A The Twilight Zone Community
CBS (ended 1964)
And we're back. And there's alien parasites on people's backs.

"The Invisibles" is an odd mashup of "The Hundred Days of the Dragon" and "Corpus Earthling". Both of which I've previously reviewed. However, it's oddly unique despite having nods to both of those episodes. So let's recap.

Three men are taken to an abandoned military base by a creepy guy with a hunchback (HITG Walter Burke). A white-haired guy (George Macready)--who we've always seen fondling a foot-long alien wood louse, then grabbing himself and yelling "Master"--addresses them and tells them that they're now members of the Society of Invisibles. The episode wastes no time in laying out what's going on. The Invisibles are the alien wood lice, and were created by a cosmic accident. They can attach themselves to humans and take them over, but they can't take over humans that have already been infected. To inoculate humans against accidental takeover, they're injected with the blood of a host and the Invisibles won't go after them.


The three men are Luis Spain (HITG Don Gordon), Genero Planetta, and Henry Castle. They're disaffected loners who will distribute the Invisibles to men in positions of power. They're inoculated but it's not a 100% process, and they'll be planted in jobs near their targets and put the Invisibles on their targets' backs. To test the inoculation, they have the loners take off their shirts and put an Invisible on each one's back. They either prove immune or become Invisible grunts like Burke's unnamed character. Castle's inoculation fails and he acts all weird and gets a hunchback. Luis and Genero survive the inoculation and are sent on their merry ways.


We learn that Luis is actually a member of the GIA, which apparently stands for Government Intelligence Agency or some such. He's an infiltrator tasked with finding out what the Invisibles are and getting as much information as possible. Luis' first contact is found by the Invisibles, killed, and his body used to demonstrate how to attach an Invisible. Luis later contacts his superior after he's assigned to General Castle (Neil Hamilton, Commissioner Gordon on Batman and "The Bellero Shield" OL episode). Also along for the ride is Oliver Fair (Richard Dawson!), the social secretary for Clarke's wife.


It turns out that Oliver is an Invisible host, and Clarke is as well. The whole thing is a setup to confirm that Luis is an infiltrator, infect him, and send him back to the GIA as a double agent. Luis (offscreen, on my DVD copy) kills the Invisible meant for him and tries to run, but Mrs. Clarke inadvertently runs him over with his car and his ankle gets caught in the wheel well.

Luis escapes, hobbling on his twisted ankle. He goes to the water plant where Genero works, since Luis and Genero became buddies at the military base. However, Genero's target is… Luis. He tosses an Invisible Luis' way, and while the wood louse can't move very fast, neither can Luis because of his ankle. Fortunately, another worker (Len Lesser, Uncle Leo on Seinfeld) at the water plant is a GIA agent. He calls in the GIA, and they arrive. Genero has a change of heart, and in a rather confusing sequences goes back via the roof, falls down, gets shot, yanks the Invisible off of Luis' back so that the GIA agents can shoot it dead, and then falls dead of his gunshot wound.


As the GIA takes Luis off for medical treatment, they tell him that Oliver is in custody and "cooperating". Luis warns that the Invisibles have infiltrated all levels of society and they won't be able to get rid of them as easily as they claim. They take him off and... that's the end of that episode.

The interesting part is that like "Hundred Days", "The Invisibles" is pretty much a political thriller. Or a spy drama. The alien parasites add a s.f. touch, but it could just as easily be brainwashing or a mind control drug. Luis is Agent 0021 (three times 007), and engages in a few spy routines to communicate with his superiors and get Genero to tell his superiors where he's located. Luis is more gritty and "realistic" like Mac in Man in a Suitcase, than Sean Connery as James Bond.


Like "Corpus Earthling", you have alien parasites that can control humans and the possession process is really painful. It's pretty grisly by 1960s standards, with the loners writhing and twitching as the hosts cheerfully put Invisibles on their backs. You also get a lot of shots of Don Gordon walking around with a broken ankle that look pretty realistic. They spray him with lots of glycerine to make it look like he's sweating, or maybe Gordon is a method actor and he actually twisted his own ankle.


The episode also has a pretty strong homosexual overtone by 1960s standards. Dawson as Oliver is pretty stereotypically homosexual, even if he's possessed by an alien parasite. In one scene he suggests that he and Luis go up to Luis' room to discuss Luis' mission, although the term "debrief" isn't used. There are also scenes of relatively young shirtless men laying on tables. Maybe it's the politics of the time, maybe they didn't want to show shirtless women, but the Invisibles never target females.


The episode is written by series creator Joseph Stefano. Besides the original Psycho, Stefano was involved some of the best episodes of OL, including "It Crawled Out of the Woodwork", "The Bellero Shield", "A Feasibility Study", and "The Chameleon". He did other episodes, and the interesting thing about his OL work is how versatile he is. He could do angelic aliens ("Bellero"), Lovecraftian energy clouds ("Woodwork"), suburban drama ("Feasibility"), and anti-war messages ("Nightmare"). "Invisibles" does share a few similarities with "Chameleon": both involve a government agent (or ex-agent) being sent on unique infiltration missions. But the endings are diametrically opposite: Mace in "Chameleon" gets a happy ending with friendly humanoid aliens. Luis in "Invisibles" gets an uncertain ending with hostile wood-lice aliens.


The script keeps the paranoia ratcheted up. Luis never knows who to trust, and it's pretty clear he trust no one. He strikes up a friendship with Genero, but it's never clear if he actually likes the guy or he's just using him as part of his mission.

Regular director Gerd Oswald directed "Invisibles", with a director-of-photography assist from Conrad Hall. That means lots of shadows and ambient effects. There are creepy hallways, and a near-deserted military base, and monster-eye-views of the drawers where the Invisibles are kept, and looming low-angle shots of the bad guy holding a gun on the hero. Everything is swathed in shadows.


The acting is all first-rate. Don Gordon was around since 1951, and died April 2017 after retiring from TV in 1993. I always remember him in as the title character in the Twilight Zone episode "The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross", and he typically played a bad guy but almost never a two-dimensional one. He makes an effective secret agent, and really plays up the pain of that twisted ankle. Neil Hamilton and George Macready really give it their all as elder statesman types possessed by the aliens. Part of the danger is that you never know what the aliens can do. Clarke seems to be acting against his Invisibles' wishes sometimes, but Burke's Recruiter acts like a zombie most of the time, or like Igor complete with a hunchback.


Overall, I'd rate "The Invisibles" one of the best of the original OL. It's taut, everything makes sense, stuff that isn't explained doesn't need to be explained, and it's a great mashup of science fiction and spy drama.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?
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Jul 07, 2018
I remember liking the McCloud episode with Terri Garr where Chief Clifford had taken the night off and McCloud's partner was being held at gunpoint in the chief's office.......www.tipfacts.com
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May 04, 2018
I resigned my office-job and now I am getting paid £64 hourly. How? I work over internet! My old work was making me miserable, so I was forced to try something different, two years after...I can say my life is changed-completely for the better!


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Feb 01, 2018
I didn't know this until I looked on IMDb, but Tony Mordente is married to Chita Rivera, Mrs. Names from "The Bellero Shield."
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Jan 31, 2018
I agree that "The Invisibles" is one of the better OL episodes. Whenever I see Neil Hamilton in anything now, I think "Master, Master!" I also agree that the climax is confusing, although Genero's body being left on the pavement, "invisible" and forgotten, I think suggests that Luis' purpose in befriending him was primarily to get word out to the GIA. But no mention of the actor playing Genero becoming a director on several Stephen Cannell shows as well as appearing in the last episode of Hunter?

In retrospect, I can see elements of Robert Heinlein's The Puppet Masters in this episode, in that the parasites attempt to infiltrate the organization that's fighting them by latching onto the hero.
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Jan 31, 2018
I was never a big Hunter fan. Or any kind of fan at all, really. It's just one of those shows I never got into.
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Feb 01, 2018
Do you think this episode might have influenced the Grant Morrison comic book series, The Invisibles, from the '90s?
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Feb 01, 2018
Never read that, either. From what little I've heard, it doesn't sound that similar. Other than maybe the theme of unseen loners. Which they kinda hit in the episode, and kinda don't. The narrative sells it pretty hard, but then seeing Luis get set up as a chauffeur doesn't really make it look like his cover identity is a loner-type.

Genero working at the water plant is a little more loner-ish. Even if the place looks more like a storage unit facility. Castle, we never find out anything about.
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Feb 01, 2018
Brian Alan Lane is the writer I was thinking of.
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Feb 01, 2018
After the first half of season 1, when the show didn't feel the need to have an A-Team-style car chase, with vehicles going airborne, every episode and the writer of the two Remington Steele episodes with Guy Boyd was brought on as a producer, the show got better, especially the seasons when Roy Huggins was the showrunner. I was never a big fan either, but last year, I happened to catch the last episode and recognized Tony Mordente's name. I was a fan of the checkered-shirt-with-solid-colored-tie look for a while though.
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Feb 09, 2018
How many actors can you name were known for different roles on three successful series in three consecutive decades? Susan Saint James was Peggy on Name of the Game in the '60s, Sally McMillan on McMillan & Wife in the '70s, and Kate in Kate & Allie in the '80s.

P.S.: I think Michael Kozoll was the story editor on the final season of McCloud. So at least people who worked on that show went on to better things (Michael Sloan having co-created The Equalizer).
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Feb 01, 2018
I might check it out if I get a chance. Police/detective dramas have never been big for me, though. I never "got" into Streets of San Francisco or Kojak, either. Or even McMillan & Wife. I tend to go more for the quirky non-business suited police shows. More like Columbo and McCloud.
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Feb 08, 2018
I wouldn't call any of those "iconic", as in a single image or icon that represented or came to represent the series in advertising and in many people's minds. It's not as if days/weeks/months/years later, a lot of viewers were calling McMillan and wife "the bicycle-riding couple". Not the way they say, "McCloud is the guy on the horse", or "Columbo is the squinty detective in a raincoat who says 'One more thing'."

That's not to say it has to be an image. Twilight Zone is pretty iconic with the twist endings (and Rod Serling himself). Alfred Hitchcock Presents with black humor and Hitchcock as host jabbing at the network and the advertisers.
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Feb 08, 2018
When I was watching McMillan & Wife, I wasn't familiar with The Thin Man series, I would say Susan Saint James as Sally, John Schuck as Charlie, the fact that Steven Bocho was the head writer for most of the series, and the bicycle chase from the pilot, Once Upon a Dead Man, are all iconic.
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Feb 08, 2018
The whole "McCloud riding down the street on a horse" thing was pretty iconic. As iconic as McCloud ever got: that and his Stetson. It's not like McMillan and Wife had any iconic images that I call. Nancy Walker, maybe.

Which is why I was pretty sure it was NYC. I don't think LA has mounted policemen. ;) If they do, they're not known for it.
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Feb 08, 2018
There was a lot of external footage of McCloud in NYC. Probably pickup: I'm sure the inside shots were Universal backlot stuff.

They did something similar with Kolchak. Filmed some footage of him driving around actual Chicago, then did all the internal and "close" external shots at Universal and thereabouts.
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Feb 07, 2018
You're right. McCloud was set in New York (although, like Kojak, likely filmed in L.A.). I don't necessarily have a problem with special guest stars; my beef is with something like Colt Seaver visiting Las Vegas and Wayne Newton or Dean Martin happening to walk through a scene playing themselves saying something like "Hey, Colt! I haven't seen you since...," and usually it has nothing to do with the actual plot.
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Feb 07, 2018
McCloud was never in Los Angeles, was he? I thought he was from New Mexico, and then relocated to NYC.

The Special Guest Appearance thing is pretty typical for shows from the 1950s up to at least the 1970s. The premiere episode of Mr. Lucky had Nehemiah Persoff . Charles Aidman was a Special Guest Star on Wild Wild West, basically for replacing Ross Martin. Often they handed out SGS credits like candy on Halloween.
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Feb 07, 2018
I remember liking the McCloud episode with Terri Garr where Chief Clifford had taken the night off and McCloud's partner was being held at gunpoint in the chief's office without anyone in the station knowing it, but one problem I always had with the show was how often McCloud was out of Los Angeles. Plus the "special guest appearance" by an actor who was big 20 years before. In many ways, to me it feels like the prototypical Glen Larson production—even more than It Takes a Thief.
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Feb 01, 2018
I think McCloud was a lot more innovative at the time then it is now. It's a bit... dated. Back when it premiered, it was relatively innovative. These days, we've seen and got a lot more fish-out-of-water type shows.

And part of it is that you had Dennis Weaver. To me, it's like Columbo: Peter Falk is a big part of why the show is as good at is. The writing and the guest murderers are other big parts.) If you had somebody other than Weaver as McCloud, I'd think it'd be a lot less interesting. But no, there's not a lot of memorable episodes of the show. Not like "Columbo vs. a Ham TV Actor" or "Columbo vs. a Magician" or "Columbo vs. Robert Culp" (several times).

I'm still hoping for McCoy or Hec Ramsey. :) Banacek was airing on MeTV a couple of years ago and I caught most of the episodes: they aired of Banacek. McCloud and McMillan aired, too. I liked the concept and the mysteries, but something about Peppard's Banacek just rubbed me the wrong way. He's almost... too smug, sometimes, without the humility and/or flaws of a Monk, or the various Sherlocks, or Columbo, or even a McCloud. Banacek is almost... too perfect.
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Feb 01, 2018
McCloud was my least favorite of the original NBC Mystery Movie rotation. Columbo was by far my favorite, and I enjoyed McMillan & Wife much more when I was younger than I do now. I can still sit through Banacek though, and it would be nice to see The Snoop Sisters and Tenafly rerun again to see if I still like them. But I digress.
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Feb 01, 2018
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