The Outer Limits: Season One [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (5th May 2018).
The Show

". . . for sheer hard-edged clarity of concept, The Twilight Zone could not match The Outer Limits . . ."
Stephen King, Danse Macabre.


Back in 1963, the world as we knew it was in a state of flux: political assassinations filled the papers, nuclear war was a distinct possibility, the space program had recently launched and there was a palpable fear in the air. People were wary of change, of strangers from foreign lands and places, crime was on the rise, drugs were more and more in the headlines, it was a time of political intrigue and a time of restrictions. Television was the great tranquilizer. Hollywood was suffering from people staying at home and tuning in; why go out when there was always something stupid and pleasing on the box to watch? And then, on September 16th, 1963, "The Outer Limits" first aired and television was forever changed. This was a thinking man’s show, it spoke of time travel and alien abductions, it showed us the possibility of life on other worlds and it used elements of hard science instead of merely fantasy and make believe. Sure, "The Twilight Zone" (1959-1964) laid the groundwork for "The Outer Limits", but that show was different than this one. "The Twilight Zone" was often whimsical and there were the O. Henry style endings that put a lighter note on things; "The Outer Limits" was somewhat stronger in its messages regarding nuclear war and man’s consumption of natural resources. The real message was also in the way that the show started. Hearing announcer Vic Perrin’s admonishment regarding who was in control of your television still sends a chill down my spine and the opening sequence was completely unlike anything that we had ever witnessed before. From 1963 to 1965, executive producer Leslie Stevens and writer/Producer Joseph Stefano held America captive with their tales of monstrous beings, final frontiers and science fiction stories while producing the show on a limited budget for ABC. Now sit back and relax while I review Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray edition of season one.

Before we begin with the review we need a bit of a historical context to put things in perspective. Joseph Stefano was initially the brains behind "The Outer Limits" but he was hardly alone in producing this masterpiece of atmospheric filmmaking and storytelling: producer Leslie Stevens, director of cinematography Conrad Hall and the acting talents of many Hollywood up and comers would all help establish this show as the must see show of its day. Stefano had his big break when he was commissioned by Alfred Hitchcock to write the screenplay for Robert Bloch’s novel "Psycho" in 1960. Stefano was offered the job of scripting Hitchcock’s "The Birds" (1963) and "Marnie" (1964), but he was already promised to produce and write for his friend Leslie Stevens on the new show, "The Outer Limits". Stefano’s philosophy on the issue of how to produce horror and science fiction for the masses is of interest here: Stefano believed that it was important to have a “bear” appear early in each and every episode. Stefano defined a “bear” as any monster or creature “… whose purpose was to ‘induce wonder or tolerable terror or even merely conversation and argument’ “and Stefano wanted the “bear” to be visually interesting and scary as well. Stefano set up the guidelines for his writers and staff: “Each episode’s bear would make an appearance before the half-hour station break, it may be initially benevolent, but by the end of the hour something-frequently it was human fear/greed/prejudice/ignorance—would set it off.” (DVD Journal, "The Outer Limits: The Original Series: Season One" by Mark Bourne, 2002).

Many talented people made up the life force of "The Outer Limits" and they included many people that had previously worked with Leslie Stevens on the television series “Stoney Burke,” a western that was broadcast on ABC from October 1, 1962 to May 20, 1963. The show’s star was Jack Lord before he hit it big with the series “Hawaii Five-O” (1968-1980). The music that accompanied "The Outer Limits" was created by Dominic Frontiere, a man that who would go on to become the musical director at 20th Century Fox, but prior to that he is mostly remembered for doing the iconic themes for many 60’s television shows such as “The Fugitive” (1963-1967), “12 O’clock High” (1964-1967), “Branded” (1965-1966), “The Rat Patrol” (1966-1968), and “The Invaders” (1967-1968). Frontiere created the moody theme music used for the prologues of the show for Season One. Throughout these episodes Frontiere makes his mark with a combination of music that is suspenseful but that also invokes a sense of awe and wonder.

Watching this series in its original airing sequence, one can begin to appreciate exactly what it was that Stefano and crew were trying to achieve. If television was the opium of the masses, then "The Outer Limits" was the jolt of reality that was badly needed. Topics covered included the space race, invasion from other life forms from other planets, the concept of war, the manipulation of time and many other serious issues often covered in the guise of science fiction stories and including the gothic sensibilities of the old dark house. "The Outer Limits" quickly became known as “The Monster of the Week “show amongst young people and with good reason. According to Stefano’s train of thought, the episode opens tranquil enough, the “bear” appears and shakes things up, and then after the smoke clears, nothing is ever the same again. Sometimes mankind learns a valuable lesson from its exotic visitor and at other times we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes again. Stefano was trying his hardest to get his message across no matter what it took.

The issues of the FCC and censorship issues are occasionally mentioned by Film Historian David J. Schow in some of the commentaries that he narrates, and we jaded viewers need reminding that this all took place in the 1960’s and that television was not the animal that it has transformed into currently. This show was groundbreaking in the best sense of the word and it challenged its viewers as few shows ever have. Stefano and Stevens were constantly being reminded of what they could and could not get away with. Certain subjects were simply too taboo at the time and acts of violence against children were one of the hot button topics and Stefano, one of the prime writers for the show, was constantly writing and re-writing scripts, trying to push the envelope as much as possible.

We must touch upon the acting talents that were included in some of the series best remembered episodes; many of these now familiar faces were just starting out at the time. Talents such as Robert Culp, Donald Pleasence, Martin Landau, Sally Kellerman, Martin Sheen, Bruce Dern, Carroll O’Connor, Marion Ross and Vera Miles were all featured players in the series. Several people that worked behind the scenes also went on to appear in "Star Trek" 1966-1969) as well, including assistant director Bob Justman. There was no lacking of talent in the scripting department either as major players Harlan Ellison and Robert Towne was involved, and Leslie Stevens and Joseph Stefano were part of the scribe’s busy putting pen to paper cranking out those tales of monsters out of their elements. Outstanding cameraman Conrad Hall was here before he became an Academy Award winner and veteran director Byron Haskin helmed numerous episodes as well. As I have mentioned, there was a lot of talent involved in producing a first class product.

Instead of giving each episode its due, I am instead going to highlight the features of several episodes that rang particularly true for me. If I had the time and energy, I would review each of the 32 episodes individually but instead I am choosing an easier out otherwise. Regardless of which episode that I focus on, let me impress upon you that this is a highly exciting endeavor by Kino Lorber to offer the first season of "The Outer Limits" on Blu-ray and each episode is accompanied by an expert doing commentary on the secondary audio track as well. There is a lot of information imparted to the viewer by listening to these tracks and I encourage all curious viewers to indulge themselves.

First off, to start the series, is the episode “The Galaxy Being” broadcast September 16, 1963 and written and directed by Leslie Stevens, starring Cliff Robertson and Jacqueline Scott, with an audio commentary by writer David J. Schow. The premise is that an ordinary radio technician (Robertson) at a local light listening station accidentally makes contact with another being, “a shimmering, mouthless ….from Andromeda” and through an accidental increase of the radio station’s transmitter; the visitor is transferred to earth. After scaring everyone in its vicinity, the otherworldly visitor tells man not to be so judgmental in their reactions (of course the military were dispatched), and he finishes by stating “Go to your homes…Go and give thought to the mysteries of the universe” and then he vanishes just like he mysteriously appeared. Viewers at home were indicated as a whole and given food for thought for a change. Seemingly rather lame now in hindsight with its dependence upon the use of negative-reversal to give the monster an unworldly appearance, this episode sets the tone for more to come. This episode reminded me of the classic Sci-Fi film, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951), with its friendly alien and his use of a healing power.

Next is “The Architects of Fear” airing on September 30, 1963, written by Meyer Dolinsky, and directed by Byron Haskin, starring recognizable star Robert Culp and featuring camerawork by Conrad Hall. The plot is that scientists have captured a “Thethan” invader and plan on turning one of their own colleagues into a man-made version of the selfsame alien through a surgical procedure. Their thinking being that if we could see the enemy in front of us, mankind, would stop bickering with each other and pool their strengths in beating the alien beast. Of course that all falls apart as Culp is a little too attached to his wife and he basically rebels against the plot after all. The appearance of the monster was so successful that several network affiliates refused to air the episode.

With the next sequence we can see the obvious influence of Boris Karloff’s anthologized program Thriller which was written by former guest writer Donald S. Sanford. This one aired on March 23.1964 and was directed by Paul Stanley and featured appearances by former Noir Queen Gloria Grahame, Vaughn Taylor and Geoffrey Horne. It is difficult to explain the plot of this one but here goes: an alien has created an illusionary mansion on a hill and inside are trapped four people. Into this so called laboratory comes a drifter after he nearly hits an elderly man with his car; this is in reality a meditation on dreams and desire as the four inhabitants are frozen in time while being studied by a “gelatinous jellyfish” voiced by Ben Johnson. The stark moody cinematography was done by Kenneth Peach and is wonderful evocative of capturing a distant time. This episode was so revolutionary that the control voice segment at the beginning of the show was exempted. It is a well-documented fact that Stefano liked the old dark house setting for his episodes. This episode features a dual commentary by David J. Schow and Craig Beam and the two provide additional insights into the background of this one.

"The greatness of evil lies in its awful accuracy. Without that deadly talent for being in the right place at the right time, evil must suffer defeat. For unlike its opposite, good, evil is allowed no human failings, no miscalculations. Evil must be perfect, or depend upon the imperfections of others." So begins this episode as we continue onwards with our review. As previously noted Stefano was a sucker for the creepy haunted house gothic which with a few touches manages to fit very well into "The Outer Limits" universe. We again notice that instead of a typical science fiction type setting we open on a large mansion which apparently is where a wedding celebration is taking place; the time is the 1920’s. We note the car sitting at the curb with its festoon of ribbons and we can hear the dated jazz music playing in the background. A man pulls into the driveway and delivers a giftwrapped box to the wedding party and he leaves, never to be seen again. Inside the butler places the gift with the other boxes that are stacked on the table; we see the groom, Harvey Kry (David Frankham) sneak into the room and he tells the butler that he and his wife are about to leave the party for some quality time alone. After the butler leaves the room, something catches Kry’s eye and he unwittingly opens the box. We hear an odd sound on the soundtrack that is otherworldly and haunting and it is implied that the noise is coming from inside the box. The man turns the box around and he spies a portal or peephole in the box; he foolishly casts aside a gift card that reads, "Don’t Open until Doomsday". Peering into the hole with one eye he begins to yell and moan, apparently he is stuck looking into the box and we gather that it is a painful sensation. The man falls to his knees and while still gripping the mysterious box, begins to scream. Cut to a sign that reads Winterfield Justice of the Peace and inside we see a nervous couple waiting to be hitched. The newlyweds, Gard and Vivia Hayden (Buck Taylor and Melinda Casey) are having their papers scrutinized by the Justice because he is suspicious that the bride is actually underage, but after a while, he agrees to marry the two. This entire scene plays out like it was a segment from "Psycho" that failed to escape from under the editor’s scissors; it has that quality of an oddball tone to it. Director Gerd Oswald doesn’t fail to pour on the moodiness of this episode, giving each character in the scene some hesitant line readings, especially the wheel chair bound wife played by Nellie Burt, who whispers quietly into the telephone to Mary Kry (Miriam Hopkins) who looks like a demented flapper with caked on makeup and arched painted on brows. If this couple falls for that old line about there not being a decent motel in miles, I will have a fit. You guessed it and off the naïve couple goes to their honeymoon suite in the creepy mansion.

Apparently there is a creature trapped in the box alongside Harvey but both are at a standoff regarding the creature’s need for assistance. There’s something mentioned at the end about reuniting with others of its kind so that they can blend frequencies together and destroy the earth, but that is after Vivia is pulled into the box as well. In between scenes of Mary chewing the scenery to beat the band, she out creeps Gloria Swanson in the noir classic Sunset Boulevard (1950) doing everything but fainting as she screeches her lines in an overly dramatic fashion. So once again we have the clash of science fiction with a gothic melodrama combining to yield this disturbing vision of a particular brand of hell. Conrad Hall lenses this episode in an interesting manner especially when showing us the interior of the box. The commentary tracks are not as interesting as the others unfortunately and part of the reason for that is that the narrator, Dr. Reba Wissner and her delivery is rather shrill and jarring. She does however know a lot about music and points out several references to the use of music in this episode.

The next episode is entitled “The Bellero Shield” and it was broadcast on February 10, 1964 and was written by Joseph Stefano and was directed by John Brahm. This is an interesting episode for an number of reasons, utmost being its seriously pessimistic mood dealing with issues of fame, scientific discovery and mankind’s darker shades of selfishness. Starring Martin Landau as Richard Bellero who fashions a powerful laser that he is firing into the night sky from his attic laboratory, he is being manipulated by both his father and his wife simultaneously as they each are trying out a power play on each other. With the dialogue sounding at times like it was lifted from a Shakespeare play, this is an upsetting episode because of the combination of the alien’s naiveté and then ultimately his betrayal and murder by the humans that can only think about the wealth and fame that this stranded visitor from another galaxy will bring them. Sally Kellerman gives an outstanding performance as the star struck wife of the scientist and it is her interaction with her father-in-law (Neil Hamilton) where the sparks really fly. Shot in moody close-ups by Conrad Hall, this episode really invokes the gothic milieu that Stefano loved. To witness “The Bellero Shield” is to witness this show as it extended itself into the greatness of television history. Tim Lucas’ commentary is insightful and interesting as always.

Last but not least is the episode that in 1997 TV Guide ranked as episode 98 on the 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time List, “The Zanti Misfits.” This is the episode that scared the bejesus out of me when I was a child because of the hideous appearance of the penal colony transportees. Starring a young on the run Bruce Dern as Ben Garth and co-star Olive Deering as Lisa Lawrence, this episode still manages to invoke chills because it stars ants with human faces (!!). The plot was written by Joseph Stefano and was directed by Leonard J. Horn, with stop motion effects provided by Jim Danforth. The plot is rather simple: Earth has agreed to the demands of a perfectionist alien race to supply a penal colony for its unwanted criminal element at a top secret desert ghost town aptly named Morgue; the military are awaiting for the arrival of the prisoners when into this situation stumble a couple of lawbreakers fleeing from the law. Of course, all hell breaks loose. This is the introduction from the Control Voice at the beginning of the episode: “Throughout history, compassionate minds have pondered the dark and disturbing question: what is society to do with those members who are a threat to society, those malcontents and misfits whose behavior undermines and destroys the foundations of civilization? Different ages have found different answers. Misfits have been burned, branded and banished. Today, on this planet Earth, the criminal is incarcerated in humane institutions.....or he is executed. Other planets use other methods. This is the story of how the perfectionist rulers of the planet Zanti attempted to solve the problem of the Zanti misfits.”

So after all these years, how does the nightmare inducing Zanti Misfits hold up? It was with great trepidation that I watched this episode and it still packed a visceral wallop with the introduction of the misfits from the planet Zanti. How Stefano came up with the idea of ant like creatures with human features is beyond me, but the episode is still hair raising, propelling me backwards to that scared little kid again. The biggest difference is that most episodes took place indoors, in a lab or a house, but this episode was mainly filmed at Vasquez Rocks National Area Park and the sweeping beauty of the landscape expands the segment exponentially. Director of Photography John M. Nickolaus Jr. captures the immense beauty of the canyons and the sweeping cliff sides that Bruce Dern takes a header down only to be dispatched by the Zanti Regent Commander. The episode concludes with a Zanti invasion of the militaries makeshift headquarters and soon the little bastards are all over the place! The military quickly gain the upper hand and after shooting, hand grenade attacks and simply stomping on the pesky invaders, the backwards sounding voice from the planet Zanti thanks the earthlings for doing what they could not: executing the criminal degenerates. There are two audio commentary tracks available for this one and I selected Tim Lucas’ commentary and he sure knows his Outer Limits lore.

This concludes our review of "The Outer Limits" boxed set, season one and it is definitely recommended as being well worth purchasing. Quietly sit back and enjoy this intriguing set.

The complete episode breakdown per disc is below:

DISC ONE:
Includes 5 episodes:
- "The Galaxy Being" (51:50)
- "The Hundred Days of the Dragon" (51:30)
- "The Architects of Fear" (51:17)
- "The Man with the Power" (50:51)
- "The Sixth Finger" (51:35)

DISC TWO:
Includes 5 episodes:
- "The Man Who Was Never Born" (51:43)
- "O.B.I.T." (51:18)
- "The Human Factor" (51:26)
- "Corpus Earthling" (51:30)
- "Nightmare" (51:35)

DISC THREE:
Includes 5 episodes:
- "It Crawled Out of the Woodwork" (51:40)
- "The Borderland" (51:28)
- "Tourist Attraction" (51:15)
- "The Zanti Misfits" (51:28)
- "The Mice" (51:42)

DISC FOUR:
Includes 5 episodes:
- "Controlled Experiment" (51:51)
- "Don’t Open Till Doomsday" (51:18)
- "ZZZZZ" (51:31)
- "The Invisibles" (51:28)
- "The Bellero Shield" (51:35)

DISC FIVE:
Includes 5 episodes:
- "The Children of Spider County" (51:37)
- "Specimen: Unknown" (51:28)
- "Second Chance" (51:25)
- "Moonstone" (51:31)
- "The Mutant" (51:25)

DISC SIX:
Includes 5 episodes:
- "The Guests" (51:50)
- "Fun and Games" (51:28)
- "The Special One" (51:28)
- "A Feasibility Study" (51:28)
- "Production and Decay of Strange Particles" (51:29)

DISC SEVEN:
Includes 2 episodes:
- "The Chameleon" (51:44)
- "The Forms of Things Unknown" (51:29)

Video

Presented in the show's original full frame broadcast ratio of 1.33:1 mastered in HD 1080p 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression. All of the episodes were originally shot on 35 millimeter film, because as Tim Lucas comments, “They were making art, not just television” and the images almost seem like they were intended to be shown on larger screens than the average television set back in the 1960’s. I am well aware that this set had been available on DVD previously, but this is the first time it is available on Blu-ray and the picture quality is astonishing. Anyone thinking of upgrading to this set is strongly advised to do so because it is money well spent.

Audio

A single English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is included. Dominic Frontiere’s moody source music is a wonder to behold and certainly adds a whole another dimension to the episodes. Even though most of the music cues have been recycled from Stevenson’s “Stoney Burke” (1962-1963) series, Frontiere is responsible for the excellent theme music and other notable tracks throughout. The audio is merely mono but it is crystal clear and the dialogue track is fine. The additional audio commentary tracks are worth the admission price alone and have hours of supplemental information from a host of speakers including David J. Schow, Gary Gerani and Tim Lucas. Optional English SDH subtitles for each episode is also included.

Extras

Kino Lorber has includes a massive 24 audio commentaries available for your listening pleasure:

DISC ONE:

Audio commentary on "The Galaxy Being" by Film Historian David J. Schow.

Audio commentary on "The Hundred Days of Dragon" by Film Historian Dr. Reba Wissner.

Audio commentary on "The Architects of Fear" by Film Historian Gary Gerani.

Audio commentary on "The Sixth Finger" by Film Historian David J. Schow.

DISC TWO:

Audio commentary on "The Man Who Was Never Born" by Film Historian Gary Gerani.

Audio commentary on "O.B.I.T." by Film Historian Craig Beam.

Audio commentary on "Corpus Earthling" by Film Historian Craig Beam.

Audio commentary on "Nightmare" by Film Historian David J. Schow.

DISC THREE:

Audio commentary on "The Zanti Misfits" by Film Historian Tim Lucas.

Audio commentary on "The Zanti Misfits" by Film Historian Gary Gerani and Steve Mitchell.

Audio commentary on "The Mice" by Film Historian Dr. Reba Wissner.

DISC FOUR:

Audio commentary on "Controlled Experiment" by Film Historian Dr. Reba Wissner.

Audio commentary on "Don't Open Till Doomsday" by Film Historian Dr. Reba Wissner.

Audio commentary on "Zzzzz" by Film Historian Tim Lucas.

Audio commentary on "The Invisibles" by Film Historian Tim Lucas.

Audio commentary on "The Bollero Shield" by Film Historian Tim Lucas.

DISC FIVE:

Audio commentary on "Specimen Unknown" by Film Historian Craig Beam.

Audio commentary on "The Mutant" by Film Historian David J. Schow.

DISC SIX:

Audio commentary on "The Guests" by Film Historians Craig Beam and David J. Schow.

Audio commentary on "Fun and Games" by Film Historian David J. Schow.

Audio commentary on "The Special Ones" by Film Historians Gary Gerani and Michael Hyatt.

Audio commentary on "A Feasibility Study" by Film Historian David J. Schow.

Audio commentary on "Production and Decay of Strange Particles" by Film Historian Tim Lucas.

DISC SEVEN:

Audio commentary on "The Forms of Things Unknown" by Film Historian Tim Lucas.

The Package also includes a 40-page illustrated booklet - Featuring an Essay by David J. Schow and episode guide. The booklet is a nice touch and features plenty of history and why this show is commendable in television history.

Packaging

Comes in a nice case with all 7 of the discs presented in a fold out style digi-pack with trays that hold the discs inside the box.

Overall

The Show: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.