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Reviews

Perry Mason: The Case of the Violent Vest
(1961)
Episode 24, Season 4

A return to the earlier days of the show
Not only was the episode well-written, but it also involved all five major characters in the case, a welcome change. William Tallman, who had been banished towards the end of the previous season, was in his old form. I prefer seeing Hamilton Burger locking horns with Perry instead of seeing new prosecutors and locations. Lt. Tragg was in his traditional role of nipping at the heels of Mr. Mason and Paul Drake. It's always good to see Della actively helping out, instead of being a glorified message and note taker. It seemed like the original formula centered around the five principals had gradually given way to more screen time for the guest stars, at the expense of Ms. Street, Mr. Burger and Lt. Tragg. Too many shows seemed to be centered mostly around the guests, Perry, and Paul, with Della almost making cameos. This was a refreshing episode.

The Donna Reed Show
(1958)

1950's Intelligent Mom
I was five when the show made its debut in 1958 and at a later point, was a regular viewer. I remember that I really enjoyed the show, along with "Leave It To Beaver", "My Three Sons", "Ozzie and Harriet", "Dick Van Dyke", reruns of "I Love Lucy", "The Real McCoys", etc. I am now enjoying the first season of "Donna Reed" on DVD and have watched the first two episodes. Donna Stone is shown to be an intelligent, well-mannered, problem-solving, serene, stay-at-home mom, similar to June Cleaver and in contrast to Lucy Ricardo. In episode 2, I especially like how Ms. Reed becomes a surrogate dad, trading in her dress for sweats and boxing gloves, while teaching her son how to defend himself physically against a much larger bully. While none of the mothers in the neighborhood I grew up in, including my own, exactly met the idealistic standards portrayed by Ms. Reed, it is refreshing to see good manners and intelligent decision-making prevail at the end of the day, in contrast to today's accepted standards of vulgarity, selfishness and indifference among one's neighbors. I cannot imagine Jeff and Mary Stone being told by their parents that trespassing in their neighbors' yards is okay, leaving a dog outside to bark all day is acceptable, or telling their mother to "shut up" in a supermarket in front of everyone.

Star Trek: The Doomsday Machine
(1967)
Episode 6, Season 2

A Stand Out Episode
This is my all time favorite original episode. In fact, I still have a copy of the script that I purchased from Gene Roddenberry's "Star Trek Enterprise" mail order company in 1969. Every time I watch "Doomsday" again, I leave with another perspective on what is going on in this action packed episode.

What sets this episode in a class of its own is the deadly serious atmosphere from the opening teaser on, as directed by Marc Daniels. The script describes "an air of tension on the bridge" and "the crew looks more haggard…as if from prolonged high tension".

  • We see for the first time in a story, two armed members of security, ominously standing guard in the bridge with type-2 phasers visibly displayed.


  • The cool and serious Lt. Palmer replaces the usually warm and expressive Lt. Uhura.


  • Mr. Spock is even more serious and unemotional than usual and there are some very severe looking close-ups of him.


  • When both Mr. Spock and Commodore Decker are seated in the captain's chair, most of the shots from the left side of the bridge show a bright red or orange backdrop behind them, as if the rest of the bridge does not exist for that moment.


  • The entire episode is characterized by almost constant motion, such as the Enterprise moving through space, the Planet Killer in hot pursuit, the Enterprise peeling away, the Constellation jerkily moving, crews in both ships being thrown and shaking, the fight between Decker and the guard, etc.


  • The phasers fired by both ships are different and this difference is not seen again. The beams are orange and the sound of them bouncing off the neutronium hull is awesome.


  • Due to the constant and immediate threat, there are no debates, bridge crew meetings, or discussions aboard the Enterprise.


  • Spock has to deal with two serious threats, the Decker threat of "attempted suicide", as well as the unstoppable and insatiable Planet Killer.


  • Sol Kaplan's score is outstanding for its break with previous ST music with its jarring combination of brass, percussion and strings. I was glad to hear the Planet Killer's theme music used again in the companion episode, "Obsession", where Kirk faces another "Moby Dick of Space".


  • William Windom's Commodore Decker is a guest star performance that sets it apart from others for its portrayal of an enormously guilt-ridden, broken, and tortured man. Mr. Windom carried out the script's description of Decker as "grimacing in internal agony, lashing out" to the letter.


  • Unlike a typical episode, Dr. McCoy does not join Kirk and Spock on the bridge for some bantering during the prologue. Once Decker asks McCoy to "leave the bridge", the doctor is not seen again.


Even though I had loved the first season of Star Trek, I remember that when episodes like "Doomsday Machine", "Obsession", "The Changeling" and "Mirror, Mirror" made their debut in the second season, I was in awe.

The Addams Family: Cousin Itt Visits the Addams Family
(1965)
Episode 20, Season 1

Cousin Itt and the Addams' ultimate donation
This remains one of my favorite episodes of this series. First off, Alan Reed (famous original voice of Fred Flintstone) gives a wonderful performance as the harried park commissioner. Secondly, this episode highlights the talents of the trio of Carolyn Jones, Jackie Coogan and John Astin, along with Ted Cassidy. In addition, Cousin Itt makes his debut as a recurring character. ***Warning: spoilers*** When the commissioner receives a large donation from Gomez, he shakes hands with Uncle Fester, Morticia, Gomez, and then Thing. His reaction to Thing is priceless and you can hear the Flintstone chortle as he flees the house. Cousin Itt's magic show is funny, especially when he tells a joke in gibberish, with Fester and Morticia laughing, but a puzzled Gomez says: "I didn't get the last line." When the commissioner takes his first peek at Cousin Itt, again, his reaction is hilarious. The monster hunt/safari by Gomez, Morticia, and Fester is very funny. Other funny lines are when the commissioner addresses Lurch: "You, Smirch" and later Lurch smirks and hints to Gomez and Morticia about Itt's fate: "He was…quite tied up when he left."

The Munsters
(1964)

Non-conformist Fun
I was almost 11 when both "The Munsters" and "Addams Family" had their debut in 1964. To put these shows in perspective is to realize that this year marks the beginning of an era of non-conformity and social turbulence. "The Munsters" was about a family that always thought of itself as "normal" and average middle class, but was shunned and feared by not only their neighbors, but just about everyone they came in contact with, because of their non-conformity. "Addams Family" was fun too, but this non-conformist family was wealthy, eccentric and felt they were better than their neighbors. I always favored "The Munsters" for its slapstick play between Herman and Grampa, its broken-down haunted house look, their "ugly ducking" niece, Marilyn, Grandpa's bumbling spells and their fabulous dragster, among other things. The shows were always well-written and I still laugh at the double-meanings used during their jokes. One of my favorite episodes is "Autumn Croakus", where Grampa's mail-order bride, the Black Widow, asks Lily if they have any other relatives living there. Lily: "No, they're all dead." Black Widow: "Oh, that's a shame. They're all deceased?" Lily (poker-faced):"No, just dead." When the Black Widow is captured by the police after fleeing when she meets Herman, the police talk to Marilyn. Policeman (laughing): "She believes you have a monster in your house..." Marilyn (incredulous): "Monster? There's nobody in that house but my family!" When Herman accidently gets into the Black Widow's bed and they both wake up, staring at each other, Herman's hysterical screaming, along with the lady's, is hilarious. In "Love Locked Out", as Lily fumes when Herman stays out late at an office party, the smart-alecky raven in the clock gives the time, "It's midnight...and the bum's not home yet!!!" If "The Munsters" ever becomes available on DVD, I will be one of the first to order it.

The Outer Limits
(1963)

An original sci-fi show that has never lost its greatness
I was nine years old when this classic series debuted. The episodes that scared me the most and the reasons why were: "Nightmare" (the sadistic powers of the Ebonite control rod), "It Crawled Out of the Woodwork" (a swirling cloud-monster frightening people to death), "The Guests" (being dragged upstairs for interrogation by a gelatinous brain), "Don't Open Till Doomsday" (being seized and drawn into a box inhabited by a one-eyed alien blob), "A Feasibility Study" (having your neighborhood kidnapped and taken to an alien world while you sleep), and "The Production and Decay of Strange Particles" (radiation suits taken over by energy beings whose face masks glow with lightning bolts). Episodes I really enjoy now are "Demon With A Glass Hand" (great location in the darkened, dilapidated office building, total suspense), "Architects of Fear" (Robert Culp's superb portrayal of a man being transformed into an alien and losing his sanity), "O.B.I.T" (an early commentary about the dangers of electronic spying and loss of privacy), "ZZZZZ" (insects turn the tables on humankind and send one of their own to our world), "The Bellero Shield" (Sally Kellerman's excellent portrayal of a "murderous wife"), "The Invisible Enemy" (sea serpent-like beasts dragging their victims underneath the sand) and "The Mice" (who could forget the grinding claws and constant stalking behavior of this grotesque monster alien?). I do favor the first season more than the second season, because the episodes and story plots are harsher and darker with very chilling music.

In general, series creator Joe Stefano's suspicion of government and scientific research institutions and their motives is truly admirable. Also, he does not always make the aliens the bad guys, as shown in "Nightmare" when the Ebonite wants to put a stop to Earth-government sanctioned torture of POW's. "Outer Limits" on DVD brings an even richer, louder and penetrating quality to this outstanding series. Also, "The Outer Limits: The Official Companion" is a great book for information about the show's production and episodes.

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