Thursday, February 6, 2014

TALES OF TOMORROW PRESENTS: "THE LOST PLANET"--OR DID THEY?

In 1952, an ABC Sci-Fi anthology TV program called "Tales Of Tomorrow" broadcast a deeply upsetting event. That weeks episode, titled "The Lost Planet", was interrupted by a strange transmission showing three people--two men and a woman--sitting in a tenement window, drinking heavily and jiving incoherently. The image appeared to be coming from another show and soon the proper programming was returned, only to be interrupted again by the people seen in the window. The broadcast of "The Lost Planet" was soon abandoned as the network attempted to figure out why they were receiving this image of these people--it soon became apparent that it wasn't another show at all, but a "ghost transmission", an image being bounced off a satellite (or somesuch) and that the people in the window were real people, unaware they were being watched on national television.

Tthe live in-studio chaos that was now being televised continued to be interrupted by the action in the window, and soon enough it transpired that one of the two men and the woman were planning on murdering the other man, who was her husband. He was a drunk and the plan--as heard over nationwide airwaves--was to push him down a flight of stairs and make it look like an accident. Panic swept through the studio and soon through New York City. The ABC switchboard was jammed with callers saying they thought they knew who the people in the window were, or at least recognized them from their neighborhoods. Police swung into action, attempting to locate the window and its inhabitants before the murder could take place. But it wasn't to be. The murder went down and the new medium of television hosted the entire grisly event, albeit unwillingly.

Only one of the men in the window--the lover of the wife, in fact--bore a remarkable resemblance to Rod Steiger who was, as yet, not widely known. In fact, the entire event was a "War Of the Worlds" type hoax, perpetrated by father,  Frank De Feliita (he wrote the script) and his producer, Mort Abrahams. The assignment had been to "write something that can only be produced on television". My father came up with the outrageously inventive idea and the director, Don Medford, staged the thing with real verite aplomb--the portrait of the three in the the window is haunting, a still medium-shot capturing the deadly tableaux with impeccable detachment. The in-studio stuff feels truly live and improvised, with people wandering about, cameras visible, cables everywhere and general pandemonium nicely captured. The Timex watch ads are intact--but are used as necessary breaks while the rest of the group tries to figure out what to do next and are thus cleverly incorporated. All in all, the hoax show never falters--no cuts or extra angles interfere with the authenticity of the proceedings. According to my father, the network was truly jammed with calls that night. At the end of the show, the announcer clearly states that you were not watching an episode called "The Lost Planet" but were, in fact, watching "The Window", starring--among others--Rod Steiger. He added that he hoped the audience "had enjoyed this exciting experience in televised entertainment."

What has this to do with "Rob The Mob"? My father wrote "The Window". I directed that "Rob The Mob." It's my blog. Enough said. Enjoy...



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