Lost in the Outer Limits

January 3, 2011

Reader Bobby J. has pointed out to me that bloggers Peter Enfantino and John Scoleri will be following up their completed “Thriller a Day” project, in which they offered Siskel-and-Ebert style kibitzing on each episode of Thriller, with a similar rundown on The Outer Limits.  They’ve already started with the pilot, “The Galaxy Being,” and some introductory notes that promise guest essayists and other surprises.

I wrote last fall that Enfantino and Scoleri’s Thriller reviews worked better conceptually than in the execution, and I have a feeling that their Outer Limits coverage may turn out the same way.  (Enfantino describes Cliff Robertson’s “Galaxy Being” character as “a handsome science geek . . . a good-natured dude” and Jacqueline Scott as “our first Outer Limits babe.”  Oy.) 

However, the project seems to have been godfathered by David J. Schow, the author of The Outer Limits Companion, and Schow has left lengthy and revealing comments on each post so far.  I’m curious to see what Schow will have to say as he revisits The Outer Limits in print some two and a half decades since his book was first published.  Among other things, Schow teases “upcoming news of a very important Outer Limits-oriented ‘screening event’ to take place in the LA area in February.”  That could be any number of things, but if it turns out to be the Holy Grail — The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre, a horror-themed pilot that Joseph Stefano made during the run of The Outer Limits — then, well, my flight is booked.

One other thing I learned from the new Outer Limits blog is that Schow’s (and Jeffrey Frentzen’s) book on the series is now out-of-print, and collectible.  It’s distressing that such an important reference work isn’t easily accessible (but not surprising; most of Pauline Kael’s collected reviews are long out of print, too!).  The 1998 revision of the book goes for big bucks on Amazon now, and that is a surprise, because I finally thumbed through a new copy of it for the first time (as I noted here, I remain nostalgically committed to the pulp-paper first edition) in a bookstore less than a year ago.  (No, I’m not telling you where.)  Schow has generously permitted the reprinting of pages from the second edition on Enfantino and Scoleri’s blog, and his comments there hint at a possible third edition.  Let’s have it, Mr. Schow!

UPDATE: “Ghost of Sierra de Cobre” it is, screening at the the Hammer Museum’s Billy Wilder Theater on February 20.  I don’t know all the details, but apparently a print resurfaced at UCLA in recent years.  From the program calendar:

(a.k.a. The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre)
(1965) Directed by Joseph Stefano

Martin Landau stars as a Los Angeles-based architect-cum-paranormal investigator who specializes in assessing and exorcising old homes. Stefano here weaves together vengeance, hallucinogens and a “bleeding ghost” in a gothic telefilm that was deemed too frightening to air by network executives. Stefano’s only directorial effort, this extremely rare pilot never aired in the U.S.

Producer: Joseph Stefano. Screenplay: Joseph Stefano. Cinematographer: William A. Fraker, Conrad Hall. Editor: Anthony DiMarco. Cast: Martin Landau, Judith Anderson, Diane Baker, Nellie Burt, Tom Simcox. 16mm, b/w, 52 min.


Meanwhile, the mysterious blogger behind the TV Obscurities blog, which I praised only a few months ago, has announced his retirement.  Blog fatigue: it’s a killer.  There seems to be a point around the two- or three-year mark where bloggers hit a wall and hang it up (TV Obscurities’ archives go back to November 2008), and I get why: what was novel at first turns into a grind.  Writing obits and reviews turns formulaic; the subjects are different, but the process is the same. 

You may have noticed a slowdown in this space over the last few months, but in case you’re wondering, I am, so far as I know, still here for the long haul.  I’ve been writing this blog for just over three years now (yikes!), but I’m still having fun.  Finding time to write them remains a challenge, but I have plenty of ideas mapped out for 2011, as well as more oral histories for the main site (which has been neglected for too long) and hopefully some announcements about work that will appear in other venues as well.  So I hope that my regular readers — and yes, I do keep tabs on you via your comments and the software that WordPress uses to track site visitors — will stick around, too.


5 Responses to “Lost in the Outer Limits”

  1. Phil Zacher Says:

    I really enjoy reading your blog. I was disappointed about TV Obscurities and glad you will be taking up the slack..Do you think you could write an article about the TV show Combat? I used to watch that with my dad…Thanks

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Hi, Phil. Thanks for the nice remarks.

      Actually, back in the 90s Jo Davidsmeyer wrote a book on Combat that went out of print almost immediately, but I see that she now has copies available for sale on her website. I’m not sure that I could add much to that or to the excellent DVD commentaries that Steven Jay Rubin (I think) produced, although I may touch on Combat in one way or another at some point. There are a few good stories about the show in some writer interviews in my archives, which should finally see the light of day soon. I like the first season of the show, and Robert Hauser’s amazing hand-held camerawork, but I think the writing for the subsequent seasons was pretty poor and that the series as a whole is overrated. It is a rare case of a show where the directors are the auteurs more than the writers or producers though — you can look at the episodes by Robert Altman, Burt Kennedy, Sutton Roley, or John Peyser and see their individual styles quite clearly. I guess because it was an action show, the network and the producers weren’t afraid to let the directors go bonkers with the camera when they felt like it.

      Oh, and it’s ridiculous that the only available copies for the first four seasons are badly time-compressed. If I’d had this blog back when that decision was made, you can be certain that I would’ve written about that.

      • Phil Zacher Says:

        I agree about the other seasons of Combat. Robert Altman’s direction in the first season was pretty amazing. I think I had heard that he had an affair with Vic Morrow’s wife and was subsequently fired..I’d love to read those archived articles about the show. Thanks again..

  2. bobby J. Says:

    Stephen, I would love to see an article about your experiences watching ‘The Outer Limits’ the first time around and maybe even a breakdown mini essays of your favourite dozen shows and why (I suspect ‘The Man Who Was Never Born’ would be your number one ;-) ).

    The news of the ‘TV Obscurities’ shut down is sad. I remember asking some information on the ratings of certain shows (‘The Twilight Zone, ‘The Outer Limits’, ‘Thriller’, ect, ect….just to see what it took to get a show back on air at that time) and they were very helpful.

    Alas, these sites don’t seem to last to long. I remember doing some research in ‘Sgt. Bilko’ and finding a wonderful site that has published a behind the scenes anecdote by one of the key personnel behind the scenes (can’t remember the name, it might even have been an actor)…but it was at least a page, maybe even a page and a half on the classic ‘The Court Martial of Harry Speak-up’. I copied it onto a word document and but lost everything when the hard-drive died. Looked high and low to see if I could find it, but alas – no luck.

    Ah well, that’s the universe.

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