Classic stars on the small screen: One Step Beyond (Episode 2)

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A while back TMP introduced you to the premiere episode of a Twilight Zone-esque television anthology called “One Step Beyond,” rooted in the stories of real people experiencing supernatural phenomena. After enjoying “The Bride Possessed,” I decided to continue on with the available episodes of the promising mystery series on Netflix.

The second episode, airing originally on January 27, 1959, is called “Night of April 14th.” After the a host’s introduction, the episode opens with a screaming woman who has just woken up from a nightmare.

Grace Montgomery is a soon-to-be-wed young woman who has dreamed that she was drowning. She is terribly disturbed by the dream and asks her mother what the it could mean.

Her mother reassures her that there’s no chance she’ll drown, and that it must simply be some pre-wedding nerves acting up. After all, the wedding is happening in four days!

Grace is stunned to discover that her dream was no regular nightmare at all, but a premonition: her fiance has scheduled a surprise honeymoon trip in which they will take a certain ill-fated ship to New York.

History buffs will have recognized from the episode’s title that said ill-fated ship is none other than the RMS Titanic. (Oddly enough, rather than being dressed in 1912 garb, these folks are all dressed in very standard 1950s attire — the single fault of the episode!)

Now married, Grace is comforted by her husband when she has another episode of panic aboard the ship. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
Now married, Grace is comforted by her husband when she has another episode of panic aboard the ship. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Starring as Grace is Barbara Lord, whose career – with the exception of a single film in 1959, The Bloody Brood – was confined to television. She had some great television roles, though, including an appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Her performance here is quite overblown but certainly entertaining, and her hysteria is understandable under the circumstances. Dreams can be so unsettling that they’re impossible to shake for days afterward, and she calms eventually, but just in time for her nightmare to come true.

British actress Isobel Elsom, whose career began in 1915, has a supporting role as Grace’s reassuring mother. Elsom is definitely the “Night of April 14th” cast member with the greatest “bragging rights” of Hollywood roles. Her film appearances include Astaire and Hayworth’s You Were Never Lovelier, Of Human Bondage (1946), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) and Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955).

Once again, this episode left me impressed with the quality of the series (with the exception of that costume issue I mentioned earlier). The acting is generally quite good, and the episodes feel more like short films than stories chopped up to fit into a small window of television running time.

As a portrayal of a historic event, “Night of April 14th” aligns with most depictions of the sinking of the Titanic. In moments it seems to be downplaying the frenzied chaos that would accompany the ship’s contact with the iceberg, but those less dramatic moments are matched by a few of much higher emotional impact.

Want to watch “One Step Beyond” for yourself? Select episodes are available to watch instantly on Netflix, and the first season DVD is available on Amazon!

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