Friday, January 22, 2010


The southern California deluge could't furnish a better backdrop and miasm for a most Gothic science-fiction story made for TV, 1963's It Crawled Out of the Woodwork.

Part of the Outer Limits' first season, the episode made its San Fernando Valley setting look threatening, deadly, and always, even during the day, menacingly dark. A considerable trick.

The Outer Limits Official Companion (is DD a fan or what?) says of Woodwork:

Unconventionally structured and staffed with abstruse characters ... [it] nearly demands to be interpreted as allegory, since as linear dramatic narrative is does very little. [It is] a bastille of scientific research presented in old Dark House terms, and characters that illuminate their oddball backgrounds largely in terms of talkative asides not directly connected to the plot ... 'Woodwork's' problematic characters are complex enough to seem real, but are trapped in a dramatic chaos only slightly less controlled than the madly strobing energy cloud [monster] that dispatches many of them by the final curtain.

So what's the allegory? Well-meaning atomic physicists, looking earnestly for more sources of energy, made into the pawns of evil by an all-powerful indestructible monster lurking in a "ball of dust in a dustless corner near the baseboard," brought to life by one of the janitorial staff's vacuum cleaners.

Dr. Block, the sinister head of the Norco energy research complex, has hit upon a method for ensuring worker loyalty. After discovery of Woodwork's almost uncontrollable monster, he uses it to frighten his scientists to death, then brings them back to life with pacemakers, made slaves to his bidding by control of their energy source.

The only problem: It seemingly destroys the soul and desire to do any further research. Block's trapped NORCO employees shamble through the episode, pleading for mercy or cowering in the lab as others are put to death by the thing, which is kept down a long dark corridor in a cul-de-sac called 'the pit.'

One over the top sequence has Block lecturing his last senior scientist, Stephani, on the gratitude she should be feeling:

"You must get over this repugnance for death, Stephani. For you to hate death is as foolish as for a live person to hate life. Because of me you have faced the most terrifying experience of all and gotten it over with ... With the help of science, of course."

Ed Asner stars as his usual gruff self, frightened out of his mind and slick with sweat by the end.

"I think something malevolent is going on here," says one of the characters.

Watch it on Hulu here.


Anonymous sam_m said...

Sounds terrific. You couldn't put up a proxy so's your visitors from outside the US could watch it, could you ??

1:07 AM  
Blogger George Smith said...

The last Outer Limits show I saw outside Hulu was a couple weeks ago. It was "The Production and Decay of Strange Particles" and it was on YouTube split into parts. So it's possible you might find "Woodwork" there, too, although I haven't yet checked.

Other than that, I haven't look for any of the usual TV proxies, partly because some of them are always hooked to frauds designed to get fees attached to your cellphone bill.

8:15 AM  

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