Friday, February 4, 2011

The Mutant

Production Order #26
Broadcast Order #25
Original Airdate: 3/16/64
Starring Warren Oates, Larry Pennell, Walter Burke.
Written by Allan Balter and Robert Mintz, from a story by Jerome B. Thomas.
Directed by Alan Crosland, Jr.

The inhabitants of Annex One, a handful of scientists, are held in fear by Reese Fowler (Oates), mutated by a deadly silver rain into a brain-reading, body-disintegrating curmudgeon with really big eyeballs. Dr. Evan Marshall (Pennell) may be the only hope for the desperate scientists.

PE: Nostalgia time. Other than "Zanti," this is the episode I have the fondest memories of from my childhood. Other than the gawdawful interplay between Pennell and Betsy Jones-Morland (more on that later) it holds up nicely as a fun hour of goofy science fiction and fabulous Bronson Canyon locations (coincidentally, we were given a guided tour of Bronson, by our OL compadre DJS, several years ago).

JS: Unfortunately there were no Mutants, Pod People, or Batmobile sightings that day. But a cool hotbed of 50s-60s movie and TV history.

PE: Lots of little bits to like here: the aluminum houses our scientists live in (it's got to be pretty freakin' hot in a tin house on a planet with no night), some of the photographic flare we've come to appreciate (especially the playful cut from Riner's death to Marshall's lounging) and, of course, Oates' goofy make-up. Other than his trademark big-ass buck teeth, Oates is unrecognizable in his bug-eye make-up (DVD high def is not kind to Oates' bald cap however) but does his best to convey the anger, insanity and, yep, sadness that envelop Reese. His terrified cry when Riner shuts out the light in his lab and Reese's plea for Riner to stay with him evoke images of a frightened child, albeit a child with really big eyeballs!

JS: Once again, the teaser spoils things by prematurely revealing Reese's fried-egg eyes. I think that first reveal would have been far more effective had we had a chance to build up to it. Instead, we know all along why he doesn't go anywhere without his glasses on. A missed opportunity.

PE: I gotta ask though if Oates couldn't see very well through his props and is that why he was constantly stumbling and nearly walking into things or was this his interpretation of what a big-eyed mutant would experience? If the latter, the man was a genius.

JS:  It was nice to see our pal Larry Pennell from Thriller's "Late Date." Damn shame they didn't have a T-shirt in his size for this episode (XS). And how about Julie's (Betsy Jones-Moreland) wardrobe. I assume  all that jewelry, a skirt and high heels represented the latest in intergalactic fashions. Perfectly appropriate when stationed on a remote planet.

PE: I'll admit to not being bowled over much by Walter Burke in our previous three meetings, but the little guy really hits a home run in this one for me (especially his death scene) and I'll be a little more open-minded towards the actor in the future (whoops! last appearance! oh well!).

JS: And he's really short! In the lab I couldn't tell if it was forced perspective, or if he was actually smaller than the microscope.

PE: L-OL scene has to be its most tragic as well. In our only glance at an un-mutated Warren Oates in a narrated flashback, we see Reese (Oates) happily planting gardenias in the outside flower bed (approx four feet away from shelter... pay attention, this is important) when an acid rain begins to fall. As our narrator, Dr. Riner (Burke), informs us, the other scientists are watching from a window and just know, instinctively, that it's gonna rain and it won't be good news. So, instead of opening the door and inviting Reese in, they watch as the scientist has his eyes opened to the dangers of acid rain. Reese writhes in pain (well, actually he falls down, somersaults, and makes angels in the dirt) and emerges an angry man with really big eye balls.  Do you blame him for knocking the others off one at a time?

JS: And yet he didn't get around to using his magic pixie dust on Julie. When she's giving Evan her big "Orwellian" speech, he gives her a look of, "I don't know what the hell you're talking about." And I'm guessing he wasn't the only one thinking that.

PE: In our most pleasant surprise of the evening, it becomes apparent that the wardens of Zanti haven't limited banishing their bad boys to Earth. This one's a bit bigger but not much of a menace since he doesn't move a mandible in his entire screen time.

JS: What a treat that was. It was like finding a second toy surprise inside the cereal box!

PE: The suspense and intrigue is constantly stopped dead in its tracks thanks to an on/off romance subplot  ("When a girl runs as fast as I did, she's bound to bump into someone and I bumped into Griff. Afraid I didn't take too good a look. I was too busy being helped up.") between Evan (Pennell) and Julie (Jones-Moreland) that is about as fascinating as Jones-Moreland's other acting credits (Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961) and The Last Woman on Earth (1960) jump out at you). Obviously, we're back to the matronly women of The Outer Limits after some experimenting with babes.

JS: One big drawback to this episode was its bland look and feel. The interior sets were mundane by OL standards, and there was an absence of dramatic camera angles and lighting we've come to expect. Aside from the exterior location shots, there's nary a shadow to be found throughout much of the episode.  Fortunately, the BEM goes a long way towards making this episode watchable.

PE: And how about that powerful, ambiguous climax? Just how long do the survivors have to wait in that cave?  Sure, they're imbued with the power of love but, for gosh sakes, manly Larry Pennell's stuck in a dark cave with a woman who looks old enough to be his mother and Zantis crawling all over, barred from exiting by a guy with really big eyeballs!

JS: The most unsettling moment of the episode for me came during the Control Voice's intro. Just what the hell are the doctors delivering in the birthing scene (the child of a Hollywood couple?-PE)?

PE: Reese Fowler's elaborate facial make-up was used to good effect a few years later in Larry Buchanan's awe-inspiring Curse of the Swamp Creature (1966).


David J. Schow on "The Mutant":

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

Ellis St. Joseph
Robert Sampson, DJS and Joe Stefano at Joe's piano in his Beverly Hills home, about 2003

Be sure to check back later today for Steve Mitchell's Spotlight on "The Mutant."

Next Up...


  1. No fondness for this one here. Crap. Crap directing. Crap lighting. Crap sets. Crap acting (except for Warren Oates). Crap ending. Crap all around. In other words; perfect b-movie fodder for MST3000. Thank god I finally screened an excellent “Thriller” episode after (“The Devil’s Ticket”) to clean the palate.

    The one great moment in the episode was when my son inadvertently strolled through the living room at the exact moment a bulging-eyed Oates popped up half way through and my son actually gasped, “Oh my god oh MY GOD!” in shock and fear. A half hour later when I checked on him past his bedtime, he was still awake and asking me a few questions so he could get to sleep easier. “How many people did the mutant kill?” About three or four, I answered. “Did he die?” Yes, he’s dead. “How did he die?” The darkness killed him. Somehow that answer didn’t exactly satisfy him or help him get to sleep any easier.

    The other remarkable moment in this episode was when Walter Burke died and murmured, “The horror, the horror.” Now it’s been forever since I read Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, but if that line isn’t in the book, then Marlon Brando definitely stole it from this for his dying moment at the end of “Apocalypse Now.” It’s well known Brando mostly improvised his lines, and the reading he gave for “the horror, the horror” was so dead on to the one we just witnessed in this episode, I doubt it’s a coincidence. Consciously or subconsciously, Brando copped that moment. So, in that context, this is a historical episode. Otherwise, it’s still crap.

  2. "The horror, the horror", in the immortal words of Joseph Conrad, certainly fit this episode. I see Peter and John have covered everything I wanted to poke fun at, like the girl running around in a tight skirt, girdle, and heels, the Zanti misfit survivor, the bug-eyes, and the silly love story. Only one thing did they forget, the stupid attempt to thwart Warren(fried eggs)Oates by using hypnotism! That trick is so old it has whiskers.

  3. No, Walker, that old hypnosis trick actually still works. Schow and Scoleri used it to get me to do this blog.

  4. Another letdown, considering the talent that was involved. It had some tense moments, like when Warren Oates was confronting the scientists individually, with his mind reading powers. The first appearance of an African-American Zanti was also a fun surprise.

    Yet, it's hard to really like this one. Too many stupid moments. I did get a chuckle out of Warren Oates doing the 'Curly Shuffle' after the acid rain hit him.

    Speaking of Warren Oates, one of the few movies of his I haven't seen is 'The Cock-Fighter.' Any commentators care to recommend or warn me of that film? 1 soul brother Zanti.

  5. Boy, Kenneth Peach didn't maintain the OL look for long did he? As flat a show as ever there was. And I love Bronson Canyon/Caves (and loved shooting there) but man it's somehow really depressing here (along with poor Zanti reuse). Too bad, because it had potential for at least being a fun guilty pleasure thriller (and I have a fondness for the Fried Egg Man--such a strong OL image). But the script and budget sabotage suspense at every turn.

    UTW, thank you for mentioning Warren Oates making "dirt Curlies". Too funny.

    John and Peter point out the juicy absurdities (like the scientists watching Reese in the rain) but I'm surprised one hasn't been mentioned: the wonderfully stupid trigger word "Reese". Yeah--no one'll ever say that.

    Half a Zanti for the two over-easy.

  6. I'm with Peter and John as enjoying this, at least at the guilty pleasure level. Oates and the big eyeballs carry it a long way, of course, and I have to wonder why they were forced to stretch the show with extra running back and forth and all that when they could have just NOT cut the speech that DJS shows in his segment and anything similar--I would have liked to have heard Oates speaking that one. The lack of the shadowy "OL look" doesn't bother me here--after all, it's a planet where the sun never sets and they all have to wear goggles to protect their eyes--the high exposure works, in this case. And the interior sets are okay with me, too (although they look a little too much like plywood, which would not reassure me if I had to depend on them on another world!). They're so tiny and confined--imagine being stuck in those tight spaces with a guy who not only can read your mind but will zap you out of existence if you happen to touch him! Nothing serious or heavy here, aside from Fowler's obvious angst at being squeezed away from his own species, but it's plenty entertaining enough. (And yeah, I dug the Curly shuffle too--do all of us of a certain age recognize that right away? At least he didn't go "whoo whoo whoo whoo whoo"!)

  7. Even the weakest OL has some cool stuff in it. Here's what I didn't like, and what I did like about "The Mutant"...

    Negatives: A) the lower budget. B) Stefano's lack of involvement ("A producer can't be everywhere"). C) two plastic leads with 'grade-B '50s sci-fi' written all over them. D) cheesy-looking interior sets E) a less active visual style than usual.

    Positives: A) a compelling central premise. B) a striking, memorable bear. C) Oates' bravura performance. D) Robert Sampson's weirdly sadistic, ultimately poetic death scene. E) some nice moments with Walter Burke. D) a reasonably effective, semi-haunting finale.

    What it all adds up to: No one will ever mistake "The Mutant" for a great OL episode; it isn't even a good one. But it's hardly the TOTAL disaster some observers (including Joe Stefano) make it out to be. Warren Oates' powerful performance alone contradicts that assertion, especially since the title character pretty much dominates this storyline, pushing all other elements (including all those obviously flawed ones) straight into the background.

    On a related note, the strength and influence of that central premise should not be undervalued. "The Mutant" is all about a decent space explorer who mutates into a volatile and threatening super-being after being engulfed by a cosmic force. In his all-important second pilot for STAR TREK, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," Gene Roddenberry appropriated this powerful idea for the character of Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood), and even hired James ("Sixth Finger") Goldstone to direct the show. Mitchell's mutant, like Gwylim's, is a smug, above-it-all-type, the always serviceable "Do you know what it feels like to be a God? (puny humans)" approach to this kind of character. It's what we might call the classically austere, Shakespearian take, very eloquent and lofty. Oates' Mutant, by contrast, is more like you or I would be in this situation: desperate, suffering, weeping, self-loathing because of the terrible things we must do to former friends in order to survive. We'll call that the Brando-esque, method acting take. Ironically, although "Sixth Finger" and "Where No Man" eclipse "Mutant" in the blink of an eye when it comes to overall quality, Oates is nevertheless the most realistic, sympathetic, and tragic of these three conceptually-related characters. And that's got to count for something, folks!

  8. Gary, absolutely right about the premise being a strong one. I think "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (the only color OUTER LIMITS!) is terrific and holds up nicely. Mitchell and Gwyllm are definitely handled differently than Reese, since their change is intellect as well as power.

    But I actually think Mitchell comes off more sympathetically than Reese, mostly because we see him before the change--it's brief, but nicely sketched--just enough to get to know him. This is the "Mutant" script's biggest disservice to Oates (who does alright with what he has). We just never knew him. And ten minutes in he commits a pretty nasty murder.

    Wondering how this would have looked shot by Hall? Lots of sunlight means lots of shadows. Might have given it a little more juice.

    I wish someone coulda puppeted that damn Zanti. Or at least have told Herman Rudin to shake a little!

  9. Gary Gerani-

    Some very good points sir. Maybe I won't feel this one was as 'bad' after another viewing in the far future. The ending was what actually turned me off to this ep. I wasn't exactly sure if Reese's character had died and if so, what from? Thanks to the DJS companion for helping me out with that.

    Larry B. and David H.-

    I'll do you one better.

    "Moe! Larry! The Reese!" "Moe! Larry! The Reese!"

    I couldn't help think that phrase during Warren's whole figure out the secret word thing.

  10. Okay, John and Peter would say: big L-OL to you for that!

    The Stooges live!

  11. Great points, Larry. Still, in spite of the fact that Mr. Spock "felt for him too," I always thought Gary Mitchell was a rather glib, semi-manipulative, superficial character; it's Jim Kirk's sensitivity and heartbreak that we feel as this crisis unfolds, presenting TREK's new captain as a relatable, friendly enough fellow burdened with gut-wrenching responsibilities -- an ideal way to introduce both the ST series and its empathetic hero, which is why "Where No Man" is such a good pilot. True, we don't get to know Reese Fowler beforehand in "The Mutant," but there's a certain dramatic dividend in presenting a dark, murdering "villain" up front, only to learn, through his desperate responses and that flashback, that he's as much a victim as anyone else. Oates, mostly cast as a bad guy in films and TV, ultimately wins our sympathy in a more challenging, come-from-behind sort of way. This pretty much follows the narrative structure of having Pennell's investigating character, like the viewer, learning for himself what the hell is happening on Annex One.

  12. You can run, you can hide, you can deny it all you want....but there's a bit of STOOGE in all of us (and the world's a better place for it). Given time and a bit of patience, ANY conversation/topic among enlightened men will inevitably intersect with those lamebrain- nitwit-imbeciles.

    Peter---glad you're beginning to appreciate the understated excellence of Walter Burke; and even though his TOL appearances end here, I'd be glad to recommend other fine performances for your viewing pleasure.

    I do enjoy the intensity of the Oates/Robert Sampson confrontation in "The Mutant"; the bare minimalism of the set and the bland photography actually heighten the demented, disturbing quality of this scene for me. Other than that (and Mr. Burke's screen time), little of interest in this show.

  13.'s a tribute to the show when you wax melancholic over having to find an episode to be a drag, despite your most sympathetic attention.

    Gary, you do make a strong defense for a measure of fairness in assessing this entry: it's not the sort of unwatchable disaster a bottom-feeder STAR TREK can be. I agree that Warren Oates does a credible job under difficult makeup and poached-amoeba orbs. And I love Walter Burke's work anywhere, though you can't stop fixating on that Van Dyke paste-on here. What, did they shave it off the catatonic Zanti (whose mandibles look more like braces)?

    Worst Sexual Chemistry in a TOL Award goes to Betsy Jones-Moreland and Larry Pennell. Their banter is alternately awkward and mock-flirtatious. Betsy looks insincere doing anything but sun-bathing in Haunted Seas. Or swaying along in high heels borrowed from Ruth Roman. Larry's square-jawed machismo seems transplanted from a detective show filming on the next soundstage.

    Granted, they didn't have a lot to work with. The overwrought script kind of meanders as if embarrassed, in spots. I don't feel much sense of menace or ominous presence, despite what we learn (too early) of Reese's altered state. (Exception: the tense, unexpectedly artful death of the Robert Sampson character. The best has left the building, folks.)

    The cavalier handling of actual science, which we keep arguing we can overlook when overwhelmed by artistry and poignant drama in TOL, here is painfully keylit. Marshall's spacecraft, somehow appearing even smaller here than in "Never Born," invites the distracted musing, Exactly what does one do alone, strapped into a "luge," while spanning light years of space? Some interior scenes in the nesting-doll huts play in cubicles so cheesy that they could be a cardboard clubhouse.

    (FLASHBACK PROPS! OK, I'm onboard with the Curly Shuffle! And the "Griff" cameo is essayed by Richard Derr, the droll pilot from WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE.)

    (HOST PROPS! John and Peter are really on their game above. Peter's "four feet away from the hut" comment is right on the money. That scene is almost amateurish in the way it tries to manufacture tension. And those two stills are terrific: the plastic newborn, and Walter Burke, apparently on the set of ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE!)

    LARRY B. ASIDE--- You're right, I'd also like to see, for the sake of comparison, what an Oswald/Hall team-up might have done with the same material.

    The Frontiere music cues are the only element that brands this episode a TOL. And even those are misused. The suspenseful stalking cue underscores a pointless scene that ends in a head-scratcher: Marshall follows LaCosta to the mysterious cave. As he's about to enter it, Julie calls him all the way back to the huts because the silvery isotope rain is about to fall---? He was already AT THE CAVE, presumably sheltered from the rain! And the lilting love theme from "Architects," so moving and emotional as it practically caresses the Leightons in that first-water episode, here seems forced as Evan and Julie routinely hold hands or engage in coy love-triangle dialogue.

    Reese's death is borderline tragic---he is a sympathetic enough character. But it happens so swiftly and with some confusion as to the cause---it seems as though he's more panicked by the dark than vulnerable to it. The eventual pathology is kind of glossed over by Burke's Dr. Riner (who dies while slipping into his own hypnotic trance? "Sleep...sleep...").

    And the "I'm still a man named Reese Fowler"---Get it? That name is REESE FOWLER! I'm gonna make sure everyone keeps saying it!---business is the definition of heavy-handed suspense.

    Something has to be the worst episode for each of us in the first half of the show's run. This may be it for me.

    Annex One Zanti, minus beard.

  14. Everything goes down better with a spoonful of Stooge mirth, Larry R!

    And Gary G--- It's interesting to me how many of us TOL-ophiles also agree on "Where No Man Has Gone Before." It's also been my favorite Trek as long as I can remember.

  15. Stupid fingers, stupid keys--I meant UTW, not Gary, in my Stooge referencing praise.

    Gary, I know what you're saying, and I agree Gary Mitchell is a bit glib, maybe cocky, briefly sketched at best--but even that gives us something, even if it is mostly through Kirk's reactions to his plight. Here, we get gardening.

    Oates was such a fine, expressive actor--he could invest bad guys (or good guys) with a kind of child-like innocence, really make us feel for him. If we keep this narrative structure then I think it would have been nice if the flashback gave us one simple scene where Oates could show us who this guy is.

    Actually, I happen to love stories where an investigator comes to remote location to see what the hell's up (BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, ALIENS, COLD NIGHT'S DEATH). Maybe they should have structured it MORE as a mystery (of course that teaser doesn't help).

  16. In its oddball, Corman-esque way, "The Mutant" is as undeniable as "The Zanti Misfits" — compromised, yet bizarrely lovable. Ridiculous-looking or not, Reese grabbed ahold of my younger self's fear center — not monstrous so much as malformed into an absolute gainsay of the symmetry of the human face, despite the precedent of KILLERS FROM SPACE. It remains a personal favorite, as opposed to a popular favorite, which is why I chose to have Reese staring back at the reader from the spine of the COMPANION. And a large part of "The Mutant"'s staying power has to do with the utter commitment of Warren Oates, in a role that must have seemed laughable to everyone on-set. Oates SELLS Reese, in a way that is admirable to behold, with only his mouth to use for expression. And when he SMILES, it's just ... plain ... creepy.

    While Stefano & Co. were filming THE UNKNOWN in Tarzan Forest at MGM, "The Mutant" had to fall back on using a favorite Corman location: Griffith Park. And, unusually, all the scenes taking place in Bronson Caverns were actually shot INSIDE the Caverns instead of a more controllable cutaway set at KTTV (in several shots you can see the tarps blocking off the far end of the tunnel) ... yet the "exterior" of the colonists' encampment is on a soundstage.

    Yet still do I marvel at the sheer sense of unease accomplished with the most minimal of sets, as Reese says, "No, no! Not that way ... EAT IT." And Chandler does exactly as he's told without hesitation, like a penitent child.

    Betsy-Jones' spike heels are a science-fiction tradition that is expressed most cogently (for me) by Joan Weldon running through the desert dunes, in heels, in THEM!

    These latter OUTER LIMITS episodes -- we're in the "third phase" of Season One now -- appeal to a lot of people that did not like the murkier episodes. A comparison could be made between the Gothic catalogue of horrors of the Universal 1930s, versus the fast-forward, more muscular monster rallies of the 1940s. Pound for pound the later shows hold their own through the audacity of containing memorable images, whether the episode is sub-par or not.

    Per Larry B., I think there are a couple of other candidates besides my nomination of "Where No Man Has Gone Before" for a "color OUTER LIMITS" — notably, the TV-Movie A COLD NIGHT'S DEATH, the Chanticleer short film TAKE OUT THE BEAST, and the entire feature of CUBE (not the sequels). Ironic that none of the episodes of NOTer would make that cut ... there's only, like over 100 of 'em!

    Obviously the Three Stooges of WACT are Rapchak (that vile instigator), UlTacWar, Blamire, and maybe Rypel as Shemp. (At least we got Rapchak to stop talking about GREAT GHOST TALES for five minutes.)

    And UlTacWar's comment about the "African-American Zanti" — spot on!

    I named the bad guy in my very first novel after good ole Reese.

  17. DJS, we likely typed COLD NIGHT'S DEATH at the same freakin' weird is that?

    Don't know if I'd compare "Mutant" to "Zanti Misfits" for overall quality, but I think what you're saying is, as regards compromised material in similar B-monster movie guise.

    I agree about Reese--just Reese, as a wonderfully freakish (and perhaps iconic OL) apparition. It's the best part of the show for me, and a surrealist's dream image.

  18. I like Reese. He's a sympathetic "villain"---always the most engaging kind. And I appreciate Warren Oates in everything I see him in (most notably THE WILD BUNCH).

    But the character is fumbled away. (The excised speech with his plea for understanding might have better supplanted Betsy Jones-Moreland's unconvincing "childlessness" pangs.) And his resolution is clumsily handled. He ignominiously stumbles to death.

    You don't know whether to lament him or feel embarrassed for him. He deserved a more dignified fate, somehow.

    Shemp, eh, Schow?---

    "Hi, Lorna---how ya doon?!"

    "Your dreamboat is sailin'---vooooo!"

    ("Hold hands, you lovebirds!" ---the under-appreciated Emil Sitka!)

  19. As a new viewer to the show, at least it's a joy to see familiar faces like Warren Oates. He might not be one of my favorite actors, but I've always liked him. Especially in two of my favorite movies, 'The Wild Bunch' and 'Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia.' The latter, whether you loved or hated it (like most of my friends) upon viewing, you can't deny that the man put his heart and soul into that role.

    DJS- Thanks for naming me as an honorary stooge! I couldn't think of a higher compliment. Peter and John, are you guy's up for the task of being Curly Joe #1 and #2?
    Also, I appreciate you and Larry B. mentioning the film 'Cold Night's Death,' which was unknown to me. After looking it up on the net I'm intrigued. Let's see, a horror film starring Robert Culp, Eli Wallach, that's set in an arctic landscape with eerie 1970's synthesizer can I pass that up? It's available for a pretty cheap price.

    Sorry, before I go, one last side-Stooge story and I promise I'll stop. A certain Chicago Cop that I know, downloaded an audio clip from, 'A Plumbing We Will Go,' onto his cell phone. On wild busy nights while working, where the dispatcher is giving out jobs of fights in progress, shots fired, person stabbed, domestic, etc., eventually tensions rise and cops will often bicker with each other over the radio air, or with the dispatcher. After the shouting has ceased, and it's dead silent for a minute, that's when the cop will play from his phone, over the radio air, "THIS HOUSE HAS SURE GONE CRAZY!" Needless to say his supervisors would like him hung, while the rank and file think its a riot. A fine example of gallows humor at its most hilarious/inappropriate.

  20. Where's Shemp? He loves pictures.

    Rootin Tootin old boy, you're goin' places.

    Aw, I don't drink coffee, you can have mine.

    Looks like good solid construction.

  21. Oh yes, Larry B. It might be time to branch out. The second phrase, especially, could be put to good use.

  22. This one bored the living daylights out of me. Too bright lit, even though there is a reason. As the guys above have stated, far too cheap-looking, talky and redolent of '50s "sci-fi".

    I like the list of TOL type of films and episodes.
    I've just got my hands on 'Cube'.

    I'd also add, 'Seconds' (1966) with it's bleakness, uncompromising ending and visual daring. And also, 'Gattaca' - a beautiful little SF piece which is intelligent, elegant visually and has that romanticised wanderlust outlook on space travel. I'm probably pushing it with that comparison.

    Other than that, there is the celebrated and legendary BBC SF anthology show, cited by the critics of the time as the greatest ever done on these shores; 'Out of the Unknown'. It also last 49 episodes. In many ways, where the second OL season faltered in adapting SF literature, OOTU succeeded in adapting some of the greatest writers of the genre. If you want to know what TOL would look like if it didn't have the scores or the film photography and still come up triumps, this show was it. Unfortunately, most of them were wiped, with a huge gutting of it's hot period, the 2nd and 3rd seasons. Leaving poor quality bootleg film transfers and apart from one episode, it's never been repeated. The directors and adapters had or went on to be involved in such celebrated classics TV as 'Quatermass', 'Edge of Darkness', 'Upstairs, Downstairs', 'I, Claudius', 'The Boys from the Blackstuff', 'Play for Today', ect, ect.

    There are three classics
    'The Tunnel Under the World' (which has a terrible robot, but otherwise, is a gripping piece, akin to 'The Truman Show')
    'The Last Lonely Man' (a brilliantly chilling adaption of John Brunner's short story with a sardonic touch)
    'The Machine Stops' (an award winning segment that awarded first prize at the Fifth Festival Internazionale del Film di Fantascienza (International Science Fiction Film Festival) in Trieste on 17 July 1967 but more importantly got a letter of praise from the author of this 1912 tale).

    Just below that are...
    Level Seven
    This Body Is Mine

    For the rest, there are only reviews. Hopefully more will be found and returned, with three of the above 5 junked and then recovered from foreign broadcasters. It's the show the Beatles are chatting about in the film 'A Hard Days Night'.

    Oh, they can be caught on YouTube.

  23. Ulty, COLD NIGHT'S DEATH just keeps getting better: Remote location, check. Scads of snowbound suspense, check. Tiny cast, check. Plus Vic Perrin doing a very Control Voice-type voice-over intro to the whole thing.

  24. I had completely forgotten about A COLD NIGHT'S DEATH and haven't seen it in years. I have positive memories of, especially, the Culp fanatics in my circle effusing satisfaction.

    You guys are forcing me to at least check into the availability of a nice used Amazon DVD.

    I've squandered shekels on much less promising nags.

  25. No luck---just a novel of the same title, same year (1973). Damn. With everything that's in release, you'd think every made-for-TV film would be a catalog title by now.

    Somebody on eBay will be selling a VHS dub for $75...

  26. My favorite thing about this episode, besides Warren Oates, was that the story was based on a common trope of 60's SF, namely "Well, Earth's population is exploding, so, in the future, mankind will have to colonize the stars to find suitable living space for all those people . . . "

    Hellllooo! What's the cost of millions of interstelar station wagons compared to millions of condoms or birth control pills? It's as though neither the filmmakers nor the (aparently silent) viewing public thought it was proper to challenge the cultural or religious tenets behind unchecked procreation.

    That's so surreal, in the context of today's no-subject-is-taboo public discourse, that it could be the basis for . . . . a TOL episode.

  27. Notice I have remained silent re: the male susceptibility to Stooge-itis. However, NOW I will briefly break my silence.

    UTW--- Seems you (wisely) omitted the actual phonetic spelling of the line from "A-Plumbing."

    ALSO--a few years ago, I'm walking from my car to do a lecture in downtown Chicago, when I pass the Art Institute. There's this art-dude with his easel set up on the sidewalk, working on his new painting of the skyline. I walked up behind him and says to him (w/ straight face) "I'll tell you what's wrong: you don't have enough Ana-can-pana-san". Puzzled and disdainful looks were exchanged before I explained my comment. Still no change, so I continued on my way.

    THE END.

  28. Larry R--- He didn't tell you, "I'll show you a picture, what IS a picture"?

    You could have had your clay fight, right there in front of the Art Institute, then "let bygones be bygones," and ambled on to your dignified lecture.

  29. Ted, ' A Cold Night's Death' was on you tube about a year ago, which does allow for downloads

  30. Larry R.-

    I spelled the phrase that way because it was easier then looking up the spelling of the actual quote. I believe "This house is sho goin' crazy!" would be accurate.

    DJS & Ted R.-

    'A Cold Night's Death,' is available on Youtube. I just happened to watch this dark, claustrophobic, little gem of a movie this evening. Big thanks to DJS and Larry B. for the recommendation. Don't worry, I won't give away any spoilers. I will say that while viewing, one couldn't help but compare the location of the film to John Carpenter's 'The Thing.' Except where Carpenter's science base setting was pretty sterile, 'A Cold Night's Death,' arctic station just reeked of gloomy atmosphere. I could just imagine the smell of garbage, rotting food, and monkey urine when Culp and Wallach first arrived.

    Culp gives a great, haggard performance. You could just tell his character was unhappy to be out in the frozen tundra just from the beginning, while he was sipping coffee. If he only knew how bad things were going to get.....

    Well, I don't know about you gents, but I'm not sure which I'm looking forward to more: Tomorrow's Superbowl, or Monday's 'Second Chance' discussion. I haven't seen the OL episode yet, though I gather it's about a bear's tyrannical takeover of a carnival ride with hostages.

    Hopefully, the show will consist of the alien torturing, mutilating, and murdering the carnie rubes. That would be awesome. The perfect ending would have my new hero, from 'The Invisibles,' Don Gordan, duking it out with the extraterrestrial beast on top of the tilt-a-whirl ride, while the carnival burns in flames, the fate of the world at hand!
    Even if that doesn't exactly happen, I'm sure the ep. will be satisfactory.

    W.C. Fields: Was I in here last night, and did I spend a twenty dollar bill?

    Bartender Joe Guelpe (Shemp): Yeah.

    W.C. Fields: Oh boy, what a load that is off my mind. I thought I lost it.

  31. FYI--

    Our own Gary Gerani's iconic book "Fantastic Television" features a still from "Cold Night's Death" on p. 179. Culp is all caked with ice; almost looks like he has fried eggs for eyes...or maybe poached.


  32. Thanks, UTW, I'll check it out there. Haven't seen it since its premiere, way back in '73, but have encouraging memories.

    Right you are, Larry R---! There's the Culp still. Another reason why it's lodged itself in my memories: I've referenced Gary's book a thousand times.

    UTW--- Same film:

    "Og Oggilby? Sounds like a bubble in a bath tub."

    "Now don't make fun of the man, Junior---YOU'D like to have a nose like that full of nickels!"

  33. Oh, right, I forgot ... And as for the DVD on this episode. Picture quality. Crap. Sound. Double crap.

    Possible spoiler: Cold Night's Death

    Is that the TV movie where it turned out it was the dogs? Good one.

    Many TV movies are turning up in Warner's DVD on demand program. Universal has one going, too.

  34. Maybe not a great episode, but a memorable title performance by Oates, who managed to make Reese both terrifying and pathetic. There's something truly horrible about a monster around whom even your thoughts are not private, and though everybody feels badly for Reese, he's gotta go.

    The romantic-ish scenes and all the dialogue about why the lady isn't conceiving are something out of "Dr. Kildare" or "Ben Casey" -- not bad but just too much information for here. I wanted more Reese and would have loved more flashback to when Reese was a good guy.

    Reese Fowler is sad..."I'm a man named Reese" he plaintively keeps trying to tell us. Not with those googly eyes, you're not! Sorry.

    (And I agree with the previous comment on the overpopulation aspect to this one -- Earth is already too crowded, and all they want to talk about is why this woman isn't popping them out on the next Earth. And how amazing that nearly fifty years later the world still -- and even America, for goodness sake -- can't quite get out of the Dark Ages and stop romanticizing unfettered reproduction.)

    Maybe not a top notch episode, but Reese Fowler -- the creature, the actor -- pulls this one out of the fire -- or the radioactive rain -- for me.

  35. Personally, I think this episode isn't bad. Of course, I'm biased.

  36. I'm very glad to read Lisa's comments, because I sometimes feel like the only one on earth who even remembers how to SPELL overpopulation, let alone considers it a problem. You don't have to hate the idea of people wanting to be fertile to hate hearing people CELEBRATE every single breakthrough in it, just as she says.

  37. How is it even possible to have a planet where it's always daytime? If one side is always facing the sun (as our moon does with Earth), then another side would be facing away and be always dark. (There might even be a ribbon of the planet where getting from light to dark would be a trivial drive in the car.) Maybe there were supposed to be two suns, one for each side of the planet or something? I've really tried to resolve this one, but I just can't see how such a place could exist, even in TOL.

  38. 1/2 Zanti. Another tiresome O.L. romance takes up most of the episode. I was excited by the cast-Walter Burke, Larry Pennell, Warren Oats, but I was disappointed. Best moment was seeing one of the Zantis again. I wish they didn't keep going back to the same locations in this one, they probably had limited space in Griffith Park, but still. It just goes on and on, I wasn't even impressed by the usually reliable Oates.

  39. My mother used to make fun of this episode by putting fried eggs over her eyes.

  40. As crazy as I am about THE SIXTH FINGER, I agree with Gary Gerani about how believable Warren Oates is, including the "weeping" and "self-loathing" -

    Julie: "I'm not in the habit of lying to people, Reese."
    Reese: "But then I'm not really PEOPLE anymore, am I, Julie?"

    I may be the only one who thinks of the "tin roof" look of building as an asset. Because of how simple it looks, it adds to the spookiness. Just as Oates makes you feel that this is how a Reese Fowler WOULD act, that building looks the way some outpost on another planet might actually look.

  41. Is Betsy Jones-Morland by any chance a sister of David Opatoshu? In scenes with this actress, I kept thinking of his facial features and manner (e.g. in Star Trek's "Taste of Armageddon). I didn't find anything to confirm a blood relationship, but perhaps someone knows of it.

  42. My intro to Warren Oates was in the very 1st LOST IN SPACE I ever saw-- "Welcoime Stranger", where he played cowboy-hat wearing "Jimmy Hapgood", in an intersellar spacescraft no bigger than a Mercury space capsule. How could he stand it?

    First saw this in the 70s... and it was SCARY!!

    Regarding overpopulation (a topic only very briefly touched on in the earliest moment of the LIS pilot episode)... I've long felt that since "SOYLENT GREEN" came out, nobody-- and I mean NOBODY-- even wants to touch the topic for discussion. That film killed it as a "serious" issue, by being turned into one really bad "punch line" ("Soylent Green is made out of people!!!"). The insanity has to stop. MORE THAN HALF the human population on this planet needs to go for the sake of every other living creature here. (I vote for the politicians, lawyers and bankers to go first...)

    As for "color OUTER LIMITS"... I've long considered the film "BLADE RUNNER" as one of those. Dark, bleak, dreary, depressing, thought-provoking... and its central plot mirrors "The Duplicate Man". Plus, its climax is filmed in The Bradbury Building, just like "Demon With A Glass Hand".

    But recently I've found another candidate... the seriously flawed STAR TREK episode, "The Alternative Factor". I've come to the conclusion this script was heavily re-written TO DEATH, and actually may have started life as an unfilmed 2nd-season OUTER LIMITS story. I also suspect it originally took place on Earth. The range of devastation caused by a matter-antimatter explosion shuold be no more than the entire planet... NOT the entire UNIVERSE. Come on!!!

    By the way... considering more than half of LIS' 3rd season were goofier variations of 1st season STs, how ironic is it that "Alternative" was remade-- and much better-- as "The Anti-Matter Man"?? (I love the "bridge" between the 2 universes.)

  43. "First saw it in the 70s...and it was SCARY!!"

    I know just how Henry Kujawa feels, because it STILL works on me.

  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

  45. Anyhow, I rather liked the late Larry Pennell (1928-2013) as the handsome, headstrong, youthful and colorful skydiver Ted McKeever on Ripcord (first-run syndicated: 1961-1963), along with the also late Ken Curtis (1916-1991) as his inseparable level-headed older mentor and partner Jim Buckley.

  46. I think there was a terrible steal here (or "nod" if you like) to one of my boyhood favorite books Ruthven Todd's _Space Cat Visits Venus_ (1955). Venus is nice except all the plants are telepathic. And it rains ammonia once a day-- don't get caught in that.

    I saw this episode when it played originally when I was eight. Like most of the Outer Limits it scared hell out of me. The isotope rain. The cave with giant ants! (Yeah, they're Xantis). The BEM.

    The telepathic all-powerful Fowler is also recognizable as telepathic all-powerful kid in "It's a Good Life" (Twilight Zone, 1961 from a Jerome Bixby story). There's nothing to screw up a community quite like one of THOSE.

    And there's also one more nod-- ever notice how much the Fowler creature GRINS? If you like Ike, this episode will make you miss Harry. Yeah, the BEM is Eisenhower, still alive when this episode showed, and only out of office four years. Very recognizable. That grin is fake. He's really pissed off.

    Steve BH

    1. Okay, Ike was out of office only three years. And Zanti not Xanti. Sue me.

  47. I suppose Larry Pennell is one of the few actors on Outer Limits OR Thriller who could be called a "beefcake" kind of actor, so no wonder they kept giving him those tight shirts that get all the jokes.

  48. Pretty enjoyable episode for me. Loved the bug-eyed mutant creation; very creepy to look at! But this was also a sympathetic villain; we could understand Fowler's horror at what he has become, and his reluctance to be left all alone in this harsh world.

    The primary weakness of the episode for me was the romantic sub-plot; the dialogue between the former lovers seemed a bit trite and whenever the story focuses on their relationship I felt I was watching just another soap opera.

    The episode has some padding (all that running to and from the cave), presumably included just to up the running time. And the disintegration of one of the characters by mutated ant comes out of the blue, and is a bit silly. The whole hypnosis plot element is kind of ridiculous too---of course Fowler will instantly be able to tell just what Dr Riner has been up to, no matter whether Marshall remembers if he’s been hypnotized or not. And they picked a stupid word to trigger the memory.

    The flaws of the episode knock the quality down to middling, but I really enjoyed this one, much more so than many of the other middle-of-the-road episodes.


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