“The Outer Limits: Season 1” (1963-1964, Kino Lorber) Though not as well-known to mainstream audiences as “The Twilight Zone,” the science fiction anthology series “The Outer Limits,” which ran on ABC from 1963 to 1965, held its own when compared to Rod Serling’s program.
The brainchild of producer Leslie Stevens and overseen during its debut season by writer Joseph Stefano (“Psycho”) was pure, pulp-free and decidedly mature-minded science fiction – what “Outer Limits Companion” author David J. Schow, in his excellent liner notes for this set, describes as a mix of “heavy science” and “weird science” – with no dovetails into fantasy or comedy, as was occasionally the case with “Twilight Zone.” And though its hallmark was its array of alien creatures featured in each episode and created by, among others, Gene Warren, Sr., Jim Danforth and Oscar winner John Chambers (“Planet of the Apes”), the scope of its episodes was more than just a showcase for its monster of the week.
Its 49 episodes, many penned by Stefano but also by Robert Towne and Harlan Ellison, who wrote two of its best-remembered entries (the second season efforts “Soldier,” which has been credited as an inspiration for “The Terminator,” and “Demon with a Glass Hand”) and helmed by feature film directors like John Brahm, Robert Florey (“Frankenstein,” 1931) Byron Haskin (“War of the Worlds,” 1953)) and Gerd Oswald, among others, wove social commentary into their fabric in the same manner as “Zone” and touched on subjects ranging from scientific responsibility (“The Architects of Fear”) and political ethics (“The Hundred Days of the Dragon”) to tolerance (“The Man Who Never Was”) while still delivering exciting, suspenseful and at times, quite frightening stories featuring solid performers, including Robert Duvall, Martin Landau, William Shatner and Adam West. Some of the episodes and extraterrestrials, like the malevolent alien ants in “The Zanti Misfits,” would eventually become cult favorites, but the series itself, cut short by a bad time slot and production expenses, has largely remained a cult favorite, outside of the pop culture touchstone status of “Twilight Zone.”
Hopefully, Kino Lorber’s sprawling, seven-disc Blu-ray presentation of “Outer Limits” Season 1 will help amend that situation (Season 2 is slated for summer 2018). All 32 episodes are remastered for picture and sound – a vast improvement over the MGM DVDs from 2003, and a stellar showcase for the work of cinematographers Conrad Hall and William A. Fraker. Nearly all of the episodes are accompanied by commentary tracks, the majority of which are handled by Schow, but there’s also expert analysis by Tim Lucas, Gary Gerani, and blogger Craig Beam, among others. For science fiction and vintage TV devotees, this is the best possible way to dive deep into this excellent and still unheralded series; as Vic Perrin‘s Control Voice’s says at the opening of each episode, “You are about to participate in a great adventure.”
“Knightfall: Season One” (2017, Lionsgate) Knights-of-old costume drama from Jeremy Renner, among others, which takes a decidedly soap-opera-y approach to the Middle Ages and in particular, the quest for the Holy Grail. Tom Cullen (“Downton Abbey”) is the battle-weary Templar Knight who becomes embroiled in a new search for the Grail when it’s found in France; Cullen’s “Abbey” co-star, Jim Carter, is Pope Boniface, who hopes that the recovery of the Grail will allow for a new Crusade. Double-crosses, assassinations and Cullen’s torrid romance with Queen Joan (Olivia Ross) all lend a popcorn quality to the religious/political machinations and place the material somewhere between PBS and the CW’s Teen Queen drama “Reign.” Consume accordingly. The two-disc Blu-ray features trailers for other Lionsgate properties.
“The Robot Chicken Walking Dead Special: Look Who’s Walking” (2018, Warner Home Entertainment) I have to admit that I haven’t followed “Robot Chicken” or “The Walking Dead” for any length of time (too busy reviewing Czech witchcraft movies or Ghanaian comedies, it seems), but this 22-minute special, which aired on Adult Swim, is a prime example of the former’s gift at finding the humor at the heart of pop culture franchises like the latter. “Dead” cast members, past and present, lend their voices to their stop-motion likenesses and prove considerable good sports about acting like total fools (Andrew Lincoln) or even singing a song (Michael Rooker, who duets with a zombie). Producers from both series (Robert Kirkman, Seth Green) turn up on the dual commentaries, making-of footage (which explains the vocal cameo by Daniel Radcliffe) and deleted sketches.
“Bosom Buddies: The Complete Series” (1984, CBS/Paramount) Having been evicted from their apartment by a wrecking ball, ad agency drones Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari decide that the solution to their housing/financial problem is to don ladies’ clothes and move into an all-women residence. No clichéd, hacky situation involving men in drag went untouched in this single-season ABC comedy, and yet the show has remained out of the TV junkpile due to the chemistry between the two leads; Hanks and Scolari have an energetic and effortless rapport that buoys even the most gormless, borderline offensive line (and Hanks is wonderful when allowed to go apoplectic). It’s easy to see why both actors enjoyed more substantive careers after this series dropped off the network schedule. The CBS/Paramount compiles the entire season in a six-disc set; it drops the opening theme (a cover of Billy Joel’s “My Life”) from each episode but adds a seven-minute promo spot used to sell the series to syndication.