Friday, December 30, 2016

STAR TREK: The Cage

Starring Jeffrey Hunter, Majel Barrett, Leonard Nimoy, John Hoyt, Peter Duryea
Guest Stars:  Susan Oliver, Meg Wyllie, Malachi Throne, Laurel Goodwin, Jon Lormer
Directed by Robert Butler
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

While responding to a distress call on the planet Talos IV, Captain Pike is abducted by the advanced beings who live there, and placed in a cage alongside other specimens of alien life.

We have here the initial pilot episode of the series, which was ultimately rejected by NBC who commissioned a second more action-packed pilot in which William Shatner took over the role of captain of the Enterprise, but this is still a worthy science fiction drama.  It may well be the best episode Gene Roddenberry ever wrote, and it's fascinating to guess how differently the series would have evolved had "The Cage" been sold, and if Hunter and the rest of the cast would have been able to return.  Only Mr. Spock would remain from the original cast on display here, although Barrett would return in a different role as Nurse Chapel, and one can see the origins of Dr. McCoy in Hoyt's portrayal of the ship's chief medical officer.  Although rejected, Roddenberry would make good use of the pilot film in the later two-part episode The Menagerie, revealing the ultimate fate of Captain Christopher Pike.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A Study In Scarlet

Starring Peter Cushing, Nigel Stock
Guest Stars:  Joe Melia, George A. Cooper, William Lucas, Edina Ronay, Larry Cross
Directed by Henri Safran
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Holmes and Watson are recruited by Scotland Yard to help them solve a baffling case, where a man is found dead with no marks on him, but a bloody message is written on the wall.

An adaptation of the very first Sherlock Holmes tale by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and it offers an engaging mystery, a sparkling teleplay, and fine performances.  However, it is not a faithful adaptation of the novel, omitting the introduction of Holmes and Watson, and condensing the story to completely ignore the flashback that tells the tale of Jefferson Hope and his ill-fated love affair.  Given the episode's hour long running time and being presented as a later installment in the series, that approach makes sense, and it avoids controversy by not recapturing Doyle's less than rosy portrayal of the early days of the Mormon religion.  What remains though is a fine television drama, with many fine scenes for Cushing, notably one in which he fills the room with voluminous smoke from his pipe as he welcomes a visitor to his lodgings.

Monday, December 5, 2016

THE OUTER LIMITS: The Man Who Was Never Born

Guest Stars:  Martin Landau, Shirley Knight, John Considine, Maxine Stuart, Karl Held
Directed by Leonard Horn
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The lone survivor of an apocalyptic future travels back through time to the 1960s where he tries to prevent the man who doomed the human race from ever being born.

While a nice showcase for Landau, who has scenes both in and out of a hideous mutated makeup, the teleplay for this episode is a little puzzling in not allowing Landau to explain why he tries to break up the wedding of the couple who will give birth to the man who created his terrible future.  However, the photography and editing are top drawer, tracking from an unblemished Landau to his twisted true form in several memorable shots.  The makeup itself effectively hides the actor's true features, making each transition when he uses his mental powers to disguise himself very striking.  The production's climax utilizes some of the same ideas employed in Ray Bradbury's famous short story A Sound Of Thunder to illustrate the effect Landau's had in interfering in the past, although nowhere near as memorably.  Nonetheless, this installment offers a worthy opportunity for the viewer to weigh how they would act in order to prevent our annihilation decades in the future.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

SHERLOCK HOLMES: The Hound Of The Baskervilles, Part Two

Starring Peter Cushing, Nigel Stock
Guest Stars:  Gary Raymond, Gabriella Licudi, Philip Bond, Penelope Lee, George Howe
Directed by Graham Evans
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Holmes rejoins Watson to unravel the mysteries behind the attacks on the Baskervilles, but though he knows the identity of the criminal behind them, he must find a way to prove his guilt.

This second installment in the series' adaptation of Conan Doyle's classic novel of the same name is not quite as effective a dramatization as the first part, although it begins promisingly with some wonderful tracking shots as Watson and Baskerville trail a mysterious stranger on the moor.  However once Holmes shows up, the villain's identity is unmasked early, robbing the final climax of some dramatic tension that was present in earlier film adaptations of the story.  The teleplay is certainly a more faithful adaptation, introducing a character ignored by the 1939 and 1959 filmings of the story, but a less exciting one.

SHERLOCK HOLMES: The Hound Of The Baskervilles, Part One

Starring Peter Cushing, Nigel Stock
Guest Stars:  Gary Raymond, Gabriella Licudi, Philip Bond, Gerald Flood, Ballard Berkeley
Directed by Graham Evans
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Sherlock Holmes is engaged to safeguard the life of Sir Henry Baskerville, heir to an estate said to be haunted by a ghostly hound.

The classic Conan Doyle novel is reintroduced for television in the first part of this two-part adventure, featuring Cushing reprising his role as Holmes nearly a decade after starring in a movie version for Hammer Films.  Although the structure of the novel keeps Cushing offscreen for most of this first installment, the actor does a fine job of showing the great detective's mind spurring into action as clues are presented to him.  Stock, as Dr. Watson, admirably carries the story forward in his place, visiting the mysterious moors that led to the former Baskervilles' demise.  Although this is far from the most atmospheric adaptation of the novel, finely decorated sets capture the feel of the century old setting, and director Evans composites his shots expertly, moving the actors through both foreground and background to create the three-dimensional feel of a stage play.

Friday, September 30, 2016

THE OUTER LIMITS: The Sixth Finger

Guest Stars:  David McCallum, Jill Haworth, Edward Mulhare, Nora Marlowe, Robert Doyle
Directed by James Goldstone
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A professor of genetics creates a device that successfully advances a chimpanzee in evolution, and prepares for his first human test subject, a rebellious coal miner he will advance one million years.

Although the premise for this episode is a compelling one, it's almost a bit too fantastic to believe that a scientist working on his own could have created such a machine.  Nonetheless McCallum's fine performance and Fred Phillips' fantastic makeups help us to suspend our disbelief.  I'm not certain the teleplay takes best advantage of the possibilities of this story, but the production is well-photographed and directed, and offers a fascinating glimpse into our distant future.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

MY FAVORITE MARTIAN: Man Or Amoeba

Starring Ray Walston, Bill Bixby
Guest Stars:  Pamela Britton, Ann Marshall, John Fiedler, Betsy Jones-Moreland
Directed by Alan Rafkin
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Martin assists Angela with a school assignment, but when she fails it because of his views of life on Mars, he tries to set things right.

An entertaining enough episode, although without much depth, but all the actors seem to be having a good time, as did I.  In the guest cast, Fiedler is better known for his memorable guest spot on Star Trek's "Wolf In The Fold" episode, and Jones-Moreland for a number of films she made for Roger Corman.  Not one of the best, but an amiable evening's entertainment.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

MY FAVORITE MARTIAN: Russians "R" In Season

Starring Ray Walston, Bill Bixby
Guest Stars:  Richard Deacon, Frank Aletter, Edward Holmes, Bryan O'Byrne
Directed by Alan Rafkin
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Tim's concerns about the U.S. space program cause him to write an anonymous letter to the editor using one of Martin's formulas to help out, but the government soon tracks it back to him.

An amusing affair with Martin using his powers to evade the government's probes while Tim's attempts at subterfuge are all-too easily found out, the episode features the familiar character actor Richard Deacon in the guest cast, well-known from his supporting role on The Dick Van Dyke Show.   The script raises some good points about Martin's lack of any credentials here on Earth, which may cause the character further trouble in episodes to come.

Friday, August 12, 2016

MY FAVORITE MARTIAN: There Is No Cure For The Common Martian

Starring Ray Walston, Bill Bixby
Guest Stars:  Pamela Britton, Willard Waterman, Sharon Farrell, Phil Garris
Directed by Sidney Miller
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

While Martin is bedridden after catching a cold, Tim is assigned to review a department store display devoted to outer space, which is not very accurate.

Bixby has fun once again with some wild gestures looking for an invisible Martin which no one knows about but him, although there's not much new or different about this episode.  It's entertaining however, with comedy veteran Willard Waterman, formerly of radio's Great Gildersleeve, playing another pompous blowhard who threatens Tim's employment after Martin is forced to write his review.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

THE OUTER LIMITS: The Man With The Power

Guest Stars:  Donald Pleasence, Priscilla Morrill, Fred Beir, Frank Maxwell, John Marley
Directed by Laslo Benedek
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com

A college professor, eager to join a scientific laboratory, implants a device in his brain that allows him to control matter with his brain waves, but fails to realize the power his subconscious now has. 

Pleasence is perfectly cast as the gentle professor whose penetrating eyes are showcased in numerous closeups, pointing to the danger behind them while also conveying his desire to be something important.  The teleplay's emphasis on painting his character as a nobody comes across a little strong, down to his wife and his boss telling him he can't chase his dreams because he's too ordinary, which could have been scaled back a little in my opinion.  Nevertheless, this is a strong episode, augmented by very good special effects and Pleasence's convincing performance.

Monday, July 25, 2016

MY FAVORITE MARTIAN: The Matchmakers

Starring Ray Walston, Bill Bixby
Guest Stars:  Ann Marshall, Laura Shelton, Linden Chiles
Directed by Sidney Miller
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

While taking care of his boss' listless dog, Tim discovers from Martin that the canine is in love with the pooch next door, and Tim tries to bring them together by charming her attractive owner.

A rather silly outing, but the well-trained canines cast in the episode help sell it, and Walston's scenes trying to seriously communicate with the animals are priceless.  There's one sequence that's a little too derivative of 101 Dalmatians but it didn't bother me too much, and the plotline did fit in rather well with the series' quirky humor.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

MY FAVORITE MARTIAN: My Favorite Martin

Starring Ray Walston, Bill Bixby
Guest Stars:  Pamela Britton, Ina Victor, Ann Marshall, Herbert Rudley, J. Pat O'Malley
Directed by Sheldon Leonard
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Newspaper reporter Tim O'Hara rescues a Martian when he crash lands on Earth, and passes him off to his friends and neighbors as his Uncle Martin.

The debut episode of this charming sci-fi comedy series prepares us for many entertaining installments to come, anchored by the two talented leads, who have a fine rapport with each other.  Comedy veteran Leonard directs a witty script from series creator John L. Greene, and although there's fairly decent effects in place to show Walston's descent to Earth, his rising antennae and Bixby's performance carrying him while "invisible" are even more memorable.  A fun start to a fun series.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

THE OUTER LIMITS: The Architects Of Fear

Guest Stars:  Robert Culp, Leonard Stone, Martin Wolfson, Geraldine Brooks, Hal Bokar
Directed by Byron Haskin
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A top secret agency, in an effort to distract Earth's warring nations, surgically alters one of their own men, and plans to introduce him to the world as an authentic alien invader.

This episode is well-filmed, with strong performances and a clever makeup for the alien Culp is transformed into, but the script leaves a bit too much unsaid.  We know that the agency is trying to distract the world from its wrong-headed conflicts, and force them to unite against this alien presence, but it's never explained how, nor is Brooks' psychic connection to her husband which is used to unravel the plot.  Nonetheless, it's another showcase for the unique aliens of this series compared to previous film efforts and the less-inspired creations in many sci-fi series to come.

Monday, July 4, 2016

THE OUTER LIMITS: The Hundred Days Of The Dragon

Guest Stars:  Sidney Blackmer, Phillip Pine, Mark Roberts, Aki Aleong, Richard Loo
Directed by Byron Haskin
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An Asian dictator concocts a scheme to gain influence in the White House by replacing a leading candidate for President with his own agent, whose features have been altered to resemble him.

Borrowing its plot from of all things the 1942 Bela Lugosi film Black Dragons, this episode is a less than convincing thriller, although the makeup effects by Fred Phillips, illustrating how drugs can make the human face malleable, are well-done.  With its use of Oriental music and focus on Blackmer's heavy-lidded eyes in a number of scenes meant to show the agent's true origins, the production relies on old stereotypes, rather than finding something creative to say, which seems the antithesis of what this series is supposed to be about.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

THE OUTER LIMITS: The Galaxy Being

Guest Stars:  Cliff Robertson, Lee Philips, Jacqueline Scott, Burt Metcalfe, Allyson Ames
Directed by Leslie Stevens
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The technician for a radio station borrows the station's power to transmit into space, and succeeds in contacting an alien being from another galaxy.

The debut episode of this revered anthology series features an intriguing script from director and series creator Stevens, in which the alien encountered is far different from anything seen before or in most of the filmed science fiction to that point.  It's appearance as a glowing robot-like form with claw like hands is very distinctive, and one wonders if Star Wars character C-3P0 may have been inspired by this creature.  It makes for daringly different television, and a fine kickoff to the short-lived but memorable series.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

THRILLER: The Prediction

Hosted by and Starring Boris Karloff
Guest Stars:  Audrey Dalton, Alex Davion, Abraham Sofaer, Alan Caillou, Murvyn Vye
Directed by John Brahm
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A mentalist who's entertained audiences for years with his concocted act is shaken when he begins to experience actual visions of death and murder during his performances.

The first episode of the series to feature host Karloff in an acting role as well, it's well tailored to his talents and the distinguished veteran gives a top-drawer performance as the mentalist who after fooling his audience for so long finally has true predictions to make, which are at first dismissed as the ravings of an elderly and ill man.  The plotline is somewhat similar to the 1935 Claude Rains film, The Clairvoyant, but with a more sinister undercurrent, and it's an extremely well-polished episode which also includes fine supporting work by Dalton and Sofaer, a taut script by Donald Sanford, and excellent photography.

Monday, May 16, 2016

THRILLER: Girl With A Secret

Hosted by Boris Karloff
Guest Stars:  Fay Bainter, Paul Hartman, Anne Seymour, Myrna Fahey, Rhodes Reason
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After learning her husband is a secret agent, a young wife tries to hide his new assignment from his family, but finds it creates only scorn and suspicion towards her.

Although the teleplay depends too much on a number of coincidences to trap the heroine of the story, this isn't a bad hour, with a very distinguished cast that perform their parts well, including an effective  turn by Victor Buono as the episode's principal villain.  Rex Holman's assassin seems patterned a bit too closely after Richard Widmark in the classic noir Kiss Of Death, but it's not a bad spy story and Fahey and Reason make a cute couple.  Co-stars Fahey and Harry Ellerbe would also act together in Roger Corman's House Of Usher, released the same year as this episode.

Friday, May 6, 2016

THRILLER: The Watcher

Hosted by Boris Karloff
Guest Stars:  Martin Gabel, Stu Erwin, Olive Sturgess, Richard Chamberlain, James Westerfield
Directed by John Brahm
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A schoolteacher with a psychotic urge to kill the impure stalks a teenager and his girlfriend as they engage in a love affair.

Well-acted but not one of the series' better hours, in my opinion, this episode features Gabel as the titular "Watcher," and he gives a good performance, but we never learn much about him, as the episode seems structured around the scorn afforded to Chamberlain and Sturgess' romance by the community, with Gabel's killer acting on their distaste to an extreme level.  There are some genuinely frightening scenes, but the story's not a particularly strong one, and includes a hard-to-believe sequence where Alan Baxter's sheriff presses a grieving mother far too hard for information about her daughter's death.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

THRILLER: The Purple Room

Hosted by Boris Karloff
Guest Stars:  Rip Torn, Patricia Barry, Richard Anderson, Alan Napier, Ray Teal
Directed by Douglas Heyes
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After inheriting an old mansion, a young man is eager to sell it for a profit, but must first spend the night in a room said to be haunted by ghosts.

The first installment into horror territory for the series, but far from the last, this is a well-designed episode by Heyes who wrote and directed, and even casts his wife in a small role.  With the production setting up all the exposition about the ghosts in early dialogue scenes, this allows for a lengthy sequence with Torn alone in the spooky mansion where the silence on the soundtrack builds suspense and chills.  When Torn finally encounters the ghost, it's a pretty expert makeup which provides a strong payoff, before the story goes in an entirely different direction.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

THRILLER: The Guilty Men

Hosted by Boris Karloff
Guest Stars:  Everett Sloane, Jay C. Flippen, Frank Silvera, John Marley, Anne Barton
Directed by Jules Bricken
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An Italian immigrant becomes a titan of organized crime, but when he tries to phase out his illegitimate businesses, one of his partners aims to get rid of him.

Although not a bad mobster tale, and featuring some fine actors in the guest cast, this episode suffers a bit without any real mystery or suspense, which were supposed to be the series' hallmarks.  Sloane and Flippen both give good performances, but Silvera's characterization borders a bit on caricature.  I can see why the story appealed to the show's producers, structured like a Greek tragedy with a "violence begets violence" plotline, but it doesn't seem to mesh with the rest of the season's installments.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

THUNDERBIRDS: The Uninvited

Starring Shane Rimmer, Peter Dyneley, David Graham, Ray Barrett, Matt Zimmerman
Directed by Desmond Saunders
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After Thunderbird 1 is shot down by enemy planes, Scott is rescued by a pair of explorers searching for a lost pyramid, who soon find themselves in danger of their own.

A refreshing twist to the usual formula, this episode finds Scott Tracy being the one who needs rescuing at the open, and introduces the Zombites, a new enemy for International Rescue, whose motives and plans remain a mystery at the adventure's end.  The desert setting is very well-realized including some impressive sets and scenery once our heroes reach the pyramid, and those concerned about John Tracy being stuck up on the space station all the time will be glad to see he finally gets a break.  

Saturday, April 23, 2016

THUNDERBIRDS: Sun Probe

Starring Shane Rimmer, David Graham, Christine Finn, Peter Dyneley, David Holliday
Directed by David Lane
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

While Brains works on refinements to his robot, the rest of International Rescue is captivated by a space mission to capture a piece of the sun.

Some interesting outer space effects highlight this episode, with Gordon Tracy and the space-worthy Thunderbird 3 taking center stage, and Tin-Tin Kyrano apparently for the first time takes on an important role in the mission.  Per Wikipedia, the Tracy brothers were named after real-life astronauts, so creator Gerry Anderson's interest in the space program likely provided a strong inspiration for this adventure.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

THUNDERBIRDS: City Of Fire

Starring Sylvia Anderson, Shane Rimmer, David Holliday, David Graham, Peter Dyneley
Directed by David Elliott
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A giant tower catches fire, and Scott & Virgil determine to save a trapped family, they need to use a dangerous new gas.

Another well-crafted episode, this installment depicts a giant skyscraper said to contain a complete city inside, which we unfortunately don't get to see, but there's plenty of action and drama to satisfy any Thunderbirds fan.  Perhaps showing its age, the script does take a dig at women drivers and showcases a particularly dangerous one.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

TALES OF TOMORROW: Age Of Peril

Guest Stars:  Phyllis Kirk, Don Briggs, Dennis Harrison, John McGovern, Maurice Burke
Directed by Don Medford
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Fifteen years in the future, a government agent tries to solve the mystery of how criminals are able to beat lie detector tests and escape punishment.

Although Kirk is billed as the star of this episode, and was likely the biggest name among the cast, she rather curiously plays a fairly minor supporting role.  I know that there were gender inequities at the time, but still it seems strange that the producers wouldn't try to showcase her.  Nevertheless, it's an episode with a pretty interesting hook, predicting a legal system where lie detectors would become a critical component in criminal cases.  Although that didn't come to pass, it's well utilized as a launching point for the plot of this installment, but unfortunately the climax isn't as effectively realized.

Friday, April 8, 2016

TALES OF TOMORROW: What You Need

Guest Stars:  William Redfield, Edgar Stehli
Directed by Charles S. Dubin
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A reporter investigates a curio shop where wealthy men have been paying large sums for ordinary items, and discovers the proprietor can look into the future. 

A fine morality play well-written and acted, this episode has the feel of a Twilight Zone drama, and with good reason, as per Wikipedia, the story was adapted for that series as well.  As the teleplay takes us between settings and even forward in time and back, a challenge for any live broadcast, there's some clever transitions between scenes including the camera panning up and down calendar pages.  Redfield and Stehli are both very good, convincingly bringing to life the morally challenged reporter and the noble shopkeeper, who are both corrupted by the power of an incredible machine.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

TALES OF TOMORROW: Frankenstein

Guest Stars:  Lon Chaney, Jr., John Newland, Mary Alice Moore, Peggy Allenby, Raymond Bramley
Directed by Don Medford
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Victor Frankenstein secretly assembles an artificial man and brings it to life, but its hideousness and propensity for violence make it a fearsome monster. 

We have here an ambitious undertaking for the series and its budget, especially knowing it would be compared against the film adaptations of the story of Frankenstein, and in particular, Boris Karloff's classic performance.  However, Chaney, who had played the monster before, does manage to bring forth a childlike innocence in a convincing makeup.  Newland, better known for hosting One Step Beyond nearly a decade later, isn't a bad Frankenstein either, although the story is seriously condensed and confined to the castle set housing his laboratory.  It's nowhere near the same league as Karloff's classic films, and doesn't quite capture the themes Mary Shelley described in her novel, but the production certainly does make for interesting viewing.

Monday, April 4, 2016

TALES OF TOMORROW: Sneak Attack

Guest Stars:  Zachary Scott, Barbara Joyce, Theo Goetz, Royal Beal, Richard Shankland
Directed by Leslie Gorall
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An American spy ends up a prisoner in a hospital overseas where a foreign power is coordinating a sneak attack against the United States.

A taut script and a fine performance by Scott anchor this outing, although it's a bit coincidental that the hospital where Scott is being treated is in the same building where the military control center is located.  Although stock footage is relied upon for the exposition that reveals the plot against America, it's used effectively and well-integrated into the broadcast.  This generally isn't my preferred kind of sci-fi, but can't quibble with the quality of the presentation.

Friday, April 1, 2016

TALES OF TOMORROW: Test Flight

Guest Stars:  Lee J. Cobb, Vinton Hayworth, Cameron Prud'Homme, Harry Townes
Directed by Charles S. Dubin
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A corporate executive sets his sights on launching an interstellar rocket, and despite his stockholders'  protests, spends millions of his company's assets to do so.

Lee J. Cobb, best known for his long film career, including roles in On The Waterfront and 12 Angry Men, is well-cast as the fame, money, and power hungry Wayne Crowder, turning in a believable performance as a man who's conquered Wall Street and now wants to conquer space.  He notably flubs some lines in the early scenes of this live broadcast, but otherwise carries the production, and has strong support in Hayworth, Prud'Homme, and Townes, whose character's secret agenda is finally revealed during the climax.  It's not an especially strong script, and the ending is somewhat predictable, but the actors more than engaged my interest.

Friday, March 25, 2016

TALES OF TOMORROW: Blunder

Guest Stars: Robert Allen, Ann Loring, Phil Faversham, Alan Drake, Michael Keene
Directed by Leonard Valenta
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A physicist prepares to split an atom, eager to create a new power source, but his colleagues race to warn him he may be unleashing armageddon.

Although this subject matter was more timely in the 1950s, and doesn't seem much like science fiction today, the story tells a timely moral that mankind would still be good to heed, about the dangers of unchecked progress, and is delivered by a competent cast.  A nicely staged sequence has the physicist's worried wife turn off the radio saddened by a performance of "September Song" reminding her of their possible impending doom just before a warning to her husband is broadcast.  It's far from the series' best episode, but it's an episode of quality.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

TALES OF TOMORROW: Verdict From Space

Guest Stars: Lon McCallister, Martin Brandt, William Lally, Bernard Lenrow, Watson White
Directed by Leonard Valenta
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A young inventor finds himself on trial for murder after helping a scientist unlock a mysterious door in a strange underground cavern.

The debut episode of this science fiction anthology series from the early days of television still makes for interesting drama, even though it apparently aired live, so there's no special effects to see, and the most fantastic sights take place off camera.  But the script and actors do a good job of creating enough mystery to intrigue the audience, and even though the episode's climactic set piece is not especially effective, the ideas behind it are.  Filmmakers of today who rely on fantastic CGI to impress the audience could learn some lessons from this production.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

THUNDERBIRDS: Pit Of Peril

Starring Ray Barrett, Peter Dyneley, David Graham, David Holliday, Shane Rimmer
Directed by Desmond Saunders
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

When an experimental army vehicle becomes trapped in a subterranean pit, International Rescue dispatches Scott, Virgil, and Brains to rescue the army pilots.

Gerry Anderson and crew deliver another well-designed adventure in this installment, which has the teleplay placing several characters in high-stakes danger, as tremendous heat surrounds the fallen vehicle, hospitalizing those who airlift down to try and tether the craft to a cable.  Although we know they're inanimate puppets, the tension is still palpable thanks to the anguish in the voice actors' characterizations, singed costumes, and the clever placement of the puppets' hands over their eyes.  It's these little individual touches that really make Anderson's world come alive.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

THUNDERBIRDS: Trapped In The Sky

Starring Sylvia Anderson, Ray Barrett, Peter Dyneley, David Graham, David Holliday
Directed by Alan Pattillo
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

International Rescue launches its first rescue mission when they discover an atomic bomb has been planted aboard a new passenger jet.

A very strong pilot sets the stage for this series from Gerry Anderson who built a career making exciting action series like this one starring marionettes and impressive model vehicles on miniature sets.  Those who would label this a simple "puppet show," couldn't be more wrong, as Anderson and his team's attention to intricate details creates drama, suspense, and thrills, despite the limitations of his wooden "actors."  Although character development is secondary to the action sequences, name another action series in which that wasn't the case.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

THE INVADERS: The Leeches

Starring Roy Thinnes
Guest Stars:  Mark Richman, Diana Van der Vlis, Arthur Hill, Robert H. Harris, Theo Marcuse
Directed by Paul Wendkos
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The executive of a technology company informs David he believes the aliens are going to try and kidnap him, and David suggests he let them, so he can trail them to their secret installation.

Some good sci-fi action and a strong story in which the aliens are kidnapping scientists to extract information from their brains highlight this episode, although a romantic triangle between the executive, his wife, and his best friend doesn't come over as well.  While the special effects don't particularly stand out, the extraction machine's display of key plans and blueprints on its screens as the victim writhes in agony is well executed, and distinguished actors like Harris and Marcuse, portraying the scientists, do an excellent job of showing how the aliens are destroying their minds.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

THE INVADERS: The Mutation

Starring Roy Thinnes
Guest Stars:  Edward Andrews, Lin McCarthy, Suzanne Pleshette, Roy Jenson, Rodolfo Hoyos
Directed by Paul Wendkos
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After hearing of a reported UFO landing south of the border, David travels there and persuades a beautiful dancer to show him what she saw, not realizing he's been drawn into a trap.

Although this episode reveals a good deal more about the aliens, including the revelations that they're without human emotions and possess deadly ray guns, it's a shame that Pleshette's character, a mutant alien born with feelings, isn't given a bigger role or more time to explain her history.  Pleshette, who is absolutely beautiful, isn't even given a chance for romance with Thinnes, which I think was a wasted opportunity.  Nevertheless, it's an engaging hour.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

THE INVADERS: The Experiment

Starring Roy Thinnes
Guest Stars:  Roddy McDowall, Laurence Naismith, Harold Gould, Dabbs Greer, Lawrence Montaigne
Directed by Joseph Sargent
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

David reaches out to a scientist who also believes in the alien invasion, and has documented proof of its existence, but the aliens are also on his trail.

There's quite a few pyrotechnics in this installment, which reveals the aliens have been experimenting with brain surgery and McDowall is very good as one of their first victims.  Naismith, familiar to sci-fi fans from Village Of The Damned and The Valley Of Gwangi also gives a fine performance as the scientist who seems to be the only human besides Vincent who knows the truth, and finds his life in danger because of it.  To this point, the series seems to be not focusing in on one group of aliens but pockets of them across the country, conveniently allowing them to be played by different guest stars.  It'll be interesting to see if any recurring characters are developed, and how they'll play off of Thinnes.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

THE INVADERS: Beachhead

Starring Roy Thinnes
Guest Stars:  Diane Baker, J.D. Cannon, James Daly, John Milford, Ellen Corby
Directed by Joseph Sargent
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An architect witnesses a UFO landing, but when the police fail to find any proof, he traces the aliens to a small town where he discovers they are impersonating human beings.

The pilot for an interesting science fiction series, this episode doesn't feature any outstanding special effects, but nevertheless is well-filmed and nicely builds suspense through what is not shown, as we're introduced to a mysterious corporation obviously staffed by aliens we only see in human form, who store strange glass canisters in an abandoned power plant.  Thinnes is fine as the protagonist and is surrounded by a veteran guest cast, including Baker from films like Journey To The Center Of The Earth and Marnie, and Corby playing a murderous old woman in a departure from her usual genteel roles. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

THE TWILIGHT ZONE: The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine

Hosted by Rod Serling
Guest Stars:  Ida Lupino, Martin Balsam, Jerome Cowan, Ted de Corsia, Alice Frost
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A former movie star stays secluded in her home, shutting out the outside world, and reliving the past by watching her old movies over and over again.

The story is obviously inspired by Gloria Swanson's role in Sunset Boulevard, with Lupino playing the faded actress here in the same type of casting, as she was playing young ingenue roles decades ago just like her character.  After reading Lupino's biography on Wikipedia, which reveals she was suspended by her studio for turning down parts she didn't think appropriate, one would have to assume this role certainly paralleled her own life, including a sequence where she argues with a representative of the studio about being pigeonholed into a "mother" role.  However, the episode is about more than her career or that of her character, but about living in the past in a changing world, a battle all of us have probably fought before at at least one time in our lives, and Serling's excellent script and Lupino's fine performance capture this extraordinarily well.

Monday, February 8, 2016

ONE STEP BEYOND: The Dream

Hosted by John Newland
Guest Stars:  Reginald Owen, Richard Lupino, Philip Tonge, Molly Roden, Eric Snowden
Directed by John Newland
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

During World War II, a weary contingent of the British Home Guard watch over their village at night, not suspecting the Germans are launching a sneak attack.

A strong British cast takes center stage in this episode, introducing a chapter of history that may not be public knowledge today, when non-trained civilians had to take arms to defend their communities.  The teleplay does an excellent job of introducing us to these characters and making them seem real, as their shortcomings and frustrations are put on display, and Owen gives a fine performance as the central character, a loyal man who despite his age reveres his duty and passionately loves his wife.  The supernatural element is almost an afterthought in the fine drama that commences, but becomes clear in the final moments of the episode.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

ONE STEP BEYOND: Epilogue

Hosted by John Newland
Guest Stars:  Julie Adams, Charles Aidman, Charles Herbert, William Schallert, Roy Glenn
Directed by John Newland
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After his release from a sanitarium, an alcoholic tries to reconcile with his wife and son, not realizing that their lives are soon going to be in deadly danger.

Although a fairly predictable outing, the episode's script has some genuine nuggets that will ring true to survivors of personal loss and toxic relationships, and good performances, including a nicely understated turn by Charles Herbert, memorable in films like The Fly and 13 Ghosts, as the son serving as the glue in his father and mother's damaged lives.  It's not as suspenseful as past episodes, with the ending clear from the start, but I still enjoyed it.    

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

ONE STEP BEYOND: Twelve Hours To Live

Hosted by John Newland
Guest Stars:  Paul Richards, Jean Allison, Douglas Kennedy, Larrian Gillespie, Lillian Powell
Directed by John Newland
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A struggling lawyer walks out on his wife after an argument, and has a terrible accident and finds himself pinned under his car, with no one around to help, but somehow his wife knows he's in danger.

Strong special effects highlight this installment of the series, as Richards' accident during a rainstorm on a crumbling hill is effectively presented, and his plight at the foot of the cliff under a full-size car is very well-staged.  Although Allison does well in the role of the wife with latent psychic talents, her performance is enhanced by editing and sound effects which show us how she can just barely hear what her husband is experiencing.  The result is another fine episode and a fun one to watch.

Monday, January 25, 2016

ONE STEP BEYOND: The Dark Room

Hosted by John Newland
Guest Stars:  Marcel Dalio, Cloris Leachman, Paul Dubov, Ann Codee, Ivan Triesault
Directed by John Newland
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A photographer on assignment in France is visited by a stranger she presumes is there to sit for his portrait, but he has surprises in store for her. 

We have here another well-acted episode, with Dalio, who's career dates back to the 1930s, according to  IMDB, perfectly cast as the stranger with the expressive face who captivates Leachman's, but whose fascination turns to terror when she has him recall his past.  Her character's headaches are oddly never explained in the teleplay, making me wonder if there were some lines cut from the episode which would have tied these in to some unseen connection between the two actors.  Nonetheless, this is a quality episode, and a fine tribute to Dalio's talent.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

ONE STEP BEYOND: Emergency Only

Hosted by John Newland
Guest Stars:  Lin McCarthy, Paula Raymond, Clark Howat, Ross Elliott, Ann Staunton
Directed by John Newland
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

When a supposed psychic tells a guest at a cocktail party details of a possible tragedy in his immediate future, he's skeptical, until her predictions start coming true.

This is a terrific episode, augmented by good acting and a taut script.  Newland gets the ball rolling and draws the audience in by mingling with the characters at the beginning of the film as if he's one of them, and presenting us with the familiar setting of a cocktail party.  From there on in, we feel part of the experience, and even though we know what's going to happen from the prediction, the details that are left out build suspense until the climax.

Monday, January 18, 2016

ONE STEP BEYOND: Night Of April 14th

Hosted by John Newland
Guest Stars:  Barbara Lord, Isobel Elsom, Patrick Macnee, Gavin Gordon, Marjorie Eaton
Directed by John Newland
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A bride-to-be is plagued by terrible nightmares about her drowning, and is shaken to discover that her fiancĂ© has planned their honeymoon cruise aboard the RMS Titanic.

A bit more unusual than other outings of the series, in that the audience knows from history of the fate of the characters, this is an impressively staged production, with no stock footage used that I can determine.  I enjoyed how the script allowed not only the central character a premonition of the disaster to come, but a number of others as well in effective scenes, topped off by some eerie facts in Newland's epilogue.  There's also a fine collection of character actors in the cast that enhance this episode, including a young Patrick Macnee, before his famous role in TV's The Avengers.

Friday, January 15, 2016

ONE STEP BEYOND: The Bride Possessed

Hosted by John Newland
Guest Stars:  Virginia Leith, Skip Homeier, Harry Townes, Ann Morrison, Janet Hughes
Directed by John Newland
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

While traveling on their honeymoon, the groom is unsettled by the behavior of his bride, who acts as if she doesn't know him, and claims to be a woman who's been murdered.

The pilot episode for John Newland's anthology series dramatizing unexplainable events prepares us for what's to come in the series, and probably features the best showcase Virginia Leith ever had, although she's better known for her role in the notorious film The Brain That Wouldn't Die.  She's quite convincing as the bride here, and the teleplay is well-constructed, building the story slowly by revealing the murdered woman's story bit by bit.