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Beyond The Door
Beyond The Door
Directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis (as O. Hellman) and released in 1974, a year after The Exorcist proved to be box office gold, Beyond The Door introduces us to Jessica Barrett (Juliet Mills), her husband Robert (Gabriele Lavia) and their two kids, smart-mouthed Gail (Barbara Fiorini) and pea soup loving Ken (Davd Colin Jr.). They live a good life and seem quite happy together, but when it turns out that Jessica is pregnant, things get a little tense. Regardless, they decide they'll make the best of the situation but after a visit to Dr. George Staton (Nino Segurini), a man who also happens to be their best friend, Jessica realizes that something is odd: she figures she can't be more than a few weeks into her pregnancy, while he insists she has to be at least three months.
From there, things start to get strange in the Barrett house. Jessica first sees the reflection of Dimitri (Richard Johnson), a man from her past, in the mirror one night, and this same man seems to be following Robert around San Francisco. Then Ken starts acting strange, talking to an invisible friend who seems to be able to make objects move around the room under their own power. It isn't long before Jessica's behavior changes drastically and she starts to look quite sick. George's wife, Barbara (Elizabeth Turner), tries to get her to confide in her to find out if there's anything she's been keeping from Robert, but it turns out that isn't it.
As luck would have it, Jessica isn't just pregnant… she's possessed by the devil himself!
More than just a little bit influenced by William Friedkin's adaptation of William Peter Blatty's classic, Assonitis' film lacks the sophistication and intensity of The Exorcist but makes up for that with some genuinely bizarre set pieces and over the top effects work (some of which works better than others). While the storyline starts to fall apart in the last fifteen-minutes or so, until that point in the film the picture actually does a pretty decent job of creating some interesting atmosphere and mystery. Dimitri's character manages to maintain a weirdness throughout that compliments the rest of the storyline, we really don't quite know what he's up to or why and this makes the particular story arc that he's involved with quite intriguing. There are also other flat-out strange elements worked into the story for no discernable reason, other than to just have some additional flat-out strange elements in the movie. Case in point? Young Ken's obsession with pea soup, his beverage of choice which he can be seen sucking out of the can with a straw very early in the picture. Another example would be Gail's tendency to talk like a beatnik and swear at her family members, despite being around ten years or ago or younger. These would presumably be there to add comic relief, but most possession films don't really call for comic relief (Repossessed being the obvious exception to that rule!).
The performances, all of which were clearly dubbed in post-production, are decent enough. Full marks to Juliet Mills (sister of Disney movie star Hayley Mills!) who may not show the most range out of any actress you've ever seen but who definitely throws herself into her role with loads of enthusiasm. She really does give it her all and she's actually a lot of fun to watch here. Gabriele Lavia, who giallo fans will recognize from Argento's classic Deep Red, is more than decent as the concerned husband while Nino Segurini and Elizabeth Turner are fine as the Barrett's friends. Fiorini and Colin are pretty funny as the couple's weirdo kids, while Richard Johnson lends his inimitable screen presence to the picture in his quirky supporting role and the movie is all the better for it.
Arrow includes both versions of the film in this set. The uncut export version, which uses The Devil Within Her on its title card, runs 108 minutes versus the 99 minutes on the theatrical cut. The expert version, in addition to a longer credits sequence, also contains a scene where Jessica meets Dimitri earlier in the film during a ritual and a scene where the Barrett's go shopping.
Both versions Beyond The Door arrive on Blu-ray from Arrow Video on 50GB discs in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen taken from new 2k restorations.
Disc One contains the original uncut English Export version of the film and gives the feature just under 26GBS of space on the disc, while disc two holds the U.S. theatrical version which gets just over 24GBs of space on its disc. The expert version shows some strong print damage during the first few minutes of the opening credits sequence but thankfully after that it isn't an issue, we see only small white specks now and again and nothing more than that. The U.S. theatrical cut doesn't have the print damage in the credits, it's cleaner in that regard. Aside from that though, both transfers look quite nice. There are some shots where some softer than average photography is employed but as that was by design, you can't fault the disc. Colors look really good on both versions of the movie and neither transfer shows any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement, with a natural amount of film grain noticeable throughout. Compression artifacts are never a problem and we get strong depth, detail and texture throughout each of the two presentations.
The only audio option on either disc is an English language LPCM Mono track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. There's some fairly noticeable sibilance present on and off again in the export version, but otherwise it is fine. This isn't as noticeable in the theatrical cut. Both tracks are nicely balanced and free or any noticeable hiss. Levels are fine and the score and effects sound pretty good.
Extras start off with an archival commentary track featuring director/producer Ovidio G. Assonitis, writer Nathanial Thompson and moderator Lee Christian. It's a good track that covers the origins of the film, working with the cast and crew and lots more. A second archival commentary features actress Juliet Mills, filmmaker Scott Spiegel and moderators Darren Gross and Lee Christian. This track covers not only her experiences on this particular film but many of the other films and projects that she was involved with over the years. Both of these tracks (as well as the other archival extra features included in this set) originated on the Code Red DVD release that came out years ago.
Arrow has supplied a nice selection of newly shot extra features no this first disc, starting with The Devil And Me… which is an interview with director/producer Ovidio G. Assonitis that runs twenty-four-minutes and covers the influence of Friedkin's film, where the ideas for the picture came from, how this came to be made in San Francisco, shooting interiors on a soundstage in Rome, working with Piazzoli and how the whole ‘Warner Brothers is suing us' thing played out for him. Barrett's Hell is a thiryt-three-minute interview with cinematographer Roberto D'Ettorre Piazzoli where he speaks about co-directing parts of the picture, what it was like working with Assonitis, how they didn't bother getting permits for the shoot in San Francisco, working with the cast and crew and more. In Beyond The Music we sit down with composer Franco Micalizzi . The Devil's Face gets camera operator Maurizio Maggi on camera for ten-minute to share his experiences from the shoot, what it was like working with Assonitis, some of the effects and post production work the film needed, and the Warner Brothers law suit that happened when the movie was released. Motel And Devils is a twelve-and-a-half-minute audio interview with actor Gabriele Lavia where he speaks about landing the role in the film, his work on the stage and how it differs from acting on film.
There's also a twenty-minute archival featurette included here entitled Beyond The Door: 35 Years Later that is made up of interviews with Assonitis, Mills, the late Richard Johnson and writer Alan Rebar. We also get an archival featurette called Richard Johnson: An Englishman In Italy that is a seven-minute look at the late actor's work in Italy.
Finishing up the extras on the first disc is an alternate Italian Chi Sei? opening titles sequence, the alternate Behind The Door VHS opening title sequence, the alternate Japanese Diabolica opening and ending sequences, four different trailers for the film, a US TV spot, a US radio spot, a quick archival introduction from Mills and Christian and a nice still gallery of ephemera.
The second disc, which is exclusive to the limited edition release, contains an excellent documentary called Italy Possessed that covers the wild history of Italian Exorcist rip-off films and includes interviews with filmmakers who contributed to this odd subgenre like Sergio Martino, Alberto De Martino, Pupi Avati, Marcello Avallone and Ovidio G. Assonitis as well as a host of film critics and historians. It's an interesting piece that details how and why this strange cinematic cottage industry evolved in Italy and then goes on to highlight some of the entries and detail their history and comment on their high and low points.
Also found on the second disc is Gabriel Lavia: Bargain With The Devil, an archival interview with the actor that runs eleven-minutes and covers what it was like being on set, his experiences on the film, thoughts on the cast and crew and more. There's also an Extended Interview With Actress Juliet Mills included here that runs fourteen-minutes and covers her experiences on the film and her thoughts on the picture.
The limited edition, of which only 3,000 units have been made, also includes some nice reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach, a reversible fold-out poster containing that same art, and a really nice perfect-bound collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Martin (who contributes a piece called Beyond Our Ken… Ovidio Assonitis' Chi sei?) and Alessio di Rocco (an essay entitled Beyond The Film) as well as technical note on the presentation, credits for the Blu-ray release and credits for the feature itself.
Beyond The Door can be hard to take seriously at times but it is nothing if not entertaining. The performances are decent, especially Mills as the female lead, and there's some pretty good effects work here that contribute to some memorable set pieces. Arrow has done a nice job bringing both versions of the film to Blu-ray in nice shape and with a release that is stacked with extras old and new. Recommended!
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.
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