Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Mice

Production Order #19
Broadcast Order #15
Original Airdate: 1/6/64
Starring Henry Silva, Diana Sands.
Written by Bill S. Ballinger and Joseph Stefano, based on Ballinger teleplay from a story idea by Lou Morheim.
Directed by Alan Crosland, Jr..

As part of an interstellar exchange program with the planet Chromo, scientists prepare to teleport the humans' top prospect (i.e. imprisoned murderer and sole volunteer) Chino Rivera (Silva) on a trip that only mice have made successfully. While delays hamper the outbound trip, the visitor from Chromo appears to have some nasty habits we weren't warned about.

JS: Times are pretty tough when prisoners willing to volunteer for what could very well be a suicide teleportation mission to another planet don't even earn special consideration for their parole. It's as if we were sending our own Misfits to Chromo! When Chino asks what planet they'll be teleporting to, you almost think he's asking because he wants to make it back to whatever planet he's from. I said it during Thriller and I'll say it again. There's something wrong with that boy.

PE: Silva just doesn't look like a Chino Rivera, does he? Frank. Skip. Even Ralphie. Not Chino. At least he keeps his sense of humor about him, though his one-liners are mucho stale indeed.

JS: Did you appreciate how the Chromoite appeared out of the interdimensional rain of "The Borderland"?

PE: And the poor guy was transferred straight from a disco it seems since he's gettin' down in that chamber when he arrives. Who choreographed this mess? When Silva sees a way out of his imprisonment in the lab, he runs out the door, does a couple jukes in the hallway, throws himself at a door, attempts a kidnap of lovely Diana Sands, and then tries to jump out a closed window, knocking himself unconscious. Could this have been another scene based on an actual event in Joe Stefano's past?

JS: This episode also brings back the dreaded ZOOM that marred the climax of "The Sixth Finger." If you thought monkey-McCallum was frightening, wait til you get a few zooms of Henry Silva.

PE: L-OL line of the day: "You ever seen a smear like that before?"

JS: Apparently there's a bakery downstream from the science compound, as they're dumping the bread dough the Chromoite seems to enjoy so much. In keeping with that absence of logic our regular OL-philes seem to revel in, can you believe an alien visiting Earth—particularly on an arranged visit—would not be under 24/7 scientific observation/scrutiny?

PE: Actually, while watching the teaser (I'm a professional so, yes, I watch every frickin' minute of these shows), I thought the Chromoite was eating someone's laundry.

"Hey cutie, how's 'bout a little action?"
JS: The Chromoite itself is a pretty bizarre bear. When it's not running around on two clearly human legs, it's actually looks pretty cool. But as soon as it goes bipedal, we're into the world of Sid & Marty Kroft. Picture a melting H.R. Pufnstuf with Sleestak hands. And Sleestak hands that sure are nimble when it comes to spinning all those classic Outer Limits knobs and dials.

PE: Nimble with the dials but a total fumble with the fight scenes. Military police seem to bounce off his goopy body. Were rolls of toilet paper part of the costume? My favorite scene of the show is when two professors are discussing the dough that's found floating in the river, Mr. Chromo (That's Dr. Chromo to you. -JS) cracks the door wide open and eavesdrops. When he's heard enough, he quietly closes the door with his big ol' crab hands. Neither one of the alleged geniuses (genii?) notices the seven foot tall, ostensibly odorific, pile of oysters at the door!

JS: When all is said and done, I felt this one ended on a whimper. Despite all the blood on his Chromoite/Sleestak hands, I have trouble believing that they're just going to let him return home. Where are the military madmen when we need them? Even when Chino—a convicted killer fer chrissakes—has Chromo dead to rights, he lets him/it live! Apparently the Chromoites subscribe to the theory that it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

PE: Co-writer Bill S. Ballinger was actually a well-respected crime writer, responsible for the novels The Body in the Bed (1948), The Body Beautiful (1949) and Portrait in Smoke (1950), basis for the film, Wicked As They Come (1956). Ballinger also wrote the noir classic, Pushover (1954) and teleplays for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ghost Story and Kolchak the Night Stalker.


David J. Schow on "The Mice":

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

Next Up...


  1. I was not previously aware of the actual date Claude Binyon Jr. died, but it was today, January 27th, 2007. Without Claude I never would have scored the photos from Stefano's pilot THE HAUNTED (for CBS), nor several of the shooting schedules for episodes on which he worked. All of OUTER LIMITS' stalwart, funny First ADs — Claude, Bob Justman, and Lee Katzin — were a complete joy to meet and talk to, generous with their time and encyclopedic in their recall. Claude's frequently funny observations are headed your way shortly in the page excerpts from the book — like his "hysterectomy" line regarding "The Mice." The Claude Binyon/Lee Katzin transition took place during production of "The Invisibles." More on Justman coming up on Monday next.


    Much more on Diana HERE:

    SPECIAL BONUS TRIVIA QUESTION: You all know by now that the top half of the costume from "The Mice" was recycled to better effect as the Brain Creature in "The Guests." But what OTHER episode does this costume appear in? (Z)Anti-hint: the answer is not to be found in the OUTER LIMITS COMPANION ... because I only just spotted it just two nights ago! Not a trick question; it's an OUTER LIMITS episode.

  2. Usual crazy OUTER LIMITS security problems. An alien is free to wander the halls and the outside woods, meanwhile murdering one of our top scientists and a security guard. And if the alien is one of their top scientists why on earth does he act like a bugged eye monster(BEM), running around attacking and murdering earthlings?

    And why send the murdering alien back to his world, shouldn't we hold him for trial like any criminal? I say execute the BEM...

  3. I started writing a journal to my son when he was four years old that I hope he may read at some point and appreciate and hold onto, even when dad’s no longer around. Here’s an entry related to this episode from when he was seven.


    May 18, 2004

    Dear J-man,

    You are in your last week of the First Grade and your current extra-curricular obsession is Yu-Gi-Oh dueling cards. This obsession with collecting cards reminded me of the types of cards I collected as a kid and, more specifically, that I still had one of my own “Monster” card collections. These cards were tied to a science fiction horror TV anthology series that ran in the early 1960’s called The Outer Limits. Each week a disembodied “control voice” took control of your television set and introduced a gothic-style horror or science fiction story with a new set of characters or actors, and featuring at least one new monster each week. Because this was 1963 and most television sets could only play black & white programs, the show was filmed and broadcast in black & white. I was about eight years old when the show first aired and I remember that it scared me out of my wits. I went to bed every Monday night with nightmares, and yet couldn’t wait until the next Monday night to have some new ones. I guess you could call that my own personal obsession or form of adrenaline addiction at the time. I wanted to be scared silly. And The Outer Limits never failed to do the job.

    So I retrieved the treasured deck of cards that I had collected back in 1963 that also came with bubble gum in plastic wrappers (no, I didn’t save any of the gum, I chewed that). There was the bug-eyed alien with the razor-sharp boomerang from “Fun and Games;” the shimmering, negative-image radioactive man from “The Galaxy Being;” and the ones that gave me the worst nightmares when I was a kid... the over-sized crawling ants with human-like faces known as “The Zanti Misfits.” In the show, they featured these animated insect monsters crawling out of their spacecraft atop a military post headquarters in a Western ghost town named “Morgue” and attacking everyone in sight. I couldn’t sleep for weeks.

    You quickly rifled through The Outer Limit cards and I could tell that you were somewhat excited to see them. You even wanted to take them to school to show your friends (hey, these are “near mint,” so that wasn’t likely). But you really weren’t very scared by the cards and, in fact, made a point of saying that they didn’t scare you at all. “Well, if you saw the show they came from, you’d be scared,” I promised. So you called my bluff and said, “Let me see.”

  4. I went straight to my DVD box collection of the original program and put in the first of four discs (all 32 first season episodes of the series were on just four discs). I used the menu to bring up “The Zanti Misfits” episode and used the chapter search to skip directly to the finale with the monster ants attacking the military police in their headquarters. You took one look at the stop motion animation of the ants crawling out of their small, tin-looking spacecraft and immediately declared, “That’s not scary.” I was somewhat crushed. What could be more terrifying than loudly buzzing, over-sized ants with human-like faces crawling up your leg and biting you with poisonous teeth? They even killed some of the soldiers before the soldiers eventually shot, stomped or threw grenades to kill them all and basically end their invasion. The ants screamed inhumanely when they were being killed. And yet, still you were unimpressed. You wanted to see more episodes.

    I cued up an episode called, “The Mice,” that featured what appeared to be a man on two legs covered from head to waist with a huge blob of snot-like gelatinous material and with two protruding, claw-like hands. It was, obviously, a man in a costume fitted with a huge blob of jelly-like substance on top, and wearing two claw-like pincers over his hands. You watched this “Jelly Man” picking lake scum up with his claws and stuffing it in what appeared to be a slit-like mouth. You watched the Jelly Man running through a forest back to a laboratory. You watched the Jelly Man use his claws to attack and, apparently, kill one of the workers in the laboratory where the creature had first been transported to Earth. And you watched as they eventually put him back in that same transporter and sent him back to the planet he came from. And that was it. No major reactions from you. But you somehow couldn’t take your eyes off the Jelly Man until you had seen every moment of him featured in this episode.

    That very same night you insisted mom come in and lay down with you as you went to bed. You insisted that she leave the closet light on throughout the night. And a few minutes after you had finally fallen to sleep, your mother came out to the living room where I was watching television on the couch and scolded me for scaring you with the “Jelly Man.” She went to bed mad. And as soon as the bedroom door closed, I found myself reacting in a most peculiar manner. I was grinning from ear to ear. An old black & white TV show that scared me as a kid more than 40 years ago could still scare a kid today. It may have been the “Jelly Man” and not the human-faced crawling oversized ants with the poisonous teeth, but it still counted. That old black & white magic still worked. I shouldn’t be proud about scaring you with this stuff, but when you so cavalierly wrote off one of my most powerful childhood fears with a smirk and a casual remark, “That’s not scary,” well, I can’t help but feel glibly vindicated. And so I grinned.

    Here it is a week later and you are still insisting on sleeping with the lights on in the closet and still secretly talking about the “Jelly Man” with your mom (even 7 year-olds have their pride about not admitting they’re scared to Dad, particularly when they’ve already made a very public scoffing to him). I’m sorry. I apologize.

    But just wait until you see the episode with the space rocks that come alive and cover your face with a smothering black blob.

  5. A bit of a travesty in TOL, in that it's BEMs were usually eloquent and poetic and misunderstood.

    This episode works less and less well each time it's watched and from youth to adulthood. It's just not worhty of the show.

    The best thing about it is Hall's photography and those long shadows in the those long corridors (echoing OBIT). Even the music is too much and drowns out everything else.

    The characters are threadbare and the direction is lively and pacey during the escape but falters by an over-use of close-ups so that they lose their impact.

    I love the Stefano regime but I think he made a critical error in not using the huge gold mine of published SF as a source base when scripts didn't come in. The core idea behind this one and 'The Mutant' aren't worthy of TOL treatment. 'Who Goes There?' by Campbell, Rog Philips 'The Rat in the Skull' and 'The Yellow Pill' and PKD's 'The Golden Man', though the last one would never have got past the censors.

  6. Peter: Silva doesn't look like a Chino; I need to know, was that irony? You don't usually use irony. It's messing with me, man.

    Bobby, I agree; repeated viewings are not kind to this plothole parade. I do enjoy Silva and Sands and--I have to say--the sight of the Chromoite when it's NOT shown full figure--a truly audacious and alien creation. And when we see it shoveling sludge at the quiet peaceful lake? That's almost off the surrealometer.

    Hey, if there's a Kroft show that has something that looks like that--I gotta see it, and I'm scared for the children.

    Most embarrassing moment: the guard that turns, sees Dr. Chromo, screams and throws his rifle in the air.

    Hey, Dabney Coleman ends up on another lab floor.

    Anybody else spot stunt car driving legend (as in BULLITT, FRENCH CONNECTION, etc.), Bill Hickman as a guard?

  7. This always seemed like a lost opportunity to me. The concept is interesting, first contact with an alien race, and the setup leading to the arrival of the Chromoite is reasonably credible. But then it gets here, and no one even says hello. No questions, no "how are things on your world?", no nothing. They immediately let him go off to walk around the grounds as if he just stepped off a commuter train. In fact, no one ever says word one to him until the end. It's like they stopped stories in mid-stream and just went to something else instead. Weird . . .

    Silva is great in this one, though--you can't take your eyes off him. I felt his was a fully realized character, and very compelling. And I was happy with the look of the Chromoite for the most part. I've always been disappointed that in most shows like TZ, Star Trek, etc., the "aliens" always just looked like people with some makeup on--they never looked really ALIEN. The OL was guilty of this to a degree, too, but for a short stretch here they really came up with alien-looking things: the Zantis, the electro-Jagger cloud in Woodwork, this Jelly Man (from the waist up, anyway), and the Invisibles and the Doomsday box creature to come.

    Too bad the plot fell apart on this one; it really had potential. One thing I want to know is what ever happened to the poor guard who got disintegrated in the transporter? Where did he end up? Was he re-integrated later on the Enterprise the next time they were tooling around through that time warp that usually brought them back to our time?

  8. "Ever have one of those days...?" For some reason, everything seems to go wrong with "The Mice." A great premise dribbles away halfway through the episode. An audacious-looking alien winds up wrestling Henry Silva for a revolver, getting dropped-kicked in the process. Even Frontiere's music and Hall's photography seems a tad desperate. Two plusses: Henry Silva's always fun to watch and listen to. And "Mice" does happen to offer one of the most impressive shots in the entire series: Silva's frantic escape attempt after the Chromoite first arrives. In one spectacular set-up, Hall's camera follows him up, down and all around that corridor, pushing in for close-ups (trying the doorknob), pulling back, pushing in again for his tussle with Sands, etc. This single, extended "show off" shot is then followed by a succession of extremely brief ones -- Silva and Sands in the room; Silva making for the window ("No!!!); Silva blasted back; Sands going over to his unconscious body. I've shown this sequence to film students, as it demonstrates how the clever juxtaposition of long takes and quick-cutting can whip the viewer into an emotional frenzy. Unfortunately, this extremely well thought-out bit of filmmaking is just one minute in an overall "stinker" episode.

  9. This was a sci-fi B-movie, elevated beyond its material thanks to the writing, directing, and most importantly, Henry Silva's acting. I watched this one once, about four years ago and laughed it off as junk. Now that I've watched it a second time, It's actually one of my favorites.

    Chino Rivera is one of the series best anti-heroes. A man that can shift from being creepily charming, to brave, then a cowardly survivalist, tough, deadly, but in the end, always true to himself. He never really has some big moment of "seeing the light," and turning into a heroic angel. His final battle with the Chromoite is more of a matter of 'it's either him or me.'

    Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the only reason Chino didn't kill the bear, after shooting it the first time, was because he didn't want to get in more trouble with his government captors (the professor begging/warning him not to shoot it again) or because he didn't want to cause an Alien invasion. That's the reason why I figured the U.S. just wanted to send the Chromoite back, hoping to avoid some type of retaliation.

    I agree that some of Silva's dialogue was a little cheesy. However, the back story he gives about murdering the man that was killing his sister little by little was pretty powerful stuff. Plus, I'm a sucker for any character that's a boxer, ex-boxer.

  10. For me, the emotional impact of the tale - and as David Horne pointed out, Silva's knockout performance - completely redeems it, obvious shortcomings and all. I even like the goofy scum-eater Chromoite (long skinny legs and a blobby upper body run in my family, so... fealty?).

    This episode's an imperfect but well-loved friend of mine.

  11. Yeah, this one's an unfortunately easy call as a problematic pothole in a nice smooth run of hot episodes. It's a tribute to the show that you feel depressed at having to acknowledge that. It isn't helped by being cast in the harsh afterglow of the tangentially themed Zanti prisoner transfer, as John notes. You'd just like to see something a bit more challenging and ominous done with the interplanetary exchange-student concept from TOL.

    Henry Silva and Diana Sands dominate their roles. I'd wager Stefano would have liked to make something more of the aura of interracial romance hovering around them, if only to fly in the face of the era's network conservatism.

    The Chromoite, a Jello-mold afterbirth with lobster claws and stubby T. Rex arms, is a stroke of mad genius (who know's WHAT'S out there?) and a snicker directed at the network. (You want BEARS? We'll show you a BEAR!) The "garbage-eater's" bad legs are clearly the hands-down deal-breaker of the illusion.

    The script dithers from possible Too Many Hands Syndrome. David Horne has noted how the Chromoite arrives with absolutely no fanfare (save for the "Stranger in a Strange Land"-style music cue from "Nightmare"). They don't even check its visa, much less isolate it for possible contaminant vectors, before it surges outside without even an "OK, then---have fun in the woods!"

    Gary G.--- Keen observation of that textbook escape sequence. I had never fully appreciated what a solidly blocked, shot and edited piece that is.

    The Chromoite's deft "spying" scene from the open doorway is a hoot. I also didn't like the weak set-up of the Chino's-shoe clue. Wouldn't he have scooped up the shoe, once he followed it through the window? I would have.

    Then there occurs one of my all-time movie pet peeves (the toppers being The Digital Fling and The Free-fall Cling): Out-of-Frame Blindness. Chino trips and falls. A microsecond later guns appear in his face. I understand that this is time-saving movie shorthand. But it always elicits a mood-shattering groan from me when a character says (are you listening, E.T.?), "We MADE it!" And then 200 pursuers appear from the sides of the frame to magically proclaim "au contraire." Do movie characters, in their rigidly framed world, possess peripheral vision? Can they HEAR anything not contained in the frame, unless it's a voice-over?

    There are drawn-out, elliptical dialogues that neither advance the story nor sing with that proverbial TOL prose-poetry lilt. Too often, they merely flog the "mice" theme. Julie and Kelly's Chromoite exposition is dull and awkward.

    The free-ranging Chromoite apparently isn't even a suspect after the first murder. No xenomorphs, THESE military guys. I had to laugh at the alien's stubby-clawed perplexity at how to navigate through an open window, giving Julie a pretty fair head start.

    The lack of demand for the return of, or reparation for, the teleported guard? That's just part of a long movie tradition of Unlamented Extra Syndrome. They live to add emotional weight, birth-to-earth spent as momentary plot-pawns.

    Larry B.--- The guard who TOSSES his gun is cringe-worthy, only marginally brighter than the one who walks up behind the creature close enough to have his pistol slapped from his hand! "Your guns are useless, Earth-mice!"

    A simplistic story, albeit with an interesting subtext in Chino's psychology. (UTW framed the resolution nicely: Chino isn't miraculously "reformed" by the experience.) An embarrassingly obvious theme:

    "You should have ASKED."

    DJS sums it up perceptively in the COMPANION when he notes the slippery slope from promising CV opening ("the whelming brine of space") to prosaic closure (hunger should unite humanity).

    Well, yeah...huh?

  12. I agree with UTW's take on Silva's character; there's a lot to admire, especially his total consistency right to the end. Even his final line ("If I don't bleed to death first..") is a perfect summation of a tough, honest and honorable guy. Here's a "troubled individual" who holds his own and earns the respect of his (supposed) superiors by the end of the show.

    The lovely and gracious Diana Sands maneuvers through this crazy episode with a quiet, dignified strength...though ultimately she seems like just another prop in a script that doesn't quite know where it's going. I like Michael Higgin's nicely controlled performance as well, especially his understated "why didn't you ask?" lines at the end. Some may wince at the line itself, but not the way it was delivered. Ultimately, though, his performance doesn't seem to count for much.

    Love that escape scene in the hallway that Gary describes-- and check the way the snare drum pattern in Frontiere's score matches exactly Chino's close-up rattling of the door knob; I had to rewind this scene a couple of times.

    I have always liked the by-now-familiar TOL "Gothic Laboratory" in the MICE, even coming right on the heels of "Woodwork's" very similar setting. Conrad Hall's frequent use of those "starry" plexi-glass window/shields---both as fishbowl-like lenses and mirror-like reflectors--certainly makes for much more interesting viewing than we otherwise would have had, and gives the lab setting a more luminous visual quality (with which the opening CV's "whelming brine of space" imagery seems to connect).

    But the gaping plot holes and loss of focus and pace in the second half of the show--to say nothing of its downright silliness-- really dooms THE MICE. I'll watch it occasionally, just to see if it improves with age...which it doesn't.

    And WHY, oh why did the control voice have to smack us with "LOVE" at the very end? It worked better for the final voice-over in "Borderland", but here---as the final sentence ticked off "Faith....Hope...and-..." I says to myself, I says...PLEASE don't say LOVE--PLEASE! Anything about "TRUST"? (far more relevant to the plot itself)..but NOT LOVE!! I can't take it!--especially with a big JELLY MAN/CRAB CAKE/HULA GUY up there on the screen!

    Oh, well...

    Incidentally, some of Frontiere's humorously titled musical cues for this episode, as noted by Roger Farris in the original recording session log, read:

    "Jellyman Arrives"
    "Like Scum"
    Jellyman Kills One"
    "I Feel Pity"
    "Jelly Comes"
    "Jelly Clomping"
    "Jellyman Voluntary"

    and my favorite:

    "Jellyman Morton" (a riff on the famous ragtime/jazz pioneer "Jelly ROLL Morton").


    1. Some of the older translations of the Biblical quote give it as "faith, hope and charity", and the charity of feeding others could be seen as a form of love, I guess. It's obvious that the "why didn't you ask?" meant humanity could probably have farmed food and exported it to the Chromoites, after all if mice and objects can be exported through teleporters, so can food.

  13. Damn your eyes, DJS -- is it a first season OL, or a second? At least give us that much of a hint. In the meantime, here's a little something not covered in your book (I think): the exterior stock shot of the prison was lifted from Universal's 1947 BRUTE FORCE, which happened to feature OL favorites John Hoyt and Whit Bissell in key roles. As for the Chromoite's third OL appearance, come clean, David... I don't have time to re-screen every freakin' episode just to say "gotcha"!

  14. ...and Jeezus, Jeff Corey's in BRUTE FORCE, as well!

  15. Chromo: "Hey, mind if we infest your planet's bodies of water with unappealing glop to feed our race of homicidal, bipedal gutpiles?"

    Earth: "No problem! What's the worst that could happen?"

    Chromo: "Awesome! Did we mention that it bakes to a golden brown in just minutes?"

    "Second Chance" jumps through the same plot-escape-hatch with somewhat more credibility, but it's a cop-out there, too.

    Some things about "The Mice" work for me, and overall I find it enjoyable if lackluster. Silva and Sands have real chemistry, and it seems to loosen him up considerably. I also like the pulsing, incessant music/sound effects combo in the last act; it makes all that running and driving and falling seem less like the padding it obviously is. John Elizalde deserved an Emmy for this episode.

    DJS: How about another anti-hint?

    DCH: I resemble that remark...

  16. DJS--- Off the top of my head, the only context I can imagine for the Chromoite, without his being reconstructed or truncated as in "The Guests," would be in the alien zoo in the 2nd season's "The Duplicate Man."

    N'est-ce pas?

  17. Good third eye, Ted: "The Chromoite IS the IMWARF!"

    See, master animator and Big Daddy Roth intimate (and executor) Kenny Mitchroney has recently taken up residence in Underworld. See:

    Kenny, being a Kustom Kar devotee, was perfect to test-drive my theory that Henderson James' futuristic auto in "The Duplicate Man" was a George Barris custom — in fact, it's right on the cover of BARRIS KUSTOMS OF THE 1960s by George Barris and David Fetherston (MBI Publishing, 2002). Turns out it's the '63 Buick "Villa Riviera," dashboard phones and all. It was originally bright red ("35 coats of translucent Cherry with Fire Frost Pearl over a white base"). It was built for the 1964 movie FOR THOSE WHO THINK YOUNG, starring James Darren and Nancy Sinatra. According to the book it was repainted by several subsequent owners, then restored and spotted at several James Darren public appearances back East (like Chiller Theatre, maybe?).

    So we're trolling through "The Duplicate Man" for shots of the car. And for the first time, I noticed the Chromoite "thumb" sticking out of the top of the Imwarf. With the tentacled flowers they added, the whole mess looks like a gigantic mega-pod from "Specimen: Unknown" ... but it's the Chromoite.

    I should re-post this when "The Duplicate Man" comes up, but we've got a bit of a drive yet, to get there.

    I should also point out that that last picture of the Chromoite, Silva and Sands on the entry above is an extremely rare, posed unit shot — nothing like it appears in the actual episode.

  18. The climax also features one of the worst-post dubbed ADR lines in the history of OUTER LIMITS: "The lab ... stop him!"

    1. I saw it again last night, and it doesn't even sound like Dabney Coleman saying the line (though it might be). I also noticed for about the first time that Coleman's character is partially a second example in this episode of your phrase, the "Dangling Guard Syndrome," because he's still lying in that doorway the last time you see him. Maybe you're supposed to assume he was killed, but you never find out for sure.

      That part of the story also has (to me) ALMOST an "L-OL" moment, and it's that swivel chair rolling across the floor. Because even though it's dramatic, it also looks like some kind of "afterthought" on the Chromoite's part after the attack, almost like something a rowdy school kid might do in a classroom.

  19. Imwarf, Imwarf, Imwarf... Somehow I thought DJS meant the whole creature, too... But it's gotta be this.

  20. I take it the "Free-Fall Cling" might be that scene in every action movie where Our Hero falls several stories ... and is somehow able to GRAB ONTO something, a ventilator shaft lip, a gargoyle ... and ARREST his own full-body, freefall, 32-feet-per-second-per-second plummet in total defiance of the laws of gravity, mass, inertia, and good plotting.

    But what's the Digital Fling — just lame CGI in general?

    I should tell you the story about the $12,000 housefly.

  21. LESLIE STEVENS ALERT: The Daystar STRYKER pilot apparently just became available on Netflix Streaming as "Fanfare for a Death Scene." How'd THAT happen, when we can't even clear rights for THE HAUNTED? Somebody grab it, fast!

  22. David, do you have anymore infomation on this pilot?

  23. DJS---

    The IMWARF! Forgot the creature's name (I haven't watched that episode in quite a while), but I thought that's where our Chromoite might have wound up.

    But I have to be fair and point out that I'm wondering whether you didn't quiz me on this once before, many years ago, and the answer simply drifted back to the surface like buoyant bread dough, at your prompt.

    Yep---you nailed the Free-fall Cling. This physical borderline impossibility breaks the spell for me every time a screaming heroine snags a passing gargoyle head while in full plunge; or Chris O'Donnell flies across a mountain chasm and sticks like a Velcro tick to the sheer cliff-face on the other side.

    The Digital Fling has been with us just as long, courtesy of stunt-wiring. But it's achieved its perfect deceleration-trauma-flouting expression in the digital era. You know: when someone is flung hard enough---or even worse, struck with sufficient force---that they fly fifty feet horizontally through the air, smash into a solid wall (concrete serves nicely), then get up and shake themselves with a head-clearing "Whew!" and launch back at their assailant.

    Good action cinema? Maybe. But...upon further review, regrettably, buzz-killingly as it may be, you're DEAD, pal.

    Superman? OK, it's Superman. So who's keeping tabs---or investing any true empathy in what it must feel like to be Superman? Spider-Man? Possibly. Spiders are pretty resilient (without the additional mass-times-energy baggage).

    But a regular flesh-and-bone hero, whatever their elevated levels of adrenaline-plus-moxey, getting backhanded by King Kong or jackknifed across a room by a dinosaur's tail?

    Uh-uh. My money's on massive internal trauma, skull fracture, and the next hero in line.

    Or the $12,000 housefly...

  24. I was on-set for (UNNAMED BIG BUDGET MOVIE) during a scene where (UNNAMED ACTOR), to demonstrate his McCarthyist obsessiveness, stalks and kills a housefly while declaiming. SPCA was on-set. "You can't kill the fly," they said. "It has to be dead of natural causes."


    (1) Run down to Hollywood Toys and buy a bag of plastic flies for $1.50.

    (2) Hot-glue a dead fly to the window and smash it. There were plenty of them at Craft Services.

    (3) PRETEND to kill the fly and substitute on the cut -- it's a fast shot.

    NOPE ... for the quarter-second shot, which, when viewed, MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE, the production spent $12,000 to CGI a fly ... WHICH WASN'T REAL TO BEGIN WITH.

    And people wonder why movies cost so much.

    I said, "What's the fine if you kill a real fly? About $250? TAKE THE HIT."

    But then they couldn't claim "no animals were harmed, etc.," during the end credits.


  25. The STRYKER pilot was the only non-STONEY BURKE pilot produced by Stevens in 1963 — as a 1964 TV Movie.

    "This Cold War-era thriller stars Richard Egan as a U.S. intelligence agent hunting for a missing scientist who possesses a valuable secret formula but keeps it all in his head rather than writing anything down. Most importantly, the agent must reach the scientist before enemy spies do."

    Written and directed by Stevens; shot by Conrad Hall. First AD Lee Katzin departed THE OUTER LIMITS and was hired less than a week later by Stevens to wrangle this show.

    WITH: Richard Egan, Vivica Lindfors, Al Hirt, Tina Louise, Burgess Meredith, Telly Savalas, Ed Asner, Khigh Dhiegh.

    Jazz trumpeter Al Hirt also provided the score.

  26. STRYKER also has some recycled music from "The Hundred Days of the Dragon," and a Frontiere score overall.

  27. HEY! There's already a Best Femme / Best Hunk / Best Monster summation going on right here, in the "Diemos Zone":

    ... only problem is, it's in FRENCH.

  28. No Mimsy Farmer? No Joanna Frank, for God's sake? You sure they're French?

  29. FANFARE FOR A DEATH SCENE used to pop up regularly on local TV when I was a kid and and I remember it was the first time I ever saw Savalas. I think it bored me pretty much--but, hell, I was a kid.

    David Horne, you've touched on one of my pet peeves. Particularly on the various Star Trek incarnations: the lazy aliens. Not only was the universe LOUSY with boring human types (making space seem crowded and--well--not strange), they're usually differentiated by something like (my favorite) a little tiny ridge on the bridge of their nose (a ridge bridge), or maybe a little comb thing on their forehead.

    I felt OL was always the example to hold up of how you could suggest something alien and still not spend a lot of money. Usually.

  30. DJS---

    Your twisted tale of on-set madness has my head buzzing like a non-digital fly. Amazing! Contempo priorities and unexamined values have skewed us into just this sort of absurdist extreme.

    It's a goddamn FLY! Somebody please swat it before a religious cult forms around it!

    This eggshell dance, aimed at offending no one and harming nothing with the least bit of sensory apprehension, threatens to get worse before it gets better. I'm watching out for the pathogen cults that worship and encourage death by a particular prophesied virus-god.

    I know they're out there.

  31. Larry B---

    I will never be able to watch a Star Trek again without being yanked out of any sympathetic attention by "ridge-bridge" and "comb-dome"!

  32. Ted, my work is done here.

  33. Ridge-Bridges & CombDomes:

    Kind of antithetical to the charter of THE OUTER LIMITS, eh wot?

    Yet this was exactly the memorandum handed down by the Powers That Were during the first season of the Canadian NOTer Limits, to the effect of: "Cast actors with interesting eyes so the makeups don't cost so much."

    Because more elaborate, non-CGI monsters cut deeper into the producers' skim, see. Once they snagged an unprecedented deal for 88 episodes at once, they began to relentlessly amortize the total budget (cash received) over ALL the shows they had to make, and did their best to make them for nothing ... so they could keep more dough upfront. Ultimately the NOTer packages were syndicated all over the world, earning back not only their (truncated) costs, but grossing even more profit for the participants. And since there was no way they could go back in time and apply some of that bounty to episodes already done — that is, already crippled by LACK of initial funds due to everybody dipping the piggy bank — well, they just kept THAT money, too ... because that's how success is spelled.

  34. Wow, Dave---a damning testimony explaining one more factor in my failure to embrace the feckless "re-imagining." I could scarcely find an alien concept that was appealing to the imagination.

    (When Tracy Torme was barnstorming to gauge potential viewer interest in a restart, I recall his calling me at my old house to ask what I thought. Yeah, it sounded like a good idea at the time...)

    I enjoyed a few shows, but rarely felt I'd seen anything with a lingering resonance. Can't recall ever recommending one. I was kind of fascinated with the clip-show, it seems, the one with scenes from another that you wrote. But on the spot, I quite honestly---and embarrassingly---can't even recall that one.

    I couldn't see them in original broadcast and had to catch up with them piecemeal in syndication. There are several I've never seen. I couldn't warm up to the remake of "Feasibility Study" at all. The deliciously ghoulish had turned distastefully garish.

    I recall telling Stefano that I was disappointed, in general, at the seeming lack of understanding of what had made the original series so special. I was specifically turned off, at the time, by the sheer number of shows that ended with hollow downers. It was as though their skewed understanding of the complex "darkness" of the true show fostered the misconception that they'd recapture the glory by simply ending story after story with punitive ironies. A kind of cold, stark existentialism is my nebulous impression of the whole NOTer canon.

  35. If you squint at that picture of Doctor Chromo on the first page of DJS' reproduced Mice coverage, you can see a gun belt and a serape. All he needs is a cee-gar for THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE GLOPPY. Yeah, it's been a long week!

  36. "My mistake ... FOUR coffins."

  37. BTW---

    Hugh Langtry...the big, tall guy beneath the Chromoite suit, appeared as a guest on "You Bet Your Life" with Groucho Marx sometime in the late 50's (I have it on video somewhere). As I recall, he was on because of his stunt/rodeo work, which gave Groucho plenty of fodder for abuse. Thank goodness Hugh had not yet portrayed the deceitful Jelly-Glob in "Mice", as Groucho would have skewered the poor guy.


  38. 3 Zantis, good solid episode with an oringinal monster- have you seen anything like that blob thing sucking on lake waste? Along with Don't Open till Doomday, the imagery in this made me want to lose my lunch. It looks like it was shot all over Franklin Canyon near Beverly Hills. It was nice to see a black lady scientist in this, also there's clearly something going on between her and Silva. Star Trek gets a lot of credit for casting blacks, asians, and women in leadership roles, but this show anticipated it by 3 years. This is a much better role for Silva than in Tourist Attraction. I didn't notice Dabney Coleman until I saw the credits and went back to find him. Only negative is its a bit too talky, too much boxing metaphor dialog.

  39. "Hey, another Dabney Coleman character winds up on a lab floor."
    If only these had been LATER Dabney Coleman characters, like the ones in his sitcoms, he probably could have TALKED his way out of getting attacked by "space barnacles" and Chromoites.

    Maybe I have a one-track mind, but when the Chromoite first appears in the lab and startles everyone, Diana Sands does a kind of accidental pole dance for just a second. She's doing it to get out of his way, but it still looks like one.

  40. THE MICE features on of the series most stunning and hilarious WTF moment (see link below) with the absurd scene of the chromoite eavesdropping upon an English (!) conversation :

  41. This is one first-season show that deserves your hilarious scorn. My biggest gripe is that this episode (along with Children of Spider County) seemed to get shown like every other week on reruns in New York while good luck ever getting to see Corpus Earthling or the Martin Landau gems.

    I do love the opening narration, that line about not even being able to see beyond the four walls of your own crappy life. So disappointed that the closing narration didn't return to that theme.

  42. My best friend used to say that if you ever turned a TV show you liked on AT RANDOM, sure enough, it would always be the WORST episode, the one you hated, the one you had seen way too many times that came on.

    For STAR TREK, it was either "Who Mourns For Adonis" or "The Changeling". For LOST IN SPACE, if it was the 1st season, it would be the one about the hillbillies.

    I know it's just "luck"... but how is it that sometimes, certain episodes would escape your ability to see them-- for DECADES?

  43. The Mice is enjoyable no matter how many times I see it! The disco-spinning hands are puzzling, and I guess they're an alien thing to do! I'm an expert at suspending disbelief, so I don't have a problem with an alien that likes to scarf up radioactive marshmallows from a pond! The music makes all the episodes scarier, too!

  44. Some great observations here, to which I should add that the acting helps The Mice a lot. Henry Silva seemed to be really enjoying himself, which was right for a man let out of a maximum security prison, eager to go places,--but not on other planets.

    I also like the Silva-Higgins guinea pig & scientist rapport. These two actors seemed to be literally playing off one another in a manner unlike any I've seen on a TOL ep. It pronably wasn't imptov but it felt that way to me. Higgins scientist showed a literally growing respect for the convict whose life was in his hands.

    Diana Sands was good also, and nicely empathetic.The Chromite was one of the quickest moving "bears" on the series. As to the ending, the epiphanal moment: it was too much too late, and the Chromite was gone by then anyway.:

  45. I do remember watching the episode as a kid and seeing the monster (outside shot) crawl into a low window from the outside to gain access to the building. I believe "Monster Vision" (TNT) still showed this scene many years ago. I do not see this scene in any lately released versions of this episode. I wish they would include every scene of these classics.

  46. Some ideas on how to fix the plot holes in a future remake, starting from where it all falls apart (everything can be kept the same until then):

    1) Let's say the instructions from the aliens include that the alien they send will need a long "regeneration period" immediately after it arrives, the transfer being quite taxing. This would explain why people don't try to communicate with it. And let's make this regeneration more interesting than sleeping on a bed with a pillow and blanket, please. How about if it slumps down into a ball, and they shine infrared lights on it ? The aliens could claim that this is their energy source, although it's really still that white scum they grow in the lake.

    2) Shall we give the alien some mind control powers, so everyone thinks it's still regenerating, when in fact it has left the building and is seeding the lake with white scum, and later returns to check on it's growth ? They did this sort of mind control in "The Inheritors".

    3) Let's make it so this white scum poisons the water, so the first person dies from swimming in it. The alien could then murder somebody to cover it up, if we want.

    4) Let's have the alien take control of the transporter, using mind control, and start bringing in an alien army. Our heroes can fight to escape, and then the site can be nuked to stop the invasion, as in "Production and Decay of Strange Particles", one of my faves.

    Sound good ? Oh, and if they can't do special effects any better than those legs, might I suggest they film it exclusively from the waist up ?

  47. That last thing has always been my SORT OF complaint about him - as another OL character would says, "assuming it's a HE" - as interesting as he is, I always kind of wish he were either more human-looking from the waist UP or less human-looking from the waist DOWN. Making him BOTH ways gives him that "Sid and Marty Kroft" look that's mentioned at the start of the review.

    Speaking of the legs, there's at least one moment when the "jellyfish" look really works, and that's the quick moment when he seems to "glide" down that hallway. It's the kind of look the makers of the notorious movie "Sting of Death" were probably hoping for.

  48. Here we have what could have been a fun alien-invasion story done in by problematic plotting. Because honestly, it makes no sense… Out of the blue, an alien race sends us the instructions for a teleportation system, and says they’ll be sending one of their guys over. Then---the alien arrives, and it’s allowed to go anywhere, do whatever it wants, with no monitoring or security? And not even a translation device, so the humans can talk to it? Heck, the earth is just begging to be invaded.

    I assume the rampaging alien intended to teleport a whole bunch of other aliens (armed with weapons) to earth when no one else was looking? Because how else were they expecting to forcibly use the earth as a farming center?

    I just don’t know what the scientist were thinking here. Not only because it seems kind of pointless to send an unreliable prisoner to act as earth’s representative to a new world, but you’d think that when the alien started smashing things up the instant it gets here, they’d wonder what the heck was going on.

    Fortunately the invasion can easily be thwarted, simply by disassembling the transporter. Though---keep those plans at hand; I’m assuming they’d want to do further testing to see if the machine could be used to teleport humans, from point a to point b right here on earth.

    The design of the alien was repulsive enough, but also kind of a mess.

    Not a terrible episode, but I wasn’t all that impressed. Has a definite b-movie feel to it, like a cheesy 1950s monster flick that you’d see at the drive-in. That kind of film can be fun, but I was expecting more from The Outer Limits.


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