1963 would prove to be a historical year for lovers of science fiction and monsters alike with the introduction of the now iconic television show, The Outer Limits (originally titled Beyond Control). For one hour at a time, television sets across the nation would be controlled by the transmissions of show runners Leslie Stevens and Joseph Stefano. Season one in particular would leave a mark destined to echo across generations to come. The original show enjoyed a run of two seasons (thirty-two episodes and seventeen episodes respectively) before being revived in 1995 until its final airing to date in 2002.
Through various creative hands and minds we were brought a multitude of standout experiences with such prolific writers as Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson, and R.R. Martin behind them. However, it was the original first season where the birth of the show truly cast an indelible shadow.
Screenwriter Joseph Stefano, coming off the heels of his Psycho success, would write a dozen episodes during the first season while co-producing alongside Leslie Stevens. With his trademark monster — or “bear-of-the-week” as they were dubbed — Stefano’s signature touch would garner repeated call-outs among fan favorite lists around the world. His gothic settings served to accent the nature of his rich visualization and defined what an Outer Limits episode was all about.
After years of having the show test our fears and anxieties without fail, we can now enjoy a full immersion into Stefano’s words like never before. The added layers of details provided by the published scripts act as an insider’s glimpse of exactly how the atmospheric wonder and magic of Stefano’s masterful vision was brought to life on screen.
Coming out this spring from specialty publisher Gauntlet Press is From the Inner Mind To … The Outer Limits: Scripts of Joseph Stefano, Volume 1. The book, which will be available in both a signed numbered and lettered limited edition, offers six produced scripts (including two early drafts) plus two never filmed, complete scripts. None of these scripts have been published anywhere else until now.
I recently had the luck to sit down with editor Dave Rash and Dominic Stefano, son of Joseph Stefano, to discuss how and why each script was selected for this book, the scope of Joseph Stefano’s style and impact, and a whole lot more. Enjoy!
(Interview conducted by Rick Hipson)
CEMETERY DANCE: This question likely involves you both, but what can you tell me about the genesis for this book project as far as initial planning, gathering of materials and how 2021 became the eventual launch date for it’s release?
Dave Rash: When I was a kid, a typical kid of the 1960s, I had a few loves. Those loves included monsters and science fiction such as The Outer Limits, Famous Monsters of Filmland, and comic books. So, I’m a lifelong fan of The Outer Limits and I’ve always longed to try and give back to something that has given me so much. When I received a script from Dominic for the very first time, the episode was A Feasibility Study, and I thought to myself, this is an episode I’ve seen at least fifty times. It’s probably one of the most moving Outer Limits tales ever told. The ending still gets to me to this day.
I thought, okay, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy this because it came at a really rough time in my life. My wife had some very serious issues going on at the time and (the script) just took me away for an hour. I could not believe how original, how new and how fresh it was when I read that teleplay. It was completely transforming for me because I was absolutely astounded with the characters that Joseph Stefano built into this teleplay with the description of the scenes and the settings, with the descriptions of the bear, or monsters. At that point in time, I also realized this was The Outer Limits vision that set the tone for the whole series.
Joseph Stefano wrote twelve episodes and was also the producer for season one. A good story starts with the teleplay, the written story, and I could not believe that after fifty-something years I was taken aback by one teleplay.
At that point I was hooked. I think you’ll hear two different stories. Dominic has one story, I have another. I very politely began to ask Dominic could we print these? I as a fan would really appreciate a nice copy of these in a nice bound edition. Dominic may tell you I wouldn’t stop harassing him and he just finally gave in and said okay, let’s do something! (everyone laughs). That’s my version of it. I’m going to let Dominic tell his story
DOMINIC STEFANO: I think that everything Dave said is accurate and I just want to expound on it, really. My father’s visual writing style is incredibly impactful. Everything he would write was fully fleshed out and it was as if you were watching a movie or a television episode. We’ve had those scripts archived since 1963 or 1964. When my father passed away, we donated the bulk of his writings and a good amount of the scripts to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Library so they could be used by film students to enhance whatever it was they were doing.
For a long time, I have been receiving random correspondence from people all over the world asking me what was going to happen with The Outer Limits, if there was going to be anything new. Since I had been wrangling with MGM for a number of years and they, being the primary share holder of the series, had been reluctant to make an Outer Limits movie after the failure of The Twilight Zone movie. I thought I’m going to start doing things myself and I’m going to start releasing some of this material.
That’s how I met Dave. Dave was the one who formed the relationship with Barry (Hoffman) at Gauntlet Press and really, truly, the one who put this whole thing together. I’ve been fairly passive in regard to my own participation in this. Dave has been the editor and the driving force behind this.
I can only imagine how daunting — and perhaps emotional — of a task it must have been to sift through the archives of Joseph Stefano’s files, photos and other materials as organized as he may have kept them. What was that experience like? Were there any surprises along the way?
Dominic: The Outer Limits never really died for us. After the original series, it eventually ended up in syndication. The Outer Limits I think played in thirty countries around the world and then, in 1995, we did the second generation which we shot up at the Bridge Studios in Vancouver. That was seven years we did with Showtime and the Sy-Fy channel. Then, of course, we had the David Schow Outer Limits companion which was redone and freshened. I’m going to say there weren’t really a lot of surprises because the show never really went away for us.
It was more of an extension of what to do with the materials it sounds like.
Dominic: Yes. What I’ve always wanted to do is a feature film based on The Outer Limits, and I’ve come close to having that happen. Regarding the book, I think this is a scholastic way for people to get their hands on and study my father’s writing style as well as enjoy the episodes themselves, which are rich and exciting to read. Since my father was a mentor for writing students coming out of colleges, I believe this will be helpful to people who are fans of my father’s style and his great ability to weave a tale.
Among the obvious takeaways from reading through these scripts, such as Joseph’s talent for telling engaging stories with interesting characters pitted against extraordinary circumstances, is the intense mindsets of his characters, which were often rife with mixed emotions about how they perceived and connected with the strange and terrifying world around them. Clearly, Dominic, your dad was a deep thinker who connected the human condition to the monster of the week and, by design, connected us just as intimately to their circumstances. I kept thinking your dad must have done his best thinking with his eyes closed. What can you tell us about growing up with such a creative force, what you gleamed from his process and how he may have provided a compass for your own creativity and your obvious love for the Outer Limits?
Dominic: Just going back to The Outer Limits for a moment, I think what’s interesting about the show is that you can see his thought process. You can see most of the monsters were relatively benevolent and it was actually the humans who were the monsters. That was a perspective he felt. You’re seeing his heart and soul come out in those teleplays. That was also a difficult and challenging time, the Cold War and everything that was going on. You can see his personality in those teleplays and that was very much him.
To dovetail that into what he was like to be around, he was a very sweet, funny and creative person. He was always extremely supportive of me and anything I wanted to do even if it wasn’t things he connected with. He was always supportive of the things I was into. I was into motorcycles and things like that which would be completely anathema to him. There wasn’t a single gear in him whereas I’m a total gearhead, but he celebrated that in me. As a father, he was an excellent and inspiring person to be around. I became an entrepreneur because of him. He was my model. I became a contractor and not a writer, but nonetheless, he was my model for doing things. Just a great guy. For a guy who wrote Psycho, a co-creator of The Outer Limits and all those things, people sometimes have a box around that thinking he might have been a real oddball, but he was a hilarious person. He had the best sense of humor.
Yeah, it always blows me away whenever you meet people personally and, like you said, you have them in a box and you expect the creators to be these brooding, terrible monstrous people, and they’re one hundred percent the opposite. Those are the folks who exercise their demons, so they don’t have to be like that, apparently.
Dominic: I think that has a lot to do with it.
It might be hard to answer this question without mentioning the next volume of the book, but as far as selecting exactly which episodes would be featured in volume one, what was your criteria? It must have been hard to leave anything out which you had access to include.
Dave: The first constraint was, and I had to confirm this with Barry (Hoffman), how many pages can we include in volume one? For many reasons there was an overall goal to restrict volume one to approximately five hundred pages. We ended up with about five hundred and thirty pages, so we were close. Having said that, there was barely enough room for eight episodes. So, now on to the selection criteria. It’s a very good question and a very fair question.
My preference was to not include lengthy write-ups. This was intended to be a book authored by Joseph Stefano, registered in his name. And, while this is a book featuring his scripts, these scripts are unique, and this is not your typical script book. Here’s why: The first four episodes selected are final scripts. If you wanted to know what Joseph Stefano’s vision for an Outer Limits episode was, it becomes quite clear with these first four. The dates of these teleplays are, of course, all earlier than when they started production. Joseph Stefano was the season one producer as well so he’s the one who hired and provided oversight to every contributor to The Outer Limits. They sure had a talented production team, Academy Award winners, but he still had the responsibility for oversight. The first four scripts are final episodes and include “Don’t Open ‘Till Doomsday,” “It Crawled out of the Woodwork,” “The Zanti Misfits,” and “The Invisibles.”
The next two, “A Feasibility Study” and “The Forms of Things Unknown,” are early drafts for the episodes. As mentioned, the first script I received from Dominic was “A Feasibility Study” and it just floored me. I couldn’t believe something could have that much of an impact on me after being an Outer Limits fan for fifty-some years. Both scripts contained startling revelations for me. For example, “A Feasibility Study” has the old name of the show. It wasn’t called The Outer Limits when Joseph Stefano wrote that teleplay. I don’t know if you saw that on the script, but it was called Beyond Control. The first two scenes are very different in the teleplay compared to what you see in the final episode. The episode is about a pandemic so it’s very much applicable to where we’re at today. But, the first two scenes in that teleplay terrified me. I don’t know if you have read it yet, so I don’t want to spoil it for you. Watch the episode then read the script. You will notice the difference.
With “The Forms of Things Unknown,” it’s also not the final script, it’s the second draft. The second draft, however, will add more detail to some of the scenes that are in the story that you may not be aware of why they are included. The script puts the whole story in proper perspective and answers many questions. There is one film critic who recently labeled “The Forms of Things Unknown” as the greatest episode to air in the history of American television and there is credibility to that claim.
Having said that, the six televised scripts included in volume one also showcases the diverse writing style of Joseph Stefano. The first one and the last one, “Don’t Open ‘Till Doomsday” and “The Forms of Things Unknown,” are more abstract. That requires some work including multiple viewings and readings. The more you read the more you learn and the more intriguing these episodes become. If you do not prefer a story written in the abstract, there are the more literal stories such as “The Zanti Misfits.”
I felt these six showcased the rich and diverse writing style that Joseph Stefano brought to The Outer Limits.
Dominic: You can also see with “Forms of Things Unknown” that he was also exiting The Outer Limits because that was a pilot for a show CBS wanted him to do after The Outer Limits which never came about. You can also see in his writing and his visual style, you could see him exiting The Outer Limits and heading in another direction.
That’s very interesting. Definitely puts a new perspective on the episode.
Dave: The last two are real treats because they are never-filmed episodes. The first never-filmed episode is “The Forms of things Unknown.” It’s the original episode that was written with an Outer Limits “bear” or monster. Before, as Dominic mentioned, they had spun off the Outer Limits episode from a pilot which they were pitching to the network for a new series. Quite honestly, no one’s ever written or talked about this original version because only when the book is published will it become known. In other words, this is a brand new, fully scripted, episode written by Joseph Stefano in 1963 which is an incredible discovery.
The same with the last one, “Small Wonder Part Two.” If you’re looking for those last two episodes to watch, you won’t find them. They don’t exist (although) they’re fully-scripted episodes written in 1963. “Small Wonder” was a double episode written by Joseph Stefano but why include part two only? This goes back to your original question. There was a five-hundred-page constraint and only eight episodes could be successfully included in volume one. No worries though, in my editorial in volume one I provided a brief synopsis of what part one is about. Volume one therefore contains four final episodes, two early drafts of filmed episodes, and two fully scripted but never filmed episodes.
If volume one is successful, a volume two will be published. We’re trying to mimic that same format with volume two as well. To be honest, even with two five-hundred-page volumes, that is simply not enough pages to cover all the Joseph Stefano scripts. There are two other interesting episodes that were never filmed that are strong considerations for inclusion in volume two, so “Small Wonder Part One” may need to be included in a future omnibus edition. And, of course, there are still six Joseph Stefano-scripted filmed episodes not covered in volume one such as “Nightmare,” which is probably the most popular episode.
Dominic: Certainly, one of the most frightening monsters to appear in any of the episodes.
I’m very much looking forward to that. Here’s hoping we can give the signal for volume one a good enough boost so we can get to reading volume two.
Dominic: My mom actually took me to the sound stage when my dad was filming the “Nightmare” episode when I was about five. We were standing outside the sound stage and the Nightmare creature in full costume came out of the sound stage door. I grabbed my mom’s leg because this thing, who’d ever seen anything like this? I diverted my eyes downward, and I could see he had taken off his feet and he was wearing tennis shoes. I had this realization in that moment it couldn’t possibly be real because monsters don’t wear Keds.
(Laughs) That’s great.
Dave: I love that story.
Rick: Speaking of inclusion — and by contrast, exclusion — I especially enjoyed comparing the aired episode of “Forms of things Unknown” to the unproduced version. As you mentioned, Dave, not only were additional details layered into the unaired version for a more fleshed out interpretation of the cast’s inner fears and motifs, but most surprising — for me at least — was how the Form plays such a prominent role whereas the aired version merely hints at the Form’s existence, almost subliminally.
For folks who’ve not read the book yet, what can you tell us about why these two versions exist with their differentiating factors and why the unproduced version was, well, never produced?
Dave: Well, Dominic kind of answered that question earlier. There’s the July 1963 version that’s printed in the book which is the early version that features the monster — the traditional Outer Limits “bear.” It’s a creature that comes out of the wall and is trying to communicate with you, but all it can do is moan. It’s absolutely horrifying when you read it. If there’s one episode I would like to have made into a full-length feature film in black and white it would be the original “The Forms of Things Unknown.” That would be a wonderful film. I’m hoping a screenplay writer gets a hold of this book, reads it, and goes “okay, we have to do this,” because that was my initial reaction.
As Dominic mentioned, they were pitching a new series to ABC called The Unknown. What Joseph Stefano did over the Christmas vacation was to rewrite that original script of “The Forms of Things Unknown” into two different scripts. One called “Madmen and Lovers” and one called “The Forms of Things Unknown.” Between Christmas and New Years, Joseph Stefano then rewrote both yet again. “Lovers and Madmen” became “The Unknown,” and they filmed the pilot simultaneously with the third version of “The Form of Things Unknown.” They used some common scenes between the two, but changed the story for the pilot because it had a different purpose.
So, here’s one episode for The Outer Limits and here’s the Unknown pilot that will be pitched to ABC studios. It was really the time and money constraints. They simply didn’t have the luxury of finishing up season one and filming a pilot at the same time, so they produced them simultaneously.
Dominic: Plus, there were conflicting issues that came at the end of that partnership as well. My father wanted to direct. Leslie Stevens wanted him to, and the network didn’t want him to. That’s why my dad only produced for that one year and also likely why “Forms of Things Unknown” was not developed as a show. They had a parting of ways.
Gotcha. And, in a sense, you kind of answered this next question regarding “Forms of Things Unknown.” It sounds like you are trying to get that filmed. I would absolutely love to see that on the screen. If you’re having some challenges with that or maybe even as a way to create additional buzz and reach a whole new breed of fans with that script alone, do you think there may be plans for a novelized version of that script?
Dominic: I think that the graphic novel approach is one that Dave and I are going to pursue with these episodes. That’s already in the works. As far an Outer Limits feature film, the current head of MGM was brought in to get the studio and the library ready to sell. Other than the Bond franchise, they are hesitant to make films from the library because if a film is not successful it’s going to lower the value of the library. So, what MGM is actually doing is securing the rights to properties they didn’t have, like Fiddler On The Roof, and bolstering the size of their library. Will the next people coming in be more open to our approach? I hope so.
That makes a lot of sense. Seems like one of those hurry up and wait games that could go either way.
Dominic: Yup. I will tell you since 1990, five original Outer Limits scripts have been written and none produced. This is something that’s been in the works for a long time. Honestly, MGM has been a company that has rested on their laurels to a certain extent, and they’ve been very stubborn and locked down tight with the contents of their library and that’s just been their position. Unfortunately, they own — no pun intended — they own the lion’s share of the franchise. This has been the way things have been. It’s been frustrating.
Frustrating is the word I was thinking of hearing you describe that.
Dave: Actually, Rick, it’s important to understand the concept of money in 1963 and compare it to the way conditions are today. For example, The Twilight Zone that is airing on CBS, the new one, it’s a one hour show just like The Outer Limits. Season one had ten episodes. Season two had ten episodes. Season one of The Outer Limits has thirty-two one-hour episodes in the same fifty-two-week time period. There is a lot more you can do both efficiently and effectively today when compared to 1963. Dominic and I have had this conversation before. In the editing room, for example, it’s scissors and tape in 1963. Special effects were certainly not digital and all but not existent.
Claymation was probably the closest thing they had to special effects back then.
Dominic: Yeah, and luckily with The Outer Limits they had a wonderful special effects company that created a lot of magic. Budget-wise, they were working on a hundred thousand dollars an episode in 1963 and 1964. In 1995 when we did the second generation, we were working on a million point two per episode. You can only imagine, producing a one hour show even in 1963 for a hundred thousand dollars they had to be very careful with everything that they did. My dad was a huge Val Lewton fan, so his use of light and shadow was not only something he saw as a visual tool to tell the story, but it also cut cost.
It sounds like your dad did a lot of work with what he had where otherwise they would have needed a whole crew to come in and figure it out.
Dominic: Yeah, a lot of money was spent on Visqueen. (laughs)
That’s great. And, while I have no doubt lovers of sc-fi and terror-driven stories will continue to discover and appreciate this iconic show, I do fear that more and more folks raised in the era of advanced technology and instant gratification risk being separated from psychological tales that demand they pay close attention, particularly those of the black and white era. What do you gentlemen have to say about the continued importance of original shows like The Outer Limits and the significance of keeping this kind of genre history accessible for audiences of today and beyond?
Dominic: Well, I think personally speaking as an artist, I will tell you I think The Outer Limits is not all that far from vinyl. You have newer generations really enjoying vinyl records and the particular quality of sound that comes from records on a record player. Just because technology has moved forward and we have CGI-driven properties, I don’t want to downplay the intelligence of the younger generation. I think they will find the show interesting even if they have to pay a different type of attention to them to get their nuance. I think people today are just as smart as they ever were. I think there will be a continuing appreciation for the show.
That’s definitely a catch point for the show, with its intellectualism. And who knows? My personal opinion with the pandemic and politics being what they are and everything else, I think a lot of people are probably looking for that existential explanation on the weird world around them and you can certainly get a lot of food for thought from The Outer Limits episodes, in particular, from the episodes your dad wrote like “A Feasibility Study” and “Don’t Open ‘Till Doomsday.”
Dominic: We’re all under the effect of chaos and we live in a chaotic universe. Considering the Cold War and the early times of the sixties with all the different things happening at that time, it’s not like the show isn’t still unrelatable.
Dave: I also think adding the teleplays is going to add a lot to really enhance these stories. Whereas someone may not have fully understood the abstract from “The Forms of Things Unknown,” this helps put all the pieces together. Now I understand why that funeral procession was there. It wasn’t just a scene transition. There was some symbolism there. Or, I didn’t realize it at first but, Tone Hobart was quoting Shakespeare. And it’s intelligent writing, it really, really is. Especially the colleges and universities, for anyone who wants to study this seriously, will have a whole new appreciation for this show.
Dominic: I think it’s a treasure trove you can keep diving into, and it keeps giving.
Dave: Right. It’s really just remarkable, the writing, especially the abstract episodes like “Don’t Open ‘Till Doomsday” and “The Forms of Things Unknown.” Those can be talked about for a very long time.
You could probably base a course just around those two scripts alone, with all the different layers and symbolisms and meaning behind everything and the lessons that are in each of those. I think it’s really something else.
Dominic: Well, that’s something Dave and I have been discussing as well. I think you’re going to see a lot of interesting things come out of all of this.
Excellent. And, speaking of the different layers and symbolisms, probably the biggest thing I was impressed with from reading the scripts and being able to truly absorb each word, was how your dad had such a compact approach to how every character felt, how the environment imposed itself on them, and other details that, on one hand, were probably unnecessary since the viewing audience would never know they were in the script, but on the other hand, this must have been a dream come true for each director and cast member considering they essentially got a Coles Notes version of what every scene required them to convey. Do you recall any feedback from the cast or various directors about having this advantage to work from?
Dominic: I think whether you’re talking about Henry Silva, Robert Duvall, Sally Kellerman, or any of the amazing people that were in the show like the cinematographer, Conrod Hall, you have a who’s who of people who were at the top of their game. So, what you have from my father’s perspective is his incredible ability to build an arc in a short period of time. He didn’t give short shrift to the fact he was doing a shorter piece. He developed it as a fully fledged story with a backstory. He contributed a lot of his ability to the Lajos Egri book, The Art of Dramatic Writing. My dad’s story arc building was essential to his writing style and he contributed that to Egri. For those who are going to watch this, that is something you want to have. You want to have that book, The Art of Dramatic Writing.
The little details made a big difference reading the scripts. By example, in one of the beginning scenes from “The Forms of Things Unknown,” when the script describes the trunk of a car going up and down, instead of just a trunk flapping up and down it was a dead jarred arm. It completely changes how we’re taking in the scene. Pure atmosphere.
Dave: Actually, the actors’ perspective is an interesting one. I’ll share two quick stories if I may.
“In Don’t Open ‘Till Doomsday,” David Frankham is the unfortunate guy who had the luck of looking into the box and disappearing for thirty-five years. I just assumed you had to get that scene right in that you had one minute to terrify the audience, and David Frankham said no, you get one take and that’s all there is. There is no time for a second take because of the time and cost constraints. They had fifty-two minutes of film to get done in six working days. That astounded me because I assumed they would do it until they got it right. No, you only get to film the scene one time.
During rehearsals, Michael Forest who appeared in “It Crawled Out of the Woodwork” said the director kept saying “you’ve got to give me more.” He said it was the most stretched attempt at character acting he has ever encountered.
Also, as an FYI, we’re hoping to get together with Dominc, myself, David Frankham who appeared in “Nightmare” and” Don’t Open ‘till Doomsday,” Michael Forest, and BarBara Luna who appeared in “It Crawled Out of the Woodwork,” and some others to do a podcast. We could then ask about their perspective. I’ll let you know when that podcast is scheduled.
Dominic: That’s going to be awesome.
I’ll be looking forward to that.
Dominic, you kind of made a correlation earlier between The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone which, of course, was created a few years earlier. While making comparisons is fair, fans often felt that The Outer Limits tended to offer less optimistic resolutions to its stories of tinkering with time, death, energy and science in general. One could easily get the impression that your dad didn’t exactly hold his faith in high regard when it came to technology being an important part to our developing society, yet his faith in humanity to overcome our fears as a whole was always present. What are your thoughts on this impression and the messages he may have meant for us to ponder after each episode?
Dominic: I think The Twilight Zone was very much its own being, its own entity. It’s a great show and I loved it. It’s done in a different style. It’s done by different people who had different mindsets and it’s done with a different philosophy. The Outer Limits is really Greek tragedy and gothic horror. My father was not fundamentally a science fiction fan, so he used the cape of science fiction to tell the type of human dynamic stories that were on his mind regarding the time. The Outer Limits is very much the mind of my father and that’s what you’re seeing there. If you notice, with the second season of The Outer Limits where we had stories by Harlan Ellison like “Demon with the Glass Hand,” that season became a lot more sci-fi driven. Therein lies the transition. The first season really was my dad. The second season was much more Leslie Stevens because Leslie Stevens was a hardcore sci-fi guy. If you look at the very first episode of The Outer Limits, “The Galaxy Being” in the first season, that’s totally Leslie. That’s where all that lays.
At this point, I’m not sure I can have a complete discussion with you both about The Outer Limits without asking, of all the monsters of the week, the “bear” if you will, which was your personal favorite and why?
Dominic: Well, my favourite monster was the “Nightmare” monster. Not only because I thought he was a magnificent creature, but also I had that personal experience.
You got to meet the Nightmare!
Dominic: That was my favorite.
I should have guessed that. (Laughs)
Dave: For entirely different reasons, that was also mine. That was the first episode I watched when it originally aired in 1963 that I can remember. I was five years old at that time and it really frightened me. Unfortunately, it didn’t have a happy ending. About two-o-clock in the morning I woke up and I went into my parent’s room screaming there’s aliens in the attic and we had to get out of the house. The next week, The Outer Limits was banned, and I had to watch Gilligan’s Island or something, I don’t remember.
Dominic: That’s pure torture. (Laughs)
Plus, “Nightmare” had Martin Sheen in it. I love Martin Sheen, man. I mean, Apocalypse Now is one of my favorite movies. He’s unbelievable and he’s fantastic in “Nightmare.” That’s a hard one to beat.
Too bad you didn’t know Dominic’s story back then, Dave. You could have told your parents, hey, the Nightmare’s not scary. He wears tennis shoes. (Laughs)
Dave: Dominic had the advantage of seeing the Ebonite in tennis shoes. I didn’t. At that time in 1963-1965, there was only three channels and PBS, that’s it. Missing the original episodes was quite a disappointment. As soon as cable became available, we got some New York channels, but you’d have to stay up late to watch it. Now, of course, we can watch it anytime on DVDs and so on.
Dominic: I was reminiscing with my mom. You guys remember the Z channel? That cable that came from the television and it had a box with a bunch of buttons on it?
I use to have on of those.
Dominic: Man, have we come a long way. Just for the record, I love what’s going on with the streaming. I think it’s opening a new wave of content. I’m seeing actors and actresses that might be struggling for work right now are working. I really look forward to connecting my father’s properties with this new medium.
I’ve been happy with that as well. Some of the shows fit really well into short seasons. One that comes to mind is The Haunting of Hill House. It was perfect for the number of episodes it had.
Dominic: It was amazing. And to think what (producer, Jordan) Peele’s going to do with Twilight Zone. The beauty of all this is we’ve got a twenty-four-seven content site going. For those of us who are sitting on libraries of material, this is probably the perfect storm as far as getting things into exhibition. I know it’s going to be hard for the theatre owners. They’re the ones who are going to be suffering here. But, as far as the public goes, I think this is an unprecedented time for interesting great content.
I think you nailed it when you made the comparison to vinyl. Vintage has definitely made a comeback. Creepshow was one that came back and did well with its short season. Of course, how many times has Hill House been rewrapped and put back out there? I think these shows are always going to have their significance especially if you grew up watching them or had parents who did. And now new kids are having it rewrapped for them to watch on their medium of choice.
Dominic: I want to see Rob Zombie doing more stuff. I loved him.
Yeah, he’s got some great stuff even though some of it is a little obscure even more me. I wasn’t sure what to make of House of 1000 Corpses, yet I found some of his other films to be fantastic.
Dominic: He’s definitely demented and knows how to take people on a ride, and I love that. My dad was very macabre that way, so he instilled in me a rather dark sense of humor. I totally get the stuff that Zombie does, and I’d love to do something with him at some point.
Devil’s Rejects was so outlandish and funny and dark and brutal and cool.
Dominic: You don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Often times both. You laugh then you cry because you laughed and wonder what kind of person you are.
Dominic: Exactly. The reason I bring that up is because this is an unprecedented time for the development of new and exciting content. I’m very excited about what the future holds, including this book.
Regarding the dozen episodes your dad wrote for The Outer Limits during the first season of the show, I know you had mentioned the first season was very much your dad while the second season was very much Leslie Stevens. I understand your dad was credited as an executive consultant and a consultant as seasons went on. What did you dad’s consulting involve exactly? Was he involved with keeping the writers or directors on point, on what his original vision was, or apply treatments to the scripts? What did his consultant work look like?
Dominic: Just a title. He was done with the show after the first season. He did what he wanted to do, and he wanted to direct, but they didn’t want him to direct so it didn’t end well. That’s some Outer Limits trivia you’re never going to hear anywhere else.
They should have let him direct a couple of shows. Then he would have stayed on and produced the second season, and the second season may well have been a more successful season because when people talk about The Outer Limits, they generally reference the first season except for some of those Harlan Ellison episodes.
Absolutely. Even if some people might not be familiar with the content or the storylines, I think they’ll be familiar with the titles of these stories because of a lot of them always show up on fan favorite lists. Even YouTube, you see a lot of top ten lists and at least half of the episodes from the first season are listed on them. I think there’s going to be a lot of intrigue with what you included in this first volume. Even though folks will never know what would have happened if your dad had stayed on beyond the first season, they’ll definitely know what he’s all about from the material left behind during the first season.
Dominic: I’m very happy Dave and I are celebrating that season. I think it was a very special season. As I said, I do think this is going to a valuable book not only to The Outer Limits fan, but also to the aspiring writer it’s going to be very helpful.
Dave: I am very excited and can’t wait for the book to release. My whole being is coming full circle here because Joseph Stefano caused me to lose some sleep in 1963. All these years later, I am once again losing some sleep because I am that excited for this book to be released. It’s truly an honor and I do want to thank Dominic and his mom for allowing us to do this. Fans everywhere are going to appreciate it. I know it.
Well, the book is such a time capsule and a treasure trove for people to be able to step inside the mind of Joseph Stefano with all his scripts. I’m excited, too, to see how well this book does. I think it’s going to do pretty amazing.
Dominic: And also, the quality of the Gauntlet books are very good. We’ve got a signed limited edition. Dave can explain this better than I can. We’ve got signatures of people who were in the shows. It’s really going to be an incredible collector’s piece.
Dave: There are two books that will be available from Gauntlet. The numbered edition is signed by me as editor, and Dominic. The lettered edition is signed by me, Dominic and his mom, Joseph Stefano’s wife. In addition, this collector’s edition is signed by five actors. First, David Frankham from “Don’t Open ‘Till Doomsday.” Then, three actors from “It Crawled Out of the Woodwork” with Michael Forest, BarBara Luna, and Ed Asner. Dave McCallum (“The Forms of Things Unknown” and “The Sixth Finger”) also signed.
Actually, I’d like to add as well that I’m just some person from Pennsylvania far removed from Hollywood. It was quite intimidating to even begin such a project. As soon as I mentioned Joseph Stefano and The Outer Limits, the actors were absolutely wonderful, saying what can I do to help? David Frankham sent me — it’s for volume two so I don’t want to spoil it too much — documentation from “Nightmare.” Joseph Stefano would send a telegram to each actor to let them know when the episode was going to premiere, and David kept the telegram for “Nightmare.” Ironically, the premiere for “Nightmare” was pre-empted to cover the funeral for the JFK. It’s historic, he still has it and he’s given us permission to use the image in volume two.
That would be really cool.
Dominic: That would be wonderful. We already have David Frankham signing off on “Nightmare” in volume too.
That’s great. As if it wasn’t exciting enough for the first volume.
Dominic: It’s incredible. I can’t believe this is happening.
Do you have a release date in mind or is it too soon for that?
Dave: I finished proofreading the blue lines in January so it’s currently at the printers. According to Barry, the printer, like everyone else, has been impacted by Covid. My understanding is we’re next in the queue, so I don’t think it’ll be too long. Barry’s official release date is late spring.
Gotcha. Everybody is getting accustomed to the waiting game now thanks to Covid.
Dominic: Everybody’s slowed down by this thing.
Dave: As Dominic mentioned, this is a collectable so there is quite a bit of labor involved as the tip sheets are manually signed and then bound into the book.
You don’t want to rush things with the process that’s for sure.
Dominic, I understand this may be a tough question for you to answer. If your dad had been able to put this book in his hands, see the labor of love and enthusiasm that went into it and had the chance to read it through, what do you think his feelings about this book seeing the light of day through Gauntlet Press Publications would be?
Dominic: I think he would be very satisfied by the legacy that he left with it. I think as a mentor, as a teacher of writers, he would have been particularly excited about the fact that this text has been made available and people are able to purchase it and study it. Especially in his later years when he was writing less, he was mentoring more. So, I think he would have looked at this almost as a textbook and I think he would have absolutely been one hundred percent behind it.
It’s awesome you and Dave are able to provide this for him. This book is an extension of your dad’s mentorship in a way then.
Dominic: Very much so. He has a very rich legacy and the things that he did seems to have made a deep impact on society, Psycho included. He was not an egotistical person. He would have said what a great opportunity this book is going to be to help people. I know that would have been his perspective.
I think my perspective is partially that and, partially for our fans, it’s going to be awesome for them to be able to have this and that’s where I’m coming from with it. I know my dad would have enjoyed that aspect of it, but he would have really looked at it as what could he have done with it as a teaching tool and I think Dave and I are going to be pushing that legacy on in that direction as well. I’m extremely excited about that because he would have been excited about it.
And hopefully once things open up again, you’ll be able to take this out onto the convention circuit to further promote and discuss the book.
Dominic: I think the fact we’re going to miss out on the convention circuit is disappointing, but thanks to Zoom, I do think we’re going to be able to contact millions of people. I don’t feel like we’re terribly limited in how we’re going to distribute this and how we’re going to use this as a launch platform for other interesting things.
I know I’ve certainly seen a few conventions take to the web. They even did the Fantasia Film Festival last year one hundred percent virtual. There’s some hope there because obviously people are biting on that sort of thing.
Dominic: Well, I know speaking for myself, the thing I miss the most out of all of this pandemic are concerts because I’m a musician and I’m a music fanatic and I really miss going to concerts.
Me, too. I was discussing that with friends today, in fact.
Dominic: I am sure those sci-fi fans must miss going to those conventions an awful lot.
Definitely. Especially dressing up. Horror is one thing, you wear a t-shirt and show up and you’re good to go, but the sci-fi and cosplay community truly is an interactive event.
Dominic: Yeah, it’s terrible. People need to get out and exercise themselves. (laughs)
Dave: We’ve had some conversations already and you might be familiar with this, Rick, have you ever heard of Ticonderoga?
I have not.
Dave: It’s upstate New York. A fan has reconstructed every single Star Trek set meticulously based on the original blueprints. William Shatner served turkey on Thanksgiving up there. It’s a real treat for Star Trek fans.
Also, Rod Sterling was born and raised in upstate New York. He was born in Syracuse, but grew up in Binghampton, which is one hour from where I’m at. They have an annual get together in Binghampton that I’ve attended. Someday soon, I would like to the person wearing The Outer Limits shirt at a convergence of Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Star Trek fans all at one convention once this pandemic is over.
Dominic: That’s going to be exciting.
Start shopping for those tennis shoes.
Dominic: Exactly (laughs)
Dave: And it’s all very close to where you are. All you have to do is cross over the bridge and you’re in Ticonderoga.
Yeah, it’s not too far at all. I know I’ve been meaning to get out to the Frightmare At the Falls. I’m close, but with the pandemic… But yes, not too far at all. About two hours.
Dave: Binghampton’s bit further. That’s always a fun one. Anne Serling, Rod Serling’s daughter, always attends. That one is always informative and fun.
It’s been so long since I’ve been to a convention, I’m definitely itching for a good one.
To sort of wrap things up, I know you’ve talked about the book in several details and discussed the legacy of Joseph Stefano which it adds to. Is there anything else either of you might like to add or say to all the new and long-running fans of the Outer Limits before we go about trying to adjust our television sets all over again?
Dominic: I’d like to say to the fans of The Outer Limits that I am diligently working on making more content that’s Outer Limits-based available to our fans. I have been working diligently on that since my father passed away in 2006 and, fortunately, Dave and I came together and now we’ve got the book coming out. There’s a lot more intention behind (the work) as well and I would just ask everybody to be patient and to look forward to seeing more Outer Limits-driven content in the future.
Dave: I would like to add that I am a long-term Outer Limits fan and, once again, I can’t believe how new and fresh and educational these teleplays were. They totally transformed my view of an Outer Limits episode. I’ve always treasured and viewed each and every episode as a classic. I can watch Frankenstein and The Wolf Man or I can watch “The Invisibles” and “The Zanti Misfits” because they are, to me, full length feature films. However, reading the teleplays puts a new perspective on the writing and everything about interpreting not just the story, but the characters, the character development, the scenery, the setting, the tone and even the intent. Some of the plots are very dense and if you blink, you miss something. The teleplays really put it all together and you get a whole new appreciation for the story. Fifty-some years later I’m still learning something new about these classic episodes. It’s incredible
I’m sure you’ll have a lot more to learn as you go through more of the scripts.
Dave: Oh, I’m looking forward to it.
Well, thank you, guys. I can’t thank you enough for answering all my questions and being as open and accessible as you both were regarding all this material. I really, really appreciate that.
Dominic: Thank you, Rick. We really enjoyed the experience and anything you need from us, you let us know.
Will do. Thanks, guys.
Dave: Thank you for your time as well.