Beyond, The (UK - BD RB)
The Wilson Bros will face the sea of darkness in this Lucio Fulci classic...
“Woe be until he who opens one of the seven gateways to Hell - because through that gateway evil will invade the world”.
Louisiana 1927. Secluded in Room 31 of the Seven Doors Hotel, a sculptor opens one of the gateways to Hell upon which it was built. Trying to close it, he is lynched by a gang of God-fearing locals, unable to seal the rift before he is crucified and left to die. Years later, the Hotel is being renovated for its grand reopening, with the new owner blissfully unaware of its secrets. Accidents inexplicably occur, those close to her die off at a disturbing rate. Who is the blind girl with the silver eyes trying to warn of impending damnation? Why are the dead coming back to life? Can you load a Magnum by putting a bullet down the barrel? Lucio Fulci’s supernatural masterpiece The Beyond comes to Blu-ray, so keep an eye out for flesh-eating tarantulas and demonic plumbers as you settle down to find some answers…
Lucio Fulci was a general purpose director who started out directing comedies and then moved on to whatever was offered before falling into giallo murder-mystery thrillers and then hit the jackpot when the cash-in on the success of George A Romero's zombie opus, Dawn of the Dead, Zombi 2 (a.k.a. Zombie Flesh-Eaters, amongst many others) turned out to be phenomenally popular and suddenly Fulci found himself specialising in graphically violent horror, and in the middle of what many regard as his "golden age", he unleashed film that was parted haunted house, part zombie horror and with a good dash of (seemingly) nonsensical surrealism thrown in for good measure. In English, it was known as The Beyond.
To provide a comprehensive, encapsulated version of The Beyond is like trying to thread an entire pack of cooked spaghetti through a keyhole using one hand: each separate element just shoots off in different directions every time you think you have a firm grasp on it. How about this: Down-on-her-luck Brit Liza Merril (Catriona MacColl) inherits the dilapidated Seven Doors Hotel in New Orleans, where she sets about getting it ready for business. A couple of tradesmen come a cropper, the service-bell to number 36 rings of its own accord, the very room in which lived Schweick, an occultist lynched by a rampaging mob as he was putting the finishing touches to a painting of Hell. The house was constructed on one of the seven gateways to Hell itself, through which evil can invade the world. A mysterious blind girl warns Liza of the perils ahead as the dead rise up, children are possessed, dogs turn on their masters, bullets fly and flesh-eating spiders attack. Oh, and did we also mention possibly incestuous rednecks who become zombies? There is no way that spaghetti is going through now…
The Beyond started life simply being a haunted house movie, and if it had remained that way, it would have certainly been popular upon release, but a number of elements converged upon the film in pre-production that shaped the film into something that could truly be described as unique. Chief of these was the touch of Fulci himself, but the additional combination of lead actors, the incredible music score, deliriously full-on violence and the surrealist touches all helped to make The Beyond the film that is still celebrated as a horror masterpiece to this day. Oh, and the zombies probably had something to do with it, too.
Given its conventional origins, those going in blind might be more than a little surprised to find that The Beyond is actually a zombie movie, even when confronted with some of the artwork, which seems to almost downplay the fact. OK, not all of the posters, but there are a few. The title alone sucker-punches the unwary, with no trace of the usual words which signal the content, as Fulci chose not to deploy “Zombie”, “Dead” or even “Living Dead” when deciding what to call it - it’s possibly why The Beyond eluded us for as long as it did. This subterfuge is indicative of the film as a whole, where it chooses to be more than just the obvious. Where Romero offered satire and pathos to make his Dead series more than merely being an exercise in gore, Fulci infuses brain-frying occultism and the classic Italian gift of creating a dream-like logic which functions purely on its own terms. This movie is not for those of the disposition to brandish clipboards and tick off their film-school list of “correct” elements of structure, the very same philistines who gaze at Dali’s The Persistence of Memory and criticise it for the watches not being nice and straight.
The almost bizarre fusion of haunted house film and zombies came about because the German backers wanted to capitalise on the success of Fulci's Zombi 2 (better known to many dear UK readers as Zombie Flesh-Eaters), which saw the earth spitting out the dead and returning to suck the blood from the living, but Fulci's original idea was to have a young woman inheriting a hotel that was built on one of the seven gateways to Hell. Whilst the meshing of the two ideas can be seen as uncomfortable, it's only during the final act (which Fulci apparently rewrote at the insistence of the German moneymen) that the living dead part of the story really kicks into gear, but it works well because the shifting of concepts allows for a more spectacular climax, with a large body-count and more action-orientated tension, whilst still remaining largely faithful to Fulci's original outline. It should be noted that the film was released in German with the title "Ghost City of the Zombies" and the poster played up the living dead aspects of the film.
Fulci was a director who not only diversified his genres - becoming pigeonholed in the world of horror - but the level of energy ended up being equally varied. The opening sequence of House By The Cemetery is a perfect example of full-tilt Lucio, packed with bags of atmosphere and bristling with intensity. The rest of the movie fails to live up to its initial promise, becoming prosaic and sluggish. Happily, The Beyond sees the Maestro of Gore firing all on all cylinders as if powered by a V8 engine, with a sustained build up that culminates in balls-out, zombie-blasting mayhem which blows your socks off with your ankles still in them.
A perfect example of how Fulci had a rock-solid grasp on the proceedings comes early on, in a sequence which introduces his protagonists and future victim whilst still building a tangible air of foreboding. A clumsy redneck falls off of high scaffolding whilst restoring our heroine’s hotel. He’s taken inside, hovering between life and death as he babbles about demonic eyes staring at him - a doctor is called, who arrives and turns out to be the hero of the story. “I sure would like to know how a man can fall off a scaffolding six feet wide?” wonders a bystander, building the mystery. Said bystander notices a Hellish painting, the music turning to an ominous pitch… Bam! A buzzer rings, coming from Room 36. “I wasn’t aware that you’d already scored a client” ponders the bystander. Our heroine looks both worried and puzzled: “Client? There isn’t a soul here…”. This scene is a perfect example of economic storytelling, with a tangible sense of unease generated by Fulci at the top of his game in the horror genre.
David Warbeck is every inch the leading man in this film; he has a dynamism that is magnetic and the camera loves every square inch of him, being almost ridiculously photogenic from every conceivable angle. His demeanour is such that he almost telepathically says that he's Doctor John McCabe and if you don't believe it, that's your own problem - from his first scene and the delivery of the line "this man needs to be taken do hospital; I'll clean up the wound first - have you got any water?" you can't take your eyes off him. It is worth pointing out that the man from New Zealand was in the frame to take over from Sean Connery as Bond, but ended up losing out to Roger Moore - the similarities between Warbeck and the victor are certainly there, with both of them having a dry wit and being of the same build, but the lighter touch that won Moore the 007 gig is not so evident in Warbeck, which suits him fine for his role in The Beyond.
Catriona MacColl puts in a great performance as Liza; this was her second film for Lucio Fulci, which was made right in the middle of his "Golden Age of Gore" and many fans would argue that this was her best performance of the trio, as does MacColl herself. She plays a woman who had tried her hand at various careers, crashing and burning with all of them and trying desperately to make a go of the old hotel, which for Liza is more of a Last Chance Saloon. It’s said that those who try at many things rather than pursing one are forever damned to fail, and Liza is certainly on the unhappy road to Hell.
Speaking of those in front of the camera, in true Hitchcock fashion, Fulci puts in a cameo in this film, as he did with many others. Unlike Hitch, Fulci preferred to play a character rather than just make a fleeting appearance on-screen, preferring to portray authority figures (in Zombi 2 he was a newspaper editor, in The New York Ripper, he was a senior police chief) in The Beyond, he plays a librarian and his cameo is fleeting enough not to pull viewers out of the film, unlike his thespian efforts in the aforementioned The New York Ripper.
As was the case with many Italian productions that featured location filming in America, the locations tended to be more east-coast based (New York and Florida were the most popular choices), presumably because it was cheaper than flying out to the west-coast. The Beyond has extensive location work in Louisiana, making good use of various places, including New Orleans (with Fulci being a die-hard jazz enthusiast, it must have been hell to shoot there...), utilising The Big Easy in a very pleasing manner. A scene in which Warbeck and MacColl have a drink together in a bar wonderfully captures the flavour of the Deep South and combines location with Fulci's beloved jazz that transforms what could have easily been a dull expository-heavy sequence into some that oozes New Orleans from every frame of film.
If we were forced to choose a key moment brilliantly pulled of by the director which firmly put him in the realms of Godhood, it is the following. Our two heroes are battling hoards of zombies running amuck in the local hospital, blasting holes through the undead fiends as they go. With absolutely no foreshadowing or telegraphing portent, Warbeck and MacColl are instantly back in the basement of the Seven Doors Hotel. Watching it the first time, it blew our minds with all the power and conviction of Warbeck shooting a ginger-haired kid, but even upon umpteenth screenings, we share nothing but purest appreciation of a spectacular piece of spatial distortion, a prime example of pulling the rug out from under the feet of the audience without seeming like a cheap rouse. Other movies would have thrown in a line of varying vagueness earlier on to prepare those watching, but Fulci is unapologetic. See it and forever be impressed.
Always an audience favourite is our trusty tradesman Joe the Plumber. You know you’re in trouble when to the question of how long a job will take him, he sparks up a fag and drawls: "It’ll take… as long as it takes…” Let’s be honest: he’s about the least Louisiana-looking guy you could possibly find, but the goofy charm of having Tonino Pulci being one of the hairiest zombies you’re ever likely to see outweighs any shortcomings in geographical credibility. That Pulci’s hefty screen presence only say him star in a couple of other films is something of a mystery, and that one of the others was by Fulci, where had a memorable turn as an orderly in Manhattan Baby, and you have to wonder why he wasn’t used more often. We still suspect that he was deployed as part of the slanging-match during the last Presidential race for the Whitehouse, as Joe the Plumber was the political football kicked between the two candidates, hoping to convince small businessmen that incoming changes to the tax system would see them go bust. Think of how much more involving the message would have been if Obama had ripped out John McCain’s eye whilst wearing an bandana.
Giannetto De Rossi's make-up effects work in Zombi 2 was always going to be difficult to top, but he managed to come up with something in The Beyond that exceeded (or at the very least tied with) the moment where Olga Karlatos' eye meets a very large splinter in a "doesn't-so-much-need-glasses-more-a-monocle" sort of fashion. The sequence here shows the demise of Jill, the daughter of Joe the Plumber, who has been possessed in the same manner as Emily and then meets a sticky demise at the hands of McCabe's gun in a way that has her head resembling an egg-cup for something laid by an ostrich. The scene is well-shot, smartly-edited and the make-up effects are superb - the results are a moment that will linger in the memory longer than almost anything else in The Beyond.
It’s been pointed out that for every stunning effect which leaves your jaw hanging open, there is one which is less than perfectly executed, and it pains us to agree that this is the case. The wee lassie getting a hole blasted through her head (as mentioned above) is suitably mind-blowing, whilst the acid-burned face of Jill’s mother is perfectly valid as a piece of art, but they are used to balance out other elements. When Joe the Plumber has his eye ripped out, closer inspection reveals that Scweick but have been rather heavy-handed, as our man with the plunger’s eyelid comes off with it. When Dicky the Dog turns of his blind mistress, the camera dwells on the canine puppet a little too much, revealing its prosthetic origins, compounded by the obviously rubber facial appendages it rips off when attacking. Argento was able to avoid this with the guide-dog savaging scene in Suspiria, but Fulci wasn’t as careful as Dario.
Then we come to the dreaded tarantulas. For those not in the know, someone trying to unravel the mystery of the Seven Doors Hotel comes a cropper when looking for the original blue-prints. Just when you think he might have survived a nasty high fall, along come a hoard of tarantulas and rip the flesh from his face; horrific in concept, and creepy in execution - as long as you keep your eyes on the spider in the middle of the screen. To bolster the amount of the furry-legged blighters, puppets were constructed and used at the far ends of the compositions, keeping them out of direct sight. While they might look good on their own, the fake ones look laughable when put next to the real thing, where the awkward movement and basic puppeteering elicits giggles. This sequence drew a wave of chuckling when we saw it at the Eurofest, and nobody was laughing harder than the late, great David Warbeck. Like Joanna Cassidy’s boots in Blade Runner, or the Stormtrooper smacking his head in Star Wars, these are classed as “beloved mistakes” by us fans, and ones which only add to the charm, in spite of their imperfect nature.
It's not just a couple of the effects which can be called into question - there are numerous non-sequitur thrown into the dialogue for little or no reason; often these could be because they don't translate that favourably from the original Italian, or during the dubbing stage, words were substituted for similar ones in order to have the mouths matching the dialogue more closely. One of The Beyond's most celebrated gaffes has to do with a piece of signage, which can be seen in the hospital to warn members of the public that an area was off-limits; though the sign is in English, it's a pretty safe bet that it was made in Italy by a non-English speaking person, as it should have read either "No Entry" or "Do Not Enter", but instead it is a bizarre hybrid, boldy stating "Do Not Entry". To say that it's broken English is a bit of an understatement - it's English that was broken, crucified, burnt, reconstituted with flour and water, then finger-painted into something vaguely resembling proper English.
David Warbeck tried to put his own stamp on the film, making little suggestions along the way. As a veteran of the exploitation genre, he knew that a lot of these movies were achingly generic, rushed out with little regard for the idiosyncrasies which make them stand out, and always tried ”…to give them some flavour“. With The Beyond, Warbeck sought to cram in a tribute to Jack Nicholson’s axe-wielding turn in The Shining, asking Fulci if he could brandish a pair of shears in order to break into an old house. It‘s fitting of just how preoccupied with the work at hand that Lucio only reluctantly played along, dismissing such endeavours with the words: “David, David, stop icing the cake”.
Another piece altered through Warbeck was during the climactic shootout in the hospital, where our hero blows holes through anything in his path. As scripted (and adamantly insisted by the director) Warbeck was supposed to aim a gun at a zombie, with a squib set to go off in synch with the dummy round in the gun. The Kiwi thespian was well aware of the lethal potential of firing blanks in someone’s face at close range (Brandon Lee being a prime example of blanks being hazardous to the continuation of living) and utterly refused to do it, and was the only time Warbeck had ever kicked off during a project. Tempers were lost on both sides of the camera, but Warbeck won out, out ends up shooting the zombie in question twice in the body instead. If your look carefully, you can see the squib rigged up on the guy’s head, waiting for a detonation which didn’t come.
David Warbeck also exercised his mischievous side during the shooting of The Beyond; during the escape from the hospital during the final act, there is a quiet moment where McCabe, Liza and the soon-to-be-ventilated wee lassie enter a lift, as the door closes, McCabe is seen reloading his gun. Warbeck wanted to see if anyone was paying attention to what he was actually doing, so he can be seen reloading the gun by putting a bullet down the barrel; though Warbeck was playing the scene seriously, MacColl looks down at what he is doing and just as the closing lift door passes her, you can see a smile appear on her lips for a split-second. It's a little moment of hilarity that doesn't spoil the film, as it's more of an in-joke for fans; it's something that couldn't have been better executed if it had been intentionally scripted. The fact that it made it into the finished film confirmed Warbeck's suspicion that the crew weren't paying all THAT much attention to what was going on in front of the camera...
It’s common knowledge among those who have watched the odd movie or two that a cinematic tale lives or dies by its ending, especially one which operates within its own parameters. With such an enticing premise, a coda which leaves the audience scratching its head will have them shrugging off the previous ninety minutes, the whole experience quickly evaporating from the mind. This happened with Fulci’s previous City of the Living Dead, where the hasty, illogical, “this’ll do” resolution grates among the hardiest of Lucio’s fans. No such problems with the dénouement of The Beyond, which is a thing of almost crystalline beauty, confounding the viewers’ senses whilst providing an open-ended yet conversely final conclusion to the demonic tale. The combination of achingly bleak design, haunting music and fate of our heroes combine to make every hair on the back of your neck stand up, like those of a rabid dog sensing a kill. The cinema exploded into applause when the credits rolled, and we distinctly remember a standing ovation in its honour. Sometimes it’s the reaction of an audience which determines a films’ true worth.
There is a richness to the story which bewitches the viewer long after the zombie-blasting fun has long flickered past the bulb of the projector, and this comes courtesy of the writers not being afraid to plunder the plunder the work of others. The use of the Book of Eibon as the primary McGuffin is a perfect example of an item which rings true as both part of an established mythology for those in the know, and as a separate entity the uninitiated will embrace. Although The Beyond is widely linked to the Cthulhu universe through using elements from Lovecraft, attribution of Fulci’s masterpiece to ol’ HP is rather saucy. As a matter of record, The Book of Eibon was created by Clarke Aston Smith as part of his Hyperborean Cycle, but as the two authors “borrowed” so many element from each other, their work has become intertwined down the years, merging literary landscapes and leaving the Cthulhu link to The Beyond rather tenuous. Acclaimed film critic Alan Jones cites City of the Living Dead as his favourite Fulci movie, due to it containing numerous direct links to Lovecraft, and cements that Lucio was embracing mysticism at the time. It puts us in mind of line from The Bird with the Crystal Plumage: “I’m going through a mystical period… because I feel mystical…”
Well, how about this for something you probably didn’t know? A sequel to The Beyond was in the works. Obviously the idea of making another one was idly kicked around by producers with nothing in the works and a fear of trying something new, but a more definite attempt was made in the mid/late nineties. A friend of ours, Mr Dave Andrews, came up with an ingenious idea for a sequel to be made, and was in close contact with Warbeck, who was really enthused by the concept. With both Warbeck and a good plot in hand, they were going to punt for financiers to get the project off the ground, as the title was a successful one, having legs around Europe and beyond. Warbeck was undergoing chemotherapy at the time, and was going get cracking afterwards. Sadly, an unexpected complication claimed Warbeck’s life, with real possibility of a genuine sequel dying with him.
We couldn’t write a review of The Beyond without mentioning the wondrous score by Fabio Frizzi, which drives certain sequences along which might have otherwise been almost pedestrian, along with bringing a disconcerting sweetness to accompany the horrors unleashed by Fulci. A simple theme played on the piano is used time and again, whenever evil is lurking on the fringes, employed as leitmotif for the unseen creatures watching their prey, the pitch masterly to raise the tension as surely as the hairs on the back of the neck. When Warbeck and MacColl meet their fate and realise all that stands before them, Frizzi evokes an utterly stunning air through a plaintive, eerie piece played on a flute, gathering more instruments like a boulder collecting grass as it rolls down a hill. So amazing was his work for The Beyond that he was not above recycling it in other movies, as anyone who as seen Manhattan Baby (aka Possessed) will attest, as it plays almost like a greatest hits compilation of Frizzi’s, with bits either stolen wholesale or only slightly reworked to be called “new”. Hell, even the trad-jazz piece playing in the local bar as Warbeck and MacColl have a drink together suffered the indignity of being reused in Fulci’s cinematic mix-tape Cat in the Brain, as Lucio spies on his raunchy neighbour getting her kit off. In spite of such thievery, The Beyond has music to be savoured.
Believe it or not, we came to the party more than just fashionably late with this one. It just slipped past us, being already more than familiar with the other movie in Fulci’s zombie cycle. It turned out to be fortuitous, as the first time we saw it was on the big screen, something surprisingly few of our generation can lay claim to, with video being the primary medium for initially seeing it. Nope, we had the pleasure of catching it at the 1994 Eurofest (Part 2) in Hampstead all those years ago. The experience was an electrifying one, and certainly rates in our top five of cinematic screenings. Not only did we have our senses scrambled by a lovely 35mm print of Lucio’s masterpiece, but we got to meet both the director himself and star David Warbeck afterwards! Needless to say that has left The Beyond firmly cemented in our favourites of the genre. It is a movie made for an audience, giving them the hallowed combination of thrills, chills and pure exhilaration, all in the name of having the best time possible.
The Beyond has been released digitally several times over the years, originally being brought onto DVD via EC Entertainment in a non-anamorphic transfer, only to be eclipsed a few years later by the Anchor Bay/Grindhouse release that boasted an all-new anamorphic transfer. So, how does the first release on Blu-ray look…?
Superficially, it’s most impressive, with a very clean and colourful-looking print, but if you start making direct comparisons with the Anchor Bay transfer, then some of the problems begin to show themselves; the main problem is that there is a distinct lack of image detail in faces (such as pores in the skin and various blemishes), which is symptomatic of excessive digital noise reduction (DNR), but it’s not as extreme as some overzealous usage of the technology, although it is noticeable in a direct comparison. Having said this, with the improvements which are offered in the HD transfer, it was the first time that we really noticed that Maria Pia Marsala (Jill) was hired to play younger than her years, with her acne, betraying her real age thanks to the Arrow Blu-ray.
As with Arrow's Day of the Dead, grain structure is more noticeable on darker shots. The brightness levels are also a little troubling - it has been said that the brightness levels have been dialled-down in the replacement transfers, but there are still a couple of troubling moments when we (as huge fans of the film) were distracted by suspenseful moments that looked like they were lit by the sort of light usually seen in a football stadium.
Whilst we always like to give praise where deserved, Arrow’s copy of The Beyond has a vibrancy to it that breathes new life into the film, and gives it a freshness that makes Anchor Bay’s decade-old transfer seem positively archaic. This transfer is also relatively free from imperfections, although one or two pop up here and there, you can forgive them. There also appears to be a noticeable amount of extra information on either side of the screen than on the Anchor Bay transfer, also with a wee bit more information at the top and bottom, too.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio track is a really involving presentation of the movie, with the aforementioned score by Fabio Frizzi showcased in pleasing fashion. We all know that the dialogue track is always going to sound a little thin, but there are no complaints from us - in fact, there were a number of instances where the sweetening work done made some of the more noticeably dubbed actors not as obvious as before.
The real trump card here is the use of separation, putting all manner of atmospheric sounds all around your viewing room. Any sequence which takes place in the basement of the hotel is a winner, with rumblings and dripping water placed with pin-point accuracy, including a number of instances where you would swear on a stack of bibles that noises came from directly behind you. Take a listen during the “Attack, Dickie, Attack” scene, and there is the really disconcerting sound of heavy breathing firmly placed inches from your head! Bass is plentiful and controlled, but like the Anchor Bay SD mix, the DTS-MA track uses newer effects for the sake of higher fidelity, and whilst it might niggle a little, you get to wrapped up in the immersive experience that you forget all about it.
Those thoroughly miffed will want to stick to the DTS 2.0 alternative, or even choose the Italian DTS 2.0 option, along with subtitles.
Introduction by star Cinzia Monreale: Egad, she still looks damn good even after thirty years! Through distinctly broken English, Ms Monreale welcomes viewers to The Beyond, and while the sentiment is nice, it might have been a little more fair on her if phonetic cue-cards could have been made up beforehand.
Audio Commentary #1: Antonella Fulci gets the chance to discuss the movie and her father, with Calum Waddell able to turn the valve on her fountain of knowledge whilst gently getting around her minor trips over the English language. This might have been a time where the participant could have been left to speak their native dialect and have the whole affair subtitled, enabling a more free-flowing traffic of information, but this would have been alienating for the less-than-rabid fan, so having Waddell seems the best option. We’re very happy to report that this is no replay of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist track, where he does little more than narrate events, as this is screen-specific, with il Bambina Fulci using the opportunity to cover the other key movie in her father’s career, including the time when the bottom dropped out of the Italian industry and how his legacy has survived to this day. The thorny subject of Zombi 3 is touched upon, where Ms Fulci confirms that the combination of the Philippine weather, liver problems and absolutely no money conspired to see the project go down the toilet. This is really good stuff, from a person deeply rooted in the life and work of Italy’s legendary filmmaker, and certainly worth about 87 minutes of your time.
Audio Commentary #2: Stars David Warbeck and Catriona MacColl were brought together for one final time in the mid-90s to record a commentary track for a Laserdisc release of The Beyond. This commentary track eventually surfaced on Anchor Bay’s DVD release of the film and it is most certainly something to savour, as the track was recorded with Warbeck almost literally on his deathbed; though his voice was shockingly frail, Mr W was still able to rattle off anecdotes about the film, the production and his career in general in a manner that rivalled Kenneth Williams or Orson Welles in terms of the fine art of being a raconteur. Warbeck and MacColl still had great chemistry together, with the effortlessly charming Warbeck making the proceedings a laugh-a-minute. However great this commentary is, it is certainly a bittersweet experience, as Warbeck was clearly not long for this earth and when he passed away, the world was robbed not only of a great actor, but a genuinely decent guy who had a dry quip for almost any occasion.
AKA Sarah Keller - Cinzia Monreale remembers The Beyond: The actress better known as Sarah Keller reminisces about her experiences working on the film that would go on to become a horror classic and would also transform her into something of an icon in exploitation cinema. You have to admire her gift for understatement when she describes Beyond the Darkness as “a strange tale”, finding it too violent for her personal tastes. Fulci rescued her from the gurning hell of comedies and eventually cast her in The Beyond, a lifeline which Monreale grasped with both hands as a way of changing how she operated as an actress. She recalls her bond with Fulci, connecting with him on an emotional and even psychic level, clearly enjoying his company, and quick to dispute his much-touted misogyny but admits he threw “tantrums” quite often. Possibly the oddest nugget to come out of this documentary is the revelation that Monreale went shopping for hats in New Orleans with Catriona MacColl. She is happy with her lot in life, and makes it clear that she wouldn’t mind working in the UK given the opportunity, so anyone with a number of Euros to rub together can bag themselves an icon of Italian cinema. It’s another nicely produced look at a fan favourite, but it’s a shame that Mr Waddell couldn’t have got Ms Keller to take those bangles off before recording, as he must have known how much Italians wave their arms around when engaged in animated conversation.
Catriona MacColl Q&A from the Glasgow Film Theatre: As though he is stalking the female cast of The Beyond, Calum Waddell secretes himself into the position of moderator during a Q&A session at the aforementioned venue, at which was a rare screening of the movie. Whilst we all know that the lady herself has higher aspirations in the field of acting, MacColl is no less gracious for discussing he time out in Italy and the fandom which surrounds her work and the emphasis here really IS on the word grace, as those who have attended such shindigs will know that there is usually at least one individual who asks the most inane question, which leaves the rest of the audience groaning internally and feeling profoundly sorry for the person at whom the question is aimed. In this case, a gentleman with a heavy Weegee accent who had spent several minutes noisily chomping crisps (and rustling the packet equally loudly, much to Mr Wadell’s suppressed annoyance), who blathers in a suspiciously inebriated manner about the version at the screening having extra material he hadn’t seen before - Ms MacColl manages to pull this toe-curling moment out of the fire in an impressive fashion.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting the woman at other festivals won’t find entirely new material, including Fulci’s rather dubious treatment of certain women on the set, which goes rather nicely with his legendary outbursts which only fanned the flames of resentment by those Fulci already had a downer on. The quality really isn’t that terrific, but those of us who still have our Best of the Fest tapes from Midnight Media will attest that things aren’t that bad. This is an informative and fun extra (even though the aforementioned dodgy moment threatens to derail the fun factor at one point) and Ms MacColl comes of as a radiant actress whom fate just happened to pluck her and put here squarely into the category of cinematic icon.
Easter Egg - Darren Ward Remembers David Warbeck: This is nice little extra, with the titular director of Dave’s last movie telling how a chance meeting with Warbeck ended in asking to appear in his low budget epic, Sudden Fury. Ward can’t say enough good things about Mr W, and you can really feel that the late thespian’s visible decline during filming hit Ward quite hard. Any chance to salute the hard-working stalwart of the genre is a welcome one, and it’s well-worth seeking out this little nugget. Here is a perfect example of material which doesn’t directly relate to the film, but its discrete inclusion enriches the overall experience though being an Easter-egg.
Disc 2: DVD
One Step Beyond - Catriona MacColl Remembers a Spaghetti Splatter Classic: This interview with lead actress Catriona MacColl runs for nearly half an hour and she is fairly candid about her experiences working with Lucio Fulci on three occasions and her how her opinions of the trilogy of films have changed over the last three decades. MacColl looks great for a woman of her age and there is a sense of graciousness to her that feels like it has been slowly accumulated since her time working for Fulci and that as much as she clearly isn’t artistically proud of that particular part of her career, she has come to realise just how much other people love the films and that love would translate into a comfy seat on the gravy train that has retirement as its final destination – it’s what we like to call the Tom Baker Effect.
MacColl speaks warmly of her Beyond co-star, David Warbeck, but went on to stress the differences between them in terms of career paths - she was what could be regarded as a "serious" actress with a sense of where she wanted her professional life to be and she opines that Warbeck was more of a party animal who acted in movies just for the hell of it, but MacColl stressed that he worked hard when on set. One Step Beyond is an entertaining way to fill half an hour and although it is just someone sitting motionless in front of a camera, albeit interspersed with brief clips and stills to illustrate parts of the interview, Catriona MacColl makes for a great interviewee and the time just seems to fly by.
Beyond Italy – Louis Fuller and the Seven Doors of Death: Head of the successful/controversial Aquarius distribution company in New York, Arrow gives us a lengthy interview with Terry Levene, the man who re-edited and re-scored the Fulci classic for mass consumption in America. Being at the forefront of US exploitation, there are many tales to be told selling seats, and if you are looking for sensationalism, look no further.
Sitting in an office line with posters of all his own other people’s work, Levene discusses how he got into the business through his parents, taking up an active sales position at Fox, before eventually turning down a job at Disney after he tired for working for major corporations. Controlling 42nd Street cinemas meant that he could “doctor-up” foreign films to bring in the New York punters.
We’re not entirely comfortable with the rather blasé way Levene buggers about with perfectly finished movies in order to Americanise them. About 13 years ago, we saw Dr Butcher, M.D, the suitably mutilated Aquarius release of Marino Girolami’s Zombie Holocaust. It was our first experience of the movie, and even without prior knowledge, even a blind man could have pointed out every instance of tampering. The packed cinema howled the place down with laughter, and whilst Levene would have doubtless read this as a “positive response” because the punters were having a good time, we just saw a movie being laughed at through no further fault of its’ own. Was he the idiot who came up with the ridiculous tagline for the trailer "he's a depraved, sadistic rapist!"? More than likely...
He explains that The Beyond’s title “wasn’t strong enough”, seizing and bastardising the seven gateways reference at the beginning, cynically creating an artificial element of mystery and progressive level of threat to the saleability. It says a lot that he came up with titles that the audience “wouldn’t have to think about”, and whilst we know that there are a great number of people who would be drawn into a movie with such a name, there is a palpable sense of contempt about the proceedings. It’s widely reported that Levene’s mutilated version of The Beyond was his preferred edit, as it “cut out all the boring bits”.
His business was selling compromised, independent films through tacky, misleading guerrilla marketing campaigns with the aggressive sensibilities of a boardroom executive. It covers the deeply crass way they promoted Dr Butcher, M.D by parking a flatbed truck with banners and nurses all over it in front of respectable venues until they were order to move off. Aquarius was responsible for releasing a few of the deeply crap Bruce Lee rip-offs which flooded the market, including the ludicrous Fist of Fear, Touch of Death, so quality of product was incidental to the box-office potential.
This guy just really rubbed us up the wrong way, as he is a person clearly whom has little passion for filmmaking, only in what somebody else’s work can do for him. He spouts some incredible bollocks about some of the top-level international directors made “non-English” movies which sold in loads of different territories, labelling them as “accomplished filmmakers as well as accomplished film distributors”. He tries to name a few such legends, with only Argento coming to mind. What about Lucio Fulci? You know, the guy whose movie you butchered. Would the name Louis Fuller jog the memory, then? Argento certainly makes films primarily for himself, as do any number of his peers.
This is a well-produced documentary of a modern day PT Barnum, and seems just a little too pleased with bathing in reflective glory. All that needs to be said comes when Levene is notably irritated when discussing how Quentin Tarantino re-released The Beyond through his Grindhouse company, as though taking credit for Levene’s personal triumph. No, Tarantino discovered “The Beyond”, not that fetid piece of crap Aquarius turned it into. Christ, he doesn’t even get his name right. “Clinton” Tarantino. Right…
Butcher, Baker and Zombie-maker - The Living Dead Legacy of special effects wizard Gianetto De Rossi: De Rossi is a veteran of many European horror films, but his zombie-related assignments are the main focus of this documentary, starting with what was seen by many as the first truly European zombie film, Jorge Grau’s The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, which was the first zombie film to feature realistic depictions of the living dead carrying out flesh-eating acts of carnage in vivid colour; after spinning out one or two amusing anecdotes about this particular film, he takes us on a breakneck tour of his other zombie collaborations, sharing some of his thoughts on how successful he thought his work was on each one - he goes out of his way to say that he didn’t really like the spider sequence in The Beyond (and he had a sly cameo in the film as Sweik’s hand during the crucifixion scene at the start of the film). Curiously, De Rossi doesn’t really speak about what was arguably The Beyond’s most celebrated effect, Jill getting the top of her head blown off at point-blank range…
There was a certain degree of confusion about Giannetto De Rossi over the years, fuelled by the mysterious “Gino” De Rossi, but this was due to an inaccurate recollection by Catriona MacColl herself in an interview with John Martin back in the nineties, when she vaguely recalled were two De Rossis and that they were probably brothers, owing her confusion to the passage of time.
Be it sibling or singular, De Rossi comes across as a very genial man and speaks remarkably good English; he seems relaxed and happy to talk about his work and also puts forward some interesting ideas concerning the psychology of horror films and his opinion on why they seem perennially popular with teenage audiences. De Rossi also speaks of the degree of luck that plays a part in how successful an effect can be, but luck would really depend on all of the usual circumstances that happen to come into play, including lighting, cinematography, editing, sound effects, etc, but all of them combined could possibly be regarded as luck. De Rossi’s heavy Italian accent and wonderfully baritone voice is enchanting and you practically hang on every word he says, making this interview extremely engaging - not to mention enjoyable - and you are left wanting more.
While Sig. De Rossi might not have the same commercial clout as Tom Savini (De Rossi badmouths Dawn of the Dead’s blue-grey-faced zombies in this), to many, his name brings the same sense of admiration and glee as George Romero’s moustachioed collaborator, being as fundamental to the success of Fulci during his heyday as Savini was to Romero during his and this documentary is a fine way of paying tribute to a man whose talents in the world of special make-up effects is almost criminally underrated.
This entertaining documentary apes the style of the Catriona MacColl interview elsewhere on the disc, with its’ subject being interviewed at length by an off-screen interviewer, punctuated and illustrated by clips and stills from relevant films. It’s a lot of fun, and throws a worthy spotlight onto an Italian whose work has turned more stomachs around the world than Berlusconi leering at model Mara Carfagna.
Fulci Flashbacks - Reflections on Italy’s Premiere Paura Protagonist: This is possibly the ultimate in porn for Fulci fanatics, with a procession of family, colleagues and associates jockeying for position to recall their memories of the man himself. First up is Camera Operator Roberto Forges Davanzati, then Daria Nicolodi, followed by daughter Antonella Fulci, after which is Dario Argento, just before Gianetto Di Rossi, with Sergio Stivaletti at the end of the queue.
With the nature of the documentary being a series of recollections from those who knew him, it is rather difficult to critique in terms of style, as it laid out simply so as to take nothing away from what it being said. There are many engrossing and amusing tales of Fulci, both on and off set, and the kind of things which help to humanise a director saddled with a rather poor reputations whilst working. Oh, and did we mention that the interviews are interspersed with cool clips from Fulci trailers…?
Aside from being thoroughly entertained, we heard a number of things which were previous unknown to us, and to learn more about Fulci is a thumbs-up from us. What is there to be gleaned? Allow us to amalgamate a number of points: Lucio was… an underrated director who hated actors, but did actually get on with Argento, and whose style is now being rightfully studied by upcoming filmmakers, a man who screamed at everybody, but who could turn his hand to any genre. Loved horses, too.
There are many directors who have departed this world where they leave a jet-trail of sycophantic associates ready to prattle on about how huge their genius was and truly revolutionary they were, but there are few like Fulci whom are as fondly remembered for the person they were as well as their body of work. This documentary is as sincere as the memories it records for posterity.
Alternative colour pre-credits sequence: Casting our minds back to the heady days of London’s Eurofests, there was much excitement when somebody was able to get their hands on the ultra-rare opening sequence to The Beyond which was actually filmed… in colour! We were duly given a dupe of it from a friend, and whilst the quality was pretty ropy, it still entranced as another facet to a beloved movie. It’s a fact of life that such achingly obscure material is in the public domain courtesy of advancing technology, but Arrow give UK folk the chance to see the German footage here, certainly looking better than your old clip of it.
Original International Trailer: You know it, you love it and it’s here for your delectation - clocking in at around three-and-a-half minutes, this coming attraction starts mysteriously, baffling would-be audiences with the shots of Catriona McColl driving along the huge bridge and encountering blind Emily (Cinzia Monreale) in the middle of the bridge. After that, you are thrown into a montage of some of the more violent scenes from the film (showing the visceral demises of many of the characters), all accompanied to Fabio Frizzi’s stirring and mysterious theme. For those of you who have never seen The Beyond, we would recommend that you avoid watching this trailer before seeing the thing (it’s perverse, we know, but it makes sense), as it even gives away the wonderfully surreal ending of the film.
Yes, this has been a long review, and we hope that you haven’t got your arses kicked for running over your lunch break whilst reading, but with a movie as cherished and so many extras, there was a lot to say. Is The Beyond a perfect film? No, it isn’t, and we’ve had no qualms listing a few of it’s flaws in this review. It is Lucio Fulci’s undisputed masterpiece? No, as this particular honour would go to Don’t Torture A Duckling, but The Beyond comes a pretty close second. If we were asked to sum up The Beyond in one sentence, it would probably be something like this “The Beyond is a wild, confusing, baffling, exhilarating, gory romp that will knock your socks off and leave you wanting more.” Or something along those lines, anyway. We absolutely LOVE this damn movie, and is one which hits the spot every time it’s popped into the drive.
Arrow Films have copped a lot of shit over the mastering problem that left the pre-credit sequence in black and white, rather than the yellowish sepia that Cinematographer Sergio Salvati intended. The company has admitted that they screwed up and have been bending over backwards to rectify the problem, going above and way beyond (no pun intended) the call of duty in order to ensure that anyone who had one of the copies with the incorrect black and white opening would be able to get a replacement copy sent to them - they aren't even asking purchasers to send them back the original discs - just provide proof of purchase. Corrected copies of The Beyond are being rushed into shops and warehouses as we write this, and there some of the major studios whom wouldn’t go to so much effort to rectify an error like this, let alone moving as fast to do so. Arrow Films, along with Shameless, really do care about their fans and it's because of this that they deserve the support of genre fans.
Arrow are the first - once again - to have the world debut of a much-loved horror title on Blu-ray and they have made a pretty good fist of the transfer, in both video and audio departments. provided a great selection of bonus features. With no other release on the cards anywhere else in the world, this is the only Blu-ray release and should it eventually surface in other countries, they will NOT have the superb extras which are exclusive to this release. Being a region-free pressing, we can see a huge overseas demand for this Blu-ray edition of The Beyond, and it will be money well spent no matter which currency you are paying in.
A beloved classic of the horror genre gets its day in high-definition court, courtesy of Arrow.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Wilson Bros
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 14th March 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS-HD 2.0 English, DTS HD 2.0 Italian
Extras: 2x Audio Commentaries, Introduction, AKA Sarah Keller, Q&A With Catriona MacColl, Easter Egg, Beyond Italy, Butcher, Baker and Zombie Maker, Fulci Flashbacks, Colour Pre-Credits Sequence, International Trailer,
Easter Egg: No
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monerale, Al Cliver
Length: 88 minutes
Follow our updates
OTHER INTERESTING STUFF
Super Mario Bros.: The Movie UK - BD RB Kiss the Bride AU - DVD R4 Red Canyon UK - DVD R2 Battle in Heaven UK - DVD R2 Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid US - DVD R1
Contagion US - BD RA Hole, The US - BD RA Constant Gardener, The US - DVD R1 Indie Horror Bonanza III US - BD RA Designated Victim, The UK - DVD R2