Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Mud Monster Cometh

In the fall of 1978, my brother and I sat down to watch some TV and stumbled across an oddity, an episode of a show called The World Beyond, which was about a guy who could see and talk to ghosts whenever they wanted to be seen or spoken to. And the ghosts would tell him to go places and do things. Already my brother and I were fans of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Circle Of Fear, and whatever other horrors were available over the airwaves in those dim, dark days before the advent of cable, home video, and the home entertainment explosion.

The World Beyond was the pilot for an occult detective television series in the vein of The Night Stalker(TV, 1972) and The Norliss Tapes(TV, 1973). As explained in the pre-credit sequence, sports writer Paul Taylor died while undergoing a surgical procedure but was retrieved from the brink of death. His brush with the "world beyond" allowed him to communicate with the dead--or, more correctly, for the dead to communicate with him. Had the pilot gone to series, each week would have seen Taylor dispatched by a spirit guide to protect innocents confronted by supernatural peril. In this, the second of two like-named pilots (the first being The World of Darkness, which I have never seen) Taylor found himself on a remote Canadian island whose inhabitants were being menaced and killed by a made of mud and sticks. Because of the monster's unique nature, this program was sometimes aired under the alternate broadcast title, "The Mud Monster."

Subtitled simply "Episode: Monster," The World Beyond was first aired in America on January 11, 1978 on the CBS Network. It was directed by Noel Black who had made a name for himself by directing the feature film Pretty Poison (1968). The teleplay was by Art Wallace, who also wrote The World of Darkness (TV, 1977), as well as episodes for various other fantastic television series such as Dark Shadows, Space: 1999, Planet of the Apes, Star Trek. One of Wallace's Star Trek episodes, "Assignment: Earth," was also a pilot for an unmade television series.

For years after, I could only remember the barest bones of situation, plot, characters; what I remembered best of this hour's worth of genre TV was the monster itself, and it haunted me (albeit in a good way) for decades. Until a phone conversation prompted a friend to perform a quickie search on to reveal the title of this long-lost childhood trauma. Though I have not seen it in over thirty years, I still recall it fondly. I think my brother does, too.

[The World Beyond has yet to show up on home video; it's even hard to find as a bootleg. Clips can be found on YouTube; the movie itself can be found at Super Strange Video--I have not yet sampled this outfits wares or services and so cannot attest to their quality.]

[This post was adapted from my own Wikipedia entry for The World Beyond.]

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