Thursday, November 05, 2009

Big Video Thursday - Forms of Things Unknown

Sorry, my work schedule makes updating a little more hectic than it used to be, so I apologize for making you wait for this new edition of Big Video Wednesday, Now on Thursday for Extra Value!

Today we continue The Outer Limits with this, the last episode of the first season:

If I may wax pretentious for a moment, we as creators are all products of our influences. And at times, when we find something that particularly excites us, we may wear those influences on our sleeves a bit. This episode, written by (once again) Joseph Stefano and directed by Gerd Oswald, is so festooned with influences that it collapses under their weight.

The episode opens without the usual narration. Instead, we see a car careening down a winding road. At the wheel, a laughing dude who decides, for some inexplicable reason, to make out with Vera Miles. The speeding car, the lovers, the man laughing at danger, the jumpy editing: I'm reminded of Godard's "Breathless," which had come out just a couple of years before, The car goes into a skid and there's a freeze frame. Did the car wreck? Did everyone die? Will the rest of the episode be simply one of those extended dream sequences where the stars are actually dead, a la "Carnival of Souls?"

I wish it made that much sense.

So when we next see Laughing Dude, he's in his swimsuit by a lake. He saunters down into the water and calls for Kasha (Vera Miles) and Leonora. Who? Oh, there's another woman with them, played by Barbara Rush (known to science fiction fans for her roles in "When Worlds Collide" and "It Came From Outer Space"). Leonora grabs a leaf off of a bush, and Kasha drops it into a drink she's mixing. She hands the leaf back to Leanora, who drops it on the ground and grinds it under her foot like she's putting out a cigarette. Kasha warns her not to chew her nails; she might poison herself.

Laughing Dude, whose name is Andre, calls for the girls to bring him his drink in the lake.

"Kasha will pour," he says, in a sadly typical passage of dialogue, "And Leonora will serve. And then we'll go to London and pay a dark call on Leonora's rich and respected father. And when we've extorted him, we'll leave London, not very respected, but very rich."

Then he drinks his drink, and is poisoned + drowned. Kasha's very cold about it all, but Leonora's freaked, and it's starting to feel more like "Diabolique" now. For some insane reason, Kasha decides to put Andre's body in the trunk of their car and take him with them (she explains it later, but it still doesn't make sense). As they drive, they stop to allow an odd funeral party to pass, and suddenly, we've slipped from "Diabolique" to "The Seventh Seal."

As they drive through a rainstorm, Leonora sees the trunk lid open and screams that Andre is still alive. Kasha stops to check, and Leonora freaks out and runs through the stormy forest, mincing along slowly in her high heels. When Kasha tries to convince her that Andre is actually dead, Leonora says that Andre has changed position in the trunk. "My soul photographed it," she explains. Then she sees a shadowy figure and runs back to the car, where she sees that Andre's body is gone. Waah!

The car won't start, so they walk to a nearby mansion to ask for help. Sir Cedric Hardwicke answers the door, playing a pretentious blind manservant who looks like Uncle Fester.

Then in walks Ilya Kuryakin, and Leonora faints. Turns out, the man she saw in the forest is an inventor named Tone who has stolen Andre's body from their trunk and plans to return him to life using his special "time tilting" device, which consists of a bunch of clocks connected by wires. Seriously.

During the conversation in which this comes up, Leonora talks about how they poisoned Andre with a leaf from a "Thanatos tree" which killed him like "a crushed clown" and I seriously have no idea where that came from or what it means.

Tone takes Leonora up to see his device, and we see the scene which played as the teaser before the credits, with Leonora giving the fakest scream of all time...

And then mincing down the hallway in her high heels.

Meanwhile Andre has come back to life and is vastly amused by his former death. He makes out with Kasha some more and wants to go to London straightaway to extort Leonora's father. We get another Bergmanesque scene...

as Tone repents to the butler (who isn't the butler, actually) of having used his power over time to "resurrect an evil clown. Man, this just keeps getting stupider.

Tone decides to kill Andre, so while Andre watches, Tone pulls a cute little pistol out of a desk drawer and loads one bullet into it, all the while flaunting his crazy eyes.

But then he gets hypnotized by a toy on a table (?), so Andre takes it from him and shoots a chair (??). Then Andre takes off with Kasha while Tone announces his intention to use the Time-Tilter to kill Andre off again.

Then Andre dies in a car crash(????), and Tone decides to use the Time-Tilter to kill himself, which he does.

The End.

Really. There's not even one line of dialogue to wrap up the story after Tone disappears. Wikipedia states that this was shot as a pilot for a series titled The Unknown, and that the original pilot had narration at the beginning and end, although the text of the narration doesn't make the plot make any more sense.

What's pretty obvious here is that Stefano and Oswald were trying to make a European art-house movie for American television but failed. Because as senseless as it is, the episode is simply too coherent to be a European art-house film.

ETA: Silly me. I forgot to embed the link to the show. Here you go:

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