Friday, September 22, 2023
Also -- and critically -- none of the simple denizens of Cypress Corners are aware that they live aboard a spaceship in flight. The doorway to another ship compartment -- a long connecting corridor to another dome and another society -- is sealed off and decorated with fearsome graffiti which reads: "Beyond is Death."
Jeremiah (Sterling Hayden), leader of the sect, has also stated that he who goes beyond the door "abandons all hope...never to return," equating the "outside" of Cypress Corners with a Biblical Hell. It is, in his words, a “bottomless pit.” In Cypress Corners, knowledge equates to “evil.”
Thematically, "Voyage of Discovery" has something vital to say about life here on Earth, and I enjoyed how the metaphor (or subtext) was created and carried out.
This is a powerful comment on life on Earth. We wage wars, we fight over ideology and religion...but meanwhile, what becomes of the Earth itself? There's an environmental and human message in The Starlost that -- in the Age of Global Climate Change -- feels even more relevant today, perhaps.
Wednesday, September 20, 2023
One week from today!
Next week on Enter The House Between, our denizens come face-to-face with their own demons in the dark matter dimension, the "old skin" of the universe...
Don't miss the series that Nerd Alert News calls a "must-listen!"
Tuesday, September 19, 2023
"I welcome what man rejects," he tells his would-be acolytes with open arms
The movie, released on DVD by an outfit called "Cheezy Movies," looks like a relic from another lifetime. The TV-movie is simple, straight-forward and even innocent in a weird sort of way by today's standards. Yet some of the horror moments really do get the blood pumping. This is a major accomplishment, because it's clear the movie was made for next to nothing. There are no real visual or make-up effects to speak of, and almost the entire film takes place in just four of five interiors.
Yet it's amazing how many modern horror movies forget that it is the simple things that scare us the most. A basement in the dark. A storm at midnight. The intimation of the diabolical. Roy Thinnes in tight polyester pants...
Monday, September 18, 2023
Enter The House Between's next new episode, "Old Skin," premieres next Wednesday, 9/27, on YouTube, Spotify, Audible, etc.
This episode, the penultimate before the season finale, follows immediately after the climax of "Temple of Immensity,"and features some unforgettable character moments, not to mention the arrival of a mysterious guest character (and guest performer) as well.
"Old Skin," is a different kind of tale, one more aligned with the rubber reality sub-genre of the horror movie genre. Think Hellraiser, A Nightmare on Elm Street, or Phantasm.
As many of you know, I love to play with the expectations and tropes of various genres, so before we finish up the season, you'll have listened to blockbuster action ("The Oneness Intended for Us All,"), a love story ("Love Conducted Unto One Death,") a mind-bending mental hospital story ("Folie a Famille"), a closed room mystery, ("Dresden,") and next, rubber reality.
Each type of story has its own challenges and pitfalls, of course, but its fun putting the denizens through a "multiverse" of genres in a single season.
Anyway, I can't wait for you to listen to "Old Skin" next week. I'm already counting down...
Sunday, September 17, 2023
As I've written here before, I'm a big fan for the "doomed space expedition"-style story featured in horror/sci-fi films like Alien (1979), and Europa Report (2013) or depicted on TV series such as Space:1999 ("Dragon's Domain,") Dr. Who ("Planet of Evil") and The Twilight Zone ("Death Ship").
I harbor endless fascination with these tales about courageous astronauts who brave dangers alien and eerie in remote corners of the universe; cut off from Earth; cut off from help.
It's just a thing with me, I suppose...a frontier spirit maybe; or perhaps just a deeply-held belief that the next hill is always worth climbing, whatever the danger lurking on the other side. That danger doesn't have to be a monster in these macabre stories, just something unknown...and perhaps inexplicable. Like the planet in Solaris (1972), for instance.
And that brings us to one of my favorite TV examples of the form; one that does feature a (very memorable) monster: an Outer Limits episode (from the second season) titled "The Invisible Enemy."
Appropriately enough, the episode (written by Jerry Sohl and directed by Byron Haskin) first aired on Halloween in 1964, and it's guaranteed -- even today -- to give you a little shiver.
The Control Voice (our series narrator) describes this tale as a "painful step from the crib of destiny" and "part of the saga of the space pioneers." More specifically, the episode involves a rocket, called M2 that lands on the chalky surface of Mars to investigate the disappearance, three years earlier, of the first mission to the Red Planet by the M1.
Commanding this rescue/exploratory mission is Major Merritt, played by a pre-Batman Adam West. His first mate is the scoundrel Buckley (Rudy Solari), who describes himself -- pre Dr. McCoy -- as just an old "country astronaut." The entire crew of the M2 has been ordered by Earth Control (and a computer named Telly...) to remain constantly in eye sight of one another while on the surface. The M1 crew separated. And disappeared. In the blink of an eye...
Even with this edict in place, a subordinate, Mr. Lazzari suddenly disappears on the crumbly planet surface. Lazzari's fate may also prove amusing to Star Trek fans since he is played by Peter Marko -- doomed Mr. Gaetano in the Trek episode "The Galileo 7." Then another astronaut, Frank Johnson, also disappears...also in an impossibly fast fashion.
In short order, Merritt and Buckley discover that the sand on Mars is actually a living ocean of sorts. And that swimming beneath the surface of this glittering sea is a race of monstrous, carnivorous sand sharks. The astronauts Lazzari and Johnson were pulled down below...and eaten. The monsters, in fact, can smell human blood...
Merritt discovers the subterranean sharks while trapped atop a rock in the middle of the "ocean" even as a sand storm blows the tide higher and higher. It is at this moment -- with man and beast in the same shot -- that the audience realizes for the first time how colossal the sand shark is. One step into the sand, and Merritt will meet the same grim fate as his crew members.
In the end, the surviving Earth men escape the hungry sand sharks and return safely to Earth. The episode makes a big point of the fact that the astronauts both survive, in large part, because they willfully ignored Ground Control (and Telly...) and made "human" decisions in the heat of the moment instead. Again...it's a kind of pioneer spirit. Free from bureaucracy and committee; with life or death on the line.
One reason I enjoy "The Invisible Enemy" so much (besides my fetish with 1960s future-tech...) is the exquisite, black-and-white visualization of the Martian landscape.
Though scientifically inaccurate -- there's air on Mars!? --- the terrain is nonetheless foreboding, barren...and gorgeous. Rocky outcroppings dot the horizon, and the endless sand ocean glimmers and brims with mystery. In one evocative shot (from Buckley's perspective), the sandy sea actually transforms into an Earth-style, watery sea, and that's how the astronaut begins to suspect the existence of, well, sea life.
But the image I've always remembered most from this episode involves the monster itself: the roaring, hungry sea shark. We first see an ugly dorsal spine cut above the sand, like a shark fin cutting over a watery-surface.
And then, over time, more of the beast is revealed until we understand it to be some sort of huge, malevolent, gliding, under-sand dragon. One of the episode's final shots is a humdinger too: a whole school of the beasts -- six or seven, perhaps -- breaking the surface after their brethren is killed...with vulnerable man just outside reach, on the rocky shore beyond.
"The Invisible Enemy" also reminds me of a (buried) fear of mine from childhood (no doubt brought on by my exposure to Blood Beach ): the idea of disappearing beneath the sand on the beach, grabbed and eaten by something invisible and avaricious.
When we do get to Mars, there likely won't be giant sand sharks waiting for us in dusty seas, but there will, no doubt, be other Invisible Enemies.
Perhaps just the elements themselves.
Hopefully we'll meet those challenges with the same insight and resourcefulness demonstrated by Merritt and Buckley in this classic Outer Limits episode.
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