Thursday, September 21, 2017

THE OUTER LIMITS: Tourist Attraction

Guest Stars:  Janet Blair, Henry Silva, Ralph Meeker, Jay Novello, Noel De Souza
Directed by Laslo Benedek
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A wealthy industrialist visiting a Pan American nation captures an undersea creature resembling an ancient god, but the nation's dictator has plans to exhibit the creature for his own prestige.

There's a lot of human drama going on in this episode, from Meeker's callous industrialist to Blair as his long-suffering secretary who's in love with him, to Silva's attempts to mask his own desires for wealth and power under humanitarian plans for his people.  I can't say any of that really interested me that much, but the creature is a lot of fun.  Its blockish design with huge eyes and sharp teeth is obviously a puppet that someone is manipulating, but it's so visually striking, and effectively filmed both underwater and above it, that for me, it's one of the series' most memorable monsters.  I think the  story would have been more entertaining if it had delved more into the creatures' origins and their motivations, and the teleplay's ending seems to be an exercise in presenting the opposite of what the audience expects instead of providing a natural coda that flows.  Still, I found it worth watching and enjoyed the creature.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

THE OUTER LIMITS: The Borderland

Guest Stars:  Philip Abbott, Gladys Cooper, Nina Foch, Barry Jones, Mark Richman
Directed by Leslie Stevens
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An electronics executive agrees to fund a team of scientists' attempt to open a gateway to another dimension, in hopes it will allow him to contact the spirit of his deceased son.

Series creator Leslie Stevens both wrote and directed this installment, and the setup is very intriguing,  contrasting the earnest experiment of Richman's scientist against Cooper's seance which unmasks her as a phony mystic.  A number of other interesting wrinkles are added to the plot including the injury Richman suffers in an initial experiment, and the greed of an executive trying to manipulate a company takeover.  However, the payoff in the episode's closing moments is somewhat disappointing, preferring to keep things shrouded in mystery rather than introduce us to the new world we've been anticipating.  Still, this is a tightly edited and suspenseful drama, and Foch in particular gives a performance to remember as Richman's dedicated wife and collaborator.

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.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

SHERLOCK HOLMES: The Sign Of Four

Starring Peter Cushing, Nigel Stock
Guest Stars:  Ann Bell, Paul Daneman, John Stratton, Ailsa Grahame, Howard Goorney
Directed by William Sterling
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Holmes unravels the mystery behind a secret treasure that led to a man's untimely death, while Watson falls for the man's beautiful daughter.

Based on the second Sherlock Holmes novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the teleplay does an impressive job of condensing the large story down to an hour-long episode, but as was the case in the series' adaptation of A Study In Scarlet, much of the backstory of the characters central to the mystery is lost, which leaves us little time to get to know them.  The episode also curiously drops Watson's proposal of marriage from the adventure, leaving his fascination with Bell's character largely unfulfilled.  What remains is still worthwhile viewing, but the camerawork is not as inspired as in previous episodes, and the mystery not as enticing.

Friday, January 27, 2017

STAR TREK: The Corbomite Maneuver

Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
Guest Stars:  Anthony Call, Clint Howard, DeForest Kelley, Grace Lee Whitney, George Takei
Directed by Joseph Sargent
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After the Enterprise destroys a mysterious cube blocking their journey, the crew find themselves confronted by a gigantic spaceship whose commander threatens to destroy them. 

In the first episode filmed after Star Trek was ordered to series, we see the debut of the familiar uniforms of the Enterprise crew for the first time, the characters of Dr. McCoy, Lieutenant Uhura and Yeoman Rand are introduced, and Fred Steiner's score presents some familiar music cues we'd hear in multiple episodes.  Jerry Sohl's script also features elements that would reverberate throughout the series, from McCoy's questioning of Kirk's judgements, to the captain's coolness under pressure that melts a junior officer, and Kirk risking his ship and crew on a dangerous bluff.  Listen for the voice of Ted Cassidy (The Addams Family's Lurch) and watch for Ron Howard's brother Clint.

THE OUTER LIMITS: The Human Factor

Guest Stars:  Gary Merrill, Harry Guardino, Sally Kellerman, Joe De Santis, Ivan Dixon
Directed by Abner Biberman
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A scientist at a military outpost in the Arctic develops a means of linking human minds, but when he uses it on a paranoid officer, an accident causes the two men's minds to switch bodies.

Although it's hard to figure why a scientist who's created such a revolutionary device is working at a base dedicated to launching atomic weapons in the event of an enemy attack, I was entertained by this episode, with a fine roster of guest actors on display, with Kellerman in particular giving a fine performance.  The teleplay is by David Duncan, a veteran science fiction writer who scripted many memorable movies including The Black Scorpion, The Time Machine, and Fantastic Voyage, and although there's not much in the way of special effects in this outing, or the philosophizing found in other episodes, it's still an interesting adventure.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN: Superman On Earth

Starring George Reeves, Phyllis Coates, Jack Larson, John Hamilton
Guest Stars:  Herbert Rawlinson, Stuart Randall, Aline Towne, Frances Morris, Danni Sue Nolan
Directed by Tommy Carr
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

As the planet Krypton faces its destruction, the scientist Jor-El sends his infant son in a rocket to Earth, where he grows up to become the super-powered protector of Metropolis.  

This pilot episode for the series doesn't have a particularly high budget, mixing in plenty of stock footage, but still it's a fitting introduction to the Man of Steel, with guest star Robert Rockwell making a fine impression as Superman's father Jor-El.  Most of the Kryptonian council's costumes look like they were recycled from past productions, and one of them exactly resembles the costume from the 1941 serial Adventures Of Captain Marvel, whose character was a rival of the publishers of Superman's comic book adventures at the time.  According to Michael J. Bifulco's book, Superman On Television, this was actually the last episode of the season filmed, but it's a good kickoff to the series, demonstrating its hero's noble upbringing through the selfless sacrifice of his Kryptonian parents, and his tender adoption by the kindly couple who takes him in when he crashes on Earth, accompanied by a soft and gentle melody.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

SHERLOCK HOLMES: The Boscombe Valley Mystery

Starring Peter Cushing, Nigel Stock
Guest Stars:  John Tate, Nick Tate, Jack Woolgar, Michael Godfrey, Heather Kyd
Directed by Viktors Ritelis
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Holmes and Watson journey to the inquest of a young man accused of bludgeoning his father to death, and Holmes is determined to find the facts behind the crime.

This installment is a fairly close adaptation of the original story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which isn't one of the more intricately plotted adventures for the great detective, but I still found it enjoyable with Cushing at the forefront of the tale.  It's unfortunate that some of the guest stars in this episode deliver their dialogue in very thick accents, making it difficult to understand some key snippets of information, but Ritelis does a good job of presenting the tale visually which helped compensate.  Ironically, per IMDB, real-life father and son John and Nick Tate appear in the episode, but not as father and son.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

STAR TREK: Where No Man Has Gone Before

Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
Guest Stars:  Gary Lockwood, Sally Kellerman, George Takei, James Doohan, Lloyd Haynes
Directed by James Goldstone
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Upon leaving the galaxy, the Enterprise travels through a cosmic storm that transforms the ship's navigator into an advanced being with the power to read minds and manipulate objects.

This is the "second" pilot commissioned by NBC which was ultimately accepted and launched the series after they rejected the initial pilot, The Cage.  Although the uniforms and props in this episode would be retooled for subsequent episodes, most of the elements of the Star Trek we've come to know are here, first and foremost William Shatner's portrayal of Captain Kirk.  Although Shatner's acting style has been teased and parodied often during the years, he's perfect here as Kirk, authoritative but with conflicting emotions for the fate of Gary Mitchell, when his navigator begins to change.  Samuel A. Peeples' teleplay offers a fine sci-fi drama and Alexander Courage's score adds both eerie themes and stirring movements for the episode's action-packed climax.

Friday, January 6, 2017

THE OUTER LIMITS: O.B.I.T.

Guest Stars:  Peter Breck, Jeff Corey, Joanne Gilbert, Alan Baxter, Harry Townes
Directed by Gerd Oswald
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A senator leads an investigation into a murder at a top-secret scientific laboratory, and discovers the surveillance equipment there is contributing to the staff's low morale.

It's curious that this episode reveals the secret behind the O.B.I.T. device so early in the story- if it had not been revealed until the climax, this could have made for an even more gripping teleplay, but that would have probably been more suitable for the twist endings of a series like The Twilight Zone.  Nonetheless, it does rob the episode of some dramatic heft, although there's still some suspense as to what exactly the agenda is behind the device, and the moral the story imparts is a worthy parable for our times.  Another plus is that the acting is uniformly fine throughout- this is the best performance I've ever seen from Peter Breck, and Jeff Corey is almost unrecognizable under heavy-framed glasses.