After far too long of a wait, Lucio Fulci’s masterpiece The Beyond is finally in print again for home viewing. After having previously been out of print for quite a while, Grindhouse Releasing has gone above and beyond to give us a brand new blu ray complete with glow in the dark box art and hours of special features.
The Beyond is the second in Fulci’s loosely connected “Gates of Hell” trilogy and follows a young woman who has just inherited a hotel in Louisiana. She plans to reopen it, but as she discovers that her new property is built over a literal gateway to Hell that becomes a small problem. What follows is one of the most bizarre and confusing series of events ever put to film. Gore soaked death scene after death scene let blood, eyeballs, and sulfuric acid fly as the dead rise and Hell unleashes its fury on everyone in the area. This is no mere slasher flick, though. The Beyond isn’t a film with a traditional narrative structure at all, in fact. It’s an experience. It is a strange movie, but each scene is engaging and suspenseful. Fulci masterfully creates a foreboding and apocalyptic atmosphere that only gets more intense as the film goes on. I could talk all day about how this is a surrealist masterpiece, but we already have an article about that.
Instead, let’s talk about this particular release. This is The Beyond’s blu ray debut and the distributor did a hell of a job with the finished product. It comes in some pretty nice packaging that’s on par with some of Criterion’s blu ray releases, but with the added bonus (gimmick?) that the artwork glows in the dark. It’s a three disc set that includes a blu ray of the feature film, a blu ray disc full of special features, and a CD that contains the film’s soundtrack. And of course the score has been fully remastered and sounds great. As far as the audio and visual details we have a hi-definition digital transfer of the picture and booming 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. This is the original uncut version of the feature, so all of the gore is intact. The new transfer looks great, but given the time the film was made and its lower budget origins, there’s still a little bit of grit and grain present throughout. It’s not going to look quite as good as some of your newer blu ray disc, but I can’t possibly imagine this film looking any better than it does here. The new sound mix is great, and the score has never had this much audible depth. This disc also features a commentary track with stars David Warbeck and Catriona MacColl that’s fun to hear. Neither of them had seen the film recently so it was a lot of reminiscing, catching up, and being nostalgic. They both look back on the film and its director with reverence and it shows.
Moving on to the second disc is where the bulk of the material in this package is. There are a whopping twelve interviews on here and most of them clock in at around half an hour each. Some of them are archival materials that have been present on previous DVD releases, but there are also a handful of brand new featurettes exclusive to this one. Looking Back: The Creation of The Beyond features interviews with cinematographer Sergio Salvati, screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, producer Fabrizio De Angelis and quite a few people from various areas of production. What makes this one interesting is that it essentially serves as a look back at Lucio Fulci himself, rather than focusing solely on The Beyond. In particular, they talk about the “Gates of Hell” trilogy and how Fulci impacted the emerging landscape of gritty Italian cinema amidst bigger names like Dario Argento and Sergio Leone. They progress into talking about The Beyond and share some pretty interesting stories on that as well. In particular I liked hearing Fabio Frizzi talking about his creation of the film’s haunting score.
There are also one on one interviews with actors Larry Ray, Catriona MacColl, Cinzia Mondreale who each document their own experiences with the film. Nothing too surprising here, but nice to see them included nonetheless. Making It Real – Giannetto DeRossi & Maurizio Trani features some extensive breakdowns of the gory death scenes and makeup effects of the film, and this is another highlight. They talk briefly about working with Fulci on Zombi and once again this serves as more of a career overview than a straightforward behind the scenes piece, though they do eventually go into The Beyond in more detail. In particular hearing about how they accomplished the melting head effect with sulfuric acid and clay was fascinating to me. This is going to be a segment that fans will eat up. We round out the disc with archival interviews and appearances at film screenings before closing out with Beyond Italy: U.S. Distributor Terry Levene, which documents the film’s journey to the states and its’ grindhouse status on 42nd street. There is also a large collection of production stills on here, but those don’t really warrant comment.
Overall this is a great package with a wealth of features and information. The film was out of print for a while before this so I would have been happy with anything. But seeing Grindhouse Releasing give it the effort and presentation that it deserves is absolutely fantastic. This flick has never looked or sounded better and if you’re a fan then this is simply a must own.