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dickieduvet, DVD Connoisseur, foller, TheWZA
Old 06-19-2004, 05:07 PM
 
Scored: 10
Views: 12,930
Default Beyond, The: Special Edition




Reviewer: Styx
Review Date: October 12, 2000

Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: 10/10/2000
MSRP: $29.98
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes



Considered by many, as Lucio Fulci's most haunting and surreal masterpieces, The Beyond is easily one of Fulci's best films. Originally released in the US in a heavily cut version titled Seven Doors of Death, The Beyond showcases the director's talent for imagery and his vision of "pure cinema". The Beyond is quite an eye-popping film with fantastic cinematography and larger than life set pieces. Filmed in 1981, The Beyond was the second film in which Fulci worked with actress Catriona MacColl; the first being City of the Living Dead and the last was House by the Cemetery. Grindhouse has been promising Fulci fans an excellent presentation of The Beyond for a long time and thanks to Anchor Bay they finally have the opportunity to release it. Was it worth the wait? Read on and see as we journey back into The Beyond.

The Story

inline Image The film opens on a Louisiana night in 1927 as a band of villagers siege a seemingly quiet hotel. They've come for one person and one person only - a man named Sweick (Antoine Saint-John). It seems Sweick is an "ungodly warlock" and the villagers have taken it upon themselves to lay down punishment in the form of torture and death. Sweick pleads with the townspeople, explaining that the hotel they stand in is a gateway to one of the seven doors of evil and that only he can save them. This does nothing to quell the righteous villagers and Sweick is dragged down into the basement where he is chained, whipped, and crucified. Cut to Emily (Sarah Keller), a young woman staying in one of the hotel rooms, as she reads aloud a line of text from the book of Eibon, "Woe be unto him who opens one of the 7 gateways to hell, because through that gateway evil will invade the world", and so begins The Beyond.

inline Image Fifty-four years pass by and the 7 Doors Hotel is now the property of Liza Merril (Catriona MacColl), a young woman who was originally from New York and recently inherited the hotel from an uncle she hardly ever knew. Liza is trying to get the hotel back in business since its condition has deteriorated over the years and a lot of repairs are necessary. Suddenly, Larry whose one of the painters working on a scaffold, plummets to the ground after being startled by the figure of a young blind woman he saw through the hotel window. Back inside the hotel Larry's condition seems grave and he keeps making references to "the eyes". A doctor is immediately called to have a look at him and Dr. John McKay (David Warbeck) quickly arrives on the scene. John immediately tells Liza he needs to get him to the hospital and Larry is promptly taken away. Undaunted by this tragic incident, Liza is determined to go forward and complete the repairs and reopen the hotel.

inline Image While driving on a deserted bridge Liza sees the figure of a young woman and her dog in the distance. As she approaches, Liza gets out of the car and meets with her. The young woman reveals herself as Emily and she seems to know a lot about Liza, including her name. Emily suggests Liza give up the hotel and go back to where she came from; a piece of advice Liza has no intention of taking to heart. Meanwhile, back at the hotel strange things are happening. Joe the plumber, who was called to fix a flood in the basement, is mysteriously killed and more bizarre happenings occur at the hospital. Emily meets with Liza once again in the hotel and gives her the complete details on what happened 54 years ago. She tells Liza that a man named Sweick discovered one of the keys to the seven doors of hell and was subsequently killed inside the hotel. Soon after every one in the hotel mysteriously disappeared. At first Liza brushes the stories off as nonsense but after seeing the crucified body of Sweick in the bathroom of room 36 she begins to believe some of what Emily has said.

inline Image She tells John what she saw and together they take a look in the bathroom, but the body of Sweick is gone. John also has some reservations about Liza and suggests she's more than she appears. However, the two team up anyway after witnessing a strange event in the hotel's basement. Together John and Liza will have to survive the horrifying mysteries of The Beyond!

inline Image Bashed by critics but loved by Lucio Fulci fans, The Beyond is certainly a film that has a different effect on a wide variety of people. Personally I love The Beyond and still consider it my favorite Fulci film, although my appreciation for Fulci's City of the Living Dead is steadily increasing. Not too long ago The Beyond underwent a midnight movie revival by Rolling Thunder Pictures, which is owned by Quentin Tarrantino. With it was also a promise of an eventual laserdisc release from Grindhouse releasing, which unfortunately never happened. Regardless, The Beyond is one horror film that refuses to die and thanks to Anchor Bay it can now be enjoyed in a fully restored version on DVD. One of The Beyond's greatest attributes, which comes off beautifully on this new DVD, is the first rate cinematography. The Beyond is simply a gorgeous film with amazing surreal visuals that never cease to amaze. The scenes taking place on the bridge where Liza meets with Emily or the scene where Liza and John enter The Beyond truly have an otherworldly quality and are downright creepy.

inline Image The living dead in The Beyond are of course trademark Fulci and act very similar to those in Zombie and City of the Living Dead. Fulci's zombies are always grotesque and disturbing, really looking like walking corpses - The Beyond is no exception. They are very effective and manage to be genuinely creepy on numerous occasions. Of course, when there are zombies gore is usually not far behind and this is especially true about Fulci zombie films! In fact, many of Fulci's most notorious gore scenes are in The Beyond. Like the tarantula scene, the infamous head explosion and the obligatory Fulci eye gouge. Of course most critics are immediately turned off by gore so it's not surprising The Beyond doesn't fair well in their eyes, but there are some instances where I agree Fulci does go too far. The aforementioned "tarantula scene" is one scene where I feel it could have been trimmed. In fact, at times I find that scene a little irritating and boring and the fact most of the spiders look so unbelievably fake doesn't help much.

inline Image Out of all the films Lucio Fulci has made I'd have to say The Beyond is one of his least accessible. Since the film ends with so many loose ends and unanswered questions the film requires you to use some imagination, which is something those new to Fulci (or those accustomed to crap like Scream) might not appreciate. I guess most people would generalize The Beyond as a zombie film, but in actuality it is much more than that. Lucio Fulci's Zombie or City of the Living Dead come to mind as better choices to get one's feet wet and sample the director's works (Zombie was the first Fulci film I'd ever seen). The Beyond is not for everyone but those who try to envelope themselves in the films imagery will find it enjoyable, and under the right circumstances a bit disturbing and scary too.

Image Quality

inline Image Anchor Bay presents Lucio Fulci's The Beyond letterboxed at 2.35:1, preserving its original theatrical aspect ratio. The transfer has also been enhanced for 16x9 TVs. Well, after watching this new version of The Beyond all I have to say is throw away your old EC Laserdiscs and DVDs because this new transfer of The Beyond puts any previous version I've ever seen to shame. Thanks to a great restoration the image is remarkably clean with only a minimum amount of specks and print blemishes ever becoming noticeable. The framing on this DVD also seems more accurate than the old EC DVD, revealing more picture information on the sides. Colors were vivid and solid throughout and are a big step up from the EC transfer, which had very dull colors and lighting. Flesh tones were excellent and contrast levels were splendid. The black level is also superior in this transfer displaying deep and solid blacks, whereas the EC DVD was overly bright with grayish blacks.

The only downside to the Anchor Bay disc is a similar problem that was present on City of the Living Dead. The Anchor Bay DVD has some more noticeable film grain than its EC counterpart. But hey, this is a common trait with Fulci's films and masking it with some form of noise reduction would only serve to soften the image, so Anchor Bay wisely chose not to go that route. This is a great transfer and hats off to the folks at Grindhouse and Anchor Bay for coming through with the goods.

Sound

The Beyond is presented in a new English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix with plenty of other optional sound tracks I'll go over later. Of course, for most fans a chance to experience Lucio Fulci's The Beyond in Dolby Digital 5.1 is a dream come true and Anchor Bay doesn't disappoint. Like most of Anchor Bay's 5.1 mixes the sound always stays very true to the original recordings while peppering up and enhancing the atmospherics and effects. The Beyond has surprisingly effective use of the surrounds, mostly for effects. Fabio Frizzi's operatic score sounded excellent and had so much more depth than the mono track that was on the EC DVD. Dialogue and effects were clear throughout the presentation without any background hiss or high-end distortion. Anchor Bay has also tacked on an English Dolby Surround track as well as English and Italian mono tracks. For those interested in hearing The Beyond in Italian, optional English Subtitles are available. Anchor Bay and Grindhouse should be commended for the sheer number of tracks present on this DVD and making good use of the formats ability to store a multitude of audio tracks. Now if only an isolated score had been provided, then it would've been perfect.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Finally a Lucio Fulci DVD that deserves a Special Edition title. This is as expansive as your probably going to get with Lucio Fulci releases on DVD and all of the supplements on this disc are quite impressive. First the disc has some great full motion menus that fit the film perfectly. The menu layout is great and all the supplements are easily accessible through the atmospheric menus. There's a lot of great stuff on this DVD, but by far the best is the excellent audio commentary with the stars of The Beyond - Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck. Sadly, David Warbeck passed away just two weeks after recording the commentary, which definitely gives this commentary some greater importance. Both Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck are very engaging and talk constantly throughout the film. Both are in very high spirits and seem to be having a good time watching The Beyond and rediscovering it. Both Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck talk a lot about Lucio Fulci, the actors they worked with in The Beyond and Italian films in general.

inline Image The commentary is really superb. In fact when I first sat down to watch the film I sampled the commentary and wound up watching a good 15-20 minutes of the film with the commentary on. I didn't want to turn it off and that's saying a lot. This is one of the most enjoyable commentaries I've heard in quite some time and I'm glad it's finally available. Next stop on our tour of The Beyond DVD is the "Images from the Beyond" section. There you'll find a varied mix of bits and pieces including stills and interviews. It's divided up into 6 sections titled:
  • Images From The Beyond - features extensive stills from the Beyond plus a plethora of Lobby Cards, Poster art and various home video artwork.
  • Filming The Beyond - behind the scenes stills of the Director and crew filming The Beyond and posing for group photos.
  • Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck Interview - a short interview with Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck together at a festival.
  • David Warbeck Superstar - publicity photos of Actor David Warbeck with a small interview at the end.
  • Lucio Fulci The Maestro - stills of Lucio Fulci plus a rare interview with him on the set of Demonia.
  • Lucio Fulci & David Warbeck at Eurofest 94 - an interview with Lucio Fulci and David Warbeck at Eurofest 94.

inline Image The next supplement of particular notice is a German COLOR pre-credit sequence available in English or German language. This is very cool and sheds a whole new light on the death of Sweick since it's in color. Next up we have an interesting Necrophagia Music Video of the song "And you will live in darkness". The video was shot by Jim Van Bebber and features footage from The Beyond. Also available on this disc are three theatrical trailers. A German theatrical trailer, US re-release trailer and an international trailer. All three are 16x9 enhanced and look very good especially the US re-release trailer. Finally we have a few Easter Eggs on this DVD, which are cleverly hidden in the disc's menus. One of the Easter eggs is a trailer for Lucio Fulci's Cat in the Brain (aka Nightmare Concert) and it's hidden in the "Images From the Beyond" menu underneath the "eye". To access it merely highlight the subtle symbol of Eibon on the right side of the screen. The second Easter egg is in the "Audio Setup" menu underneath the ear of poor Emily. This Easter egg is what appears to be the opening of the US hack job 7 Doors of Death.

A great and comprehensive selection of supplements and it's one of Anchor Bay's finest non-labeled special editions. Most important of all, the supplements on this DVD are very enjoyable and that's something I think some DVD producers have lost sight of.

Final Thoughts

There have been a lot of tributes to the late great Lucio Fulci but this DVD release of The Beyond is definitely the best a Fulci fan could ask for. The presentation is fabulous and the extras are a real treat. This DVD is arguably one of the best horror releases to come around in quite some time. If you're a Lucio Fulci fan it's inconceivable for you not to own this DVD.

Rating

Image Quality - A-
Sound - A-
Supplements - A+

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • 16 Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English Dolby Surround
  • English Mono
  • Italian Mono (w/optional English subtitles)

Supplements
  • Rare on-set Interviews with Lucio Fulci
  • International Theatrical Trailer
  • German Theatrical Trailer
  • US re-release Theatrical Trailer
  • Music Video: Necrophagia/And You Will Live in Terror- Directed by Jim Van Bebber
  • Audio Commentary with Stars David Warbeck and Catriona MacColl
  • Lost German Color Pre-credit Sequence and Main Titles
  • Still Galleries
  • Liner Notes by Chas Balun

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