first shot of the Thetan. coming out of his ship and into the tall reeds. If I'd seen this on its initial run as a five year old tyke, I'd have needed to change my Batman underoos swiftly. It's a very creepy scene cut too short by pesky hunters (led by Billy Green Bush, who went on to have a respectable career as a character actor) and their damn guns! I guess these brilliant scientists never thought about hillbillies and their possum-whompers.

JS: Do you think another Thetan would have taken one look at him and said, "Cheee-Cheee Cheeum Chum" (translated to English: "Jeepers-creepers he's a biggun!")? When all is said and done, the scientists plan has gone awry, Leighton is dead, and his wife is left to raise their child alone (and one wonders what kind of child it will grow up to be). It's a pretty somber moment, and it's extremely powerful thanks to the performances of all involved.

PE: That is his arm sticking up, isn't it?

JS: Nice. Way to spoil the mood, Enfantino.


David J. Schow on "The Architects of Fear":

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

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  1. Definitely the best episode out of the first five. The first four had their laughable moments but this one is deadly serious and quite well done. The only possible flaw might be the fact that even if the spaceship had landed in front of the UN, the UN security guards would have shot the alien full of holes. I'm surprised the three hunters only got off one shot and even that one was enough to kill him. The do gooder scientists get an A for intent but an F for execution. What a bunch of screwups; they wreck the guy's marriage, get him killed, and don't even deliver their message to the UN. Even with this gripe, I see this as an excellent episode with an outstanding monster.

  2. God, I hate when you guys veer off into westerns.

    Nice to see some Culp love here, and I'll mention that WESTERNER episode specifically, "The Line Camp" where he excels, in a deceptively and increasingly dark tale. And the RAWHIDE "Incident at the Top of the World", two years prior to this OL, where he is equally invested as a drug-addicted Civil War vet.

    Here, his mid-show breakdown is something of a show-stopper. In particular, I love the way that segment starts, with his series of abrupt head turns to the scientists and that chuckle when they're no longer visible to him--it's a wonderfully disorienting effect.

    Well, I thought this might be your first four zanti show; really a beautifully crafted piece of television, a quite moving mini movie--the sheer achievement of which far outweighs any minor quibbles. Outstanding work here in all departments.

    Including another superb score from Frontiere, with a very touching love theme. I've been playing my OL 3-CD soundtrack lately (I wonder why?) and I was reminded that I used to think the driving Thetan-on-the-rampage music was the same as an rather aggressive cue that turned up regularly in RAT PATROL (being released on CD by La La Land by the way). It is in fact a different, but similar, piece.

    Four zanties, all smiling.

  3. Okay, after watching this one I think I'm finally starting to realize why this show has endured for so many years with rapid, loyal legions of followers.

    All I can say is that this ep. was amazing. I had respect for Robert Culp before, from the few other things I've seen him in, but his acting in this was award winning. He conveyed realistically what it would be like for a man to transform into a monster, without making his meltdown come off the least bit over-the-top or hammy.

    Unbelievable after reading DJS's book entry how the alien was edited by nervous television executives for being to gruesome. I know it was the early 1960's, but jeez. Maybe they were afraid that some dumb Americans would see the ep., freak out, start thinking it was a real alien invasion, and resort to a state of anarchy.

    I noticed that the duck hunter's gunshot might have caused the alien to lose his bodily functions. Look closely when Robert Culp's Bear goes down the stairs at the end to say goodbye to his wife. It appears that the alien starts taking a leak on the floor. I'm surprised that one got past the censors.

    Kudos to the Hungarian acrobat that must have sweated off 30 pounds after being in that suit. I doubt the giant pacifier in the creatures mouth was much help with breathing.

    4 Zanti's for an outstanding episode that got this Tactical Warrior off the fence, and is now a committed loyal fan!

  4. A great episode, and one of the most disturbing! I think it's the content of the story, rather than the costume, that makes it a bit inappropriate for family audiences (that's also what makes it so good!).

    Another great, but rarely-seen, early Culp TV western appearance is on the good but short-lived 'Tate' series, in the episode 'The Bounty Hunter', where he plays (of course) a psychotic bounty hunter, with wire-rim spectacles and a preacher-style outfit. Creepy!

  5. After all the stately FX seen thus far, that disintegrating station wagon is like a punch in the face. After all these years it STILL packs a wallop and silences a room.

    Welcome to the "awakened" OUTER LIMITS, a newly-bestirred beast slowly discovering its own identity.

    Cumbersome and clunky, or not, that Thetan costume astonishes me to this day. They made this for television?! Somebody at Projects was definitely working overtime, or had made it a personal quest, because the suit is all-encompassing, detailed enough for a feature film, and required an acrobat to inhabit it. Compare it, too, to every similar "monster suit" done for TV up to this time -- and beyond. (For example, there isn't a single alien in any of the subsequent color sci-fi shows that's THIS weird.)

    The episode is also excellently-edited. Proof is the adequate conveyance of Allen's long, slow, and frequently PAINFUL transformation. Culp sells it like a trouper; his immersion into character is also noteworthy for a one-off TV episode.

    (Time to mention A COLD NIGHT'S DEATH again, very much like a "lost" OUTER LIMITS episode: Snowbound research station, check; Culp as scientist, check; it even features a voice-over lead-in by the Control Voice himself, Vic Perrin.)

    Larry Blams will recall my dismay over the WILD WILD WEST episode "The Night of the Watery Death." John Van Dreelen uses guided torpedoes tricked out to look like sea monsters to enforce his agenda ... but he also has a force field that disintegrates people, which goes mostly unremarked. Similar deal in "Architects": United Labs can transform a man into a clumsy alien, but somehow the fact that they've also ... coincidentally ... just happened to have invented a DISINTEGRATING LASER GUN that can vaporize vehicles is somehow missed by Defense Department contractors. (Or maybe that's how they made up the tax write-off for that whole failed invasion scenario.)

    United Labs is most impressively a one-stop shop: they also synthesize metals that don't exist (except on Theta), and constructed in-house a navigable space capsule that is apparently reusable as well! Not to mention the custom-tailoring of the Thetan's kicky glitter-garment, piping, accents and all, with its discreet loincloth to spare us all from the potential trauma of glimpsing Thetan genitalia.

    In Scientology, "Thetan" is the level above "clear."

    About ten years ago I had a meeting at Warner Bros. about a feature version of "Architects" which had been scripted by Charlie Haas for Denise Di Novi's production company. Charlie got the relationship story between the Allen and Yvette characters just right ... but WB wanted to ramp up the thriller/action aspects, and we brainstormed a helluva third act that had the off-course spaceship embedded into the 30th floor of a skyscraper in the middle of New York City. Nothing ever came of it.

    Produced in June, 1963, "Architects" was moved up to the #3 slot for broadcast after the premiere of OUTER LIMITS on September 16th. When "The Galaxy Being" debuted, about ten episodes of the season commitment for 32 were completed — in the same order you'll see them here, on this blog. Stefano's "A Feasibility Study" was delayed for nearly a year due to censorship problems, and "The Borderland" and "Tourist Attraction" were shoved into December (they broadcast while the series entered a production hiatus for the holidays). The Fall through Christmas of 1963 represented THE OUTER LIMITS at its strongest — the "hot period," the Golden Age. I wish I had known that then, so I could've run down to KTTV studios and watched them do it, if only by peering over a fence. Joe Stefano once told me, "In my memory of making these shows, YOU'RE THERE." So maybe this all is a little bit like time travel.

  6. Pretty sure we can agree this is the first full-blown Four Zanti episode. Sure, there's some contrivances you have to accept, but I absolutely love the tone of Architects and Robert Culp's performance is a personal fav. And you could probably kill 3 growlers on great Conrad Hall moments.

    I love Byron Haskin's direction, too. There's plenty of less is more at work on the screen, with mere glimpses of limbs, movement and who can forgot that blink-and-you'll-miss-it turn of the head when Culp is laying on the table. Another all-time OL favorite moment is Culp/Thetan in silhouette, right before he learns to speak...even the dialogue and delivery is unsettling to this day.

  7. You also cannot talk Westerns and OUTER LIMITS without mentioning STONEY BURKE, in many ways Leslie Stevens' first-draft for his most famous series — most of the technical crew and a majority of casting choices for OUTER LIMITS all started with STONEY BURKE, including the casting of Geraldine Brooks in "Architects," and Meyer Dolinsky as writer. It was on STONEY BURKE that Conrad Hall "graduated" to DP under Ted McCord (as William Fraker similarly graduated from being Hall's operator). If you watch the episode "Forget No More," you'll even hear a dry-run of Frontiere's OUTER LIMITS theme at the end. Frontiere recycled his cues like crazy and 50% of the music you hear in OUTER LIMITS was actually sourced in STONEY BURKE ... otherwise known as "that rodeo show starring Jack Lord."

  8. hey guys, what's with half zantis (did you nibble the other half)...that was understandable when you combing your votes and the given an aggregate but this is more akin to Leonard Maltin's sitting on the fence ratings in his disposable guide.

    This is a magnificent achievement for the show and had it last no more than just the first 5 episodes, would have made it more than a little special...that it would do this with back to back classics is a marvel. Even the great speculative fiction pulps and digests didn't usually give two brilliant classics next to each other (though Rog Phillips 'the Yellow Pill' and Simak's 'The Big Front Yard' appeared together).

    Meyer Dolinsky's script - imaginative and outlandish, exciting and intimate, or perhaps exciting because of it's emotional intimacy - with a minor rewrite by Stefano, is the type of all too rare TV teleplay that has a galvanising effect on a production crew. Culp's and Fred Phillips creative little contribution, showcasing the intermediate stage of the transformation was too good to leave out even though not authorised by the garrulous Haskin..

    Byron Haskin's direction is magnificent; flowing, elegant camera movements to establish the physical space & environment in the opening clandestine meeting and later to evoke intimacy by Allen and Yvette is superb rendered.

    The casting is perfection, even the non-dialogue performers have the just the right visual look.

    Magnificent SF with an emotional kcik and a noirish glow.

    4 Zanti parole officers.

  9. I forgot to mention what an eerie parallel Architects is to the real life "Operation Northwoods," which in 1962 was almost implemented by the U.S. government to justify a war with Cuba. Instead of scientists drumming up an alien to unify "us," it was army colonels and CIA operatives planning acts of domestic terrorism (hijackings, bombings, etc) and blaming said attacks on Fidel Castro.

    I'm not sure if Northwoods was news yet in '62/'63 when Dolinsky was writing Architects (I assume), and certainly that tactic is nothing new for governments and armies, but it's fascinating to consider what was going on in the country when Architects was wowing a generation of monster kids.

  10. Bobby -

    Um, because Zanti's are a good source of protein, and the surgeon general's recommended daily allowance is a half Zanti?

    Okay, you got us. The short answer is that we want to have (halve?) our Zanti and eat it, too. The half ratings give us a little more flexibility to assess the episodes in relation to one another. And I prefer the size we can do them when we stick to four. :)

  11. Peter, when that didn't work - they went one better the following year.....

    Here's the creator of '60 Minutes' - two minutes in...

    TOL with Frankenheimer's 'The Manchurian Candidate', 'Seven Days in May' (pre-11-63) and later on, 'Seconds', set tempo for being awake and asking the difficult questions, exposing and expressing the tenor, the zeitgeist of the era before it tore into the fabric of everyday life. Everything LBJ touched corrupted.

    Love that anecdote of the big budget movie. Though I think if they went into production, they would have put another for CGI loaded endings into it.

    The two films that have always reminded me of it, at least in the '80s are Cronenberg's classic 'The Fly' - with it's small cast and them of transition and love story...and 'The Elephant Man' (Lynch's best, by far) with a similarly misshapen head silhouetted behind a huge screen in glorious B/W (marshalled by Freddie Francis).

  12. A brilliant episode for all the obvious reasons. And David, I never knew about that movie remake idea... just as you maybe don't know about my proposed comic book re-imagining from the '90s. As West Coast Editor of Topps Comics, I sold them on the idea of publishing a new OUTER LIMITS comic series that would provide prequels, sequels and remakes relating to the show's original storylines and characters. And man, did I have a ball with that! Each individual episode, of course, was treated as a separate entity from a legal perspective. I worked with Harlan Ellison building up a new incarnation of "Soldier," with Harlan sending me seven drafts of his original teleplay and saying, "Gary, take what you like and build a new version; then I'll come in and write the dialogue." For "Architects of Fear," I proposed a two-issue story that would allow that all-important U.N. hoax to actually be played out. While I appreciate the ironic tragedy that our boys never even got their "shot" at fooling/saving the world, I must admit, I was always a little bothered by Act III's "gotta get this thing wrapped up" efficiency, from the spaceship inexplicably going off-course to its convenient landing near the lab. So issue #1 of the comic dealt with "the plan" and Leighton's monstrous transformation, while issue #2 covered the U.N. hoax, its failure, and Allen's tragic death. He still perishes in his wife's arms, and I had Yvette delivering the same poetic speech, almost word-for-word. But the daring plan fails because Leighton, arguably on the verge of changing the world, simply can't handle both the global deceit AND his unnatural physical state, not to mention the depression of losing his loving wife and their potentially wonderful life together. Okay, so maybe the theme is stronger if EVERYTHING these scientists do turns to shit... guess we're lucky the ship took off at all. Still, if Rod Serling can put a Kanamit in the General Assembly building, OL should have no problem getting their gawky little Thetan a televised hearing. Point of order, Mr. Chairman!

    Yeah, inventing that super-nifty raygun was awfully convenient. And in terms of illogic, we don't have to look any further than the opening scenes. Granted, the "short straw" gimmick is always suspenseful, but really... These scientist guys are awfully lucky that young, super-athletic Robert Culp was randomly chosen, considering some of the frail geezers on their team! Fair may be fair, but the person chosen for this event simply HAD to be a physically superior specimen, kind of like the ultimate trained-to-the-hilt astronaut. Old, thin, balding guys would obviously be a liability in this regard.

    But hey, a truly fantastic and innovative episode, the first 100% OUTER LIMITS in many ways, and the forerunner of OL classics to come. And I still have that old issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS... somewhere...

  13. It's not as if this episode doesn't give you plenty to ponder...but I HAVE wondered what would have happened to Allen L. if the plan had succeeded. How long before it was discovered? True, Leighton's entire body, inside and out, had been altered specifically to withstand all of the poking and prodding that would have occurred if he were examined for authenticity..but what of the ship? There must have been evidence that it was manufactured on Earth. But what would have happened to Allen IN GENERAL if he survived.....he obviously couldn't fly out of town in his ship, and if it were able to be repaired, where would he fly TO? How and where would he have lived out his days on earth?

    Gary's Topps Comics info is fascinating, as it obviously would have ventured to deal with these questions. Gary--was the proposed plotline your own creation, I wonder? Sounds very intriguing.

    ANOTHER QUESTION----Was there another example of stop-animation created specifically for a TV show prior to "Architects"? The TZ "Flight 33" Brontosaurus shots were created by Projects IN TANDEM with "Dinosaurus", and probably would NOT have been done if the work on the feature film was not already in progress. But did any other show create stop-motion exclusively for TV prior to this episode?

    Anyway, the thing that continues to knock me over about "Architects" is the fact that EVERY WORD of the script rings true, especially as delivered by a superb cast, superbly directed. There's not a false emotional note in the entire thing. Future OL scripts would increasingly wade into treacherous areas of preachiness; but the minimal amount of moralizing in "Architects" strikes me as perfectly balanced and totally honest.

    A final note...there IS a bit of levity in my own life regarding this episode: I occasionally use Culp's great "Mad Scene" line "Skitter on over here on your little rat's feet" when addressing the lesser of the two felines my wife insists on keeping in the house; it works great.


  14. A fantastic episode for certain; very tough but always rewarding to watch. I wonder if Allan and Yvette's child might find a way to succeed in achieving the goal his/her father had set out to do. On the topic of Robert Culp, has anyone seen the movie "A Name For Evil" (the soundtrack for which was released with "The Unknown" by La-La Land)? I'd have to say four Zanti's for me. Jim.

  15. After having seen "Architects" several hundred times, I posit there ARE moments of (personal) levity.

    I can't watch the "drawing lots" scene without smiling ... because I always think that each guy wrote down the name of the guy NEXT to him ... or that, just like that all-heads-turn shot, they ALL wrote down "Allen Leighton."

    Leonard Stone delivers one of cinema's most challenging lines without blinking or cracking up, with a straight face: "You understand as soon as I hit you with the calcisphylexis and melane-producing hormone, there's no turning back, Allen." Moreover, he spews this gobble FAST and seriously. I wonder how many takes there were.

    Poor Floppo the Alien: Dumped out of his cage by Allen in the lab, the wily critter enjoys a brief moment of freedom. He is presumed to be a monkey on which the United Lab Coats tested their beta version of the Thetan experiment. But what happened to him? Was he in fact the dreaded Green Monkey? Did he run into the woods and start humping local wildlife before he was recaptured? Did the scientists attempt to enact the plan with him, then decide, "naaah, he's too LITTLE; let's make Allen do it." (Picture this two-foot-tall invader confronting the United Nations!)

    And speaking of humping ... the timeframe is a mite confusing, but basically, after the "no turning back" injection, Allen and Yvette Do It — their last scene is nothing if not an "afterglow" moment — and Yvette turns up pregnant AFTER the initial hormone shot ... so is she incubating a little Allen/Thetan hybrid?

    The name "Allen" and the word "alien" are so close, it gives one pause.

    How did the hunters get home? Did they take Allen's space capsule? That might have made a wild sequel.

    Apparently this was Dr. Fredericks' "final exam" ... because the actor (Douglas Henderson) turns up later in another OUTER LIMITS episode — "The Chameleon" — turning ANOTHER guy (Robert Duvall) into ANOTHER alien. Poor Geraldine Brooks ... her husband Allen dies, so she marries an astronaut (William Shatner in "Cold Hands, Warm Heart") ... and HE TURNS INTO AN ALIEN.

  16. Perhaps my favorite episode of my favorite series ever. Powerful story. Great acting. Haunting music. The trifecta of great television. And why this story hasn't been remade as a feature (other than the shout out by "The Watchmen" and the attempt Schow mentions) eludes me.

    Fear works. It worked then, it works now, in controlling or attempting to control the masses, whether the great Cold War tactics we ducked and covered from (I saw this episode at 8 years old when it first aired in 1963), or how a rag tag band of nomadic terrorists can affect the politics and economies of countries worldwide today.

    Global warming seems like such a benevolent version of this story - where scientists today tried to help unite the planet over a common enemy, but I guess scarecrows and monsters (and lizard brain opportunists like Glenn Beck) work better.

    But let's praise the work of Robert Culp and Geraldine Brooks in this tale for all ages, showing just how remarkable television could be. And with a pretty damn good 'bear,' too, that gave me nightmares for weeks.

  17. Hmmm.....
    There might be some here who see the Global Warming thing in the exact opposite the trumped-up scarecrow itself. So maybe we should all avoid political references, which I think would keep us a happier bunch of nuts.


  18. To answer Larry's question: For my OUTER LIMITS comic book proposal, I came up with about 20 variations of original episode plots - sequels, prequels and remakes, as mentioned. That expanded "Architects of Fear" story was among them. The only one of these to reach the scripted stage was my new incarnation of "Soldier," and even that never received the benefit of Harlan's freshly-written dialogue because Topps decided to pull the plug on their comics division fairly quickly. Needless to say, this was very disappointing at the time, because a lot of creative AND legal work had already been accomplished.

  19. Wonderful assessment, and I don't know if Geraldine Brooks can ever get enough credit for playing so masterfully a fully aware, intelligent, completely in love and passionate woman caught in a horrible tragedy. She was a marvelous actress who died much too young, but especially thanks to this episode of OL, her stunning talent and vibrant presence will live on forever.

    Such a great episode! Really enjoying this website!

  20. Sorry if I killed anyone's buzz, but gee, it's kind of tough NOT mentioning politics in the context of this episode. The very premise is about a group of scientists trying to manipulate global political agendas by parading an 'unaffiliated' scarecrow before the United Nations.

    And my example of Global Warming today was not as an advocate one way or the other (I'm no scientist), but just pointing out it's an example of a more benevolent scarecrow (meaning the fear is not personified into one boogie man monster-Hitler-dictator, etc.).

    I love that this show, as did The Twilight Zone, often tackled socio-political themes (of the day or the future) dressed in scarecrows or metaphors. Meyer Dolinsky's other story for The Outer Limits, "O.B.I.T." certainly continues that thread with questions that smack of the Freedom of Information act and national privacy.

    So don't be scared of a little political context. Embrace it, as these very clever writers did.

  21. I don't think anybody is scared of a little political context, but let's leave the bashing of political figureheads for some other blog. I think Glenn Beck might be a drama queen, but Gore is no better.

    As far as the O.B.I.T. reference I agree. Where I live in the "Democratic" city of Chicago, home of Obama, we have red light and P.O.D. spy cameras all over.

    If you want to bring up 1960's red scare paranoia or something that applies to the times and context of the show then that's fair. I think Larry was just pointing out that this site is a meeting place for fans of the show to have fun, and not have the potential to be the format for potential political bickering.

  22. Nice assessment of THE OUTER LIMITS' first, but not last, heartbreaker.

    "Architects" is brilliant, uncompromising stuff -- you can really sense Stefano wrestling Stevens's concept back to Earth here, and zeroing in on the human factor at long last.

    For all that I was somewhat repelled by Leighton this time around. The anxiety and desperation of the rest of his team is understandable, even if their plan for alleviating it is guided primarily by hubris. But Allen's willingness to go along with the scheme seems driven more by resignation over Yvette's inability to bear children than concern for mankind (or, obviously, for his loving wife). In fact, if his self-pity over what he perceives as an empty future were directed outward rather than inward, he could well be lobbing atomic weapons across oceans and continents instead of letting himself to be turned into a monster. He's half there before the first injection hits his bloodstream anyway, and Yvette's probably better off without him.

    Yet his pain, physical and otherwise, is more wrenching each time I watch. Such is the nuance of Dolinsky's (and Stefano's) teleplay, and Culp's fine, edgy performance. And I'm with Lisa above on Geraldine Brooks -- she's at least as good as Hobie in this, and carries the episode in many ways.

  23. Thanks UTW, that's exactly what I meant. It's obvious that any serious discussion of a number OL episodes will require political context. But I'm suggesting that we leave it at that, and not start slamming this or that current political figure/party/movement, etc. I spend a lot of time in real life on these things--Believe me, I'm not afraid of it---in fact, as a classical musician working in an "artsy" field, I sometimes risk my professional neck with my political opinions. But at the end of the day, I like to come here to escape that kind of tension. So why not let's all make our points and keep the Three Stooges used to say when they were trying to convince the kiddies at home not to gouge each other's eyes out---"Good Clean Fun."


  24. I'm glad Larry mentioned the Three Stooges. After we finish discussing the OUTER LIMITS, maybe John and Peter will host all the Stooges films. Did anyone else ever try The Three Stooges beer? I doubt if they still make it, but a few years ago I made the mistake of drinking a bottle. I still have an unopened six pack showing the Stooges in all their insane glory. Sorry, I guess this subject is even more offensive than discussing politics.

  25. I gently submit we keep WACT a Stooge-free zone. I mean, we've already got that Blamire guy maundering on about Westerns. And -- WAIT FOR IT -- the genuine Stooge/OUTER LIMITS connection pops up in the second season. See if you can guess what it is.

  26. "If I'd seen this on its initial run as a five year old tyke, I'd have needed to change my Batman underoos swiftly." -- I saw this episode on it's initial run and I WAS 5 years old. Scared the shit out of me.

  27. Marvelous, and entertaining, write-up on one of the most memorable OUTER LIMITS episodes. And kudos to Peter Enfantino for giving homage to the great and late Robert Culp, and especially for mentioning the criminally underrated and forgotten HICKEY & BOGGS (which was written by Walter Hill). Thankfully, that film seems to be garnering more attention these days (this from one of the very few who saw it first run in a theatre). Enjoyable post. Thanks.

  28. HICKEY & BOGGS is one of those wonderfully grim movies that is STILL criminally unavailable on DVD. There are bootleg versions out there, but they're terrible.

  29. >>HICKEY & BOGGS is one of those wonderfully grim movies that is STILL criminally unavailable on DVD. There are bootleg versions out there, but they're terrible.

    True, but if you're a Netflix subscriber you can stream it instantly. That's how I saw it.

  30. @ DJS: agreed. I still have my VHS copy of it. However, iTunes does sell/rents a pretty pristine print of the film (it's in widescreen, too). I hope someday a studio (fingers crossed for the Criterion folk) will release it on disc with the extras it deserves. Sadly, the delay surely cost fans of the film input/comment from Culp (I've read he remained quite proud of his work in it and would likely have contributed much toward its re-release). Great to see more fans of H&B out there. Thanks.

  31. This episode is really one of the "big boys" in the OL cannon. Totally worthy of the 4 Zantis. Culp is a fascinating career in retrospect. He clearly had a real intensity and intelligence as an actor, which was on display in TOL, and in most everything he did in his prime. My pal RON BORST, knew Culp, and said that he was a perfectionist. This may be why he was tough to work with based on first person anecdotes I have heard. I saw Culp talk about HICKEY AND BOGGS (THE most down and out Private Eye movie...ever)at an AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE screening, and he clearly was trying to champion a DVD release to any potential producers in the audience. I would have loved to have produced one, but sadly, H&B is a cult title and cult titles do not provide big sales numbers. Culp dazzled the audience for over a half hour with great info about the making of the film. H&B was an important component in a varied and idiosyncratic career. His work in HANNIE CAULDER is some of his best work. My guess is that he liked to act, but he really saw himself as a filmmaker. For those who have MGM HD check out the schedule, because they have a HIGH DEF master which they air from time to time. 1970's LA squalor never looked so good.

  32. Best. Monster. EVER.
    One of the three best episodes as well, rubbing elbows with "O.B.I.T." and "Nightmare."

  33. I have always wondered if the planet Theta was supposed to be a known planet, since the plan mentions "entering the arc to appear to arrive from Theta", or something like that.
    If this is ever to me remade they have to use the original alien design. It was, and still is, so original.

  34. ...From one who watched the original series in 'Real Time.' The network gave local stations the choice to opt out on video when the transformed-Culp leaves his ship. The explanation at the time: the alien image might be too shocking for some viewers. This may have been hype, but it was published denoting the cities with affiliates that had opted not to air the video portion. I vaguely recall at the commercial break just prior to Thetan-Culp's return, a warning was issued to viewers of potentially unnerving images to follow.

  35. I've always thought it was kind of strange that the story is pretty lenient with the hunters. What I mean is, sure, he's trying to scare them away with the ray gun, but he ends up scaring them, period, and PROVOKING them. So it takes the whole Klaatu and the soldier scene in the opposite direction. I'm not saying whether it would be fair or not, but you'd think that duck hunters of all people would be pictured as trigger-happy in a story like this (think Elmer Fudd), so it's funny that they're pictured as being scared into it instead.

  36. Great review of probably the overall best episode of "The Outer Limits" ...
    However, "Trackdown" was spun off from "Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater" and not "Wanted: Dead or Alive" ... ( from the "Bade of Honor" episode aired in 1957 )
    Robert Culp and Steve McQueen, at that time, were more contemporaries, with "Trackdown" debuting a full year (57-58 season) before Wanted (debuted 58-59) season, but both were CBS shows.
    I've been a Robert Culp fan for more than 30 years ... fan of all his OL episodes, "I Spy" several other TV guest spots and I tolerate "The Greatest American Hero"
    Anyway, love these reviews.

  37. 3 1/2 Zantis. A bit slow moving, but this still holds up. Great camera angles, sufficiently offbeat. A pretty effective monster, particularly its knuckles. May be the most touching episode in the series. The end narration is among the best as well. Cute dog. I don't know what that thing in the box is.

  38. Culp's great performance (and Brooks as well) makes this one of the most harrowing and difficult-to-watch episodes, along with The Invisibles and Corpus Earthling. It especially grips me how Allen gives up his wonderful wife (and child) for such a fool's errand.

    But my big problem with the show is how after 45 minutes of detailed buildup and intense planning the whole project just unravels so easily.

  39. How utterly cool, this tribute spotlight - what a pleasure to read the remarks of appreciate, astute viewers. And what a flippin' masterpiece of cinematic post-war scifi this OL episode is. And series as a whole. Especially for monumental achievements like AOF. It scores one bullseye after another - the sheer dramatic impact of its tragic human narrative is so well fleshed out. The sensitive musical score, personal quality of protagonist husband/wife relationship, script details, actors' performances - to its all-out special fx spectacle etc.

    Random reflections, can't help tossing in to the mix:

    A poster above asks about stop-motion sequences, just for tv, in the era preceding OL. Brought to mind clay-mation series DAVEY AND GOLIATH, which might qualify.

    I've long fancied a semi-wry 'subtext/prequel' for this episode. An imaginary genesis of the scheme these Star Chamber scientists hatched out. Namely, these guys saw DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, and got their whole bright idea directly from it. It sparked them to think: hey, instead sitting around waiting for ET to come and scare us Earthers off present course to WW3 disaster (as Klaatu and Gort did) - why not stage just such an event, for that noble purpose? Why not make it happen, about?

    I can almost hear Leonard Stone, in a BIONIC MAN -like pitch: "Gentleman, we have the means ..."

    One more (didn't see where anyone has mentioned this). During Reagan's presidential term, on a few occasions he famously remarked (at UN and elsewhere) to the effect:

    'What if our Earth ever faced an alien threat, from outer space. Don't you think we'd stop squabbling over our petty differences as separate nations, and unite against it?"

    Reagan of course was a Hollywood actor. And I neither know, nor can doubt he saw DTESS. Maybe that's where he got that musing from. Then again I wonder: where was he that fateful night in fall 1963, when this OL episode debuted? In the Iran-Contra affair, one of his frequent replies to such pointed questions was: "I ... don't recall, I have no specific recollection ..."

    Can't help a sense of fascination, even intrigue, at some seeming weird interplay between art and life in all this. One imitating the other imitating the one, in some kind of strange back-and-forth ... which wagging which, dog and tail stuff.

    Thanks for this blog, its a treat to encounter.

  40. Just watched "Architects" for the first time in over 40 years (I saw it for the first time in 1963 when I was 10). I came to the viewing prepared to revel in, what I remembered as one of the very best OL's, but I was surprised by the sheer visceral horror and revulsion that watching it invoked in me this time around. The monstrousness of the concept and the brilliant, deadpan execution of Culp's relentless "transformation" made it very hard to watch. And the heartbreaking love story between Allen and his wife sinks the knife even deeper. Watching it 50 years after the first time I saw it, AOF is an even more powerful and gut wrenching experience. Clearly the horror of its premise is more disturbing to a 60 year old husband and father, then to a 10 year boy. SF and TV at its very best. I'd give it a full-throated 5 Zanti's if I could.

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  43. You guys should do an I Spy a day blog :-)

  44. We were watching the first broadcast of Architects, waiting to see what the creature would look like, when it was interrupted by a photo of stars with the words "The Outer Limits" in front. This stayed on the screen for several minutes while the audio continued playing. I don't recall how it was resolved, whether the footage was shown after the 11:00 PM news, or whether an image was posted in the newspaper.

  45. I remember watching this episode in Cleveland when it first aired. I was 12 and, back then, it was all about the monster. The little chittery thing in the cage freaked me out. Has anybody mentioned how its sound was so scary? Anyway, when the creepy "alien" was finally supposed to be revealed, the TV screen went gray! Then it switched back to the program. But as soon as the alien was set to reappear, bam, more gray! I could not figure out why the TV set decide to go haywire every time the best scenes were on. Obviously, I was not smart enough to figure that it was deliberate censorship. Anyway, my reaction was anger. What's the point of watching a monster TV show if you can't see the monster? Sheesh.

  46. Great episode---I’ll give it a 9 out of 10. It kept my attention from beginning to end, as I wondered how this transformation would play out, and if the plan would work in the end. (Tragically---no, it didn’t.)

    However, as much as I liked this episode, I’m left with a lot of questions and a few reservations. Most notably, what on earth was the little weird creature in the box? Where did it come from? What was its purpose in even being there? The alien the scientists created didn’t resemble the creature at all, so what was the point of it?

    Hmmm, you’d think the group of scientists would have put together a list of volunteers who did NOT have any close family members, seeing as it was basically a suicide mission. It also seemed a bit odd that this top-secret scientific laboratory apparently didn’t have any security whatsoever, since overly curious wives and monsters from outer space could wander in and out at any given time… heh….

    Why didn’t Allen follow the original plan---what happened to make him go off course? Also, couldn’t even a dead alien serve the original purpose of uniting the various nations through fear? Wouldn’t knowing there ARE monsters from outer space cause a panic among the general population, even if the monster didn’t get to address any government officials?
    The alien design with distorted, elongated limbs was kind of cool, but unfortunately the head, with the big eyes, was kind of goofy even by 1963 standards.

    And finally, I’m afraid I have to disagree with the ending narration. Because a fear of the “other” IS in fact a great unifying force amongst human beings. The deliberate whipping up of such a fear or dislike has worked as a tactic throughout human history, and continues to do so today. Such groups, unified only through fear or dislike, may lack long-term stability, but in the short term they can be quite cohesive.

    1. Along with why Alan’s ship went off course, the only thing about this superb episode (which in a perfect world might have easily won Peabody and Hugo awards) was how the United Lab scientists acquired that alien. However, If you look closely at that captured creature who one of the scientists removes from the cage and holds up to the others, even in silhouette it clearly resembles the image of what Alan became. Evidently, they needed genes, stem cells and/or hormones from that creature to instill its physical form into him. But what also seems apparent is that the conversion process was flawed as the transformed Alan had misshapen limbs which seriously impaired walking and his breathing was likely labored from now having to breathe something other than air from that tank strapped to his back. Alan couldn’t even stand erect as his major parts of his skeletal anatomy were likely deformed. His longevity may have been compromised also. Kudos once again to Projects Unlimited for doing damned near the impossible in a six day shooting schedule and in 1963.

      Regarding the fairness of the ballot, all of those scientists drew ballots and any of them could have had a spouse, kids or other loved ones who they knew they would never see again. So the selection process was likely very fair. Indeed, the very point of these men volunteering was to save all humanity from itself, even if they had to sacrifice the integrity of their own families to do so-not to mention their own human form. They may have been fatally idealistic but their means and ends were selfless and heroic.

      Why Alan’s ship went off course and drove him to return home was not explained. But only United Labs and Yvette knew of Alan’s transformation and after his death they no doubt secretly disposed of the body for all manner of reasons. In any case, a dead alien who can’t speak and issue Klaatu-like ultimatums isn’t likely to scare humanity into becoming any more of a rational, understanding or at least less self-destructive race than it actually is-especially among the more aggressive and warlike, be they soldiers or civilians.

      I won’t repeat what poignant remark which someone said Da Vinci may have once made about the human race, but it’s really great to see people again contributing their thoughts and questions here. Clearly, some of us will never get enough of OL TOS.

    2. -not to take anything away from OL TNG, which I'm glad Stefano and Stevens had collaborated.

  47. Even though it's iconic, I halfway agree with octobercountry about the suit at the end. That's partly because Robert Culp's make-up in the middle (during Allen's "episode") is so spooky. So I can't help imagining something like THAT in the final scene.

  48. This didn't hold up as well for me on reviewing. They just got the Kino set in the county library so I decided to watch the episodes again before I listen to the commentaries. It's still really moving, depressing really. I just find the idea too outlandish, even more so than the other episodes. That they would destroy a man like this for something that is unlikely to make a difference is really troubling. Culp is weird especially when he talks in a German accent to show off his acting chops. Geraldine Brooks is terrific, she was subsequently wasted in Cold Hands, Warm Heart. So far in my rewatching I have found The Sixth Sense and The Man who was never born and The Galaxy Being to be be as exactly as good as I remembered, OBIT to be a bit better, The Architects of Fear a bit worse though still good, and 100 Days of the Dragon to be much better.


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