Ray Bradbury Theater – The Earthmen (S5E1)

rbtearthmen03The third expedition has arrived at Mars.  Although, for some reason, in the published Martian Chronicles, the third expedition was the basis for Mars is Heaven.  And the earlier episode And the Moon Be Still as Bright was about the fourth expedition.

This is the first episode of the fifth season, and they seem to have gotten a few bucks for special effects.  It ain’t Avatar, but it is a step up from the usual quality.  The ship lands and the four crewmen start across the desert looking like Reservoir Dogs, except they are all Mr. Orange.  And with about the same life expectancy.

rbtearthmen05The men find an appropriately alien-looking house.  Captain Williams knocks and an appropriately alien-looking woman answers the door.  She has a strange purple/bronze skin which doesn’t seem quite right, but it could be the lousy transfer.  Her manner of speaking, however, is very effective — very manic and halting. Kudos to ever came up with it.

She tells Williams that Mr. T is very busy, and it is Mr. A at the next farmhouse that they should see although she pities the fool who bothers him.  She then gives them a metallic card for A and slams the door on them.  Mr. A is not thrilled to see them.  He pulls out a gun and says he is going to kill Mr. T.  In the mean time, he tells Williams that the man he really needs to see is Mr. I.

rbtearthmen15Mr. I is a little calmer than his neighbors (or neighbor, if Mr. A has already killed Mr. T).  He at least invites them into his house.  Mr. I uses telepathy to learn about Williams and Earth.  He gives Williams a paper to sign.  Williams asks if his men should sign, and Mr. I gets a laugh.  He gives them a smile, a handshake, and a room for the night.  And a chance to meet Mr. X in the morning.

When they open the room, it is already filled with people although there are apparently only 26 families on the planet.  Mr. U welcomes them, and the crowd hoists the men on their shoulders in celebration.  After introductions, Mr. U claims to be from Earth.  From the crazy reaction of the crowd, it is clear that they have been put into a “lunatic asylum.”

One of the inmates tells Williams he can open the door with his mind.  Sure enough, he can, but Mr. X is waiting for him.  He has judged Williams to be insane and that his three crewman are illusions, projections that Williams has manifested.

They take Mr. X to the ship to prove that they are all real and that the ship is real.  Mr. X is very complimentary of the illusion and proclaims Williams a “psychotic genius.”  He then shoots Williams and his crew with a very cheesy laser.  He is baffled that the crew and the ship did not disappear as Williams died.

rbtearthmen33Then Mr. X kills himself with a laser blast to the head.

As the men lay dead, the ship’s radio says, “What’s going on there?  Come on guys, stop horsing around.”

Post-Post:

  •  First published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1948.
  • Mrs. T really stole the show as the first alien we see. The others just aren’t in her league.

The Terrible Tentacles of L-472 – Sewell Peaslee Wright

pulpterrible01Not to be confused with LV-426.

Hanson is recalling the days of his youth — 100 years ago — when he was sub-commander of the spacecraft Kalid of the Special Patrol.

Immediately upon receiving a promotion to commander, he is given the assignment to find two missing ships, the Dorlos and the Filanus (commanded by Rear Admiral Tobias Fünke, I believe).

Both ships had been ordered to L-472 and never returned.  The Kalid is to follow their trail, but very carefully.  The are ordered not to land until they have spotted the ships from low-level reconnoitering.  But really, what is the alternative?  Land and search the planet on foot?

The Kalid spots the ships, but is unable to positively identify them.  Yeah, those are probably two other ships on this uninhabited, unexplored rock described as “off the beaten path” (of space?).  Hanson plays the odds and decides to land the ship.  As they get closer they are able to confirm that these are indeed the missing ships.  Both are intact, with their hatches wide open, not even a screen door; but no signs of life.

The rescue party consists of half the Kalid crew, and they are packing “atomic power pistols.”  Christ, I’m a 2nd Amendment guy, but let’s not get crazy.

The group enters the Dorlos which, like the Mary Celeste, seems like it was abandoned suddenly with no clue as to why.  Hearing a commotion outside, they rush to the hatch. The trees are now:

“Lashing and writhing as though in the grip of some terrible hurricane, trunks bending and whipping, long branches writhing, curling, lashing out –“

Next time I see the word writhing twice in one sentence, there better be some girls involved.  Come to think of it, they certainly seemed to have skewed the chained and scantily clad babes toward the early selections of this anthology.

When two of the men make some sudden movements to avoid a bee-like creature, the low gravity of the small planet can’t stop them from soaring into the air.  In mid-air they are snagged by the tentacle-like branches of the forest.  The trees continue attacking the men until they use the disintegrater beams to start slicing through trunks.

They get a signal from a survivor of the Dorlos to kill as many trees as they can.  He describes a similar scene as the Kalid experienced.  The Dorlos’ crew, unready for the low gravity, sailed into the air and were snagged by the trees for feeding.

After a bloody or at least sappy attack, the humans prevail.  Hanson is able to save 11 men and is a hero.

A nice little space opera, but could have used more action with the tentacles.

Post-Post:

  • First published in Astounding Stories of Super-Science, September 1930.  Entire issue is available at Gutenberg.
  • Also that month: First non-stop flight from Europe to the US despite Lindbergh having made his US to Europe flight 3 years earlier.  Guess they didn’t want to push their luck.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – The Diplomatic Corpse (S3E10)

ahpdiplomaticcorpse02Evan and Janet Wallace are showing Janet’s old battle axe aunt around California and she hates it.  She hates the desert, hates the rocks, hates everything.  When Evan points out a 200 year old Spanish mission, she has to trump him by saying, “Westminster Abby was consecrated in 1050 — that’s over 900 years old.”  Although she and her niece are supposed to be English,I don’t detect much of an accent.

She does, however, appreciate the mission in contrast to her feelings about the dreadful modern buildings that Evan designs — which she is not shy in sharing.

She insists on going to Tijuana despite not having the papers to get back into the US –this is back when there used to be a border.  Luckily, they get a pretty lax officer who peeks in the car, sees a nice couple and an old lady snoozing in the back seat, and waves them through.

After they cross the border, they try to wake up Janet’s aunt but discover she is dead. Of natural causes?  On Alfred Hitchcock Presents?  WTH?  They pull up to a cantina and throw a coat over Auntie while they have a drink and plan what to do.  If nothing else, a dead body in a hot car in Mexico might draw some flies away from the cantina.

No slur there — there is a huge roll of flypaper hanging in the restaurant, so they must have a problem.  That’s gonna cost them a Michelin star.  When they come out, they see the car has been stolen.  Not wanting to involve the police, they go to private detective Peter Lorre.

ahpdiplomaticcorpse10Back at the hotel, they get a visit from the Policía.  They have found a car like the Wallace’s. They go downstairs and confirm that it is their car, but it is missing its third wheel — Auntie has disappeared.  It wouldn’t be such a big deal, but they stand to get a large inheritance and need Auntie’s body to prove she is dead.

They go back to Lorre to see if he can locate the old bag.  He consistently nickel-and-dimes them like Mr. Haney on Green Acres.  He finally comes up with the body.  They follow the hearse to a funeral home in the states.

ahpdiplomaticcorpse13The funeral director calls them in to view the corpse — Lorre has sent them home with a man, man.

Strange episode.  The heart of the story is really Lorre’s huckster private detective rather than the . . . well, there really is no crime.  The dead body is just a macguffin — no murder, no cover-up, no irony, no self-incrimination.

With the story and the cast, more could have been done with the episode.  The opening of the casket feels more like the cliff-hanger of a two-parter than a satisfying conclusion.  Part two would be where Evan drives back to Mexico and beats Lorre like a piñata.

Post-Post:

  • AHP Deathwatch:  No survivors.
  • Sadly, no way I could I could reference Michael leaving Egg in Mexico.

The Ray of Madness – Captain S.P. Meek

pulpray01Agent Carnes of the Secret Service is paying a visit to Dr. Bird’s private laboratory in the Bureau of Standards.  Things start off with a sinister vibe as Carnes is refered to as an operative rather than an agent.  And Bird has a private laboratory?  And don’t get me started on those bastards at the Bureau of Standards.

They chat about a new element named Lunium.  It is unusual in that it was discovered by using the spectroscopic method on the moon, hence the name.  Such a discovery makes sense in the spectra of the sun and other stars, but the Moon is a rock with no atmosphere, so this is a mystery.

Carnes seems to take the service part of his job more seriously that the secret part.  He knows that “a corpse is a chatterbox compared to [Dr. Bird].”  In strict confidence, he tells Dr. Bird that the “President of the United States acts as if he were crazy.”  And not in the way politicians are usually criminally insane, but “Bugs! Nuts! Bats in his belfry!”

First he showed a failing memory, then a restlessness, then a habit of nocturnal prowling.  He will awaken, rage back and forth in the bedchamber, then go back to sleep.  During the day, he is lethargic, a complete blank at times.  He also keeps his eyes shut and avoids light.

Bird forms a theory, but like Sherlock Holmes, keeps it to himself until he can test it out.  I have a feeling Dr. Bird was intended to be a recurring character.

The story gets very topical as Bird says, “the worship of ISIS was really only an exalted type of moon worship.  The crescent moon, you may remember was one of her most sacred emblems.”  However, he was referring to this Isis.

Using a lot of scientific jargon, Bird is able to deduce that the Russki’s were shining a beam into the solarium where the President had been sleeping.

This one got a little tedious with the experimentation and science, but I could easily imagine Bird in other stories.

Post-Post:

  • First published in Astounding Stories of Super-Science, April 1930.
  • Also that month:  Hostess Twinkies invented.
  • The scientific passages make sense now that I see that Meek was a chemist in the military.  He wrote under the names Capt. S.P. Meek, Maj. S.P. Meek and Col. S.P. Meek.
  • As suspected, Bird and Carnes were the subject of many other stories.

Night Gallery – Last Rites for a Dead Druid (S2E18)

nglastrites11Carol Lynley and Donna Douglas are browsing in an antique shoppe. Donna sees a statue that is the spitting image of Carol’s husband Bill Bixby.  She calls Carol over and she also sees the resemblance.  The audience, not so much.  I honestly see no resemblance whatsoever between the statue and Bill Bixby.

But, for a cool 75 bucks, she has it delivered, placing it the backyard.  Bixby is less than impressed.  She tells him that she bought it because it looks like him.  Bixby, who complains about the cost on his junior law partner salary says “overruled.”

nglastrites12

The Buddy Druid

That night, he has a nightmare about the statue coming into their bedroom. The next morning, he notices foot-steps of dead grass leading from the statue to the house.  That day, he goes to the shoppe to ask about the statue.  I was pretty pleased with myself noting that both Bixby and the owner were saying Drood instead of Druid.  Then Bixby realized what the old man was saying and corrected him.  Kudos for suckering me in, anyway.

On the other hand, there is some really botched composition in that scene where Bixby’s face is directly behind a vertical pole on a quilt rack.  Was no one looking through the camera?

nglastrites14

Yeah, real dead ringer.

Turns out the owner, after 10 years, just happened to find a picture of the statue with historical information on the back.  At home, Bixby reads to his wife that the statue is of a “defrocked Abbot of Penicude Cathedral, Father Balamaster, referred to as Bruce the Black.”  This delights Carol as Bruce is Bixby’s name in the episode.[1] She buys into Donna’s theory that this is Bruce’s great-great-great grandfather.

Bixby continues, “He practiced sorcery, and the religious ceremonies of his particular order were purely satanic.  And the worshipers followed their leader’s habit of debauchery and rapine as well as sacrifices both animal and human.”

And now the bloodline has really devolved . . . to a lawyer — the horror!

While barbecuing the next day, Bixby sees see statue appear closer to him after he looks away for a second, like the topiary in The Shining (or not, I read it eons ago). After burning himself on the grill, the statue is back in its place.  Bixby talks to it, telling it that he is not intimidated by it.

nglastrites22He is caught talking to the statue by Donna.  The grill flares up, bathing them in magic-hour light.  Bixby is possessed by Bruce the Black, grabs Donna and gives her a hard long kiss.  She actually seems OK with it, hoping he tries it again some time.

He continues being a little crazy when he sees an image of Bruce the Black in the fire, and tries to barbecue the neighbor’s cat.  When the maid catches him and he calls her an “old bag”, the party is pretty much over.

That night, he has another nightmare where Bruce the Black suggests that he kill Carol so he can have Donna.  That’s just crazy — that bed will hold three.  He manages to resist.  He goes downstairs and gets a crowbar to destroy the statue.  On the first swing, there is a flash of light and Bixby has become the statue and Bruce the Black is lying on the ground, restored to life.  The new statue still looks nothing like Bixby.

nglastrites23There is an unnecessary scene at the end that just raises more questions, but it is another chance to see Donna Douglas, so no harm.

Wow, two good segments and no filler sketch segment — highly unusual for Night Gallery.  This outting was also unique in that, even though it was not one of the comedy segments, it did have several clever situations and witty lines.  Unlike most of the comedy segments.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Bixby also played Bruce on The Incredible Hulk — or should have.  For some reason, his character was renamed David Banner for that series.
  • Is your name not Bruce?
  • Twilight Zone Legacy:  Donna Douglas was in the classic Eye of the Beholder.  Ned Glass and Bill Bixby were also in one episode each.
  • A Beverly Hillbillies twin spin episode with Jed Clampett in the first segment, and now Ellie May Clampett (or Ellie may not (hooo-aaah!!  misspent youth reading Mad Magazine finally pays off!).
  • That last scene does kind of bug me.  Donna takes the statue back to the store to see if the owner wishes to buy it.  Where is Carol?  Is she dead?  What is that mischievous smile Donna gives?  Was this some sort of plot by her?