Director: Lucio Fulci
Writers: Dardano Sacchetti
Cast: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale
Length: 87 min
Label: Grindhouse Releasing
Release Date: March 24, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2:40:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0, and Dolby Digital 2.0
Italian: Dolby Digital Mono
- Newly Commissioned Introduction by Catriona MacCol
- Pre-Credit Sequence in Color (English and Italian Version Available)
- Looking Back: The Creation of The Beyond: Featurette on the making od the film featuring DP Sergio Salvati, co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, Producer Fabrizio De Angelis, Fulci’s daughter Antonella Fucli, and Poster Designer Enzo Sciotti
- The New Orleans Connection: Larry Ray: Interview with Actor Larry Ray
- Beyond and Back: Catriona MacColl: Interview with actor Catriona MacColl
- See Emily Play: Cinzia Monreale: Interview with actor Cinzia Monreale
- Making it Real: Gianetto DeRossi and Maurizio Trani: Interview with make-up artist Gianetto DeRossi and Effects Artist Maurizio Trani
- 2 Part Audio Interview with Lucio Fulci
- Eurofest ’94 Q+A with David Warbeck and Lucio Fulci
- Eurofest ’96 Q+A with Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck
- 1996 Festival of Fantastic Films Q+A with Catriona MacColl
- 1996 Festival of Fantastic Films Q+A with David Warbeck
- Beyond Italy Interview with US Distributor Terry Levene
- Still Galleries
- Original Theatrical Trailers, TV, and Radio Spots
- 10 page illustrated booklet
- Grindhouse Releasing Previews
- CD Soundtrack
When you think of Italian horror cinema, a few names come to mind. There is the maestro himself, Mario Bava, king of almost any subgenre he touched. Dario Argento, the colorful giallo auteur, who painted a beautiful cinematic canvas with vibrant light and blood. The third filmmaker on that list will almost undoubtedly be the Italian king of gore, Mr. Lucio Fulci. Fulci’s career spanned forty years and saw the production of almost sixty titles. He was a titan of the genre before his life was cut short to a diabetes-related illness. While Zombie Flesh Eaters aka Zombi 2 is perhaps his best known work, fans and critics have often flocked to 1981’s The Beyond as his masterwork — and for good reason. Even if The Beyond is not your favorite film by Fulci, it is hard to deny the power it has over audiences. It is Fulci unhinged and fully loaded. When the British distributor Arrow Films and Video released their Blu-Ray of the film in 2011, many were pleased to find what was widely considered to be the definitive release of the film (albeit still plagued by certain negative reviews). However, not too long ago, news started surfacing that Grindhouse Releasing were going to take a stab at a release, opening up discussion about the possibility of a bigger, better release. Fresh off on the heels of a few impressive releases, including a Blu-Ray of Ruggero Deodato’s iconic Cannibal Holocaust (2010) as well as a few other cult favorites like The Swimmer and Duke Mitchell’s Gone With the Pope and Massacre Mafia Style, Grindhouse’s name has been rising in ranks. As they stand now, Grindhouse Releasing are among the top distribution companies specializing in cult cinema…so what does that mean for their release of The Beyond? Read on to find out.
When a fledgling New Yorker, Liza Merril (Catriona MacColl in her second of three Fulci appearances), mysteriously inherits a dilapidated hotel in New Orleans, she relocates to the city with hopes of rehabilitating the old building. However, from the moment she begins her work, the place seems to be plagued by a series of unfortunate accidents. It is not long before Liza begins to suffer from hallucinations and she becomes fixated on an ancient satanic manuscript called “Eibon.” Slowly, the truth comes to surface and Liza learns that the Hotel has been built on one of the seven gates to Hell. Teamed with a local doctor, John McCabe (played by David Warbeck), the duo attempt to put an end to the evil that they have awoken, before it is too late.Despite offering one up, synopsizing The Beyond only goes so far. For this film, more so than any of his other films, Fulci is far more investing in building a palpable atmosphere than he is concerned about the events that unfold. Narratively speaking, what exists in the film is more of a placeholder, a means to the end. This is part of what really makes The Beyond so remarkable because, despite his desires to alienate us from the story and characters, the actors bring such a presence to the screen that it becomes almost impossible not to align with them.
Many have criticized Fulci for this however, and often one of the film’s biggest hurdles has been finding the right audience. While Ebert was not often a friend of the genre, his ½ star rumination on this particular film reveals a line that runs through many critics: their inability to filter through the artifice to find the film’s greater meaning:
The plot involves … excuse me for a moment, while I laugh uncontrollably at having written the words “the plot involves.”… In a film filled with bad dialogue, it is hard to choose the most quotable line, but I think it may occur in Liza’s conversations with Martin, the architect hired to renovate the hotel. “You have carte blanche,” she tells him, “but not a blank check!” The movie is being revived around the country for midnight cult showings. Midnight is not late enough.
Critics should review films not only our their own personal tastes but with the film in mind. Most will not find it strange that Ebert gave Fellini Satyricon a 4 star rating, despite the fact that it can be arguably guilty of nearly the same criticisms as The Beyond. Like Fellini, reality is the last thing that Fulci was working towards. Some may scoff at the comparison between Fellini and Fulci but I would go as far as to say that Fulci was every bit as artistic and competent (certainly as cultured and sophisticated) as Fellini. In fact, The Beyond may be one of the best, unsung avant-garde films ever made; and, yet, that doesn’t stop it from being a brilliant genre film. This is why Fulci remains relevant, even today; it is why his films still move us, still gross us out, and still make us think.When revisiting The Beyond for the umpteenth time, one cannot help but be struck by the cinematography. The film’s DP, Sergio Salvati — who worked with Fulci on many films and most of his iconic ones — is tragically underrated. His collaboration with Fulci captures elements of both iconic Italian genre photography and the oncoming stylistic tendencies of American horror (a pairing like Dean Cundey and John Carpenter comes to mind), creating a verbose yet calculated aesthetic that really breathes life into the film. Fog becomes incarnate, acting as an almost looming character in the film. It is atmosphere, suspense, and grit. While not as outright sexy as someone like Argento, the lighting in this film is perfectly balanced. It never quite calls attention to itself but it works to really capture the dreary nature needed.
Fulci has been cited as describing this work as his attempt at creating an Artaudian (based off the work of French writer Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty) film. While Artaud’s writings have proven to be extremely influential, his concepts are anything but well known beyond certain scholarly and avant-gardist circles. Essentially, what Artaud argued for was a theatre that existed somewhere between a dream state and reality. He desired a theatre that threw away the theatricality of the text, achieving, through mis-en-scene, a transcendent state that was able to communicate — not through words but through screams, grunts, movements of the body, light, etc — the unrepresentable pain of modern life. While this is a bit reductive — and Artaud himself wrote against the cinema — it is easy to see how this is translated into Fulci’s work. A place between a dream and reality is exactly how The Beyond could be described. The Beyond is probably as close to a “Cinema of Cruelty” as we will ever see.As for the performances, The Beyond could be critiqued for rather loose roles and dialogue but this is something that never quite felt wrong for the film. Taking Artaud’s distaste for language and scripts, you can even argue that Fulci is intentionally mangling his dialogue in order to closer adhere to Artuad’s vision. However, when viewed in relation to some of Fucli’s other films, I would argue that the acting in The Beyond is rather good. In particular, both MacColl and Warbeck, if not a bit excessive, turn in perfectly acceptable performances. There are bits and pieces of dialogue that come off as hokey but they never bothered me. This is not to take the line that horror movies deserve to be bad for entertainment’s sake, but because something about the alienating effect of the dialogue actually works in the scope of the aesthetic of the film. This same logic can be applied to some of the effects (re: the tarantulas). It is hard to see the clearly artificial nature of the fake tarantulas as being accidental. One can imagine that these aspects worked for Fucli, that he was interested in more than aspiring for total realism within the grounds of horror. While dubbed, Cinzia Monreale (credited as Sarah Keller) is visually perfect as Emily. Hauntingly beautiful and yet mysterious and creepy all in the same breathe, Monreale works to hold the film together. While complaints have been hurled at the film over the years regarding her dub job, it is par for the course with Italian genre cinema (and again, one could make the argument that it works from an Artaudian perspective).
Overall, if the only reason you are looking to upgrade from the Arrow release is because of the prospect of a better looking print, you really aren’t going to find a great difference here. While many have found problems in both this and Arrows release, I really don’t find it all that problematic. I think a major issue is that finding a pristine and uncut print of the film to transfer to High Definition may be tricky, considering how the film was treated upon release. Side by side (Featured below), it would appear as if Grindhouse’s release is a bit cooler and retains more natural grain than Arrow’s release. For what it is worth, I find this release to be visually pleasing. Perhaps the future will see a better transfer but for now this is among the best we have and there’s nothing wrong with that.
For audio, Grindhouse have provided a pretty extensive spread of choices, ranging from mono tracks to a full on DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 remix. While all of the choices offer adequate aural experiences, for your money, the 5.1 remix offers truly the best experience for the film. Audio is an extremely important facet for Fulci’s films, especially so for The Beyond. The soundtrack is every bit, if not more, important than the images, so it is great to see such dedication paid to the audio elements. Viewers can choose between newly remastered English 5.1 or 2.0 tracks, or opt for the original English or Italian mono tracks. Some may find the exclusion of a remastered Italian track to be irksome but, as the film was shot with English audiences in mind, I find the Italian track to be more of a bonus than anything else. What we are pleased to note is how great Fabio Frizzi’s soundtrack is represented in the new mix. Frizzi’s score for Fulci’s The Beyond is among the best scores ever produced. Recorded using a (what was then new) rudimentary synthesizer-like device called a Mellotron, Frizzi created an eerie orchestration and chorus of voices that were all filtered through the device — the result is a resounding emulation what I can only imagine is the sound of the dead themselves. There is simply nothing quite as chilling as Frizzi’s work here, and thanks to Grindhouse this release features the added bonus of the full soundtrack on CD.
The real reason that Grindhouse’s release of The Beyond is a must own is because of the extent they went to create new supplementary content. This package is simply the best on the market (putting Arrow’s release, which was more than satisfactory, to shame). There is around three hours of newly recorded interviews, a feature commentary track (ported over from the Arrow release), a new, exclusive introduction to the film with Cinzia Monreale, the pre-credit sequence in color (both in English and Italian), numerous trailers, radio and TV Spots, and about 2.5 hours of vintage or ported over interview material. The total of all the features clocks in at over 10 hours; to put it bluntly, without binging, this collection will keep you entertained for weeks. While most of the material is great, the newly commissioned interviews are really over-the-top. Shot and edited beautifully, the interviews really spread a new light on Fulci’s career. In particular, the 45 minute featurette with DP Sergio Salvati, producer Fabrizio De Angelis, co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, Fulci’s daughter Antonella Fulci, and the poster-artist Enzo Sciotti, Looking Back: The Creation of The Beyond, is a must-see for Fulci fans. Salvanti and Sacchetti beautifully articulate the importance of The Beyond, and it is nice to see B-movie creators look on at their past work with not only enthusiasm but pure admiration. Salvanti and Sacchetti understand and communicate the importance of this movie in a manner that few have done before. In addition to the new content, Grindhouse secured a two-part audio recording that Fulci conducted for the Italian journalist Gaetano Mistretta that I think I will find myself continually revisiting. It is in this piece that you really get a sense of how intelligent and cultured Fulci really was; it combats the damaging image of him as simply a gore-hound and trash filmmaker.
The Beyond does not date itself. There is nothing about the film that makes it feel antiquated. It still feels alive, perhaps more so than ever before. It is a film that is arguably more exciting with each watch, as you are able to take more and more of the atmosphere in. The low budget special effects look great, even if sometimes the mechanisms behind them are apparent, and Fulci’s vision is on par with some of the greatest to have ever worked. It is certainly not a film for everyone, but for those that appreciate it, it is easy to see why it remains a favorite. In spite of his hoards of die-hard fans, Fulci is one of the most underappreciated directors. Even his fans have a habit of hailing him solely on the ground of his gory tendencies. Yet, he is a director that has so much more to offer. If anything, Grindhouse Releasing’s Blu-Ray serves to place Fulci in his rightful place among, not only the best horror filmmakers, but the best filmmakers period. With their 3-disc Blu-Ray release of The Beyond, Grindhouse Releasing have carved a name for themselves among the best cult, independent distributors today. With every release, they grow more and more impressive and it could be argued that they have become to genre cinema what Criterion Collection is to arthouse. Highly recommended and a must own for Fulci and genre cinema fans.