Cliff Robertson, R.I.P.

Cliff_Robertson_SpiderManCliff Robertson (Clifford Parker Robertson III) , known to most modern fans as Uncle Ben in the SPIDER-MAN films, passed away Saturday, September 10th. He was 88.
Also known for playing John F. Kennedy in P.T. 109, Robertson had some significant genre roles in his career.
In 1954,  he hit the early television airwaves as the lead in ROD BROWN OF THE ROCKET RANGERS, on CBS.
 Co-starring Jack Weston and Arthur Batanides (later in STAR TREK and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE), it featured the adventures of the young crew of the rocket Beta. _C_ROBINSON_Rod_brown
 Sadly this series is considered lost, as the makers of its predecessor on the network, TOM CORBETT, SPACE CADET  won their legal case that branded ROD BROWN a direct steal of their show. Apparently all kinescopes of the live series’ 58 episodes were destroyed.
Robertson appeared on two episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE ( ‘The Dummy’ and ‘One Hundred Yards Over the Rim’) and starred in the pilot to THE OUTER LIMITS, ‘The Galaxy Being’.
In 1961, Cliff Robertson starred onTHE UNITED STATES STEEL HOUR in ‘The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon’  based on the the classic science fiction tale, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (Hugo Award, Best Short Story 1960), later extended into the (Nebula Award-winning ) 1966 novel of the same name.  
cliff-robertson-charlyTaken by the  ulitmately tragic tale of a mentally retarded man given enhanced intelligence,   he bought the film rights. In 1969 he starred in the feature film version CHARLY, and won the Academy Award for Best Actor.  
Robertson guest-starred on four episodes of BATMAN in the 60’s as the crooked cowboy Shame. The show was produced by William Dozier, who had also produced ROD BROWN.
In the TV movie RETURN TO EARTH (1976), he played astronaut ‘Buzz” Aldrin. 
As a character actor, he appeared in Doug Trumbull’s BRAINSTORM (1986), John Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM LA (1993), and on the revived OUTER LIMITS (‘Joyride’, 1999).
In 2002 he starred in SPIDER-MAN, and also starred in the “Jersey Devil” film THE 13TH CHILD. He reprised the role of Ben Parker for flash/dream sequences as Ben Parker in SPIDER-MAN 2 and 3.

The Unknown & The Haunted: Rare Screening

David McCallum and Barbara Rush in "The Form of Things Unknown," the OUTER LIMITS episode derived from the unused pilot THE UNKNOWN.

The UCLA Film & Television Archive presents a double bill of rare television pilots created by Joseph Stefano, the producer-writer of the classic series THE OUTER LIMITS. The screenings take place on February 25, starting at 7:30pm, in the Billy Wilder Theater of the Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90024.
At the end of the first season of OUTER LIMITS, Stefano (who previously had adapted Robert Bloch’s novel into the Alfred Hitchcock film PSYCHO),  wrote a pilot for a spin-off to be called THE UNKNOWN. Although the pilot never aired and the series was never made, Stefano’s script became the final episode of OUTER LIMITS’ first season, retitled “The Form of Things Unknown,” with a science fiction element added to the storyline. This event represents an extremely rare opportunity to see the original version.
Also on the double bill is another pilot crafted by Stefano, THE HAUNTED (a.k.a. “The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre,” 1965), which Stefano also directed. Martin Landau stars; Landau had appeared in two memorable episodes of OUTER LIMITS, “The Bellero Shield” and “The Man Who Was Never Born.”
Admission is free. Marilyn Stefano will be in attendance.
From the website:

THE HAUNTED (a.k.a. The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre, 1965). Martin Landau stars as a Los Angeles-based architect-cum-paranormal investigator who specializes in assessing and exorcising old homes. Stefano here weaves together vengeance, hallucinogens and a “bleeding ghost” in a gothic telefilm that was deemed too frightening to air by network executives. Stefano’s only directorial effort, this extremely rare pilot never aired in the U.S. Producer: Joseph Stefano. Screenplay: Joseph Stefano. Cinematographer: William A. Fraker, Conrad Hall. Editor: Anthony DiMarco. Cast: Martin Landau, Judith Anderson, Diane Baker, Nellie Burt, Tom Simcox. 16mm, b/w, 52 min.
THE UNKNOWN (1964) Directed by Gerd Oswald. With nods to Psycho and Clouzot’s Diabolique, The Unknown unleashes sadism and madness when a wealthy playboy lures two unsuspecting women into a house of horrors. With its nightmarish tone and art-film cinematography, The Unknown pilot was considered too off-beat by ABC and was retooled as an episode of Outer Limits. The original pilot is being screened tonight from a rare 35mm print. Producer: Joseph Stefano. Screenplay: Joseph Stefano. Cinematographer: Conrad Hall. Editor: Anthony DiMarco. Cast: Vera Miles, Barbara Rush, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Scott Marlowe, David McCallum. 35mm, B/W, 45 min.

More info: Click here

MGM probing 'The Outer Limits'

OUTER_LIMITS_title_CVariety reports that the financially-embattled MGM has retained SAW series writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan to write a feature film version of THE OUTER LIMITS.
In a scenario that sounds a a bit more like THE TWILIGHT ZONE, the company that is unable to raise the cash to make another James Bond film or greenlight THE HOBBIT, has choosen to pay the pair a fee in the “mid-six figures” for a movie based on an anthology TV series. The script is due in October. Their debt extension expires September 15th.
Maybe they know something we don’t. Maybe they’re recieving strange transmissions. The Form the film will take is a Thing Unknown*.  Will it be an anthology, like the TWILIGHT ZONE movie, or a stand-alone film?
The original OUTER LIMITS ran for just under two seasons on ABC,  from 1964-65. Produced by Leslie Stevens and Joseph Stephano the first year and Ben Brady in the second season, the show was an hour-long anthology that focused on science fiction. But it was often a strange, film noir-ish look at the field, with one foot in the laboratory, and the other in a haunted house. 

The Awe and Mystery of THE OUTER LIMITS
The Awe and Mystery of THE OUTER LIMITS

The term Gothic Science Fiction has been used to describe the moody black and white series, and it fits. Sometimes the episodes served as cautionary tales, with downbeat endings, while others celebrated the human spirit and noble aspirations.  It was like watching a compressed sci-fi movie, told in 60 minutes.
A revived version of the series ran seven seasons, airing from 1995 to 2002, beginning on Showtime, and continuing on The Sci-Fi Channel. 
Produced by Pen Desham, Richard Barton Lewis, and others, some episodes of the original program were reprised and updated for the new series.
In my opinion, the show was much more inconsistent in style than the original, and often seemed to have general air of pessimism and an anti-scientific tone. Some endings seemed to go out of their way to “snatch defeat from the claws of victory”.
But who can argue with a seven-year success?
* The Form of Things Unknown was the last episode of the first season of the original OUTER LIMITS— my little joke.