Wednesday, April 15, 2015

THE BEYOND (1981) (Grindhouse Blu-ray Review)

Super-Deluxe 3 Disc Collector's Edition 2xBD/CD

Label: Grindhouse Releasing
Region Code: A
Duration: 89 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 1.0 Mono, English Dolby Digital 2.0, Italian Dolby Digital Mono
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale

In Lucio Fulci's The Beyond a young woman named Liza (Catriona MacColl) inherits the Seven Doors Hotel in Louisiana, which just happens to be the site of a brutal lynch-mob murder in the '20s when a painter named Schweick whom was believed to have been a warlock was chain-whipped and nailed to the wall before being doused with a corrosive substance that melted away his flesh, it's quite a stomach churning scene and a damn impactful beginning to the film. What the vicious mob don't realize is that their actions this night have set in motion a series of events that will open one of the dreaded Seven Doors of Death many years later, as prophesied in the Book of Eibon.

Moving forward through time sixty years Liza will suffer the consequences of their vengeful act and possibly condemn the world to an apocalyptic fate in the process. No sooner has she arrived from New York City when a painter is critically injured after falling from a scaffold having been spooked by spectral encounter. The very next day an rather unfortunate plumber heads down to the flooded basement to tend to the root cause of the problem when a demonic hand reaches out from the water-logged and gouges his eyeball, a nasty Fulci trademark if ever there was one. Later that day the wife of the plumber visit the morgue to pay respects to her husband when she is doused in acid as a poorly placed vat of acid melts off her face. More bizarre death occurs soon after when Liza's friend Martin pays a visit to the library in search of the hotel blueprints only to fall from a ladder after a startle. Paralyzed by the fall he is torn apart by a horde of tarantulas which crawl out from beneath the bookshelves tearing at his nose, mouth and eyes.

After the painter's accident Liza befriends Dr. John McCabe (David Warbeck) and then encounters a strange blind woman named Emily (Cinzia Monreale) who warns her not to return to the hotel. She shrugs it off but it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore as the weirdness continues, and at this point in the film we haven't even got to the neck-chomping possessed dogs or the zombie siege at the hospital, so brace yourselves. 

The Beyond is best viewed as a nightmare that subscribes to a strange dream logic punctuated by gruesome special effects and very unsettling imagery, if you're picking it apart scene by scene you're gonna have some problems. Make-up effects masters Gianetto DeRossi and Maurizio Trani were in fine form on The Beyond with brutal chain-whippings, acid-meltdowns, horrific zombies and some of that patented Lucio Fulci eye-gore, plus a brutal head-shot of a young woman that still wows me everytime I watch, this is a gore-masterpiece. 

The film has a surreal script from legendary Italian screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti and some keen cinematography from Lucio Fulci's preferred cameraman Sergio Salvati, who lenses the film with a atmospheric sense of the macabre that just pulls you in from the first frame on through to the last, a truly magnetic and horrific experience. 

Audio/Video: The Beyond (1981) arrives on Blu-ray in the U.S. from Grindhouse Releasing in 1080p HD framed in the (2.40:1) widescreen aspect ratio. Advertised as an HD transfer of the uncensored director's cut I assume this is not a brand new 2K master struck from the negative or it would have been advertised as such. Regardless, the HD image is strong with vibrant color reproduction, some nice depth and clarity and modest fine detail. Comparing it to the Arrow Video Blu-ray I could not detect a major difference between the two HD presentations, both appearing quite similar to one another. 

Onto the audio you have four options beginning with an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix by Academy Award winner Paul Ottosson, English DTS-HD MA Mono, English Dolby Digital Stereo and Italian Dolby Digital Mono. For the sake of this viewing I chose the surround remix and was very pleased, a nice surround sound presentation that brings a depth to proceedings, adding some additional life to the otherworldly sound design without sounding forced. Purists may wish to stick with the mono option but I am quite satisfied with the new surround remix, that Fabi Frizzi score sounds fantastic in surround. 

You might need a day or two to sift through all the bonus content on the 2-disc set as they are quite bountiful beginning with an audio commentary with actors Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck recorded back in 2000 if I am not mistaken. They have a playful rapport with each other as they remember fun facts and anecdotes from the shooting. This commentary is a carryover from both the previous Anchor Bay/Grindhouse Releasing DVD and was also featured on the Arrow Video Blu-ray. Then onto the German color pre-credit sequence with both German and English audio options, three trailers for the film, and a selection of radio spots and TV spots. 

You can look forward to no less than four Easter eggs on disc one alone, beginning with the 23 minute Voices from Beyond: Memories of Lucio Fulci with remembrances from Dardano Sacchetti, Franco Bruni, Veronica Lazar, Catriona MacColl, Gianetto DeRossi, Fabio Frizzi, Sergio Salvati, Giorgio Mariuzzo, and Fabrizio De Angelis. Other hidden extras include the alternate Seven Doors of Death intro, a series of images from the movie and a sound effects track. 

Onto an equally stuffed disc two we have three hours of new in-depth interviews with stars Catriona MacColl, Cinzia Monreale and Giovanni De Nava, U.S. production manager Larry Ray, make-up artists Giannetto DeRossi and Maurizio Trani, cinematographer Sergio Salvati, writer Dardano Sacchetti, producer Fabrizio De Angelis, daughter Antonella Fulci and composer Fabio Frizzi. Carried over from the Arrow Video Blu-ray is a High Rising Productions featurette, an interview with U.S. distributor Terry Levene. These interviews not only cover the filming of The Beyond but also paint a portrait of the infamous director who is remembered in numerous ways, as a technical genius, a sarcastic personality, and someone who guarded his own sensitivity with a certain amount of vulgarity, but it's clear that those closest to him valued him as a director and a friend, Fulci was a complex man. I think the strongest attribute of the extras a whole is the cumulative portrait of the often times misunderstood director. 

There are almost 2 hours worth of vintage interviews culled a 1988 audio taped of Lucio Fulci and various appearances of MacColl, Warbeck and Fulci from Eurofest and the Festival of Fantastic Films. Additionally there are an extensive array of galleries totalling almost four hundred images of behind-the-scenes shots, stills, various video releases and quite a bit more. Tucked away on the menus of disc two are two more Easter Eggs, a now and then location visit and the Necrophagia video for "And You Will Live in terror" directed by wildman Jim Van Bebber.

Separate from the extras on the two Blu-rays are a third disc, a CD of the remastered score from Fabio Frizzi, a haunting score that lingers long after the end credits. There's also a 12-page booklet with liner notes by horror journalists Chas. Balun and Martin Beine and an extensive Lucio Fulci filmography. The first 5000 of these have a glow-in-the-dark slipcover, which is a pretty nifty bonus.  

What more could you possibly want in regard to The Beyond? About the only thing I can figure might be a featurette with contemporary directors reminiscing about their first experiences watching the film, that would have been a fun one.

Special Features: 
- Spectacular HD digital transfer of the original UNCENSORED Director's Cut
- Breathtaking 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound re-mix by Academy Award winner Paul Ottosson
- Original 11-track Soundtrack CD by Fabio Frizzi newly remastered in stunning 96khz sound from the original studio master tapes.
- Provocative commentary by stars Catriona MacColl and genre superstar David Warbeck
- Lost German pre-credit sequence in FULL COLOR in German and English (16 Mins) 
- Looking Back - The Creation of The Beyond (48 Mins) 
- The New Orleans Connection - Larry Ray (44 Mins)
- Beyond and Back - Catriona MacColl (34 Mins) 
- See Emily Play - Cinzia Monreale (22 Mins) 
- Making It Real - Gianetto DeRossi and Maurizio Trani (32 Mins) 
- Lucio Fulci Interview - August 1988 - Part 1 (20 Mins)
- Lucio Fulci Interview - August 1988 - Part 2 (13 Mins) 
- Eurofest '94 - David Warbeck and Lucio Fulci (46 Mins) 
- Eurofest '96 - Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck (5 Mins) 
- 1996 Festival of Fantastic Films - Catriona MacColl (12 Mins) 
- 1996 Festival of Fantastic Films - David Warbeck (21 Mins) 
- Beyond Italy - U.S. Distributor Terry Lee (19 Mins) 
- Still Galleries: Productions Stills (80 Images), Behind the Scenes (81 Images)
- Promotional Images Gallery: Italy (13 Images), U.S. (40 Images), French (16 Images), Video releases (56 Images), Beyond the Beyond (101 Images) 

- Grindhouse releasing Previews (32 Mins) 
- International Trailer (3 Mins) 
- German Trailer (3 Mins) 
- US Trailer (7 Doors of Death) (3 Mins) 
- US Re-Release Trailer (1 Mins) 
- US TV Spots  (7 Doors of Death (1 Mins) 
- US Re-Release Radio Spot (1 Mins) 
- Easter Egg: Voices from Beyond: Memories of Lucio Fulci from Dardano Sacchetti, Franco Bruni, Veronica Lazar, Catriona MacColl, Gianetto DeRossi, Fabio Frizzi, Sergio Salvati, Giorgio Mariuzzo, Fabrizio De Angelis (23 Mins) 
- 12 Page Collector's Booklet with Liner notes by legendary horror journalist Chas. Balun and EuroHorror expert Martin Beine
- Lucio Fulci Filmography

- Limited Edition of 5000 copies Glow-in-the-Dark Slipcover 
- Easter Eggs: Seven Doors of Death Intro (1 Mins), Still Images from The Beyond 
(17 Mins), Audio Sound Effects (11 Mins), Location Visit (2 Mins), Necrophagia Music Video (5 Mins)

The Grindhouse Releasing Blu-ray of Lucio Fulci's The Beyond is an attractively packaged special edition jam-packed with a stunning array of new extras with a pleasing HD upgrade. A gorgeous package all around, a phenomenal fright film loaded with creepy atmosphere and torrents of dazzling gore, it doesn't get anymore essential than this one right here.