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The Stranger (1973)

TV series pilot (series never launched). After a freak mishap, an astronaut finds himself on an almost precise copy of Earth (right down to the Plymouth cars). However, this planet has ... See full summary »

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Cast

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Neil Stryker
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George Benedict
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Dr. Bettina Cooke
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Prof. Dylan MacAuley
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Max Greene
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Henry Maitland
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Carl Webster
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Dr. Revere
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Steve Perry
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Mike Frome
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Eric Stoner
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Truck Driver (as Bill Bryant)
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Ward E Administrator
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Guard
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Doctor
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Storyline

TV series pilot (series never launched). After a freak mishap, an astronaut finds himself on an almost precise copy of Earth (right down to the Plymouth cars). However, this planet has three moons, and is run by an Orwellian government called The Perfect Order, who seek out and crush all dissidents either by outright assassination or by having them treated at "Ward E." Hunted and alone, the story traces the astronaut's efforts to evade capture and return home. Written by Leo L. Schwab <ewhac@best.com>

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The planet he uncovered was a twin to Earth...but so ominously different!

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Sci-Fi

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26 February 1973 (USA)  »

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Stranded in Space  »

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1.33 : 1
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Premiered on "NBC's Monday Night At the Movies", February 26, 1973. See more »

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Edited from In Like Flint (1967) See more »

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Of it's time...
19 March 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Typical ABC Movie-of-The-Week circa 1973 when some cheesy and some interesting Sci Fi films were produced rather prolifically. They are still way better than the crap that Sci-Fi Channel makes seemingly weekly for "Premieres".

This one was more or less a rip-off/remake of the much better Journey to The Far Side of The Sun(1969) which was made in England and Europe by Gerry Anderson. That film benefited from incredible FX work from Derek Meddings, a great score from Barry Gray and a good cast and had a haunting ending.

The Stranger doesn't have any of that. The plot-an astronaut Glenn Corbett-blown up in space-finds himself on a parallel earth, we learn it is called Terra(one assumes the play on the word "terror" as well as Terra meaning Earth) with three moons. He wakes up-a prisoner in what turns out is a mental hospital-to a very paranoid and not-giving-much-info hospital staff. Managing to escape he finds out he's on this creepy, alternate version of earth but ruled by a totalitarian government called The Perfect Order and is pursued by Cameron Mitchell, a ruthless agent of the secret police for this government. The agents drive around in ominous looking Plymouths(that do not sound like Earth cars) and wear these strange knit jackets with wide lapels and they've cautioned everyone that a dangerous mental patient has escaped and that he must be found. Our astronaut manages to evade capture by dressing like the inhabitants-who dress unfashionably drab sort of like old 60's Communist Russia. When he starts asking questions-such as a scene in a bookstore when he asks "What came before the Perfect Order?" suspicion is aroused and up pops Mitchell and his thugs who threaten the already paranoid citizens with "Ward E" a sinister mental asylum. They'll do anything to cooperate and earn "citizen points" rather than face the ominous Ward E so Corbett is off again in The Fugitive-style escapes. The evils of Ward E are illustrated when another administrator (Tim O' Connor) confides to Mitchell that he wonders if this visitor has something to say and maybe this "Perfect Order" is wrong. Later we see him sitting in the middle of a weird surrealistic room, in hospital clothing, completely docile and vegetative and Mitchell warns him over his shoulder how he has paid the price for doubting. Meanwhile our astronaut befriends a young doctor(Sharon Acker) who not only believes his story of coming from-and wanting to go back to-another earth-but seems to have feelings for him. Eventually she is captured and hooks up with him later saying she escaped. He wants to use this society's slightly better space technology (which is hinted at, by Perfect Order elders that they'll eventually use to invade Earth) to escape this madness. When they get to the launch facility, she implores him not to go(he's already put on a space suit) and in the struggle, she reveals she was in fact taken for "treatments" at Ward E and has been brainwashed to lead him back to the authorities. He sets off an alarm which incapacitates Acker(revealing the nature of the Ward E treatments)who crumbles, grasping her head and he attempts to get aboard the spaceship. She's recaptured and the last we see is Mitchell telling her she's failed and it's back to Ward E-forever-as she screams. The launch fails and he winds up, staring wistfully at the three moons, all set up for a TV series that never happened.

The biggest thing this film had working against it was lack of a budget. The FX are non-existent, space stuff is all stock and a shot of the Terra launch facility simply looks like Cape Kennedy/Vandenberg AFB footage at night. The three moons are nothing more than three balls just hung on string in front of a star field-very cheesy. It has the claustrophobic-shot-in-an-old-office building feel that many of those Made-for-TV'ers suffered from. Also, everything seems very convenient. He appears to have escaped into a regular New England-looking back lot town-that seems very near the space facility. It has a creepy moment when he takes the scarf off Sharon Acker's head to see her temple areas disfigured horribly from shock treatments, though I saw this coming a mile away, the fact she shows up inexplicably and with a head scarf on.

It was a film, very much of it's time that Gerry Anderson did much better earlier, but downplayed the political angle of it.


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