Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Spotlight on The Outer Limits: "The Guests" at We Are Controlling Transmission

Peter Enfantino and John Scoleri's We Are Controlling Transmission blog is running my spotlight on the Outer Limits episode "The Guests" this evening. 

I must confess, I seem to be in a small (but hopefully vocal...) minority in really finding great inspiration from --and tremendous artistic value in -- this episode of the series. 

Frankly, "The Guests" is one of my favorite installments of the Stefano series, and I watched it several times -- taking notes -- while preparing the third season of my web series, The House Between

In particular, I was fascinated by how "The Guests" marshals limited settings (the interior of a house) and relatively few characters to create this aura of spectacular creepiness and horror.   The Gothic influences are quite powerful, but the episode boasts other unique undercurrents too. 

For instance, the soundtrack, a kind of syncopated heartbeat at times, is enormously effective in conveying and generating terror.  Anyway,  I consider "The Guests" a major influence on my own creative work, and I've always believed it's a really underrated gem of this anthology.

Without further introduction, here's a snippet of my spotlight on The Outer Limits episode, "The Guests:"

In the gloom-laden and visually dazzling Outer Limits episode, “The Guests,” a leather-jacketed drifter named Wade (Geoffrey Horne) becomes trapped in the past both metaphorically and literally when he happens into an alien “brain” that has taken the form of an old Victorian mansion atop a hill.

This strange, imposing edifice — which seems to occupy a space entirely outside the Laws of Physics — serves as home to several strangers including a faded silent screen star, Florinda Patten (Gloria Graham), a Wall Street investment banker of questionable morality, Randall Latimer (Vaughn Taylor), and his gleefully diabolical and cruel wife, Ethel (Nellie Burt). All these souls have been denizens in the alien house since at least 1928 and evidence surprisingly little interest in leaving it.

The hidden master of this dark old house is an inquisitive monstrosity: a quivering, gelatinous, luminescent thing from another dimension who seeks the “missing vector” or “missing quantity” that would permit him to better comprehend the human race.

The emotionless, questing creature probes Wade’s mind several times and discovers at last the missing “one note in the symphony.”

It is, simply, “love.”

Specifically, Wade’s romantic, selfless attachment to another captive in the house, the beautiful Tess (Luana Anders), ultimately proves the factor that resolves the alien’s incomplete equation. And when Tess leaves the safe temporal “bubble” of the house, super-ages and dies in a matter of seconds to preserve Wade’s freedom, the house begins to shift back to the alien’s dimension.

After escaping, Wade watches the alien brain fade away slowly into nothingness, and continues down the road…

Strange, unsettling and dominated by extreme camera angles that suggest early German expressionist cinema, “The Guests” is a daring and occasionally surreal entry in The Outer Limits canon. Specifically, the Donald Sanford (Thriller) narrative is a deliberate and artful blending of literary movements, old and new. The episode has widely and appropriately been described as “Gothic,” for instance, for its familiar horror and romantic flourishes, settings, and characters.

At the same time, however, this episode of The Outer Limits also cannily mirrors the perspectives of the post-war, Beat Generation; particularly that movement’s dedicated opposition to modern warfare, military technology, and such middle class, bourgeoisie balms as leisure and material affluence.

Read the rest of my contribution here.

3 comments:

  1. Wonderful read, John! Made me rethink all of the things I've enjoyed about it through the years. Gothic. Oh, yes. Thanks for this.

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  2. John-
    Thanks for adding a little class to our blog. Your essay points to what we had hoped to accomplish with We Are Controlling Transmission: there's a fan for every show! Perfect example: today's episode, one which had eluded me through the years, "The Special One," will make my Top Ten Episodes of Season One list. I don't hear much buzz about this little gem and, if I recall correctly, a couple of readers left negative comments about it. One man's junk...

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  3. Hello, my friends.

    Thank you for the kind words about my spotlight on "The Guests." I love that episode of OL with a passion, to be certain.

    Le0pard13: We both enjoy the Gothic aspects of the show very much (which I attempted -- on a micro-budget -- to transfer over to The House Between).

    Peter: I have been enjoying We Are Controlling Transmission so much. It doesn't lack for class, my friend. I'm thrilled to read the different viewpoints -- all courteously written -- about this anthology. I like that you and John have taken the approach that there are no sacred cows. I don't always agree with your assessments, but I love your candor, honesty and sincerity at pointing out what you think works and what doesn't. Thus far it has been an immensely enjoyable read.

    Thank you both,
    John

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