Science Fiction Theatre – The Stones Began to Move (08/09/55)

Truman Bradley points out a coil of rope and a pyramid, saying “both are unsolved mysteries of the ages.” He demonstrates how a fakir does the ol’ Indian Rope Trick.  Well, he does the rope trick, but disgracefully leaves it open whether it is science or magic. In suggesting the Rope Trick is a legitimate scientific mystery, he says this kind of anti-gravity trick is nothing new — that may be how the pyramids were built.  I love Ancient Aliens and love young perky aliens even more, but this is just wrong.

In New York City, scientist Paul Kincaid leaves his lab late one night.  Wandering down a deserted street near the waterfront, he ducks into a phone-booth.  He tells the operator to connect him with Dr. Berensen at the United States Scientific Research Commission in DC.  Expecting the government employee to be there after 5 pm, he is clearly not a rocket scientist.

Getting no answer, he goes across the street to an arcade.  For $.25, enters a booth to make a record for Dr. Berensen, telling him he is being followed.  He recently returned from Egypt where he opened the tomb of Ahmed III without knocking.  He stumbled onto a miraculous “property entirely unknown to modern science.”  As he begins to describe the “staggering concept” he is shot and killed.  Maybe the miracle is a bullet that can kill a man in a glass booth and not break the glass, because that’s what happens.

The police take the record to Dr. Berensen.  He says Kincaid had a “very impressive bee in his bonnet” about the pyramids.  While Detective Crenshaw is grilling Berensen, he gets a phone call — Kincaid’s lab has been ransacked like Ahmed III’s tomb.  They go to question Kincaid’s boss.  It must be getting close to 5 pm as Crenshaw bails after getting no info, leaving Berensen to further question the man.[1]

They find a photo from inside the tomb.  A sword appears to be hovering in the air over III’s sarcophagus.  Notes on the back suggest a force field and mention Seja Dih who Kincaid saw perform the Indian Rope Trick in Benares and make a lady disappear at The Sands.[2]

Berensen goes to see Kincaid’s wife Virginia who was also his partner.  He is greeted at the door by a maid who might be the worst actress I’ve ever seen.  She says Ms. Kincaid’s bed hasn’t been slept in, so Berensen immediately calls the police.

Berensen’s secretary calls to tell him that Seja Dih is dead but that his granddaughter lives in New York, working as a chemist.  I have to give SFT credit — they did feature a lot of female scientists when that was probably a rarity.  Diversity has its limits though — the Indian guru’s granddaughter is played by an Irish actress in a cute little pixie hair-do, and she doesn’t even get a name.  Oh well, baby steps.

She says Kincaid had contacted her to buy some emerald rings which had belonged to her grandfather.  He believed them to possess the power of anti-gravity.  One of the artifacts recovered looted from Ahmed’s tomb has the same mineral.  Well, would have had it, but the minerals were removed from the artifact before it was shipped to New York.

When Berensen gets home, he finds Virginia Kincaid there.  Before saying a word, he offers her a cigarette.  She says she ran away because after her husband’s death, the house was scary.  She says the minerals weren’t stolen, they were given to her husband by the Egyptian government for research.

Yada yada, there is a boring confrontation.  Then Berensen demonstrates the power of the stones to the government.  The government seizes them under the PATRIOT Act and gives some senator’s brother a $10 million contract to research them.  Although that is just speculation on my part — the $10 million figure, I mean.  The rest sounds about right.

Post-Post:

  • [1] He is played by Basil Rathbone, the most iconic and the 2nd most humorously-monikered portrayer of Sherlock Holmes.
  • [2] Coincidentally, this episode aired the same year Moe Greene got whacked.  On second thought, there’s nothing coincidental about it.  There is no connection.

Science Fiction Theatre – The Frozen Sound (07/30/55)

They almost got me on this one.  Each week host Truman Bradley performs a scientific experiment relevant to the story.  Usually they are so dull and the music so overwrought that I power right through them.  This time, however, he brings out a tuning fork which always intrigued me.

He holds up “a glass of liquid” which looks suspiciously like water or vodka, then gets the fork a-vibrating and holds it against the glass.  After an edit, the glass appears to contain a few ice cubes; then an umbrella and a cherry on a tiny sword.  After another edit, it seems to have completely solidified.  In a shocking breach of lab safety regulations, he breaks the glass with no protective eye-wear.  The liquid now looks like a wax candle, but is described as “a crystal, synthetically produced by man.” [1]  I was ready to buy a tuning fork and try this myself.  After my standard 30 seconds of research, though, it appears to be baloney.

Late one night, A gent Agent Masters from Washington drops in on Dr. Otis — director of a scientific project in New Mexico (wink, wink) — and his daughter at his desert home. Last week Dr. Otis had a top secret meeting in his living room with the Secretary of Defense about converting aircraft to atomic power.  Despite the Fort Knox-like security of a screen-door with a hook, a microfilm transcript of that meeting was found on a Russki spy.  Even the respected Dr. Otis is a suspect in how the info got leaked.

Dr. Otis’s’s’s’ daughter Linda says this is ridiculous.  Nevertheless, Masters says he is going to live in the house with them until this security breach is resolved or until someone remembers the Third and Forth Amendments.

The three of them begin tearing the house apart looking for some eavesdropping device; which is like the police asking murder suspect to help find some bloody fingerprints.  Furniture is x-rayed, the walls are sonically probed. Searching for anything anomalous, Masters find three bottles of ant poison, but one doesn’t seem to be murdering any ants.

Otis breaks the bottle and finds a waxy glob inside.  Beneath the wax is a synthetic crystal.  Otis says, “crystal under compression generates electrical energy that is capable of picking up sound wave frequencies — like the old crystal radio receivers.” Masters conjectures that a jelly-like substance absorbed the sounds from the meeting and hardened in the crystal.

To demonstrate, Masters grabs an LP (Long Playing 33 1/3 vinyl disc containing recorded music or rap).   He smashes it, holds up a shard and asks, “Would you say that was a recording of sound?”  Otis says the grooves are still there, which is not true — most of them are on the ground.  Masters says, “Nothing has actually changed except the method of reproducing that sound.”  This proves nothing — the issue is whether it is possible for the the crystal to record, not if it is possible to play it back.  Anyhoo . . .

They need an expert on MASERs to prove this theory, so decide to enlist Dr. Gordine from Northwest Engineering to help.  Dr. Otis says Gordine could be there in 48 hours. Otis is apparently so excited that Gordine is coming that he doesn’t change his green shirt for 2 days. [2]

Gordine sets up his equipment and they inexplicably decide to test it on a rock Otis uses as a paperweight.  The device is able to read impressions on the rock and broadcasts sounds of hysterical panic and mayhem like someone is exercising free speech on a college campus.  Otis says the rock is from Pompeii, and the noises are people being killed by Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.[3]  The cooling lava recorded the sounds and 2,000 years later ignominiously and igneously wound up keeping papers on Dr. Otis’s desk from flying around the room.

Next they test the crystal that was found in the ant poison.  Sure enough, it is a recording of every-thing said in the room that day. Masters reasons that the ant poison must replaced every day.  That night, he catches the handyman switching the bottles.  Despite dressing like The Scarecrow, he is not the brains of the operation.

I have to give SFT credit for actually throwing in a twist, and then even adding a justification for it.  It’s not much, but it’s a start.

In the epilogue, Dr. Otis is excited about the historical events that can now be researched by listening to sounds recorded at the time.  However, since the recording process seems to require cooling lava, I think the playlist is going to be shorter than the Big Bopper’s Greatest Hits.   Linda, staring into Masters’ dreamy eyes says she is only thinking of the future.  Dr. Otis must sense wedding bells too, because he finally changed his shirt.

The science seems ludacris to me, but I ain’t no MASER expert.  It seems like a take-off on the Lazarus Bowl concept.  A potter was spinning a bowl while Jesus was raising Lazarus from the dead, and the bowl supposedly recorded the vibrations of his speech.

“Hey, Brittany, the son of God is raising that Lazarus kid from the dead!”

“Let me finish this clay bowl.”

The performances were as bad as usual. Marshall Thompson (Masters) was nearly somnolent.  He had a huge career, though, so maybe I just don’t get him.  Marilyn Erskine (Linda) is attractive, but delivers most of her lines like she’s yelling at an umpire.  Everything is an exclamation — the defense of her father, general exposition, skepticism . . .

I give it about 10 decibels.

Post-Post:

  • [1] In fact, it looks so much like a candle that you can see a blackened wick faintly showing on one end.
  • [2] Or maybe he has an Albert Einstein / Seth Brundle thing going.
  • [3] Most frequently heard phrase:  “Sancta excremento!”
  • Elizabeth Patterson plays a maid.  I can’t say for sure, but being born in 1875, she might the earliest born of any actor I’ve watched so far.  It would not surprise me if someone in AHP aces her out, though.  IMDb says her father was in the Confederate Army.  I wonder if he lived long enough to see Civil War reenactors? “Hey idiot, I lost 55 cousins and my left leg so you could live free from oppression! . . . uh no, the white guy beside you.  Yeah, you!”

Science Fiction Theatre – The Strange Doctor Lorenz (07/09/55)

I know, you’re thinking he is strange because he went into proctology. Those guys must have hookers in their booth at doctor career day.  But no.

Nurse Helen enters and the overbearing music tells us she is concerned for Dr. Garner’s heath, that he works too hard and has no life, that there are unrequited feelings, that the composer had a few too many at lunch.

While Garner peers into his microscope, Helen goes behind a screen and changes clothes.  When she comes out, she catches him fingering his prick.  No wait, he is pricking his finger — and finding it numb.  He says he is afraid he will “lose the use of the finger, then the finger itself, then the next one, then the next one, then the hand, then both hands.” He says he can’t marry her in his condition.  She insists she loves him and maybe there will be a cure.

Dr. Garner gets a call from a woman whose son was burned and makes a house-call. Maybe this episode should have been called The Strange Dr. Garner.  When he and Helen arrive, they see the boy’s wounds have already been treated by a friend of the local handyman who lives in the swamp.  Despite suffering serious burns that afternoon, the boy is completely healed.

The handyman gives them directions to Dr. Lorenzo’s house in the swamp.  Lorenz tells them he is a doctor, but of Chemistry.  He takes a sip of the honey-concoction he was been working on and pronounces it, perfection!”  That’s nice, but then he offers the same spoon to Helen for a taste.  Then Garner uses the same spoon.

Garner asks Lorenz about the boy’s “3rd degree burns over an area 1/3 the body . . . healed almost completely in 3 hours” making me suspect the free-masons were behind this episode.  Lorenz abruptly leaves the room and goes upstairs to sleep.  His servant — hey, TV’s Fred Ziffel [1] again! — tells them there are rooms prepared for them.  Rooms, so don’t even think about it.

The next morning, Helen goes to Garner’s room and wakes him up.  He has apparently slept in his suit and tie, and on top of the bedspread.  He washes his hands and discovers the numbness in his hands is gone.  Just that spoonful of honey he had the previous day cured him.

Lorenz tells them he has mastered communication with our Apian-American friends.  Garner tells Lorenz, “The whole world will be grateful when news of your discovery is made public.  With the facilities of a big pharmaceutical company, production can be stepped up.  Every man, woman and child will have access to your curative.”  Let’s do the math . . . some bees, they make the honey.  $750 a pop sounds about right.

Sadly, Lorenz says that is not possible, and once again abruptly leaves.  That night, the handyman breaks in to get his hands on that sweet honey.  He doesn’t spot Helen, though, so instead looks for the miracle bee-juice.  Lorenz catches him, but refuses to give him the potion because his ailment — a stiff knee — is not serious enough.  When the handyman pushes him aside, Lorenz unleashes some bees on him.

While patching up Lorenz, Garner asks why he didn’t just let the man have a swig.  Oh yeah, there is one side-effect:  If you have been cured using the elixir, a mere bee sting will kill you.  That’s why he only administers it to “those who would have surely died without it.”  Er, like the kid with the burns?  Or Garner with the numb hands?  Actually this only results from prolonged use of the drug.  Garner’s numbness is even starting to return. [2]

Just as in The Brain of John Emerson, the elderly Lorenz dumps this obligation on Garner.  Just as in Conversation with an Ape, Garner says he can’t expect a hottie like Helen to move to the swamp.  She overhears and promises to move to the swamp and support his experiments, but if things get too tough, she might hide his OFF.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Not actually much Fred Ziffel in that clip, but I did enjoy it.
  • [2] Lorenz does mention that he will give the burned kid a regular supply.

Science Fiction Theatre – One Hundred Years Young (07/02/55)

I get the impression this was the go-to show for scientifically-minded young people in the 1950s, although that is largely based on the endorsement of George McFly.  But it amazes me how they get the simplest ideas wrong.  The host starts a small steam engine which produces pressure in a tank.  He then says he will “increase the speed of the engine by stepping up the pressure.”  The host, the writer, no one on the set saw this was backwards? [1] 

The host tells us “A young lady [Bernice], the brilliant chief of the company’s Research Department, is working on a project.”  Well this is sci-fi.  Just sayin’ in 1955, this had to be shocking to the viewers.  Mr. Lyman, the president of this crazy upside-down company drops in.  They hear a noise next door.  Maybe it’s the real chief of the Research Department tied up.  C’mon Sci-Fi Theatre, stop pulling my leg!

The president of the company apparently packs heat as he guns down the stranger in the supply room.  They recognize the man as employee John Bowers.  However, the man claims not to know them.  He had worked at the company and even retired on good terms with them at age 70.  Strangely, he doesn’t look a day over . . . well he doesn’t look 70, but they should have cast a guy who did not look like 50 year-old death warmed over.  He was looking for an herb in the lab that enabled his supposed youthful appearance.

The police detective has no problem bringing Bernice along to sack Bowers apartment looking for answers.  They find his home looks like one from the 18th century.  They find a letter from a woman to him threatening to leave him for being so secretive, but it is dated in 1816.  They also find a solution that contains more of the herb he was stealing and determine that it contains a poison.

They visit him in his cell.  He wants the solution, saying that he has built up an immunity to the poison.  He grabs the bottle and chugs it.  He reveals that he is over 200 years old.  His parents were killed by the Iroquois and he was adopted by the Mohicans.  A medicine man taught him about the secret herb as thanks for his people’s treatment by the white man.  Wait, what?

He complains that it has been a “hollow life.”  He has outlived all his wives, his friends, and their daughters.  Bernice is excited about what this could mean for humanity, but Bowers feels cursed. He feels even worse when Bernice gets him a job at the lab and Lyman says he can have it “for life.”  He finally confesses to accidentally killing a woman by bungling the dose of his miracle solution.

He and Bernice work unsuccessfully to replicate the formula he has replicated 400 times during his life.  When he sees the detective and Bernice have started dating he gets very depressed.  When he doesn’t show up for work one day, and doesn’t answer his telegraph, they go to his house.

He is dead but left a note.  He envies them for the happiness he can never have. He apologizes for not successfully making the solution, but not for the needless slaughter of 3 dozen guinea pigs.  He says mankind is not ready for this knowledge, which is probably right; certainly the Earth isn’t.  “We must first learn to appreciate the time God gave us.”

Once again, it seems like they had the elements of a good story and just poorly executed it.  I’m sure the awful quality on You Tube contributes to my negative assessment.  Also the stilted acting of the era is just terrible.

I rate it 30 years young.

Post-Post:

  • [1] The point was to show the engine would crash under greater pressure, and that human beings also explode under the increased pressure of modern society.
  • Just to make sure we get it, he tells us, “Man has not changed since he evolved.” So he steps in it again with a tautology — true, man has not changed since he changed.  Maybe they need to go one studio over to Freshman English Theatre.
  • And don’t get me started on that -re on the end of theater.
  • Title Analysis:  Can’t these people get anything right?  He is over 200 years old!
  • For a better take on the same basic idea, check out The Man From Earth.  Ya better like people sitting around talking, though, because that’s the whole movie. It’s still pretty good.

 

Science Fiction Theatre – Hour of Nightmare (06/25/55)

Note: The video quality is so poor, it is not worth grabbing any pictures.

Editor Ed Tratnor assigns his two best photographers Mel & Verda Wingate to get pictures of a UFO.  The married couple is exploring mysteries just like Ed & Lorraine Warren only less fictional.  There have been reports of strange lights from airline pilots in southwestern New Mexico.  Mel shows he has no future in paranormal research by asking a perfectly reasonable question, “How far are the sightings from the White Sands Testing Facility?”  Ed says the military assured him there was no testing in that area; but they said the same thing about the ocean off New York on July 17, 1996 so who knows.

Editor Ed is willing to finance this trip because up to now “most pictures of UFOs have been taken by amateurs and other handicaps.”  What?  Ed Ed hopes they can get some professional shots that experts can actually analyze.  I hope he didn’t book their return flight because we’ve been waiting 60 years for these pictures.  While there, they are also supposed to look into the disappearance of some people from a Mexican village near the US border.  Yeah, there’s a mystery; where ever could they have gone?

Ed Ed suggests they look into reports of a spacecraft in the mountains and turn that into a “picture story” about the “birth of a rumor”.  Mel understands, “I get it — optical illusions, a little superstition, and jumping to conclusions.”  I’m all for skepticism, but why even take the trip if the story is already written?  The Dewey Beats Truman headline was only 7 years earlier; did journalists learn nothing?  Clearly not.

The Wingates take a plane to Los Cruces, then rent a car to go south of the border. They visit the Commandancia de la Policia and ask the about the reported disappearance of several villages, but the chief replies that the stories are exaggerations.  Only one man has disappeared, and that was probably due to a flash-flood. They ask if the chief can recommend a guide, and he sends them to Ramon Sanchez.

They arrive at Sanchez’s desert shack which is the same shack from Stranger in the Desert.  Despite being dissed by Mel calling him “Raymond”, Ramon Sanchez agrees to lead them into the mountains for $5 per day.  While stopped to photograph a mountain lion, they see a flying saucer, but it quickly disappears.  That night they actually do get some pictures of lights in the sky.

The next day, Sanchez finds a rifle with his brother’s initials on it.  He was the man who went missing.  Sanchez believes the lights in the sky killed his brother.  Later the horses refuse to go on.  Looking for what might have spooked them . . . a snake, a cougar, an Elmer’s Glue factory, Mel spots a bleeping dead alien.  Where to start?

  • For the first time, Mel pulls out the video camera.  So to recap: It is still pictures for moving spacecraft and motion picture film for a dead alien.
  • Mel refuses to allow Verda to see the alien.  He twice warns her to stay back.
  • The viewers also never see the alien as it is hidden behind a boulder.
  • It might have died from a shot that idiot Mel blindly fired into the brush that day. Did they learn nothing from Trial by Fire?

Sanchez suggests maybe it is time to head back home.  Mel agrees, but says they are taking the alien with them.  Sanchez is worried the aliens (which he calls caballeros [1]) might come back looking for their amigo.  He is so scared that he pulls a gun on the Wingates and begins unloading the alien from the horse.  The aliens shoot a laser frying him like a . . . hmmm, any food I mention will be deemed racist.  Let’s just go with juevo — I mean egg.  A fried egg.

The Wingates make it back to their hotel.  While Mel develops the pictures, Verda calls Ed.  Mel discovers every one of the pictures is ruined, destroyed by radiation.  The Commandante shows up looking for Sanchez and Mel tells him that, like his brother, Ramon was killed in a flash-flood.  When they finally reach Ed, Mel tells him it was all rumors.

  • So Mel killed an alien, possibly triggering a galactic war resulting in the destruction of Earth and the enslavement of humanity.
  • He doesn’t bust the Commandante for not telling him Ramon was the dead man’s brother.
  • Mel lies to his editor for no good reason when the destruction of the film is still a better story than the rumor-angle.[2]  Not to mention, who could question two eyewitness accounts bearing the credibility of the journalistic profession?
  • The Wingates will soon be dead from radiation poisoning.

More junk.

Post-Post:

  • [1] My high school Spanish was German, but Google tells me this means a Mexican gentleman or a horseman, neither of which make sense.  I could understand a basic Hombre, but why elevate the aliens to gentlemen?
  • [2] The alternate interpretation is that they made up the flash-flood story to satisfy the Commandante who was overhearing the call.  It would even be a nice winking non-admission to the Commandante.  Sadly, I don’t think SFT has the level of sophistication necessary for that to be likely.
  • Title Analysis:  No idea what they were going for.  The time period of one hour was not significant.  The only thing nightmarish was Ramon and the horse getting blown up, but that’s not really the main thrust of the story.
  • Unless the horse was a Pinto.