DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: One Step Beyond

Wednesday 23 September 2009

One Step Beyond

One Step Beyond: Season 1 (1959)
Starring: John Newfeld


Before ‘Twilight Zone’ there was ‘One Step Beyond’, CBS' original paranormal anthology series. Premiering 10 months before T-Zone, the series created by Merwin Gerard and hosted by John Newland had a remarkably similar concept, a half hour show devoted to unique stories of the paranormal. While Twilight Zone’s short stories sought to examine current social and political hot button topics under the guise of science fiction, OSB’s hook was that each of their stories were real life documented cases.

This added sense of spooky realism is enough to separate itself from innate comparisons thus holding its own in the annals of classic television. Young and early performances from Cloris Leachman, Patrick McNee, Warren Beatty also add to the surprises in each episode.

Erudite and very serious host (and director) John Newland introduces each episode entering the first scene of the show and teasing us with the real life backstory of the paranormal event we’re about to see. Newland’s persona is effective, though not the chain smoking gritty voiced enigma of Rod Serling, Newland’s upper class authoritative demeanour lends some respectability to its tricky and doubting subject matter.

Over the 22-episode first season, packaged on DVD by Paramount Home Entertainment, scoured the history books for instances of paranormal evidence and events - a compendium of spooky campfire tales and urban legends.

The pilot episode, entitled A Bride Possessed (great title), tells the story of a newly married woman, who while driving with her husband through a small town seems to inhabit the life of another person. Suddenly without provocation, she claims to have another name, her voice changes, she doesn’t recognize her husband, with the twist being that she has been possessed by woman who has died in an apparent suicide. But with a series of flashbacks the bride uncovers a plot of murder thus solving an undiscovered crime.

Episode 3 ‘Emergency Only’ resembles the concept of the 'Dead Zone', an innocent woman with psychic powers foresees the death of a cynical party goer aboard a train journey. Knowing only snippets of the future the man believes wholeheartedly it’s bogus, until one by one the moments told by the woman come true and he finds himself face to face with his murderer. With a clever twist presenting a surprise worthy of a M. Night Shyamalan film.

Production values are kind of a marvel for 1959 TV. The pilot was shot by the great cinematographer Russell Metty (‘Touch of Evil’). The B&W imagery, all around, are often stunning, and the producers make good use of stock footage where necessary to embellish the scene. Watch the Titanic episode to see how they manage to recreate that disaster in a small scale yet completely believable manner.

“One Step Beyond” only lasted three seasons, but clearly its influence on television and thus feature films deserves to be rediscovered.

"One Step Beyond" is available on DVD from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment

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