Frankly, “The Guests” is one of my favorite installments of the Stefano series, and I watched it several times — taking notes — while preparing the third season of my web series, The House Between.
For instance, the soundtrack, a kind of syncopated heartbeat at times, is enormously effective in conveying and generating terror. Anyway, I consider “The Guests” a major influence on my own creative work, and I’ve always believed it’s a really underrated gem of this anthology.
This strange, imposing edifice — which seems to occupy a space entirely outside the Laws of Physics — serves as home to several strangers including a faded silent screen star, Florinda Patten (Gloria Graham), a Wall Street investment banker of questionable morality, Randall Latimer (Vaughn Taylor), and his gleefully diabolical and cruel wife, Ethel (Nellie Burt). All these souls have been denizens in the alien house since at least 1928 and evidence surprisingly little interest in leaving it.
The hidden master of this dark old house is an inquisitive monstrosity: a quivering, gelatinous, luminescent thing from another dimension who seeks the “missing vector” or “missing quantity” that would permit him to better comprehend the human race.
The emotionless, questing creature probes Wade’s mind several times and discovers at last the missing “one note in the symphony.”
It is, simply, “love.”
Specifically, Wade’s romantic, selfless attachment to another captive in the house, the beautiful Tess (Luana Anders), ultimately proves the factor that resolves the alien’s incomplete equation. And when Tess leaves the safe temporal “bubble” of the house, super-ages and dies in a matter of seconds to preserve Wade’s freedom, the house begins to shift back to the alien’s dimension.
After escaping, Wade watches the alien brain fade away slowly into nothingness, and continues down the road…
Strange, unsettling and dominated by extreme camera angles that suggest early German expressionist cinema, “The Guests” is a daring and occasionally surreal entry in The Outer Limits canon. Specifically, the Donald Sanford (Thriller) narrative is a deliberate and artful blending of literary movements, old and new. The episode has widely and appropriately been described as “Gothic,” for instance, for its familiar horror and romantic flourishes, settings, and characters.
At the same time, however, this episode of The Outer Limits also cannily mirrors the perspectives of the post-war, Beat Generation; particularly that movement’s dedicated opposition to modern warfare, military technology, and such middle class, bourgeoisie balms as leisure and material affluence.