REVIEW: One Step Beyond – ‘Nightmare’

  • Broadcast: 27, June 1961

Character: Paul Roland

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INTRODUCTION:

One Step Beyond, which ran from 1959 to 1961, was created by Merwin Gerard and produced by Collier Young. Each of the 90 episodes were introduced by John Newland – ‘Your guide to the supernatural’, who also directed every one of the stories.

Sometimes billed as Ancola Presents: One Step Beyond – Ancola being the series sponsor, this ABC network show was staged as a sort of docu-drama, since each of the episode were said to have been based on true stories.

While the earlier episodes were all shot in in the USA, the final thirteen installments – including ‘Nightmare’, were filmed at MGM Studios in Borehamwood, England. The idea to bring the show to Britain was John Newland’s, as he felt that it would give the series a new lease of life, and because “Great Britain offered good actors, good situations and good settings”.

‘Nightmare’, being episode 34 of Season 3, was one of those filmed in Borehamwood and on location in Scotland. “We had some pretty wild weather while we were up on the north coast of the Highlands,” Peter remembers. “It was raining, freezing cold, and the sea was lashing the cliffs. I think we were all glad to get back on the bus after that one!”

THE EPISODE:

Come – you’ll witness things strange, unexpected, mysterious, but not to be denied. Join me now and take One Step Beyond…’

So goes the introduction to this episode.

The first scene opens of in the studio artist, Paul Rowland (PETER WYNGARDE), who’s working a portrait of Lady Diana Metcalf (Ambrosine Phillpots) – an elderly woman, who’s sitting across the room from him. She’s obviously a lady of means, as she’s dressed in an expensive gown and with a string of pearls wrapped several times around her neck.

Paul is oblivious to her, as he is of our host John Newland, who conveys the following:

‘There is a great deal more going on here than just an artist painting a portrait – a great deal more.

The world of the psychic co-exists with the physical world; sharing every instance of time, every speck of space. But what an uneasy co-existence. For always the psychic seems like some wild thin; always straining at its own dimension. Always threatening to explode into the other world – the physical world.

Sometimes it does…’

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PETER as troubled artist, Paul Roland ⇒

Whilst Paul concentrates intently on his work, the elderly lady entertains him with stories of her mother – also a painter, and of all the artists she had met over the years. She goes on to regale him with the tales of how she came by the striking string of pearls, and of her husband, and family ties.

Throughout her monologue, Paul remains transfixed on his work, and not even mention of his forthcoming wedding to socialite, Jill Barrington, can entice his stare from the canvas. “Everyone knows,” Lady Diane continues. “The dashing young artist from Paris is going to marry her. It’s in all the gossip columns”. Again, there’s not so much as a flicker of interest from Paul.

As we’re brought closer to him, we see how emotional he is over the picture he’s creating on the canvas. In the background, we now hear the woman make mention of the fact that, not once since Paul began working had he ever so much as glanced at her.

“Are you working from memory?” she enquires. When she again receives no response, she gets up from her seat and walks over to him. Paul, in turn, moves away from his easel and stands, staring out through a window.

The elderly woman is shocked when she at last sees what Paul’s been drawing all this time: It’s the face of a beautiful young woman surrounded by flowers, but with a hideous devil-like beast in the background. “If you don’t mind me saying, you haven’t exactly caught me!” her Ladyship comments, sarcastically. “Or am I meant to be that wretched creature peering over her shoulder?”

Paul remains stoic – his gaze unmoving from the window. With this, Lady Diane grabs her coat and bag, but before leaving enquires if the artist if he’s ill. He gives her a momentary glance, before his eyes return to the window.

“Henry (her husband, we presume) always said artists were mad!” she barks before heading for the door. “But I thought he was being reactionary!” And with that, she turns on her heel and stomps out.

Now alone in his studio, Paul walks slowly towards the easel, and gently strokes the face of the young woman he’s drawn in charcoal. “Claire”, he whispers softly. “Claire”.

Later that same evening, Paul’s fiancé Jill (Mary Peach), arrives to find the studio in darkness. She’s carrying a selection of holiday brochures, as she’s hopes that the two of them might finally decide upon a destination for their honeymoon in seven days’ time.

On hearing her call his name, Paul appears in the doorway that leads to his living room. He and Jill embrace, and they take a seat together. She reminds him that May 7th, the date he’d insisted upon for the wedding, was almost upon them. She comments how tired he looks, and handing him the brochures, insists that a holiday would do him good.

Apathetically, he flicks through the pamphlets, prompting Jill to ask if he cares at all about their upcoming nuptials. When she gets no response from him, she resolves to enquire if he loves her at all. When once again Paul declines to reply, she gets up to look at the picture he’s been working on, and when she sees that it’s not Diana Metcalf, asks who the young woman is.

When instead of giving her a name as expected, Paul merely asks her why she wishes to know, Jill becomes irritated – querying whether the girl in the portrait is her “rival”. Paul tells her quietly that she wouldn’t know her if he were to tell her, and that he can’t tell her anything anyway.

Since she’s not willing to accept such a glib answer, Jill heads for the door, snapping: “Well, I’ll leave you alone with her!”

Paul calls her back, and in a somewhat confused state, discloses that he’s never seen the woman before in his life. Unwilling to believe him, and angry at his indifference towards her and the wedding, she departs in a temper.

The next time we see Paul he’s mixing paint on a pallet in his studio, and is about to begin applying the oils to the drawing of the young woman he’d been working on earlier. It’s then that his agent, Geoffrey Heathcote (Ferdy Mane) arrives. It’s obvious that Lady Metcalf has been in touch with him, as he remonstrates with the artist for insulting a valuable client. Paul, however, remains detached from everything that’s being said to him, and instead concentrates entirely on the painting.

At Jill’s apartment later that evening, there’s a knock at the door which wakens her from her sleep. She finds Paul on the doorstep and he asks if he can come inside.

At first he tells her that she’s right – with only six days to go to their wedding, they really need to decide on a destination for their honeymoon. She, however, is more interested in his recent inexplicable behaviour, whereupon he swears once again that he’s never seen the girl in his drawing before.

He goes on to tell her that he’s been commissioned to paint three portraits, but that each has ended with him sketching that girl; “It’s as though she’s trying to possess me,” he confesses. “I can’t draw anything without her face staring at me”.

Her anger at him now turning to sympathy, and recommends that they call a doctor, but Paul refuses. He then attempts to turn the topic of conversation from the girl back to the wedding. With less than a week to go, he tells her, they really must concentrate on the honeymoon. But where to go; Paris, Berlin or Venice, perhaps?

Jill, however, is still concerned for his wellbeing, but he reassures her that he’s merely been working too hard and is overtired; their getting away for a few days will do him the world of good.

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⇐ Jill comforts her fiancé, Paul

He then begins to touch her face in the same way he’d done with the drawing of the girl in his studio, and as he takes Jill in his arms, he begins to talk about the little cottage they’d bought by the sea: “It’s the prettiest in Cornwall – you said it yourself”, he says. Jill, though, is bemused, since they don’t have a cottage, in Cornwall or anywhere else. Her confusion is intensified further still when he makes mention of the boat he’d bought and then, worst of all, refers to her as Claire.

Immediately, Jill goes to the phone and starts to dial the doctors number. Completely oblivious to her actions, Paul picks up his jacket and starts heading for the door. He smiles, believing her to be calling the travel agent: “Where did we decide to go?” he asks as he opens the door to leave. “Venice?”

The following day, Jill visits Geoffrey Heathcote to share with him the events of the previous evening. The agent confides that that he’s been handing painters for years and that he genuinely likes Paul.

She tells him that she believes that her fiancé desperately needs the help of a doctor; not just a regular GP, but a psychiatrist. Geoffrey confides to her that he has a plan, but that if it fails, they could both be in trouble. Nevertheless, they decide to try anyway.

Back at the Studio, Paul is again working on the painting of the young woman, when there’s a knock at the door. When he fails to respond, the visitors – Geoffrey Heathcote and Psychiatrist (Patrick Holt), decide to let themselves in. As they do so, Paul throws a blanket over the painting to hide it from view.

Geoffrey asks Paul why he’s stopped answering his phone. given that he’s been trying for hours to contact him. He tells the young artist that the Doctor is a buyer for a museum, and that he could be interested in buying some of his paintings. Paul merely continues wiping paint from his hands, without a word.

The Doctor tells Paul that he’ll be leaving for London in the morning, so if their visit is not convenient, he could rearrange at a later date. Once again, Paul doesn’t respond. However, as the Doctor approaches the easel where the artist has been working, Paul whips the blanket from over the painting to allow the Doctor to see it.

The first thing that he notices is the creature that’s peering over the young woman’s shoulder, and he asks Paul what it is. But instead of answering the Doctor’s question, the young man grabs a pallet knife and begins slashing at the painting before running from the studio to his living quarters and slamming the door behind him.

Geoffrey now joins the Doctor to look at what’s left of the painting, and asks his companion what he makes of Paul’s behaviour. The Doctor says that he’s obviously disturbed, and that they should try to persuade him to go to his private nursing home for a few weeks where he can be observed.

The Doctor then notices a hand towel that Paul had been using to clean his hands and sees that it’s been knotted several times like a garrote. He also points to the creature in the painting which he refers to as a “gargoyle”, saying that in art especially, such effigies are often used as a symbol of evil. The Doctor concludes that the woman in the painting is merely a figment of Paul’s imagination, upon whom he can display violence so that he doesn’t have to reveal the identity of the real person: that person being his fiancé, Jill.

The Doctor discloses to Geoffrey that it’s imperative that they find out what exactly is behind Paul’s apparent psychosis, and so they try knocking at the young man’s door in an attempt to speak to him, but they’re merely met with silence.

A car rounds the bend on a narrow coastal road; Jill is at the wheel with Paul in the passenger seat. She asks him where exactly they’re going: “Cornwall”, he replies, adding that she should continue along the same road whilst he takes a nap.

Eventually they reach the tiny village of Cadgwith, which is nestled along the edge of a cove. As the car pulls up near by a cliff edge, Paul gets out and surveys the scene. His eyes are immediately drawn to a little stone cottage, where he walks slowly up the path and knocks on the door. After a moment or two, the door is answered by Claire (Jean Cadell) – a little old lady who, on seeing Paul, whispers the name ‘John’ and falls faint into his arms.

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Claire collapses when she comes face-to-face with her beloved ‘John’ ⇒

A doctor is called who attends to the lady; saying that her heartbeat is now growing stronger and that she’ll soon regain consciousness.

Whilst Paul takes a look around the cottage, the Doctor informs him that that the Claire is something of a recluse; never leaving her home from one year to the next. Her fiancé, he continues, died during the Great War, and that she’d spent the past 40 years mourning him. The house, he explains, would’ve been their honeymoon cottage.

Just then, Paul spots an old photograph of Claire with her fiancé, who’s in uniform. He’s the spitting image of Paul!

Over the photo’ frame is a lace scarf. The Doctor explains that it was a local custom for the groom to give his intended such a gift exactly seven days before their wedding. On each day thereafter, the bride would open one of the knots. Paul notices that only five of the knots had been undone: “That’s because he died two days before the wedding”.

At that moment, Claire begins to regain consciousness, so Paul sits beside her on the sofa. She smiles lovingly at him, and they embrace. As he leaves the cottage, the young artist looks as if an enormous weight has been lifted from him. He smiles to himself, and walks back to the car.

We’re now returned to the Narrator, who brings us up to date with what happened to Paul and Jill after their trip to Cornwall. He tells us that that the two married as planned and that Paul’s fame as an artist rose year on year.

Claire, the old lady in the tiny coastal village, passed away some years ago. She lies buried, we’re told, in a small churchyard next to her beloved John.

But how to explain the inexplicable experience of Paul Rowland, whose journey had been into a life he’d apparently lived before? There are millions of people around the world, John Newland informs us, who’d tell you that the explanation is quite obvious. Reincarnation. A single flame – passed from torch to torch throughout eternity.

“Others may give another psychic explanation, but such phenomena has been reported again and again through the ages”.

The most famous person ever to unearth evidence of his own reincarnation, it’s said, was the 19th Century poet, Gabriel Rossetti: “For there exists today an absolute likeness of Rossetti and the woman he loved, painted some 300 years before his birth”.


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

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