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Archive for August 28th, 2017

by Sam Juliano

 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.

Trent:  The control voice intonation that ushered in one of the most unique television shows ever conceived has over the years become as famous as the individual episodes it introduced.  Today the deceit of course seems a bit dated and laughable, but in a remarkable twist a great many know it without even having seen a single epsiode of the show that spawned this all-too-familiar catch phrase.  I’d like to introduce myself.  For purposes of today’s panel discussion I will be going by the name of “Trent.”  I will be moderating a brief discussion of the classic science fiction series with three others, who will hereby be known as “Judith Bellero”, “Gwyllm Griffiths” and “Andro”.  I would like to extend my appreciation to the organizers of today’s science fiction convention for giving our panel disccussion the green light and to the workers at the Javits Center here in Manhattan for their yeoman work in setting up the chairs and audio equipment.  Our fearless quartet, three men and one fair lady can be accurately framed as baby boomers, those who grew up at the time The Outer Limits and other renowned anthology shows were being aired.  While we are fans of science fiction and horror, we also favor shows with supernatural and fantastical elements, both of which are manifested in today’s cerebral, all-encompassing talk.  Judith I would like to get this discussion started by asking you what attracted you to the show?  I won’t dare ask you your age, but as a Baby Boomer you are right there with the rest of us  so to speak.

Judith:  I am not one of those vain women who devote their lives towards concealing their age.  I am 59 now, and discovered The Outer Limits a few years after its short initial run had concluded as a very impressionable young girl.  A local station in Cincinnati, where I grew up picked up the 49 shows in a syndication package, and because my father was such a passionate science fiction adherent, I sat next to him on the living room couch sitting as quietly as the control voice demanded, though the austere tone of the show somewhat unerved me.  (pause) I was also kind of a tomboy at that age and shared my feelings about the show in the schoolyeard with some boys who counted The Outer Limits as a regular obsession.  I was too young at the time to realize that one of the two men who conceived the show -and wrote some of the very best episodes- was none other than Joseph Stefano, who wrote a little horror movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock called Psycho.  But my first run through the show was uncomplicated and in a sense it meant more to me than the re-viewings and introspection encountered years later.  Even with the phony rubber masks and cheesy sets, it was an incomparably imaginative show with a rich and expressionistic visual scheme – I dare say it eclipsed the more famous The Twilight Zone strictly from that visual standpoint.  Nothing like The Outer Limits was ever done, nor even attempted later on, not even in the inferior, if occasionally impressive re-make of the 90’s.  The Outer Limits, at its peak, was one of the most unique shows on the small screen: Created by Leslie Stevens but produced during its superior first year by Joseph Stefano, the show told sci-fi stories through a lens of Gothic horror, using surreal imagery and stark, sometimes expressionist cinematography to create an eerie mood and look. (more…)

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Dino Risi’s 1962 “Il Sorpasso”

by Sam Juliano

R.I.P horror film legend Tobe Hooper passed away on Saturday at age 74.  His terrifying Texas Chainsaw Massacre was one of the most influential films ever made, and Poltergeist has likewise earned his classic status.  The last few months has been sadly tough on horror icons

Labor Day is only one week into the future, so the summer respites being enjoyed are reaching their conclusion.  Weather-wise it doesn’t seem like autumn is close at hand, but at this time of the year anything can change fast.  Halloween decorations and back-to-school displays are all the rage.  Interesting films are beginning to show up at the art houses, and serious film buffs are beginning to take note of the films they think will be in the running for year-end awards.  But this may be jumping the gun as we have four culturally rich months ahead, that we need to nurture not rush.

As to the ongoing Top 80 Television Countdown, all is going extraordinarily well.  Solid essays, active comment threads, impressive page view totals point to a successful project as we approach the final 30 leading up to the late September unveiling of the Top 5.  Plans have been finalized for Part 2, which is even more massive than the one we doing at present.  Additions have been made numerous times, and the currect number is 141 shows for Part 2, meaning a grand total of 221 when the currently-running 80 is added on.  The tentative starting date for the second part will be around December 21, and it will run everyday until sometime around May 9th or 10th.  To say it the most massive and auspicious project in the history of the site would be an understatement.  As always, ace writer Jim Clark has been and will continue to post his great essays every third week.

Writing and viewing for the Television Countdown has prevented me from seeing more films in theaters, but I am determined to reverse that this coming week.  My son Danny, a friend Tony Lucibello and I did attend a great double feature of Italian black and white masterpieces at the Film Forum – Dino Risi’s Il Sorpasso and Mario Monicelli’s The Passionate Thief in gorgeous restored prints: (more…)

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