Quality film news, reviews and features
13th March 2011 18:00:00
Posted by John White

The Beyond

Blu-Ray Review

The Film

imageBeginning with an "ungodly warlock" being chain whipped, crucified, burnt and walled up alive, The Beyond contains more transgressive violence in its opening seven minutes than many film-makers see fit to show in their lifetime. Eyeballs are popped out three times, an adolescent girl has the top of her head blown apart, and there is acid burning through flesh more than once. Rotting walking cadavers trench their stench around the living and Tarantula spiders pull apart one unfortunate book browser.

The sheer onslaught on the visual senses made me look away many times when I first watched it, more so when I considered what a beautifully shot film it was throughout. For those keen on the modern use of the word "porn" to denote glamorised excess, then The Beyond is carnage porn from some perspectives. Certainly, this view would support its place on the infamous video nasty list in 1983, and many pleased then would be disgusted now that the unexpurgated version is available in high definition.imageThe rather incoherent story concerns Liza, recently moved to New Orleans to renovate a hotel she has inherited, and which, unknown to her, is built upon one of seven gateways to Hell. Her home improvements awaken forces which are then let loose upon the city and supernatural evil battles the living.

It would be wholly missing the point to concentrate on The Beyond's narrative flaws as this is, as I have illustrated above, a very visual and violent film. In this respect, it is shot, lit and framed with great care and executed aesthetically with an artistic intent that might surprise those who have had the misfortune to sit through Fulci's worst works. Most who love the director may prefer to advocate the sheer exploitative fun of City of the Living Dead or Zombie, but I feel that along with Lizard in a Woman's Skin this is Fulci's signature film.imageAll of the director's obsessions are present and connected together in a way that creates a strong moral impact, alongside the obvious vicarious entertainment. The emphasis on eyes for instance supports the film's conclusion where the experience, or non-experience, of the central characters renders them unseeing. The flipping between dream, history and meta-realities works very well in the context of the more outrageous developments and the themes of vision within and vision without.

The Beyond contains the same sense of inevitable doom that permeates the director's non-comedies and it more than justifies its misanthropy through depicting the destruction of life, joy and youth as a great evil. I believe that The Beyond is reminding us that something below is coming for us all and that what happens after that may be far from heavenly. It is quite chilling in this respect and thoroughly unrepentant in both its ugliness and attempts at the poetic.

The Beyond is a terrific and unique film, one of the finest examples of Italian horror and a must see for any fan of the genre.

Technical Specs

Presented at 23.98 fps in the OAR of 2.35:1 and with a file-size of 14.8GB, Arrow have restored The Beyond without resorting to obvious tinkering. There is hefty grain present, and with it a lack of detail at times, and occasionally the contrast is not sure-footed. Colour-wise this looks very true to my previous viewings, except that this review disc, like a number of the discs on sale, contains the black and white opening to the film rather than the preferred golden sepia tinged sequence. I believe Arrow are offering returns to anyone who buys the affected discs. The visual quality is not reference material, but it does look film-like.imageArrow have clearly tried very hard with the sound materials, offering mono Italian and English lossy tracks at a wapping bit-rate and a very welcome master audio 5.1 option in English. Hearing Fabio Frizzi's score in such definition is a revelation, and the atmosphere created around the sound-stage by effects and from the LFE channel really added to my enjoyment of the film. English subs for the Italian audio and the English tracks are included as well. A really good audio package.

Special Features

The elements available to the reviewer included the BD and DVD parts of this release. The release also comes with, from Dave's news article:

"* Four option reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork
* Double-sided fold-out poster
* Collector’s booklet featuring:
o An introduction to the film by Eli Roth, director of “Cabin Fever”, “Hostel” and “Hostel Part II”
o Beyond Bombast” – an interview with Al Cliver by author and critic Calum Waddell
o Reprints of original lobby cards
o Stills and behind the scenes photographs from the collection of star, David Warbeck"

The main feature is available with a choice of two commentaries, the first being the fine double act of the film's two leads which has graced previous releases. Warbeck was apparently very unwell by the time of the recording but is in great witty form and Maccoll enjoys the ride whilst being less sold on the genre of the film. It is one of the best commentaries that have come on this format.

The commentary with Fulci's daughter is slightly limited by her having to speak in English. Calum Waddell does get a lot out of her, and of course her contributions are partial - not admitting the obvious comparison between Suspiria's guide dog death and the one here for instance. I could have done with a little less in the way of meandering references to Avatar and the Lovely Bones, although this is a fine effort.

Darren Ward, the director of Warbeck's last film, does a short interview about meeting the late actor and chancing his arm by asking him to join his cast. The quite incredibly well preserved Cinzia Monreale is also interviewed, as well as introducing the film. Monreale seems incredibly sweet, decent and thoroughly un-bitter about her roles in works by D'amato, Argento and Fulci. The niceness though doesn't shed a lot of light.

Waddell also moderates a Q&A with Maccoll at Glasgow Film theatre. It is a fanfest and she is well spoken and honest about Fulci's bad temper and anger towards women on set.

All of the blu-ray extras are HD.

Onto the DVD extras, which all boast loving artwork and animations inspired by the film. Terry Levene talks about his career in distributing genre gems like this one in the US, including re-naming titles like this film and Cannibal Ferox. Maccoll crops up again for a one to one piece, calling the film her favourite of the ones she did with Fulci, and decrying the painful white contact lenses worn in the finale.

Giannetto de Rossi talks about his career, The Beyond and his relationship with Fulci. He de-constructs Tom Savini's work on Romero's Dead films and explains how he chose to improve upon it. Various views on Fulci are offered in the flashback featurette from collaborators, family and friends like Roberto Forges Davanzati, Daria Nicolodi, Antonella Fulci, Dario Argento, and Sergio Stivaletti. It's a starry cast and they all show great warmth for the man.

The final disc based extras are two different pre-credit sequences in one reel and the international theatrical trailer.

The existing Anchor Bay DVD offers a lot in the way of extras, yet Arrow have excelled in the amount of new material collected here for committed fans.

Summary

One of the great films of Italian Horror and a personal favourite of mine, this is a decent transfer with fine sound options and boundless extras. A must purchase for fans of the film.
Details and Specifications
Blu-Ray Review

Region: ALL

Certificate: 18

Distributor:
Arrow

Running Time:
88 mins approx
Soundtracks:
English DTS HD MA 5.1
English DTS Mono 1509kbps
Italian DTS Mono 1509kbps

Subtitles:
English for Italian audio
English


Director:
Lucio Fulci

Main cast:
David Warbeck
Catriona Maccoll
Veronica Lazar
Al Cliver
Cinzia Monreale
-- more --
Ratings
Film
9
Video
6
Audio
8
Extras
9
8
About John White
John lurks in the shadows of Digital Fix reviewing films meant for people half his age and twice his intellect. The madder, the stranger and the more squalid a film the more likely he is to acclaim it the Citizen Kane of its kind. Apart from looking both startled and menacing, John is a former editor of the TV section at Digital Fix, you can find his scribblings there here. John can be found on Google Plus, and on Facebook too.