Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Don't Open Till Doomsday

Production Order #22
Broadcast Order #17
Original Airdate: 1/20/64
Starring Miriam Hopkins, John Hoyt, Russell Collins.
Written by Joseph Stefano.
Directed by Gerd Oswald.

Somehow not put off by a wedding gift tagged "DON'T OPEN TILL DOOMSDAY," Harvey Kry (David Frankham) ends up getting sucked into the box with an alien visitor. 35 years later, his bride (Hopkins) is hoping to get him out (to consummate the marriage?) through the unwitting help of a newlywed couple (Buck Taylor and Melinda Plowman).

PE: Here's an episode whose concept is cooler than its execution. The Grand Guignol of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane mixed with apocalyptic science fiction. Unfortunately (you knew that was coming) something, or quite a few somethings, happened along the way. The pace is deadly slow. Some questions go unanswered (does the Justice's wife really know what's going on out at Mary Kry's place or is she just a travel agent looking for a little extra dough?), and the acting (save John Hoyt's dead-on evil daddy) is uninspired.

JS: John Hoyt was a standout for me, too—the guy's been in everything. He's most memorable to me from the classic Twilight Zone episode "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up."

PE: OLs have mixed elements before but this one is positively schizo. Our intro gives us an interesting science fiction foundation, then we're thrust into William Castle-ville with the young couple arriving at the Justice of the Peace. Then soap opera pathos when we learn of the troubles with daddy. Finally back to science fiction land again. One of the few OLs I was constantly checking the time on.

JS: When they first arrived at Kry mansion, I had to rewind to check and see if they lifted the shot of them pulling up to the Bates house from an episode of Thriller. Unfortunately, they didn't.

PE: Can DJS get me the original memo to Projects Unlimited from Stefano re: the Box Monster. I imagine it reads something like:
"Hey guys, I'm thinking for the alien... how about a sweaty pile of dog shit topped with an eye ball?"
JS: Odd that Schow doesn't reference this one by the name ("Turdo") in the Companion. Calling it the Box Demon seems so high-brow by comparison. I felt that in this particular episode, they gave us too good a look at the creature a bit too soon. I can only assume they wanted to quickly establish 'ol one-eye as the bear, lest anyone think it was Miriam Hopkins, whose introduction is the scariest moment of the episode.

separated at birth?
 PE: Vivia Hayden's (Plowman) dress is anything but flattering. It made me wonder if the newlyweds had run off to get married for a reason other than love. Plowman went on to fame, if not fortune, a few years later in Billy the Kid Vs. Dracula.

JS: Whilst following along the meandering path of folks getting zapped into and out of the box (which must have a decent cafeteria (and shower -PE) that was always just offscreen, as Harvey is still looking pretty dapper 35 years on), I don't quite get why the Krys originally received it, and specifically why it was disguised as a wedding gift. Seems like a pretty convoluted way to initiate the annihilation of the universe (and not much of a thought-out plan as Turdo is still waiting 35 years later-PE).

PE: I had a hard time concentrating on anything when Hopkins was in the room. At first, she's startling in her shrewishness but her Baby Jane imitation quickly becomes the proverbial nails on the chalkboard. Grating. The casting is reminiscent of Mary Astor's in the Thriller episode, "Rose's Last Summer." Well, except for the "grating" part.

JS: Aside from giving the otherwise well lit place an old dark house vibe, what was with leaving all the cobwebs around, and how come nobody noticed? People always mentioned those sorts of details when they walked into the Munsters house.

PE: My L-OL moment is when Gard (Buck Taylor) returns to Mary Kry's house, hoping he can find his misplaced wife, dressed in his varsity sweater. Gimme a D, Gimme an O, Gimme an R, Gimme a K. In its last eight seasons, Buck Taylor played deputy Newly O'Brien on Gunsmoke.

JS: At least they looked (under)age appropriate for the story.

PE: During this first season, The Outer Limits seemed to be hit-miss-hit-miss. I was under the impression that this was another of those highly-regarded episodes (well, to be fair, it seems they're all highly regarded by some people) but I can't find much to recommend it outside of its omission of an evil military presence.

JS: Yeah. Definitely a Turdo in my book.


David J. Schow on "Don't Open Till Doomsday":

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

More from David J. Schow on "Don't Open Till Doomsday":

Here's a real test:  Liking "Doomsday."  I recall hating it almost irrationally on first viewing.  Then perplexity followed.  And now I am very proud of the writeup I was able to conjure for the book.  If you haven't done your basic Outer Limits coursework, you, too, will be locked on the wrong side of the bridal suite door.  It is very possible that if you are now or have ever been a "Doomsday" fan, you probably know TOO MUCH about the workings of The Outer Limits!

Ah, but if you let Turdo wrap his warm embrace around your psyche ...

And check out that shot where Vivia is teleported back into the bridal suite.  She faints or blacks out — Melinda Plowman begins a backward fall that's going to crash her ass to the deck whether Buck Taylor gets there on time to catch her or not!  A true "trust exercise" between actors.

Miriam Hopkins, hands down, is the best single performance by an actress in the entire series.  Others are more comely or polished, but Mrs. Kry rules the room.  (Kinda like comparing Natalie Schafer to Elizabeth Montgomery on the Thriller blog — both deserve separate trophies.)

I encountered Buck Taylor‚ now a Western legend in his own right‚ on the set of The Mist in 2007 and I didn’t realize who he was.  Otherwise I damned sure would have cadged a "Doomsday" reminiscence to share right here.  Now it's a mission ...

                                            — DJS

Buck Taylor & Melinda Plowman
Buck Taylor in The Mist
Thomas Jane, Sam Witwer, Toby Jones & Buck Taylor in The Mist

I almost forgot!

The Misfits' "Don't Open Till Doomsday!" (from the album AMERICAN PSYCHO).

And you haven't heard the last of him. Later this morning David J. Schow provides a Spotlight on Miriam Hopkins.

And be sure to check back this afternoon for Gary Gerani's Spotlight on "Don't Open Till Doomsday."

Next Up...


  1. Actually, I'm surprised our hosts didn't like this episode. Sure there were loose ends but overall this was very atmospheric and haunted. In fact, I see this as the 68th and final THRILLER episode, which was never shown until OUTER LIMITS picked it up. The OUTER LIMITS COMPANION gives a very interesting, strange and sexual symbolic interpretation.

  2. The bigger bear than the blob was the broad.

    I actually got my wife to sit down for this one, particularly, as a former actress, to witness Miriam Hopkins' startling performance. She noted the similarity to Bette Davis in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane," but her main comment was this ...

    "Was the writer who came up with this on acid? Did he go to the same psychiatrist as Cary Grant or something?"

    Now, my first reaction was to laugh because, let's face it, this is one bizarre episode (but a treat, IMO). But, thinking about it some more, maybe that's a possibility.

    Stefano was in analysis. Or at least I read that in DJS' notes. He did live in Beverly Hills. Cary Grant's psychiatrist, Sydney Cohen, I belive, DID administer LSD to his Beverly Hill patients as part of his therapeutic practice. It was perfectly legal then (didn't become illegal until misuse hysteria in 1966), and thought to be a most promising therapeutic tool - especially for addiction - by many Harvard-trained psychiatrists (including Mr. Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out).

    Grant reportedly was administered more than 83 doses, and attributes the positive effect to help motivating him to ... GET OUT OF SHOW BUSINESS. So, there's a definite sane result to his treatment.

    But, I'm wondering. Did Stefano possibly also receive this treatment during his analysis? DJS?

    This episode just might be exhibit "A."

    That's one theory, and I'll stick up for the wife for having it. Because it is one helluva Freudian trip.

  3. The episode that comes closest to demanding its own book. I've always liked this one, though the reasons have changed since I was a kid and now it's a big fascinating puzzle, an impenetrable mystery enjoyable on so many levels. A top 10 for me.

    Hopkins is fantastic, and nice work from Hoyt (coming up again tomorrow in different form). The Stefano-Oswald-Hall team strikes again.

    Hoyt's arrival at the Kry house reminds me of Arbogast's arrival at the Bates house; there seems something kindred to PSYCHO's deep repressions as well as the general air of madness, neglect and stifling decay.

    Though the alien invasion is strictly metaphoric and not to be made logic of, in fact Stefano's "weird science" has never bothered me--and eventually science itself caught up with and surpassed it for sheer strangeness. Besides, I don't think we really ever have a clue as to what something truly alien would be like, think like, act like. All we can do conjecture, through the filter of our own human limitations.

    Four Zantis and one really wild bear.

  4. I've watched this one twice so far. Once, last night while intoxicated(bad idea), again this morning. I'm not exactly sure what I've just seen, but I know that I liked it.

    Previous OL eps. may have been scarier, but none have atmospherically invoked the look or feel of a monster movie as much as this one. The rustling, falling leaves outside of the mansion, conjured up images of Halloween in my mind. Miriam Hopkins was an especially creepy character.

    As far as the 'bear' for this ep., Mr. Turdo is one of the best! If this guy were walking down an intergalactic alleyway, and came upon 6 Zantis with switchblades, all he'd have to do was give them the evil one eye before they'd scurry off in the other direction.

    I must SINCERELY say, I haven't looked more forward to reading the experts comments on an episode then I have for this one. For a series that has had some fantastically strange, weird, episodes, I think the readers will all agree, that 'Don't Open Til Doomsday' is a bit of an oddball.

  5. >>I must SINCERELY say, I haven't looked more forward to reading the experts comments on an episode then I have for this one.

    I think my "I've got to have the experts' opinions on this one" would belong to "The Forms of Things Unknown." That's my WTF? for the entire OL run (without giving too much away).

  6. Odd is good! We love THE OUTER LIMITS because it is odd, and always was, even in 1963. During an era when science fiction film was evolving out of '50s-style "Keep Watching the Skies!" paranoia and maturing into something more subtle and less horrific, an exploration of the universe filled with wonder and hope (2001, STAR TREK, etc.), OUTER LIMITS not only embraced the "shock and alarm" flavors of the previous decade, but Joe (PSYCHO) Stefano gleefully added The Old Dark House angle to make the show even less like "science fiction" and more arcane and spooky, like an especially weird variation of Hitchcock-style melodrama combined with classic morality plays, often involving the temptation of Evil (Dr. Black embodies it, characters from "Doomsday" are seduced by it). Bottom line: If OUTER LIMITS didn't offer these offbeat cult pleasures, if it simply was a more traditional '60s sci-fi experience (a Fantastic Voyage for the Ultimate Trip Where No Man Has Gone Before), we wouldn't be celebrating the show today. So odd is not only good, it's almost EVERYTHING where THE OUTER LIMITS is concerned. Vive la difference!

  7. That's Dr. Block, of course. Fumbling fingers strike again!

  8. When I saw this as a kid, all the innuendo and frustration subtext went completely over my head, of course, but I liked it anyway because it was so indescribably weird and different from anything else I was seeing on TV. I remember being freaked out when Fry Jr. and then Vivia were sucked into the box--the way they thrashed around holding the box tight to their face, I imagined that the surface of their eyeball was somehow stuck to the hole, and then they were sucked through eyeball-first like toothpaste. This was pretty creepy for a little kid! I loved the monster, too, again mostly because it wasn't just some guy shuffling around in a suit going "grrr." The noise that came out of the box was disturbing.

    On adult viewing, all the context and subtext reveals itself, and it's really like seeing an entirely different show. DJS covers it brilliantly in his book and there's not much else to say. But I second his choice of Hopkins for best actress, entire series. Sure, she chews the scenery a little, but the character calls for it. Mainly she captures many different facets of this lonely, yet determined woman. I often felt that some of the older actors who appeared on OL didn't always "get" what was going on, but Hopkins not only got it, she grabbed it and ran all the way with it. (Coincidentally, my friends and I just watched the 1932 "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" about two or three months ago, and we were all stunned and somewhat shaken by Hopkins's heartrending performance in that film. Yeah, Frederic March is magnificent, but Hopkins matched him every step of the way and she's the one you remember for days after. With that performance early in her career and this one at the end, there's no doubt she was an exceptional, and fairly unsung actress.)

    I'll also put in a word for Nellie Burt, who seemed particularly malevolent, although it was indeed difficult to understand her motivation. She and Russell Collins did a good job of making you understand their relationship with just a few glances and half-spoken sentences. But oh, that script. Really, with this and "Forms of Things Unknown," Stefano really let it loose on unsuspecting 1960s audiences!

  9. David, glad you mentioned sinister Nellie Burt and her hubby who are wonderfully and economically sketched, and frankly I'm glad we don't know more--there's no reason to know how involved they are with Mrs. K, other than their enabling.

    And, yes, once again it's so nice to have a bear that is ALIEN, where the typical monster suit is not apparent. Also, that low tone that's associated with the box is still pretty unnerving, and I think ahead of its time in sound design.

    Gary, amen to The Odd, brother! I've mentioned the surreal factor before and this one is pretty high up there. And "Form of Things Unknown breaks my damn surrealometer every time I see it. One of the things that sets OL off from the pack.

  10. It's the old "Space-age Alien meets 20's Flapper in Haunted House" thing---a totally zonked premise for which "Doomsday" deserves..if not a place of honor...our wide-eyed amazement and acknowledgement for what Stefano actually dreamt up and put on the screen.

    1962's "Baby Jane" created something of a sensation, touching off a mini-craze with faded Hollywood actresses playing demented characters (Stefano probably knew that "Baby Jane's" stars were BOTH now slated to appear their own similar 1964 films: "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte" and "Strait-Jacket"). So why not look up Miriam Hopkins, herself an old professional rival of Bette Davis' and one of filmdom's former beauties, put her in a haunted house and throw in an alien-in-a-box for fun? Way to go, Joe!!

    Hopkin's big emotional break-down scene with the alien box is easily the episode's highlight for me; she is magnificent. It's SO pathetic and sad, and it's likely that she had NO idea of what the scene was supposed to be about---but she gave it her profesional best and SOLD THE HELL OUT OF IT---a testament to one of Hollywood's true pros in action at the very end of her career.

    I'm disappointed in John S; I thought for sure he'd say that Nellie Burt looked like Broderick Crawford in wig n' wheel chair.

    The whole alien plot is pretty shoddy; how is David Frankham (or anyone else for that matter) supposed to lead Turdo to his other pals? And the whole final effects "blow out" is also lame...like "let's just get this thing over with; nobody's going to know what's going on anyway."

    Still, it's a fascinating show that I return to fairly often just to watch Hopkins and marvel at the audacity of it all.

    Frontiere composed and recorded a number of new cues for these mid-season shows; I especially like the big, declamatory chorale-like thing heard when the characters are wrestling with the box, in which Frontiere augments the orchestra with an electronic organ..it's almost liturgical in effect.

    Oh, yeah...did you catch the lame voice-over that Vic Perrin did for the wacky professor in the prologue when he handed the gift-wrapped Turd to the butler? The "eccentric professor/university/crackpot-accusation/old newspaper article" reminded me of the similar plot elements in Thriller's "Dr. Markesan", another precursor to this episode that Stefano may have stirred into the brew consciously or otherwise.

    TOTALLY OFF-THE-WALL stuff; not much point in trying to convince anyone that this episode makes sense. It's one of those giddy, delicious, guilty pleasures that keeps TOL advocates comin' back for more.


  11. Forgot to mention one thought: everyone seems to be feeling the Bette Davis/Baby Jane connection, but certainly Mrs. Fry has a literary forebear in Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. Many similarities, including the house burning down at the end, but alas, Dickens just didn't realize how much better he could have made it with an alien from another universe!

  12. I have to go with Gary's "odd is good" stand here, and I'll even cop to this being my favorite Outer Limits episode ever. I'm weird that way.

    But weirdness and audacity are what sell it for me: A shitty-looking, genocidal space alien gets cock-blocked by the universe and takes it out on a bunch of horny humans in a haunted house -- what's not to love? Stefano really lets the double entendres fly so it's funny, too. And Miriam Hopkins is amazing. Plus, Melinda Plowman moaning.

    That said, it was bittersweet watching "Don't Open Till Doomsday" this time around. There are a couple of episodes coming up that I love and a few that I like a lot, but for me this marks the end of the series' "hot period." ("The Forms of Things Unknown" comes close, but to me it plays as what it is -- a pilot for a different show -- instead of an OL episode.) I hate to see it end.

    Nellie Burt pretty much steals "The Guests" from Gloria Grahame in a few episodes, and had a good late-career role in The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid with fellow OL two-timer Robert Duvall (in psychotic-cracker mode) as Jesse James.

  13. Mark's jumping the gun on my timetable ... the "Hot Period" for Season One ends with "The Bellero Shield," for reasons I hope will become apparent. It really, truly climaxes with THE UNKNOWN, which split the OUTER LIMITS production machine in two and wholly chewed up December 1963 and January 1964. We're going to break rhythm here and hold THE UNKNOWN for the end of the season (same place it was eventually broadcast as "Forms of Things Unknown"). But Stefano kept writing on his culminative fever-dream mash-up of all his prior LIMITS shows, the crew got holiday time off, and when everyone came back, things were ... different.

  14. For me, this one represents the second phase of TOL, where it moved away from brilliantly commissioned gothic SF and had Stefano typing away furiously to keep pace with the filming schedule. So that his psycho-analysis got transplanted on the the screen, the way Bergman and Fellini were doing in European cinema.

    It has a dangerous foreign look compared to the usual fare of modern and '60s TV. It's the most UnAmerican show of the all.

    This one, in my opinion is more akin to 'The Cheaters' than any of the other shows from 'Thriller'. But instead of looking into the animus of another soul or even into a reflection of one's own, The Box allows one to look into the true nature of sexuality.

    And the evidence is in the reactions of the four who look into the box.

    The young man can't help but horrified and repulsed by yet transfixed and drawn into it.

    The older man of power and means sees into it but can pull away from it and even makes a run for it, before - like the last look back at the gorgon, he too is lost.

    The nubile young woman has no tension and is lost in the joys of her orgasmic raptures, as if she were dreaming her secret fantasies and playing with herself.

    The old woman just strokes the box with the practiced hands of a pro. 35 years of practicing.

    The Box represents female sexuality, which men fear and are confused by and women dream about and engage in.

    Though it may lack the powerful narrative drive of a typical OL as a story, it is fascinating scene by scene and with this reading.

    A top tier OL for it's powerful subtext.

  15. DJS: Nice to hear we're saving The Unknown for later.

    I'll hold my comments on "Bellero" until tomorrow, except to say that it should've been a pilot, too: Judith and Mrs. Dame -- they could've bumped off a different windbag in every episode.

  16. Did I say earlier that "The Invisibles" was THE TOLy Trinity crucible? Hmmmm...well, it was ONE. But I forgot to reserve that judgment in deference to this wonderfully deranged, cobwebbed slice of Freudian overkill and alien miscalculation.

    As far as logic is concerned, this could be TURDO's own nightmare about human bonding, witnessed through the voyeuristic eye of a magical box camera. Throw science out the window---even the omnipotent aliens who can destroy irritating universes haven't fashioned a reliable GPS system!

    But nothing matters here except for the irresistibly creepy atmosphere; Miriam Hopkins' delightfully over-the-top play of thwarted vanity, sexual frustration and eerie mood swings; the fates of two naifs caught up in a black widow's web of decadence and evil they could scarcely summon the corrupt and perverse thoughts to imagine.

    I would also probably place this one in my top ten. It's another genre-defying, conventions-be-damned entry that marks the show as a unique entity that beggars its general categorization as science-fiction, especially once Joe Stefano's influence permeated it.

    TOL is practically a genre unto itself: "science-fantasy" is about as accurate as any label, if we must affix one. An episode might begin with a point of science, and then run lines from that point in any direction that yields dramatic insight into the human condition, crossing, tangling or even severing those lines, if necessary.

    Clearly some of these quirkier imaginings are not for all tastes. Logical, linear storytelling is frequently on the verge of being sidetracked in favor of psychoanalysis and Lewis Carroll.

    But oh, what a ride through the looking-glass.

    "Doomsday" is equal parts spine-tingling and ominously disturbing from the delivery of the gurgling box, through the morbid sadness of Mrs. Kry's crackpot machinations, and on to the maniacally inexplicable conclusion.

    A thousand questions suggest themselves, yet the answers only seem important as an academic exercise. (Exactly how DOES a superior alien being get lost in time and space and in need of a human tour guide? Has no other couple been directed to Mrs. Kry's Turdo-trap in all these 35 years? And why would an alien in a timeless void suddenly throw up his phallic appendages in frustration and decide that 35 human years was all he could take---"Well, that's it! I'm NEVER gonna find a human willing to blow up the universe! I'd rather not exist!")

    But in his unblinking madness he left behind a fascinating nightmare of broken dreams and strangled desires. We respond to it with the same emotions and convictions we do any illogical dream we find ourselves in, waking up in a sweat not because it challenged our understanding of cause and effect so much as that it threatened to suck us in forever, eyeball first.

  17. 2 Zantis. Not that bad. The bear is really icky/creepy. Nice fullcircle pan when its introduced. Cobwebbed room brought to mind Thriller. But its kind of hurt by its mostly one-room set, and its ratther padded. End is weird and unsatisfying. The whole thing makes no sense, but I like its nihilistic attitude. An superior interlligence with the sole goal of destroying the universe- although it doesn't make evolutionary sense, thats kind of novel

  18. Hey guys, I'm thinking for the alien... how about a sweaty pile of dog shit topped with an eye ball?"
    No,it's the one eyed monster,inside a dark box ?Get it,as in a guys peter and womans,you know what.Gloria Swanson there,never got married,because her husband to be got stuck her box.

  19. Y'all surprisingly are not addressing one point that has stayed in my mind for 40-plus years.

    One of my favorite all-time poetic OL lines is in the final narration: "Without that deadly talent for perfection, Evil must suffer defeat." The opening narration also offers less eloquent wording to this same effect. But is it true? Did Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao or Adam Lanza need to be anywhere near perfect? Maybe the 9/11 attack was hideous evil genius, but perfect? From what I've seen of history, Evil can just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. Perfection not required.

    People like pointing out little holes in some OL plots but to me this is one very shaky (or at least extremely debatable) foundation to build an entire episode upon. Many of the series' closing narrations, while eloquent, do not bookend at all with whatever Perrin has intoned back at the beginning. I hate when that happens. This one bookends beautifully -- but to me Stefano's point is dead wrong.

    The episode still is certainly over-the-top memorable fun even if it makes no objective sense. But Sally Bellero Kellerman for Best Actress!

  20. I watched this one last night/early morning and was drawn into it, so to speak, as I always am, as it brings back childhood memories of seeing it when it was first broadcast. The freakin' first part of the show, with David Frankham getting sucked into the box via what looks like his eyeball almost had me running in fright out of the room at the age of eleven. There's primal terror in that there scene and it sets up the viewer for more of same, which never quite happens, not as it did the first time.

    There are so many good comments and near epiphanies here I doubt I can top 'em or even equal any of them. I couldn't help but wonder last night what role voyeurism played in the episode. It's a TV show, after all, which we see, and to paraphrase Hannibal Lecter (broadly speaking) we covet what we see, or is it see what we covet? Whatever. David Frankham saw, coveted and never got his honeymoon (or am I missing something?).

    To get back to Doomsday and what Joe Stefano was up to, he surely knew he was writing for TV, and the box rather resembles an old TV set. When we watch the tube the experience is in the seeing. We don't do anything but watch, and if you watch too much television it kind of sucks you in. The opening TOL narration always reminds the viewer that he is watching a TV show. Don't Open Till Doomsday is sort of the ultimate consequence of this, and maybe it's in this respect a cautionary tale for the viewer about BEING a viewer. Maybe Stefano's stand-in (so to speak) was the angry Dr. Mordecai Spazman, the man who delivered the box. I sure hope it wasn't Harvey Kry?

  21. I saw this-- quite probably-- when it was first-run. I was 4 at the time. 4! This damned thing completely FREAKED me out. WHAT THE HELL????? When I think back, definitely my very first-ever "haunted house" story. Yep, THIS is the thing that introduced me to "gothic horror".

    Somewhere down route 30 either in Barrington or Lawnside, was a white building, a tiny hotel, I think, that always reminded me of the house in this story whenever we'd pass. Like the power station 12 blocks from here, years would go by, but I would keep being haunted by the show every time I'd pass by those places. The hotel's long gone, now, of course.

    Somewhere in the 70s I saw this again-- and HATED every frame of it. Again-- WHAT-- THE-- HELL!!!!!!

    More years went by.. it may not have been until I rented the entire 1st season in the mid 90s that I saw this again, and this time, uncut, uninterrupted, focusing entirely every moment on the DAMNABLE, HATEFUL thing, trying to figure it out. Trying to discearn WHAT in the LIVING HELL is this awful, horrible, DISTURBING story about... I finally took note of what the alien said.

    Guess what? It's STILL awful.

    Now, nearly 2 decades later still, reading this here, tonight, I find Joe Stefano CUT several ABSOLUTELY VITAL lines from the script,. lines that might-- just maybe-- have "explained": things a bit better. F***ING SON OF A B****!!!!!

    I watched this a few months ago (as part of my first "weekly" marathon of the show-- one per week), and recall, on getting to the very end, thinking, "Yeah-- this IS the same guy who did PSYCHO." Might make a really twisted double-feature.

    I love John Hoyt in "The Cage" on STAR TREK. And hey, David Frankham was in "Is There In Truth No Beauty", about a romantically-frustrated guy who goes insane because of an alien LIVING IN A SMALL BOX!!!! Can you say... "type-casting"?????

    Didn't recognize the girl from BILLY THE KID MEETS DRACULA. You do know that's not really "Dracula" in that movie, right? Watched that again about a year or so back, and was surprised it was a solidly-made, mostly-entertaining little flick. The one, sole thing marring it, in a really, really terrible way, was John Carridine's acting. I suspect he looked at the script, got PISSED OFF TO HELL, and decided "SCREW this!" --and proceeded to give the single WORST acting job of his entire career.

    Bela Lugosi would have been more "professional" than that.

    Stefano may have done this-- but I MUCH prefer the thematic "sequel". YOU know the one I mean. I hated THAT one for decades, too. Until the one night when, suddenly, surprisingly... I stopped!

  22. Since I've never been more than a casual GUNSMOKE fan, I associate Buck Taylor with odder things, like the ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR episode DEATH SCENE (speaking of John Carradine), where he looks almost uncannily like Burt Reynolds (at least to me). And the biker gang movie THE WILD ANGELS, where he always seems just this close to a fatal fight with Peter Fonda, even though it never happens.

  23. Even more than episodes like CHILDREN OF SPIDER COUNTY, this one always seems to me like a "generation gap" story as much as anything else. Gard, Vivia and Harvey Jr. are all likeable and normal, whereas every adult is either crazy or bad in some way, except the justice of the peace. That's why one of the better moments is when he tells Gard to stand up to Mr. Balfour.

  24. This is an episode that left me feeling frustrated. There are a number of great spooky elements to the story, but the overall plot makes no sense whatsoever.

    It begins well enough, with the prologue, and when we return to the present day the Miss Havisham-esque setting piqued my interest. (Though, man, time wasn’t kind to the jilted bride, was it. She would logically have been about 55, but looks terribly well-worn for a woman in her fifties.)

    But when you examine the specifics of the plot, not a bit of it holds together. So, Dr Spazman (seriously, THAT is his name?!) sends an alien in a box to the son of his hated former employer, as a means of revenge for being mocked and fired. But---how did the alien get in the box? Surely that box wasn’t the alien ship? Did Spazman communicate with the alien beforehand, and know the alien’s true purpose? WHY did the aliens want to destroy first the planet, and then the universe? Seeing as that would destroy them as well, were they just self-destructive jerks? Why did the other aliens give the alien in the box such a key role in the destructive process, when that alien admits that he’s a moron who can’t find his way around and gets lost easily?

    When Harvey Jr. was first captured at the very beginning, why didn’t the alien in the box spin a sympathetic yarn---for instance, say that he was captured by a crazy scientist, and all he wants to do is go home, if the groom will help him? It would appear that the alien simply blurted out his plan to destroy the universe---so naturally Harvey said no dice, I’m not helping you.

    Apparently Mary spoke to the alien in the box right after her husband disappeared, and knew what the story was. So---her husband said he wouldn’t love her any more if she helped the alien---so what did she think would happen if she sent someone else in there to do the dirty work? Her husband still wouldn’t love her---plus the universe would blow up, for goodness sake. Also, why did it take her 35 years to find someone else to look in the box, in the hope that they would help the alien? Seems like she could have gotten someone to look inside at any given time during all those years; wouldn’t have been that hard to trick someone with an excuse.

    So, yeah, this episode has some of the trappings of a really fun horror story, but the complete and utter stupidity of the plot irritates me no end.

    Fun to see Miriam Hopkins again, who camps it up a bit here. She was active during the golden age of Hollywood but is pretty much forgotten today. I primarily only remember her as Bette Davis’ hated rival at Warners.

    The initial reveal of the alien was disappointing, and overall I wasn’t too impressed with the monster, though there were some individual shots of it that looked very cool.

  25. The height of Stefano's weird science. If you can't deal with it - stick to the pedestrian Leslie Stevens schlock. But if you want to be challenged, this is the series best episode. My only quibble is the effects-limited explosion of the mansion at the end. It appears rushed because I know they could have done better even with their limited tools. What creeped me out as much as anything was John Hoyt being zapped back into that awful box. The young couple were also a bit weak, but the rest of the cast, especially Miriam Hopkins are SOOO strong they sell a story that is off-the-charts nuts TODAY let alone 1963

  26. Just bought the DVD for Part 2 of Season 1 & watched that episode. Man, so many plot holes! I’m surprised at how seriously you guys are taking this. At 1st, it seems as though someone has to look directly into the eye of the box in order to be sucked into it. But when the bride’s father comes in, the alien starts shooting “gotcha!” beams left & right to suck him into the box! How can the alien wait around for 35 years & be so patient? He thinks his alien buddies are still around & haven’t left by now?

    Who delivered the alien in the first place & why? The bride’s unhappy father? If “Joan Crawford” (that’s who she looked like to me) knows what the alien is doing, how can she be so “la de da” about not finding a way to free her man or make a deal with the alien? Why hasn’t her hubby negotiated something after 35 years in that box?

    What’s the message, the young couple deserves to live but “Joan Crawford,” her still-young husband & the selfish father of the young bride (he doesn’t even care that he’s found her but is more annoyed at being in the box & she later has to remind him to ask the alien to free her too) deserve to die? I agree with someone else’s comment that the writer apparently just blew everything up because he didn’t know how to end it. Gee, I hope the other episodes are better than this!

    1. HA HA, LOL!! Love your review of this one. Can't remember when I ever laughed so hard and long at anything on this blog. Good job! For the record it was Miriam Hopkins, not Joan Crawford.

    2. Really enjoyed your review! Please do the same with some other episodes.

  27. I'm sorry to read about the grief you guys have had there. It's all too common on the Internet, and some pretty sick messed up folks destroyed the once marvelous IMDB message boards, a true life horror.

    On what I hope is a higher note, not having watched a TOL for a spell I can't help but think, ponder and put out a rather general observation about the series: it was a product of the early Sixties, and like so many TV shows of its era it had Cold War subtexts abounding. I can't help but wonder if JFK's election to POTUS in 1960 in some odd way inspired this series.

    A direct inspiration for Stefano, Stevens and Friends? No, not exactly; and yet I think that the show's New Frontierish (sic) qualities are what sets it apart from such only slightly earlier sci-fi and fantasy shows as The Twilight Zone and One Step Beyond (with Thriller borderline to its being more Gothic and horror themed).

    Those earlier shows had one foot in the Eisenhower era even in their later episodes. They dabbled in the more New Age Kennedy period so long as it lasted, then slipped into a funk. Even TOL sort of ended that way in lasting less than two full seasons.

    That one of the earliest episodes 100 Days Of The Dragon, seemed to almost predict the death of a president makes it feel eerie, especially as someone who remember both eras, and who even saw it when it was first run. The episode under discussion in this thread was made on the cusp of the end of the New Frontier; and in its apocalyptic aspects it seems to almost anticipate the breakdown of the America as we knew it in the wake of the JFK killing.

    No, it wasn't literally prescient: no civil rights, Vietnam or Counter-Culture hints. But that it ended with such a big bang was a taste of things to come in the second half of the decade: Don't Open Till Doomsday is both a product of its time and a meditation on it. There were many films of that period that were similar in their own ways: Psycho, The Manchurian Candidate, Dr. Strangelove and, from the era of the Swingin' Sixties' in full swing, Rosemary's Baby. But I'm digressing here, Big Time. TOL was a great TV series and it's still relevant and worth talking about today. I greatly appreciate all the threads here.


Apologies for having to switch to moderated comments. This joker (https://www.blogger.com/profile/07287821785570247118) 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!