Updated on 11.17.12
TNT Featurette from their OL Marathon
Every once often I found myself writing dialogue that when it first written I’m pleased with its originality. The words did, after all, come from my creative subconscious mind. Subliminally, I believe that habitually our creativity is augmented by other resourceful thinkers. We all borrow, steal, improve upon and circumvent William Shakespeare daily so why not accept that sometimes, “Someone else did it better.” Let us all appreciate one another’s talents as we look at some enjoyable and forgotten moments from Television, circa late fifties and early sixties.
The Outer Limits. For anyone unfamiliar with TOL, it was a short-lived (1963-65) science fiction series that, like predecessor Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, often liberated the basic principles of storytelling from straight drama. With phantasmagorical stories about alien invasion, subversion and mind control as predominant reoccurring themes, TOL – especially during its first season of 1963-64 – offered imaginative and unforgettable productions.
Writing is the key, I believe, to capturing the audience attention, a good story with snappy dialogue and the proper acting in key roles can make even the most fantastical scenario worthwhile to even non science fiction lovers.
Original opening Control Voice. Shorter versions would be used later but this wonderful twisted Orwellian broadcast tells us we are not in control and are coerced into voyeurism with the promise of participating in the story. We are only asked to give up 1 hour sans control of our lives or our television set. In 1963, television was still quite young and the convincing voice of Vic Perrin urging us to let go of our newfound entertainment toy was too tempting to pass on. Credit show creator Joseph Stefano for using this subversive reminder that we are not in control of what we see or hear once we are under the control of the television set!
“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizon. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat there is nothing wrong will your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches s from the inner mind to the Outer Limits.”
Original CBS Preview is cool, baby!
Existentialism and Electricity
MGM DVD Season One of The Outer Limits. Pilot Episode: The Galaxy Being (B/W-1963) 51:25 was produced by Joseph Stefano, written and directed by Leslie Stevens, and starring Cliff Robertson (Alan), Lee Philips (Buddy), Jacqueline Scott (Carol) and Wm. O. Douglas as the Galaxy Being.
“KXKVI is located on Highway 601, just 6 miles south of Cotterfield, where the supermarkets meet the people. Serving all of Los Feliz County in Sunny Southern Cal.” At 1620 on the radio dial the audience is tuned in to early sixties easy listening format with a 200 mile radius and potential 1 million listeners. The two brothers Buddy and Alan Maxwell and Alan’s wife run the small station and that appears to be an ordinary business; Alan, however, is misappropriating the radio station power and redirecting in into outer space.
This episode is brimming with wonderful scientific explanations and the dialogue delivery of the bear is more human than expected from an alien visitor since The Day the Earth Stood Still a decade earlier.
When Carol comes to Alan’s laboratory near the radio station she wants to remind him to pay bills and not lose advertising revenue by cutting the station’s power potential by half. He advises his experiments are more important further explaining the sound waves were are seeing and hearing are “Hydrogen radio waves coming in at 21 centimeters,” with an unidentified high piece whine which would become an overly used sound effect on TOL and other future science fiction programs. Here the effects are wholly believable with the bear rendered through an actor and in camera trickery with reverse polarization techniques, petroleum jelly and a scuba diving suit.
Alan has feed the waves into a TV Monitor to get visual analysis. He tells in a quiet, almost trancelike matter-of-factly ‘Well, it’s coming from out there.”
“Out where?” she questions.
‘Space,” replies Alan
Robertson plays it straight, as do the other actors, and with a fatigued demeanor that makes one believe he’s gone far too long without proper sleep.
Alan has spent thousands of dollars on transistors, circuits and cathode rays for what he finds “It’s interesting” when she asks “What good is it?”
Alan is sincere when he opines: “…every important change in the world for the last 30 years has come out of research in microwaves? Radar, television, even the H-Bomb.”
Carol replies: “…what makes you think that you can discover anything? Who are you?”
Rather than be hurt by his wife’s noticeable lack of support, Alan replies: “Nobody. Nobody at all. But the secrets of the universe don’t mind. They reveal themselves to nobodies who care.”
Carol is not unsympathetic; she clearly misses her husband and has no interest in the “frozen electricity” that captivates her husband. After she leaves, however, Alan captures a real time broadcast feed displaying a resplendent humanoid with glowing eyes and no apparent mount on his screen. Alan uses a map of our solar system to illustrate where earth is in relationship to other planetary bodies.
Allan uses mathematics as the universal language to “teach” the being to communicate. With a speaker plugged into this bank of electronic hardware, the scientist urges, “Try to form your thoughts into word patterns using binary system. My computer can translate your pulses into my language.” Talk about an ESL nightmare! TESL never prepares one for this theosophical paradox.
The being’s first questions: “Who are you? Are you receiving dimensional image?”
Using map of the universe, Allan learns the great spiral of Andromeda, in a solar system we 31 planets, “…is transmission point.” The obstacle is Allan cannot increase the power as “Galaxy forbids contact with planets beyond central system.”
Allan admits they are both breaking rules; this being is conducting an identical experiment in the Andromeda Galaxy, where it has been deemed dangerous and illegal to have any contact with Planet Earth.
In a truly memorable exchange, Allan learns this being’s name is a collection of numbers and the being learns the purpose of our noses and mouths; “smell, eat, speak.”
They are nitrogen based life cycles as compared to our carbon-based. Then we finally get to the serious existential questions:
“Do you have death? We have end of being. We stop moving, stop breathing. No thoughts. Nothing. We call it death.”
They have no death as “…electromagnetic waves go on to infinity,” including brain wave patterns.
What sets this episode into the era of the pop culture is when we learn why the Andromeda race is forbidden to contact earth. War is forbidden and earth is a “…danger to other galaxies.”
Allan asks if they have God and is answered that the electromagnetic force underlies everything; “…intelligence, matter, space, time all the same. Infinity is God, God, infinity all the same.”
Woof! Is that deep?
Where everything goes awry, Allan convinces the being to stay in locked into his radio waves as long as no power surges occur. When Allan leaves to attend a local testimonial dinner in his honor hell breaks loose. The being gets trapped in the sound wave and transported accidentally to earth when an overzealous deejay boosts the power.
The DJ is killed by radiation making the visitor a hunted killer and a monster to be destroyed. Seems the Andromeda edict about earth holds merit. What we fear, do not understand or cannot control must be destroyed. A car with four men inside is burned and the occupants killed when the being tries to defend itself while standing in the road. A store owner is burned, but survives to alert the police. The being tours the downtown area looking through a store front and in a poignant moment lifts a music box and bust of Beethoven.
Clips from Galaxy Being
The being finds the scientist at his party and leads it back to the radio station followed by the police and military. Sadly, now this being is a danger to his own galaxy and knows upon his return will be destroyed for breaking their laws.
The military surround the station and when Carol goes to tell them not to fire their weapons someone does and she is shot in the neck. The alien saves her life with radiation. The unselfishness of this act humanizes the story but the real monsters here are us. We believe, unwisely, force is the only answer to the unknown “We’ve got orders to kill it by any and all means.” As usual, the military and police are misguided but merely as a plot device. Their presence in the climax reminds us how little we understand our roles as humans in an ever expanding universe.
As the being exits the station the military fires upon him. He coldly informs:
“You must not use force. I have told you not to use force. Now I warn you, there are powers in the universe beyond anything you know,” and in a cool visual destroys the radio station tower making certain his colleagues from Andromeda cannot follow him to earth; another unselfish act for which most characters are undeserving. The scientist may have brought the being here but he never intended for the ensuing chaos. This is another example of man’s misunderstanding of what his unsupervised actions may bring to bear.
“There is much you have to learn. You must explore, you must reach out. Go to your homes. Go and give though to the mysteries of the universe. I will leave you know in peace.”
Reducing the microwave intensity and mass that causes disintegration, the being boasts there is no death for me but admits what happens after death is “unknown,” and in a touching existential scene ponders what comes after death before grounding itself out and dematerializing with the chilling final words, “End…of…transmission.”
MGM DVD: Season One: The Invisibles (B/W-1963:51:29) Directed by Gerd Oswald and produced and written by Joseph Stefano. Starring Don Gordon (Spain), George MacCready (Governor Lawrence K. Hillman and Ruler of The Society of the Invisibles), Dee Hartford (General Clarke’s wife), Walter Burke (Infected employee) Tony Mordente (Planetta), Dick Dawson (General Clarke’s Aid Fair) and Neil Hamilton (General Hillery J. Clarke)
MacCready was always good at authoritative roles and here he does not disappoint. He lets the audience know that he is infected by Invisibles, in this case the bear (lingo for featured monster) is represented by the lowest of budget aliens as a furry, horseshoe crab shaped multi-legged creature with one eye. Incapable of moving very fast as their legs cannot move it fast. A snail could beat the hell out of this monster in a fair race!
MacCready, who the same year would star alongside Frederic March, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas in John Frankenheimer’s superior subversion cold war thriller, Seven Days in May, (screenplay by Rod Serling from a novel by Fletcher Knebel and Charles Waldo II Bailey) is superb in underplaying his dubious role as ruler and captive of Invisibles.
Like any great actor getting into character, MacCready takes out an alien, places it on a examining table and goes into a painful and ecstatic convulsion; “Monster, Monster! We are horrid, we are horrid, we are horrid. Monster!” He sobs and grabs his neck and upper body as it to dispel the invader but to no avail. Later, when asked where The Invisibles come from, Governor Hillman, with the slightest distant stare symbolizing parasitic control, answers as host in straightforward manner:
“We were conceived in the nothingness of space. Sired by a satyr of cosmic energy; formed the coming together of sick, nameless nuclei that waited a billion, billion years for that precise, ungodly moment. We fell to earth and the velocity of that fall quickened the seed of intellect. At the same time that it stunted the evolution of our primitive form.”
Compact dialogue, establishing origin, birth and mode of transportation to earth; the plan is to invest government and industry officials and take control of the world. Enter Spain, a spy of sorts, nicely played by Don (Bullitt) Gordon. After meeting with General Clarke, who Spain is supposed to infect, we learn he is already an alien player. Dick Dawson, yes that Richard of Hogan’s Heroes and Family Feud, ferrets information to Spain as if he’s the legitimate contact to infect the general but his actions are always suspicious.
Here is the general’s tasty dialogue. First, when explaining he wants Spain to observe the young wife, who is apparently having affairs. Portrayed by Neil Hamilton also remembered fondly as Police Commissioner Gordon in TV’s Batman, the handsome actor starred in silent films starting with D.W. Griffith’s 1919 classic, The Great Romance.
“I knew when I married my wife that I was what the brain boys called a ‘father image’. What I didn’t know was my wife hated her father.”
After Spain hears the general talking over an intercom to Fair we know that the officer is already under the influence.
“I’m not going to kill you. Man may kill those he loves, but he rarely kills those he needs…We suspected what you were when we recruited you, Spain. That’s why you were assigned to me. If we were wrong, no harm done. If we were right, and we were, you will kindly remove jacket and shirt. So now we shall have an Invisible in the Government Intelligence Agency.”
With an inoculation given to Spain earlier against invisible infection wearing off we know the agent is screwed. Often, nifty dialogue can be intentionally over-the-top just enough to provide a mechanism of escape. The prime example to me is the villains who never kill the hero because they are pontificating. Bad guys must be heard, giving the protagonist the much needed time to dispatch the talkative bastard before he bores them to death.
Here, while waiting for Fair to bring an invisible to infect Spain, a diatribe revealing how confident the invisibles are in their scheme:
“It’s all happening so fast, so much faster than I expected. All over this rich great, country hosts in all the right places…men in places so high, no one would believe how high they are.” This would be all right, except now the alien influence voices displeasure through painful expressions at how General Clarke is “vainglorious” and “I-I say too much!” and he is correct for while coming down from an obvious painful high, Clarke looks across his desk to see the agent has escaped. He has also killed the invisible left to infect him.
In an unforeseen plot device, Spain runs in front of the wife who is returning from an affair and she promptly runs over him, pinning his right leg under the wheel well! Ouch! Now with a broken ankle, Spain awaits his fate in the mansion eliciting help from the comely wife to help him escape and when she helps remove his shoe – and his acting makes one believe he has a broken bone. Even watching the episode today moments of queasy pain and nausea after a severe break is revolting. All acting folks, no special effects depicting bones piecing skin but we sense the pain.
The episode ends with a win for the human race against this underground subversive organization but not before Spain survives an attack by Planetta a character Spain befriended earlier, who has brought a creature to infect him. Planetta, another social misfit recruited by the invisibles, has as his assignment infecting Spain! Planetta dies falling off a telephone pole, but not before pulling the monster of Spain.
Years ahead of The Parallax View with Warren Beatty as a small time journalist trying to expose a global assassin recruitment corporation, the concept of social misfits being “invisible” among us is not new. They tell us we see these men but we don’t see them. In Parallax, like The Invisibles, we see how a corporate America controls even the lesser of men.