From Beyond (Unrated Director's Cut) Review
Lord knows what goes through the minds of censors but I suppose the sadomasochistic overtones of From Beyond would never go down well with the MPAA. With Stuart Gordon's feature début, Re-Animator, the film had been released without a rating as no way would the infamous "head" sequence find favour with the moral majority. With a studio deal though, his follow up needed a rating to be distributed widely and the director had to go through the indignities of lectures and cuts to his film before it could hit cinema screens in a bowdlerised form. The film still did okay and reviews were favourable but the joyful excess that marked his début had to be sacrificed to some degree. This new MGM release restores the brain eating, eye popping and extreme digits that made the film as much fun as its predecessor.
Adapting again from Lovecraft, From Beyond reunites the key assets of Stuart Gordon's debut. This time, the wonderful Jeffrey Combs plays victim and Barbara Crampton plays misadventuring scientist and Brian Yuzna, Dennis Paoli and Richard Band reprise their respective contributions to the production, writing, and music. The tone of the film matches the gross out of the first movie and there is a similar balls to the wall approach to scaring people, but the perversity of From Beyond is even more transgressive and, well, sexy. Combs is Crawford Tillenghast, an assistant to mad scientist and sensory adventurer, Dr Pretorious, whose success in untapping another dimension leads to his own demise and Combs being locked up in the booby hatch. There he is studied by hot totty and pioneering psychiatrist, Crampton, and she gets him freed to re-create the experiments. This leads to all hell breaking loose, some whipcracking sleaze, and strange headaches.
I won't say anything more about the plot because there isn't really a lot more to say in this deliriously brief slice of cartoonish horror. I am quite sure that those with serious literary needs will be appalled at the lack of depth and the reliance on stereotypes in the script, they will also find themselves rather non-plussed by the illogical actions of the characters and the crowd pleasing nudity and violence. It comes as no surprise that the film was shot in Italy as it shares the spirit of Italian exploitation films of the seventies and early eighties, and like them it is brilliant entertainment. Even better than that, the film knows it is trashy and revels in the nonsense it is with lines like "He's become the thing that ate him" and "it bit off his head like a gingerbread man" delivered by the funny and reliable Combs.
Continuing her important role in the maturation of many young men in the eighties, Crampton gets to endure more scenes of obscene desecration and she enjoys playing the hidden vamp more than the flat role of Megan Halsey. The whole movie bathes itself in the erotic and the profane and captures that visceral unspeakably sticky Lovecraft feel with superb model work and monster design. Some of the matte effects are a little old looking now, and the whole affair relies on you accepting the genre of mad scientists and its stereotypes rather than wanting careful exposition. In the end, From Beyond has the same popcorn factor as Re-animator and will probably leave fans of that film with the same huge smile of contentment because of its plentiful titillation and gunk. It made me feel like a teenager again, and God bless it for that.
MGM release the film on a dual layer disc with a super restored transfer which merges the cut material back into the film seamlessly. The quality of the inserts is unnoticeably different from the rest of the film which is a real achievement given these sections came from a workprint. Visually the main feature looks terrific with the lurid colours bright and clean, excellent handling of the shades in the contrast and a frankly amazing level of sharpness. Fans of the film will have no worries with this treatment. The film comes with surround sound rather than 5.1, as it hails from the time of ultra stereo and MGM have not decided to remix into a more modern track. I applaud this as the audio quality here is strong enough and the mere lack of some directional sound in the rear speakers hardly seems a major cause for concern. The sound is vibrant with strong bass and clarity in the music and dialogue reproduction, mastering and source imperfections are thankfully not present.
The special features include four scene to storyboard comparisons which are introduced by the director and which allow the viewer to watch the storyboards with the film's sound through using the angle button. Gordon's storyboards are a little rudimentary as drawings but interesting similar enough to compare to his finished film. Four filmed pieces are also included on the disc with Gordon reflecting on the film's original release and the indignities of fighting with the censors in The Director's Perspective. The Editing Room tells the story of the discovery of the cut footage and its restoration, with the opportunity to view it pre-clean up, and the final filmed featurette is an interview with composer, Richard Band. Completing the extra features is a photo gallery of shooting the film and stills from it which is scored by soundtrack music.
The main extra is the cast and crew commentary with Combs, Crampton, Yuzna and Gordon fighting for microphone time as they re-live some obviously fun memories. A lot is made of Crampton's choice of glasses in her role and she revels in tales of her friends demanding that she show them the kinkier moments of the film when they visit. Gordon and Yuzna discuss the scientific basis of the film and the joys of working with a cast of extras who couldn't speak English as the film was shot in Italy. In mood and type, it's similar to the previous commentaries these people have done together with Gordon serious about his craft and the cast enjoying the times they had together.
An entertaining movie gets a terrific treatment. Fans of Re-Animator should snap this up to learn that it wasn't a one-off and anyone who enjoys the nonsense of B-movies and Italian exploitation will lap it up too.
9 out of 10
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