Can a 50-year-old TV show about the supernatural still send chills up and down your spine? Can it cause your significant other to stay up half of the night due to nightmares? More importantly, can any show top The Twilight Zone? The answers are “Yes,” “Yes,” and “Hellz, yeah!”
Ten months before Rod Serling’s now iconic television series hit the airwaves, host/director John Newland brought forth One Step Beyond to audiences nationwide. Unlike the later Twilight Zone — which was entirely fictitious — One Step Beyond spun its episodes based on reported fact, and the results are often far more creepy than Rod Serling’s series ever was (although that one episode with the dead grandma calling the kid on the imaginary phone was pretty fucking eerie).
Each week, host John Newland introduces us to another unbelievable story. Ghosts. Possessions. Cases of clairvoyance. Disappearances. Stories dating back as far as the 19th century and as recent as (then) modern times but were nevertheless explained by anyone. Among the many guest stars are Patrick Macnee, Cloris Leachman, Julie Adams, Reginald Owen, Philip Ahn, Pernell Roberts, Alfred Ryder, Touch Connors, Yvette Vickers, Luana Anders, Sandra Knight, Werner Klemperer, Robert Webber, Ross Martin, Warren Stevens, and William Schallert. Fans of classic B-movies will most certainly recognize Beverly Washburn from Spider Baby and Virginia Leith from the cult favorite, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.
Growing up, many of the local television stations in my area (this was before cable became mainstream, folks — when satellite dishes were the size of a trailer) would broadcast a lot of “retro” TV shows (face it: there was nothing good on then, either). The Twilight Zone was one of them. The Outer Limits and Tales From The Darkside were two others. Strangely enough, One Step Beyond never found its way to my house. It’s a pity, too, since this is a damn good show that has stood the test of time.
A longtime victim of public domain video releases (due to an oversight on behalf of Worldvision), One Step Beyond has suffered its share of murky and fuzzy transfers on both VHS and DVD. Now, just in time for its 50th anniversary, One Step Beyond: The Complete First Season has been remastered by CBS/Paramount. The standard full frame 1.33:1 video presentations are a vast improvement over anything we’ve seen before. The transfer are quite solid, boasting a little debris and a few scratches here and there, but with some deep black levels throughout. The English mono stereo sound comes through admirably, so much so that you won’t even notice the lack of any subtitles with this release.
Special features include an extended version of the pilot episode, “The Possessed Bride” (which consists of a prologue to the series by John Newland); a 28-second promo hosted by Newland (probably recorded for syndication, considering Newland is slightly older in it); the original Alcoa opening (Alcoa being an aluminum manufacturer and the series’ original sponsor); the 1990s computer-generated intro; and an archival audio interview with writer Don Mankiewicz.
As I said before, this was my initial venture into One Step Beyond. And, while I wish I would have had the chance to discover this fascinating series at a much younger age, I should probably savor that fact — since it would have given me nightmares on a regular basis. Either way, I am extremely grateful that CBS/Paramount has put the effort into releasing this wonderfully chilling series on DVD, with some of the much-needed respect that it deserves.