One Step Beyond – The
Official First Season: 50th Anniversary Edition (CBS DVD)
Sound: C+ Extras: C Episodes: B
When it comes to the oldest TV shows from the 1950s,
unless they were huge hits (Twilight
Zone, I Love Lucy, The Untouchables) you are usually left
with poor transfers and copies of the programs, if they even survived. Many were live and captured only in
kinescopes (films off of picture tubes) but a few were filmed and when they
show up, the prints are usually worn and tattered. One Step Beyond is one of those shows.
Though we have seen a few shows from the first season and
more from the second, the copies were nothing to write home about and that
leaves fans of the show and TV in general wondering if the shows will ever
arrive in good copies or not. In one of
the best reissues of the year, CBS has somehow secured the original film prints
of the series and on its 50th Anniversary, is issuing The Official First Season (many of the
shows fell into public domain) and have all 22 half-hours finally available for
the first time. Even the previous
versions seemed to always be missing episodes.
ABC and Alcoa originally produced the show over at the
M-G-M Studios, with each episode budgeted $55,000 and that included shooting in
35mm film. Though some of the shows and
some plot points can be dated, silly and unintentionally funny, these amazing
new transfers are shocking improvements over all the footage you have seen
Here are the episodes by title, writer, original date of
broadcast, plot, and cast:
The Bride Possessed (Merwin Gerard (creator of the
show) and Larry Marcus (script editor for the show), 1/20/59) – Here in its
original and extended pilot version, a married couple (Virginia Leith, Skip
Homeier) are a happily married couple on their honeymoon when she starts going
around as Karen Wharton. Has she lost
her mind or is she demonically possessed?
Night Of April 14th (Collier
Young (the series’ producer) and Larry Marcus (script editor for the show),
1/29/59) – This second episode is one of the most remembered in the entire series,
as a woman (Barbara Lord) keeps dreaming of drowning in frigid waters,
accelerated by her fiancée Erick Farley’s (Patrick Macnee of The Avengers) announcement that they
have tickets to board the maiden voyage of a ship called The Titanic. Often confused with Macnee’s 1959 Twilight
Zone episode Judgment Night penned by Serling himself as that show
too dealt with a sinking ship. This one
is not as good, but is interesting.
Emergency Only (Collier Young, 2/3/59) – Arthur
Douglas (Lin McCarthy) is told by supposed psychic Ellen Larrabee (Jocelyn
Brando) that he is heading for his death by train if he travels that way. At first, he scoffs at her, but when the
details of her vision start to slowly come true, he has to think fast. Nan Adams also stars.
The Dark Room (Francis Cockrell, 2/10/59) –
Photographer Rita Morrison (Cloris Leachman) goes to France to take a series of
photographs, but her employer (Marcel Dalio) may be a strangulation serial
killer! An early genre piece for
Leachman, who had made a splash in the great Film Noir Kiss Me Deadly
only a few years before. Now a highly
respected actress for her work on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Phyllis
and remembered as Wonder Woman’s mother form the original Lynda carter pilot,
this does offer a rarely seen performance form her that is effective and may
even save this show.
Twelve Hours To Live (Merwin Gerard, 3/17/59)
– The fighting of a married couple (Jean Allison, Paul Richards) causes him to
storm out of their house and go on a car ride far and away, but this leads to
an accident that leaves him trapped. She
picks this up as a vision and decides if she follows the signs; it will lead
her to him.
Epilogue (Don M. Mankiewicz, 2/24/59) –
The great actors Charles Aidman and Julie Adams star as a separated couple,
with the wife (Adams) and son trapped in a cave. A ghostly figure appearing to Charles Archer
(Aidman) may save them, leaving Dr. Sanders (the great William Schallert) at a
loss to explain what is really going on.
The Dream (John Dunkel, 3/3/59) – The
Blakelys (Reginald Owen, Molly Roden) keep having the same dream about The
Nazis invading England; are they onto a plot through supernatural premonition
they can stop before its too late?
Premonition (Paul David, 3/10/59) – A young
ballerina dancer has a vision that a giant chandelier will fall on her in her
own home, despite reassurances from her parents and quality checks of the
actual hanging piece. However, something
wrong is on the horizon and it is only a matter of time. Pamela Lincoln, Debbie Garrick, Thomas B.
Henry, Julie Payne, Clare Corelli and Percy Helton star.
The Dead Part Of The House
(Michael Plant, 3/17/59) – There are three dolls in a very cold room of the
house of a little girl’s aunt. Do they
have any connection to three children who lived and died there not too long
The Vision (Larry Marcus, 3//24/59) – French
soldiers see a mysterious light in the sky while battling the Germans, which
leads them to dropping their weapons.
They get in trouble for this, but the light was there and they need to
prove it or be executed for treason.
Bruce Gordon and Pernell Roberts (on the eve of Bonanza) star.
The Devil’s Laughter (Alfred Brenner, 3/31/59)
– The Alfred Ryder is a man condemned to death, but explains that he cannot be
killed, yet that does not stop events on the way from becoming odder and odder.
The Return Of Mitchell Champion (Merwin
Gerard, 4/7/59) – The Patrick O’Neal is the title character, a man who is on
vacation recuperating from a near-fatal accident, but why does everyone know
him when he arrived for the first time at a Mediterranean island?
The Navigator (Don Mankiewicz, 4/14/59) –
First Mate Blake follows the course on a chalk board he assumes is set by the
captain of the ship, but when it turns out it was written by someone else, a
strange new course results.
The Secret (Michael Plant, 4/21/59) – When
Sylvia Ackroyd (Maria Palmer) decides to decides to try out a Ouija board she
happens to find, a strange man shows up and her husband (Robert Douglas) knows
something is up, but makes the worst possible assumptions.
The Aerialist (Larry Marcus, 4/28/59) – Mike
Connors (Mannix, here with an
amusing accent) is one of two son’s in an acrobatic family that is part of a
circus, but a simple fight starts to have bad results, yet some of them are
more bizarre than any fight should produce.
Penny Stanton also stars.
The Burning Girl (Catherine Turney, 5/5/59) –
Surprisingly good tale of young lady (Luana Anders) who is accused of being a
pyromaniac, but it turns out her anger (and possibly her growing sexuality)
could be the root of spontaneous combustion, a situation not begin helped by an
angry father (Edward Platt of Get Smart)
and mother (Olive Deering) who is in deep denial and has other issues.
The Haunted U-Boat (Larry Marcus, 5/12/59) –
Werner Klemperer (of Hogan’s Heroes, so good here in a serious role) leads a
cast of German soldiers under water who keep hearing a clanging coming from the
hull of their ship. But it is
underwater, so what is it?
Image Of Death (Larry Marcus, 5/19/59) – When
a widow marries another woman, they move to his grand French Chateau, but some
odd shape starts appearing on the wall and the more vivid it becomes, the more
terrifying the consequences for all.
The Captain’s Guests (Charles Beaumont, 5/26/59)
– A happily married couple (Nancy Hadler, Robert Webber) find a house they
really like, but the real estate handler reluctantly rents it to them. Of course, they should have listened to him,
but then he did rent it, right? A very
interesting show by Beaumont, who was just about to become one of the big three
writers on the original Twilight Zone.
Echo (Merwin Gerard, 6/2/59) – Ross Martin is great (as
usual) as a many who is accused of killing his wife, but does not go to jail
for it. However, he starts to see
visions of his own demise and starts to go mad.
Front Runner (Don Mankiewicz, 6/9/59) –
Young horse jockey Ronnie Watson (Ben Cooper) betrays the very mentor (Walter
Burke) who helped him get top, but 20 years later on his deathbed too soon,
Ronnie explains how his mentor disappeared, then showed up at the oddest
possible time. Very good!
The Riddle (Larry Marcus, 6/16/59) – On a
train to India, a man (Warren Stevens) is freaked out when a old man from India
(Patrick Westwood) wonders into his compartment with a rooster, but his wife
(Bethel Leslie) has never seen him snap like this before. As he becomes more obsessed, the more he puts
both of them in danger. Barry Atwater (The Night Stalker (1972), reviewed
elsewhere on this site) also stars.
The 1.33 X 1 black and white image makes every (and
seemingly endless) previous DVD edition of the show obsolete and often like Beta
or VHS copies. No longer an orphan show
(we hope), Gray scale is superior, detail amazing, definition sometimes so good
that you get demo shots for monochrome film on TV and it brings the show to
life in a way anyone used to the old copies would find unimaginable. Now it can be seen on an equal footing with
the original Twilight Zone, Outer Limits and Boris Karloff’s Thriller.
Helping this are three strong Directors of Photography in Dale
Deverman, Russell Metty and Brendan J. Stafford, all delivering grade-A
camerawork here. We once worried if the
shows had even survived, but now, they have and we see how really good looking
the show really is. Before, the worn-out
copies made it harder to watch but now, we can actually look forward to HD
versions on Blu-ray!
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is much cleaner than it has
ever been before, even going back to its original TV broadcasts. Sounding good for its time, there are some
rough spots on the audio, especially on the extended pilot, but this is better than
many 1990s TV shows we have covered on DVD recently. Harry Lubin, who did music for the original Outer Limits, did some good music and
his fine theme song here.
Extras include a small episode guide inside the paper
sleeve in the DVD case, the extended pilot noted, a promo, the old analog
videotape 1990s opening for the syndicated version and great (and
great-looking) Alcoa opening from the first broadcasts on DVD 1, plus an audio
interview with Writer Don Mankiewicz on DVD2.
We hope for more extras on the next sets covering the longer second and
third seasons. Some older prints had end
credits over a sheet of Alcoa aluminum foil coming out of a box.
A great ad placement gimmick many shows of the time used,
I hope we see these as an extra in a future set. Until then, the return of One Step Beyond
is a great surprise and highly recommended.
- Nicholas Sheffo