The Outer Limits: The Guests
With only two years on the air, the Outer Limits has a rather limited number of episodes in comparison to similar programs such as the Twilight Zone. That doesn’t stop me from enjoying this program and finding more in every episode each time I revisit the series. Unusually, each installment opens with a clip featuring a portion of the episode that the viewer will see again as they watch. This is presumably to pull the audience in with a glimpse of some hideous mind-staggering monster. The pace of Outer Limits is often tense but admittedly slow and dream-like, perhaps making these pulls necessary.
The Guests follows a typical drop-out youngster who happens upon an old man in need of help in the middle of a country road. Pulling his car over to the curb, the youngster attempts to help the old man, but cannot get any words from the stranger’s mouth. Curling him up in his leather jacket, he leaves the old man to look for help and sees a giant brain on the hillside. Behind him, the old man is blown away in the the wind as dust.
On second view, the brain becomes an old mansion the likes of which are seen in several haunted house stories. As he approaches the doors of the mansion, a kind of thrumming is heard in the soundtrack, mimicking the trembling heartbeat of anxiety as he draws closer to the horror within. The interior seems dark and empty, perhaps no one lives there after all, but the old man does need help. Glimpsing at a pocket watch he found on his way up the hill, the youngster finds a photograph of a young beautiful woman and finds courage to investigate further. In time, the young man is introduced to three occupants of the house.
A trio of idiosyncratic personas, all three residents seem trapped in the house and from many years in the past. A wealthy banker and his wife are torn on the entire experience existing only in the mind as a kind of dream. A faded starlet is sure that there is a job for her in the outside world and that she will find acceptance in the new ‘talking plays’ on the big screen. Not sure what to make of any of them, the intruder attempts to escape and is pulled up to the lair of his jailer.
At this point, the episode enters the realm of nightmare fuel. I can see that the special effect of the monster is rubber melted over a mold, but that doesn’t stop it from being both hideous and unnerving all at once. The alien is attempting to gather data regarding the grand equation of Mankind’s destiny. Communicating via telepathy, the alien explains the many obstacles standing in the way of humanity on its path to greatness, ranging from nuclear oblivion to sheer hopelessness (depicted as a stream of prisoners entering confinement). The other side of the equation consists of procreation, labor and art. With so little stacked on one the side of hope and so much going against the human race, the alien entity is sure his missing something that he hopes to find in the minds of its guests. The drifter refuses to cooperate and vows that he will fight the menace with all of his might.
Adding fuel to his determination to fight the alien creature domination and the dreary hopelessness of his fellow inmates is his budding romance with Tess, the young lady in the pocket watch portrait. Resistant at first, she leads him on a mad chase through the seemingly endless corridors of the house before revealing that there is a path out to a small private graveyard. She encourages the drifter to leave, but he has become smitten by Tess’ beauty and has become resolute in staying by her side. This is especially unusual, as the drifter’s nature is that he simply continues from one place to the next, calling no place home. However, he has found a kind of home with Tess, which terrifies the young lady and confuses the drifter more than his encounter with the alien. At this moment, the alien captor retrieves the drifter. It has found a uniquely strong portion of hope and affection within the mind of the drifter, the likes of which could overcome all of the world’s ills.
Sensing that the drifter will waste away in the house as a prisoner of the alien, Tess reveals that she cannot leave with him because inside the confines of the mansion time does not pass. Were Tess to leave the alien’s influence, she would no doubt turn to dust as her father had. The drifter fails to see her argument, so Tess sacrifices herself, disintegrating almost instantly in the atmosphere of present time. Without any other recourse, the drifter stumbles away from the house, urged on by the alien entity to find all that is great in existence in the wide world. Providing these poetic last words, the house transforms back into a bizarre brain-like structure. As the three occupants scream in manic horror, the image of the brain explodes into flight.
At heart I’m a simpler romantic and the corny elements of this episode really appeal to me. Added to the fantastic performances by the cast (especially Gloria Grahame who had played that trollop Violet from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’), the monster is truly disturbing. Appearing to be some kind of noxious pulsating living thing, it gurgles out words from a wet hole, the entire structure quivering with every utterance. In addition to the odd visuals, the always stunning soundtrack does not fail to impress.