Release Date(s)1981 (March 24, 2015)
Studio(s)Fulvia Film (Grindhouse Releasing)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A+
Lucio Fulci was a God among rip-off artists. He could take any pre-existing film, reshoot it and come up with something so wholly original that it would almost shine brighter than the film he copied. And when he came up with an “original” idea... boy, it was a dozy. Here stands The Beyond. My friends: it’s a cinematic trip worth taking.
What is The Beyond about? Well... first, cram fully-bloated ghouls (dripping all sorts of icky fluid), exploding random body parts and every possible variation of eye violence you can think of into a haunted house/gates of Hell storyline, and you have only a sliver of the joy harnessed within this film. If you don’t look too deep into the plot, you’ll come away having enjoyed one of the premier gross-out flicks of all-time. And that’s not an understatement. I personally pushed the physical envelope while watching this one – I was partaking in a steak, mashed potato and green-bean lunch as I watched this film the first time and if I were a lesser, inexperienced gore-hound, I would have lost it all. Because, or in spite of all of that, The Beyond remains one of my top favorite horror films of all time.
The plot is simple. It’s 1927 New Orleans. An angry mob busts into a hotel, runs up to Room 36 and drags an artist kicking and screaming into the basement. There, they proceed to beat him with chains, crucify him and then pour acid soaked plaster on his face, leaving him there to die. Why? Maybe we’ll find out when we flash forward to 1981. We watch as Liza, a former New Yorker, inherits the hotel we just watched get mobbed and starts in with plans of remodeling it and turning it into a premiere locale. But as soon as she starts, weird occurrences begin to pop up, with people dying in macabre ways, and an undead army checking in as guests. Liza has to start piecing together all the clues, with the help of a doctor and a mysterious blind girl/ghost, to uncover a powerful secret that lives in her basement – a secret she won’t be able to cover up for much longer. Dun-dun dun! Believe me, the plot sounds much more follow-along-able on paper than it does on the screen. But also believe me, it’s a creepy and really fun flick – one that if you haven’t seen yet, will make for a really great horror movie night with your friends or that special someone you want to creep the ‘eff out.
Before I shower praise on this set (and I’m going to), please understand from the get go that this, as much as I personally wish it was, is not a Synapse release supervised by Don May, Jr. (who’s too busy throwing love at Dario Argento’s oeuvre right now to worry about this film). As it is, it’s a really good update of the previously released DVD set from Anchor Bay/Grindhouse. It’s still the director’s cut featuring all previously excised footage, and it’s presented as a 1080p transfer at 2.40:1 (encoded with MPEG-4 AVC). To my eyes, this is not a brand new master, rather a hi-def transfer of the original DVD elements. If you find my original review in the Old Bits, you’ll see I gave high marks to the previous DVD release at a time when 2k and 4k were pipedreams – so The Beyond in homes was never meant to be a reference quality film. I think a new remaster would have done this film justice, but as an upgrade to the very well presented DVD transfer, I have to say I’m happy overall. There are some digital artifacts, light-source trails and minor aliasing – but a lot of this has to do with the source material and the fact that this isn’t a thorough remastering job specifically for Blu-ray. I personally hardly noticed when I wasn’t looking for faults (I watched the film three times over three days and by the third time I was sucked back into the film and was really happy with the image overall). Color is really nice – Sergio Salvati gel choices are well-represented. Darks are dense and solid for the most part and flesh tones are really good. Unless you are some sort of purist who hates how movies used to look before crystal clear TVs and think everything has to be pristine or it’s flushable, I think you’ll be fine with this transfer. I’d certainly love to know that this film was getting a better transfer someday, but this is a great way to watch one of my favorite horror films. Audio is presented in four options: An new English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, a new English Dolby Digital 2.0 track, the original English Mono (DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0), and an original Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 track. English subtitles are also available. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is the track you’ll want to focus on – it’s a really good track with life and depth. The mono track seems to be different from the DVD track and includes some archival fallacies that were not present in the DVD’s mono – hiss, pops and other signs of age, which I found rather weird, but maybe Grindhouse was going for a… er, ah, “grindhouse” track with that. If you’re an audio purist, you’ll want to keep your DVD just for that.
For all the apologies I have for the audio and video not being up to 2015 snuff, I can’t say enough about the extras. In fact, I really just plan to list them out one after the other so you can see just how glorious they are.
Disc One features the film with the original commentary track with stars Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck, as well as a brand-new introduction from MacColl. There’s the full-color (as opposed to sepia-toned) Pre-Credit Sequence in German and English. And four trailers, a TV spot and radio ad as well as two Easter eggs on front screen. Hit down off the Special Features jump and find an archive of stills, interviews, poster art and other material that was on the original DVD set, set to music. Hit down off the Play Feature jump and find a trailer for the original American Seven Doors of Dead cut of the film.
Disc Two will take you at least a day to peruse, and that’s an awesome thing. The first jump is Interviews, and it’s massive: Looking Back: The Creation of The Beyond. Comes off as a straight talking-head documentary program with new interviews with folks behind the making of the film. (These include cinematographer Sergio Salvati, screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, producer Fabrizio De Angelis, Fulci’s daughter Antonella, graphic designer Enzo Sciotti – who made posters for some awesome Italian horror films, including this and Cat in the Brain.) This runs a little over 47 minutes. The New Orleans Connection: Larry Ray is an interview with New Orleans actor and weatherman Larry Ray (credited as Anthony Flees) on how he got involved, how he served as interpreter and then line producer and on up to travelling to Italy to be a stand-in during the spider attack scene. This also runs over 40 minutes and all of it’s remarkably interesting to watch. Beyond and Back is a little over a half-hour and focuses on actress Catriona MacColl and her working with Fulci. See Emily Play is an interview with model turned blind ghost Cinzia Monreale on her career and her dealings with Fulci. Making it Real has special effects artists Giannetto DeRossi and Maurizio Trani discussing working with Fulci for half-an-hour. Lucio Fulci Interview August 1988: Parts I and II are the raw recordings of tape sent to journalist Gaetano Mistretta in August 1988, after he sent a letter to Fulci requesting an interview with questions attached. Pretty wild. Together they run about 35 minutes and you’ll listen to every minute. Eurofest ’94: Lucio Fulci and David Warbeck has Fulci and actor David Warbeck participating in a Q&A before a screening of the film (47 minutes – found on the DVD). Eurofest ’96: Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck – This one is a quick interview with the actors on the legacy of the film (6 minutes, also on the DVD). There’s 1996 Festival of Fantastic Films: Catriona MacColl and 1996 Festival of Fantastic Films: David Warbeck. In that last one, actor David Warbeck explains how he entered the film business, his work in genre films, violence in films, etc. In Beyond Italy old school grindhouse distributor Terry Levene discusses how it was in the 70s and 80s bringing cult and genre films into the US and making them interesting to American audiences. It’s actually one of my favorite features on this set. If Sydney Greenstreet had an illegitimate son, Terry is him. It runs twenty or so minutes and comes from the UK Arrow release of The Beyond. The second jump is a Stills Gallery covering Production, Behind the Scenes and Promotional Material broken down by country along with magazine articles, book covers, t-shirts and what have you. Finally there are trailers for other Grindhouse Releasing titles, including Fulci’s Cat In The Brain, Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Massacre Mafia Style, Gone with Pope, Pieces, Corruption, The Swimmer, The Big Gundown, An American Hippie in Israel, Scum of the Earth, The Tough Ones, Ice House, and I Drink Your Blood. An Easter eggs can also be found if you jump off of Stills you’ll find the Necrophagia music video directed by Jim Van Bebber from the original DVD.
Finally, rounding out the set is a CD with the remastered original soundtrack music by Fabio Frizzi over 11 tracks, a liner booklet with an essay by gore hound journalist Chas Balun and a rather tedious list of movies Fulci ripped off with commentary by Martin Beine. Finally, I believe all copies floating around at this point are glow-in-the-dark, as a surprise – just set the slipcase packaging (sans discs) in a window for a day and it’ll glow yellow all night long. Not as cool as a Digital Copy, but still. As you can see, there is a lot of stuff on this set and all of it is great.
We take it for granted these days to have instant access to films like this. I’m happy I live in a world where any film conversation I have can almost immediately end with me actually watching the movie I was told I should see because I haven’t. The Beyond was one of those movies actually forbidden from many ever seeing, and to have it on Blu-ray and looking as good as it does (even if it could look better) is pretty exciting. However you choose, original DVD or this new Blu-ray, all I have to say is, do check of The Beyond if you like horror films. If you love them, then go the extra mile and get this set for the extras. It’s a nice stroll through the work of a true master.
- Todd Doogan