|"Hmmm... do I really want to pack up all that stuff and move it?"|
Another benefit of moving is that it motivates you to re-examine all those pesky entertainment/media subscriptions that seemed so necessary at the time, but like guests who've overstayed their welcome, are no longer charming and keep raiding your fridge and wallet for every last nickel and crumb. We started out subscribing to basic cable with the local monopoly, got tired of the constant price increases, then went with DIRECTV, and quickly got tired of the vast content wasteland that that service delivered for a premium price. I had long since given up on the shouting, blathering, talking heads of the so-called "news" outlets, and found myself only watching baseball and the occasional TCM flick for DIRECTV's hefty price. Canceling hundreds of channels of nothing seemed like a no brainer.
|"You will subscribe to DIRECTV, you will watch it,|
and you will enjoy it!"
As if that weren't enough, they sent me a puzzle box in the form of a DVR recovery package with a pre-printed address label. The instructions clearly directed me to include the remote and the power supply along with the unit or face severe penalties, but of course, there was no room for them in the box, so I had to use an x-acto knife and my ingenuity to get them all in there. Now, I'm waiting for the "destruction of and/or misuse of DIRECTV shipping materials" charge to show up on my final bill.
|"I'm sorry sir, cancelling your subscription is not an option."|
Until then, I will peruse some of the more interesting and esoteric selections from Netflix instant watch, one subscription that I've kept. I know many people, especially those who want to see the latest blockbusters the moment they come out on video, have excoriated Netflix for its woeful instant watch catalog, but for someone of my eccentric and discriminating taste in film and television, instant watch is like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. From Spanish language comedies to obscure British mysteries to classic TV from the '40s, '50s and '60s, Netflix rewards the open-minded viewer with an eclectic and vintage smorgasbord of entertainment and information, and all for a few measly bucks a month.
One Step Beyond from 1959 is available on Netflix instant. From an early age I gobbled up every book I could get my grubby little hands on that dealt with ghosts, flying saucers, ESP, and assorted other paranormal phenomena (no doubt stimulated by all the creature features I watched on the fuzzy black and white television). I read everything of Brad Steiger's that I could find, and then voraciously consumed ghost hunter Hans Holzer's books. Later, I got deep into UFO lore, with authors like physicist Stanton Friedman and Kevin Randle convincing me that where there was smoke there was probably fire with regard to alien visitation. These authors described a world, supposedly a real one, that was infinitely more varied, exciting and intriguing than the sleepy little midwestern college towns that constituted my world as a kid.
So, years later when I discovered episodes of One Step Beyond on videotape, I was immediately hooked. The series, which debuted in January, 1959, featured dramatized stories of true-life paranormal events. The series' host, suave, cultured John Newland, was almost the antithesis of gravelly-voiced, chain-smoking Rod Serling, whose Twilight Zone debuted that same year. Newland was smooth and confident and almost insouciant at times, telling viewers,
"What you're about to see is a matter of human record. Explain it? We cannot. Disprove it? We cannot. We simply invite you to explore with us the amazing world of the unknown, to take that … One Step Beyond …"
|"We invite you to explore with us the amazing|
world of the unknown..."
The series lasted three seasons, from 1959 - 1961. The show was a little before my time -- I don't remember watching it when it was first broadcast, and I doubt my parents would have let me watch it at that young age. It was much later, in the '90s, when I discovered some of the series' "classic" episodes on tape. A few years ago I bought Mill Creek's The Very Best of One Step Beyond with 50 of the series' 97 episodes, but was disappointed like many others to find that some of the discs were unplayable. So kudos to Netflix for securing the first season for instant watch (and I'm hopeful they'll soon add the other seasons).
The show was long on atmosphere, featuring tales of ordinary people reacting to bizarre events. As in any series, there are some snoozers and clunkers in the mix, but the best episodes are poignant psychological studies that evoke a sense of wonder (and some chills) at the incredible variety and mystery of life. They also provided an opportunity for some very capable actors and actresses to really show their stuff.
|Condemned prisoner John Marriott (Alfred Ryder) gets one |
last shot of brandy before the execution.
When the noose breaks, and he wakes up in his cell a new man, the contrast to the old panicky Marriott couldn't be greater. He boasts that when the executioner fixed the hood over his head, something whispered in his ear and showed him exactly how he was going to die -- at the feet of a lion -- and nothing and no one will be able to change that fate, or kill him in any other way, no matter how hard they try. When the second hanging fails because the platform won't fall despite numerous attempts, the cackling, ebullient Marriott is released from prison by order of Parliament -- two execution attempts is suffering enough. With the Devil on his side, he figures he's beaten the world. After all, how likely is he to die at the feet of a lion in the middle of Victorian London? Indeed, another attempt to kill him, this time with a gun, fails as spectacularly as the hangings. But the supercilious small-timer will still keep his date with death…
|Murderer John Marriott proves to be a hard man to kill.|
Note: I've decided to expand the repertoire of this blog to include anthology TV shows like One Step Beyond, especially now that many of these cathode ray tube classics are available online (and these episodes are, after all, nicely crafted short films). Look for more "Fabulous, Fantastic TV Shows of the '40s, '50s, and '60s" right here on this blog. (Like Fantastic Faceless Foes, it will be an "irregular" feature, i.e., as I get the time and inclination. But stay tuned … there's more to come.)
Where to find it:
Netflix Instant Watch
Some things never change...