Friday, January 28, 2011

The Invisibles

Production Order #20
Broadcast Order #19
Original Airdate: 2/3/64
Starring Don Gordon, George Macready, Dee Hartford.
Written by Joseph Stefano.
Directed by Gerd Oswald.

A nefarious group known as The Commies.... sorry, The Society of Invisibles intends to take over the U.S. government using multi-legged fur purses that inject some form of...oh, hell, you watched the damn thing. You know what the story is.

PE: Nice, atmospheric opening shot on the abandoned base and a quirky control voice monologue ("...I almost said the human race..."), but it becomes apparent very quickly that these are the highlights of a rancid episode. The worst one so far.

JS: Wow. With Thriller, we made it to the second season before we were so far apart on an episode. Sure, "The Invisibles" is not up there with the Culp Classics, but it's no "Moonstone," either. When they rolled into the compound, and you see the guy throwing the baseball against the wall, I thought for sure they had arrived at Stalag Luft III, and that was Hilts, the Cooler King (I kept waiting for Macready to pull out a shotgun and shoot through the wall, but alas... -PE). But then we meet and get to look up the nose of Criswell, I mean Lawrence Hillman, and it's clear he's no Von Luger.

PE: As Spain says goodbye to his undercover teammate in the woods, he stops for a moment of levity and notes that the man "will catch cold in them wet boots." The camera then lingers on the boots for more than a few beats. Next scene we're looking at muddy boots on a corpse about to be infiltrated by an Invisible. The camera lingers on those boots and comes back to them a few times. Oh, I get it now. The corpse on the table is the guy in the woods! This reminded me of the Lethal Weapon film where Richard Donner sets up a nail gun for a later scene. No subtlety here.

JS: Really, that's what you're latching onto? It's not so much an overblown setup considering the death is in the next scene, not the big climactic moment of the episode. How would you have shown that the guy on the slab was his colleague?

PE: I'm sure there will be apologists continually reminding us of the low budgets the cast and crew had to work with but, seriously, was there not an alternative to hiring Zsa Zsa Gabor's Shih Tzus? If I'd been on set, I'd have advised not including the "clicking" sounds that accompany the little legs a'movin'. And that "Rowwwwwr" will work much better when aligned with the Martian sand monsters in "The Invisible Enemy."

JS: I actually thought the Growlers looked and sounded very cool. The only problem I had with them was that up until the end, where we see one scampering along the ground,  the articulation of the legs did little but highlight that no other part of them moved.

PE: Everything in this episode seems slowed down. The speeches, the walking, the climactic "showdown," the pace of the show itself. If the action had taken place at actual speed, this would have had a running time of 15 minutes rather than 48.

JS:  It was nice to see Walter Burke again, even if he was relegated to playing Igor. There was a particularly nice shot where he's featured twice, once in person and once in shadow (too bad he looks better in shadow!). As for Spain (Gordon) and Planetta (Tony Mordente)—I kept waiting for them to break into a Broadway musical song and dance routine during their scenes together in the compound.

PE: This is a very homoerotic episode... not that there's anything wrong with that. Men lie half naked on their tummies, little furry crabs doing despicable things to them (I see a market for Growler Back Massagers. -JS), and they sweat quite a bit and make grunting noises. Planetta (played at various times by Tony Mordente, Casey Kasem, and Frankie Valli) seems to have a fondness for Spain. I've always been the one to squint and say "No, really?" when gay subtext is brought up in everything from Them! to Brokeback Mountain. I just don't see it usually, but how can I ignore it here? Throw in Richard Dawson as television's most mauve villain (Oliver Fair!)  and all we need is a George Michael soundtrack.

JS: As we watched it, my wife and I kept going back and forth as to whether it was actually Richard Dawson. We were thrilled to see Dick Dawson in the end credits. He's one smooth operator. Hands down OL Hunk of the week.

PE: "Survey says!" Dawson looks as natural with a pistol in his hand (Hey, easy, you in front, I'm not bringing up the gay subtext again) as Kirstie Alley would brandishing a celery stalk.

JS: Thank God for Standards and Practices back in the day. I think kids would have been traumatized by Kirstie Alley in any of her various incarnations.

PE: George Macready (who mysteriously disappears half way through the episode) looks at the scenery. The scenery looks back at George and screams "Chew Me!" Later, Neil Hamilton (as General Clarke) gives us the Method acting version of an impromptu orgasm. The show's chock-a-block full of hamboning.

JS: I wasn't impressed by Macready, but I'll take Neil Hamilton any day of the week—even under alien influence. Too bad Alan Napier couldn't make it.

PE: Our L-OL dialogue for today. When Planetta (Mordente) expresses sorrow at Spain's lack of allegiance to The Invisibles and, thusly, to Planetta:
When I like somebody, when they trick me, I just want to beat them up and beat them up 'til they're all beat up! I liked you!
and, when  Oliver Fair and Spain are discussing the General's beautiful wife (Hartford):
Fair: I play fine piano and I know all the sad songs. She gets so drunk on sad songs.
Spain: Who doesn't?
JS: Those are good, but my personal favorite is: "A friend of mine got killed once." What, did he work for NORCO?

PE: And L-OL stunt of the episode. Planetta's fall from the shed roof into a mattress. This leads to a most confusing scene in which I couldn't figure out if the good guys were shooting at Planetta or the Shih Tzu.

JS: While Dee Hartford wasn't given much to do in this episode, she could bandage my twisted ankle any time. She gets my vote for OL Babe of the week.

PE: The nail-biting chase scene at the climax when the fur-crab is gaining on the wounded Spain reminded me of the Ironside episode when Raymond Burr out-pedaled the Olympic Gold Medal runner who'd murdered his wife (the runner's wife, not Ironside... Ironside wasn't married, was he? I know what you're saying—Raymond Burr—there goes Enfantino again with the gay subtext) and dumped her body in the Hudson, and slapped the cuffs on him just as he was confessing (the runner, not Ironside).

JS: Following your logic, shouldn't you have given it a higher rating if only for reminding you of your favorite Ironside episode? The Growlers alone make this worth watching, so all I can assume is the Invisibles have already gotten to you.


David J. Schow on "The Invisibles":

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

The madmen at Apemania restored an original Invisible.  See much more on their site!

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

And stop in this weekend for another special surprise!

Next Up...


  1. As you can see, starting today we're including embedded versions of the day's episode to make it easier for anyone interested to watch and follow along. Over the next few weeks we'll be adding these links to our prior reviews.

  2. I wish Peter and John would stop referring to the alien Puppet Master things as "Growlers". I drink these jugs and they don't look like the aliens at all. Though after drinking one, my wife thinks I act like an alien, or perhaps a BEM.

    I'm surprised you guys didn't mention the character that keeps hoping that they will be able to wear uniforms. I think this is a great idea. Maybe Peter and John can issue us an official OUTER LIMITS uniform. I'd like mine to have a Major's rank so I can mouth off to a General.

  3. I thought it was somehow appropriate that Arnold Vosloo, I mean Don Gordon, ends up wearing a uniform after all. Sure, he's a chauffeur, but it's a uniform nonetheless.

  4. Walker-
    Don't you find it ironic that John is always mouthing off to me/

  5. Let me see if I understand this...Peter "Is That an Invisible in Your Pants?" Enfantino, inventor of the Lomax Nasal Penis, liked "The Human Factor", "Borderland" and "Moonstone" better than this one? I've always liked John so much better, but I wasn't sure why...

    However...I smell fresh bait (Martian sand monsters Oliver Hardy would say--Oh!).

    One thing I didn't mention in my Spotlight coming later today was that Len Lesser (the caretaker/GIA man at the end, Uncle Leo on SEINFELD) read the lead in one my script readings not long ago (a funny, delightful guy) and DJS was there and realized an OL trivia connection he may chime in about.

    Sorry, I'm still all Barbara Luna for Babe of the Week.

    Oh, Peter...really? Really?

  6. LB-

    I think the episode might have gone over better with me if presented as an episode of POLICE SQUAD, directed by LB or Joe Dante, with Leslie Nielsen in the role of Spain. Granted, I wouldn't have laughed as loud...

  7. The only thing that chases you slower than a Zanti is an Invisibles parasite.

    But once again, the fear is only as effective as the actor selling it, and Don Gordon comes through.

    I always found this episode and, at least the concept of the bear, disturbingly entertaining.

    Three jealous Zanits from this party crasher.

  8. Further to the book reference to "a plagiarism suit involving a feature film script written around THE PUPPET MASTERS" —

    That yet-un-cited movie was THE BRAIN EATERS (1958), directed by none other than "Nightmare"'s own Ed Nelson. Nelson wanted to get into production so Roger Corman sponsored THE BRAIN EATERS at $26,000 for a six-day shoot. Robert Heinlein slapped the film with a $150,000 lawsuit, claiming it was plagiarized from THE PUPPET MASTERS. “They stole it,” Corman said. “No question whatsoever. Bruno (VeSota) brought that script to me and I said I’d back it.” Corman met with Heinlein (“a nice man”) and settled for $5000.

    (drawn from a full account available in ROGER CORMAN: THE BEST OF THE CHEAP ACTS by Mark Thomas McGee [McFarland & Co., 1988], pp. 17-19.)

    Dee Hartford — married to Howard Hawks 1953-59 — was the older sister of Eden Hartford (who married Groucho Marx in 1954).

    Don Gordon is really the unsung hero of OUTER LIMITS, kind of like Robert Culp in a minor key. Apparently he loved the series and is a great presence within it. The sole thing that kept him from a higher profile was getting sick the night before production was to commence on "The Premonition," forcing his replacement by Dewey Martin. Otherwise he would have become a notable OUTER LIMITS "3-fer." The conviction with which he sells his sundered ankle in "The Invisibles" is just sheer agonizing joy to watch.

    Tracy Torme very consciously ported "The Invisibles" into his script for the STAR TREK: NEXT GENERATION episode "Conspiracy," which is recommended. If only more of those shows had been like this episode ... which features what is very possibly the first "exploding head" shot on TV, and it's a doozy.

  9. La La Land Records currently has their excellent 3 CD collection of Dominic Frontiere's scores for THE OUTER LIMITS for $9.95. This price expires on January 31.

  10. Peter, man, I feel silly--totally misunderstood your rating for "Invisibles". Two and a half floorboards, which if I'm not mistaken equals five Zantis(1FB = 2Z). Sweet!

  11. My patience with you Hollywood knuckleheads wears thin.

  12. In the immortal words of Lonzo, the half-Zanti, I may disagree with Peter's rating of "The Invisibles," but I'll shake hands with a Luminoid to defend it.

  13. All right . . . I'm going in . . . I think this episode is terrific. It's a little weird to see OL turn into Spy vs. Spy, but it definitely works within the strictures of the show. The whole episode is claustrophobic--by the end, you realize that everyone you've seen, with the exception of the general's wife, is an agent for one side or the other. The newspapers blowing down the street and the wind that blows them, as the Control Voice says. We're totally in their little subworld throughout. The camerawork and setups even turn us the viewers into spies, exemplified by the continuing motif of the shots through cracked open doors (when we first see Macready, looking out at the newcomers in the hall, when we get glimpses of Castle going bad in the hall as Spain and Planetta are peeking out, at the end when we watch through the hinge-side crack as the guard makes the call). Everyone's watching everyone else, and even though the Invisibles "are everywhere," it seems that the GIA guys are too. As are we. (The one sort of funny shot is the one time the door is wide open, when the general is spazzing out and the camera pulls back to reveal the open door and the fact that in the meantime Spain has said "Uh, yeah, okay dude, I'm outta here!")

    I've always liked Don Gordon and wish he had a more prominent career over the years. He makes that broken ankle look so painful you're almost sweating with him. But he also makes you believe the character--I could easily see a show based around him (Quinn-Martin's "The GIA"). Dawson's a hoot. And yeah, those low-tech invisibles don't seem too scary when they're shuffling along behind the string on the floor, but just picture that last scene in your mind with one of those scrambling Alien facehuggers coming after Spain, without changing anything else, and you get the idea. Four Zantis for me. A tight show, with no loose spots, as far as I'm concerned.

    Other business: I wanted to commend Hollywoodaholic for that great story yesterday about his son and the jelly monster. That's a perfect example of how different things have a different effect on people, and made me think again about the effects of some of these monsters on me as a kid. DJS, the story about the fly was hysterical and worth the price of admission by itself. And Erik Nelson, thanks for the tip on the CD--looks great, and what a price!

  14. Actually had a chat with Tony Mordente last year. Most people remember him as Action from WEST SIDE STORY, so he was delighted when I brought up his turn as Tony Planetta (love that name!), and in detail. He thought the part was a great opportunity to show his acting chops, and had kind things to say about his co-stars. It really is a nice showcase... and, for the record (my record, anyway), "The Invisibles" is a brilliant, first-tier episode of OL, with so much to praise one doesn't know where to begin. People screaming in the dead of night at an abandoned army barracks as a thunderstorm rages -- I mean, it doesn't get much better than this! MacReady and Hamilton caught in wide-angle spasms during their vainglorious speeches? Off-the-scale greatness! It's shouldn't have to be mentioned that Tony Planetta is a neurotic, unhinged, uneducated character; criticizing his "wounded child" dialogue during an emotional crisis is like laughing at Brando reciting STREETCAR lines. For the record, this extraordinary show is the least eccentric of the Stefano/Oswald/Hall collaborations, the most tightly-plotted and logical. I personally prefer "Forms" and "Doomsday," but "The Invisibles" is wonderful as well, somewhere in the top half-dozen OLs. Was it a pilot for SPAIN OF THE G.I.A., with the protagonist encountering alien threats on a regular basis like an American Quatermass? Probably not; but the show is so beautifully crafted, it has the flavor of a polished pilot, where everything is given just a little better treatment than a standard episode. Fabulous work all around, folks, even if Joe and company did pilfer "The Puppet Masters." Hey, they'd also knock off "Arena" a few weeks later, so I guess we have to look the other way when it comes to this stuff. Given the number of OL plots that have been appropriated (by James Cameron alone!), I suppose it all evens out...

  15. Sorry about that... It's Genero Planetta that Tony Mordente plays. That's even a better name!

    1. That's right. Genero is less generic (had to get that in) than Tony. Wholly agree on the excellence of this dang near flawless, yes warts and all, episode of TOL. It does (really can't) get much better than The Invisibles. Unlike to many entries of the series it doesn't bid the viewer to empathize much with its characters; nor is there a "love conquers all" subtext,--other kinds, yes--which lends it a rather cold, heartless air.

  16. Okay......where to begin? First off, this ep. was fascinating to watch. I was hooked from the beginning with the ominous military base, the crew of societies 'losers' being enlisted by some secret organization. David Horne illustrated this perfectly in his post and I couldn't agree more about Don Gordan. The little bears were more effectively creepy then most of any of the others. One of my top favorite episodes so far. Very creative.

    My major gripe is that this one could have been a two-parter. On the thread for 'The Human Condition,' I stated how the plot for that single show could of had its own series, but that was mostly in jest. The Invisibles felt like it was a pilot movie when it was over. I mean come on, they got Walter Burke as a creepy henchman, but didn't even have him make an appearance in the end to be killed? Almost seems like a waste. Not that I'm complaining, it was a treat to see him since he was always one of my favorites after watching him play Torin Thatcher's evil henchman in 'Jack the Giant Killer.'

    Don Gordan will always be remembered by me as the boxer at the end of one of my favorite Twilight Zone eps. 'The Four of Us Are Dying.' He is still alive today (according to the internet) and I wonder if he's been interviewed at all lately? Supposedly he was real good friends with Steve McQueen.

    Funny you should mention 'Lethal Weapon' as IMDB lists Don Gordan as being in that movie as Cop #2.

    4 Zantis for a rich, multi-layered episode that I'll be viewing again in the near future. Even though the shirtless scenes of the guys laid out on the table did remind me of something I saw on an episode of 'Oz.'

  17. Yeah, Gordon WAS friends with McQueen, and was in a couple of his movies. He had a good role as Delgetti in Bullitt. When asked about the role later, he said "I played the guy who follows McQueen into the room," which he did a lot of!

  18. I'd be satisfied with that role!

  19. There are few more powerful examples of TOL's unique brand of small-screen madness & mayhem than "The Invisibles". One may not agree with every plot/script decision that Stefano made, but his white-hot, deliriously imaginative brain was working overtime in this episode.

    Don Gordon commands the screen throughout---not as outwardly quirky as Culp, but every bit the actor. The show plays like a continuous 50-minute nightmare; the scenes in the barracks--with the stark, Caligari-like hallways, thunder, and the tortured screams of Castle...that nice looking kid-next-door...are truly horrible--the real "pit-of-the-stomach" kind.

    An so it goes, with most every aspect and element of this thriller falling neatly, convincingly into place. Yeah, I wince at Mordente's "beat him up" lines--and I wish Stefano wouldn't do things like that with his "troubled" characters...but it's a VERY minor gripe. The vainglorious ravings of Macready and Hamilton are deliciously absurd (yes, the two actors seem to be competing in a "chew-off" in terms of the scenery), and I crack up in a major way when Spain meets Oliver Fair, from the non-shaking of hands to the "little room" and "sad songs" references. Stefano was out of his mind...and I love it.

    Interesting that Len Lesser's character initially spoke with an accent (a member of the SFORZA clan?), then dropped it.

    And Walter Burke, my favorite character-guy of all time, who recently had demonstrated his legit acting chops in Thriller's "Man of Mystery" (plus a few other series like Ben Casey) is here reassigned to creepy, odd-ball roles that required little of his true abilities. But I'll take what I can get of his unique presence on screen. Interesting that he was given an opening credit, whereas poor Barry Atwater, having taken tons of abuse in an important role in "Corpus Earthling", was relegated to the closing credits.

    "THE INVISIBLES"-- Intense, unbelievably outrageous stuff, and another unsung TV landmark, in my opinion.

    (In the true spirit of TOL-madness I had intended to pose a quickie quiz: Name the three degrees of separation between "The Invisibles" and the kingdom of Freedonia--but I see the answer has already been referenced here).


  20. Damn! I meant 'Human Factor' not 'Human Condition.' Chill Charlie must be freezing my brain.

    Larry R.- Well said sir. Glad Peter seems to be in the minority on this one. Allow me to answer your question regarding the surrounding suburbs of Chicago that I should have answered in a previous thread. Once you've been to one, you've been to them all. Let's put it this way, if one of them were to disappear due to a 'Feasibility Study,' no one would notice.

  21. The TOLy Trinity of Stefano-Oswald-Hall essays a gothic spy thriller. A top-tier favorite of mine, as well, and I'd have to rank it just about as Gary Gerani does, slightly below "Doomsday" and the hauntingly aesthetic "Forms" within the trio's canon.

    This one is a TOL crucible, gang---not a lot of wiggle room in my contention that if you don't like this one, you're not apt to care in general for the entries that most typify the show and make it unique.

    That's not a value judgment: morgues and storms, high-flown melodramatic speeches and alien crabs decked out in tribal war shields, all mashed up and plastered like gothic wallpaper over a tale of subversion and national security---that may not be everyone's chosen libation. But personally, I like it, served on ice, off a morgue slab, if possible.

    The CV commentary arguably sounds like it could have been the intro to a pilot. I'm always skeptical about "bear of the week" regular-character series, though. They quickly decay and sink of their own dead alien flesh into the...I almost said "unbearable"...

    The subtext of this episode is truly disturbing. You quickly get past the superficial silliness of humans being recruited by aliens to conquer the Earth when you consider the successful subversions by insidious powers in history. There will always be enough "vainglory" in high places, and passion to belong among the sociopathic and the disaffected throughout the entire stratum of society, for plots of subversion and conquest to maintain currency.

    It's a frightening episode, played to the hilt (and beyond, let's face it, if entertainingly) by a solid cast. Don Gordon's twitchy intensity is perfect, his portrait of physical pain teeth-clenching to watch, as he sells it with conviction. (I wonder if his friendship with Steve McQueen predates BULLITT.) Walter Burke (yes, UTW---I also can only see him as Garnet in JACK, THE GIANT-KILLER) is an appropriately toady Igor.

    Spain and the wonderfully sniveling Tony Mordente character Planetta share a relationship that reminds me of Dean and Mineo's similarly homoerotic "little brother" undercurrent in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE.

    Scarfaced, ever-sinister George MacReady's seizure is chilling, as is his Oswald-Hall-framed portrait of supercilious rapture, beginning with the "We were conceived..." speech (they fell to Earth like the "pods") and concluding with the indelibly haughty remark "I am the Ruler of the Society of the Invisibles...nothing less." No mere state governors need apply.

    Throw in strait-laced martinet Neil Hamilton's---"Friend or foe?"---barely contained glee at the prospect of one more big title with a new winning team after his glory days have faded ("Don't pity me---I've helped win wars"), and Richard Dawson's smugly effeminate plot coordinator, and you have an sf ensemble I couldn't appreciate more, rivaling those of "Forms" and "The Bellero Shield."

    Due to broadcast scheduling, Hamilton gets the unique privilege of appearing in back-to-back episodes, as originally aired.

  22. One of the things I like about this place is absorbing all these different views of a show I've been familiar with forever. Many favorable responses here, but a variety of perspectives (some seeing it for the first time) and I like discovering a new angle (never really thought of it as a spy show, though it certainly is--albeit a pretty tweaked one).

    So, Ted, Larry R., Gary, UTW, David H, Hollywood--good stuff.

    Gary: cool you talked with Mordente.

    I was surprised to note Hamilton's back end credit.

    I'm glad this was a tight one-parter, not sure it could have sustained the same tension in two.

    "Landmark" indeed, Larry.

  23. You're right, Larry R---Stefano was off-the-charts liberated when it came to splattering his impulses on the page. His work can be an acquired taste, and most of the time I find it appealing, if only for his daring to do things differently.

    The devil is in the details. You go along for the dangerous ride or stay at home with the more standard scripted stuff.

    I like the unnerving handball-bouncing business. It adds one more insistent, rhythmic tremor to needle the recruits about their decision: Are you SURE you can go THROUGH with this? NOW are you sure?

    Quirky, extreme characters don't always work, but they get off to a flying start by commanding your attention. They're a theatrical tradition, so they're not always welcome in the more sedate and intimate confines of the TV screen (at least in '63). Stefano used them well. The "crumb in an empty bread box" Planetta is overly whiny, in his puling effort at ingratiating himself to anyone who'll be a friend. But his wounded-child petulance serves the story well at the end.

    The character detail of Castle's desperation to belong to anything that dignifies his bleak existence with "a uniform" is memorably disturbing.

    The bio-fusion aspects of the Invisibles' parasitic attachment are primally unsettling. Even the glossed over detail of the "vaccination" with, presumably, alien virus is creepy. The attachment tests are a reasonable trial of the viewer's own horripilation reflex. Apparently the creatures enter the body completely during successful "particle fusion" with the "spinal atoms." But the human consciousness evidently remains foremost, since the hosts have to be reined in, now and then, by their lurking Masters.

    Is the human will broken? Or have all these subjects merely been ideal psychological types, seduced by power madness once the parasite has invaded them?

    The creatures themselves are best displayed when they're not in unconvincing motion. But once again TOL illustrates that there are more ways to film an alien illusion than with a biped under latex. And it doesn't have to be BIG to be menacing, as we've seen in numerous episodes.

    You have to laugh about that "growling" briefcase. Imagine your discomfort, after having just joined a really cool invasion force that actually let you in, even if you're a card-carrying loser, and then having to get on a bus---or worse, through airport security---with your growling briefcase. They were Invisibles, not Inaudibles.

    Oswald and Hall once again are like a pair of mad-genius artists painting with shades and shadows. Conjuring compositions out of oppressive nightmares: the warped close-ups; the fast zoom out of Gen. Clarke's office that catapults us back into the chase; the conspiratorial shots through cracks in the doors (as Chicolini tells Trentino in DUCK SOUP: "This is SPY stuff!").

    The Frontiere "stalking" theme (still always most redolent of "Architects") returns here in various tempos. One never tires of Frontiere's most intrusive cues. This series could even accommodate bombast in any of its creative elements---anything might be tried in the service of delivering an unusual, memorable show.

    If any scene really bothers me, it's the jumbled climax we're left with after it was edited to satisfy Standards and Practices. It becomes unclear what's happening after Planetta jumps down from the roof and gets shot for his effort to come to Spain's aid.

    Bottom line, though, I'd rate this in the top ten and give it three Zantis (and a crab claw).

  24. A very cool aspect of the "arc" of this show is the huge sigh-of-relief that you experience once Don Gordon escapes/graduates from the hellish barracks setting of the episode's first half---and finds himself in the sunlit, posh milieu of Chevy Chase, complete with spiffy uniform, classy wheels, and a high-society babe in heels and a mink coat. It doesn't take long, though, for the nightmare to kick in again and engulf our hero, this time in tradtitional, high-class and ostensibly "safe" surroundings. Excellent plotting and structure by Joe S.

    Incidentally, I wonder who had higher cheek-bones: Walter Burke or Dee Hartford?


  25. I agree, Larry B--- It's useful to hear the widely varied opinions, particularly on episodes where your own opinion is challenged by seriously well-conceived objection.

    As the Andromedan said, "There is much you have to learn," I guess.

    If this had been a two-parter (and I wouldn't favor one), I'd be most interested to learn 1) more about the state of the human consciousness during the symbiosis (we'd surely have been given at least one character whose force of will would have set him in revolt---they could already "misbehave"); and 2) if Spain winds up with Gen. Clarke's wife (after exposing her lover as part of the Invisibles' network).

    Excellent points by so many folks on this one, positive and negative alike.

  26. Larry R.--- I vote for Dee. But I don't think the show ever featured more prominent cheekbones than those of Skip Homeier in "Expanding Human."

  27. My now teenage son (14) has agreed to screen this with me tonight. I am curious for his reaction and will report anything more interesting than 'that's a ghetto set.'

    The Invisibiles will be competing for nightmares against the mutants from just released "Dead Space 2" on Xbox.

  28. This is a brilliant episode in every which way with electrifying good performances. The contrast between the rich elegance of MacReady and Hamilton's classical style against the earthy grunts from the street, Gordon & Mordente - twitching with anxiety, is mesmerising. Hartford makes an incredible amount out of nothing, trapped, subdued and reigned in with blackmail. The entire cast is seamlessly great.

    The subtext, as Ted pointed out, is fascinating indeed. Last year I read 'JFK and the unspeakable' during which it's noted by L. Fletcher Prouty (Mr. X in 'JFK') that the real world C I A had by the mid '50s posted an agent working for them into every facet of the State apparatus, getting a regular pay check but who allegiance was to the agency. This year sees the publication of LBJ: The Mastermind Behind JFK's Assassination', about the vainglorious psychopath from Texas who had the motive, means and opportunity to use that agency for his personal lifelong fullfillment.

    'The Invisibles' posits a State that has already been hopelessly compromised and is about to crumble from the inside (despite the nice the hopeful final).


    Anyway, the whole episode is infused by danger, deceit, treachery, corruption and no one is spared. It's like the cinema of the German influx in Hollywood during WW2; dark, brooding and oppressive even during the brightness of daylight.

    I have to read 'The Puppet Masters', just to compare it to this.

    The dialogue that Stefano's throws out of the mouth of his characters, the deliciously deranged direction, the driving soundtrack and deep shadows and brightly sinister photography make this as good as they get. It' one that I continue watching if I catch a moment of it.

    A top ten show.

    Four zantis regents.

  29. Assuming Pete’s just not being contrary to agitate, and knowing his taste somewhat (you guys in the back row, stop giggling!), I’d say that he is simply immune to Stefano’s approach to horror — something otherwise much-venerated if one is going to talk about the achievements of THE OUTER LIMITS. A seasoned pulpist like Pete would be put off by emotional violence as opposed to physical action, oblique plotting as opposed to direct get-to-the-point storytelling, arch-poetical declamations versus clipped tough dialogue, or conflicted protags as opposed to rock-jawed men of action.

    (Although one of our favorite Rockjaws, the bursting-with-manhood LARRY PENNELL, is coming up in “The Mutant” … but this is a Larry Pennell much-subdued from his T-shirt-busting role in THRILLER’s “Late Date.”)

    It’s like the argument, “Is it too gay, or not gay enough?” “It’s a preference.”

    And similarly, Pete’s not wrong.

    (It also suggests he’ll be over the moon for “The Invisible Enemy,” which is pure pulp sci-fi from top to bottom, with no distracting female characters … well, except for Ted Knight.)

    John mistakes a great line for a silly one by not quoting all of it: “A friend of mine got killed once, in some war …” The nonspecific implications of what Spain knows, versus what he can SAY, are devastating.

    Hollywoodaholic’s story about Son Vs. Jellyman is another great bonus of this blog, and the reason I recommended to J&P that they also present Bill Lenihan’s not-dissimilar anecdote.

    Gary G: Demerits to you for perpetuating the myth that “Fun and Games” is somehow based on Fred Brown’s “Arena.” I dismember this lazy theory in the book.

    LEN LESSER: I would go so far as to posit that Len’s brief pro-GIA bit required him to “play a part” with an affected accent when first seen. When he’s among other GIA men, he drops the pretense. I met Len at Larry Blamire’s table read for his script, A TV LIFE. He’s the brother of Dave Lesser, who was OUTER LIMITS transportation captain, and the guy who supplied all the Lincoln Continentals and Thunderbirds seen throughout the show. I’m surprised Len didn’t pop up more in THE OUTER LIMITS.

    And, clearly, the GIA didn’t “get ‘em all.” The Invisibles have been running the government since 1964.

    I’m particularly interested to hear the opinions of female posters, because THE OUTER LIMITS was virtually a desert when it came to distaff casting. Actresses was doomed to be (1) Hard-bitten sourpuss housewife/appendages, (2) angelic porcelain beauties, (3) vulgar sexpots, or (4) mummified has-beens. Two big exceptions are coming right up: The pheromonal blizzard of Joanna Frank in “ZZZZZ,” and the best-of-show turn by Miriam Hopkins in “Don’t Open Till Doomsday,” in spite their enslavement — through scripts written almost entirely by men — to (3) and (4).

    Unlike THRILLER, the idea of a poll here is probably useless, though easy to predict:

    BEST ACTOR: Culp, aka “Mr. OUTER LIMITS,” per Haskin.
    BEST ACTRESS: Hopkins, similarly to Natalie Schafer in “The Grim Reaper.” (Meaning that Joanna Frank occupies the “Elizabeth Montgomery” slot here.)

  30. My money is on Dabney Coleman for best actor.

  31. Yes, great comments today, and especially Larry B.'s impassioned Spotlight. Ted R.--I'm not trying to become the McQueen expert, but in answer to your question, Gordon appeared on at least a couple episodes of Wanted: Dead or Alive, and I think that's where they first met. Liked your play on the opening speech, too (almost said . . . unbearable)!

  32. Just to clarify, my inadvertently truncating the quote was an oversight and not intended to make the line sound any sillier. I do stand by my assessment of the line in it's entirety. Perhaps a different delivery would have given it the gravity DJS suggests is inherent in the words.

  33. I think Don Gordon was further hobbled by the fact he was always "the guy who's not John Saxon."

    And with a little bit of Photoshop, the parasite easily becomes another outrageous 1940s Film Noir HAT! "Hey, check out my Invisibles Hat ..."

  34. Didn't Linda Watkins wear one in "A Wig for Miss Devore"?

  35. Jane Greer could definitely rock that hat. Ida Lupino would sport it with the Growl Function turned up full volume.

  36. David, you don't talk to me for weeks, and when you do, it's to accuse me of having a "lazy theory"! All I can say is...yawn. To begin with, the central premise of "Arena" is so damned powerful that any sci-fi story going down this particular plot path winds up owing something to it (kind of like all those "Hell in the Pacific" variations). Then the Senator himself blathers on about a planet called (ahem) "The Arena," so we can hardly forget the connection. Finally, there is indeed that relatively nifty STAR TREK episode. Like you, I've always found it amusing to compare this officially-licensed version to OL's earlier, highly enjoyable variation, particularly the similarities between the Calico aliens and the equally primitive Gorn. Given ALL of the above, my friend, not mentioning "Arena" parallels in any informed discussion of "Fun and Games" seems (yawn)...well, you get the idea!

  37. In addition to the 'Conspiracy' episode, ST:TOS also did a job with parasite aliens in the lacklustre 'Operation: Annihilate!'

    I prefer 'Fun and Games' by a million miles to 'Arena' but anyone going that route would will owe a nod to Frederic Brown, the same way most acknowledge Wells' 'war of the World' as an invasion template.

  38. The frequently over-the-top John Saxon mistaken for the never over-the-top Don Gordon? Honestly, I think all they share is a hairline.

  39. Which is tough if they're both acting on the same day.

  40. "Is he a bad guy? Is HE a bad guy? Is that a good guy? Is he a bad guy? Is that a bad guy? Is HE a good guy? Is that another bad guy?"

    Such was the dialogue of my young teenager trying to absorb this episode. And I can see how it can be a little confusing if you're not used to spy canon of double double agents doubling down.

    "That's totally a robot," he remarked seeing the crawling parasite. I wanted to say, "No, it's actually real but has been sedated." But I was too busy noticing the strings pulling it for the first time. (Maybe blu-ray remastering WON'T be such a great thing.)

    In the end he was a little ambivalent about the episode and went back to "Dead Space 2," where he was soon gasping out loud at mutant surprise attacks.

    Me. I thought it was a pretty good script, and much like the episode of "Thriller" called "The Specialists," it really smelled like a pilot for another series where "The Invisibles" were the ... good guys. If you can figure out who was who.

    I'll spare the kid "ZZZZZ," though Joanna Frank might prime the testosterone and hormones a bit.

    On a different note, he LOVED "The Magnificent Seven." All is not lost on the Z generation.

  41. MAGNIFICENT SEVEN! Good for you, Hollywoodaholic, you're steering that young lad into honorable enthusiasms! My own passion for that one as a kid led me in later years to its source in THE SEVEN SAMURAI, which has long been my all-time favorite film.

  42. Hollywoodaholic-

    I guess it's a good sign that he was asking questions instead of snickering throughout the episode.

    The Magnificent Seven. Funny how when I was a kid Steve McQueen's character was my favorite. As I got older that changed as I feel Robert Vaughn's 'Lee' is one of the coolest characters in any western. Love the scene where he's thrashing about in the cantina after waking up from his nightmare.

  43. UTW--- a nice Vaughn moment, no doubt. I like all his scenes. The rest of that nightmare plays out as a strong, if brief, character intensifier: the flies ("There was a time I would have caught all three"); the Mexicans' attempted comfort:

    "Have no fear."
    "Have no very words, ten thousand times a day."

    Even Lee's death scene has always made me wonder. You see him sliding his face along a rough adobe wall as he goes down. I always wonder how much he threw himself into selling that. Did he wind up with abrasions on his cheek? A nice Western death moment.

  44. Ted-

    I couldn't agree with you anymore. It was a brief scene, but one that added a great moment for a character that was more in the background then the main stars of the film.

    Now let me ask you this: Did you get the feeling, like I did, that after Lee won his mini-battle in the prisoner station, it was like he purposely walked outside to die? I'm not sure, but just Vaughn's melancholy look as he observes the surrounding chaos, kind of gives me the impression that he was 'finished' in his own mind. After all, he did find his courage and maybe felt that he needed to no longer fight anymore.

  45. That's a great point, UTW. One that I hadn't really considered (as I instantly did when Pike busted in on the Gorch Bros. party at the end of THE WILD BUNCH and said, "Let's go..."). But Lee does, after all, return his gun to its holster with a real sense of finality, doesn't he? And what seasoned gunslinger strolls casually into the midst of a wild firefight?

    I have to say I believe you're right. And from now on that's how I'll always see his death.

  46. That was the vibe I got having just watched it. Lee finally found peace in his mind, put his gun away and let go.

    My kid plays trumpet in his 8th grade wind ensemble, so I think he really dug the Elmer Bernstein score, too. Imagine hearing it for the first time. How can you not go away humming that?

  47. Absolutely, Hollywoodaholic! That's one of the most stirring scores ever written. I knew it when I first saw the film as a ten-year-old. You come away humming several of the cues. You hear the music and can't surf away from it.

    How about that the triumphant cue right after Chris and Vin foil the funeral-blockers on Boot Hill?

    Whit Bissell: "Boys, the drinks are on me!"

  48. Target stores has an exclusive of the BD for M7 at $9.99 if anyone's interested, btw. Previously it was only available in BD bundled with all the inferior sequels for an unmagnificent price.

  49. When I was a kid and saw this episode of The Outer Limits that little furry cockroach thing making those horrible grunting and growling noises - it scared the hell out of me!

    What a great TV show. Thanks for your web site dedicated to it.

  50. LEN LESSER - R.I.P.

    Dec 3, 1922 - Feb 16, 2011

    ("He's down there...shed 49")


    Just by melancholy coincidence, this past Sunday I hosted a time-delayed birthday dinner for a friend whose favorite OUTER LIMITS is "The Invisibles," which we screened 16mm for his delectation. Big credit to Larry Blams, for introducing me to the Man Himself during the table read ... without Larry, I never would have gotten to meet Len that one memorable time.

  52. I've always liked Len Lesser a whole lot. He has an even smaller role in the comedy Slither (the ' 73 movie of that name), without one word of dialogue, and he even manages to stand out in IT.

  53. R.I.P. Richard Dawson -- "Oliver Fair" -- 20 November 1932-2 June 2012.

    TCM has been running P.T. 109, featuring a "pre-union" of sorts between Cliff Robertson and William Douglas Jr. (Douglas plays "Zinser" on the PT boat crew -- one of his very few feature acting gigs); also featuring OUTER LIMITS stalwart Robert Culp ... in color!

  54. Richard was great in this as smarmy Oliver Fair.

    Like PE, I roll my eyes at those "gay sub-text" comments when it comes to about a ninety-nine stories in a row, but also like PE, this might be that one in a hundred for me. (Not that I think it's all that BIG a part of the story, just that it might be THERE.)

    One of my few problems with this one is the way Planetta NOT ONLY gets killed by sort of "friendly fire" while finally HELPING Spain, but is just left lying there (and not just literally). Sure, maybe that's one more part of the "grittiness" that this story is full of, but that part could have been done just a little differently. At least the scene could've let Spain take some long, sad look at Planetta, or let him make some comment about how he was killed.

  55. 1/2 Zanti. Its both boring and beserk. Its also too similar to 100 Days of the Dragon. Nifty camera work as usual, annoying repetitive shore. When attacking Gordon the thing looks rediculous, although the sound effects are creepy. The twist ending is o.k.

  56. Pretty big technical mistake in this one (at 15 min 40 sec) which can be blamed on Conrad Hall : when Spain gets out of the barracks at night to meet with his fellow agent, he comes out the window, walks towards the camera then goes right of the screen and runs AS WE CAN SEE IN PLAIN VIEW TO HIS LEFT A LIGHT POLE CLUMSILY HIDDEN BY A BLACK DRAPE !! (not the conveniently located wooden board at the beginning of the shot, but the light in the distance at the END of the shot)

  57. Okay. That's about it. ALL the actors in this one, I liked better in their other OL episodes!

    Len Lesser was funny as hell on both THE MONKEES (teamed with Lon Chaney Jr. & Rose Marie) and GET SMART ("No torture???").

    Earlier this year-- and around the time I re-watched this episode-- I kept seeing the name "Tony Mordente" over and over. I checked the IMDB. Whatta ya know! He moved into DIRECTING. Just in my collection alone...

    8 episodes of THE A-TEAM
    14 episodes of HUNTER
    36 episodes of WALKER, TEXAS RANGER (36 !!!!!)


  58. The story does start to unravel but Hall and Oswald have so much fun with an insane supporting cast -- Hamilton, Macready, Walter Burke, Dee Hartford and so on... So this scary sucker had me at the opening credits -- and it also offers some insights into how Pure Evil goes about recruiting its foot-soldiers. Hmmm, would that have some relevance today?

  59. Still love McReady,even in the Gov role-MASTERS!?Masters & Johnson?Don Gordon best part of this show.And Richard Dawson-great acting,nice to see as other than Newkirk in Hogan's Heroes.

  60. This is in my Top 7 or 8 favorite O.L. episodes. During my binge-watching of the show (going on for about 8 months now), I keep going back to this one over and over. It holds up fine to repeated viewings. SO well done. I met Don Gordon around 1970, at a casting call for the movie Papillon. My best friend is Bill Mumy, and Mumy was in that movie, along with Gordon and Steve McQueen and others. Don seemed like a good guy.

  61. A favorite of mine. MeTV aired this tonight and there were some (literally) nasty cuts, such as the word vainglorious,--gone from Neil Hamilton's rapturous mugging in his study--and probably others as well. I mean, of all the words to cut out.

    Most of the rest of it was pretty well intact, and I loved the musical cues, the Stalag 17 opening; the more portentous than usual narration early on; the B horror madness of Macready; Walter Burke's poker faced toady; Also, after some near pastoral scenes in Chevy Chase the cut to the literal chase at the end, with Don Gordon in near Odd Man Out mode.

    The Invisibles is a wild, wonderful ride. It is flawless? No, not at at. Yet in its surreal, febrile way it's perfect.

  62. That "rapturous mugging" is one of the few unintentionally funny moments. Not because of Neil Hamilton's scenery chewing - at least, not to me - but because that of all things allows Spain to get away. The Invisibles really should have warned him about that kind of thing.

  63. While the “pod-people-secret-alien-invasion-force” concept was already old-hat in the mid sixties, this is a very solid episode all around; one of the best yet of season one. The only weak point is the aliens themselves, which are a bit clunky and aren’t as menacing as they could be. Plus, you have to wonder how they could be secretly transported in suitcases with all that plainly audible growling going on.

    Great performances, complex secret-double-agent hijinks; it’s a good entry in the series.

    The “southern mansion” exterior set on the MGM back lot is prominently featured in this episode; you’ll see that building in many old films. If you look online, you’ll find some rather sad photos of it being bulldozed in the 1970s.

  64. This is a good rip-off of Heinlein's Puppet Masters, which, thankfully, lacks the gay subtext. Heinlein obviously appreciated the female form, especially sans clothing, as the scene describing the disrobing in the The Section's main lobby. It was unfortunate that the movie version of the novel was a botch; probably the difficulty of showing the nationwide influx of the alien slugs (arriving in spaceships from Titan (one of Saturn's moons)) and the resultant Presidential directive (akin to the current Covid-19 mask requirements) of Operation Sun Tan, the massive nudity embraced by the populace to slow the slug infestation. Heinlein dismissed the cultural clothing mores as outdated since "[s]kin was skin, and what of it?" In the novel, a General notes that wartime adjustments in defeating the slugs turned a military base into a nudist colony, but in today's movie rating system, such onscreen nakedness would be excised.

  65. I used to go to watch plays at a church in Hollywood, the play group was called First Stage. Anyways I noticed someone in the audience who looked so familiar but I couldn't place him so I kept staring. Anyways someone introduced me to him afterwards - it was Les Lesser. I apologized for staring, he said no problem he got that all the time. Great guy. So that was my lame claim to fame moment, the only other more famous people I met were Rene Auberjones who gave a talk at my high school and OL alum Carol O'Connor while trick r' treating (me, not him)- other than Mickey Dolenz, Jefferson Airplane, and John Hartford- who my dad built guitars for when I was a toddler, I don't remember those encounters.

  66. I know I watched this 13 years ago because I watched every first season episode for this blog. But I didn't remember a single thing about this episode - the plot, the bear, the actors, even Bradford Dillman, fresh off an Emmy win for playing The madman on The Defenders. It's basically a spy thriller. It gets my vote for the episode in which I most don't know what the hell is going on. 2 Zantis. But I need to read these comments in full.


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