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CBS (ended 1964)
And we're back with another episode of the original Outer Limits. Hey, new episodes of the shows I edit don't mostly premiere until next week.

In the first season of OL, there were broadly two basic types of shows. There was the "straight" science fiction episodes like "The Architects of Fear" and "The Chameleon", the latter that I reviewed. But there are also the "gothic" episodes, which were basically haunted house stories with a SF veneer. "The Bellero Shield" (reviewed here) is one example. Producer and creator Joseph Stefano specialized mostly in the latter. He was undergoing therapy at the time, and he's stated on the record that some of the episodes were his working out the issues that came up in therapy. And boy does "It Crawled Out of Woodwork" have a lot of issues.


Let's recap. The episode starts at the sinisterly-named NORCO on a dark and stormy night. A cleaning woman is vacuuming the lab and finds a dust bunny in a corner. She finally sucks it up with her vacuum and the dust bunny turns into a weird negative-flashing cloud of smoke that closes in on the woman. The woman looks terrified and is presumed dead, but later the NORCO director Bloch says that she described what she saw. So... she didn't die? That's one of the plot vaguenesses of the episode.

Cut to 20-ish brothers Stuart and his younger sibling Jory pulling up to the gate. Stuart says that he's been hired and wanted to come by earlier to look around. The guard looks nervous and writes a message to stay away from NORCO on a matchbook cover, and then slips the matchbook to Jory when Jory asks for a smoke. After the brothers drive off, the energy cloud blips up and kills the guard, apparently disintegrating him. However, the guard also has a pacemaker device strapped to his chest and clutches at it.


Cut to the motel where the Peters brothers are staying. Jory is busy calling a local actress, Gaby. The brothers talk a bit about how Jory is young and relatively immature and can't stand to be separated from Stuart. Then Stuart goes to NORCO and meets with Bloch and his new lab partner, Stephanie. Stephanie looks sweaty and nervous and a cross between Margaret Hamilton and Terri Garr.


Bloch (named after Robert Bloch?) is HITG actor Kent Smith, sounding like Bela Lugosi for some odd reason. Bloch leaves Stuart with Stephanie, who leads Stuart to a corridor to the "Pit" and locks him in. The door to the Pit opens and the energy cloud blip-jumps down the hallway on the terrified Stuart.

Jory and his new gal pal Gaby go to NORCO and there's a new guard. He claims that Stuart is out on a field trip to check the research center's generators and won't be back for a week. A week later, Stuart goes to the motel and tells Jory that he's young and immature and should go back home. Jory doesn't buy that and discovers that Stuart has a pacemaker under his jacket. They struggle and Stuart falls into a bathtub fills with water. The pacemaker short-circuits and kills him.


Enter the LAPD, and Detective Thomas Siroleo. It's Ed Asner, who doesn't appear to have a gun now or at any future point in the episode. He's warm and sympathetic, and confirms that Stuart didn't have a pacemaker or a heart problem before he went to work at NORCO. Also, the pacemaker required surgery and the surgery took place in the last week. Ruh-roh!

So Siroleo goes to NORCO and talks to Stephanie. There's some back-and-forth dialogue of the "I know what's going on and will act highly suspicious, and I know you know that" variety. Meanwhile, Jory is at the motel regaling Gaby with how his parents died when he was young and Stuart has always blamed him for not dying with them. You know, the kind of thing you tell your date the second time you get together.


Stuart and Gaby eventually head to NORCO to get answers. Meanwhile, Stephanie sends Siroleo to the Pit and we get lots of close-ups of Ed Asner looking scared and bug-eyed.



But Stephanie finally releases him and apologizes, and explains that Bloch made her do it. The cloud frightened the staff to death and then Bloch (who is apparently a heart surgeon as well as a physicist) gave them pacemakers to bring them back to life. Bloch is obsessed with the cloud, and the staff realized the energy cloud is dangerous so they tried to destroy it. But you can't destroy energy, don't you know? So they tried to eliminate Bloch, I guess.

None of this makes a lot of sense. For one thing, this is the part where Bloch says the cleaning woman described the energy cloud. So how'd she survive it? For another, we're told that the energy cloud frightens people to death. Sure, Stuart looks really really frightened when the cloud attacks him. But it's not that scary. Also, Siroleo pointed out earlier that NORCO insisted on Stuart having a full exam and Stuart didn't have any heart problems. So... NORCO recruited people who weren't prone to heart attacks, and then gave them heart attacks?


Bloch confronts Siroleo and Stephanie, Siroleo jumps Bloch, and Stephanie shoots Bloch with his own gun. However, Bloch manages to release the energy cloud and it goes on a rampage. It's a kind of weird rampage, since it disintegrates the only other staff member it comes across. But Stephanie says that it can also drain the energy from the pacemakers. So that's how it kills the new guard, and eventually Stephanie keels over dead.

Stuart hears the weird-ass roaring noise the cloud makes and goes inside. Meanwhile, Siroleo has called someone in authority. We only hear the last part of the conversation, where he persuades "the authorities" to turn off all the power in the area. I would have liked to hear what Siroleo said to convince them there was an energy cloud that killed people. Anyhoo, Siroleo says that he'll turn off the power at NORCO, so the energy cloud will retreat back into the Pit. Siroleo doesn't do much of anything, but the energy cloud goes back into the Pit and Siroleo closes the doors. Jory arrives, looks vaguely dismayed, and walks out. And end with the Control Voice talking about how energy can be good or bad but lived with peacefully. And that there's energy to genius and madness, too.


The episode doesn't make a lick of sense from a scientific viewpoint. An energy cloud grows from a dust bunny, feeds on a vacuum cleaner engine, goes on a rampage, and kills people. And then the eeevvviill research director brings them back to life with chest-mounted pacemakers (although Stephanie's and Stuart's are on their stomachs rather than their hearts see the bathtub picture above) and blackmails them into serving him or he'll turn off the pacemakers. But the energy cloud can suck the energy from the pacemakers for some reason.

Also, Stuart was hired to find a way to violate the Law of Conservation of Energy and destroy energy. But why did Bloch hire him to essentially destroy the energy cloud, when he wants to keep it contained and study it? Maybe knowing how to destroy it will let Bloch control it. But he already has pretty good control over it. He releases it to kill the guard at the beginning, but it doesn't just waltz out the gate and go on a rampage. It comes back to the Pit for some reason.

The energy cloud is basically Lovecraftian Gothic, and the episode dumps that on in spades. The energy cloud is frightening enough in a 60s TV kind of way, even if it doesn't seem capable of giving a 6-year-old a heart attack much less the adults that we see here.


It makes an unearthly roaring noise, negative-flickers, and a strong wind springs up whenever it shows up. It reminds me somewhat of the invisible aliens in the Kolchak: The Night Stalker episode "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be". Or the Invisible Monster from the Jonny Quest episode of the same name.

I'm not sure why Kent Smith sounds like Bela Lugosi, but he's an effective if unmotivated bad guy. There are lots of director shots of Bloch's left hand in closeup. And a Hitchcock-like camera cut from someone talking about Stuart's smile, to a shot of his grimacing terrified body.


The main puzzle is the whole subplot with Jory. Other than providing an excuse to bring the police in because Stuart's pacemaker short circuits, Jory--played by HITG Scott Marlowe--brings nothing to the episode. He walks in at the end, looks around, and walks out. Siroleo contributes more to defeating the energy cloud than Jory does.

While the presence of BarBara Luna (yes, that's how it's capitalized) is always welcome, she doesn't have anything to do, either. She seems to be another of Joseph Stefano's "Hot Female Babe Who Hover Nearby" characters, like Mrs. Dame in "The Bellero Shield" or Yvette Leighton in "The Architects of Fear". The whole "Jory is insecure after seeing his parents die" thing contributes nothing to the episode, and by all accounts Stefano was going through something similar in therapy. So hey, he tossed it into the episode.

The whole thing has the feel of a bottle show. There are only four sets--the motel, Bloch's office, the Pit laboratory, and the NORCO gate--and eight credited cast members. Two of which are guards that have a pretty minimal presence. Although the energy cloud is the typical OL "bear", it's a pretty cheap one: a cloud of smoke with some negative-imaging and stop-motion animation applied.


So I'm of mixed opinions. The plot doesn't make any sense and the characters are a lot thinner than the creative team wants us to think. The most interesting and proactive character--Siroleo--is the one we find out the least about. But there's lots and lots of gothic horror, dark shadows, creepy sounds, and a pretty scary monster at the center of it all. And a lot of Stefano's Gothic stuff is like that. Try watching "Don't Open Till Doomsday" and "The Guests" sometime.

If you look at it as horror rather than SF, with a big scoop of psychotherapy tossed it, then it's a decent episode.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?

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And yeah, the invisible monster in the Jonny Quest monster looks dumb, too. Why does an energy being look like a scoop of malevolent ice cream with a single big eye? But it's still pretty impressive, and I don’t remember a lot of '65 kids' cartoons killing people.


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Jan 11, 2018
Two other things: You thought of Mrs. Dames as hot? And she didn't just "hover"; she killed Bellero's father. Also, Donald Sanford wrote "The Guests," not Joseph Stefano.

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Jan 11, 2018
For instance, I took your advice and am watching "Corpus Earthling". And Paul's wife Laurie starts talking about her "female intuition". That seems to be what a number of female characters have in Stefano productions. He may not have written "Corpus Earthling", but I think his personality drives much of it as producer and essentially showrunner. Or whatever they called them back in the 60s.

Not all of the female characters in OL are like that, but it sure seems like a lot of them are intuition and emotion, as compared to the men's scientific outlook and cold hard realism. Maybe it was a 60s thing. ;)
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Jan 11, 2018
I was also going for figurative rather than literal. :) Mrs. Dame, Yvette, and Gaby seem rather ethereal, and have a vaguely "mystical" nature. Gaby talks about being a witch, Yvette and her husband have the "sign" as well as Yvette having an intuition about Allen's condition despite what the scientists tell her, and Mrs. Dame seems more like Judith Bellero's subconscious half the time, manifested to do what she won't do herself. Which might be why Stefano & Co. dressed her in black to Judith's white. They all seem to... well, "hover".
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Jan 12, 2018
Almost any of the female characters in season 1 are more assertive and interesting than the female characters in season 2, where they're pretty much just wives.
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Jan 12, 2018
The first time I paid attention to "The Bellero Shield," I didn't understand why the credits included "telestory" or something like that. Then, after two or three viewings, it occurred to me that it was a sci-fi version of MacBeth. The next time I watch it, I'll pay attention the contrasting color of Mrs. Dame's dress. Thanks.
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Jan 11, 2018
Well, mostly "hovers".

And while Sanford wrote "The Guests", Stefano was the showrunner ir whatever they called them back then. One gets the impression Stefano had a pretty hand in "The Guests".
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Jan 11, 2018
The first season of the Outer Limits is my favorite show of all time, and this is one of my favorite episodes. I might go back and rewatch the episode on DVD (I got the first season box set for my 40th birthday) because you're right: Why would Bloch want to make sure Stuart was healthy just to scare him to death? I always looked at the cloud at a metaphor for nuclear power and its dangers.
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Jan 11, 2018
I'm deciding which OL to watch next, and if I should stick with the first season. I've hit the ones I really wanted to see, for good or bad. "The Man Who Never Was" or "The Sixth Finger", possibly.

That's part of the problem with Stefano's writing: he's big on metaphors and symbolism, but not so big on plots that make sense. "Don't Open Until Doomsday" is probably the height of that. I'm considering watching that, but not sure if I can write a recap of it given it's so... metaphorical.
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Jan 11, 2018
I used to dislike "Don't Open Til Doomsday" and like "The Production and Decay of Strange Particles," but my position on those has reversed. In fact, I would say the worst first-season episodes are "The Special One" and "Moonstone." "Corpus Earthling" might be worth a review.
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Jan 11, 2018
"Specimen Unknown" is no thriller, either. Or "Tourist Attraction". They both seem like rehashes of older TV shows and movies.
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Jan 12, 2018
It got the highest number of viewers, yes. Although as one of the producers noted, you tend to get high ratings on the week after a good episode. And low ratings on the week after a bad episode. It's what aired last that draws the viewers, not what airs next.
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Jan 12, 2018
And yet, according to the back of the VHS box of "Specimen: Unknown" I rented back in the '90s, that was the highest-rated episode of the whole series. I will take the plants clogging of the car over Ruth Roman walking around a space station in heels though.
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Jan 11, 2018
"Corpus Earthling" is another on my list. I always liked Barry Atwater. And Robert Culp.

I did watch and review "Production" but the system seems to have eaten my review. It actually showed up in the Twilight Zone community initially when I first posted it. I liked the screencap of Allyson Ames with her mouth wide open.

I doubt that I'll try to recreate it. PADOSP is basically a very long incoherent episode with a leading man (George MacReady) who is way too old for the part, and forced to spout too much technobabble. The suits filling up with energy are pretty creepy in the two or so shots we get of them. But it's a bottle show, so they revert to guys in rad protection suits shot from the back, with a lot of joining hands to stay hooked up to the reactor that powers them. And a lot of shot reuse.

That, and it's filled with Trek actors; Joseph Ruskin, Leonard Nimoy, Rudy Solari, Barry Russo, Robert Fortier.
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