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MGM Studios DVD presents
The Outer Limits: The Original Series—Season One (1963)

"There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity.
For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat, there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to the outer limits."

- Narrator

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: September 01, 2002

Stars: Cliff Robertson, Lee Philips, Jacqueline Scott, Sidney Blackmer, Phillip Pine, Mark Roberts, Robert Culp, Leonard Stone, Martin Wolfson, Geraldine Brooks, Donald Pleasence, Priscilla Morrill, Edward Mulhare, David McCallum, Martin Landau, Shirley Knight, Harry Townes, Harry Guardino, Gary Merrill, Martin Sheen, Edward Asner, Scott Marlowe, Nina Foch, Henry Silva, Ralph Meeker, Barry Morse, Carroll O'Connor, Don Gordon, George Macready, Sally Kellerman, Chita Rivera, Richard Jaekel, Simon Oakland, Warren Oates, Nick Adams, MacDonald Carey, Sam Wanamaker, Joyce Van Patten, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Duvall, Vera Miles, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Barbara Rush, Richard Ney
Director: Leslie Stevens, Byron Haskin, Laslo Benedek, James Goldstone, Leonard Horn, Gerd Oswald, Abner Biberman, John Erman, Alan Crosland, Jr., John Brahm, Paul Stanley, Robert Florey

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 27h:22m:00S
Release Date: September 03, 2002
UPC: 027616879127
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B+B B-

DVD Review

Since its debut on television in 1963, The Outer Limits has had the misfortune of often being considered nothing more than a second-rate rendition of The Twilight Zone by casual observers. That type of broad generality really just won't do, because these two shows, both landmark in their own right, were dramatically different in content. While The Twilight Zone garnered more mass-appeal memorable episodes, the tone of that show generally relied on a twist ending or some type of startling last minute revelation. Not so with The Outer Limits, however.

The Outer Limits was more true science-fiction, admittedly of the pulpy, late 1950s variety; it was full of evil aliens, eccentric scientists and rockets on strings. The theme of most the one-hour episodes (fifty minutes, minus commercials) didn't usually revolve around a twist ending, but rather a recurring message that maybe it was we humans who were bad, and not those bulbous-headed aliens.

In going through this collection of all 32 season one episodes, you can't help but be struck with the inherent cheapness of most of the productions. Effects are minimalistic (or often just plain bad) and during The Man With The Power episode you can clearly see the strings suspending the allegedly "floating" rock. No one will ever consider The Outer Limits a testament to man's special effects abilities. What it does have is a generally consistent writing style that blends those 1963 fears of Communism and atomic warfare into often chatty exercises that were a hodge-podge of sci-fi and good old paranoia. Episodes like The Zanti Misfits and The Invisibles have a real The X-Files vibe to them, and the same level of alien paranoia that Chris Carter so elaborately developed for Mulder and Scully can be found to a lesser degree in The Outer Limits.

This Season One set from MGM is four, two-sided discs, with four episodes per side.

DISC 1

The Galaxy Being
Original Airdate: 09/16/63

Allen Maxwell: It's coming from out there.
Carol Maxwell: Where?
Allen Maxwell: Space.

Cliff Robertson is a nerdy science-loving radio station owner somewhere in the California desert. He pilfers his station's power and leftover equipment and constructs a transmitter/receiver that eventually makes contact with the episode's title character, who happens to be made of pure energy. The lumbering energy-mass alien is pretty darn eerie, and he's not exactly happy about being here.

The tone of this one is evocative of the entire series, and it rates a full 5 TV sets:





The Hundred Days of the Dragon
Original Airdate: 09/23/63

"In that part of the world we call The Orient, a sleeping giant has shaken itself to wakefulness." - narrator

An unnamed "oriental" country has perfected an injectable drug that reshapes a person's molecular structure, allowing the human face to be molded like clay to resemble anyone. An enemy agent assumes the identity of a soon-to-be elected U.S. President (Sidney Blackmer), and it is up to the First Daughter to see through the phony before it's too late. B-movie vet James Hong has a small role in this one.

Not as exciting as most of the others. A mere 3 TV sets:





The Architects of Fear
Original Airdate: 09/30/63

"Is this the day? Is this the beginning of the end?" - narrator

What are Earth's world leaders to do when we're too busy almost blowing ourselves up? Why, create a fictitious alien enemy (The Thetans) to take the heat, and deflect all of our natural hatred toward, of course. Robert Culp is selected to undergo an apparently painful procedure to become fully Thetan, and that really plays havoc in his relationship with his newly pregnant wife.

A creepy 4.5 TV sets:





The Man With The Power
Original Airdate: 10/07/63

"In their distant, silent orbits, these chunks of matter are beyond the reach of man. Beyond the reach of human hands, but not the reach of human minds." - narrator

This one has sort of a Twilight Zone-ish feel to it, and stars the great Donald Pleasence as a meek college prof who has had a special brain implant, allowing him to mentally unleash huge amounts of energy at things that tick him off (like his nagging wife, for example). Get Smart's Ed Platt co-stars as a crusty school Dean who gets an unwanted heaping helping of electric energy.

Not as (ahem) electric as some, this ranks 3.5 TV sets:





The Sixth Finger
Original Airdate: 10/14/63

"What wonders or terrors does evolution hold for us in the next 10,000 years?" - narrator

Edward Mulhare is a scientist dabbling in speeding up the evolutionary process, and after experimenting on monkeys (or rather a guy in a very bad monkey costume) he gets the chance to try it on humans. David McCallum is a noble, but slightly dim miner who gets a really, really, really REALLY big brain after Mulhare advances him evolutionary by 10,000 years.

A full 5 TV sets for a series classic:





The Man Who Was Never Born
Original Airdate: 10/28/63

"Here in the starry nowhere, Man can be at one with Space and Time." - narrator

It's Back to the Future/Terminator gone amuck as an astronaut returning to Earth goes through a time warp. He finds himself in the year 2148, and meets a mutant (played by Martin Landau) who informs him that life on Earth has been wiped out due to an extraterrestrial virus. The pair have to go back in time to stop the virus from spreading, even if it means killing the man who caused the plague before he is born.

The ever-convoluted time warp scenario still earns this one 4 TV sets:





O.B.I.T.
Original Airdate: 11/04/63

"In this room, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, security personnel at the Defense Department's Cypress Hill Research Center keep constant watch on it's scientists through O.B.I.T., a mysterious electronic device." - narrator

The title device is the Outer Band Individuated Teletracer, and it's essentially a high-tech 24/7 snoop on a group of Defense Department scientists at the Cypress Hill Research Center. This story delves into some relevant privacy issues, and at one point even becomes a fairly engaging courtroom drama. The alien undertones are a thinly veiled disguise of our own government's snoopability, and this was in 1963.

Another well-made thought piece, and it gets 4 TV sets:





The Human Factor
Original Airdate: 11/11/63

"Today, as in other lonely places of the world, the land is dominated by those instruments of detection which stand as a grim reminder of Man's fear of Man." - narrator

I generally like Arctic military base-themed sci-fi, but this episode is a little weak. Harry Guardino and Gary Merrill star, along with Sally Kellerman in this body-jumping story about a crazy major who is troubled by visions of a soldier he left to die. An even crazier machine just might cure him, but at what cost? Hill Street Blues' James B. Sikking has a quick role as an orderly.

Just 3 TV sets for this fella:





DISC 2

Corpus Earthling
Original Airdate: 11/18/63

"Rocks. Silent, inanimate objects, torn from the Earth's ancient crust, yielding up to Man, over the long centuries, all that is known of the planet on which we live." - narrator

It's Robert Culp (again), and this time he's got a metal plate in his head that allows him to hear a lab full of "protoplasmic aliens" plotting to take over the Earth. This one has a real X-Files-ish feel to it, and is served well by a fine performance by Culp as the only man who can save the world.

A wonderfully creepy 5 TV sets:





Nightmare
Original Airdate: 12/02/63

"A war between worlds has long been dreaded." - narrator

Martin Sheen and Whit Bissell show up in a twist on the ol' alien invasion theme, here centered on the gargoyle-ish Ebonites, who have accidently attacked Earth. Our military leaders coerce the apologetic aliens to inflict some POWs to a series of painful physical and mental torture, which in the end raises the question of who is really the monster: us or them?

Another 5 TV sets, in no small part due to the ugly Ebonites:





It Crawled Out of the Woodwork
Original Airdate: 12/09/63

"His name is Warren Edgar Morley. For the last 6 months, he has guarded this gate from 8 in the morning until 6 at night, at which time he is replaced by another just like himself. These are the last few moments of his life." - narrator

Edward Asner has to hunt down yet another nefarious ball of energy (a popular Outer Limits concept), this time a creature whose origins come from a cleaning lady who vacuums up what she believes to be an innocent dust ball. The problem is that it eventually becomes an "energy monster", and you know that can never be good.

I was a little tired of the energy ball thing, and this one gets just a mere 3 TV sets:





The Borderland
Original Airdate: 12/16/63

"The mind of Man has always longed to know what lies beyond the world we live in." - narrator

It's creepy seance time, when a wealthy old-timer tries to contact his dead son. A pair of scientists out to expose him, inadvertently drive the old man deeper toward his quest to cross over into the "fourth dimension" or as it's called here, "the borderlands."

I love a good seance, and this one supplies the requisite chills, so I give it 4 TV sets:





Tourist Attraction
Original Airdate: 12/23/63

"In Man's dark and troubled history, there are vestiges of strange Gods." - narrator

In what should have been more of a Lovecraftian tale than it ultimately became, this story of an ancient, undersea god (in reality a laughably bad sea creature costume) ends up becoming a condensed rehash of The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Henry Silva is great as a power-hungry dictator, and the always oily Ralph Meeker chews it up nicely as a corporate mercenary.

Bad creature effects knock this down to 3.5 TV sets:





The Zanti Misfits
Original Airdate: 12/30/63

"What is society to do with those members who are a threat to society?" - narrator

The Zanti's are a race of aliens who contact Earth in order to dump a spaceship full of their societal outcasts here. The military arranges a drop point out in the desert, but a wandering nutball played by Bruce Dern really mucks up the works when he stumbles across the Zanti ship. The stop-action Zanti effects look terribly bad today (to say nothing of the Zantis-on-strings effect near the episode's end), but this one creeped me out big time when I was eight.

Yes, it's 5, count 'em, 5 big TV sets for the episode that gave me nightmares when I was a a kid, especially when the Zanti crawls up the soldier's pant leg:





The Mice
Original Airdate: 01/06/64

"In dreams, some of us walk the stars." - narrator

Henry Silva pops up again, this time as a prisoner who is given two choices: life imprisonment on Earth or the chance to take part in the so-called "inhabitant exchange" with the planet Chromo. Of course he chooses Chromo, but it seems the Chromoites have a slightly more devious plan in mind, and only Silva can potentially save the day. Dabney Coleman has a supporting role in this episode.

Only 3.5 TV sets for this mildly entertaining installment:





Controlled Experiment
Original Airdate: 01/13/64

"There are those whose purpose reaches far beyond our wildest dreams." - narrator

Stepping away slightly from the traditional eerie sci-fi for a moment, this stab at The Twilight Zone-ish whimsy almost works, but not quite. Carroll O'Connor and Barry Morse are a pair of Martians on Earth, relegated here to study humans. Toss in a murder, a little time travel, and you have the makings of a "cute" episode, where the aliens are the good guys.

This one gets 3 TV sets:





DISC 3

Don't Open Till Doomsday
Original Airdate: 01/20/64

"The greatness of evil lies in its awful accuracy." - narrator

Nothing like a little end of the universe annihilation to keep you on your toes, especially when you're an aging dancer whose husband is swiped by a hideous alien bent on complete destruction. A couple of young newlyweds are about to be thrust in the middle of preventing a universe-wide leveling.

Great title, but this one only gets three TV sets:





ZZZZZ
Original Airdate: 01/27/64

"What about lower forms of life? Isn't it possible that they, too, are conducting experiments?" - narrator

Another classic. It's bees conducting weird experiments, which include transforming briefly into human form, in this case into the lovely Regina (Joanna Frank). When she commences some kinky wooing of an entomologist, played by Phillip Abbott, you can bet that his wife won't take too kindly to it. Trust me, you don't want to tick off a hive full of bees, especially ones that can turn human.

Silly but entertaining story generates a good "buzz" on this one, earning 4 TV sets:





The Invisibles
Original Airdate: 02/03/64

"For reasons both sociological and psychological, these three have never joined or been invited to join society." - narrator

A rebel secret agent named Spain (played by B-movie vet Don Gordon) infiltrates the title group, which happen to be an ultra-secret band of powerful men, all controlled by alien parasites. Can he resist infection? Boy, sounds like Mulder and Scully territory doesn't it? I bet you $10 Chris Carter saw The Invisibles as a kid...

Just on the similarity to The X-Files (or vice-versa, actually) this gets 4.5 TV sets:





The Bellero Shield
Original Airdate: 02/10/64

"There is a passion in the human heart which is called aspiration." - narrator

Martin Landau once again appears, this time as a nerdy inventor who perfects a new laser weapon. Sally Kellerman (again) shows up as his selfish wife who accidently uses the laser and beams an alien right to Earth. This one could have been the influence for Alien Encounter at Disney World—if it were better, that is.

Only 3 TV sets for this one, despite a solid turn by Landau:





The Children of Spider County
Original Airdate: 02/17/64

"It is, therefore, a matter of deep concern, and deeper consequence, when four of the most magnificent and promising young minds in the world suddenly disappear off the face of the Earth." - narrator

A young Chris Carter was probably taking more notes during this episode about a missing group of "brilliant minds" who all came from good ol' Spider County. A nasty shape-shifting alien wants to gather up a fifth, equally smart individual, and lug him back to a distant planet for who knows what.

Another great title, plus a creepy premise. By jove, I give it 4 TV sets:





Specimen: Unknown
Original Airdate: 02/24/64

"For centuries, Man has looked to the skies and sought to uncover the secrets of the universe." - narrator

A deadly race of alien flowers are about to find their way back to Earth (and of course global domination), after a space station scientist (Dabney Coleman) ignores their "screams" while scraping them off the hull. The whole alien conquest theme was a popular one for the series, and Specimen: Unknown is dark, moody and perfect early 1960s sci-fi.

This was one of the series highest-rated episodes, and deservedly so. It gets a full 5 TV sets:





Second Chance
Original Airdate: 03/02/64

"Does life exist somewhere other than this Earth?" - narrator

Here's another one of my favorites, which centers on an amusement park ride that can really show you outer space. Really. The whole thing is run by a pug-ugly alien with a light-up medallion, and he's got a typically secret agenda which involves acquiring a number of "participants" for yet another experiment. Those aliens, they just love experimenting.For the simple nostalgic joy this one brought me, 4.5 TV sets:





Moonstone
Original Airdate: 03/09/64

"In Man's conquest of Space, his own Moon must be the first to surrender." - narrator

It was still a few years before we walked on the moon when this episode first aired, so it must have been strange to have to imagine what might be there. This installment goes with the angle that Earthly astronauts land on the moon, and discover a tiny, round spaceship full of aliens from the planet Grippia. What's their story? Trust me, it ain't pretty.

I offer 4 TV sets for a not-so-far-fetched rendition of space travel (for The Outer Limits, that is):





DISC 4

The Mutant
Original Airdate:03/16/64

"At this very moment, our horizon is menaced by two explosive forces, both man made." - narrator

Astronauts find that the distant planet of Annex One is just like Earth, except for the fact that there is no night. Warren Oates hams it up as a crazed botanist who develops not just an abnormally large pair of eyes, but the ability to read minds and if that weren't enough, to kill by touch. When I was a wee mutant, I had Warren Oates-induced nightmares after this one.

It's 4.5 bug-eyed TV sets for this one:





The Guests
Original Airdate: 03/23/64

"You feel fear. You feel anger as well." - Alien Brain

There's trouble a-brewing when a big alien brain takes over the occupants of an old house. When a drifter comes a-calling after a weird accident, he is unwillingly thrust into a creepy dreamscape. Some low-budget brain effects are finely balanced from a great supporting cast, including Gloria Grahame, Nellie Burt and Vaughn Taylor.

This one earns 3.5 TV sets:





Fun and Games
Original Airdate: 03/30/64

"There was a moment in time, when those who were brilliant and powerful also were playful." - narrator

The nasty Anderans kidnap an earthly boxer, played by horror vet Nick Adams. Upon his arrival on the arena planet of Andera, he finds that he is to partake in a fight to the death against a couple of giant bugs from the Calco galaxy; the winner in the match taking the loser's home planet—after it's inhabitants have been destroyed, that is.

This is pure 1950s-caliber sci-fi pulp, and it gets 4 TV sets:





The Special One
Original Airdate: 04/06/64

"But what you do know about my plans makes it necessary for me to alter them, and that's a great inconvenience." - Mr. Zeno

More sneaky alien invasion elements here, with Happy Days' Marion Ross the proud mom of a "gifted" child selected by the mysterious Mr. Zeno (Richard Ney) to take part in a special government program. The problem is Mr. Zeno isn't what he appears, and it probably shouldn't surprise you if I told he wasn't from this planet.

Campy, red-scare propaganda merits a mediocre 3.5 TV sets:





A Feasibility Study
Original Airdate: 04/13/64

"The Lumanoids need slaves." - narrator

The posh residents of Beverly Hills become the kidnap victims of the disfigured Lumanoids, a race of aliens seeking fresh slave labor. Sam Wanamaker and Joyce Van Patten are a couple of the unlucky slaves-to-be, and this particularly well-written episode wraps with a nicely downbeat conclusion.

It's 4.5 TV sets for the Lumanoids:





Production and Decay of Strange Particles
Original Airdate: 04/20/64

"Hidden deep in the heart of strange new elements are secrets beyond human understanding." - narrator

Radiation fears are brought to life in this tired story where a nuclear power plant undergoes an accident that unleashes some kind of energy creatures, in addition to the minor problem of having opened a dimensional wall! Will the reactor chief save the plant, and the planet as well? What do you think?

This kind of thing never happened to Homer Simpson, so I give it just 3 TV sets:





The Chameleon
Original Airdate: 04/27/64

"We can change our minds, our faces, our lives to suit whatever situation confronts us. Adapt and survive." - narrator

Cold-blooded hitman Robert Duvall becomes the title character, as he is completely transformed into an alien in order to infiltrate a threatening alien spacecraft. This story borrows a bit from The Architects of Fear episode, but the alien makeup effects look pretty cool, and Duvall is never a dull actor. What's not to like?

The metamorphosis of Duvall merits 4 TV sets for The Chameleon:





The Forms of Unknown Things
Original Airdate: 05/04/64

"I told you it was no accident. He was dead, and now he's alive." - Tone

David McCallum returns for the season ender, in an episode that also features Vera Miles and Barbara Rush. McCallum is your garden variety inventor who dabbles in what he calls "tilting time", which is really Outer Limits-speak for raising the dead. We all know by now that bringing the dead back to life is never a good thing, and this installment proves that fact handily.

I have re-animated 4 TV sets just for the occasion:







Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Beautiful. They might be 40-years-old, but boy, these black & white episodes sure look good. Just about all of the 1.33:1 fullframe transfers are free of any major source print flaws, with only a few white specks appearing briefly on only a handful of episodes. Image detail is strong, with most episodes revealing a deep contrast, full of relatively deep, dark blacks.

Nice job, MGM.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: All 27+ hours of The Outer Limits are presented in good old-fashioned mono, but please don't let that scare you. There is nary a hiss or crackle to be found here, and everything sounds as good as mono from a 1963 television show will allow. Not surprisingly, there is an overall flatness to the audio transfer, but there isn't any extraneous defects to make watching (and listening) overly troublesome.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 160 cues and remote access
Production Notes
Packaging: Quadruple Alpha
4 Discs
8-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: With over twenty-seven hours of The Outer Limits spread across four discs, there really isn't much room or need for extras. MGM, however, has included a nice ten-page insert booklet outlining each episode and its chapters.

This set comes in a thick, sturdy alpha-style case, and it certainly FEELS impressive and substantive.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

If you're a fan of tacky 1950s science-fiction movies, then the occasionally dark world of The Outer Limits will certainly fill a void. Filling eight sides on four discs, the 32 episodes from the show's first season in 1963/1964 are a fairly consistent mix of weird aliens and sometimes even weirder humans.

Having watched The Outer Limits in late 1960s reruns as a kid, I have fond memories of having been terribly spooked by The Zanti Misfits and David McCallum's massive noggin in The Sixth Finger, these were mental visuals that stuck with me for years. Yeah, I know the "special" effects are bargain-basement, but the writing has that familiar feel of a dog-eared sci-fi anthology you might have read by flashlight under the covers on a warm summer night.

The pricing on this set is admittedly a bit steep, but still consider it recommended. Especially if this kind of stuff makes you giddy, like it does me.

 


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