Saturday, August 17, 2019

One Step Beyond (1961)


As we mentioned in our post on the 1960 episodes for One Step Beyond, creator Merwin Gerard and host/director John Newland felt that despite the show's popularity there were only so many story variations on paranormal phenomena and that the series had pretty much run its course by Season 3. This feeling is particularly evident in the 1961 episodes, the last 22 of the series' 96, which found the series traveling to Mexico for its most remarkable episode, "The Sacred Mushroom" (January 24, 1961), and to England, where 13 of the final 15 episodes were filmed and produced with British actors, beginning with "The Stranger" (February 28, 1961). In his 2011 interview with John Kenneth Muir, Newland says that the move to England was his idea to give the show "a little boost," though he also says that the program won its timeslot all three seasons on the air. Though the stories themselves didn't vary much from the American-produced episodes, the trip to Great Britain allowed Newland and his crew to work with the likes of Christopher Lee in "The Sorceror" (May 23, 1961), Donald Pleasence in "The Confession" (April 11, 1961), and Lois Maxwell, soon to become Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond film franchise, in "The Room Upstairs" (March 21, 1961). Though most of the English-produced stories are based in Europe, the series' final episode "Eyewitness" (July 4, 1961) is based in Boston but uses London-based actors.

A number of the 1961 episodes are set during war time, an environment perhaps prone to experiencing extraordinary perceptions given the stress and physical strain that soldiers and civilians feel while under "the fog of war." "The Executioner" (January 3, 1961) is a Civil War tale about a Union supply depot commander who uses the capture of a Confederate soldier as an opportunity to clear his name by framing the Confederate as a spy who had been leaking shipment information from the depot to his cohorts, resulting in raids for which the commander has been blamed. But when he shoots the Confederate soldier's dog for howling all night at being separated from his master who is locked up, the commander seals his own fate, and his own subordinates swear that he died from having his throat torn open as if by a dog that no one ever saw. While centering on the story of American boxer Yank Dawson, "The Last Round" is set during the London blitzkrieg days of World War II when Dawson and several associates all see long-dead fighter Paddy Taroun, who reportedly haunts the arena where Dawson is scheduled to fight and whose appearance signals the impending death of those who see him. "Night of Decision" (February 21, 1961) tells the tale of General George Washington during the bitter winter at Valley Forge when he is considering surrender just to save his men from further misery but then gets a visit from long-dead former adversary Chief Otumcas, which helps give him new resolve.

After the series shifts to England, the war stories continue with "Signal Received" (April 4, 1961), again set during World War II when three sailors on leave in London all get some sort of premonition that their ship will be sunk with no survivors, only one of them is spared when he is reassigned to officer training just before he is to board the vessel. "The Avengers" (April 25, 1961) shows the fate of a cruel Nazi occupation officer in France who decides to taunt villagers he plans to send to work camps by reenacting a French Revolution-era party at the wealthy estate where he is living only to meet the same fate as the estate's last inhabitant from the 18th century. "The Prisoner" (May 2, 1961) is a post-World War II tale but involves a dead Nazi officer who once tormented a concentration camp survivor but then appears to her at a refugee hospital to urge her to tell his wife where his remains can be found. And "The Sorceror" (May 23, 1961) has another Nazi officer visit a rural farmer believed to have magical powers, enabling the officer to be transported back to the city to catch his girlfriend being unfaithful, after which he shoots her but is cleared by a military judge because he was known to have been out in the country at the time of the killing. Though Newland typically concludes each of these stories with eyewitness accounts of their veracity, the fact that the witnesses were under the stress of war makes those accounts perhaps a little shakier.

Other evidence that One Step Beyond was struggling to keep itself going during 1961 are two episodes that perhaps shouldn't have aired. "Blood Flower" (May 16, 1961) is the one episode Newland cites in his interview with Muir as his least favorite of the entire series: "It was a dumb, silly concept. The pits." The story is about American professor Gavin Carroll teaching at a South American university as part of an exchange program. Carroll is against violent revolution but then touches an unusual flower from a plant that sprung up on the spot where a revolutionary was executed. Suddenly Carroll becomes the agent of the revolutionary's mother and winds up assassinating the dictator her son had tried to kill years ago before being caught. The fact that this episode is the lone One Step Beyond original American-produced episode aired in the midst of the 13 British-produced episodes suggests that it may have been rejected at the time that it was filmed but was finally run because the producers were desperate to finish out the final season. The same rationale could explain why they chose to air the episode "Midnight" (June 13, 1961), also in the midst of the British episodes, which is not even a One Step Beyond production: as one reviewer on imdb.com has noted, this episode actually first aired in 1951 on a series called Stars Over Hollywood. There is no introduction or conclusion by Newland, as with every other episode on One Step Beyond; it's simply a repackaged rerun to fill a weekly timeslot for which they had no other new material.

As out of character and subpar as "Midnight" may be, 1961 also saw the series' most popular and well-remembered episode of the entire series, the aforementioned "Sacred Mushroom," which is actually more documentary than scripted drama. In this episode Newland and his crew visit a remote mountain village in Oaxaca, Mexico, along with an entourage of university professors and spiritual advisors, to investigate the reported ESP-enhancing qualities of a rare mushroom. The outsiders at first have a hard time getting the locals to admit to the existence or use of the mushrooms, but after Dr. Andrija Puharich decides to open a free medical clinic for the villagers, some of them are willing to provide him with connections to the brujos, or shaman, who perform the mushroom ceremonies. Newland and crew document how these brujos are able to recount childhood experiences from Indiana from one of the entourage members and to locate a stolen donkey and identify the perpetrators after imbibing the sacred mushroom. Newland relates in his Muir interview that when the show's sponsor Alcoa first saw the footage of their encounters in Mexico, they thought it was too strange to air on television. So Newland decided to have Puharich perform experiments on himself in his California lab to test out whether the mushrooms did indeed enhance his ESP capabilities. The addition of the Newland segment apparently convinced Alcoa that the show could be aired, but it is still hard to imagine such an episode airing today, let alone in 1961, given that it seems to promote and demonstrate the benefits of a hallucinogenic substance. But it's also worth remembering that this was the same time during which Dr. Timothy Leary was beginning his experiments with LSD as a member of the faculty at Harvard. Leary decided to study LSD after sampling hallucinogenic mushrooms used in religious ceremonies while visiting Mexico, and LSD was not made illegal until 5 years later in 1966. Of all the bizarre tales told on One Step Beyond over the course of its three seasons, perhaps the strangest was the time they were allowed to show the host getting high on mushrooms.

Since our post on the 1960 episodes, Film Chest Media released in 2015 a 6-DVD set containing 70 of the series' 96 episodes. However, this set contains only 7 of the 22 episodes that aired in 1961, and the video and audio quality is no better than previous DVD sets or videos found on youtube.com. As of this writing the 15 episodes from 1961 not included in the Film Chest set are all available on youtube, though usually in the truncated, syndicated version. 

The Actors

For the biography of John Newland, see the 1960 post on One Step Beyond.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 3, Episode 15, "The Executioner": Crahan Denton (appeared in The Parent Trap, Birdman of Alcatraz, and To Kill a Mockingbird) plays Union Army supply depot commander Col. Martin. Jeremy Slate (starred in The Sons of Katie Elder, The Devil's Brigade, and True Grit and played Larry Lahr on The Aquanauts) plays subordinate Capt. Adams.
Season 3, Episode 16, "The Last Round": Charles Bronson (shown on the left, starred in The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Valachi Papers, and four Death Wish movies and played Mike Kovac on Man With a Camera, Paul Moreno on Empire, and Linc Murdock on The Travels of Jamie McPheeters) plays American boxer Yank Dawson. John Indrisano (real-life professional boxer and referee, played John the Chauffeur on O.K. Crackerby!) plays the boxing referee.
Season 3, Episode 17, "Dead Man's Tale": Lonny Chapman (shown on the right, appeared in East of Eden, Baby Doll, The Birds, and The Reivers and played Frank Malloy on For the People) plays former newspaper writer Phillip Werris. Jean Engstrom (mother of actress Jena Engstrom) plays his wife Jan. Charles Seel (Otis the Bartender on Tombstone Territory, Mr. Krinkie on Dennis the Menace, and Tom Pride on The Road West) plays the Riverton general store owner.
Season 3, Episode 19, "The Gift": Betty Garde (shown on the left, appeared in Call Northside 777, Caged!, and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and played Mattie Lane on The Edge of Night and Miss Tyler on As the World Turns) plays fortune teller Lola Monteil. Scott Marlowe (Nick Koslo on Executive Suite, Eric Brady on Days of Our Lives, and Michael Burke on Valley of the Dolls) plays her son Mario. Mary Sinclair (Sylvia Rockwell on Woman With a Past) plays wealthy widow Maude Gillespie. Arthur Gould-Porter (Ravenswood on The Beverly Hillbillies) plays a policeman.
Season 3, Episode 20, "Person Unknown": Jay Novello (shown on the right, played Juan Greco on Zorro and Mayor Mario Lugatto on McHale's Navy) plays monastery porter Carlos Gonzalez. Danny Bravo (voice of Hadji on Jonny Quest) plays his son Jorge. Robert Carricart (Pepe Cordoza on T.H.E. Cat) plays Mexican army officer Capt. Alvarez. Rodolfo Acosta (Vaquero on The High Chaparral) plays his superior Col. Ferrero. Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr. (Luis Valdez on Viva Valdez) plays sculptor Gomez.
Season 3, Episode 21, "Night of Decision": Robert Douglas (shown on the left, appeared in The Fountainhead, Kim, Ivanhoe, and The Prisoner of Zenda and directed multiple episodes of 77 Sunset Strip, 12 O'Clock High, The F.B.I., and Baretta amongst many others) plays Gen. George Washington. Richard Carlyle (Casey on Crime Photographer) plays his subordinate Col. Danforth. Ken Drake (Bragan on Not for Hire) plays another subordinate Maj. Warren. Richard Hale (starred in Abilene Town, Kim, San Antone, Red Garters, and To Kill a Mockingbird) plays Washington's one-time adversary Chief Otumcas. Steve Franken (see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) plays a delirious soldier.
Season 3, Episode 22, "The Stranger": Peter Dyneley (shown on the right, played Henry Carmichael on Portrait of Alison, Joe Francis on Golden Girl, Cmdr. Charles Hastings on The Mask of Janus and The Spies, and voiced Jeff Tracy on Thunderbirds) plays disaster worker Tom Hadley. Graham Stark (appeared in A Shot in the Dark, Alfie, The Wrong Box, Casino Royale, and The Return of the Pink Panther and played Scratcher on Adventures Beyond Belief, and Freddie the Fireman on Tickle on the Tum) plays his colleague Peter. Bill Nagy (Gregg Flint on Coronation Street) plays incarcerated killer Jerome Cole. Patrick McAlinney (Tickler Murphy on Coronation Street, Paddy on Orlando, Brother Patrick on Oh Brother!, Peters on Kizzy, Father O'Leary on The Liver Birds, and Dr. Daley on Bless Me Father) plays the prison warden. Harold Kasket (Dr. Dietrich Sterne on General Hospital) plays a rescued teacher.
Season 3, Episode 23, "Justice": Clifford Evans (shown on the left, starred in Stryker of the Yard, The Curse of the Werewolf, and The Kiss of the Vampire and played Steven Prador on A Chance of Thunder, Chief Inspector Robert Stryker on Stryker of the Yard, Caswell Bligh on The Power Game, and Sir Iain Dalzell on Codename) plays Police Constable Joshua Jones. Barbara Mullen (Janet MacPherson on Dr. Finlay's Casebook) plays his wife. Edward Evans (Bob Grove on The Grove Family, Assistant Commissioner on Garry Halliday, Geoffrey Gray on Compact, and Lionel Petty on Coronation Street) plays his superior Inspector Pugh. Meredith Edwards (Emlyn Powell on A Matter of Degree, Inspector Taff Evans on Sexton Blake, Sir Tom on Hawkmoor, and Richard Lloyd on The Life and Times of David Lloyd George) plays accused murderer Wyndham Roberts. Martin Benson (appeared in The King and I, Exodus, Cleopatra, A Shot in the Dark, Goldfinger, and The Omen and played Duke de Medici on Sword of Freedom) plays minister Dr. Evans. Jack Melford (Mr. Tibbett on Dear Dotty, Det. Sgt. Miller on Educated Evans, Mr. Quelch on Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School, and Dr. Rospin on Emergency-Ward 10) plays parishioner Mr. Owen. Ewan Roberts (appeared in The Crimson Pirate, Curse of the Demon, and Invasion of the Triffids and played Inspector Ames on Colonel March of Scotland Yard, Mr. Bentley on Emergency-Ward 10, and Parkinson on Bognor) plays police Superintendent Rees.
Season 3, Episode 24, "The Face": Sean Kelly (appeared in Idol on Parade, Gang War, and 633 Squadron) plays nightmare victim Stephen Bolt. Victor Platt (El Muerte on Paradise Island, Mr. Pumfrey on Whirligig, Ted Sinker on Emergency-Ward 10, Mr. Anderson on The Corner Shop, John Harmer on Strange Concealments, and Charlie Penrose on The Newcomers) plays his father Isiah. Paula Byrne (Frances Whitney on Emergency-Ward 10) plays his mother Sara. John Bown (George Goodfellow on Poison Island, Det. Insp. Tom Masefield on The Big Spender, Commander Neil Stafford on Doomwatch, and Nicholas Phelps on Emmerdale) plays his older brother Mark. Penelope Horner (shown on the right, played Celia Winteron on Emmerdale, Sarah Hallam on Triangle, and Maudie Mountjoy on Hell's Bells) plays Mark's fiance Rosemary Hogan. Robert Cawdron (Rico on The Count of Monte Cristo, Det. Supt. Tallerton on Golden Girl, PC Hugh on The Massingham Affair, Stuart Long on 199 Park Lane, Det. Insp. Cherry on Dixon of Dock Green, Sgt. LeDuc on The Saint, and Uncle Bert Quigley on From a Bird's Eye View) plays Rosemary's father. Roger Delgado (Athos on The Three Musketeers, Speidel on Huntingtower, Don Jose on Queen's Champion, Mendoza on Sir Francis Drake, M. Fouquot on The Man in the Iron Mask, and The Master on Doctor Who) plays ship commander Capt. Santoro. Michael Peake (Conrad de Monferrat on Richard the Lionheart) plays the ship's bosun. Leon Cortez (Oppy Harris on Dixon of Dock Green) plays a shanghai'd Englishman. Erik Chitty (Gubbins on The Great Detective, Stevens on If the Crown Fits, Ignatius Small on Emergency-Ward 10, Mr. Smith on Please Sir!, and Gabriel Towzer on Midnight Is a Place) plays a tattoo artist.
Season 3, Episode 25, "The Room Upstairs": David Knight (Christopher March on A Mask for Alexis and James Neal on The Newcomers) plays American engineer Will Hollis. Lois Maxwell (shown on the left, appeared in That Hagen Girl, Aida, and Lolita and played Miss Moneypenny in 14 James Bond films) plays his wife Esther. Carl Bernard (Milton on Big Guns, Alfred Lammle on Our Mutual Friend, and Ferguson on Pretenders) plays a psychiatrist. Anthony Oliver (Iorworth Pritchard on Emergency-Ward 10) plays realtor Hudson. David Markham (John Bold on The Warden, The Rector on Barbie, Professor Wedgwood on Target Luna, Silas Marner on Silas Marner, Colin Bryant on Couples, David Annersley on Emmerdale, and Herbert Henry Asquith on The Life and Times of David Lloyd George) plays rental house owner Mr. Morrison. Jane Hylton (Queen Guinevere on The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and Margaret Harley on Emergency-Ward 10) plays his wife Joan.
Season 3, Episode 26, "Signal Received": Mark Eden (shown on the right, played Marco Polo on Doctor Who, Johnny Rich on Catch Hand, Jeremy Crowe on The Newcomers, Ray Saxon on Crime Buster, Det. Insp. Parker on Cloud of Witness, Spencer on The Top Secret Life of Edgar Briggs, Jack Rufus on London Belongs to Me, Supt. Wilf Penfield on The Detective, and Alan Bradley on Coronation Street) plays World War II British sailor Johnny Watson. Richard Gale (John Farrance on The River Flows East and Miles Osborne on The Flaxton Boys) plays fellow sailor Robin Hughes. Jennifer Daniel (Dolly Varden on Barnaby Rudge, Anne Romilly on The Sleeper, Carol Vyner on A Man Called Harry Brent, Janet Smith on General Hospital, Judy Wishart on Rooms, Eunice Godbeer on People Like Us, and Helen Langley on The Collectors) plays Watson's girlfriend Sheila. Patrick McLoughlin (Richard Trevelyan on Sir Francis Drake) plays her Uncle Bill. Viola Keats (Joyce Schuler on The Grove Family) plays fellow sailor's mother Mrs. Breed. Charles Lamb (Thomas on Family Solicitor, Bert Vincent on Weavers Green, Jorkins on River Rivals, Ted Atkinson on The Newcomers, Wally on Backs to the Land, and Old Bailey on Can We Get on Now, Please?) plays her husband. Susan Richards (Mrs. Allen on The Doctors) plays a seller of heather.
Season 3, Episode 27, "The Confession": Donald Pleasence (shown on the left, starred in Look Back in Anger, Dr. Crippen, The Great Escape, Fantastic Voyage, You Only Live Twice, THX 1138, The Eagle Has Landed, and 5 of the first 6 Halloween films and played Det. Insp. Harry Yates on The Scarf) plays former lawyer Harvey Laurence. Raymond Rollett (Squire Trelawney on Treasure Island and Don Miguel Perrera y Quiva on Potts in Perovia) plays his superior the King's Counsel. Gerald James (Charlie Caldwell on Hadleigh, Uncle Barnabus on A Traveller in Time, and George Tully on Sapphire & Steel) plays Laurence's colleague Wilson. Adrienne Corri (appeared in Bunny Lake Is Missing, Doctor Zhivago, and A Clockwork Orange and played Angelica Verdi on Sword of Freedom) plays supposed murder victim Sarah Malone. Brenad Dunrich (Polly Sutherland on The Cabin in the Clearing) plays Laurence's cleaning woman. Julian Orchard (Oliver Pettigrew on Whack-O!) plays his tailor. Douglas Ives (Potter on Emergency-Ward 10) plays his flat building's porter.
Season 3, Episode 28, "The Avengers": Andre Morell (appeared in The Man Who Never Was, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Ben-Hur, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), and The Plague of the Zombies) plays Nazi Gen. Guenther Hautmann. Lisa Gastoni (shown on the right, appeared in The Truth About Women, Prescription for Murder, Wrong Number, Passport to China, and The Wild, Wild Planet and played Dorothy Berridge on The Odd Man and Zia Clo Clo on Sposami) plays his mistress Marianne. Carl Jaffe (Mr. Rimmer on Strictly Personal, Mr. Emmanuel on Magnolia Street, and Kassell on The Big Spender) plays the army doctor. Walter Gotell (Col. Schmidt on Potts in Parovia, Chief Constable Cullen on Softly Softly: Task Force, and Sir Michael Gunther on County Hall) plays subordinate Sgt. Franz Dietrich. Carl Duering (Von Stalhein on Biggles) plays a member of the regimental band. Steve Plytas (Armide Poropoulos on Parbottle Speaking) plays the estate gardener.
Season 3, Episode 29, "The Prisoner": Catherine Feller (Janella on The Black Brigand and Peppone's wife on The Little World of Don Camillo) plays Nazi concentration camp refugee Ruth Goldman. Sandor Eles (Albert de Morcef on The Count of Monte Cristo, Capt. Gottfried on Timeslip, and Ramon on Down to Earth) plays fellow refugee Samuel. Faith Brook (shown on the left, played Janet Turner on Golden Girl, Countess Rostova on War & Peace, Heather Windrup on Angels, Lady Knox on The Irish R.M., and Eleanor Beaufort on Gentlemen and Players) plays a refugee hospital nurse. Anton Diffring (appeared in I Am a Camera, The Blue Max, Fahrenheit 451, and Where Eagles Dare and played Pandorus on Scobie in September and Insp. Hoffman on Assignment: Vienna) plays Nazi officer Wilhelm Hessler. Annette Carrell (Alice Heydinger on Love and Mr. Lewisham) plays his wife Frieda. Gerhard Heinz (Karl Peters on Double Cross and Pereira on Scobie in September) plays the hospital doctor.
Season 3, Episode 30, "Blood Flower": Larry Gates (shown on the right, starred in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Some Came Running, and The Young Savages and played H.B. Lewis on Guiding Light) plays American exchange Prof. Gavin Carroll. Penny Santon (Madame Fatime in Don't Call Me Charlie, Madam Delacort on Roll Out, Mama Rosa Novelli on Matt Houston, Muriel Lacey on Cagney and Lacey, and Teresa Giordano on Life Goes On) plays his landlady Senora Madrera. Renata Vanni (appeared in Pay or Die!, A Patch of Blue, and Fatso and played Rose Brentano on That Girl) plays dead revolutionary's mother Mrs. Fuentes.

Season 3, Episode 31, "The Sorceror": Christopher Lee (shown on the left, starred in The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, The Mummy(1959), She, The Face of Fu Manchu, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, The Three Musketeers(1973), Airport '77, and The Lord of the Rings franchise and played Sam Rees on The Tomorrow People, Nick Dupont on Street Gear, and Olwyn on The New Adventures of Robin Hood) plays Nazi officer Wilhelm Reitlinger. Martin Benson (see "Justice" above) plays farmer Klaus Karnak. Alfred Burke (Frank Marker on Public Eye, Oberst Richter on Enemy at the Door, Mr. Blandy on A Question of Guilt, and Mr. Critchlow on Sophia and Constance) plays Reitlinger's subordinate Scholl. Peter Swanwick (The Supervisor on The Prisoner) plays a bartender. Gabrielle Licudi (appeared in You Must Be Joking!, The Liquidator, and Casino Royale) plays Reitlinger's girlfriend Elsa Bruck. Frederick Jaeger (Adolphus Crosbie on The Small House at Allington, Will Booth on Amelia, Chris Larsen on Compact, David Stimpson on Strange Concealments, Gregor Sanders & Beaumont Sutton on The Man in the Mirror, Leo Pettit on Girl in a Black Bikini, Dr. James Austen on The Inside Man, Joachim on Pretenders, Cmdr. Fletcher on Special Branch, Cmdr. Vallance on The Doombolt Chase, Cogg-Willoughby on One Upmanship, Max Langemann on High Road, Max van der Rheede on The Onedin Line, and Maj. Selwyn Davis on The Chief) plays Nazi soldier Johann. Joseph Furst (Maj. Heinrich Wolf on Counter-Attack!, King Alexander on The Midnight Men, the storekeeper on Luke's Kingdom, and Carlo Lenzi on Number 96) plays a military judge. George Pravda (Prof. Bhaer on Good Wives and Jo's Boys, Tannikov on Curtain of Fear, and Nicholas Cheverski on The Man in the Mirror) plays a military psychiatrist. Edwin Richfield (Crewman Armando on The Buccaneers, Insp. Mornay on Interpol Calling, Steve Gardiner on The Odd Man, Mr. Pomeroy on R3, Ben Graham on 199 Park Lane, D'Artagnan on The Man in the Iron Mask, Frank Chapman on Harriet's Back in Town, and Capt. Hart on Doctor Who) plays one of Reitlinger's subordinates.
Season 3, Episode 32, "The Villa": David Horne (appeared in The Mill on the Floss, The Wicked Lady, Caravan, and Lust for Life and played Dr. Nesbitt on More Than Robbery and Lord de Guest on The Small House at Allington) plays industrialist Richard Hudson. Michael Crawford (starred in The Knack...And How to Get It, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, How I Won the War, and Hello, Dolly! and played Frank Nugent on Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School, John Drake on Sir Francis Drake, Byron on Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life, Dave Finn on Chalk and Cheese, and Frank Spencer on Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em) plays his son Tony. Kenneth Cope (F.D. Whittaker on Whack-O!, Jed Stone on Coronation Street, Marty Hopkirk on My Partner the Ghost, Bert on Levkas Man, Stubs on Truckers, and Ray Hilton on Brookside) plays Tony's friend Lionel. Geoffrey Toone (appeared in The King and I, Johnny Tremain, Zero Hour!, and Dr. Who and the Daleks and played Steve Gardiner on The Odd Man, Sgt. Baines on 199 Park Lane, and Von Gleb on Freewheelers) plays Hudson's employee Jim Low. Elizabeth Sellars (shown on the right, starred in The Gentle Gunman, The Long Memory, Forbidden Cargo, The Barefoot Contessa, and The Mummy's Shroud and played Dr. May Howard on R3) plays Low's wife Mary. Marla Landi (starred in First Man Into Space, The Hound of the Baskervilles(1959), The Pirates of Blood River, and The Murder Game) plays Low's mistress Stella. Robert Rietty (Quico on Hurricane) plays realtor Bertollini. Gertan Klauber (Black Dog on The Adventures of Ben Gunn and Gustav on Room Service) plays a hotel porter.
Season 3, Episode 33, "Midnight": Gloria Saunders (the Dragon Lady on Terry and the Pirates) plays midnight temptress Lilith.
Season 3, Episode 34, "The Tiger": Pauline Challoner (Valerie Benson on The Doctors) plays wealthy daughter Pamela Weldon. Pamela Brown (appeared in Lust for Life, Cleopatra, and Becket) plays her new governess Miss Cartwright. Elspeth March (appeared in Quo Vadis, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips and played Mother on Let There Be Love) plays her nanny Mrs. Murphy. Edward Underdown (appeared in Beat the Devil, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, and Thunderball) plays family solicitor Mr. Hayes. Patsy Smart (shown on the left, played Mrs. Yardley on Emergency-Ward 10, Mary Grange on The Newcomers, Mrs. Burton on Spy Trap, Roberts on Upstairs/Downstairs, May Beswick on The Practice, and Miss Dingle on Terry and June) plays housekeeper Ethel. Michael Collins (Harry on Treasure Island, Insp. Franks on Garry Halliday, and Jeff Langley on The Newcomers) plays a police inspector.
Season 3, Episode 35, "Nightmare": Peter Wyngarde (shown on the right, played John Silver on The Adventures of Ben Gunn, Rupert of Hentzau on Rupert of Hentzau, and Jason King on Department S and Jason King) plays French painter Paul Roland. Mary Peach (Kathy Webb on Inside Story and Tricia Roland on Couples) plays his fiance Jill Barrington. Ferdy Mayne (appeared in Our Man in Havana, The Fearless Vampire Killers, Where Eagles Dare, The Magic Christian, and Barry Lyndon and played Mr. Saunders on Emergency-Ward 10, Vladek Gora on Quest of Eagles, and Count Dracula on Frankenstein's Aunt) plays art dealer Geoffrey Heathcote. Ambrosine Phillpotts (Lady Helen Hadleigh on Hadleigh) plays portrait subject Lady Diana Metcalf. Richard Caldicot (Maynard Withering on Reggie Little at Large, Capt. Turvey on HMS Paradise, Mr. Potter on Pet Pals, Sir Charles Barker on Mrs. Thursday, John Faversham on The Beverly Hillbillies, and Justice Rider on Crown Court) plays psychiatrist Horace Stapleton. Patrick Holt (George Verney on Emmerdale) plays a Cornish doctor.
Season 3, Episode 36, "Eyewitness": John Meillon (shown on the left, appeared in On the Beach, The Sundowners, 633 Squadron, Crocodile Dundee, and Crocodile Dundee II and played Martin on A Chance of Thunder, Wally Stiller on My Name's McGooley, What's Yours? and Rita and Wally, Ray Dunlop on Lane End, and Cyril Kirby on Over There) plays Boston Star night editor Henry Soames. John Phillips (Col. Zapt on Rupert of Hentzau, Elzevir Block on Smuggler's Bay, Professor Bell on Alexander Graham Bell, Lt.-Col. Whitley on Frontier, Maitre Lacan on Crime of Passion, Jack Frazer on The Onedin Line, and Det. Chief Supt. Robins on Z Cars) plays newspaper publisher Frank Kinsman. Anton Rodgers (Lt. Gilmore on The Sky Larks, Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge on Ukridge, Peter Frame on The Organization, David Gradley on Zodiac. Det. Insp. Purbright on Murder Most English: A Flaxborough Chronicle, William on Fresh Fields and French Fields, Alec Callender on May to December, and Noah Kirby on Noah's Ark) plays Kinsman's son Mark. J.G. Devlin (Herbert Button on The Newcomers and Father Dooley on Bread) plays restaurant proprietor Leo. Robert Ayres (Stephen Inch on The Inch Man and Walter Allen on The Cheaters) plays seismographer Richards.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Sugarfoot (1961)


Though it had hit the top 30 in the Nielsen ratings in its first two seasons, reaching #24 in its 1957-58 debut and inching up to #21 the next season, Sugarfoot was the first of the three rotating Warner Brothers westerns to be canceled, with only 5 episodes airing in 1961, the last on April 17. Even though Bronco (hatched a year after Sugarfoot to combat Clint Walker of Cheyenne in his dispute with the studio's skin-flint practices) never reached the top 30, it was kept around until 1962, the same year that Cheyenne bit the dust. But Warners didn't entirely abandon westerns that year because they also launched a new series, The Dakotas, in the fall of 1962, though it lasted only a single season. So it's unclear exactly why Sugarfoot got the axe when it did.

Without evidence to the contrary, it appears that the decision to cancel the series may have been an impulsive one. Warner Brothers was still employing their crossover scheme of having Bronco's Ty Hardin guest star on Sugarfoot in the third-from-last episode "Angel" on March 6, 1961. The following week Will Hutchins' Tom Brewster character was featured in the Bronco episode "Yankee Tornado." The crossover scheme was intended to lure fans of one series to watch the other series, so if Sugarfoot were on the way out, it makes little sense to have Hutchins appear on Bronco a month before his show was to be canceled. Secondly, the introduction of sidekick wannabe Toothy Thompson in the January 16, 1961 episode of the same name hardly seems like a move for a dying series. By the end of this episode Thompson is invited by Brewster to come along on his adventures, seeming to set up a future duo for the series. He does not appear in the next episode, "Shepherd With a Gun," but he does return in the following episode "Angel," wherein we are left with the reason why he will not continue accompanying Brewster--he chooses to stay behind and attend to the wounded deaf-mute title character, the only woman who ever showed him any kindness. In his memories of actor Jack Elam, who played Toothy Thompson in both episodes, in his March 2008 column for the westernclippings.com web site, Hutchins does not mention any plan to make Elam a regular part of the cast. Hutchins merely says that since Elam was so good in the first Toothy Thompson episode, he was invited back for a second appearance (Warner Brothers obviously found something they liked because he was chosen as one of the co-stars for The Dakotas). But the ending of the first Toothy Thompson episode sure seems like he is intended to be a future regular, and the ending of "Angel" seems like an explanation for why the original partnership is ending. Who knows what really happened behind the scenes amongst the Sugarfoot producers, but in an era when recurring characters were discarded with little or no fanfare, Toothy Thompson is given an entire episode to explain his departure.

But in speculating on the demise of Sugarfoot, the trope of Tom Brewster as itinerant cowboy law student had certainly worn thin--in the last 5 episodes we never see him check his mailbox for his latest school assignment--but he still uses his legal studies to help solve the problems of the people he randomly chooses to help. In "Shepherd With a Gun" (February 6, 1961) he notes that a will bequeathing 2/3 of a man's ranch to his rapacious daughter had been witnessed by two people who were not disinterested parties, rendering the will invalid (however, a bill of sale in "Stranger in Town" [March 27, 1961] suffers from the same defect but is not deemed invalid). And in the aforementioned "Stranger in Town" episode Brewster learns of the European custom of dating correspondence with the day of the month before the month itself, thereby proving a letter from a dead Swedish mine owner to his siblings in which he asks them to come to America to help run his mine is actually dated after the bill of sale transferring ownership of the mine to a greedy land-owner, meaning the bill of sale is a forgery. In the series' final episode, "Trouble at Sand Springs" (April 17, 1961), Brewster gets to try out his defense attorney skills in representing an ex-con against a charge of murdering a bank president and cleaning out the bank's safe. He is pitted against another law student, this one a woman, who is the former girlfriend of the accused man, and as on Perry Mason it takes a last-minute discovery of new evidence to save the day, which prompts the female law student to decide to give up her career for the role of wife to the acquitted man, while Brewster is given her tall stack of law books for his own future study. The concept of melding a Perry Mason-like legal drama with a western was never a good one, but at least the show had a concept, unlike Bronco.

Hutchins, in his columns on westernclippings.com, has echoed James Garner's criticisms of Warner Brothers for recycling scripts from their movies and between their own shows. He has also called the stories melodramas, and not as a compliment. But one episode that deserves special opprobrium is "Shepherd With a Gun," written by Warren Douglas, who also authored the Toothy Thompson episodes as well as multiple episodes for Cheyenne and Bronco. In this episode Douglas wants to cast ranch foreman Simon Getty as the worst possible villain, so he has him shoot the dog of two young shepherds Marie and Pablo simply because they defy his command not to bring their sheep through town. Depicting animal abuse to make a point, even in a fictional story, is never a good idea. But here it is compounded when Pablo vows to take revenge, while Marie cites the Old Testament's eye-for-an-eye policy, while Brewster counsels them that taking a human's life is different than killing an animal because a man's life is "sacred." He then urges them to look forward rather than backward, in other words, sweep the murder of their beloved companion under the rug. The problem here is the fallacy of speciesism--that one species, humans, is elevated above all others and therefore are free to abuse and exploit all other species. This is why Douglas can't show how evil Getty is by having him shoot a baby or small child. The same "logic" is used to elevate one race or religion above all others to justify abuse. Douglas then ties his "logic" in knots by having Brewster explain to Pablo that killing another man kills a part of you as well, that the gun becomes a bigger and bigger part of you until you are always on edge, expecting to be attacked, yet at the same time he admits that he has killed men himself, so what does that say about him? And at episode's end when Pablo sneaks off with the family rifle and heads to town with the intention of gunning down Getty only to arrive after Brewster and two other men have beat him to the punch, Pablo is shocked by the display of violence and thanks Brewster for the valuable lesson that he will never forget. If only we could forget this ill-conceived episode.

The Actors

For the biography of Will Hutchins, see the 1960 post for Sugarfoot.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 4, Episode 5, "Toothy Thompson": Jack Elam (shown on the left, played Deputy J.D. Smith on The Dakotas, George Taggart on Temple Houston, Zack Wheeler on The Texas Wheelers, and Uncle Alvin Stevenson on Easy Street) plays social reject Toothy Thompson. Gregory Morton (Mr. Wainwright on Peyton Place and Walter Williams on Ben Casey) plays corrupt Arizona Territorial Governor Lee Dandridge. Richard Collier (Harry Price on Many Happy Returns) plays hotel owner Alvin. Claude Stroud (Rudy Cromwell on The Duke and Hobert Nalven on The Ted Knight Show) plays a watch theft victim. Phil Tully (Charlie the bartender on The Deputy) plays a bartender.
Season 4, Episode 6, "Shepherd With a Gun": Linda Dangcil (shown on the right, played Sister Ana on The Flying Nun) plays shepherd's daughter Marie. Rafael Campos (Ramon Diaz, Jr. on Rhoda) plays her brother Pablo. Regis Toomey (starred in Alibi, Other Men's Women, The Finger Points, His Girl Friday, and The Big Sleep and played Joe Mulligan on The Mickey Rooney Show, Lt. Manny Waldo on Four Star Playhouse, Lt. McGough on Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Det. Les Hart on Burke's Law, and Dr. Barton Stuart on Petticoat Junction and Green Acres) plays weak ranch owner John Peel. Nancy Hadley (Marilee Dorf on The Brothers and Barbara Simpson on The Joey Bishop Show) plays his daughter Mattie. Don Haggerty (Jeffrey Jones on The Files of Jeffrey Jones, Eddie Drake on The Cases of Eddie Drake, Sheriff Dan Elder on State Trooper, and Marsh Murdock on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays his foreman Simon Getty. William Joyce (Kellam Chandler on Days of Our Lives) plays ranch hand Tex. 
Season 4, Episode 7, "Angel": Cathy O'Donnell (shown on the left, starred in The Best Years of Our Lives, They Live by Night, Detective Story, The Man From Laramie, The Deerslayer, and Ben-Hur) plays prospector's deaf-mute daughter Angel Wilson. Jack Elam (see "Toothy Thompson" above) returns as misfit Toothy Thompson. Bruce Gordon (see the biography section for the 1961 post on The Untouchables) plays Leadville, Colorado kingpin Jake Ellis. John Pickard (Capt. Shank Adams on Boots and Saddles and Sgt. Maj. Murdock on Gunslinger) plays his sidekick Windy Creel. Frank Albertson (starred in Alice Adams, Man Made Monster, and It's a Wonderful Life and played Mr. Cooper on Bringing Up Buddy) plays Leadville Sheriff Billy Boyce. Max Baer, Jr. (Jethro and Jethrine Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies) plays deputy recruit Frank. Percy Helton (Homer Cratchit on The Beverly Hillbillies) plays rich land-owner John McTavish. Ann Robinson (starred in The War of the Worlds, Dragnet, and Midnight Movie Massacre and played Queen Juliandra on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger and Helen Watkins on Fury) plays his wife Marie. Ty Hardin (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Bronco) plays Brewster's friend and fellow deputy recruit Bronco Layne.
Season 4, Episode 8, "Stranger in Town": Jacques Aubuchon (shown on the right, starred in The Silver Chalice, The Big Boodle, and The Love God? and played Chief Urulu on McHale's Navy) plays wealthy land-owner Harry Bishop. Richard H. Cutting (Manners, the tiny butler in 1950s Kleenex commercials) plays his gunman Vester. Harry Holcombe (appeared in The Fortune Cookie, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Foxy Brown, Escape to Witch Mountain, and Empire of the Ants and played Frank Gardner on Search for Tomorrow, Doc Benson on My Mother the Car, Mr. Kendricks on Barefoot in the Park, and Dr. J.P. Martin on Bonanza) plays renowned Judge Harry Davis. Kenneth MacDonald (played the judge 32 times on Perry Mason, played Col. Parker on Colt .45, and appeared in several Three Stooges shorts) plays a small-town sheriff. Mary Adams (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Window on Main Street) plays a doctor's wife Mrs. Turner.
Season 4, Episode 9, "Trouble at Sand Springs": Craig Hill (shown on the left, appeared in Detective Story, Tammy and the Bachelor, and The Swinger and played P.T. Moore on Whirlybirds) plays ex-con rancher Rance Benbow. Harry Lauter (Ranger Clay Morgan on Tales of the Texas Rangers, Atlasande on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, and Jim Herrick on Waterfront) plays his brother Bart. Tommy Rettig (Jeff Miller on Lassie) plays their kid brother Jimmy. Dayton Lummis (Marshal Andy Morrison on Law of the Plainsman) plays bank president Silas Rigsby. Suzanne Storrs (Janet Halloran on Naked City) plays his daughter Rhonda. Ross Elliott (Freddie the director on The Jack Benny Program and Sheriff Abbott on The Virginian) plays bank teller Jeff Hackett.