One Step Beyond
Of course the full title is something closer to ‘Alcoa, that space age aluminum product, presents One Step Beyond,’ but we can stick to the shorter version. Spanning 97 weekly episodes from 1959-61, the series claimed to present viewers with a glimpse into a world of the unknown and fantastic that only lay one step beyond what they accepted to be true.
The series predates two similar programs the pulp-influenced The Outer Limits and the TV drama Twilight Zone. Neither an adventure series nor a straight drama, the really unique angle to this TV program lies in the fact that it insists what it is telling the viewer is a true story. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice many a starlet and future celebrity in these episodes including Charles Bronson, Robert Blake, Clorice Leachman and Warren Beatty.
There are many fantastic episodes that stand out from the first story centering on a premonition of the sinking of the Titanic (starring The Avengers Patrick Macnee) to the chilling tale of murder and guilt entitled The Clown and the seemingly immortal murderer called The Devil’s Laughter. Each episode is expertly directed and uses such well written material that it’s a wonder that the program wasn’t more of a hit.
One of my favorites involves the retelling of an unusual event as soldiers across the ETO during WWI experienced a unique event simultaneously and discovered that the very concept of warfare was abhorrent and obscene to them, causing a momentary pause in the war. No one can confirm exactly what was seen, but the episode recounts several eyewitness accounts from the psychiatric analysis performed on soldiers at the time.
One of the more notorious episodes of One Step Beyond examined the effects of ‘magic mushrooms’ as a psychotropoic drug. Narrator and host John Newland visited respected experts on the subject, ingested a portion of mushrooms and described the experience. The Sacred Mushroom is bizarre for obvious reasons but also because it has no real story and seems to be shot in documentary fashion.
The episode was not seen beyond the initial viewing and its subsequent digitization here:
The Sacred Mushroom
Due to the rights of the program rescinding over time, there have been numerous releases of the series on DVD with various degrees of image and sound quality. These DVD sets have also not been in sequence but rather a collection of seemingly random episodes.
Finally, the program is seeing the attention that it so richly deserves and all of the episodes are being transferred to DVD by Paramount. Devoted fans have waited patiently for this day and will be glad to part with the previous sets in favor of the new releases which can only be better.
If you have never seen One Step Beyond, this is a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with a true treasure of television history.