Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tourist Attraction

Production Order #04
Broadcast Order #13
Original Airdate: 12/23/63
Starring Ralph Meeker, Henry Silva, Janet Blair.
Written by Dean Riesner. Directed by Laslo Benedek.

John Dexter (Meeker) comes to Latin America for a fishing expedition with his beautiful assistant Lynn Arthur (Blair) and his resident marine biologist, Tom Evans (Jerry Douglas). While testing out new sonar equipment, the crew stumble on a sea monster. Capturing the creature, they prepare to export it back to America, raising the ire of the tyrannical General Juan Mercurio (Silva). Mayhem ensues.

 PE: I could have easily gone another 49 years without seeing Ralph Meeker in a speedo.

JS: Perhaps he thought they were only shooting him from the waist up. Honestly though, do you really think it would have been any better if it were Richard Carlson? He is playing the Carlson role, right? (I thought he was playing Carl Denham but you could be right. -PE)
PE: Obviously there’s something wrong with Dexter’s eyesight. Despite having a clear picture of the monster swimming up to the camera and waving at him, he tells Tom Evans (Jerry Douglas) he “didn’t get too good a look at it but it has hands and feet.” And really big teeth. He must have missed that.

JS: Yeah, but for what it's worth, that could have just as easily been handled offscreen. At least this way, we got a good look at the monster without having to sit through two reels of exposition first.

PE: Sometime around 1963, Dean Riesner (who’d been writing mostly TV westerns) happened upon a stack of old monster movie scripts and Marvel monster comics at a garage sale in Hollywood. That’s my only explanation. Of course, a few years later Riesner more than redeemed himself by becoming Clint Eastwood’s favorite screenwriter (Coogan’s Bluff, Play Misty For Me, Dirty Harry, and The Enforcer) as well as writing the classic Walter Matthau film, Charley Varrick. Perhaps most famously, for genre fans, he created the Vampira persona for then-wife Maila Nurmi.

JS: You know what, at one point I honestly forgot I was watching The Outer Limits and thought I was watching a low budget 50's monster movie. And what a nice surprise it was to see master thespian Henry Silva at work again. I love when he demands his photo op with the seemingly dead creature.

PE: You just know that when the Professor (Jay Novello) shows Paco the thermostat that keeps the monster frozen and says “Paco, ah no touch!” there’s gonna be trouble. Obviously, Paco and his checkers-playing compadre were vacationing in Denmark a couple years previously when Reptilicus similarly thawed out. These two incidents can’t be coincidence. And, can someone tell me where all that water is coming from when the beastie is thawing?

JS: Yeah, why is it the most important security jobs always land on the shoulders of the lowest paid employee?

PE: My laugher for the show comes when the creature torches his way out of the freezer with his “concussion force.” You can clearly see the outline the torch will follow. This weapon (as Tom calls it, “a super sonic impulse concentrated into a beam”) can also knock the legs off tables and make old men grab their faces.

JS: He was clearly using a jigsaw. He just set it aside before popping out of the freezer.

PE: Most critics have stated that The Outer Limits is a science fiction show, but based on “Tourist Attraction” and “The Human Factor,” I think it goes much deeper. It’s about women who just want a little love out of their stone cold men. Eventually, they find that love.

JS: And therein lies the fiction. I have to say the whole love story bit was the one element that didn't work for me. Okay, that and the title. Okay, that, the title, and the Control Voice interludes. But despite all that, this is still my favorite episode thus far. It was nice (oscilloscope notwithstanding) to have an episode free of most of the hard science gadgets and machinery. Just good old, South American monsters, and plenty of 'em! Taken out of context, I do think the monster suit looks rather silly. (Taken out of context??!! It looks freakin' silly in context! -PE) But within the episode, I was willing to buy it hook-line-and sinker. Sure, it's no Creature From the Black Lagoon, but most of Roger Corman's monsters have got nothing on this guy.

PE: The suit for the fish monster is really not that bad. What’s unfortunate is when several of the suits are needed at the same time. Obviously, there wasn’t the budget for more than a couple of these “elaborate” suits and a full-scale dam collapse in the same episode. Something had to give. Jim Danforth and crew give it their best. There’s actually a shot of one of the monsters at the bottom of the dam that appears to be nothing more than a shell without arms and a big, blood-shot (!) eyeball.

JS: Did you ever consider that maybe it was just molting?

PE: Tom Evans listens to the sound of the army of sea monsters at the dam and declares, “I think they’re going to try to rescue him!” while the Professor continuously adjusts the same two knobs.

JS: Clearly he was trying to tune in the Outer Limits sine wave. Let's talk about the Dam breaking for a second. Fish-boy's monster pals come to the rescue, humans cut him loose; episode's over, right? Wrong. Apparently someone realized that they needed to tie off the loose ends of the General's story. So insert narration, bust the dam open, and clean up the mess it made. At least Henry Silva got a few more seconds of screen time for lying face down in the mud. Can I also add how nice it is to see a process shot framed with both passengers in a car fitting on the screen without the passenger having to sit in the driver's lap, Thriller-style? (You think it might have been handled differently if Tom Evans had been in the car instead :> -PE)

And let's not forget today's lesson, kiddies, "North American men don't like to be touched."


David J. Schow on "Tourist Attraction":
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. What can one say about “Tourist Attraction?” What CAN one say about “Tourist Attraction,” apart from it being a feature-length idea unduly crowbarred into an hour-long TV format that could not accommodate in any way except by soaring hideously over-budget? It exceeded its available bank by $12,000 (the estimates were even higher).

    Gradually, from this point on, THE OUTER LIMITS began to divest itself of scenes requiring large amounts of dress extras, this “taper-off” period extending through the production of “Specimen: Unknown.” Such a mass-production of monsters would not be glimpsed again until the second season’s “Keeper of the Purple Twilight.”

    Everyone in “Tourist Attraction” seems mildly constipated. Henry Silva got a second chance in “The Mice,” where he nearly strolls off with the whole show in his pocket.

  2. Watched this lovable mess late last night and have come to the conclusion not even Ricou Browning or Ben Chapman could have salvaged this episode.

    Not to mention our "bear" here looks like the sidelines mascot for a Division 1 college football team...but not a BCS automatic qualifier. One of those schools out west with a funky nickname and an inferiority complex.

    "Ladies and gentlemen, it's your 2011 San Blas State Fish Lizards!!!"

  3. John and Peter, you hit a lot of the good--and or fun, and or silly--points head-on. Well done. With all this talk of MST lately, is there a better candidate for amusing commentary by lovable silhouettes? It really is the OL 50s B-monster movie.

    Not only is Meeker in the Carlson role, but it also follows the CREATURE FROM THE BACK LAGOON dual leading man rule, depicted in all three movies.

    I've always thought Jerry Douglas, the only principal denied front billing, seemed like an ex-fighter turned marine biologist. And is Ralph Meeker really a scientist-explorer?

    Some odd cutaways in this episode--maybe for stitching? Weird.

    Watching this again, it still looks to me like more than three fish-guys. I have to say it's impressive they even had more than one! I think the ichthyosaur descendent who bears no resemblence to an ichthyosaur comes off best in the moodily lit breakout scene, and I'm pretty sure that wall break wasn't visible on 60s TVs.

    But, hey--to a little kid of course this was all a big swell monster movie blast.

    By the way, I believe San Blas was one of those tiny countries the Mission Impossible team went in to straighten out some years later.

  4. Nice job, guys. I generally can't stand this episode, but a few things stood out when I rewatched it.

    The underwater photography is nicely done -- none of the murk of those CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON knockoffs. I think I even saw 12 one-hundred dollar bills float by at one point.

    The sea (lake) monsters are more convincing than I remembered, as goggle-eyed ambulatory fish-sticks go. Clearly stunt dudes flopping around in rubber suits trying desperately to look scary (or not drown), but also somehow convincing as a distinct species. To my inner three-year-old, anyway. They're also sympathetic, which I didn't expect this early in the show. Go, San Blas Fish Lizards!

    Robert Van Eps's cues are odd -- they never seem quite appropriate to the action, here or when they were reused in later episodes. But they've been running through my head for days now.

    Speaking of, somebody pass the growler so I can get the image of Ralph Meeker's droopy Speedo out of my mind....

  5. A woefully schlocky farrago that signposts where TOL shouldn't go and generally avoided.

    Yet another South American despot (following those in Thriller's 'The Bride who Died Twice' and the dismal Twilight Zone with Peter Falk as a Castro that the conservative far right would delight in), a dimly rendered and redundant romance for the ladies, clumbersome bears and hardly any shadows. So dull and boring and poor realised that it makes over-rated sci-fi gunk like 'the Creature from the Black Lagoon' look like a classic.

    No Zantis but a pulverising disintegrator blast to shimmer on it's carcass.

    bobby j.

  6. My first glimpse of "Ichthyosaurus M." was in a promo shown on the series after about the third or fourth episode. If memory serves, this promo offered clips from a few upcoming episodes, beginning with the "Tourist Attraction" footage (divers, followed by a shot of the swimming lizard-fish), and culminating with "Man Who Was Never Born" Andro walking directly toward camera. A previous on-episode promo had been pretty much bearless, but this I always loved sea monsters (GORGO and the still-unseen CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON were my favorites), so I was psyched when I got a gander at this newfangled, made-for-TV manphibian. After seeing the episode itself, however, I remember thinking it was reasonably entertaining, but nothing special, in spite of all the sea monsters it managed to roll out. Interestingly, I had the same excited reaction when I first saw a midday promo for "Specimen: Unknown" ("Wow, this looks cool... just like DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS!"), and I can remember the same "guess it was okay" response after seeing the actual show. Let's face it: things like sea creatures and plant monsters spoke directly to us late '50s/early '60s kids. Looking back now, "Tourist Attraction" is probably among my bottom five Season One LIMITS, with "Specimen" faring just a little bit better. These were workmanlike sci-fi comic books, probably exactly what ABC wanted, but relative crap when compared to the shows that ultimately made OL a landmark series.

  7. Another great comedy episode. At least it seemed funny to me as I finished off yesterday's growler jug of beer, along with hot dogs and fries. This was directed by Roger Corman, right? Looks like security was worse than in "Borderland" what with the town drunk being on guard. I did find it hard to believe that tough, insensitive, Ralph(Ugly American)Meeker, would give a damn about losing Janet Blair at the end. Instead of going off hand and hand, he would have dumped her for a newer model with a better attitude. So far, my favorite of the four episodes.

  8. Ralph Meeker is a God! Us mere mortals should consider ourselves lucky that a man of his caliber would even be gracious enough to allow us to see him in all his speedo-wearing glory.

    Sadly, I get the feeling that this episode was kind of slumming for him. If this one didn't star him, I'd have given it half a Zanti. Ralph Meeker elevates it to three. One wonders why he wasn't more of a Hollywood star while in his younger days. I'm not even going to bother mentioning his role as a certain P.I., but his amazing performance in the Naked Spur was ahead of it's time.

  9. I agree about Meeker---the only reason I ever go back to watch this episode. I kept waiting for him to start slapping people around as was his habit when he played that certain P.I.---but no...too moody and brooding in this show. To make matters worse, they pair him up with Janet Blair, resulting in what is probably OL's most off-putting "odd couple" (as DJS would say).

    Our blog hosts really nailed each and every self-inflicted target with which this episode saddled itself. Yes, I am still impressed in a way that the producers of an hour-long TV series of the day would EVER imagine they could convincingly deliver a believable show on this scale and, considering all of the drawbacks, they did a remarkably credible job (and I DO like the subplot of the chicken of the sea as pawn between private enterprise and dictatorial control...not that it could be effectively dealt with in a 50-minute show, itself already burdened with the cheezy romantic thing between Meeker and his leading lady).

    However, in the final analysis, to attempt a SMALL-screen version of a BIG-screen film, and shoot it in 5 days, was just plain silly....especially when the weighty, metaphysical drama of greedy, opportunistic man vs. the sanctity of nature--which the viewer must confront and ponder--relies on such plot devices as Paco the friendly chess-playing night watchman.

    One-and-a-half primeval fish fillets for "Tourist Attraction".


  10. In the mega-movie that runs in my head, this is where Mike Hammer washed up after the devolution-fueled coastal denouement of Kiss Me Deadly. After which he was forced to eat
    The Food of the Gods while Ida Lupino just laughed and laughed.

    Fun stuff, John & Peter. Glad a real classic is coming up next though.

  11. Whoa! As a possessed Outer Limits fan, this is going to be a lot of fun. I think my favorite book is Schow's "Outer Limits Companion". It's obsession. I need to go back and catch up with this blog..."Tourist Attraction", what a place to start (i.e., not good).

    Some of you may be interested in this forum where we discuss classic horror and sci-fi movies, TV (Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, Thriller,etc.):

    - Whit

  12. Whit
    Thanks very much for the link to the Pushing the Envelope blog. I'm always looking for interesting views on this stuff. Which is why, despite all the big brains around this place, we want your views and opinions on every episode. Don't be intimidated by the big brass. John isn't.

  13. In an era when lizard like creatures were all the rage, it seemed almost inevitable that a story like this would find it's way onto an anthology show. It's certainly not as dire as THE INVISIBLE ENEMY, but it never came together.

  14. Hey, I always kind of liked this episode! A surly Ralph Meeker, making like a pre-demented Howard Hughes, the wily Henry "and now I am bejewelled" Silva being so intense, and the naggy but efficient Janet Blair as the realistic girl Friday. She and Meeker's characters obviously have a carnal relationship, efficiently as I mentioned, and it's almost refreshing. Not sentimental -- quite modern.

    The dam breaking and the flood reminds me of the destruction of Leningen's marabunta-ravaged plantation in "The Naked Jungle", another South American-set adventure with a cold-hearted hero who ultimately gets his gal.

    I like the monsters here, too. I wouldn't want to run into one of these -- they're plenty scary enough!

    I suppose it's the 1950s B movie quality that saves this one for me -- that and Ralph Meeker, who is, as stated by Ultimate Tactical Warrior, a god, pure and simple. You ever see him in "Something Wild"? Weird and wonderful.

    Great blog, guys!

  15. I have quite a few Ralph Meeker films in my collection, and an unpublished script that was written by him. I have a sense that alcohol was his downfall. I base this on a conversation I had with someone who had worked on a film of his in the 1970's. When I look at a few of his scenes in this episode, it seems that he is under the influence.

    The script of Meeker's that I have is the weirdest thing I've ever read. I can't help but think that was a therapeutic project he was given while convalescing.

    It was great to read through this blog today.

  16. Charles-

    Thanks for stopping by! Hope you like what you see. You might also be interested in our Thriller blog (link to the right).

  17. Until Lisa's comment, I felt like nearly the only one who saw Howard Hughes in the Ralph Meeker character. All the way to his wearing beat-up shoes to a fancy party.

  18. Im such a Ralph Meeker fan!
    The guy was GORGEOUS in his hey day, and I bet he wasnt cold and unfeeling in real life!
    I havent seen Tourist Attraction yet, but I will soon,as Ive ordered it from TCM.
    I usually HATE see Ralph Meeker in them.....may just change my opinion of them.......FOREVER
    I wonder if his being such an underrated actor was by design, and non conforming with Hollywood in some way.
    I would LOVE to read the script he that possible somehow?........
    Id also love to read any interviews he every did..its hard to find out what the REAL Ralph Meeker was like. ALthough from my research so far, I think he was popular with the ladies, he seemed to have been busy there...very...but wonder..the guy was a doll!
    Ive read all the online limited bios of him....but I'm left wanting to find out more....
    Really fell hard for him after seeing him as "Lawson" the bad "Jeopardy" with Barbara Stanwyck.

  19. Oh and the reason I cant view it Im in Australia.......and when the hell is "Hulu" going to become available to us here ....downunder....!!!!!!
    Damned annoying that it isnt...whats the go with that???

  20. Oh By the way Peter.....the speedo wasnt jealousy with you was it?....did Ralph seem to have a lot that department?...maybe....oh god...I really do have to see this episode....

  21. Seeing Ralph Meeker in a speedo did indeed change my view of speedos forever. But I do admit that Meeker looks quite a bit more fit than that notorious shot of George Michael on a beach in the offending loincloth a few years ago!

  22. I finally saw this episode of "Outer Limits" and thought it was great! I found the acting really good
    from especially Ralph Meeker and Janet Blair.
    I loved it!
    Great seeing Henry Silva too.
    I thought the sea monsters were "cute" looking, but I wouldn't be sticking around if they were coming at me! SCARY LOL

  23. P.S. Ralph Meeker still looked very fit in his forties.......even in the dreaded "Speedos"! Go Ralph Baby!!!!

  24. P.S. Ralph Meeker still looked handsome and pretty fit in his forties!
    Even in the "dreaded speedos"
    Go Ralph Baby!!!!

  25. I found this overrated, 1 1/2 Zantis. Its too clearly a ripoff of Creature of the Black Lagoon. One scientist says the Creature's "line is halv as old as the world itself- 300 million years"- a scientific effor? This lacks the brooding existentialism of most of the sries. The puppet is o.k. I think Ralph Meeker gives an annoyingly bad performance (the only things I ever liked him in were Kiss Me Deadly and the Night Stalker movie), the interminable romantic triangle is pretty, lame, weak dialog.

  26. Maybe the creatures don't look like ichthyosaurs (though I could swear they look like SOME prehistoric animal drawings I've seen), but all I have to do is think of films like King Dinosaur or the ' 60 version of The Lost World, where a scientist points to some poor superimposed iguana and says "A Tyrannosaurus Rex!!" Then they suddenly look VERY convincing.

    My main problem with this one is hating most disaster stories - I hate the dam bursting scene at the end of Tourist Attraction, but I also keep as far as I can from some non-fiction film or documentary about the same thing. If it weren't for that, this episode would work PERFECTLY WELL for me.

  27. Dam whats wrong with you people this episode is claasic. It was never boreing it had all the elements, one event over another. Love the ending allso the buzzing that makes the old fisherman shake and rattles the hell out of RALPH MEEEKER . The creatures how they topple on each on to each other was preaty good stuff. Allso the dam scene. So much in one episode that tv never did anything like that again..and there was stue lancaster in his first roll before he went on to Russ meyer films. He was sea music allso. Laslo Benedick did fine job.

  28. Sorry correct my spelling classic .my phone is not easy to type.

  29. Even though I don't always go in for this in a story, nearly the most entertaining part is to see Ralph Meeker's character and Henry Silva's character competing to be the "alpha male" of the story. If you're going to see a sub-plot like that, it's hard to imagine two more fitting actors for it.

  30. This episode has one thing people don't associate with early ' 60's TV, because of that whole "It was a more innocent time" idea. You find out that Janet Blair has been with Ralph Meeker for about two years, and you definitely don't get the feeling that she's been waiting two years for a proposal and a wedding before anything "happens." Just the opposite.

  31. Probably one of the bottom 5 episodes in season one. At least to me... Just doesn't quite do it for me. Or for most of you guys either, I assume...

  32. Here we have a fun (if rather goofy-looking) fish monster in service of a dull and unfocused plot. Eh… didn’t think all that much of this one. Despite having a bit of a fun 1950s-cheesy-monster-film vibe, I just didn’t think it was very interesting. For some reason the film “The Horror of Party Beach” popped into my mind as I watched, even though the fish monster in that film really looked nothing like the monster of this episode.

    I don’t really know why the monster population wanted to destroy the dam here---didn’t the lake give them a pleasant place to live? And lines like the “half the age of the earth: 300 million years” drive me crazy, because basic scientific facts aren’t difficult to look up, if the screenwriters could be bothered to do so.

    Still can’t figure out why Lynn wanted to go off with John Dexter at the end, what with his extremely unprepossessing personality and all. Not exactly a romance for the ages.


Apologies for having to switch to moderated comments. This joker ( has been spamming our site for weeks, and we're hoping this will finally get him/her/it to crawl back into the hole from whence it came. Sadly the site isn't smart enough to detect that every single comment they make is spam. We'll be sure to review and post legitimate comments quickly. As for you, "Blogger" (trust me, we've got far more imaginative and appropriate names for you) on behalf of all of us at WACT, don't let the door hit you on the way out!