Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Out of this World - Little Lost Robot (1962)

The BFI continues its highly praiseworthy practice of releasing obscure and hard-to-see British TV Sci Fi to DVD with this set, which gives us the only remaining complete episode known to exist of the 1962 ABC TV series OUT OF THIS WORLD, as well as a few extra bits and pieces. OUT OF THIS WORLD predated the BBC SF anthology series OUT OF THE UNKNOWN, which came along a couple of years later. As complete a set as is possible of that programme is also forthcoming from the BFI, and so is a review of it on this site. In fact with the current crop of Network releases House of Mortal Cinema is having a bit of a mini 1960s BritSF season on its own.

But back to OUT OF THIS WORLD. Boris Karloff hosted the programme, and while his subsequent similar duties on the US series THRILLER seemed a natural part of the show, his appearance here in a dinner suit surrounded by 'futuristic' (for 1962) computers is anachronistic enough to feel just a little bit odd. A few words from him, and then we're into LITTLE LOST ROBOT, adapted for TV from a short story by Isaac Asimov. Anyone familiar with that author's work will be unsurprised to hear that his 'Three Laws of Robotics' play a major part here. In a space station near Saturn, a modified server robot has gone rogue and hidden itself in a group of twenty other robots waiting to be shipped out for a mission elsewhere. The problem is that the rogue robot has been altered so that it does not obey part of the second law of robotics - that which states that a robot will never allow a human to be harmed. The topmost robot psychologist is called in and devices a number of tests for the robots to try and determine the odd one out.

As usual with British SF TV of the early 1960s, the clunkiness of the production is saved by the acting and writing. Boom mikes swing in and out of view, and the sets and costumes are of the Fairy Liquid bottle and egg box variety, but anyone with an interest in obscure SF of the period will want to watch this. Fans of British horror films will also want to give it a look as the programme boasts performances from Clifford Evans (Hammer's CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF and KISS OF THE VAMPIRE), Maxine Audley (FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED) and Gerald Flood (Pete Walker's FRIGHTMARE).

The BFI's transfer is eminently watchable, and looks as good as LITTLE LOST ROBOT is ever likely to get. There's also a VidFIRE version intended to recreate the studio feel of the original, but on our HD TV there didn't seem to be much difference. Other extras include two audio-only episodes (ie only the soundtracks remain of these). They are COLD EQUATIONS, starring Jane Asher and Peter Wyngarde, and IMPOSTER which is a Terry Nation adaptation of a Philip K Dick story. Sound only is never the best way to enjoy something made for television, but it's surprisingly enjoyable to sit back, dim the lights, and wonder what might be going on onscreen - after all, your imagination is bound to have a better budget than the series would have been saddled with, and in colour, too! 

There's also a downloadable pdf of the script for DUMB MARTIAN, an episode adapted from a John Wyndham story. LITTLE LOST ROBOT also gets a commentary track from Leonard White and Mark Ward moderated by Toby Hadoke. A fully illustrated booklet about the series is also included. It's not very much of OUT OF THIS WORLD, but it's much better than nothing at all. Once again, well done BFI.

The BFI will be releasing OUT OF THIS WORLD: LITTLE LOST ROBOT on Region 2 DVD on 24th November 2014

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