Thursday, June 22, 2017

THE OUTER LIMITS: It Crawled Out Of The Woodwork

Guest Stars:  Scott Marlowe, Kent Smith, Barbara Luna, Michael Forest, Joan Camden
Directed by Gerd Oswald
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A scientist and his brother visit the top-secret lab where he's preparing to start a new job, not realizing that a terrible energy monster is housed within.

The special effects in this episode are top-notch, terrifically bringing the energy monster to life and its stalking of its victims makes for a number of taut highly suspenseful scenes.  There's also plenty of familiar faces in the guest cast including Cat People's Kent Smith, affecting a foreign accent, Barbara Luna of the classic Star Trek episode, "Mirror, Mirror," Michael Forest of Beast From Haunted Cave, and Ed Asner, with hair!, as the police detective who finally exposes the lab's secrets.  All that being said, I found the teleplay disappointing, focusing too much on Marlowe's character and his idiosyncrasies, and not nearly enough on the monster's origins, or the motives behind unleashing the creature.  While Camden is strong as a scientist tormented by the evil in the lab, Luna's character is strangely underdeveloped, and only seems to be there to service the plot.

Friday, April 28, 2017

STAR TREK: The Man Trap

Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
Guest Stars:  Jeanne Bal, Alfred Ryder, DeForest Kelley, Grace Lee Whitney, George Takei
Directed by Marc Daniels
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The Enterprise visits a barren planet to give a geologist and his wife, an old flame of McCoy's, medical checkups, but the lady is actually a murdering monster in disguise. 

The first episode of the series to be aired on TV (although the sixth filmed), I've always enjoyed this one, with Daniels and crew employing some clever stylistic touches to track the monster aboard ship as it assumes many disguises, including having the actors impersonating the salt-hungry creature by sucking on their knuckle, and accompanying its transformations with a musical flourish.  The creature makeup is quite memorable, and the screenplay bats around some worthy ideas, comparing the creature as the last of its kind with endangered species on our contemporary Earth.

Friday, April 21, 2017

THE OUTER LIMITS: Nightmare

Guest Stars:  James Shigeta, Ed Nelson, Martin Sheen, Bill Gunn, David Frankham
Directed by John Erman
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

On a combat mission to engage an alien race that's attacked the Earth, a squad of soldiers are captured by the aliens, who use their abilities to rob the men of their senses to get them to talk.

Lots of familiar faces are featured in this tale from Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano, including a young Sheen in one of his early TV credits as well as notable character actors Shigeta, Nelson, Frankham, and even Whit Bissell.  The budget shows a bit in the minimalist sets of the alien prison and the makeup for the aliens is a bit too reminiscent of those used in past episodes of the series.  However, it's a gripping drama with a powerful message and good performances.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

STAR TREK: The Enemy Within

Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
Guest Stars:  DeForest Kelley, Grace Lee Whitney, George Takei, James Doohan, Edward Madden
Directed by Leo Penn
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An accident with the transporter splits Kirk's good and evil halves into two separate people, and maroons Sulu and other crewmen on a dangerously frigid world.

Writer Richard Matheson, well known for his quality work on The Twilight Zone and books like The Incredible Shrinking Man and I Am Legend, crafts a worthwhile futuristic Jekyll and Hyde tale in as far as I know his only script for a Trek series.  Shatner's performance as the evil Kirk is at times over the top, but entertainingly so, and the scenes with both Kirks are well-filmed and convincing.  This episode also features the first Vulcan nerve-pinch as well as our first indication of romantic feelings between the Captain and Janice Rand, a storyline which would eventually peter out.  It's one of the best of the series' early episodes, with some fine interplay between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

SHERLOCK HOLMES: The Blue Carbuncle

Starring Peter Cushing, Nigel Stock
Guest Stars:  Madge Ryan, James Beck, Richard Butler, Michael Robbins, Frank Middlemass
Directed by Bill Bain
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The disappearance of a valued gem belonging to a wealthy lady causes her to seek Holmes' aid, but he declines the case until the jewel is found in the gullet of a Christmas goose.

Per IMDB, this was the last episode of the series, and one of only a handful of episodes from the second season a recording still exists for.  It's not a great one, although Cushing plays probably the largest role in this installment among the surviving productions, making this one still worthwhile in my mind.  The guest cast don't give any particularly memorable performances, but the teleplay offers a fairly literate adaptation of Conan Doyle's original story, with only some minor details changed.  Most notable is a rare display of anger by Cushing's Holmes when the thief is finally cornered by him and Watson, the kind of element that makes it regretful there's not more performances by the fine actor as the great detective to study.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

THE OUTER LIMITS: Corpus Earthling

Guest Stars:  Robert Culp, Salome Jens, Barry Atwater, Ken Renard, David Garner
Directed by Gerd Oswald
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After suffering an accident at his wife's geology lab, a doctor has difficulty getting others to believe when he hears the thoughts of alien rocks out to conquer the world.

One of the nuttiest episodes of the series I've seen thus far, it's difficult at times to take seriously until the rocks change form into tentacled creatures that crawl across the floor, and latch onto the faces of their human victims.  The creatures are so similar to the "face-hugger" form from the Alien movies, one wonders if this might have been an inspiration.  Although makeup supervisor Fred Phillips delivers an effective zombie like makeup for the humans whose minds have been taken over, it's not a terribly captivating story, and the presence of a Mexican mystic who's worked into the plot seems an awkward fit, apparently only around as a device to get Culp to return to his wife after she's been taken over.  Nevertheless, the loony goings on sustained my interest, and the special effects that animate the rocks and transform them are serviceable enough.

Friday, February 17, 2017

STAR TREK: Mudd's Women

Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
Guest Stars:  Roger C. Carmel, Karen Steele, DeForest Kelley, Maggie Thrett, Susan Denberg
Directed by Harvey Hart
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Notorious smuggler Harry Mudd is captured and beamed aboard the Enterprise, along with three gorgeous women with a strange hypnotic power over the male members of the crew.

Roger C. Carmel and his trademark curled mustache made just two appearances as Harry Mudd during Star Trek's three year run, but brought the comical rogue to such wonderful life with the aid of Stephen Kandel's well-written dialogue for the character, that he's become one of Trek's more memorable guest stars.  He's perfectly charming in a plot more serious than in his follow-up appearance in the episode I, Mudd.  Mudd's introduction here coincides with one of Gene Roddenberry's more transparent messages within the series on the subject of illegal drugs, but effectively delivered with clever makeup and lighting effects.  This is also the episode that introduces dilithium crystals as the source of the starship's power, although they're referred to simply as "lithium" this time.  My thanks to Dan Day Jr. for pointing out that one of Mudd's women is played by Susan Denberg, the Playboy model who was showcased in Hammer Films' Frankenstein Created Woman, and not redubbed in the episode as she was in that film.