Destruct that ship, General!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Episode Spotlight: "The Forms of Things Unknown" (5/04/1964)




“The Forms of Things Unknown”
Season 1, Episode 32
Originally aired 5/04/1964


In March 1964, Daystar Productions closed up shop for the summer as The Outer Limits’ first season wound down, with no guarantee of a renewal due to the show’s mediocre ratings. As fate or luck would have it, the final episode on the schedule was a bold and impenetrable Gothic nightmare which, if the show was in fact cancelled, would serve as a glorious “fuck ABC” blaze-of-glory exit. 


Blackmailer Andre and his female companions, the vixen Kassia and the brittle Leonora, are en route to extort money from Leonora’s rich father. They stop at a lake for a drink, which the sadistic Andre insists be served to him as he stands waist-deep in the water (the women must leave their high heels on). What he doesn’t know is that they’ve spiked his drink with a leaf from the highly-toxic Thanatos tree and, within moments, he’s nothing but a floating corpse.


Kassia stashes the body in the trunk, and the girls hit the road just as a violent rainstorm kicks up. Leonora sees the trunk pop open in the rear view mirror and screams (her first of many, many screams), assuming Andre is in fact alive. Kassia pulls over to show her the body and prove her wrong, but Leonora mistakes a flash of lightning for a blink of his eye and runs like hell. Kassia pursues her to the front step of a dark mansion, where a blind servant, Colas, invites them in to dry out by the fire.


The presumed master of the house, a scientist named Tone Hobart, is experimenting with time manipulation, to which end he’s created a “time-tilting” device that allows the dead to be brought back to life, in their pre-death condition no less (no zombies here; sorry Walking Dead fans). When Kassia leaves the house to bury Andre’s body, Tone reveals to Leonora that he removed Andre’s body from the trunk and attached it to the device, which resides in a small workshop on the second floor. He takes her upstairs to show her, but the body is inexplicably gone. Outside, Kassia hears Leonora’s (inevitable) scream, where we see Andre’s still form inside the trunk, apparently undisturbed.

Tone concludes that his device did in fact succeed, and that Andre must be roaming the countryside, confused. He races out into the night to find him and explain his miraculous reanimation to him. Meanwhile, Colas reveals to the ladies that he is in fact the master of the house, and Tone is his guest. Colas explains that Tone’s first time-tilting experiment was to bring himself back from the dead, which he did successfully. He suggests that they are in danger, and that they should leave immediately. They open the front door… where they find Andre, asking for a refill of the fatal cocktail that did him in.


Colas finds Tone prone in the nearby woods, having narrowly escaped being run down by Andre’s Rolls Royce as he sped to the mansion to collect his mischievous lasses. Tone realizes that bringing Andre back was a mistake, a mistake that must be rectified. Back at the mansion, he pulls a gun on Andre, who easily disarms him. Andre drives away with Kassia, leaving Leonora (who is hiding upstairs) behind. Kassia leaps from the moving car, having decided not to continue her extortion spree with Andre. Andre tries to run her down but crashes the car, killing himself in the process.

 



Tone, meanwhile, has decided that he wants to return to the “safe, harmless quiet of the past” and asks Leonora to destroy the time-tilting device after he’s gone. Just as Kassia arrives on the scene, Tone enters the spider’s web-like mechanism and vanishes.



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RANDOMONIUM

The Outer Limits Holy Trinity reunites this week for the last time. Think of it as your favorite band’s last concert; however, unlike KISS and their many farewell tours, this band will never, ever reunite. 

Joseph Stefano’s “The Forms of Things Unknown” has the narrative opacity of the rain-streaked windshield of Andre’s Rolls Royce. The events of the story are linear enough, but the tonal emphases feel random, even inappropriate at times. We desperately want more information about Tone’s death and rebirth, and how exactly his time-tilting device works, even if it’s complete gobbledygook (this is a sci-fi series, after all), but we’re only given a vague notion of the past and present “coiling about one another.” Much time is spent, however, on lengthy near-Shakespearean exchanges that neither advance the plot nor shed light on what makes these people tick (pun intended). Tone’s disappearance into his device is treated as the climax; however, it has little to do with the main story, which is the ladies’ rocky road to liberation from Andre’s domination (at least I think that’s the main story).


It’s impossible to care about characters if you can’t trace their motivations. Sure, other Stefano efforts have quirky ‘n murky characters too, but we usually get a smattering of backstory to at least partially inform their actions. In “Forms,” however… well, good luck figuring out why these people make the choices they make (particularly frustrating is Tone’s sudden desire to die, when in fact the world could be his to command since he alone knows how to manipulate time). And why is Leonora involved with the blackmailers to begin with? I understand the others’ roles (Andre is the mastermind, Kassia is the femme fatale), but why would their intended target’s daughter be helping them? Most reviews of the episode indicate that both women are Andre’s mistresses, but there’s nothing in the episode supporting this presumption… so what’s her connection? And why is she such a trembling basket case to begin with? Why does Colas allow Tone, his freeloading guest, to bark orders at him? Like the forgotten dolls in Rod Serling’s “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” over on The Twilight Zone, this quintet is a collection of question marks.



As I’m typing this, it occurs to me that this type of character micro-analysis is utterly pointless. It’s not all going to make sense, because it’s not supposed to make sense. Given the episode’s visual audacity and heightened theatricality, it’s only appropriate that the story possess a certain level of artifice all the way through. What we’re observing is more construct than organic story, so it probably shouldn’t be inhabited by real people. This is, more than anything else, a technical exercise. 


But oh, what a beautiful technical exercise it is. Directed by Gerd Oswald through the eyes of Director of Photography Conrad Hall, “The Forms of Things Unknown” is packed with startling, compelling imagery that was generally exclusive to foreign films at that time, particularly those of Jean Cocteau (his Orphic Trilogy, produced between 1932 and 1960, and certainly 1946’s Beauty and the Beast), and Ingmar Bergman (1957’s The Seventh Seal, 1966’s Persona, and 1968’s Hour of the Wolf); domestically, some of Orson Welles’s output reached these kinds of visual heights (1952’s Othello comes to mind, a brand new restoration of which is currently touring the US, not to mention 1948’s Macbeth and of course 1941’s Citizen Kane). You just didn’t see this kind of thing on TV in 1964, and I imagine quite a few minds were blown when this episode first aired fifty years ago tonight, and probably a few of those minds were opened in the process.

Rather than describe various shots with repetitive synonymous adjectives, I’ll show instead of tell. Damn, this stuff is gorgeous.



Black and white television was, for the most part, limited gradations of gray with shallow contrast. Series like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits used cinema-grade lighting and framing techniques to elevate the material beyond the typical static talking heads seen on most shows. Black became every bit as important (if not more so) than white, and suddenly TV was able to achieve the same striking, shadowy compositions seen on the big screen, particularly in the film noir genre. The fact that these types of shows (NBC's The Fugitive is another example) still look amazing today is a tribute to the care and forethought put into them, which is why it continues to frustrate me that only The Twilight Zone has received the white-glove high-definition treatment for the home video market. The Outer Limits, “Forms” in particular, would absolutely shine on Blu-ray. With its impossibly-deep contrast (there’s very little gray to be found), “Forms” may very well be the single greatest argument against the asinine practice of colorizing classic films. Artificial color (hell, real color as well) would literally ruin this episode. I indicated recently that "A Feasibility Study" was the most visually arresting episode in the entire series run... well, let me take a moment to eat my words. "The Forms of Things Unknown" may be the single most beautiful black and white film produced for television in the medium's history. 


When Tone (David McCallum) informs Andre that he intends to return him to his dead state, Andre asks “Would you be willing to go back?” In “The Sixth Finger,” when Professor Mathers threatens to reverse the accelerated evolution of his subject Gwyllm Griffiths (also played by McCallum), the response is almost identical: “Would you be willing to go back to being an ape?” It’s nice to see him on the other end of that conversation, experiencing the opposite point of view. It creates a cool déjà vu moment for attentive viewers.


I love the moment in which Colas instinctively offers a light to Kassia as she pulls out a cigarette, and the smile that crosses his face when she accepts it.  However, I can’t help but wonder how the hell Colas is able to pull off more difficult tasks, such as maintaining his mansion without help. There’s no indication that anyone else lives there (no butlers, maids, housekeepers, etc.), and I can’t see Tone lifting a finger to help out around the place. He describes how he cared for Tone during his coma, and how he “carried him to his bed” after his resurrection in the time-tilter… how did he do that, exactly? I have a sneaking suspicion that the old guy’s not really blind at all. By feigning sightlessness, he’s able to observe without participating, and offer commentary that sounds more insightful than it actually is. If I’m right, he’s one sly cat. Respect.


Leonora screams way too goddamned often. Every time she turns her head and sees somebody standing there (even if it’s someone she’s not afraid of), she screams. She screams a total of 8 times throughout the episode... I know because I counted. I can still hear it, echoing in the back of my head. Barbara Rush is by far the weakest link in the thespian chain here, but the constant screaming elevated my relative indifference to hate-filled rage (when I’m yelling at a person through the TV, you know I’m annoyed as hell). I kinda wish Tone had dragged her into the “safe, harmless quiet of the past” along with him.


Most fans are aware that “The Forms of Things Unknown” is the surviving half of a much more ambitious project. ABC had expressed interest in developing a horror/mystery series, so Stefano wrote an alternate version that removes the supernatural fantasy elements entirely: Tone’s time-tilting device doesn’t actually work, the Thanatos tree is merely a fiction invented by Andre (he only pretends to be poisoned) and, rather than vanishing into his contraption at the end, Tone is shot to death by Kassia. This alternate version was filmed simultaneously with “Forms” as the intended pilot for Stefano’s The Unknown, which he would also produce. ABC drew the line at letting Stefano direct, however, which resulted in a brouhaha that not only killed The Unknown as a viable series, but found both Stefano and executive producer Leslie Stevens (and, later, production executive/composer Dominic Frontiere) disassociated from The Outer Limits.*




I was able to acquire The Unknown version of “Forms” on a bootleg DVD-R from Finders Keepers LLC (which also includes the original Please Stand By pilot version of “The Galaxy Being”). The quality ranges from mediocre to fairly crappy, but it’s certainly watchable (and it’s sure as hell better than nothing). One minor concern: The Unknown’s run time is 46:34, several minutes shorter than “Forms” (I’m not sure why, since it’s fully produced with titles and end credits; it should be around 52 minutes, right?).

Here are The Unknown's opening titles and end credits:


The following Unknown clips contain significant deviations from their “Forms” counterparts. Enjoy!




There’s really no excuse for a historical curiosity like The Unknown to remain buried but, as anybody who owns the existing Outer Limits DVDs can tell you, MGM didn’t bother to include a single bonus feature. It’s only hope is to be included in a near-future Blu-ray set… so yeah, let’s all hold our collective fucking breath while we wait. 

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TEASE ME!

This week’s teaser is a variation on the scene in which Tone proudly shows off his time-tilting device to an apprehensive Leonora, who screams (of course) and runs for her life. The teaser employs a rapid-fire series of shots, presumably to mirror her frenetically-scattered brain; the actual scene simply has Tone opening the door, at which point she immediately screams (‘natch) and runs. The teaser runs 35 seconds, while the sequence within the episode runs a scant 22 seconds; I guess we can call the teaser an extended remix of sorts.

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AURAL PLEASURE



“The Forms of Things Unknown” and The Unknown share the same original score by Dominic Frontiere. It doesn’t quite feel like an Outer Limits score, which may be why La La Land Records chose not to include it in their three-disc soundtrack set. They did release it, however, paired with Frontiere’s score for A Name for Evil, a 1973 horror film which starred three-time TOL leading man Robert Culp. The CD is unfortunately out of print, so you’ll have to hit the secondary market if you want it (glad I scored my copy before it became scarce). The Unknown’s “Main Title” cue would resurface a few years later as the theme music for Quinn Martin’s The Invaders, which aired for two seasons on ABC (another QM Production, the aforementioned The Fugitive, frequently used Frontiere’s Outer Limits scores as stock music). The Invaders also used the tearing-paper design of The Unknown’s opening titles, and… well, here, see for yourself:


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DRAMATIS PERSONAE

The femme fatale Kassia Paine is well-played by Vera Miles in her only Outer Limits role; however, she has another tangential connection to the series: she guest-starred on an episode of I Spy (“Affair in T’Sien”), a series which starred the aforementioned Robert Culp. She also crossed over into The Twilight Zone in “Mirror Image” (a favorite of mine), and she still owes me a goddamned autograph (see here for the sad tale). She appeared on both Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“Revenge”) and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (“Don’t Look Behind You” and “Death Scene”), as well as the Hitchcock features The Wrong Man (1956) and Psycho (1960; she also reprised her role in the 1983 sequel). I first became aware of her thanks to her appearance on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century in 1980 (“Flight of the War Witch”), and I’ve had a bit of a crush on her ever since.


Barbara Rush (the shrill and fragile Leonora Edmond) would return to The Outer Limits (sort of) in the “Balance of Nature” episode of Showtime’s revival series in 1998. Before that, genre fans may have been her in the “Cool Air” episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery in 1971. She also appeared in glorious 3D in 1953’s It Came from Outer Space. Because of her incessant screaming and questionable acting skills, I’ll never be a fan (again, my head is still ringing thanks to her).


If Scott Marlowe (Andre Pavan) looks familiar, it’s because we last saw him banging the breathtakingly luscious Barbara Luna  in December’s “It Crawled Out of the Woodwork,” a gig he likely scored because of his prior work for Daystar Productions (the “Point of Honor” episode of their pre-TOL series Stoney Burke, an episode which also guest-starred TOL alum Bruce Dern). Marlowe’s other genre credits include appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“The Throwback”), Alcoa Presents One Step Beyond (“The Gift”), and Boris Karloff’s Thriller (“The Premature Burial”). More recently, he appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation (“Ensign Ro” in 1991).


David McCallum (Tone Hobart) is already an Outer Limits icon thanks to his marvelous portrayal of the super-evolved Gwyllm Griffiths in “The Sixth Finger.” Like the aforementioned Barbara Rush, he popped up on Showtime’s Outer Limits revival series (1997’s “Feasibility Study”); speaking of revival series, he appeared in the “Murder Party” episode of NBC’s revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1988. He crossed paths with Rod Serling in “The Phantom Farmhouse” on Night Gallery in 1971. Modern viewers no doubt enjoy him on N.C.I.S., which is currently in its 12th (!) season.


Sir Cedric Hardwicke’s turn as Colas is the penultimate performance in his long, quite impressive career. In 1963, he played the titular character in Twilight Zone’s “Uncle Simon.” He appeared twice on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“Wet Saturday” and “A Man Greatly Beloved”); he also had roles in the Hitchcock features Suspicion (1941) and Rope (1948). He enjoyed prominent roles in genre classics like RKO’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), The Invisible Man Returns (1940), Invisible Agent (1942) and The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) His distinctive voice provided narration for the 1945 horror classic The Picture of Dorian Gray; he could also be heard providing commentary in 1953’s H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (which was directed by TOL alum Byron Haskin and the cast of which includes two actors from last week’s “The Chameleon”).


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HOME VIDEO RELEASES


“The Forms of Things Unknown” was one of the earliest episodes to hit VHS when the series came to home video (I vividly remember buying it the same day I picked up “Demon with a Glass Hand” and “The Inheritors”). These early releases are easy to identify because MGM employed some fairly obnoxious visual effects for the box covers, presumably to simulate a vintage TV screen’s rolling picture (on “Forms” and “Demon,” anyway; I don’t know what the hell they were simulating on “The Inheritors”... maybe the horrendous cutting they did to it when they combined the two parts into one faux feature-length episode?).




Columbia House also scheduled "Forms" early on in their mail order club series (it shared the fifth volume with “The Man with the Power”).


LaserDisc collectors would’ve found “The Forms of Things Unknown” on the second LD collection, released in 1992, which contained brilliant episodes like “Nightmare” and “The Man Who Was Never Born” alongside bottom-of-the-barrel crap like “The Brain of Colonel Barham” and “The Probe.” Of the four LD collections, this one’s by far the most schizophrenic in that respect.


The episode has shown up on DVD three different times: the season one boxed set in 2002, the volume 1 set in 2007 (which comprised the first half of season 1), and the complete series boxed set in 2008 (which is just the three 2007 volumes combined into one box).


I have no doubt that “The Forms of Things Unknown” would look stunning in high definition, but apparently MGM doesn’t give a fuck. That’s why I have no qualms about telling new fans NOT to buy the DVDs; rather, stream all 49 episodes for free thanks to Hulu. I’m sure my attempts to undermine MGM’s bottom line won’t faze them in the least, but I’ll continue undaunted.
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TRADING CARD CORNER

Topps and Rittenhouse ignored “The Forms of Things Unknown” when choosing episodes for their respective trading card offerings; fortunately, DuoCards stepped in and saved the day with two cards (one for “Forms” and one for The Unknown) in their 1997 series.



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MERCHANDISE SPOTLIGHT

Since the episode features no aliens, monsters or mutants, it doesn’t really lend itself to action figures or model kits; therefore, not a single collectible exists for this episode (not even a commemorative pair of “fine stiletto heels,” dammit). A deluxe model kit of Tone and his time-tilting device would be stellar, but I think Dimensional Designs has all but given up creating new Outer Limits kits.

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THE WRAP-UP

It’s sadly fitting that this episode aired as the final episode of the series’ first and best season, since its troubled production was the catalyst for the departure of series creator/executive producer Leslie Stevens, producer Joe Stefano, and composer Dominic Frontiere. The series as we know and love it ends right here. ABC would ultimately renew the series for the 1964-65 season (and subsequently cancel it halfway through), but it wouldn’t be the same… “it” in this case representing not just The Outer Limits, but sci-fi television in general. Fifty years later, it still isn’t.


And now…. commence summer break! Our coverage of the series’ 50th anniversary will resume on 9/19, when “Soldier” will open the second season. That’s four-and-a-half months away… whatever shall we do in the meantime? Next week I’ll run down the summer repeat schedule, but beyond that…. well, I’m not promising much. I do want to highlight a few items (my Gwyllm Griffiths and Ebonite Interrogator action figures, the short-lived Dell comic book series, etc.), but it’ll be pretty quiet around here for the most part. Behind the scenes, I’m hoping to update the earlier episode spotlights to match the current format (bigger pictures, cosmetic adjustments, etc.) for uniformity’s sake (I’ve already done it with “Corpus Earthling”). I’ll also start working on the season two episode spotlights early, to give myself a bit of cushion with regards to those pesky deadlines (believe me, this blog takes up way more time than you’d probably think).





* This is a gross oversimplification of the situation. The full story can be found in David J. Schow’s essential Outer Limits Companion… which you all already have, right? If you don’t, click here for the relevant pages (you’ll need to scroll down a bit).



20 comments:

  1. "The Forms of Things Unknown" is actually one of the stranger entries of The Outer Limits series.

    This episode is gothic horror as opposed to the usual sci-fi style of the series. David McCallum stars in the episode as Tone, a young man brought back from death, who is consumed with his efforts to control time. McCallum does some good work here, giving Tone an almost juvenile wonder about "tilting" the past into the present. Vera Miles and Barbara Rush play two women, Kassia and Leonora, who are trying to hide the fact that they've just murdered Andre, a manipulative villian with a plan to blackmail Leonora's rich father.

    Vera Miles is, as always, stunning here. I too have always had a crush on her. She is drop-dead gorgeous in Alfred Hitchcock Presents' "Revenge" and looks cute as a button donning a hat in The Twilight Zone's first season episode, "Mirror Image". To see her in high heels here...Wow! I always thought Barbara Rush adequately played the part of the naive, but guilty Leonora. But after reading your scathing critique, I've changed my mind. She does kind of suck.

    Sir Cedric Hardwicke is Colas, the blind owner of the mansion where the entire story takes place. Hardwicke is practically awful and it's pretty funny to watch just how poorly he performs this role. Scott Marlowe disturbs as the flamboyant Andre.

    The story is entertaining enough. Tone's time machine is a neat creation of clocks and wire. One of the most disjointed moments is the crash of Andre's Rolls Royce. The slow speed of the car hardly leaves the impression that it could have caused such an incredible crash. As a closing episode of the first season of the greatest sci-fi series ever, it is a misplaced disappointment to me.

    I bet this episode would look unbelievable on High Definition Blu-Ray.

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  2. The best thing Joseph Stefano ever did. When Craig says "character micro-analysis is utterly pointless. It’s not all going to make sense, because it’s not supposed to make sense." It is THE UNKNOWN. This, while not being a pure Outer Limits episode, is superior to almost all of the Season One episodes. "The Invisibles" and possibly "Nightmare" top this one. That is my opinion, of course. When I saw this in 1964 I was disappointed because there was no "bear" or no real special effects. However, even then I was impressed by Tone's time tilting device and the way he "slid" back into the past at the end. I have seen other version of this, the pilot version, and both are equally impressive. I LOVE black and white and this is clearly the most intelligent and creative use of black and white ever for a television show. If it was shot in colour we would not be discussing this today. In fact, if The Outer Limits had been shot in colour it would never have made it out of the first few episodes. I cannot imagine "Architects of Fear", "Corpus Earthing" ,O.B.I.T or (insert your own) shot in colour. It would have taken away half the drama. I never liked Scott Marlowe in "Woodwork" but in this episode he shines. Barbara Rush is irritating but I can put up with it. The scene where they are rolling the casket in front of the Rolls and the woman throws the rose at the windshield might have been one of my favorite OL scenes. It sure stuck with me over the years. Not to be quaint but they sure don't make 'em like this anymore.

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  3. Craig,

    Thanks very much for this fantastic blog. Although I have not been able to keep up with it weekly, which I am kicking myself for, I have been enjoying it thouroughly.

    Your 50th anniversary celebration coincides with my own personal 50th, as I turned the half-century mark earlier this year ("ZZZZZ" is my "birth" episode). I certainly don't feel fifty but watching this series sometimes brings me back to my youth. I am a bit too young to have any recollection of the first run. At some point though, I caught a few in syndication, which set the nostalgia trigger that was tripped back in 2002 when I bought the Season One set the first day it hit store shelves.

    The purchase of Schow's "Outer Limits Companion" (GNP/Crescendo First Edition) soon followed, as did GNP/Crescendos 1993 "Original Television Soundtrack" CD release. I also picked up the 3-disc La-La Land collection when it was released.

    The thing I love about TOL is it holds up in adulthood. I'm always discovering new things during my own personal reruns.

    I know this blog must take an incredible amount of work and I know the most rewarding thing for you would be feedback from readers. I think I've commented on every episode so far, even though most of my thoughts have probably echoed your own (or Schow's).

    Season Two is not of the same caliber as Season One, but it is its own oddity with its own special charms. There is also going to be no shortage of things to riff and mock. I can see you tearing it up this Fall. My hope is to be able to keep up week-by-week, simulating in a way, a current-day run of the show.

    This blog, along with my Schow-signed copy of the new "Outer Limits at 50" book, are doing a great job keeping this series alive.

    Thanks again,
    Whit

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    1. Whit - you're absolutely right... feedback is really the only validation I get, so I really appreciate those of you who regularly comment. I've been doing my Twilight Zone blog for over five years now (and it's about to end), and I've often wondered if anybody's reading it (aside from my friends Bill and Scott). The masthead even reads "I thrive on feedback, so comment freely"... to (almost) no avail. So yeah, the regular feedback means a great deal to me... so thanks!

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    2. Well hell... I didn't remember that you were also doing the same thing with TZ. I guess I've got a lot of reading to do. I've been listening to "The Twilight Pwn" and "The Twilight Zone Podcast". Looks like I'll have to catch up on your TZ blog, too.

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    3. Fred on The Pwn has name-dropped my TZ blog 4 or 5 times, so obviously they're aces with me. :D

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    4. I must be deaf...I do have quite a few of their casts that I haven't heard yet, though. I don't like to listen to them before I've re-watched the specific episode that they are doing.

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  4. Another interesting retrospect on OL's most avant guard (?) art house moment. Enjoyable comments one and all - fascinating to see how this thing strikes others tuning in, paying attention.

    Trying to make heads or tails of FORMS seems quite a 'merry chase.' Story doesn't quite seem to be in the driver's seat, compared to most Limitses. Nothing unprecedented for the series, look at PRODUCTION AND DECAY. Sound and fury, lots of energy, flashing lights, characters in breathless motion and a lot of strange eloquent dialogue, great lines, signifying - not sure what, other than "huh?" Yet somehow diverting, mystifying, memorable.

    For me FORMS' viewing experience comes off dreamlike, more than any other OL. Its pretty unclear how events in the story and reality relate - as the 'utterly pointless' realization reflects. What to make of it seems obscured, as if on purpose, with (for? presumably) disorienting effect. I get the sense of weird duality in this episode. As if it might have an unstated disclaimer - Any resemblance between "what its about" (in conventional sense), and - what its really about, as conceived and intended by its creators - may be purely coincidental. You well noted that rose thrown at the windshield - what's that doing story-wise? Far as I can tell, nada. But its quite a moment - striking? (ahem). Makes an impression, almost distills this episode's essence.

    Like PRODUCTION AND - FORMS struck me a bit barren first seeing it as a lad, for its bearlessness. Having been spoiled by other bear-rich episodes that set my OL expectations. But both improve with age. Seems like the relentless noir imagery and character weirdness stave off ravages of time and taste.

    Nowadays, FORMS strikes me as uniquely 'psychological horror' for OL, mainly. With the gothic trapping, or 'forms' - secondary, i.e. "big old house / dark stormy night" gag. As a NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD fan too, I realize suspicions about Geo Romero, that he might have been tuned in. His Barbara - whom "they" were "coming to get" - reminds me of our Babs here, for character vulnerability and nervous breakage down.

    Acting-wise, I submit, such a comparison can only favor the latter. Looks like I'll have to champion Ms Rush here by myself - am I really the only one who doesn't mind, isn't put off by her screaming ... even enjoys? Whereas the more in-control 'ice woman' of Kassia - brrrrr (shudder). Minor item about Barbara Rush's screen scare creds - MOON OF THE WOLF? 1970's made for tv werewolf movie set in Louisiana, with her and David Jansen. Came to mind.

    The music box you show at bottom/finale - with the balancing figure in rotating motion - also brings NOTLD comparison and possible influence (?) home. As with the thrown rose, no clear story meaning - but story schmory, its evocative as hell. Romero stages a similar music box moment - his also rotating motion, with little doors that open and shut. It seems to reflect his Barbara's mental state too, with no narrative-linear function. Similar effect, visual cueing, and compared with FORMS - really leaps out, for a gut flick like NOTLD; 'gotta get 'em in the head' storyline a bit less ethereal than - sliding through time, 'who's the servant and who's the master,' etc.



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    1. It's been a while since I threw on NOTLD, but I vaguely recall a scene with Barbara being transfixed by a music box.... so yeah, maybe this episode did influence Romero to some degree.

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  5. Hi Craig, here's some feedback! I discovered your blog the week of The Invisibles and spent a whole afternoon catching up. I was 8 years old, in Manila (embassy family) and persuaded my parents to let me sneak downstairs to the study and TOL without waking my younger brother. I was in 2nd grade at a Catholic school and I discovered the Dell issue of the Outer Limits comic book #1 in my Easter basket! It is a lot of fun to read your posts and go back 50 years...I remember JFK getting shot - the following TOL episode was Nightmare. We had spiders in the Philippines as large as the Zantis, the "houseboy" would kill them if they got inside. Mostly I watched these alone, but sometimes with my dad. The differences between season 1 and 2 were very clear to my 9 year old eyes, and I await your fall postings with heightened interest. I had all 4 puzzles, still have several of the Dell comics, a bunch of the topps cards, an autographed screenplay for The Invisibles and a resin kit of the Zanti ship and Bruce Dern. Thank you for all the work you do to put this blog together, it really is "cool" as we used to say.

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  6. Thanks, I have really enjoyed reading this blog.

    -drl

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  7. Hello, Craig, and sorry to be a bit late to the party...
    But has anyone noticed that Joseph Stefano had evidently crafted 'The Unknown', and subsequently, 'The Forms of Things Unknown' from a fertile imagination inspired by Act 5 of William Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'?
    Oh, yes! It's plain to see right there in Shakespeare's prose. The title of the Outer Limits episode itself, and Tone Hobart also quotes directly from it, starting with the passage "Such tricks hath strong imagination". Behold -
    (Theseus:)
    And as imagination bodies forth
    The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
    Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
    A local habitation and a name.
    Such tricks hath strong imagination,
    That if it would but apprehend some joy,
    It comprehends some bringer of that joy.
    Or in the night, imagining some fear,
    How easy is a bush supposed a bear!

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  8. How can i see The Unknown pilot episode? I want to see in full the ep of forms of things unknown with alternate endings. Thanks.

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    1. Hi Jim, It's like Craig Beam said, he was able to acquire The Unknown version of “Forms” on a bootleg DVD-R from Finders Keepers Classics LLC (which also includes the original Please Stand By pilot version of “The Galaxy Being”). The quality ranges from mediocre to fairly crappy, but it’s certainly watchable (and it’s sure as hell better than nothing). It's titled "The Outer Limits: The Unaired TV Pilots" and it sells for $6.99 plus some modest shipping fee. Well worth that small price for such relatively rare Outer Limits footage, IMHO. I tried leaving this reply for you yesterday (Sunday) but somehow, the website either ate it or rejected it without any error message. I had included web addresses for that site in my reply - maybe that pi$$ed-off the website gods... ;-) I'll attempt that part of it again under separate reply as an experiment. "A Feasibility Study" or "Controlled Experiment", if you will... ;-)

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    2. Jim, anyway... here goes... Finders Keepers Classics, LLC can be found at www.OTRDVD.com that is their home page. The specific product listing for this DVD is as follows: http://classicmoviesdvd.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=1038&filter_name=the%20unaired%20outer
      Although , since these time-treasured films were bootlegged probably under somewhat perilous conditions, and thereby are of mediocre picture and sound quality, this is one of the very few venues by which you can obtain these TOL unaired pilots, and none other I have tried is any better in quality. It is what it is. I checked on the FKCLLC website, and it fortunately is still In-Stock as of today. Best of luck, my good fellow TOL Fan, and happy viewing!

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  9. "...good luck figuring out why these people make the choices they make (particularly frustrating is Tone’s sudden desire to die, when in fact the world could be his to command since he alone knows how to manipulate time)."

    I have a theory on this. I doubt that Tone would sought power, or any kind of personal gain, with the time tilter. He was a naive, almost childlike idealist who may not have ever considered that the device could be misused--until the very first person he brought back (after himself) was Andre, a corrupt blackmailer who deserved to stay dead. Once he realized that he'd aided the cause of evil (albeit unintentionally), Tone lost all faith in himself, deciding that both he and his invention belonged in the safe, dead past.

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  10. Why is it I just can NOT get into this episode? Jeez, so many people think this is the best of season one, but I don't get it. Must be me....

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    1. All I can say, Artie, is that many viewers likely give this episode such high marks on the basis of what it is, versus measuring it against a niche where it clearly didn't fit. I think it embodies a number of things, actually. First, it was an attempt at a pilot episode for a proposed new series by Stevens and Stefano that ABC Network flatly rejected. I think they likely took it personally, especially after all the hounding and pounding ABC had inflicted upon them the whole run of Season One. Re-purposing this rejected pilot and using it as the final episode of Season One was, I think, their way of thumbing their noses at ABC on their way out the door and bidding them a farewell "F**K YOU, we get the last laugh, and you have to air it anyway, hah!" But yes, admittedly this episode had no real place in TOL Season One other than the unfortunate circumstances that placed it there. It was intended for a series of a somewhat different nature. The Unknown was evidently geared more toward the Gothic horror genre. TOL was by nature a blend of Science Fiction and Gothic horror. So some elements of Sci-Fi had to be retrofitted into slightly rewriting The Unknown pilot to make The Forms of Things Unknown TOL episode to sorta-kinda fit the overall format. It was a quickly and deftly executed "save", if you will, so no it really is arguably NOT the best TOL episode of Season One at all. But I do feel, on its own merit, both the Unknown series pilot and the retrofitted TOL episode version of it are worthy of preservation and savoring in a different light, aside from its errant mis-filing under the name of The Outer Limits. I strongly feel its very essence embodies the look, feel and flavor of an avant-garde art house film of 1964. IMO, it is quite emblematic of that genre. Their borrowing from Shakespeare for the title and some of the dialogue is a plus, too, I feel. The stellar cast, the mood and all just gel together somehow to my tastes to be a fond memory of that time. But I agree "The Outer Limits it ain't!" If you look at it from a standpoint of, say, a roll of Life Savers classic "5 Flavors", perhaps The Outer Limits Season One might be Cherry, while The Unknown and its derivatives are more like Lime. Both savory in their own right, but quite different tasting. Agreed? :-)

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