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CBS (ended 1964)
In my review of "Demon With a Glass Hand," I talked about how a lot of the season 2 Outer Limits episode were talking-head type things, often framed with an investigation or a trial. That's not to say that some season 1 episodes weren't talky. It's just that Joseph Stefano and Leslie Stevens were trying to do a lot more.

"The Bellero Shield" is a good example. Yes, it has a lot of talking, but the script by Stefano and Lou Morheim is almost... Shakespearean. Neil Hamilton, a long way from Commissioner Gordon on the 60s Batman booms out his lines. You think William Shatner and Adam West are bad? Stick around and you can hear Hamilton chew scenery with lines like:

Great men are forgiven their murderous wives!

Sally Kellerman is the Lady MacBeth character, scheming to get all of the power of the Bellero empire that her husband is uninterested in, by whatever means necessary. And Martin Landau plays a bit of a milquetoast until the last act, when he finally has enough.

These four characters by enough would be enough to fill out a full hour's worth of episode. But just like Shakespeare tossed a ghost into MacBeth, the Outer Limits guys need to toss in a "bear." A monster, an alien, to stir up the pot. The unnamed alien (John Hoyt, Dr. Boyce on Star Trek and unrecognizable under the makeup) is from a dimension of light, brought to Earth by Richard Bellero Jr.'s laser projector. The science is pretty much gobbledygook, but that's covered up by the fact that the alien and Judith both talk in high-falutin' Shakespearean terms. Richard Jr. describes an hour as 1/24th Earth's rotation on its axis. His wife Judith (Kellerman) describes a minute as:

It passes unnoticed when you're content. For the needy, it can be a string of endless lifetimes.

The alien nods and understands this. And then talks about how it speaks English by translating the words in people's eyes before they speak. Umm, right.

Credit to John Hoyt, the "Alien" is probably the highlight of a long career. He plays a gentle, poetic, curious alien, essentially an angel… and by the time he arrives, we've already seen enough of the Bellero clan to know that he's screwed. Sure enough, he soon reveals that he has an impenetrable shield. Judith, who wants to get her father-in-law's empire, kills the alien and takes his device. She then claims Richard Jr. developed it and offers it to Richard Sr. if he will name his son his heir to the Bellero empire. Richard Jr. seems quite willing to play along with this until Judith (and the audience) discovers that the shield- generator is powered by the alien's blood. When Judith took it, she broke the connection and now she's trapped in a force field she can't shut off with her air running out.

There are a lot of great directorial and FX touches in the episode. The director, John Brahm, does that filming trick where they put Vaseline on the lens when filming the alien to give it a luminescent glow. Actually, it's a bit more complicated than that: they put Vaseline on a pane of glass in the spot where the camera would capture Hoyt standing, and then someone shifted the glass as the actors/camera moved.

The only real problem is the triangular fold shield, which wobbles ominously whenever anyone leans on it too heavily.

While this is going on, Richard Sr. has learned about the dead alien and goes to find it and use it as evidence that his son is a genius for bringing it to Earth. The mysterious housekeeper Mrs. Dame (Rivera) kills him by knocking him down a flight of basement stairs.

Anyhoo, the alien stays alive long enough to use a little of its blood to reach through the shield, get the device, hook it back up to its vein, and drop the shield. Then it dies. Judith is freed... but in a Lady MacBeth-type touch, she discovers that the blood will never leave her hands. There's an alien spot of blood on her hand, and she's so guilt-ridden that even when the field is down, she thinks that she's still in it. And... end of episode. Roll the Control Voice's concluding speech, and we're out of here.

When this passion called aspiration becomes lust, then aspiration degenerates, becomes vulgar ambition, by which sin the angels fell.

In my last review, I talked about how bleak Limits was. "Bellero" is a good example. The alien is dead, Richard Sr. is dead, Judith is mentally deranged for life at worst, and scheduled for years of psychological counseling at best. Even The Twilight Zone at its bleakest was never quite that depressing. And when it was, it was pretty much a one-off for a month or two. Yeah, Henry Beamis is the last survivor of a nuclear bombed world, just wants to read, has lost his glasses, and will probably shoot himself a few minutes after the episode ends. But wait a week or two and you'll see a Nazi get his just desserts ("Judgment Night") or a street peddler save his life by giving a bad guy a pair of slippery shoes ("What You Need").

With Limits it was the same bleakness week after week after week. Except for the one comedy episode a season. I'm not saying that Limits was bad compared to Zone. Just that the producers of the two shows were going for different things. Zone was about justice most of the time. Sure, Richard Sr. is a jerk in "Bellero Shield," but he doesn't deserve to die. The alien doesn't deserve to die. It's probably why Limits has a lesser rep than Zone. Who wants to be depressed pretty much every week?

Sally Kellerman as Judith was just coming into her own as an actress, with a little help from producer Stefano who wanted to develop her career. "Bellero" is a showcase for her: she screams, rants, manipulates, seduces, plays helpless, and turns on the charm. Watch her first apologize to the alien after trying to shoot it when it first arrives, and then her making nice to it when she drops by to find out about the shield.

Martin Landau gives a remarkably subdued performance, given how flamboyant he is in Mission: Impossible, Space: 1999, and guest star stuff on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the Zone episode "The Jeopardy Room." In the last act Richard Jr. gets a spine after he learns that his wife is trapped and doomed to die a slow lingering death by suffocation, and that she murdered his new best bud the light alien. But by then it's too much too little too late.

A primarily Broadway actress, Chita Rivera lurks in the shadows in her bare feet and plays the vaguely supernatural confidant to Judith. The role was specifically written for the actress by her friend Stefano. We never do learn what the connection is between the two. We don't need to know a lot about her because hey, it's an anthology show. She's there because Judith needs an ally in the house, and that's about all we need to know about her. Mrs. Dame wears a black dress, Judith wears a white robe, and they dance around each other like dark reflections of each other.

Stefano was fond of the Gothic ambience, and "Bellero" has it in buckets. The entire episode is set in the Bellero manor, and all we really see of it is the lab, the front porch, a hallway, and the wine cellar. The place is old, dark, and creaky. Even the lab looks more like something out of the Frankenstein movies than a sterile environment.

Overall, "Bellero" is one of the best of the season 1 Limits episodes. It has a lot of theatricality that may not appeal to audiences these days. But like MacBeth, it's a classic.

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