Sara Shane, Patrick O’Neal and Ben Wright sip Martini’s in Wolf 359

Synchronicity reared its’ head this morning when I came across this recipe for the Carole Landis Martini on the @silverscreensup Twitter account. Only the night before, I’d been watching The Outer Limits episode Wolf 359, where philanthropist Philip Exeter Dundee (Ben Wright) asks, “Didn’t DeVoto write a whole book on the Martini”?

In the pre-Internet age, it would have taken some detailed research to discover that Dundee was referring to historian Bernard DeVoto, whose curmudgeonly essay The Hour was published in book form in 1951. It refers to 6pm, the cocktail hour which is illustrated by scriptwriter Seeleg Lester in the TV episode when scientist Patrick O’Neal proudly mixes his perfect cocktails as thick steaks sizzle on the barbeque.

By coincidence, the Silver Screen Suppers recipe links to an article by Richard Ehrlich which quotes DeVoto’s description of the Martini as , “The supreme American gift to world culture.”

Wolf 359 – the malevolent force escapes from the planet

Until now, my main fascination with Wolf 359 (from a screen story by Quatermass Xperiment adaptor Richard Landau) was the concept of a tiny planet, created by O’Neal in the lab funded by Wright in order to promote space research. With evolution speeded up, O’Neal is able to observe the growth of microscopic life, and evidence of war, cruelty and inhumanity but unaware that a malevolent force is issuing from the planet and invading his home.

I first saw this 1964 episode in 2005, and it seemed clear that it must have influenced Jack Kirby when he was drawing Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen issue 142 in 1971. Here, Superman and Jimmy Olsen discover that scientist Dabney Donovan has created a miniature planet in a lab beneath an ancient graveyard. Having said that, Kirby’s humanistic instincts took the basic concept to another level. In the TV show, the ‘alien’ is a micro-relative of Hob from Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit. The ‘alien’ is a science-fiction embodiment of ancient evil, bringing out the worst instincts of the microscopic creatures on the tiny planet.Director Laslo Benedek (Death of a Salesman – 1951) employed some stirring horror film iconography as the prairie wolves outside the lab react to its presence. But Kirby turned the concept round by having the scientist project images from old horror films onto the planet Transilvane. The microscopic life forms are natural mimics which actually take on the forms of vampires and werewolves. Kirby’s humanism detects the need for self-determination and self-preservation in the creatures. For them, the scientist Donovan is the malevolent God, who regards planet Transilvane as nothing more than an experiment.

Count Dragorin and Werewolf

On Friday the 13th I could do nothing less than succumb to influences on me and mix up some vodka martini’s as I reflected on Wolf 359 and The Man From Transilvane. I’d noted before that Ben Wright, the actor playing Dundee, had a slight physical resemblance to Walt Disney. But now I see that he was the voice of Roger Radcliffe, owner of Pongo in the first Disney version of 101 Dalmations. Can I find a link between Disney and Transilvane? Give me a few more Martini’s and I’m sure I will!