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The Incredible Inman: James Coburn found fungus 'in the Night' in '60s 'Playhouse 90' episode

By David Inman
Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Question: I used to have nightmares about a television drama from the 1950s or early '60s, but I could never remember the name or discover anything about it. It was a “Playhouse 90”-type production about someone sent to an island, I think, to provide care to the inhabitants who were afflicted with some kind of moss or algae that grew all over their bodies. It was really creepy, and my memory is that it ended with the guy sent to help winding up contracting the condition himself. I think the final scene had him in a small rowboat. Any idea what that play could have been and if it is available in a format that can be viewed today?

Answer: That's an episode of the NBC anthology series “Suspicion” from 1958 called “The Voice in the Night.” James Coburn and Barbara Rush play a couple who live on an island that is being taken over by fungus, and at the end, a ship's crew discovers that they have become, in the captain's words, “great gray sponges.” The cast also includes James Donald and Patrick Macnee, and, alas, this isn't on video or DVD.

Q: We have searched the networks to try to find “Rules of Engagement.” We can find the reruns and have watched them, but wanted to see the new segments. Will there be new ones?

A: Yes. “Rules of Engagement” is scheduled to return to CBS on Feb. 4.

Q: I am looking for a western comedy Dean Martin starred in. I think it had the name “Red” and/or “River” in it. Can you tell me the title?

A: That's the 1966 film “Texas Across the River,” which also stars Joey Bishop, Alain Delon and Rosemary Forsyth.

Q: I hope you can clear up something. I once made a reference to Bobo the Hobo, and my wife has said, “There was never a show by that name.” I know I used to watch it some time in the late 1950s. Can you verify my memory?

A: There was indeed a show called “Bobo the Hobo and His Traveling Troupe,” and it was produced from 1956 to '57. But it was syndicated, which means it aired in some cities but not others. So, maybe your wife is from a non-Bobo city, and you were from a pro-Bobo city. Or, she just didn't watch as much TV as you did.

Q: When I was a kid in the 1950s, I saw a sci-fi movie that gave me nightmares. It was about an alien who came to earth with the intent of draining blood from humans to take to his home planet. Can you tell me the title and if it's on DVD?

A: Sounds a lot like “Not of This Earth,” a 1957 film with Paul Birch as the alien (cleverly named “Paul”) and Beverly Garland and Morgan Jones as a couple of suspicious earthlings. It's on DVD.

Q: I think Julia Louis-Dreyfus was in a sitcom several years before “Seinfeld.” She played a friend of a couple who had quit their jobs to run a day care. What was the show called?

A: “Day by Day,” which ran on NBC from 1988 to '89, is the show you remember. Linda Kelsey and Doug Sheehan played Kate and Brian Harper, who ran a day care full of adorable children in their home. Brian had given up his lucrative career as a stockbroker, much to the disgust of former co-worker Eileen (Louis-Dreyfus), who showed up daily to register said disgust. The Harpers' sole employee, Kristin, was played by Courtney Thorne-Smith.

Q: I remember seeing a movie about a guy who had a glass hand that could talk and give him information. He only had a couple of fingers on it, and he was on a mission to get the rest of the fingers. The more fingers he got, the smarter the hand became. The fingers plugged into the hand, and it seems like the whole thing would light up when it would talk. Could you shed a little light on this movie? Do you know if it is out on DVD?

A: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the phrase “talk to the hand” originated.

Actually, that's not a movie — it's an episode of the old anthology series “The Outer Limits” called “Demon with a Glass Hand,” which originally aired in 1964. Robert Culp played the guy with the see-through appendage. The episode is on DVD, in “The Outer Limits: The Original Series, Season 2” package.

Q: I remember a game show from the late 1970s or early '80s that had a stage filled with 100 different sized gift boxes. The contestants could choose a box and they gave away prizes like a Rolls-Royce. Any ideas?

A: Sounds like “The New Treasure Hunt,” a syndicated series that ran from 1973 to '77. Geoff Edwards was the host. Three women were chosen to compete — virtually all the contestants were women because they were more likely to scream hysterically, the producers thought, and they were usually right. Each woman opened one box, and the one who had the box with the flower popping out of it got to play.

Anyway, the contestant then chose from 30 boxes which could contain cash, fabulous prizes or worthless pieces of junk that were known as “klunks.” (Yeah, yeah, too corny for you, right. Go watch “Honey Boo Boo,” Mr. Sophisticate.)

Write David Inman in care of The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal, 525 W. Broadway, P.O. Box 740031, Louisville, Ky. 40201-7431; or email him at Questions of general interest will be answered; personal replies are not possible.


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