When DVD became the dominant format in home video, it allowed a lot of genre films that had never gotten proper treatment on video to be rescued. The Beyond is a great example of such a film. On VHS, it was only available in a cut-down, rescored form as Seven Doors Of Death. Grindhouse Releasing gave the original version a proper remastering in celluloid form, teaming with Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder for a fondly-remembered theatrical revival in the mid ’90s, and then teamed with Anchor Bay for a DVD edition that made long-suffering Eurocult fans rejoice.
Since then, the same fans have waited patiently for a U.S. blu-ray (Arrow did a solid U.K. edition but that left those who aren’t region-free out in the cold). Grindhouse Releasing recently revived The Beyond as part of their series of lavish blu-ray special editions and the results are a multi-layered treat for the film’s fans.
The transfer uses the same source used for the Arrow special edition but benefits from some new tweaking done by Grindhouse, particularly in the area of color correction. The elements were in nice shape and the color correction gives the film a rich visual palette that suits Sergio Salvati’s lush photography. HD anoraks will note some fluctuations in the overall detail quality but this is still the best-looking version of this title to date.
A whole host of audio options are offered for the film, all in lossless form: 5.1 and 2.0 stereo English tracks as well as English and Italian mono tracks. The 5.1 English track was listened to for this review and it’s a suitably robust affair that keeps the dialogue clear while adding multi-channel shadings to the sound effects and especially Fabio Frizzi’s rich musical score.
When it comes to the extras, Grindhouse Releasing has made an all-stops-out effort, piling hours upon hours’ worth of extras for the fans. A small set is included on the first disc (much of the room is taken up by the film and its multiple audio tracks). The biggest extra on the first disc is the David Warbeck/Catriona MacColl commentary that appeared on the old Anchor Bay version of this title. It’s a relaxed but informative affair fuelled by chemistry of its two participants as they discuss their memories of the shoot, their fellow cast members and share some great stories about Lucio Fulci’s infamously mercurial temperament. Warbeck cracks a lot of good-natured jokes throughout, making it a breezy listen. Be sure to listen out for the anecdote about Al Cliver!
The remaining extras on disc one are in video form. First up is a full-color version of the film’s sepia-tinted prologue, presented with German and English dubs. It gives fans a multicolored eyeful of the vicious lye-on-flesh makeup effects. There is also an array of trailers for the film: international, German, U.S original release (with t.v. spots and the Rolling Thunder reissue. Fans will particularly have fun with the spots from the original Seven Doors Of Death U.S. release, which include lurid (and somewhat misleading) 42nd Street-style narration and pull-quotes from Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel.
The second blu-ray is where the bonanza of extras heats up. First up is a series of killer, in-depth featurettes that take the viewer inside the experience of working with Fulci. “Looking Back” starts things off in a deluxe style, delivering a 48-minute piece anchored by interviews with cinematographer Sergio Salvati, producer Fabrizio De Angelis, screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, composer Fabio Frizzi, Antonella Fulci and others.
Their memories paint a portrait of Fulci as a difficult but talented and sensitive man. This segment also covers how Italian genre fare was pitched and presold in its heyday, Frizzi’s inspirations and techniques as a composer, how Antonella Fulci provided the inspiration for the “Eibon” symbol, how Salvati created his approach to lighting and even some philosophical musings on the nature of death from Sacchetti. The end result gives you a new appreciation for the intelligence and artistry of all who contributed.
“New Orleans Connection” devotes 44 minutes to U.S. location scout/production coordinator Larry Ray and remains interesting throughout. He reveals how he transitioned from t.v. broadcasting into become the American point man for the production of The Beyond, with plenty of insight into the improvisation approach and the fast-moving “let’s put on a show” approach of the Italian filmmakers. He also has some great tales about the bridge sequence and the spider attack scene.
“Beyond And Back” is a 34-minute chat with MacColl, who covers all three movies she did with Fulci. She reveals why she transitioned from dancing to acting, how she almost didn’t do City Of The Living Dead and some thoughts on Fulci’s directing approach and temperament. “See Emily Play” is a 22-minute sitdown with Cinzia Monreale, who is as insightful as she is charming. She gives a fascinating portrait of how she approached and prepared for her character and reveals a genuine fondness for Fulci, who she remained friends with until his death.
The hardcore horror fans will be delighted by “Making It Real” which explores the makeup effects via a pair of interviews with makeup FX wizards Giannetto De Rossi and Maurizio Trani. They give details on how several of the major makeup effects were done (the method for the acid-melted face is fascinating), how they used simple methods for complex effects and discuss their thoughts on Fulci, whom Trani memorably dubs “a good ogre.”
The next couple of items are archival pieces that allow Fulci to participate in the extras. The first is a two-part, 33-minute audio recording of the director answering questions for an interview, accompanied by an artful montage of photos. He discusses virtually all his horror titles, discusses his inspirations, reveals why he cut ties with Sacchetti and even offers up opinions on Argento and Kubrick(!). His stream of comments reveal an intellectual, playful and thoroughly irreverent mind.
Fulci also appears in 46 minute segment of footage from Eurofest 94, where he answers questions via a translator alongside David Warbeck. He was less than two years from passing away but he charms the horror fan crowd with his enthusiasm and impassioned opinions. Warbeck is also charming as he introduces the film and signs autographs for the fans alongside the director.
Warbeck returns for a brief bit of footage from Eurofest 96, in which he and MacColl are enthusiastic but a bit surprised of the fandom for their Italian film work. Both actor also appear in separate Q&A segments from the 1996 Fest Of Fantastic Film. MacColl covers a lot of the territory she deals with elsewhere on this set in her chat but Warbeck really shines in the Q&A format, expressing fondness for his Italian work and also telling fun tales from the sets of Twins Of Evil andTrog.
Tucked away at the end of the interviews section of disc two is “Beyond Italy.” This 19-minute featurette focuses on Terry Levene, the veteran indie b-movie distributor who handled The Beyond‘s original U.S. release and a veteran of the 42nd Street grindhouse scene. He offers a fascinating glimpse into what it was like to scout foreign films and refashion them into grindhouse-friendly product during the ’70s and ’80s, explaining how he got his films, why he anglicized credits and how he designed campaigns for the b-movie audience. It’s fascinating stuff on an area of the exploitation film business that doesn’t get a lot of coverage.
Once you’re done with the blu-rays, this set still has more to offer. There’s a third disc which offers a freshly-remastered CD of The Beyond‘s soundtrack. Fabio Frizzi’s score is a key part of the film’s overall impact and it makes more a deliciously macabre listen separate from the film, a mixture of orchestral and choral stylings with prog-rock muscle that sounds like Goblin sitting in on a Ennio Morricone scoring session.
A color insert booklet completes the package, containing two essays. The first a brief appreciation of the film and the work Grindhouse did in restoring by gone-but-never-forgotten horror critic Chas Balun. The other is a detailed analysis of The Beyond and its influences by Martin Beine. He draws interesting parallels between The Beyond and Horror Hotel, Inferno and other films, including several elements that Fulci quoted from his past films and elements he would revisit in subsequent works. Along the way, Beine makes a strong case for Fulci as an inspired synthesist who makes these quotations his own. It’s a great, thought-provoking read for fans.
In short, Grindhouse Releasing has given The Beyond a worthy introduction to the blu-ray format in the U.S. and piled on hours of extras that fans will love sifting through. Even if you own the Arrow edition, this is an upgrade in several areas and well worth the purchase for Fulci fans.