Forbidden Area (Playhouse 90)

Forbidden Area” was an American television play broadcast live on October 4, 1956, as part of the CBS television series, Playhouse 90. It was the premier episode of the series. The play concerns efforts to thwart a massive, Christmastime nuclear attack from a fleet of Russian submarines located off the coast of the United States. Rod Serling wrote the screenplay, and John Frankenheimer directed. Charlton Heston, Tab Hunter, Diana Lynn, and Charles Bickford starred.

1st episode of the first season of Playhouse 90

Forbidden Area
Playhouse 90 episode

Charlton Heston as Col. Jesse Price
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 1
Directed by John Frankenheimer
Written by Rod Serling
Original air date October 4, 1956 (1956-10-04)
Guest appearances
Episode chronology
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Requiem for a Heavyweight

. . . Forbidden Area (Playhouse 90) . . .

Stanley Smith, a Soviet agent and explosives expert (played by Tab Hunter), prepares at “Little Chicago” outside Moscow for an undercover assignment. He is then transported by submarine to the coast of Florida and secures himself a post in the Air Force, serving at a kitchen on an air base in Florida.

At the “Forbidden Area” within the Pentagon, the “intentions of the enemy group” plans to defend a Soviet nuclear attack. The group includes Clark Simmons, the senior member (played by Vincent Price), Col. Jesse Price (played by Charlton Heston), the newest member, and Katharine Hume, the secretary (played by Diana Lynn). Price discloses plans for a new program of automatic retaliation using ICBMs with pre-set targeting. Intelligence reports suggest there may be a submarine-based Soviet nuclear attack.

Five American B-99 long-range bombers disappear suddenly from radar. General Keaton (played by Charles Bickford) leads the investigation, and a survivor mumbles about coffee. The planes were destroyed because Smith concealed pressure bombs, set to explode at 25,000 feet, in coffee thermoses used by the airmen on the B-99s. Smith murders a cook (played by Jackie Coogan) after the cook notices his Russian tooth filling.

Price believes the enemy seeks to have the B-99s grounded in order to open a window to attack while the American retaliatory ability is ineffective. He concludes the Soviet attack is coming on Christmas Eve. Simmons rejects Price’s prediction as a fairy tale.

A fleet of 600 Soviet submarines approaches as America is “busy with its Christmas trees.”[1]

Hume professes her love for Price and urges him to flee with her. Price instead flies to Florida to brief Gen. Keaton. Keaton reverses the grounding the B-99s and pilots one of the planes as the crew searches for the pressure bomb.

Price becomes suspicious when Smith seeks to retrieve a coffee thermos from the control tower. He confronts Smith and learns that the canisters also explode when opened. Price warns Keaton, who is about to open a thermos, that it contains a bomb.[1]

Smith is given truth serum, and American air and naval forces destroy the Soviet submarines as they approach the coast. The President addresses the country and reports that the country’s bombers are approaching the Soviet Union. The Soviet Presidium resigns, and the new Soviet Premier agrees to withdraw its naval forces and ground its air forces. Keaton urges the President to continue with the retaliatory strike, but the President orders the return of the American bombers.[1]

The following performers received screen credit for their performances:[1]

Jack Palance served as the show’s host.

. . . Forbidden Area (Playhouse 90) . . .

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. . . Forbidden Area (Playhouse 90) . . .