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View Full Version : Anyone seen the Playhouse 90 treatment of 'Alas, Babylon'?


An Gadaí
03-25-2008, 05:30 PM
I found the novel 'Alas, Babylon'. I had tried getting it before in a number of bookstores but they didn't stock it so it was funny to find it in my brother's store, secondhand. Anyway, I've started reading it and am finding it a great old read. I looked the book up and it appears there was an adaptation done of it for television in 1960. Has anyone here seen it?
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053581/

I haven't finished reading the novel yet so please box any spoilers but I would be interested to know how it compares to the book and how it would be possible to see the show.

OttoDaFe
03-25-2008, 07:37 PM
I found the novel 'Alas, Babylon'. I had tried getting it before in a number of bookstores but they didn't stock it so it was funny to find it in my brother's store, secondhand. Anyway, I've started reading it and am finding it a great old read. I looked the book up and it appears there was an adaptation done of it for television in 1960. Has anyone here seen it?
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053581/

I haven't finished reading the novel yet so please box any spoilers but I would be interested to know how it compares to the book and how it would be possible to see the show.I've never seen the TV version — didn't know there was one — but somehow I think the writer of the first user comment was confusing it with something else. At least, I hope that's the case. If not, then the teleplay trashes the book's plot right off the bat (I presume you've gotten far enough that this isn't a spoiler). And Fort Repose wasn't exactly "thrown immediately back to the stone age."

As to how it would be possible to see it — that's an excellent question. I imagine that the best bet (ha!) would be to try to find a bootleg tape.

An Gadaí
03-26-2008, 11:39 AM
Did you ever read any of Frank's other novels?

Ichbin Dubist
03-26-2008, 01:21 PM
As to how it would be possible to see it — that's an excellent question. I imagine that the best bet (ha!) would be to try to find a bootleg tape.

The Paley Center (http://www.mtr.org/index.htm) might have it, but don't don't list their collections online, and New York and LA are not Dublin.

Read the book, too young to have seen the show.

Governor Quinn
03-26-2008, 06:32 PM
The UCLA Film and Television Archive does not have it, the Library of Congress doesn't seem to have it, and the couple of bootleggers I found seem not to have it.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
03-26-2008, 06:40 PM
Does anybody have episodes of Playhouse 90?? I thought they were all done live, or if not, the tapes were re-used long ago.

Tuckerfan
03-26-2008, 06:51 PM
Does anybody have episodes of Playhouse 90?? I thought they were all done live, or if not, the tapes were re-used long ago.
Requiem for a Heavyweight is available (or at least it was) as somebody here linked to it, and I've seen clips of it used numerous times.

Governor Quinn
03-26-2008, 06:58 PM
Does anybody have episodes of Playhouse 90?? I thought they were all done live, or if not, the tapes were re-used long ago.

Actually, UCLA has at least 60 ( here's one (http://cinema.library.ucla.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?v1=6&ti=1,6&Search%5FArg=Playhouse%2090&SL=None&Search%5FCode=FTIT&CNT=50&PID=vDwBYmZawPt8hsAMEAs7CK7Yoyx1Z&SEQ=20080326165306&SID=3)), largely in kinescope form.

An Gadaí
03-26-2008, 07:48 PM
Does the discussion on imdb here http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048893/board
have any useful information?

For some reason I cannot register for that site.

An Gadaí
03-26-2008, 07:56 PM
Too late to edit the previous post.
http://www.tvaddicts.tv/movie/drama/Playhouse_90.html
claims to have all 4 seasons on DVD for $149. Is this a reputable site?

LurkMeister
03-26-2008, 09:06 PM
Too late to edit the previous post.
http://www.tvaddicts.tv/movie/drama/Playhouse_90.html
claims to have all 4 seasons on DVD for $149. Is this a reputable site?
Considering that a lot of what I see listed for sale on this site has never been legally released, and that a random check of a few that have been legally released show that what they're selling has none of the special features included with the commercial releases. I strongly suspect that what they're selling is DVDs of rebroadcasts of the original shows. Which means that they're probably in violation of copyright and possibly of questionable quality.

I also found this (http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/262/RipOff0262395.htm), which would make me leary of ordering from them.

vison
03-26-2008, 11:02 PM
I'm pretty sure I saw it in 1960, my parents always watched Playhouse 90. I vaguely, and I do mean vaguely recall it. My folks didn't like it because it was "science fiction". I think. So, other than chiming in, I can't help you!!

I read the novel, though. Might even have it somewhere and ought to dig it out and give it another go.

Thanks for the nudge.

CalMeacham
03-27-2008, 06:45 AM
I haven't seen it, and didn't know about it, but I have a copy of a play version of Alas, Babylon. There aren't a lot of SF plays out there, and I stumbled across this one at a book sale. It was pretty good and faithful, IIRC, and it might be connected with this teleplay.

Actually, this might be the one I have. The publication date is 1963, though, and the iMDB credits David Shaw with the teleplay:



Martens, Anne Coulter. Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon. Chicago: The Dramatic Publishing Co., 1963.
Play adapted from the novel by Pat Frank, copyrighted by Frank. Scene-by-scene summary follows.
Act 1, Scene 1: In a small town in central Florida, a gossipy telegraph operator puzzles over telegram sent to local boy Randy by his brother Mark, ending "Alas, Babylon." Randy explains to Lib that Mark works in the Omaha headquarters of the Strategic Air Command and has arranged this phrase to signal the imminent outbreak of nuclear war. Dr. Dan Gunn comes in worried, and Randy discusses the threat of war with Lib. The telegraph message is finally read to him over the phone and we hear the operator's friend reading the relevant passage from Revelation 18. Mark arrives with his wife Helen and teenaged daughter Payton and son Ben. He explains that a joint Chinese-Russian attack threatens. He leaves them with Mark for safety, returning himself to SAC headquarters.
Act 1, Scene 2: Helen and Lib stock up on food and supplies at the local grocery store. Act 1: Scene 3: In Omaha Mark learns more of the developing international crisis and successfully urges his commanding general to get official permission to launch retaliatory missiles if a strike is launched. This means death for them all. Act 1, Scene 4: Helen and Randy witness a distant explosion, and Civil Defence radio explains that the attack has begun. Ben, though a young teenager, is the best-informed person around, and goes about opening doors and windows to protect against the threat of blast pressure breaking them and speculating about which cities may be hit. When a second, closer bomb goes off Payton is blinded and quickly treated by the doctor.
Act 2, Scene 1: Later that morning chaos develops at the telegraph office with people irrationally trying to send out messages about banking, investments, etc. All cables except official civil defense messsages are prohibited. Act 2, Scene 2: News comes in of widespread looting. Sugar and batteries are highly valuable. The doctor says local people are dying of fright; but when Payton's eyes are unbandaged it is clear she is recovering her sight. The doctor's clinic was attacked by a gang of addicts in search of drugs. They killed the police chief. On the radio Acting President Mrs. Vanbruuker-Brown announces that reprisals against the attackers continue. It seems likely Mark is dead in Omaha. The scene ends as Orlando is bombed and the electricity fails. Act 2, Scene 3: Ben, fishing discusses the disaster with his sister, speculates about the death of their father. There is a long broadcast list of contaminated areas. Act 2, Scene 4: The people living at Randy's are beginning to learn to cope, salting meat, protecting the chicken coop from a marauding dog. The doctor is ambushed and beaten. With the proclamation of martial law, reservist Randy becomes the local acting authority.
Act 3, Scene 1: People making swaps value practical goods. Someone wants to trade a Cadillac for two bicycle tires. Batteries are now dead, and no one is sure who won the war. A brainless young woman who's been hording jewelery finds she's been irradiated by a looted ring she was given by her thuggish boyfriend. Act 3, Scene 2: The church choir practices for Eastern services amid rumors that help may be coming and the doctor's pleased announcement that the first normal birth since the war has just taken place. The choir sings. Act 3, Scene 3: Almost a year after the attack people are just discovering useful older artifacts like a treadle sewing machine and a wind-up gramophone. The thuggish looter shows up wanting treatment for his own radiation burns, tries to force the doctor to do so by threatening Lib with a gun, but Randy faces him down. Suddenly a helicopter lands with Decontamination Command personnel bringing word that they are living in the center of the largest safe zone in the contaminated area. They confirm that SAC headquarters was destroyed and talk about the long process of rebuilding ahead. One of the hoped-for developments is atomic power. India, Japan and Brazil are now the Big Three powers. The colonel in charge says that the U.S. won the war, "If you can call that winning." The play ends with Randy proclaiming that they must learn their lesson: no more wars.




http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/nuclear/m.htm

Walloon
03-27-2008, 01:49 PM
Does anybody have episodes of Playhouse 90?? I thought they were all done live, or if not, the tapes were re-used long ago.CBS began videotaping live episodes of Playhouse 90 in the 1957-1958 season for summer reruns. Also, some Playhouse 90 episodes were in fact films to begin with, although they stopped using filmed episodes before the 1958-1959 season. The first pre-recorded episode to be made on tape was shown in October 1958.

From the Washington Post review of the Playhouse 90 adaptation of Alas, Babylon:The sweep of grandeur of Frank's novel was reduced, on television, to an unhappy love story. It was able to prove only that badly conceived marriages are not helped by hydrogen holocausts. Who said they were?

Playhouse 90's version of "Alas, Babylon" apparently pleased the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization. Undoubtedly, this is worthwhile; but as a dramatic production it was a complete failure.
Novelist Pat Frank wasn't any happier. He wrote to the New York Times:I was stunned when the show ended. I thought there must be another act, for the theme of the novel had not been developed, and the plot was left dangling. Knowing the inexorable limits of time and space when attempting to compress a fairly long novel into a live television show, I tried to be charitable. I know it is sometimes necessary to telescope characters, shift action to available sets, and slash dialogue.… But I cannot forgive the arbitrary distortions of plot, theme and characterization.…

I feel, now, as if I had sold one of my children into slavery, and now the child has been taken into a back alley and bludgeoned. I'll never again make the mistake of selling one of my novels to television, without insisting on a voice in the production. But, alas, my child is gone!

pinkfreud
03-27-2008, 02:01 PM
Novelist Pat Frank wasn't any happier. He wrote to the New York Times...D'oh! Pat Frank was male??? All these years I've been envisioning Pat Frank as a woman. :smack:

Walloon
03-27-2008, 02:05 PM
Wikipedia bio of Pat Frank (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Frank), born Harry Hart.

pinkfreud
03-27-2008, 02:14 PM
Wikipedia bio of Pat Frank (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Frank), born Harry Hart.I am so ashamed of myself. I loved Alas, Babylon when I was young, but I know next to nothing about the author. Again, :smack: !

An Gadaí
03-27-2008, 02:15 PM
I finished the book last night. That's the first time I've read a novel in two days in years. It was very readable and some parts were excellent. My only criticism would be that it perhaps should have been grimmer if that makes any sense. In some sections it comes across like Frank wanted a war to happen so people could get back to being honest-to-goodness, back-to-nature hardworking people again instead of slobs entertained by electric whirlygigs.

vison
03-27-2008, 03:34 PM
I finished the book last night. That's the first time I've read a novel in two days in years. It was very readable and some parts were excellent. My only criticism would be that it perhaps should have been grimmer if that makes any sense. In some sections it comes across like Frank wanted a war to happen so people could get back to being honest-to-goodness, back-to-nature hardworking people again instead of slobs entertained by electric whirlygigs.

There are an awful lot of people who think that way right at this very minute. I assume they think they will be spared the coming Cataclysm, but then again, maybe not.

rowrrbazzle
03-27-2008, 04:44 PM
I'm pretty sure I saw it in 1960, my parents always watched Playhouse 90. I vaguely, and I do mean vaguely recall it. My folks didn't like it because it was "science fiction". I think. So, other than chiming in, I can't help you!!I saw it then, too. But since I was so young, I only remember that it was scary and two details (which may not be accurate): an adult male character saying "Alas, Babylon" when he saw the flash, and a girl being (temporarily?) blinded from the flash with bandages over her eyes.

Walloon
03-27-2008, 05:01 PM
I only remember that it was scary and two details (which may not be accurate): an adult male character saying "Alas, Babylon" when he saw the flash, and a girl being (temporarily?) blinded from the flash with bandages over her eyes.The New York Times review:But it is impossible to comprehend what good purpose could be served by many of the vivid moments of terror and hysteria depicted during the program. A small child runs back into her home after the explosion, screaming, "I'm blind. I'm blind."

Spoke
03-27-2008, 05:12 PM
There are an awful lot of people who think that way right at this very minute. I assume they think they will be spared the coming Cataclysm, but then again, maybe not.

Naturally, everyone envisions themselves as the last person on Earth. Post-apocalyptic fiction would never sell, otherwise.



...Hey!...What was that blinding flash!? :cool: