Monday, May 25, 2009

Talk to the Hand

THiS TV is running the original Outer Limits TV show weeknights (at 1 am for you insomniacs). You remember this one right? It is the 1960s show that is most often confused with The Twilight Zone, but whereas TZ often did allegorical sci-fi and fantasy stories The Outer Limits was a monster show; every week (at least for the first season) some new, weird, crazy, alien monster thing would terrorize viewers.

The other night they aired the famous episode “Demon with a Glass Hand,” written by noted grouser Harlan Ellison, in which a man with a talking robotic computer hand and no memory of his past is pursued by a group of hostile aliens called the Kyben. The man, named Trent, was played by a pre-I, Spy (or pre-Greatest American Hero for you 80s babies) Robert Culp and the action was set largely in the famous art deco Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles (the Bradbury is perhaps best known from its use in the film Blade Runner). The episode was directed by Byron Haskin, who also helmed The War of the Worlds (1953) and the less well-known but still terrific Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964).

There is a nifty little story here involving time travel, aliens from 1,000 years in the future, and one of the coolest scifi ideas* EVER.

*SPOILER. If you want to know, the human race in the future was about to be conquered by the Kyben so the remaining humans, some 70 million people, “transcribed their electrical components” onto a wire (it sounds somewhat similar to beaming in Star Trek) in the robot Trent. Seventy million people transmuted into electrical impulses and "stored" on a small piece of wire – what an amazing concept.

It’s a great story, with a terrific performance by Robert Culp as the determined Trent. But remember I said The Outer Limits was a "monster show" and the alien Kyben are the monsters. And they are gawd awful.

The Kyben all wear leotards. They all wear little shower caps that look like kids Underoos. They all wear medallions. And they all have “raccoon eyes” make up! RACCOON EYES!

The Kyben leader, Arch, was played by Jewish American actor Abraham Sofaer. As Arch he wears the leotard, shower cap, raccoon eyes…and a cape. And not to sound racist or anything, but Mr. Sofaer looks Jewish with a very large distinct nose and ear lobes. He looks like a Jewish grocer or tailor. With raccoon eyes.

One funny bit on top of the make up is that the other Kyben are often yelling things around the Bradbury Building like, “Arch, where are ya?” The Kyben all sound like they grew up in the Brooklyn borough of Kyber.

So a great little story, some cool sci-fi ideas and a nice Robert Culp performance totally undermined by the most cut-rate costuming and makeup I have ever seen.

Even cheesy, shitty Italian sci-fi - with their funny hats, glitter and spandex - stayed away from raccoon eyes.

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