The 100 Days of the Dragon
Sidney Blackmer, Phil Pine, Mark Roberts, Nancy Rennick,
Aki Aleong, Joan Camden, Clarence Lung, James Hong.
A powerful Asian nation replaces a front running U.S. presidental candidate with a lookalike double.
This is one episode many “Outer Limits” fans put on their ten best list and it’s easy to see why. Check out Sydney Blackmer’s clever performance as a man impersonating the president. As the vice-president, Philip Pine (guest starred in Star Trek) brings to mind President Richard Nixon. The episode’s ending is a knockout!
In the final days of a U.S. presidential campaign, the leader of a powerful Asian nation replaces the front runner, with an Asian altered to perfectly resemble him. After the double is elected, he starts his insidious plans.
The president’s daughter, as well as the vice-president, begin to notice differences between the look-alike and the real president. Two unsuccessful attempts are made to replace the vice-president with a look-alike.
At a reception at the White House, the vice-president unmasks the look-alike as an imposter. Following a special tissue altering injection, the imposter is permanently disfigured.
Director Byron Haskin’s 100 DAYS OF THE DRAGON is a fascinating, gripping political thriller/Sci-Fi yarn.
The episode’s central Sci-Fi gimmick is a drug, (supposedly developed by the Russians), which, when injected, makes the human face capable of being altered. This is done via silver masks, with handles, which are held against the face, giving you a new identity.
Sidney Blackmer (“Rosemary’s Baby”) is superb as the altered double. Under Haskin’s astute direction, Blackmer suggests the Asian fake he really is, through a fairly subtle use of squinting and lip pursing.
Philip Pine is solid as the vice-president, who begins to have doubts about the true nature of the president. The fact that Pine bears a striking resemblance to Richard Nixon is a viewing plus.
The screenplay, by Allan Balter and Robert Mintz, is as much a political thriller as it is a Sci-Fi tale. The story combines elements of the films, “Seven Days in May” and “The Manchurian Candidate,” to good effect. To their credit, they make the political intrigue as interesting as the Sci-Fi stuff.
My favorite scene takes place at the end. After unmasking the president as a fraud, the vice-president injects the imposter with the tissue altering drug, then twists the man’s face into disfiguring ugliness.
Director of Photography, Conrad Hall, delivers vivid screen images. Particularly good is a shot of the Asian ruler, his face in semi-shadow, his eyes shiny points of light.
The music for this episode, by Dominic Frontiere, is quite different than the usual spooky stuff. Without being too heavy handed, Frontiere’s music effectively weaves an Oriental mood.
100 DAYS OF THE DRAGON should be highly watchable for most Sci-Fi viewers. Fans of political take-over films, like “Seven Days in May,” will dig this episode.