20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 1632 mins .
PG . PAL
Long before The X-Files and other such horror/sci-fi television series', there was The Outer Limits. It was a one-hour show aired weekly, each was self-contained and starred many of the better actors of the time. It also featured the combined efforts of a wide range of talented writers, and other behind-the-scenes crew.
"There is nothing wrong with your television set..." - unless you are watching Big Brother of course, then there is plenty wrong.
This first season’s release consists of all 32 episodes and presents great value for money. At almost 27 hours viewing time, it can easily and sensibly be viewed over time, and is something many of us will still be watching months after purchase. Not all of the stories succeed as they were probably intended, but all are enjoyable. Some are very good indeed, and have clearly provided the inspiration for much that has been and gone since.
"There is nothing wrong with your television set..."
Some of the stories are straight ahead “man in rubber suit’ stuff, but even these episodes, such as The Architects of Fear, about a group of pacifist scientists that devise a means for world peace, still offer plenty in the way of social commentary. The more complex and scientifically diverse episodes offer up a whole array of issues and subjects, though few could be considered genuinely scary. Some of the concepts though are quite horrifying, and in some cases closer to being reality than the makers probably could have ever conceived at the time, including genetic modification, space travel and contacting other worlds.
"Who the hell are you calling bald, Baldy?"
Many well-known faces crop up such as Robert Culp, Leonard Nimoy, Donald Pleasance, Martin Landau, Sally Kellerman, Martin Sheen, David McCallum and Robert Duvall to name but a few. Special effects are basic to say the least, but for 1960’s television are occasionally quite inspiring. There is plenty of suggestion to make up for some of the shortcomings and good use of lighting and music to create extra atmosphere.
These DVD throwbacks to the past make for a pleasant surprise more often than not, and offer a genuine and refreshing change from much of the crap that the networks continue to foist on us. Right from the opening titles, with that eerily calm voiceover proclaiming to have control over your set, it is clear that this series was a labour of love, and at 32 episodes of 50 minutes each, must have provided its fair share of headaches in its heyday. There are bound to be more than a few punters interested in this release, and those unfamiliar with The Outer Limits but who appreciate groundbreaking shows, even those that are 40 years old, should get a kick out of this box set.
The Galaxy Being The Hundred Days of the Dragon The Architects of Fear The Man With the Power The Sixth Finger The Man Who Was Never Born O.B.I.T The Human Factor The Corpus Earthling Nightmare It Crawled Out of the Woodwork The Borderland Tourist Attraction The Zanti Misfits The Mice Controlled Experiment Don't Open Till Doomsday ZZZZZZ The Invisibles The Bellero Shield The Children of Spider County Specimen Unknown Second Chance Moonstone The Mutant The Guests Fun and Games The Special One A Feasibility Study The Production and Decay of Strange Particles The Chameleon The Forms of Things Unknown
All 32 episodes are presented in atmospheric black and white and full frame. This is the original aspect ratio, so no loss there. The image overall is pretty good. The sharpness and clarity is generally pleasing, though it dips a little when there is a lot of action for the camera to catch. Contrast is also quite good, black levels are surprisingly deep and shadow detail is mostly acceptable.
Naturally over the course of 27 or so hours there are going to be some film artefacts, and there are numerous white flecks in some episodes and some vertical lines in others, though generally it is not an issue worthy of much concern. Grain is a constant, and this and the film artefacts are more prevalent in the stock footage that is utilised in many episodes.
There is some noticeable shimmer in the 32 episodes that have been squeezed onto the eight sides of the four discs. Those with dexterity issues, or small children, take note; these discs need to be handled even more carefully than you normally would. There are no layer changes evident.
"There is nothing wrong with your surrounds, centre speaker, or subwoofer...". Welcome to television 1963 style, where it’s all mono and pretty crappy really. It does the job and it is in synch, which is really all that can be said for it. Surround speakers and subwoofer remain in your control (big deal - they are not required). There is no great depth or clarity to the dialogue or music, but neither is there unbearable hiss, popping, or clicks. All in all, serviceable and functional.
Hey, after 32 episodes, each more than 50 minutes in length, what more do you want? Well actually it really doesn’t matter what more you want, as there are no extras. Well, okay, there is a nice booklet that comes with it apparently, but this wasn't included with the review copy that was sent to us.
The attractive thing about this DVD set is the diversity of the stories and the fact that they are not sequential, so you can watch them in any order. They cover a range of sci-fi and horror topics and range from watchable to very entertaining. They will not knock your socks off with lashings of special effects, but the storylines and concepts are intriguing and occasionally horrifying. While television stations continue to dump crappy reality TV shows on us, you could do far worse than this classic.