Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fun and Games

Production Order #28
Broadcast Order #27
Original Airdate: 3/30/64
Starring Nick Adams, Nancy Malone, Bill Hart.
Written by Robert Specht and Joe Stefano, story by Robert Specht.
Directed by Gerd Oswald.

The people of Andara have eliminated all aggression but they do like a good night out so they devise a way to have "fun 'n' games:  a male and female from different worlds are transported to an "arena" and made to face off to the death. If they refuse to participate, their world will be destroyed. Mike (Adams) and Laura (Malone) represent the good guys and standing in the corner for the bad guys: two hairy ape-like creatures with deadly boomerangs. Will Mike and Laura be able to win the fun 'n' games before Fredric Brown's lawyers find out what's going on?

JS: Hey everybody, it's my favorite Japanese actor, Nick Adams (Frankenstein Conquers the World, Godzilla vs Monster Zero)!

PE: This is one of those "haven't I seen this story before?" scenarios. Yep, you've probably seen it on Star Trek as "Arena" or perhaps read the classic short story that inspired it (credited or not), "Arena" by Fredric Brown. Star Trek's version was actually adapted from the Brown story and so, I assume, Brown was a little happier with Roddenberry than Specht and Stefano. It's been years since I've read the story but I don't remember the Peyton Place pathos present here (Laura's separated from her husband because she wanted to mother him and he didn't cotton to that; conversely Mike suffers from "I miss my mom" trauma).

PE: Looks like Andara which is "a million million light years from earth" has toggle switches and gauges just like we do.

JS: But a vastly different threshold for nail clipping. If long nails were the species norm, don't you think you'd create an interface that wasn't designed for use with fingers? That's cool - he does the palm-twist trick.

PE: Poor man's Steve McQueen, Nick Adams looks not lost but embarrassed most of the show. The actor probably thought he was on the same highway to fame that McQueen hopped onto after Adams' stint as Johnny Yuma on The Rebel and his Supporting Actor nom the year before for The Charge is Murder (which co-starred Thriller Best Actress Winner Jeanette Nolan) but all that awaited him were more bit parts on TV (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Burke's Law, Combat, The Wild, Wild West), four films that endeared him to genre fans (Frankenstein Conquers the World, Die Monster Die, Monster Zero, and Mission Mars), and an overdose at 36 in 1968. Overwrought, with a Brooklyn accent that fades here and there, Adams looks like a guy desperately looking for his agent's number so he can chew him out. As has happened so many time though, an actor is only as good as his lines and here, those lines are none too good. Malone, on the other hand, is believable as Laura, the woman who hopes to talk Mike into saving the human race. She's got a charming shy manner but takes charge when the situation becomes dire. Amazingly, she's better at the boomerang than the monkey! Malone played Detective Paul Burke's girlfriend on the classic Naked City series from 1960-63 and went on to become an Emmy-winning TV director.

JS: I thought Malone was fine until her final monologue where she apologizes to Mike, when she gets all hardcore. Seemed like an unjustified character change, but then I didn't know she was an Olympic Boomerang tosser, either. One of the funniest things to me is how Mike's apartment has a door  cut just so that he can check out the length of ladies high heels without having to open it. Clearly hers were high enough.

PE: When the Senator of Andara (who stays in shadow throughout the show but who's obviously an Ebonite from "Nightmare" with long black nails)  tells Mike and Laura that, if they choose not to participate in the game, "the planet Earth will be exterminated," Mike waits a beat and says (think Ray Romano here) "Quick?" The Senator, clearly having studied Earth similes, cheerfully declares "It will be as a firecracker in a black summer sky."

JS: I've seen "Nightmare," Senator, and while you're no John Kennedy, you sure do look like an Ebonite. Impressive that he has the power to pause the things right as Laura was about to get dispatched. And then he has to the deliver the Boris Karloff/Alfred Hitchcock, "don't worry folks, everything is going to be okay," message at the end of the episode.

PE: Classic OL dialogue:
Laura: I might have to die up here.
Mike: That never occur to you befoh?
Laura: Yes...yes...but distantly...as if only my mind were thinking it. Now I'm thinking it all over me. My hands. My eyes. All through me.
JS: I hate it when my hands and eyes start thinking. Fortunately it doesn't happen too often.

PE: The creatures don't say much. When they open their mouths out comes a conglomeration of sounds, including a cat's yowl. They carry deadly sharp boomerangs but, judging by the speed of said weapons, you could stop and have a meal and perhaps a cigarette before it cuts your head from your body. The bubbling-hot creek is a nice touch though and leads to a couple of tense scenes, including the climactic showdown ("Moooooooooom!").

JS: Yeah, the boomerang would have benefited from a more menacing sound—I was thinking something akin to the Grim Reapers's scythe in Thriller. The monkees themselves (still a few years from their TV series debut) represent yet another low-budget bear (see "Spider County P.T.A.") hindered by a) wearing streetclothes to save on a full body costume, b) an inarticulate mask with a face only a still camera could love, and c) a pair of hairy palmed gloves right out of "O.B.I.T." For one brief extreme close-up, it looks like they tried to use the mask as a hand puppet, and not very effectively. Still, there's fun (and games?) to be had here.

JS: Kudos to cinematographer Peach, who comes into his own this episode. The lamp budget went way up from his time on "The Mutant." And Oswald's direction has several nice touches - I particularly liked the transition from the boxing ring to the poker game in the opening.



David J. Schow on "Fun and Games":

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

Come back at 10:00am for David J. Schow's Spotlight on THE SENATOR!

And this afternoon at 12:00pm look for John Kenneth Muir's Spotlight on "Fun and Games."

We've got even more "Fun and Games" from Matthew J. Dewan at 2:00pm.

And lest anyone think we're not paying enough attention to the "Arena"/"Fun and Games" controversy, we've got an article over at bare•bones where we requested our resident Fred Brown expert Jack Seabrook to weigh in on the issue. Look for that at 12:00pm as well!

Next Up...


  1. A childhood favorite. Seeing it now, it's very talky, and the arena fight doesn't happen until the third act. But as a kid, all I could remember was the battle on the other planet with the razor boomerangs. It was very cool. Who remembered any of the speeches?

    I also love Fredric Brown and have a signed copy of his science fiction story collection in "And the Gods Laughed," which includes "Arena." But can't we trace this type of story back 20 years earlier to "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell?

    And we can at least track the most used shot in "That 70s Show" where the camera pans around the table with the teens getting stoned to that great opening poker game shot in this episode.

    I still love this episode. Loved "The Rebel." Teared up as a kid when Nick Adams yelled for his "MAaaaa" and fell to his presumed boiling death. And damn, I wanted one of those boomerangs ... and a good pair of gloves.

  2. This ep. is one of my new favorites. I don't care if the bears looked cheesy, if the script was 'talky,' or if they recycled an Ebonite. What I did care about was that this show kept me on the edge of my couch from beginning to end. It's a marvel that the creators were able to make an episode that combined redemption, alien combat, a boxing subtext, noir, and a 'almost' romance. Being a huge fan of prizefighting, I was enamored from the beginning with the old time roman gladiators, to the smokey arena that showcased a boxing match.

    I know many people have television shows that they would like released on DVD that haven't been yet. I've got somewhat of a unique request. My dream would be for whomever owns the rights, to release a set of 'Pabst Blue Ribbon Bouts,' or 'Gillette Friday Night Fights.' Some of those matches from the 1950's to the early 60's were the most exciting, action packed matches in history. Hell, it's be great if the old commercials were left in between rounds. I can just envision my perfect television line-up now: M-Squad, followed by Have Gun Will Travel, the Twilight Zone, Gillette FNF, capped off with an episode of either Thriller or OL.

    In my own OL world, it's The Blue Horizon Stadium, Philadelphia, 1954-

    The crowd is finally starting to settle down after witnessing an exciting bout that ended with a stoppage due to cuts. The winner of the match, Chino Rivera, sprawls out on a bench in the locker room. He gloats with arrogance after barely winning the contest. He came behind from a first round knockdown to become victorious. In his opponents dressing quarters, Mike Benson soaks his bloody head in a sink, depressed after losing such a hard fought match. Neither men are aware of the separate destinies that await them.

    Sorry about that. Forgot to take my meds. I'm unfamiliar with 'The Rebel,' having never watched an episode. How does it compare to other westerns of that era. Perhaps a certain commentator that specializes in that genre could enlighten me......Larry B.?

    4 Zantis and 4 left hooks to the kidneys.

  3. UTW, looks like we were watching the same channels. I used to watch the fights along with Phillies baseball and the other TV series that you mention such as M-SQUAD, HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL, and of course THRILLER and OL.

    I also watched most of the REBEL episodes starring Nick Adams. Not only was he a Confederate rebel but also a sort of all around rebel against society. THE REBEL was not really a first class western but it was worth watching as a sort of road show, as Nick travelled the west getting into trouble.

    An even better road show was THE OUTSIDER, a short lived western series produced by Rod Serling and starring Lloyd Bridges. I now wonder how on earth I watched all these TV shows and still managed to read all the books that I was interested in. I think the answer is simply that there were less distractions back in the 1950's. Now computers, the internet, and hundreds of channels on cable steal much of our time. Back then there were three channels: NBC, ABC, CBS and that was it. Except for one channel and a late night movie at 11:30, TV at night consisted of a test pattern(at least in the Philly area).

  4. Walker, do you mean THE LONER? I recall that was an interesting western--nice Goldsmith score too.

    UTW, I'm afraid I can't help you with THE REBEL. I know I've seen a couple episodes over the years--don't recall much about it. Don't think it's on DVD is it?

    Always surprises me how little action is in "Fun and Games" given its "Most Dangerous Game" type premise and based on my memory of it as a childhood favorite (one the kids in the schoolyard would talk about).

    Not a favorite for me now, but certainly entertaining. Adams and Malone (who I'm a fan of anyway) are excellent, as is Johnson's voice work. It's also a great looking show, once again evidence that Kenneth Peach is underrated (probably tainted by a combination of having to follow Conrad Hall's brilliant act, and the depressing visual flatness yet to come). No doubt Oswald guided him well, from the jawdropping poker 360 to the dreamlike arena planet setups.

  5. Yeah, we all liked this one as kids, too. When we staged "battle" games in the nearby woods, we'd often delegate a brook or ravine as "the flaming river of death" or something like that, directly inspired by this episode.

    Here we're back to some really nice photographic work. There are three distinct settings, the residential hotel, the Senator's office (for lack of a better description!), and the arena world, and all are well done. The arena world is specially cool, with the harsh back light and silhouette figures, the smoking grounds, and that flaming creek. A lot of interesting camera angles, too.

    I think Adams is more than fine, and he has some good scenes. His anti-hero attitude is believable, with his first reaction being "Hey, I'm outta here." He wasn't that bad of an actor, although his career (and I guess his life) really bottomed out for some reason in the mid-1960s. Malone likewise is good, and they make a pretty good team. My main complaint would be that once they get to the arena world, they spend too much time talking about their pasts and too little time on strategizing. In fact, they win more by accident than by any careful plan or superior strength.

    Too bad the aliens are so rubbery, although I like the balding head touch--they must be middle-aged aliens, but still with some pep.

  6. UTW---
    "Look sharp, feel sharp, BE sharp!" ---Remember the melody of that FNF Gillette theme song that stayed with you forever? My dad used to watch the show religiously, as well.

    Larry B---
    Looks like there's no THE REBEL on DVD yet. All I can find listed in a cursory check is some stray episodes in massive "Classic TV Westerns"-type anthologies.

    Nick Adams was quite memorable in that show, which I recall as very entertaining, in my youth. It seems to me he carried that same look of put-upon and persecuted misunderstood hero that he employs in "Fun and Games."

  7. I'm surprised that "The Rebel" isn't on DVD. You can find the entire series for "Wanted Dead or Alive" or at your local Cracker Barrel. But then that was Steve McQueen. But Nick Adams was actually a bigger name at the time.

    I don't know if the show would hold up today, but chances are it would because so many of the westerns from the late 50s and early 60s featured veteran writers working in a revered genre at the time. I'm enjoying "The Virginian" lately on DVD. It looks fantastic and each episode is a damn good 75-minute western movie. I loved "The Rebel" as a kid because I lived near Robert E. Lee's back yard (it's now called Arlington Cemetary) and spent my youth visiting Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields.

    The 'battle' in this episode ultimately wasn't much of a battle. And it was never established why crossing that precarious wood pole bridge was even necessary. But who cares? Razor boomerangs!

    And they were soon copped or copied by the feral kid in "Road Warrior."

  8. "Those memories which might be helpful..."

    OK, this is my personal favorite guilty pleasure in this stretch of TOL mediocrity. We're immediately pulled into a scenario of broken but unbowed gladiatorial survival and images of humanity engulfed in darkness. Oswald and Peach light these scenes with ominous delight and regale us with camera showmanship. Frontiere's music cues make it seem like the most intense poker game ever. (Is all this human activity in framed darkness watched by the "scouting crew" for the game of SURVIVOR: ARENA?)

    We meet our misanthropic gladiator, Mike Benson, played with jaw-clenching intensity by Nick Adams. Our "cheerleader," the languidly lovely Nancy Malone's Laura Hanley, decent but self-deluded, in denial over her contribution to a broken marriage, capable of deceit, in the interest of curiosity ("Keep your door locked"/"Oh, I always do"). And our sardonic alien host, the "Senator," voiced by the thundering resonances of Bob Johnson, the backlit, recycled Ebonite costume distracting not at all from his bold, melodramatic performance of theatrical drollery.

    A variety of camera angles emphasize isolation in darkness, including on the Anderan
    "studio" set. The dialogue is peppered with plausible thoughts for pondering in this viable character study of tortured humanity in the face of improbable first encounter. I'm intrigued by initial responses of characters in fantasy situations. I find Benson's first line grounded in realistic despair and fatalism: "Am I dead?"

    The "display will last about five years": time enough for a misanthrope to embrace on his self-pitying journey into oblivion.

    "I've dreamed of strange girls before": What male hasn't had that fascinating/bewildering experience, to the diminished import of the rest of the dream's context?

    The Calco aliens are litte more than juvenile Halloween masks, and their boomerang weapons are impractical for "jungle fighter" use (and evidently easy to master---way to go, Laura!). But they serve their function. The nourishment buds insert the simple complexity necessary to creating time-bound tension.

    There are questionable elements, sure: Why would Mike go to a card game at which one of the players holds him a huge grudge? The action drags quite a bit on the Arena, featuring repetition and padding, some too-obvious time-filling dialogue ("Three days for two of us, six days for one"/"I might have to die here").

    But Adams' searing pain of lifelong trauma is palpable in his breakdowns. I like the nightmare appeal to maternal salvation and the later claustrophobic "cage" recollection. The former, in particular, with the Senator's sadistic mockery, struck me as revealing. How easy it is for someone's poignant pain to be flipped into derisive humor in mob psychology induced by a charismatic ringleader.

    But what leaves the deepest impression on me is my conviction of the duplicitousness of the Senator and his "games." I'm of the opinion that the nature of this interstellar game is more about psychology than pyrotechnics. I question whether ANY irreversible violence is done by the Anderans, whether ANY of the competing planets is ultimately destroyed.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the Calco competitors themselves were aroused from "death" to a similar speech as the one heard by Laura. Too much time is spent by the Senator in steering his gladiators toward useful self-awareness for him to simply dispatch them in futility for his viewers' callous amusement.

    This is Andera's version of a reality show, a really throat-clutching one. An agenda designed to thumb-screw lesser beings' intellects into better understanding...with a little sadistic bug-wing-clipping thrown in for the delectation of an advanced species' thrill palate.


  9. "Fun and Games" ... is undeniable.

    Even people who have never seen THE OUTER LIMITS know "Fun and Games."

    Part of the reason is that in Los Angeles, syndication outlets who contracted by-the-year became afflicted with the "affiliate disease" which would cause some shows to be shown once, rarely, or never, while other episodes were run seemingly every third week. In Los Angeles, that oft-repeated episode was "Fun and Games." Hands down, the winner of Most Seen By Well, Everybody.

    Shot for next to nothing, with abundant recycling of footage, "F&G" enjoys a PREMISE that is, itself, undeniable. The Anderans don't want our real estate, or to steal our oxygen, or eat us. They approach us with the disdain of sadistic children setting fire to a Zant-hill. They really, truly, COULDN'T CARE LESS. Yet the Senator is observant enough to send Laura Hanley on her way with a few moral observations that might help her. He's the James Bond villain that would have kicked Bond's ass and sent him scurrying home to spend the rest of his life in non-combatant connubial bliss with Miss Moneypenny, like Culp in "Corpus," a-feared to answer the door or the phone.

    Unlike superior aliens who want to teach us a lesson, the Senator sticks to the rules, which makes him the most capable administrator ever.

    The Senator does not wish to broker favorable relations with Earth. Nope, like the best and most inhumane TV executives, the only thing he's interested in is AUDIENCE NUMBERS.

    The Senator is a tease. Listen to the way he says, "Miss Hanley ...?" during Laura's dream. Ahh, Anderan wit. He has a SENSE OF HUMOR.

    Anderans are COMPLETELY SUPERIOR to us. The Senator never loses control, or gets tricked, as in lesser stories.

    The Senator's judgment is infallible. He tells us so. He'd make a terrific attorney.

    The Senator is REALLY POLITE. He WELCOMES you to Andera.

    And he'll goose you if you don't cooperate.

    His speeches are rich, fruity and endlessly quotable. Try it sometime ... and catch yourself lapsing into an imitation of his voice.

    If you wish to perceive Joe Stefano's hand in all this, just listen for the alliteration: "practiced jungle fighters ... in a perpetual state of panic" ... "a pertinent point ... a vaguely valid analogy" ... "the mad, mechanical magicks" like "a firecracker in a black summer sky."

    Despite the sky-high doorjamb and the spectacular faux-pas entendre of the line "I feel it inside me" (whereupon Mike responds, "A girl said that to me once ..."), this is sheer, nutrient-rich, sugary SF pulp cereal with higher aspirations.

    It's an episode you can watch over and over, in pursuit of that one, elusive conquest ... pleasure.

  10. In my top five OLs, no doubt. I've always thought Stefano's influence was apparent in the very Freudian psychology at work ("Mom..." indeed). And I found it brave that the leads, Adams & Malone, are less anti-heroic than just outright, rather pitiful losers. As for the dreaded Frederic Brown/"Arena" non-connection, dunno: yes & no, simultaneously. As it is, I prefer "Fun & Games" to Brown's story - it's altogether grottier and less hopeful. What OL fan can resist that?

  11. Solid episode, with a strong, memorable premise and a pair of impressive leads. Has influenced everything from all the "Arena" TV variations to the first PREDATOR movie, which even included the log bridge and a flaming pit below (if memory serves). Offbeat yet realistic heroine Nancy Malone is ideal, "Fun and Games"'s flawed, all-important emotional anchor -- the cheerleader who needs a cheerleader. And Adams, delivering one of the best-read speeches in any OL episode, re-lives his character's traumatic childhood "jailing" moment beautifully. Meanwhile, Ken Peach is going nuts, Hall-style, with every one of his soft-filtered shots and exaggerated angles (Mike's "foot up" POV of the Calco says it all). These and other qualities add up to a seminal, crowd-pleasing show that still delivers, I'm pleased to say.

  12. Larry, thanks for catching my mistake. I do mean THE LONER, which was the short lived western series thought up by Rod Serling. THE OUTSIDER was another series starring Darren McGavin.

  13. "Keep your door locked, miss." "Oh, I always do."

    Except, she doesn't. Watch Mike's first intrusion again.

    Dramatically speaking, what "Fun and Games" lacks is what we could call a "primary encounter" between Mike & Laura and their opponent(s) to demonstrate how fearsome the Calco aliens are, which would freight more urgency to the encounter they DO experience.

    "Half a loaf a day is not enough!" Except that instead of a "loaf," Mike & Laura get nutrient blocks little bigger than a bouillon cube — not quite a "loaf;" that always struck me as dissonant.


    Obviously, there’s much to be claimed in regard to Fredric Brown’s story versus “Fun and Games.” But once you cite all the differences, between “Arena” and “Fun and Games,” my basic point is made for me: There is no demonstrable connective tissue between the two, other than what I cite in the book, plus the apparently damning fact that the arena planet is called “the Arena.”

    Not good enough. The presumed connection is one of the most damning instances of THE OUTER LIMITS being forced to perpetually suck hind tit to STAR TREK. The paralogical “evidence” wrought of such armchair quarterbacking sounds good enough to be repeated endlessly, and as far as I can tell, in this case, it’s flat-out wrong — a case of an oft-repeated fabrication “becoming” the truth as understood by people who take TV GUIDE as gospel.

    (The same TV GUIDE that listed “Second Chance” as “Joyride,” crediting Sonya Roberts instead of her pseudonym.)

    Listen, I’m a FAN of Fred Brown! His importance is fundamental, pivotal. But Joe Stefano had never read Brown. Leslie Stevens and Lou Morheim, who WERE versed in pulp SF, would have flagged the story immediately if they had sensed any potential plagiarism. “Fun and Games” is no more “based” on “Arena” than “The Invisibles” is “based” on THE PUPPET MASTERS.

    The more sensible assumption is that the twists of the drama REALLY derive from spinning off MOST DANGEROUS GAME.

    I mean, after considering all the setup on gladiatorial combat, the biggest similarity people can point to is that the planet is called the Arena? Gimme a break.

    Bob Justman told the story of how “Arena” was written for STAR TREK in a similar vacuum, but he realized it was a transliteration of the Brown story, brought it to the attention of the producers, and a post-facto deal was quickly made with Brown. Point being: Bob knew all this in 1964, too. No flags, then.

    Using similar paralogic, it would be easy to claim that ENEMY MINE, and hence HELL IN THE PACIFIC, were “based on Fredric Brown’s ‘Arena’.”

    As with most conspiracy-sniffing, the most volatile possibility is too quickly assumed to be the truth, when the truth is this: Those familiar with the term “steam engine time” can comfortably admit that different minds can come up with the same idea simultaneously, with no chain-of-title between the two. Look at Eando Binder’s “I, Robot” stories versus Isaac Asimov’s “Positronic Robot” series. Neither based on the other. Both similar. It was TIME for that idea.

    Citing the Brown “Arena” in detail only points up the discrepancies. For the OUTER LIMITS the arguments are vague, general and clearly biased toward the premise, while in STAR TREK the facts are specific, directed point-by-point back to the acknowledged source material. The gap between the two has a lot to do with the way Joe Stefano wrote television — not by strip-mining the work of others, but by free-associating dramatic material through his own “lens” of interpretation. His only “input” in this regard was movies, not SF literature, which is why I detailed the similarities between “Nightmare” and THE PURPLE HEART, a far more likely possibility than Stefano setting out to plagiarize Fredric Brown.

    Further, this supposition would not exist at all, had STAR TREK not ventured “Arena.” It’s too simple to “think backward” this way — you might as well claim ROAD WARRIOR is “based on” BEN-HUR.

    And it’s even more difficult to parse today, when every single goddamned thing on TV is a ripoff of something else, or a reiteration of something done better, earlier.

    I ENCOURAGE such inquiry! Cite your evidence. Show your work.

    And I appreciate everybody who would fight so intelligently for the Brown scenario.

    But I’m not convinced. Yet.

  15. Hey, wait a minute. . . . I thought "Road Warrior" WAS based on "Ben-Hur"! Awww man, now I have to rethink my ENTIRE worldview! (kidding)

    Actually, I'm too intellectually challenged to attempt it myself, but I bet someone more intelligent than I am could trace pretty much EVERY story/TV show/movie script back to the Bible, The Odyssey/Iliad, Gilgamesh, Beowulf, or some combination of the four (maybe throw in the Koran and Chinese mythology). For example, elements of David and Goliath in Fun and Games/Arena, for starters. This isn't bad though, because we move ourselves forward as a society by retelling our stories (or I'd like to think so, anyway). This one in particular seems to have struck everyone in an elemental way, more than many of the other episodes we've discussed so far--perhaps because it's part of us already. (I admit that this theory does make it difficult to suss out the royalty payments.)

  16. "FUN and GAMES" features TOL's most hard-core NOIR (all of the scenes in the apartment and the dive-hotel room) and, again sweeping aside all rational considerations, brashly mixes it with space-age fantasy; wasn't the inter-galactic Senate Chamber a seedy, smoke-filled hideout just a few minutes ago?
    Cool idea, the kind of stuff that makes for fascinating dreams.

    I really enjoy these earthbound scenes---excellently paced and photographed. Nick Adams' angry young loser is very well played, a nicely balanced combo of grit, cynicism and pathos.

    I think that Stefano's preachifying may have reached its apex here; start with Nick Adams' backstory (which is carried through the script effectively and serves the drama well), then add the Senator's non-stop moralizing and cynical one-liners (I would have been happy with 60% of this). But who the heck needs the Nancy Malone bad marriage thing? Can't we have a character that doesn't have some sort of neurotic sob story that needs "cleansing"--just ONCE? The "cheerleader" thing that bugs Nick Adams would have been enough of a psychological profile on Laura; it provides some texture to their relationship and motivates the action in the climatic battle scene. Less is more, Joe.

    And speaking of less, the rubberized monkey men would have been just fine WITHOUT the big volley-ball eyes. Too bad, since it only undermines an otherwise exciting and entertaining romp through the fiery forest.

    (I, too, wondered why Nancy Malone decided that climbing the log bridge was the thing to do at that moment). Still, a nicely staged climax, during which Nick Adams, Oswald, and Frontiere really achieve something memorable and moving. And I love the final moments back in the apartment, where we return from our dream-like state back to the late-night, mysterious world of NOIR, complete with blowing curtains in the night breeze.

    Overall, a fine show that deserves its acclaim.


  17. I kind of expected to hear more detracting comments on Fun And Games, maybe because it is so popular. It's in my top ten, so not much nay-saying from me. The whole Arena/ Frederick Brown thing- I agree with DJS that it's no more copied than almost everything is of something else in some way. The treatment of the "fight for your planet" is this episode is far more important. Joe Stefano is such an amazing writer. Was there any story to which he couldn't add characters that we care about because they contain elements we can all relate to, in ourselves or others we've known (sorry, run-on)? Mike and Laura are one of OL best non-couples; I'd love to know where they went from here. (And Nancy Malone is another of those OL babes who is curiously impossible to resist). Did Laura go back to her marriage? Did Mike stop running? It didn't seem like they forgot everything. When Laura sees Mike run down the hall at the end (I love the wind blowing in the hallway), it FELT like there was a sense of "we learned something, going through this together". A good point Ted, that the Senator may not be evil at all, perhaps rescuing those devilish Calcos as much as us. I was never convinced that the only games the Senator stages for the Anderans is battles like this. When he says "it isn't easy devising new fun and games", I always thought he felt the pressure of his people to come up with new things all the time. Glad, too, to see how many people are actually pretty impressed with Kenneth Peach. He was definately underated.

  18. In agreement with DJS on this; having witnessed it firsthand, I'm a firm believer in that somewhat-similar-ideas-developed-independently thing. Sometimes it just happens.

  19. Hmmm....

    There are elements in this tale that I love; the smoky, back-lit swamp, the noir photography, the card game, the way the footage of the boxing game is incorporated in, the dingly apartment building, the full-bodied lines - especially from "The Senator".

    What didn't work for me were the aliens that our couple had to fight, the boomerang weapon, it's talkativeness, and a general lack of pay-off in the fighting.

    There are, for me, shades of grey as to it's genesis.

    I like the robust argument David puts up and I can see how those who work backwards 'Star Trek' would see it that way.

    Though, David, I don't think the Asimov angle applies here, as in many of his introductions to the robot anthologies - he always cites the 'Adam Link' stories and 'Helen O'Loy' as the inspiration for his robot stories, because their portrayal of sympathetic machines, rather than the rampaging monsters beholden to 'Frankenstein'.

    I too am a firm believer in the idea of many different people discovering similar developments; the first close-ups or the moving camera, if Buddha hadn't discovered the four noble truths, some other punk would have. Same for science and other disciplines.

    Strip away the the human dilemma imposed and the core essence would be the same as Brown's short story. But then 'Star Trek' did another segment that they called 'The Gamesters of Traskelon' (or something like that).
    Which had aliens fight it out for the amusement of the 'gamesters' audiences and then there was 'Bread and Circuses'. Both of those seem to borrow from this episode, the broadcasting of fighting for entertainment.

    It's not like H.G. Wells 'Time Machine', which is really the foundational stone of a whole sub-genre and which most would have read, hear or seen. It's the template for time travel into the future, though others obscure stories have been unearthed since. Brown's story is the battle of survival AND for the one's own species on one's shoulders. It's a concise plot-able theme.

    My impression is that if Specht had cribbed his SF idea from Brown (aware or unaware), more than likely, Stefano wouldn't have noticed, would have been to busy his 'Unknown' pilot and had too much integrity to not credit another writer. Stevens was too removed from the day to day production of the show and besides - how many classics did 'Astounding'/'Analog' have in those days of the '40s? Did he but and read that issue? As for Justman, well, enough changes were made in the plot to make it different, a variant from the source for him, whereas 'Star Trek' shoehorned the whole thing, lock stock, and glaringly barrelsful - didn't bother until it was pointed out.

    In the same way that Leo Zagat's story influenced 'The Bellero Shield' but he wasn't credited.

    As for ST's 'Arena' - it's almost unwatchable after the opening scene of destruction. Gene Coon and Rottenberry destroyed that show.

  20. A little too much talk and too little action, but the notion of a housewife and a so-so prizefighter stuck together to fight for humanity is wonderful. The Senator's psychoanalysis of the participants is super-rich with melodramatic goodness.

    Adams is a cagey actor, and Nancy Malone is another of those really smart-looking and probably actually smart actresses who seemed to be everywhere in the 1960s, especially on OL (and there are so many performances on shows that aren't as much out there for us to enjoy). The parts may not have been everything they were capable of, but what they brought to them was brilliant.

    Definitely an interesting partnership between Mike and Laura. You can't say the lady didn't have guts.

    Wish there had been more of the monster chase stuff, though. The first half of the episode does feel like one of the urban TZ segments, but then it goes into OL territory. I always want more monster time.

    Nice grown-up episode.

  21. Not a bad episode. In my mind, and at the time I first saw it some 25 years ago (1985) on a local television station, I thought maybe it was an Ebonite - sort of a continuation of the "Nightmare" scenario.
    I think people have to view scripts and effects with an eye to what was possible during the time of production. I'd say "Fun and Games" was pretty good for its time period given anything else that a viewer would have encountered if the dial had been turned.
    Also, Nick Adams turned in a pretty decent performance as a guy who is in a corner and on the run - nervous and punchy.

  22. Coming in way late for the benefit of the two people still hanging around the parking lot ...

    For a really optimal COLOR view of the Senator's control dais, check out THE HUMAN DUPLICATORS.

  23. 2 Zantis seems exactly right. Is this the same alien as in Nightmare? Its pretty pointless if you've seen the Star Trek episode- why is Frederic Brown in the credits? The Anderian is a really dick. Nick Adams is a bit insufferable, Nancy Malone, whom I remember fondly from Naked City is better.

  24. I can't help liking Cmac's comment about the Anderian. As entertaining as Robert Johnson makes him, his sense of humor can still get on your nerves. I don't think the "Regent of Krankor" in PRINCE OF SPACE laughed at his own observations so many times.

  25. Effin G is not a Top-Tenner but the Senator IS one of the OL's 10 Best Haughty Aliens, and Stefano/Oswald do take the shopworn "Fight for Earth's Survival" plot to a new dimension. Always visually gripping -- I'm still surprised when the closing credits say Peach instead of Hall. And I've seen plenty of old hotels with that big gap under the door.

    This episode was one of those that was played and replayed mercilessly in syndication, and it just gradually won me over to its side the more I saw it. But I wish there'd been a closing narration. With all the padding in the episode couldn't they make time for Vic Perrin to tie it all up for us?

  26. "I didn't know she was an Olympic Boomerang tosser either."
    Maybe that part is a little far-fetched, but I can't help liking the way she cuts herself on the thing a moment before using it, which makes that part kind of believable also.

    I can never help liking that description in the Outer Limits companion of the first draft of the story, which makes Mike a scientist at the U.N. It makes you think of Nick Adams' roles in his Japanese movies, as a scientist and an astronaut.

  27. I thought this one was involving; one of the better episodes. (Well… let’s put it in the upper 50%, anyway.) Oh, a bit padded perhaps, with too many scenes featuring aimless running about in the woods. But overall a nice little drama with some psychological overtones.

    The primary alien voice was quite good, though the character’s constant evil cartoon laughter got old kind of quickly. As for the pair of aliens in the game, sometimes I thought the masks were rather effective, but more often they just seemed silly.

    Though… that game. It certainly was over quickly enough, for a chase that could have lasted a full three days. Not much of a contest at all, really. And it seemed to me that the alien game-master interfered far too often for it to be fair at all---though, who said it had to be fair? I guess the alien audience thought it would be too boring if they just let it play out naturally.

    Can’t quite figure out the workings of the alien contestants’ planet, where they supposedly only got bursts of oxygen occasionally. Why not just say that the atmosphere on their planet has a lower oxygen content than that of earth?

    Man, Benson had a HUGE gap under his apartment door, didn’t he. No need for a peephole in that door---he could just bend down and look to see who is outside.

    So, to sum it up---I enjoyed watching this one. Not great, but not terrible either. (I seem to be saying that about a lot of the episodes, don’t I…)

  28. "Fun and Games" is better than I had originally thought, only because it is so character-driven. Mike, the cynical tough-guy, and Laura, the dreamy cheerleader, are true opposites. How they reconcile their differences is what carries the show. When confronted with a need to save Earth, it is only their reactions that carry the story. When faced with the possiblity of death, who wouldn't reveal personal things about themselves? They form a selfless bond, and only fight back at the end when necessary. The show does not glorify violence. The humans were pushed into violence. Reluctantly, Laura has to kill the alien to save Mike.

  29. Only two things to say:
    1. The Andaran is still a total dick.
    2. Nick Adams has an interesting Wikipedia page.


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