• The Outer Limits: Season Two (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: November 20, 2019.
    Directed by: Various
    Cast: William Shatner, Adam West, Robert Duvall, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Culp
    Year: 1964 - 1965
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    The Outer Limits: Season Two – Movie Reviews:

    The Outer Limits debuted on ABC in 1963 and ran through 1965, lasting only two seasons. Those two seasons, however, were enough to rightly earn the sci-fi anthology show a pretty serious cult following. The show was clearly influenced by The Twilight Zone but it had a stronger focus on aliens and more traditional science fiction than Rod Serling’s iconic series. This helped to set it apart, even if there was definitely some crossover in terms of genres and ideas between the two shows. The series was produced by Joseph Stefano (who was the screenwriter on Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho) for the first season and Ben Brady for the second. Stefano also wrote for the show, alongside luminaries like Robert Towne, Leslie Stevens Byron Haskin, and Harlan Ellison.

    This second season is, once again, an excellent selection of stories that, once again, often highlights performances from an interesting selection of cast members. Even if we only get seventeen episodes this time around as opposed to the first season’s thirty-two, there’s a lot of great stuff packed into each fifty-minute story.

    Here, across four discs, we get…

    Soldier / Cold Hands, Warm Heart / Behold, Eck! / Expanding Human / Demon With A Glass Hand / Cry Of Silence / The Invisible Enemy / Wolf 359 / I, Robot / The Inheritors Part 1 / The Inheritors Part 2 / Keeper Of The Purple Twilight / The Duplicate Man / Counterweight / The Brain Of Colonel Barham / The Premonition / The Probe

    The first disc starts off with a classic with Soldier, written by Harlen Ellison. While it’s dated and clearly a product of its time in its visual style, the fish out of water story of a men bred by his futuristic government only to kill trapped in our current time is both politically and socially astute and packed full of sci-fi thrills and chills. Cold Hands, Warm Heart is also quite strong, with William Shatner playing an astronaut returned from a deep space mission who returns home a changed man, now subject to some strange physical conditions due to his experiences – and of course, there’s an alien of sorts featured here as well. Behold, Eck! is even better, at least in terms of on-screen alien insanity, as it details the exploits of the titular creature as he shifts from his 2D world to our 3D world. Thankfully there’s a scientist around with the right kind of glasses to see him (was John Carpenter a fan of this one?) willing to help. Expanding Human isn’t quite as interesting, but it’s story of a man bent on maximizing humanity’s potential by way of some dangerous experimental drugs does at least feature a young DeForest Kelly in a supporting role, and it ends on a strong note even if it starts slowly. Demon With A Glass Hand, also written by Ellison, is another solid entry as it tells us the story of a man with amnesia and, as the title implies, a hand made of glass.

    Disc two opens with Cry Of Silence wherein a couple, played by Eddie Albert and June Havoc, has a car accident and shortly thereafter finds that they are being followed by energized tumbleweed! From there we move on to The Invisible Enemy where a team of astronauts heads to Mars to investigate the disappearance of an earlier team only to be hunted down by… something. Adam West stars in the episode. Wolf 359 shows us what happens when a scientist creates a miniaturized version of an alien planet in his lab so that he fast-track its evolution – it doesn’t go well. I, Robot follows the story of a robot accused of murder who is put on trial along with his creator. Leonard Nimoy stars in this one, and interestingly enough when this was remade in the 1995 series reboot, he started in that episode as well. The Inheritors Part 1 tells the strange story of a quartet of Korean War veterans that, due to a freak accident, wind up with increased intelligence and start to build a spaceship they want to staff with handicapped children! Robert Duvall appears in this episode.

    Disc three starts off with The Inheritors Part 2, which finishes the two-part episode, before moving on to Keeper Of The Purple Twilight, which stars Robert Webber. Here an alien named Ikar studies humans before his race invades and he becomes perplexed by mankind’s penchant for emotion, something completely foreign to his race. The Duplicate Man is set in the future of 2055 where a scientist holds an alien – the last of its race - captive in his lab, which is all well and good until it escapes. Counterweight follows a group of scientists who endeavor to test a space simulator with the help of a construction mogul and a newspaper owner, which goes fine until their lengthy experiment is set upon by aliens! In The Brain Of Colonel Barham, America wants to send the titular hero to Mars, but his terminal illness makes that impossible… until it’s decided that they’ll keep his brain alive and that brain turns evil! This episode is pretty nuts, a standout amongst a collection of genuinely weird stuff.

    Disc four starts off with The Premonition, where an astronaut and his wife wind up getting ten seconds head of the rest of the world thanks to a quirk in the rocket they’ve tested, which gives them the opportunity to save their daughter but in doing so, be permanently lost in the time stream. Lastly, the series ends with The Probe where four people survive an airplane crash only to get captured by aliens and find themselves having to solve a puzzle or meet certain doom!

    Great stuff across the board – just a lot of really creative storytelling at play here. The black and white cinematography is better than the television standard of its era and while the effects are dated, you can’t help but love them. The series benefits quite a bit from a nice array of aforementioned guest stars, and some of the scripts are positively bizarre not just by 1960’s standards but by today’s standards as well. The Outer Limits isn’t afraid to get dark when it needs to, and this makes certain episodes super suspenseful. It’s also interesting to see how the series looks towards the future, at least as it was seen decades ago.

    The Outer Limits: Season Two – Blu-ray Review:

    Kino brings the first season of The Outer Limits to Blu-ray spread across seven 50GB discs in AVC encoded 1080p high definition in the series’ original fullframe broadcast aspect ratio and the transfers generally look great. There’s some print damage here and here but most of it is very minor, for the most part the image is very clean. Detail ranges from very good to outstanding, it is typically very strong throughout the run, and there’s impressive depth and texture to the image. Compression is handled well, there’s no problems there, while the series’ 35mm roots show through, as they should, with a nice, natural looking amount of film grain present. There doesn’t seem to be any problems with noise reduction or edge enhancement, while proper contrast settings ensure we get nice, deep blacks, clean whites and a good grey scale.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks, which comes with optional English subtitles, sound just fine. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion to note and the levels are properly balanced throughout. Dialogue stays easy to follow and understand, while sound effects and music come through with appreciable clarity as well. That said, there is a problem with about ten-minutes’ worth of audio on the first episode of the first disc, Soldier, where the track distorts and gets all warbly sounding. The rest of the episodes sound fine, however.

    The bulk of the extras on this set come in the form of a selection of informative commentary tracks. The commentary roster for this set is as follows:

    Solider: David J. Schow / Cool Hands, Warm Heart: Craig Beam / Behold, Eck! By Reba Wissner / Expanding Human by Reba Wissner / Demon With A Glass Hand by Craig Beam / Cry Of Silence by Gary Gerani / Cry Of Silence by Reba Wissner / The Invisible Enemy by Craig Beam / Wolf 359 by Craig Beam / I, Robot by David J. Schow / The Inheritors: Part 1 & 2 by Gary Gerani and Steve Mitchell / Keeper Of The Purple Twilight by David J. Schow / The Duplicate Man by Tim Lucas / Counterweight by Reba Wissner / The Premonition by Tim Lucas

    For those already very familiar with the series, these commentary tracks add quite a nice bit of value to the set. Without going into the minutia as to what is covered in each track, let it suffice to say that all of the commentators know their stuff. Once again, David J. Schow, the author of The Outer Limits Companion, in particular does an excellent job detailing the episodes that he’s involved with but everyone here has something of interest and worth to contribute. There’s lots of talk of the history of the show, the writing teams, the directors that were involved, the cast members that appear, and plenty of the themes that the series deals with as well as how the social and political context needed to really understand where the country was at when this material was originally broadcast.

    The first disc also contains five separate TV spots advertising a few different episodes. On the second disc, poke around and you’ll find a quick forty-three-second ABC New Year's Eve Promo from 1999 advertising a run of the series. On disc three there’s a quick three-minute featurette called Creature Features with David J. Schow that shows off

    However, the vast majority of the extras are found on the fourth disc in the set. Included here is a veritable treasure trove of ‘stuff’ from throughout the history of the series. There’s twenty-three minutes’ worth of TNT promos for when the show was in syndication there. We get twelve spots in total and they’re fun to see. We also get twenty-minutes’ worth of host segments featuring Penn and Teller from the same era, which are quite amusing and a nice inclusion in the set. Continuing down the TNT road, there are some great vintage interviews included here, the first of which features Cliff Robertson talking about his involvement in The Galaxy Being episode and his thoughts on the series. Joanna Frank also shows up to talk for twenty-one minutes about starring in the ZZZZZ episode, offering some fun stories and memories from this time in her life. Casting director Meryl O'Loughlin offers twenty-four minutes of memories from the time she spend on the show, providing some amusing stories about some of the cast members that appeared in the series. The most impressive of the TNT interviews, however, is the lengthy sixty-four minute chat with Joseph Stefano himself. He’s obviously got a lot to say about the series, it’s history and those that he worked with to bring it to the screen – these are all really good.

    David J. Schow also gets two featurettes here, the first as twenty-three minute Showtime Interview and the second a ten-minute Project Unlimited piece. Here he offers up some of his admittedly extensive knowledge about the show, talking about its legacy and its importance and what made it unique in the history of television.

    From there, dig into a nine-minute interview with writer Anthony Lawrence, who wrote The Children Of Spider County and The Man Who Was Never Born episodes. He shares some interesting memories from the time he spent working on the series and offers some insight into writing those two particular stories.

    The seventy-three-minute Museum of Television & Radio's William S. Paley Television Festival is a featurette from 2000 that documents the organization’s celebration of the show and its legacy. Here we get a panel interview with Schow, assistant director Robert Justman, story editor Lou Morheim, cinematographer Conrad Hall, actor Martin Landau and executive producer/writer Joseph Stefano. Lots of good stories here.

    Finally, we get a seven-minute promo called What's New on ABC? from 1963 with Edie Adams and a twelve-minute featurette called The Outer Limits Phenomenon that takes a look back at the original series before then going on to promote the series that started in 1995.

    Additionally, each disc contains menus and episode selection. In regards to the packaging, Kino has done a nice job here, placing the seven discs in a fold-out style digipack with sturdy trays inside. These in turn fit inside a slipcover that also holds a hefty full-color book that contains information on each episode in the set and writing from David J. Schow that helps to provide some historical context and insight into what makes The Outer Limits such an enduringly popular show.

    The Outer Limits: Season Two – The Final Word:

    Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release of The Outer Limits: Season Two is excellent. The episodes in this second, and sadly final, season for the show hold up really well and offer loads of seriously strange entertainment value. The presentation that Kino has provided is also excellent, the transfers are gorgeous and the audio pretty decent too. On top of that? The set is very nicely packaged and absolutely stacked with a fantastic selection of new and archival extra features sure to appeal to any fan of the show. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized The Outer Limits: Season Two Blu-ray screen caps!