Friday, March 11, 2011

The Premonition

Production Order #16
Broadcast Order #16
Original Airdate:01/09/65
Starring Dewey Martin, Mary Murphy, Emma Tyson.
Written by Samuel Roeca, story by Ib Melchior.
Directed by Gerd Oswald.

After test pilot Jim Darcy (Martin) crashes his X-15 in the desert, he and his wife (Murphy) are trapped in a world apparently frozen in time. Or is it?

PE: Let me just comment on the opening. Most of the OL openings have something fantastical or ominous: a murder, an alien with a big head walking through a gate in the desert, spaceships that can pull u-turns on a dime, Yoko Ono recording a song you can sing. What does this have? Two and a half minutes of stock Air Force footage of jets and pilots. The last shot before we go to "There is nothing wrong..." is a jet firing a missile. Key ominous music. A let down to be sure.

JS: That 'missile' is Darcy's X-15 rocket. I actually enjoyed the ample selection of stock footage (with stock music, I'm sure -PE) of the X-15. I only wish that they hadn't cut in the handful of studio shots that could pass for an actor sitting on the toilet. Worse yet is when the canted angle levels out when the voice-over calls for the pilot to start leveling out. Considering the flight suit and helmet, they should have stuck with stock footage. For the trivia buffs out there, all three actual X-15's can be seen amongst the various shots used. There are some nice videos on YouTube for the aviation/space fans out there (unfortunately many with embedding disabled). Here's a nice general history on the X-15 era:

PE: Really bad music alert! Larry B.'s theremin mixed with music box tunes. Are they still paying someone to score this series? Who's minding the fort? (Don't forget the wailing of La Llorona as Linda drives out to meet her hubby? -JS) And speaking of stock footage, let's not forget the  shot of a coyote chasing a rabbit across the plains and bird of prey swooping in for the kill borrowed from Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. There are times when the footage of Jim's aircraft is so badly edited together, you have absolutely no idea what the hell is going on. Is he landing? Is he flying sideways? All is safe though, as he lands amid props left over from "Cry of Silence." Where's that coyote?

JS: I want to know what kind of parent leaves their kid off at day care that cages them like animals?

PE: L-OL scenes: Like an Esther Williams musical, on cue the air traffic guys swivel in their seats to watch the action on the monitor. I expected the three of them to shout "There's No Business Like Show Business..."

JS: It appears that one of them had, as evidenced when they walk into the control room to find one of the men mid-song...
PE: As if seeing frozen soldiers, coyotes and jackrabbits wasn't enough to fray poor Linda's nerves, the sight of a hawk sends the poor girl over the edge. Jim finally has to take matters in his own hands (for Linda's sake) and wallop her one. I like her sass but it's nice to remember how real men solved domestic road bumps back in the 60s. Guys get arrested for that crap now.

JS: But it takes a special bond to have a sympathy crash when your spouse noses their aircraft into the dirt.

PE: I love the very professional countdown-o-meter they've got taped to the wall. Multi-billion dollar space program but $1.49 equipment.

JS: I'm just glad they opted to use stock cockpit control footage. I can only imagine the broomhandle controls the Projects Unlimited team might have assembled for Jim.

PE: Dig that run across the desert in the sweltering heat. Jim might be a macho test pilot but he runs like Barbara Rush in "The Forms of Things Unknown." A little hitch in his gitty-up, I assume. It's a shame there was no bus line running along that route (oh, but the bus would be frozen you say? what if the bus were caught in Jim's sonic boom as well?).

JS: I give them credit for raising the possibility that the characters were dead (and, in doing so, confirming that wasn't the gimmick). I think that might have made for a more interesting conclusion, particularly if they were joined by their flattened daughter.

PE: Acting is uniformly dreadful this time out. Frankie Avalon was off with Annette, I assume, so all that OL could afford was Dewey Martin (The Thing From Another World). Martin looks off in the distance a lot with astonishment and says things like "C'mon, let's go to Mission Control, maybe we'll find the answers there." and "There's got to be a logical explanation, Linda" while looking at an entirely frozen world. He's Bobby DeNiro though, compared to Mary Murphy, who does little more  than scream at each new frozen sight, squishes her head between her hands, and say "Oh Jim, what's happened to the world?"

JS: I didn't have too much of a problem with the performances until they got to their long soliloquies. Then it was extremely grating.

PE: So, Jim's sonic boom caught his wife's car in its wake but not any of the local wildlife? I buy that.

JS: In all fairness, they managed to crash the fastest manned rocket and a car within 20 feet of one another without killing the operators of each. It was clearly a localized phenomenon.

PE: The still of little Janey on her bike shows evidence of a one-fanged vampire on the loose.

JS: I found this to be an interesting exercise, unique in that it was the couple sharing this experience so often relegated to a solitary character. The real missed opportunity came through the creepy introduction of Casper, the not-so-friendly ghost. He provided some very creepy visuals, and an interesting dimension to the story. I couldn't wait to find out more about how he came to be.

PE: Highlight of the show would have to be Ghosty's speech. For once, one of those long, rambling OL speeches about time vortexes and space continuums makes sense and is very effective, delivered rather creepily I hasten to add.

JS: Too bad that plot thread wasn't deemed worthy of tying off. Still, a marked improvement over the last two episodes.


David J. Schow on "The Premonition" (Click on pages to enlarge):

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

by Larry R and Ted R.

Darcy's flight didn't go real well,
Limbo Dude lives in surreal Hell.
Had Jim not stopped that truck,
Janie'd be out of luck--
They'd be scraping her from the wheel-well.

Next Up, the final episode...


  1. I remember being quite surprised when I learned that the creepy yet tragic Limbo Being was played by Kay Kuter, otherwise known as goofy and slow-witted Newt Kiley on GREEN ACRES.

  2. Oof. An oddball excursion into the Land of Unresolved Limbo-folk. Looks like an unpleasant state and leaves the viewer with the feeling of having been there.

    Not sure why people confuse this one with TZ so readily. It's more akin, again, to 1950s SF B-movie formula, with one of those "There's just GOT to be a way!" posers as the central conflict (DESTINATION MOON).

    The imagination LEAPS at the possibilities of an Ib Melchior (by way of Sam Roeca's story and collab) script and Gerd Oswald behind the camera. Could this be a potential off-the-charts stretch for wild adventure: "Corpus Limbo"? "Journey to the 7th Timeslip"? "Angry Jet Pilot"? No, this just looked like...a stretch. Of story concept and---talk about frozen-in-time---evaporating budget. Though ruptured-time fantasies are always interesting, the coincidental timeslips aspect here is tough to accept. And the save-Janie puzzler ultimately becomes the prosaic---for SF---central concern. The Air Force cooperation saved the production from studio mock-up cheesiness on top of all the stock footage.

    Dewey Martin seemed comfortably suited to Blaster-Age SF hero roles, both charismatic and physical enough for the stereotype (though the pitch of his voice may have been perceived as a drawback for lead parts). But his hectic running around here feels ineffectual next to his genius-in-the-ranks THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD role:

    Martin: "I think you're right, sir."
    Ken Tobey: "I think YOU are."

    Not sure he was up to it, but I'd have liked to see him in a genre film in a role with some genuine depth.

    DJS' COMPANION anecdote about Oswald and the Japanese hooker is the hands-down most entertaining production aside from the entire series. Thanks once again, David! I hadn't read this in years and was amused again as if it were a fresh discovery.

  3. Hard to enjoy this episode with all the silly scenes showing Mom and Dad running back and forth numerous times in the desert. It would have been far more interesting if the show was about the Limbo Being. Now there's a tragic figure, trapped in time forever.

  4. Have to admit that I really liked this one as a kid, although it does lose some luster on later viewings. The concept is what really carries it--what kid wouldn't have wanted to be able to run around everyone else and do whatever he or she wanted, without anyone being aware of it? On the flip side, it made me start wondering if there were people just out of timesight in my own vicinity. And I always liked the plane and car frozen in their approaches to the crash site--for some reason, that made it more "realistic" to me--don't ask why. Hats off to all the "frozen" extras, too, even if you CAN see a few of them quivering here and there in their poses!

    The limbo being was the thing that really impressed me, though. Even at that age, I felt great sympathy for his situation, though he was kind of scary, too. In my memory, he harassed the Darcys at every turn, to the point of chasing them out to the crash site and trying to take one of their places to get back to real time. It was kind of a shock to watch this again as an adult a few years ago and discover that, in fact, he was hardly on screen at all and served no purpose other than to explicate plot points. It's funny how the young imagination can take such little input and turn it into something far more memorable!

    I thought Dewey Martin was fine, given the circumstances described by DJS. I'm with Ted in remembering him fondly as the "Hey, I've got an idea" guy from The Thing. If I remember correctly, he was also effective as the youngest of the three convicts in the Bogart picture The Desperate Hours.

    I'll give it a couple Zantis--one last entertaining gasp from OL (and from Gerd Oswald before leaving the series, although it doesn't match his earlier work).

  5. In spite of the vanished budget, "The Premonition" manages a few nice scenes, the Limbo Being (like one of those lost ghosts from Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL) pretty much stealing the show. Dewey Martin was allowed far greater dramatic range in the classic TWILIGHT ZONE episode "I Shot an Arrow into the Air," where he deals with being stranded in an 'alien environment' very differently.

  6. I had a strange feeling this one would suck.


  7. Why does Limbo guy carefully explain to Darcy HOW TO SCREW HIM OUT OF ever escaping limbo?

  8. According to the DJS notes: Don Gordon was cast to play Darcy but called in sick the night before shooting.

    Now THAT'S an impressive premonition.

    Or he just read the script.

  9. Ecoes of Twilight Zone's 'Elegy' and 'Mind over Matter' episodes (not to mention the one in the revived show with the amulet that freezes time.

    Apart from the limbo being, a quick tracking shot following a soldier down a corridor and into a room and a very high angle composition, there is very little on offer here.

    The scenes of the desert and the studio mock-up don't mesh due to lighting ambiance.

    Another dire bore.

  10. "Why does Limbo guy carefully explain to Darcy HOW TO SCREW HIM OUT OF ever escaping limbo?"

    He just doesn't get it. I'll bet he's still wandering around wondering why everyone refers to him as Limbo Guy...

  11. A tip of the hat to Ted Rypel for his assistance with today's epic Limerick. It was an "anything for the rhyme" situation---do whatever it takes to set up the last line.
    The fact that so much sheer brain power was used to produce so little confirms beyond a doubt that we've had much-too-much time on our hands lately.

    Ted--I'll be more careful with the anapestic trimeter in the future (say, what??)


  12. Larry R---
    It's a brutal jolt to learn that the academics have slapped their nomenclature on even the funnest of the fun, ain't it? A limerick, by any other name... But I was happy to help in any small way. It's hard to make things look easy, no?

    David Horne---
    You've really hit on an important point with your "creative memory" idea. Just as it loves to be selective about the weirdly specific details it serves up from trivial things that happened decades ago, it seem to enjoy embellishing and expanding memories of things we saw and heard that we thought got short shrift. In essence we're "collaborating" or editing, post facto, on some work our minds would have liked to see developed another way.

    Gary G---
    Totally in agreement about the TZ episode, where Dewey Martin is given more room to expand a character. "I Shot an Arrow into the Air" is the one I always confuse with "And When the Sky Was Opened," the classic Rod Taylor proof-of-existence episode that I've always loved but which Rod Serling himself openly despised, so I've read.

  13. Like David H, my initial viewing of this built up an ATTACK OF THE LIMBO MAN movie in my head, that I, frankly, wish I could replay now. Instead of this.

    Can I talk about "Duplicate Man" again?

    Hey, nice effort with that limerick, LR and TR.

    Dewey Martin has a memorably shot death scene in THE DESPERATE HOURS as Bogie's younger brother who gets run over by a truck.

    The word limbo looks funny after a while doesn't it? Limbo. Limbo.

    To the tune of Robin Hood, everybody sing!

    Theramin, theramin
    Squealing through my brain
    Theramin, theramin
    Driving me insane
    Lubin uses one
    I'll get a gun!

    Beyond that, in the words of Stan and Ollie...I have nothing to say...

  14. Even TNT got tickled by the endless, back-and-forth "running" footage: During commercial bumpers for "The Premonition," they ran the shots in fast-mo to the accompaniment of tinkling, calliope-style silent movie music. Wacky!

  15. Watching TOL during syndication replays (and without published loglines) was always like a casino dice roll or a lottery ticket. You hoped for the best but never knew what you were going to get. I remember when this episode popped up it was always ... CRAPS!

    I wanted to slap the frozen smile off that tricycle girl's face. What the hell are you enjoying so much?

    1. SLAP? Heh-heh. Try that and you'll find your hand smarting as if you'd smacked it against a brick wall! Remember, Janey Darcy is synchronized with real time while you are not, but stuck ahead of time.

  16. "Most of the OL openings have something fantastical or ominous . . . What does this have? Two and a half minutes of stock Air Force footage of jets and pilots."

    On the other hand, back then a rocket plane flying on the edge of space was certainly the next best thing to fantastical! ;-)

  17. John and Peter: thanks for the video on the history of the X-15. What a cooly (?) simplistic name. I was a big fan of 50's and 60's military aircraft (in this case rocket), although not of the military in general; I'd never seen this footage before. The Premonition was my good childhood buddies favourite episode. I wonder if he still likes it as much? And hey, stock footage from Mutual Of Omaha's Wild Kingdom isn't so bad either! Actually not too bad an episode. The acting is pretty shaky, but last minute replacing would be tough. David: I agree the limbo being steals the show. It's an interesting contrast that this show is filmed basically all in brightness while the "limbo world" is eternally dark, according to the being. A neat negative visual effect. From the limbo beings point of view, I wonder if the opportunities to escape happen often, or if more than one limbo creature can co-exist in the same "space and time", or how he got there? Suspenseful enough. Sadly, the end of the blog is nearing... maybe we can freeze THAT moment in time!

  18. Not a fan of the Limbo Being (and I cut S2 a lot of slack in virtually every department), in neither the speech nor the actor. Kay Kuter, the negative reversal failing to hide his suit & tie, suggests a middle-aged bureaucrat caught in the no-man's land they belong in.

    But this made me wonder: what happened to William O. Douglas, Jr.? He did a number of roles like this in S1. Did he, too, get turfed along with the Stevens/Stefano/Frontiere purge?

  19. WIthout watching it again right now, I remember always being fascinated by the limbo man and annoyed by the girl on the tricycle. Another reason maybe this gets mixed up with TZ is from a TZ ep like "Little Girl Lost" where a little girl is in limbo, with a mom and dad trying to save her. And as has been said, lots of TZ eps with astronauts in them.

    This one's got a certain appealing "racing against time" energy that you can't completely hate.

    1. I've been trying to find that movie/TV show.
      I also was fsinated by the girl on the trike as a truck bares down on her

  20. I have to agree with Lisa--that the whole "race against time" element in this show...made all the more intriguing because of the fact it's occuring at a glacial pretty cool. Oswald managed to create a certain amount of tension within the very limited means he had to work with. He probably could have done a better job if:
    a.) the budget had been doubled
    b.) the episode was a half-hour show
    c.) he wasn't distracted thinking about his date with the hooker.


  21. It's funny that this review starts with the subject of out-of-place dramatic music, because one of my small complaints about this one is that "lump in the throat" music from the end of The Inheritors that you hear in that day nursery scene in this episode. It's not that I dislike the music, it's that, once you've actually heard it in that Inheritors scene, it sounds pretty overwrought in that scene.

  22. The fact that Kay Kuter plays the Limbo Being makes you wish that Eddie Albert had been in this one as well as Cry of Silence. It's easy to imagine him reacting in an aggravated way instead of a scared way, with one of his "Oh, for the love of...." type lines.

  23. This episode had potential to be great. Instead, it was not so great.

    First, it's convenient that Limbo Being is afraid of fire and even more convenient that Limbo Being has no other way to vacate Mission Control than through the one and only doorway in which Pilot Darcy happens to place the road flare. (Why is Limbo Being so afraid of fire anyway?? Can Limbo Being try an alternate, road flare-free door to escape and move for Pilot Darcy's plane??).

    Second, speaking of Pilot Darcy, he not only has some mad safety belt cutting skills, but some even madder skills assembling aforesaid safety belts into truck brake activator units. Why spend minimal effort stopping the less hefty tricycle when you can spend hours in Limbo Time devising creative methods of halting a two ton military convoy without being entirely sure your creativity will translate into success? ("We'll just have to wait and hope, Little Janey").

    Third, as everyone pointed out, Pilot Darcy's wife is just a hot mess all the time. "Oh Jim!" Enough said.

    Fourth, why is Pilot Darcy's wife able to just drive her car into the middle of the desert next to the makeshift runway? Oh yeah, I forgot, that special pass she received from the Commander at the beginning of the episode tacitly authorized off-roading on all the unmarked areas outside of the base. It's one of the lesser known perks of being a test pilot's wife, apparently.

    Finally, the "happily ever after" aspect of this episode turned it into a snoozefest. It would have been more compelling had Pilot Darcy's quest to re-synchronize time been all for naught: for example, he re-syncs time only to perish in the test plane's crash--something, anything to show that even the most resourceful of mankind cannot attempt to completely control time or fate.

  24. Well, I thought wifey was pretty darned hot. Also, I'm surprised no one picked up on the way hubby gave her a random face slap even though she was hardly hysterical. :)

  25. All I know is, the "Slap the hysteric" cliché annoys me a lot less in stories than the ANGRY face slap cliché (with some exceptions, like all-out melodramas and slapstick comedies),

    hockey24hrs' comment about the Limbo Being's suit and tie is interesting, because (to me) that actually makes him a little MORE spooky because it's such a down-to-earth touch (sort of like Leo G. Carroll's striped pajamas in that late scene of TARANTULA!)

  26. About a year after this, DOCTOR WHO did something similar, in the 1st episode of the 4-part serial "THE SPACE MUSEUM". The crew find themselves wandering in a deserted building, and realize their footsteps are leaving no trace. They eventually find themselves frozen and on display as "exhibits", just before the time-track they've jumped returns them to normal, having witnessed the near-future. They spend the next 3 episodes trying to avert their "fates".

  27. Interesting review. Although I will spare Mr. Martin the comments made here of his acting, which in his defense I blame solely on the writing for this episode which is absolutely atrocious. I thought everyone would want to know that Dewey Martin the lead actor in this episode is still very much with us. Mr Martin has been a friend of our family for many years. He retired from acting in 1977, and was very happy to be out of the industry, as the majority of his roles were villains or drug pushers in then TV cops and Robbers shows. Back in the mid 80s I screened this episode for him on one of his visits to our home. Although I don't recall any particular comments he made regarding this OL episode, other than that of disbelief! He did comment that he received a great majority of his fan mail from this appearance. As well as his guest shot on Twilight Zone and the classic Howard Hawks movie The Thing, and it was those 3 more than anything else he had done. He didn't quite understand that, until I explained that anything sci fi or horror related generates tremendous interest. Especially with the baby boomer crowd that grew up with these shows.

  28. I thought I'd take another crack at the opening limerick (Ten-and-a-half- years later...)

    This episode's really a stumper,
    With a frozen wolf chasing ol' Thumper,
    Without stopping that truck,
    Janie'd be out of luck,
    They be scraping her off of the bumper.

    TA-DA! Any better? LR

  29. Limping to the end. This isn't bad. It's kind of like a padded Twilight Zone. So it moves too slow for me. It's ok. How did they get those actors to stay so still? With some still photos I know but it's a pretty good effect. There's a hour Zone called the New Exhibit where what are supposed to be wax figures move all over the place. 2 Zantis. Not really satisfied with the ending.


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