I've watched a few episodes of Tales Of Tomorrow recently. Airing from 1951 to 1953, Tales Of Tomorrow was a science fiction anthology series performed live and aimed towards adults. It broadcast 85 episodes during its two seasons, which were 30 minutes each.
The episodes I watched were "The Search For The Flying Saucer"(Season 1, episode 11, 1951), "Frankenstein"(Season 1, episode 16, 1952), "Red Dust"(Season 1, Episode 31,1952), "Many Happy Returns"(Season 2, episode 10, 1952), "The Tomb Of King Tarus"(Season 2, episode 11, 1952), and "The Evil Within"(Season 2, episode 37, 1953).
"The Search For The Flying Saucer" tells the tale of a pilot searching for evidence of UFO's in a small town.
"Frankenstein" is a quick adaptation of the famous story starring Lon Chaney, Jr.
"Red Dust" is about a spaceship returning from Alpha Centauri that has been exposed to a deadly red dust and the crew's concerns about contaminating Earth.
In "Many Happy Returns"
an alien on the moon is using telepathy to influence Earth children into conducting experiments.
"The Tomb Of King Tarus"
concerns an archaeology team that discovers a 4,000-year-old mummy with eternal life.
"The Evil Within"
is a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type story involving the neglected wife of a scientist.
This early sci-fi series was pretty interesting. Before now, I had seen the "Ice From Space" episode in which Paul Newman appeared but that was it. Due to being filmed live, the special effects are minimal and there is a soap opera feel but it's the scripts and performances that make the difference between the good and bad episodes.
The most famous, or infamous, episode was "Frankenstein"
, starring Lon Chaney, Jr.. The belief is that Chaney was so drunk during filming that he at times seemed to wonder on the stage unsure of himself. According to the actor, he spent hours in the make-up chair and then went immediately to the stage believing it was a rehearsal. Actually, the show was being broadcast live. I think I believe Chaney's version as he does ramp up his performance for the second act, when he was allegedly told that the show was on. Of course, he still could have been drunk anyway, so who knows?
The episode isn't great but I found it to be better than its reputation. I think since most everyone knows the story of Frankenstein, it only touched on superficial aspects of the story, going solely for frights. There's just too much to try to squeeze into a 25-minute program. I did like the laboratory set.
The best episodes were "Many Happy Returns"
and "The Evil Within"
. "Many Happy Returns" did a great job of building mystery and tension with some solid performances. The alien was only shown in a picture, but he was pretty gruesome. "The Evil Within" had some great performances. They were able to say a great deal about the couple's relationship in a very short time.
"The Search For The Flying Saucer"
was interesting. I liked the idea of a UFO hunter in such an early period of UFO-mania. The performances were OK but some elements, like people falling in love after knowing each other for an afternoon, were too 50's.
and "The Tomb Of King Tarus"
were thick with ham and cheese. The performances bordered on goofy. I still enjoyed them(I'm a sucker for Mummy stories) but these would've seemed appropriate on a more juvenile show. The set of the mummy's tomb was creepy enough with a claustrophobic feel.
Overall, the show is not a waste of time if you're into such shows and is important as a precursor to The Twilight Zone
, but if you don't feel like watching it, you're not missing much.
Tales Of Tomorrow intro
John Newland, from One Step Beyond
played Dr. Frankenstein in the "Frankenstein" episode. Like Chaney, his performance lacked the pathos and depth of the Universal movies.
Rod Steiger(Al Capone
, 1959) played the lead in "The Evil Within" and seemed incredibly relaxed on stage compared to his contemporaries. James Dean also had a small role in this episode, though I didn't notice it was him until I read about it.
Other actors to appear on the show were Boris Karloff, Veronica Lake, Brian Keith and Leslie Nielson.
The episode "What You Need"(Season 1, episode 19, 1952) was adapted a few years late for The Twilight Zone
in season 1, episode 12 of that series.
Most episodes of Tales Of Tomorrow
can be found on archive.org:
Tales Of Tomorrow