Thursday, October 22, 2009

31 Days of Halloween: "Demon With a Glass Hand" on The Outer Limits

Trent is a man “born ten days ago” who has no previous memory and is being pursued throughout a huge deserted office building by alien beings that want to kill him. His actions are guided solely by his hand, which is made of glass with a tiny computer inside. The hand has two digits—the thumb and pinky—and talks to Trent. It tells Trent how to destroy the aliens, but says it can’t answer additional questions until Trent restores the three middle fingers…which are in the possession of the aliens.

This fascinating episode, penned by science fiction writer Harlan Ellison, was the highlight of season 2 of The Outer Limits (with “The Inheritors” coming in a close second). The story unfolds like a riddle, with Trent’s hand providing clues along the way. Robert Culp is perfect as the puzzled Trent, who plays a puppet to his own hand, acting and reacting without ever knowing the complete goal.

The episode benefits considerably from its setting and photography. The Bradbury Building in Los Angeles (where parts of Blade Runner were also filmed) provides a vast interior, where shadows lurk down every corridor and one never knows what lies behind an office door. The expressionistic photography (always an Outer Limits trademark) enhances the setting with unusual angles and deeply textured lighting.

The only flaw is an unexpected relationship that sets the stage for an effective ending, but otherwise comes across as forced and unlikely. Still, that’s a minor complaint against an otherwise original, well-crafted tale.

You may note some similarities between this story and a famous film series. I won’t divulge the famous film here (because it gives away a plot twist), but Ellison did sue the film’s producers and settled out of court.

11 comments:

  1. Rick, I haven't seen many episodes of THE OUTER LIMITS, but I have seen this one. Your write-up is excellent. It's a great episode, and I think it's abundantly clear what film series (ahem!) "borrowed" plot elements. Well, it's clear once you see the episode, I mean. Thanks for another stellar review!

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  2. Robert Culp has said that Harlan told him he wrote this for him , and this is the single most money making episode in TV history. BTW I just got the Complete Outer Limits Box Set and I can't wait to upsample this to 1080p.. Rick, yopuou might like to know that the camera assit on this was William (Billy)Frakier. Wonder what became of him? LOL. Good job on one of my favorite all time Outer Limits.

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  3. Rick, OUTER LIMITS, was one of my favorite TV shows.. Was this before Culp, became famous in the "I Spy" television series? I dont remember. Awesome review.

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  4. This was indeed an intriguing episode of "Outer Limits." The setting is interesting and isolated. The viewer is curious as to why the aliens want to kill Trent as he scrambles to assemble his unique hand. It is one of Culp's best performances. Excellent recap, especially without divulging too much information!

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  5. I don't remember seeing this episode. It sounds good, but I guess I can't tell enough about it to figure out what movie you are talking about. Your article is certainly intriguing -- now I'm dying of curiosity!

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  6. Becks e-mail me .I'll tell you.

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  7. Dawn, Robert Culp did "Demon With a Glass Hand" in 1964 and I SPY started in 1965. Culp appeared two other episodes of THE OUTER LIMITS. One of those, "The Architects of Fear," is also considered one of the series' best and Alan Moore admits he unknowingly borrowed its premise for his acclaimed graphic novel WATCHMEN.

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  8. Paul, please do not give away the movie until Becky has seen the episode. You'll ruin it, buddy!

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  9. No worries Sark, only after Becky has seen it. She's smart I think I won't have to anyway.

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  10. This is one of the best episodes; my friend and I like it so much we are going out for Halloween this year dressed as Kyben. We figure no one else will get it, but the costumes will look cool and we can check off one thing from our geek bucket list.

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  11. Patrick, I have no doubt the Kyben costumes will look awesome. But don't let anyone rip off the medallions around your neck!

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