'Way Out (TV series)

'Way Out is a 1961 American horror, fantasy, and science fiction television anthology series hosted by writer Roald Dahl.[1] The macabre black-and-white 25-minute shows were introduced by Dahl, his face projected in a disconcerting hall of mirrors effect, dryly delivering a brief introductory monologue, expounding on such unusual subjects as undertakers or frogs or murdering a romantic rival with ground tiger's whiskers.[2]

'Way Out
Title card
GenreScience fiction, horror
Written byRoald Dahl
Phil Reisman, Jr.
Irving Gaynor Neiman
Elliott Baker
Sumner Locke Elliott
Larry Cohen
Nicholas Pryor
Robert van Scoyk
Jerome Ross
Directed byPaul Bogart
Marc Daniels
Mel Ferber
Daniel Petrie
Seymour Robbie
Boris Sagal
William Corrigan
Paul Bosner
Presented byRoald Dahl
StarringVarious guest stars
Theme music composerOtto Luening
Vladimir Ussachevsky
Tod Docksteader
ComposerRobert Cobert
Country of originU.S.
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes14
Executive producerDavid Susskind
ProducerJacqueline Babbin
Production locationNew York City
Running time25 minutes
Production companyTalent Associates
Original networkCBS
Picture format4:3 black and white
Audio formatMono
Original release31 March (1961-03-31) –
14 July 1961 (1961-07-14)


Barry Morse in "Soft Focus" on 'Way Out (July 7, 1961), makeup by Dick Smith

The taped series began as CBS replacement for a Jackie Gleason talk show that network executives were about to cancel. Producer David Susskind contacted Dahl to help mount a show quickly. The series was paired by the network with the similar The Twilight Zone for Friday evening broadcasts, running from March through July 1961 at 9:30 pm Eastern time. The show's primary sponsor was Liggett & Myers (L&M cigarettes). Writers included Larry Cohen and Sumner Locke Elliott.[3]

The only adaptation from one of Dahl's own short stories was the premiere episode, "William and Mary", a tale of a wife's posthumous revenge on her husband's disembodied brain kept alive in a bowl. In "Dissolve to Black", an actress (Kathleen Widdoes) cast as a murder victim at a television studio goes through a rehearsal, but the drama merges with reality as she finds herself trapped on the show's near-deserted set. Other dramas offered startling imagery: a snake slithering up a carpeted staircase inside a suburban home, a headless woman strapped to an electric chair with a light bulb in place of her head ("Side Show"), and half of a man's face erased ("Soft Focus").

Actors on the series included Martin Balsam, Michael Conrad, Mildred Dunnock, Kathleen Widdoes, Murray Hamilton, Martin Huston, Henry Jones, Mark Lenard, Kevin McCarthy, John McGiver, Barry Morse, Richard Thomas, Doris Roberts, and Fritz Weaver.

Critical notices at the time were extremely good, especially for Dahl's wry commentaries, suffused with gallows humor.[4] While the series garnered high ratings in urban areas, it fared poorly in the rest of the United States and was cancelled after 14 episodes.[5]

The show was one of the last weekly dramatic television series produced in Manhattan. Only five episodes have ever turned up on [bootleg] videocassettes and DVDs; as of October 2016, however, 10 episodes were posted on YouTube. The entire run is available for viewing at the Paley Center for Media in New York City and Los Angeles.[6] The episodes are owned by Susskind's estate.

Dahl later hosted an anthology series called Tales of the Unexpected on British television beginning in 1979.



No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
1"William and Mary"Marc DanielsRoald DahlMarch 31, 1961 (1961-03-31)
starring: Henry Jones as William Pearl, Fritz Weaver as Dr. Landy, Mildred Dunnock as Mary Pearl, Barnard Hughes as Dr. Forster
2"The Down Car"Marc DanielsPhil Reisman, Jr.April 7, 1961 (1961-04-07)
starring: Frank Overton as Nicholas Bayle, Collin Wilcox as Ellie, Bernie West as Mr. Alvord, Herbert Voland as The Superintendent, Larry Haines as The Radio Announcer, Ray Walston as John Ventry
3"The Sisters"Tom DonovanIrving Gaynor NeimanApril 14, 1961 (1961-04-14)
starring: Lois Smith as Louise, Carmen Matthews as Harriet, Paul Stevens as Paul, John Gibson as Uncle Robert
4"Button, Button"Tom DonovanElliott BakerApril 28, 1961 (1961-04-28)
starring: Tim O'Connor as Captain Stone, Warren Finnerty as Sgt. Gee, William Traylor as 2nd Lt. Hubbard, Conrad Fowkes as Sgt. Burke, Sean Garrison as Specialist Willis, Lee Richardson as Canelli, Dick O'Neill as Sgt. Rockovitch
5"I Heard You Calling Me"Daniel PetrieSumner Locke ElliottMay 5, 1961 (1961-05-05)
starring: Constance Ford as Freda Mansfield, Anthony Dawson as George Frobisher, Angela Thornton as Rose Thorn, George Turner as Mr. Burnly, Jean Cameron as The Operator, Neil Fitzgerald as The Doctor
6"The Croaker"Paul BogartPhil Reisman, Jr.May 12, 1961 (1961-05-12)
starring: John McGiver as Mr. Rana, Madeleine Sherwood as Cora Tench, Rex Everhart as Fred Tench, Paul E. Richards as Sgt. McGoogin, Richard Thomas as Jeremy
7"False Face"Paul BogartLarry CohenMay 26, 1961 (1961-05-26)
starring: Alfred Ryder as Michael Drake, Martin Brooks as The Face, Gerry Jedd as Rita Singer, Lester Rawlins as Fred Davis, Dana Elcar as The Flophouse Manager, Louise Larabee as The Waitress
8"Dissolve to Black"William CorriganIrving Gaynor NeimanJune 2, 1961 (1961-06-02)
starring: Moultrie Patten as George, Kathleen Widdoes as Bonnie Day Crew, Richard Morse as Harry, Mark Lenard as Paul, Dan Morgan as Murderer Night Crew, James Patterson as Harry, Michael Conrad as Paul, Leonardo Cimino as Murderer Frank Daly as Victim
9"Death Wish"Boris SagalIrving Gaynor NeimanJune 9, 1961 (1961-06-09)
starring: Don Keefer as George Atterbury, Charlotte Rae as Hazel Atterbury, Heywood Hale Broun as Mr. Petard, Chuck Morgan as Charon
10"The Overnight Case"Paul BogartNicholas PryorJune 16, 1961 (1961-06-16)
starring: Barbara Baxley as The Woman, Kevin McCarthy as Dr. Paul Sandham, Martin Balsam as Bill Clayton, Leon B. Stevens as The Other Man, Helen Stenborg as Miss Wickford
11"Hush Hush"Mel FerberBob Van ScoykJune 23, 1961 (1961-06-23)
starring: Philip Coolidge as Ernest Lydecker, Rosemary Murphy as Bernice Lydecker, Woodrow Parfrey as William Rogers, Nancy Cushman as Margaret Ainsley, Barry Newman as The Policeman, John F. Hamilton as The Superintendent
12"Side Show"Seymour RobbieElliott BakerJune 30, 1961 (1961-06-30)
starring: Myron McCormick as The Barker, Murray Hamilton as Harold, Margaret Phillips as Cassandra, Doris Roberts as Edna, Martin Huston as Ronnie, Carolyn Groves as Betty
13"Soft Focus"Ron WinstonPhil Reisman, Jr.July 7, 1961 (1961-07-07)
starring: Barry Morse as Ronald Pell, Joan Hotchkis as Louise Pell, Mitch Ryan as Bill Fontaine, Dortha Duckworth as Mrs. Bickell, Anne Meacham as Dolly Granger
14"20/20"Paul BosnerJerome RossJuly 14, 1961 (1961-07-14)
starring: Milton Selzer as Hervey, Ruth White as Stephanie, Frederick Rolf as Mr. Jellifer, Sudie Bond as Mrs. Jellifer, Tom Shirley as Huddleston


  • Battaglio, Stephen (2010). David Susskind: A Televised Life, pp. 89–92. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-38286-5


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