A nicely eerie and atmospheric feel, with an obvious nod (or two) to The Manchurian Candidate. Of course here the Yellow Peril approach came off a bit on the--er, inscrutable side, and the mood was still quite paranoid and frosty from the Cold War, but even in these less polarized times the effect is sinister enough. Apparently it wasn't terribly difficult at all to get right up close and personal to a presidential candidate in those days: you just walked right into their hotel room and hatched your plot!
This episode will remind some of the movie ' The Manchurian Candidate' in many ways. The main plot of the episode is that a foreign country ( a thinly disguised allusion to China) wants to eliminate the leading candidate for the US presidency and replace him with a doppleganger who would serve their wishes. When you watch this episode, keep in mind that it originally aired before the wide use of cosmetic surgery and such.
All in all, a very satisfying episode to watch and one that makes you think that such an event is feasible in this day and age. Even if you're not one to put much stock in conspiracies, the good acting and unwavering focus by the agents behind this master plan makes for good watching. Recommended!!
This episode is pure science fiction, like all Outer Limit's episodes. It explores the possibility of secret agents replacing our elected officials with people from hostile countries. Back in the 1950's and 1960's the Communist countries, which had the majority of the world's population in their grip, were looking for ways to expand into the United States. They knew they couldn't beat the US militarily, and they knew the people would reject overt Communism and Socialism, so they resorted to subversive tactics. Better to infiltrate their institutions and spread propaganda, misinformation, and disloyalty to the freest nation on earth. The result was the 60's decade.
In this scenario, Communist China has discovered a way to impersonate American politicians with their own people. You've seen Jell-O molds, right? Well, basically they take a Jell-O mold of the American president and squash it into the face of a Chinaman. Presto, instant Caucasian. The acting is pretty good, especially by the American president. At times he looks Caucasian, while other times when he's behind closed doors he starts to look Chinese again. They chose a unique actor to pull this off. In the end, too many anomalies by the new president finally alert people that something is off kilter and they out the conspiracy in front of everyone. Although this episode represents an overt infiltration of the USA, it makes you wonder how much of our enemies influence has snuck into this once independent and spirited country.
If all you see is the first minute, you might be tempted to write it off as another paranoid excess of the '60's. If you hold on, you'll find much, much more. This episode poses seminal questions -- how well do we know those around us? How much can even the best spy operation really tell us? Can we trust our eyes? Aren't our enemies just like us? The Chinese have mastered skin plasticity. With a drug and a few minutes of time, they can conform human skin into any shape that they desire. They quickly capture and replace the presidential front-runner and keep the secret until he has been running the country for nearly a year. Along the way, they replace other members as well, but are finally exposed by the canny vice-president, with the help of others who knew the president as a man instead of just as a public speaker. The plot is tight, leaving you in suspense until the very last minute. The characters are believable; the plot twists are unexpected; and the actors feel at home in their character's skins. A quality episode all the way around.
This is not one of the better episodes for this series and its almost like they lost their direction before the season got off to a rolling start. Its like its a filler episode where they just tossed an idea out there and hurridly finished it up to meet the next deadline. The episode starts with some asian men being taken to a medical lab. Once there the leader is given a seat, and the scientist starts exlaining his plan. He explains to the top official that the American presidential candidate Selby is a sure to win candidate, and the best way to beat the United States is from within, by planting their own people in high levels of government. The problem is that, well, asians look asian. So the scientist explains how he has developed a chemical that when injected would make the human skin into plastic that can be moulded into any shape one desired for 2 minutes. They proceed by brining in a man who already closely resembles Selby. The scientist points out the similarities between the subject and the real Selby. They produce a recording of Selby, and the man mimics it exactly impressing the chinese official. The scientist then injects the man with the serum, and after a minute is able to mould his face into grotesqe shapes. They then press a mould onto the mans face and when they pull it away, he is the splitting image of Selby perfectly combed hair and all. The official asks about the finger prints and they show him a mould for them as well. The chinese official is impressed and gives the OK to proceed. Next we see the man flying into Chicago and getting a ride to a hotel. At the same time the candidate Selby, his daughter, and the vice presidential candidate amongst others arrive and head to their rooms. In the room across the hall the chinese agent is waiting. A car pulls up in the back alley and the man gets out with his suitcase and goes to the room where the chinese agent awaits. He makes his transformation. In the mean time Selby is getting ready to relax with a book after the vice presidential candidate and his daughter retire for the evening. The chinese imposter enters Selbys room and enters the bedroom. He subdues Selby, and swaps his finger prints and face with a strangers using the serum. He then sits the real Selby in a chair climbs into bed and then shoots the real Selby to death. The bogus Selby puts on a good show for the press and police making like he shot a stranger after a short struggle. He continues his acting and wins the election. Although he has been highly trained in every aspect of Selbys life he cannot duplicate Selbys love and emotions. This is first noticed by his daughter. With one man in power, the chinese decide to move to phase two, and also swap out the vice president. They have their man ready, but he blows the swap trying to sneak into the vice presidents place where he is confronted by a very freightened vice president before running and escaping. When aasked if he recognized the man the vice president could not believe it was actually him that he saw. Once this started to come out the chinese plan starts to unravel. The daughter had been confiding in the vice president about her fathers lack of affection and the lack of desire for things he usually loved. It was all becoming quite suspicious, and they were putting two and two together. Eventually they set a trap and figured out the plan, and caught the second imposter with the medical kit and moulds. The gig was up. The vice president come up with a plan. At a gala event he has the secret service drag the vice presidential imposter into the event shocking the Selby imposter. He puts on a show to show who is real, and tells the crowd how he knows this, and how they did it. He accuses the fake Selby to be a fraud and a murderer. He injects the man and after a minute is able to manipulate his face. This actually proves nothing, the serum works on anybody even the real Selby. Anyway, having proven the president was a fraud by the chinese government, his men ask if he wanted them to start the process and make a few calls. (They wanted to get his Ok to go to war.) He said no, that even though they killed Selby in the service to his country that it was still not enough to go to war over. The show ends with the narrators prophetic tale of man and hate and a daughters love.
Really this script belonged to some other show, as it was not offering much in the way of fantasy or sci-fi. The unreal element was a Bond-style chemical technology to allow an Asian man to look like a Westerner. It really is more of an espionage-style plot, with people pretending to be someone they're not, other characters getting suspicious and blowing their cover.
What makes it lose extra points is, at the end when the impersonator is caught, as you know he must because justice must prevail, his face is mangled for no good reason. Surely this is an inhumane way to treat a spy, even if they are a murderer?
This was one of the first episodes of the original Outer Limits I saw. In 2006, it has dated badly. It's hilarious how little security or protection presidential candidate William Lyons Selby has, and the episode is steeped in cold war paranoia: it's tv SF political propaganda. In addition, the "science" of molecular plasticity is simplistic (I love the idea of those metal moulds being pressed into putty-like faces).
And yet, I love this episode. The way in which the White House interloper makes little mistakes and leads Selby's nearest and dearest to suspect him, move the story along nicely until the final scene when he is revealed. Furthermore, the episode provided a template for other shows (for example, Star Trek and The Prisoner) which would use the concept of doppelganger/schitzoid man.
One of the characteristics of genre is that it's reassuring. It takes life's problems and provides safe, predictable and simple solutions to them. "100 Days of the Dragon" is like this, and the fact that it's over forty years old and shot in beautifully crisp black and white gives it a curious sense of the nostalgic. There was something in the tv SF air in 1963, and The Outer Limits as a series resonated with it.
Incongruous in that this episode had No place on The Outer Limits. That is, it's Not in keeping with the general theme of the series as a whole. With the episode's plotline of espionage, it would have been much more appropriate for a series such The Man from U.n.c.l.e., a spy series which in fact used that idea for one of its episodes.
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