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Enterprise: Breaking the Ice (2001)
Physics be damned!
The one thing that always annoyed me with the Star Trek series is the liberties they take with the laws of physics. This episode had me shaking my head with amazement that I felt the need to review something I wouldn't normally take the time to do. Sometimes you suspend your believe system to allow for such things as a properly functioning warp drive, time travel where deemed unavoidable, sound in a vacuum, etc. You want to participate in the fun. In this instance two of the crew are deployed onto a comet with a diameter of about 82 kilometers or so. They went to all of the trouble, for once, to position a nearby star in order for the comet to have a tail - the star is referred to as the 'sun' for some reason though I don't believe they intended THE Sun, and plotted a position of the slowly rotating comet for the shuttle to land to avoid 'the sun'. But then when the crew land they are almost instantly confronted with a very Earth-like gravity field very much not in line with what a comet of that size would have -- which should be virtually none. OK, so let's chalk it up to gravity boots? Somehow they manage to build a snowman!? Hmm. OK...let it slide. But then on the way back to the ship one of the crew falls into a hole which much the same force as if influenced by normal Earth gravity? He hurts his leg and needs to be carried back to the ship and yet his apparent weight causes the going to be slow. Literally, he should weigh next to nothing here. Later, the ship falls into a hole as well with the same 1g results. Very hard. Very abrupt. Sorry, folks. This fails the physics test even if you struggle to construct an assumptive work-around in your head. Even the mining explosion makes a huge noise - which they even warn about prior to the explosion. I notice I neglected to review the actual episode here however. Very well. It was mundane. Nothing special here. I have never watched the Enterprise series previously but noticed it did not have a long stay on the network. So far into the series, for myself, no episode has been memorable - but this one takes the cake to bend the universal laws of common physics in order to establish a story for the fragile blossoming of the human/Vulcan relationship. There were more plausible ways to do it.
A minor piece of flotsam
The problem with Dracula or vampire movies these days is that there are so many of them and each clings to its various qualities (or lack of) so that watching a TV movie from 1974 and expecting it to register positively against this intimidating backdrop is probably too much to burden any single feature with. However, 'Kolchak: The Night Stalker', also a TV movie from 1974, exceeds expectations and still plays well with audiences today. So, when I mentioned to a fellow movie-buff that I had watched this Jack Palance vehicle, he had never heard of it but felt that it must somehow be awesome simply because of Jack's presence. Unfortunately, this does not hold true here and I had to tell him. Written by Richard Matheson, I was expecting something with a bit of a twist. He wrote 'Twilight Zone' episodes, after all! Perhaps my anticipation was not called for here. This is pretty much a straight-up retelling or alternate realization of the basic Bram Stoker character and tale. There are really no surprises unless one would want to call Dracula seeing a photo of a girl who resembles a woman he loved centuries ago and that becomes his raison d'etre for the rest of the film a surprise twist. Actually, that was a fairly common theme in the old TV show 'Dark Shadows'. Well, what a surprise. Old Dan Curtis is at the directorial helm here and is essentially rekindling ideas he has used previously. So, maybe the failure of this movie lies with the director? That is not to say that this movie is terrible. It is not. But as noted, the sheer prevalence of so many really good vampire movies shoves this one into obscurity as demonstrated by my movie-buff friend's complete ignorance of this film's existence. The bright spot in this limp production is Palance's performance. He is really great here. Without him there isn't much point in viewing this, quite frankly. Alas, gone is the vampire that changes into a bat, a wolf (dark German Shepherds, actually), or a cloud of fog. He still sleeps in a coffin by day, though. He can still be deterred by a crucifix and garlic. Thus, some of the reliable Hollywood vampire nuances are still present. Even the sunlight can be hazardous although he doesn't flake away like Christopher Lee. OK. We can deal with that. Yet, the one that is missing that seemed the most annoying is his ability to enter a household or residence without first getting permission to do so. (Handled superbly in 'Let The Right One In') Lugosi's Dracula, at least, schmoozed his way in and socialized providing dreadful anticipation of what is to become. Palance is much more direct and just crashes in. However, Jack does the absolute best with the material and occasionally transforms a couple of instances into very successful terror. Unfortunately, absolutely everyone else in this presentation is nearly instantly forgettable. In addition, one very annoying feature is the lack of detail to the general surroundings. I realize this was a TV movie and a very limited budget. Still, Dracula's 15th century castle's architecture was occasionally too modern and, in fact, sported catacomb arches built from a very modern brick and mortar painted over with lumpy white paint. It looked very much like any number of more recent basement crawlspaces. The outer facade was unconvincing as well looking frequently like some kind of smoothed stucco. The ambiance of the countryside tries to be mysterious but every now and then I halfway expected someone on a little motorbike to come putting through. Also noted previously are the stock German Shepherds substituting for wolves. Yet, should this film be faulted for resorting to this when so many other movies manage to do so and still chill? That is the problem, isn't it. This movie just didn't chill the way it could have. I am giving it a 6 mostly for Palance's performance. Watch for the way he tries to get around the crucifix held in his direction. He paced nervous and restless like a caged lion. Also, see the screaming rages he flies into. Some of those are surprisingly frightening. It is a shame the rest of the film couldn't keep up with Jack's performance.
We have such sights to show you
This is a fine example of a movie with virtually no budget (by Hollywood standards) that makes the best of whatever is on hand and ends up creating a superior and rather unique horror film. The first assault comes from the fine music score. From the very first opening credits, Christopher Young seems to be channeling Dominic Frontiere (original Outer Limits) as he imposes somewhat beautiful melodies that are entirely surrounded by a haunting and sad halo. When you hear this music the next time you watch this, that feeling of anticipatory dread and anxiety creeps up your spine. You know what you are in for if you watch this again, but you can't help yourself. This movie is smart. Watching it is like trying to open your own puzzle box (Lament Configuration). Each scene reveals more horror that messes with your head but doesn't reveal too much. You are shocked by what you just experienced, feel repulsed and yet compelled to see more. You find yourself wanting it to take it to the next level. Pain and pleasure. Much of this can be attributed to the very intelligent editing. You end up believing you see more than what is really there. This makes the movie work wonderfully and shores up the dismal budget by making the entire project larger than the sum of the parts. I have heard that this was rated X when it first came out to theaters. There is a sexual theme here but this is far from a sex movie unless you call 'f**king' with your head a form of sex. If this was ever rated X it would have to be because of the frequent graphic violence that by today's standards is not all that bad. The special effects could be made better with a more comprehensive budget, but it probably shouldn't. It has a charm all its own. And yet, the presentation is key. There is a reason for the violence. The individual is, after all, asking for it voluntarily by trying to open the puzzle box. Thus, you don't feel that the Cenobites are necessarily all-consuming monsters since they wreak their own brand of sadism on those who are essentially requesting it. This seems to play out up until the end of the movie when Kirsty at first appears to be allowed to leave the scene when she manages to return escapee Frank back to the Cenobites. "This is not for your eyes" But as she makes her way down the stairs she is obstructed by one of the Cenobites who tries to back her up the stairs and back into the room. Perhaps Kirsty made the mistake of hanging around too long as she watched Frank's final shredding?? Or perhaps this is the movie that keeps on giving... I have scene it numerous times and would advise not watching it from a television broadcast. They have a nasty tendency to cut the the more graphic scenes which I find entirely necessary to realize the point of the movie in the first place. Who is this movie for? You have to be kind of bent in the head to watch this and appreciate it. Obviously not for those with sensitive dispositions or are prone to innocence. This movie can corrupt and you may never think the same afterward, but you will be entertained nevertheless.
An episode that kept on giving long afterward
I was young and saw this the first time it was broadcast as I wandered aimlessly around my grandparents living room with an attention span befitting my age. The episode didn't hold my interest...at first. About 15 minutes into it I couldn't NOT watch. I really did want to know what was in that jar, but then the episode piled on these side dramas that awoke an interest in the actual story. I'm not going to do much more here than add to the other praises already entered here for this particular episode. I was completely disturbed for years by the ending and, thanks to the Internet, was finally brave enough to see it again. Well, it wasn't so bad about 50 years later having grown and become acclimatized to certain kinds of gore and violence. It's handled very tastefully in this instance but it will give you the 'willies' nevertheless. Hitchcock was correct...you don't NEED to see the violent act or the blood, etc. I relived it all for 50 years and, as it turns out, saw much more in my mind's eye than what was really there. The shocking slice of the watermelon....beautiful!! Do see this.
The Outer Limits: Counterweight (1964)
In the hands of, let's say, Rod Serling.....
...this would been a great character study and more than likely a far more interesting episode.
It has a 'made for the theater' aura since the set is an obvious sound-stage with rather sparse accommodations. 6 people (5 men and one woman) as actual passengers, plus 1 stewardess and a pilot. The idea is to see how Joe-average handles the stress and confinement of a long interplanetary flight. Each passenger has a claustrophobic cubbie containing a bed and a small storage area. Each has a curtain that can be drawn for privacy. Snoring, etc, quickly becomes and issue.
No idea where the stewardess of the pilot sleep. They are mostly incidental characters anyway and are used when helpful to the plot.
There is the impression that the 'ship' is larger than what is displayed. The passengers do frequent a sort of lounge, dining, library area. It is humorous to see that they'd stocked a rather large, and weighty, library of books.
Meanwhile, when the passengers sleep a strange illuminated alien presence in the form of a jagged serpent tongue about 6 inches long slides from bunk to bunk, enters the sleeper's heads and monitors their dreams. What's the point? This is not entirely clear yet and the sleeper's revelations are, shall we say, ultimately succinct yet mundane. Each sleeper is easily defined by these revelations but they are not necessarily that interesting. Obviously the intention here is do character studies of flawed human beings - the more interesting ones being a power hungry but frightened businessman, and an aging woman who is becoming all too aware that her clock is ticking. I have seen this episode a few times and for some reason all of the other characters are unmemorable. Having said that, this is where I began thinking how incredible Rod Serling was at writing these kinds of things and how that was missing here. Ultimately the characters here are cardboard representations with little to no depth except for the power hungry businessman who is played by Michael Constantine and this is perhaps why he stood out over the lesser roles.
While the episode churns and the days drag into months, the characters have the expected personality conflicts. As it turns out, there are little surprises pre-programmed into this experiment. Things like strange noises, shaking spaceship, power failures and such were designed into the routine to stir things up and even frighten the passengers so that perhaps one of them will push the panic button and end the experiment. They are determined to see it through - especially Constantine who has set up a lucrative business wager/venture that will pay off big if the experiment is a success --- so you know he is not afraid to threaten to kill the first person to push the panic button. But there is a more sinister side. Other little surprises occur that were NOT programmed into the mix. Who is setting those off??? It is not difficult to figure that one out.
What is difficult to accept is how a botanist who has a small sequestered garden is grieving over his dying plants but fails to notice that one very peculiar fuzzy coiling foot-long obelisk is rudely jutting up from the soil. Anyone else would question the existence of this oddity. He pays it no attention at all and whines about the audacity of his plants refusing to thrive. This is confusing in the respect that as soon as the viewer sees its threatening presence, you just know that this will be a problem waiting to happen.
Eventually the alien plant becomes animate and confronts the passengers to pass along a message a la 'The Day The Earth Stood Still'. In fact, some of the stop-motion work here is good.
The passengers listen to the message and then make a decision which I won't reveal here but it isn't difficult to figure out. End of episode.
Bottomline : Kind of a dull episode that could had every opportunity to be far more interesting and logical but didn't. This is generally though to be one of the lesser OL episodes. It is simply because, as with most of season 2, an idea with some merit is fumbled by the new production team who seem to have no clue how to deal with science fiction.
I wanted to shut it off after only 5 minutes
Clifford Simak is a fairly well-know science fiction writer though I am not very familiar with his work. I expected quite a lot by word of mouth, however. And maybe in the hands of OL's first season staff this could have played out more credibly and incredibly. We start off by being injected into a group of students being given a tour of a museum's collection of alien creatures thus far discovered. They are all stuffed and, therefore, dead -- or are supposed to be. However, the creatures are ridiculous in appearance and sport incredibly naive names (Megasoid!? c'mon!). By the time the tour guide (or is he the museum guard?) gets to the Megasoid and provides his ever so brief blurb about the characteristics and habits of this dreaded creature - closeup of the eye reveals that this creature isn't a stuffed museum prop. In fact, it reveals a very human eye looking out of an all too obvious eyehole in a bulky mask. Now I realize that OL doesn't have a budget and their effects don't always hold up well (refer to 'The Man With The Power' and the very visible wires for a levitating boulder), but viewers were able to get around bad effects because the stories eclipsed that lapses imposed by the budgets. In this episode it looks like they didn't even try. The Megasoid is, frankly, terrible. It's a large overly hairy fat kangaroo with a pronounced bony cranium (too hold all of that brain power they keep referring to I imagine), a huge beak of some kind which probably doesn't function that way since the Megasoid has a very human mouth and teeth (groan). The only part of this costume that registers as potentially worrisome is its claws. Just a terrible costume (and I was able to accept George Barrows' in a gorilla suit with a space helmet in 'Robot Monster'). Even the Megasoid's voice is surprisingly articulate and meek - almost Roddy MacDowall-like.
Well, fortunately the Megasoid is mostly a plot vehicle for a man, who illegally brought this creature to Earth in the first place, to have a sort of clone of himself created with initial programming to kill the Megasoid and then return to the residence at midnight to be destroyed. The 'clone' must not be allowed to live passed five hours or it will begin to resurrect the memories of its source and become 'aware'. Shades of 'Blade Runner!! Considering that this 1964, this concept alone is worthy of a good OL episode and we dump the Megasoid altogether. But for some reason we had to have the ridiculous monster imposing himself on the plot at convenient interludes in order to provide a motivation for the characters.
I am not going to dwell further on this episode since my patience with OL season 2 is just about used up. I admit giving up on season 2 at the 4th episode in 1964 and have only recently seen this. The idea of clones or robot lookalikes and the eventual moral play surrounding this was done so much better in Twilight Zone's 'In His Image'. For me, alas, this is one OL episode I have no desire to see again.
The Outer Limits: I, Robot (1964)
Drops the ball again
The most perplexing thing about this episode is that producer Ben Brady had been doing 'Perry Mason' episodes....a LOT of them. But you wouldn't be able to tell this by the courtroom semi-drama performed here. If it had bothered to effectively raise any thought provoking issues at all, with the key word being 'effectively', it would have brought this ever so limp episode up a few notches.
I won't bother reviewing the plot since most of you already know it by heart. It is a really great concept! Since the laws of our land have given corporations the same legal rights and standing in our courts and at the rate things are going this should predictably be coming to your community soon in some incarnation. The main problems with this episode is that we never do feel any sympathy for Adam, the robot. Not quite, anyway. I suspect that the attempt was made to demonize the people, which was effective, and that somehow this would throw the imbalance of the viewer's empathy to Adam. Bad versus good. Unfortunately, at the end of the episode Adam still seems like a robot - and that is all. They tried to impress the fact that Adam's personality was imprinted from his now dead creator. The problem is that the viewer never really knows the creator. The action picks up after the creator's accident and I believe that the producer's of this broadcast must have thought we would simply figure it out. But the real first thing the robot does is break a child's arm. True, he was saving her from drowning...well, not quite...the water was barely a foot deep. The child was more scared than in any peril from drowning. So, like the rest of the proceeding episode, it is simply not effective at demonstrating any real commitment to the heart of the story. Nearly all of the characters are cliché cardboard representatives of whatever point of view they are supposed to have. The faces of the sheriff and the pursuers as they try and look angry and tough are, frankly, comically terrible. And, as I mentioned, the courtroom presentation is dreadful. I kept wondering when someone would deliver the surprising testimony or impressive verbal argument that would or should sway the judge. It never really happens. It barely breaches a rudimentary law textbook. Perry Mason could have easily won this case for either side --- but he wasn't here -- just his producer.
I have just shredded this episode and you may think you shouldn't watch it. You should. My bias is based on the fact I had seen what the first season of OL could do with worse scripts that this. Even 'ZZZZZ' had merit. I admit I had quit watching the second season of OL after the 4th terrible episode in a row back in 64, so I only recently viewed this one. The Twilight Zone handled this concept way better in 'I Sing The Body Electric' as did Star Trek The Next Generation in 'The Measure Of A Man'. None of that is here but you will get the rudiments of this oft revisited theme.
Outer Limits slides back into mediocrity
My biggest complaint with season 2 of OL is that the production staff seem to have no clue how to do plausible science fiction. They impose conditions and motivations into a script that ultimately prove to make the discerning viewer feel cheated out of a good story. After the excellent 'The Inheritors I and II', 'Keeper Of The Purple Twilight' avalanches right back into the banality of the rest of season 2.
It is a great title though, isn't it. It is never satisfactorily explained however. It really doesn't seem to mean anything perhaps.
So, the basic story is a dedicated scientist is seeking certain equations to help him complete his death ray and he is having no luck on his own. He is frustrated and emotionally sick over the stress of the situation. Along comes an alien to help but his motivations are bizarre. Basically he is supposed to provide the equations so that the death ray is produced on Earth and this would open the door for the rest of his species to come in and take over the world. It's sort of a warped hostile version of 'The Day The Earth Stood Still'. On top of this, the 'logical' alien advises the scientist he will provide the equations if he can have the scientists emotions. Well, I didn't see that coming - and, quite frankly, seems completely insipid. As you can surmise, the emotions don't sit well with the alien - blah blah blah.
I found myself wanting desperately for this episode to foray into something original or simply end. It finally ended. The only thing I managed to take away from this episode was the impressive alien configurations. These were worthy and could hold up to anything from the first season although that 'crushed velvet(?)' uniform was a bit laughable. And did I detect crotch zippers on the pants of the soldier aliens?? Did you see the claws on those guys? Logistically, urinating could be an adventure I would bet.
Overall: A dreadful episode slightly saved by the eerie alien costumes
Very sorry I missed the original broadcast
As noted previously I pretty much gave up on the original broadcast of season 2 of Outer Limits at the fourth episode. There was an obvious trend toward banality in the presentations that made the episodes far too easy to shrug off. Having been so fortunate to have survived into these modern times and keeping a promise I made to myself back in 1963, I purchased that DVD set - almost entirely for season 1 alone, though. Nevertheless, they are mine - all mine!! > insert insane cackle here < I actually do recall seeing the beginning of this episode in '64 as they were comparing brainwaves. It didn't seem all that interesting so I went about my evening doing something else. It was tough to want to watch what used to be a great show die. I also recall catching the very end of the episode (Part II) having no idea that beginning (Part I) had anything to do with the turning off of the forcefield. etc. I just remember feeling sad and loss like saying goodbye to a close friend. For some strange reason the ending stuck in my head for all of these decades. And now I know why. I finally got to see this all of the way through. In fact, I have watched it a number of times trying to shred it to pieces as I have with the other episodes of season 2. I am finding that this episode, both parts, is an example of the finest script of season 2.
There are the 'conveniences'. After all, what are the chances that 4 people would get shot in the head with bullets recovered from the same meteorite? The fact that the enemy even mined a meteorite impact site for ammunition in the first place seems peculiar. That during the process of creating the bullets any of the alien 'biological(?)' substance would have survived is perplexing. What happens to those that were shot in the butt, for example? Well, the concept and coincidence is far-fetched and, in fact, this is also mentioned in passing among the investigators and scientists. By admitting this the script aligns itself with the skeptical viewer and one is less apt to feel like the writers are trying to treat the audience as, well, stupid. It becomes easier to suspend disbelief.
Part 1 sets up the story and does so very well. It is a somewhat complex thing to have four different stories going on and trying to explain to the viewer what has happened to the four individuals and keep it entirely understandable and plausible. It is my understanding that some felt Part 1 was dry and boring. Frankly, I found the time to be used very wisely in detailing the stories. If anything, there are some extremely smart cuts between scenes that actually move the story along in what could resulted in the excessive meandering we've seen in previous episodes. The unknown motivations of the four individuals are unbalancing. They are perceived as hostile and yet they do absolutely nothing illegal. This provides an interesting little internal debate as the story plays out. Duvall and gang want to round them up based on these perceptions alone and yet since they really have done nothing illegal and don't appear to be trying to hide at first, is there any justification for the forced detainment? How relevant is this still in modern times under the umbrella of the Patriot Act? Part 2 coalesces nicely into the resolution but does so in a very measured way. Neither the viewer nor any of the four individuals actually have any idea why they are compelled to complete the actions they've been assigned. They have stressed this very fact and cannot help themselves. Then things get a bit more touchy and a forcefield is slapped together to keep the government at bay - and yet at no time do the four individuals make threatening retaliations against the government agents and their lackeys. The whole thing climaxes as the children get into the act.
I have decided that this is one episode that I admire so much I have kept 'spoilers' to a minimum. There are no horrifying monsters here. It is done on the 'cheap' as OL was wont to do but like every great OL episode the frugality took a major back seat to a great script. This is one of them. Do yourself a favor and see it.
The Outer Limits: Wolf 359 (1964)
This one almost works!!
I've mentioned on previous reviews that I quit watching season 2 OL after the 4th disappointing episode so I didn't see this one when originally broadcast. Having proudly acquired the DVDs (entirely for the benefit of season 1), I was now able to watch this one. I was pleasantly surprised with this one. It is NOT a great OL episode because it still lacks the final punch of a surprising ending coupled with the thought provoking concept, but at least this time we have the benefit of a thought provoking concept linked to the first truly imaginative creature all season. OL was known to have next to no budget. Season 1 made up for this on sheer imagination and making the absolute best with what was available. The creature in this episode takes up that tradition. Almost insanely simplistic in concept it is amazingly effective and quite creepy. Unfortunately, and again, the production team doesn't seem to have any idea what to do with the concept. Scientists are building an enclosed miniature of a planet that actually exists over 8 light years away, which they rightfully point out that they cannot even see with a telescope - yet somehow they've been able to acquire the knowledge of and replicate the environment in their lab??? Hmmm. Evolution on this alien-lab planet is also somehow sped up greatly by the virtue of its smallness and other imposed conditions. Early on the view under their microscope appears to be a forested terrain much like Oregon. In fact, at one point it looks like someone had been logging on one side of a hill. During this it is pointed out that there is no life expected on this replicated planet. Huh? Trees? At least it looked like trees. Oh well, nevermind. Later somevexploratory photographs taken appear to show the teeth in the open mawvof some creature. At one point, a picture is briefly displayed of a creature that looks suspiciously like the one in the previous episode 'Invisible Enemy'. Fine. OL is making due with budget restrictions - or they simply didn't care anymore(?). But then a short while later their exploratory browsing shows the terrain to be entirely covered in lava flows(!?). It is remarked that the evolution of the planet is Earthlike(!) and soon they should be reaching the Mesozoic era (!?) It is also here that they first glimpse the wraith-like creature. It is an eerie effect. This is also when the concept seems to implode. I could not understand why they would go to all of the trouble to construct an alien planet from 8 light years away only to have it virtually replicate the Earth? It is mentioned that they intend to eventually be able to see the future of Earth since the evolutionary process will mimic and soon overtake our present time and move onward. Most confounding is when one of the photographs eventually developed clearly shows an atom bomb explosion(!?). The integrity of this episode is falling apart rapidly. This is compounded upon at the end of the episode it is commented that next time they should attempt to construct a planet that contains such virtues as love like Earth....???? Was this supposed to be entirely ironic or idiotic since everything they had been cataloging (except for the great looking monster) has been very much like Earth. So, in order to enjoy this episode one must not get bogged down in these completely astounding plot holes. For example, despite having this great creature the episode seems to have no idea what to do with it. It menaces things for no resolved purpose. It manages to dehydrate a tree, a cactus, and kills a pet bird and a couple of guinea pigs. It scares everyone else half to death and -- that's about it. It does have a strangeness quality that comes very close to a good season 1 episode even if the story and ludicrous benign ending is a let down.