H.P. Lovecraft's From Beyond: Dragon to Vinegar Syndrome

We may've completed the Re-Animator trilogy, but we haven't run out of Brian Yuzna/ Charles Band co-productions of H.P. Lovecraft stories by Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli, scored by Richard Band and starring Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton yet. And while From Beyond might not be quite the film the original Re-Animator was, it's pretty damn close. And it's got just as interesting a history on disc as the rest of 'em.

Update 9/27/15 - 2/11/23: And that history just got more interesting, as Vinegar Syndrome has upgraded From Beyond to 4k UHD, in a packed 3-disc set.
A fun fact about From Beyond: the original Lovecraft story is so short, that it's pretty much adapted in this film's pre-credits sequence. Everything after that, then, is extrapolation and invention. And inventive it is. It's a wild and imaginative story that stays true to pretty much everything that was great about Re-Animator in terms of tone, style, performance, etc. The only thing that holds it back, maybe, is that it's so much further out there. Re-Animator obviously had a supernatural element to it: you can't just inject dead people with green goo and have them sit up and start walking around again. But this film has a whole other dimension, shape shifting monsters and all kinds of craziness. It's still got a sci-fi, and of course Lovecraftian base, but it's really over the top, including the characters. So that's what keeps this film from being quite as top shelf as their first endeavor - Jeffrey Combs becoming a brain-eating monster isn't quite as intellectually satisfying as his coldly intellectual portrayal of Herbert West. But on the other hand, in terms of crowd-pleasing over the top effects and general B-movie shenanigans, this movie manages to take it even further, which is saying something!
The story, uh, well let's see. Two scientists discover that sonic vibrations can stimulate a gland the human brain to see another dimension. So they create a machine to do so, and find out it's full of nasty creatures and quickly shut it down. That's pretty much where Lovecraft ends. It's pretty much a "could you imagine?" scenario. But in the film, one of the scientists is changed by the experience and goes back, turning into a shape-shifting creature that wants to absorb more people. The other scientist, Combs, winds up in a mental institution because they think he killed scientist #1. But his doctor, Crampton, wants to take him back to the scene and discover the truth. Of course, she has no idea just how bonkers the truth is, and soon the three of them (including Dawn of the Dead's Ken Foree as Bubba, the cop who's there to supervise) are also changed by the machine and can't stop summoning back the original, sadistic doctor. In short, the whole movie's delightfully crazy and backed by a ton of talent.
So, for a long time, this film wasn't available on DVD, despite having a very strong reputation. Part of that may've been due to the fact that this film was known to be a cut down version of an even more extreme director's cut that had never been released, and included scenes like an infamous eyeball sucking. The German label Dragon put it out in 2003, though, and even made a bit of a special edition out of it. And despite it being full screen, that was pretty much the one to own until 2007 when MGM amazingly stumbled upon cans of the lost film and Gordon was able to restore it. Apparently, it's not 100% - there are still bits of his director's cut missing; but he was able to restore a bunch of it including, yes, the eyeball suck. That was quite a happy release, I must say, featuring a bunch of new exciting extras as well. Finally a definitive DVD release! And when it became blu-ray time, who else but Scream Factory had the connection to MGM's catalog to make create an even larger special edition? But now in 2023, that MGM master is looking a bit dated. So now Vinegar Syndrome is here to usher us into the latest format, newly restored in HDR from the original camera negative on 4k Ultra HD.
1) Dragon DVD; 2) MGM DVD; 3) Scream Factory DVD; 4) Scream Factory BD;
5) Vinegar Syndrome BD; 6) Vinegar Syndrome UHD.

So, there's six shots per because the Scream Factory release is a DVD/ BD combo pack, and VS is a BD/ UHD pack. It's a pretty natural progression down the whole line. Dragon's disc is fullscreen at about 1.30:1, but it's not entirely an open/ closed matte situation, since it does have extra info on the top and bottoms but is missing quite a lot more on the sides. Once MGM gets it, though, it's properly matted to 1.85(or technically, more like 1.83ish):1 with much more vivid colors. But then it drops the letterboxing and opens back up to 1.78:1 again once Scream Factory gets their hands on it for their DVD. Otherwise the images are fairly identical. Obviously I prefer the OAR of MGM's disc, but it's a literally slim distinction, and the upgrade to HD is much more important.

Not that it's a huge boost, to be honest. I'm pretty sure Scream's just used MGM's high def master that they created back in 2007, so it's not floor show-level impressive. But it does sharpen things up and clear away compression lumps, giving the film a cleaner and more realistic look on blu. So it's a genuine step up to HD, but the minimum distance that step could take.  But now we've got VS's all new 4k scan - and hey, look, film grain magically appears!  Also, VS has re-framed the film to its proper 1.85:1 AR, and pulled out to reveal more picture along all four sides in the process.  Now it really looks like film; and only holds even truer on the UHD.  The HDR colors look more natural (or more unnatural, when it comes to the crazy pink and blue dimension crossing scenes), and aspects of the image that are blown out, like the papers on the desk behind them in the second set of shots, have all of their visual information restored.  This is a super satisfying upgrade.

1) Scream Factory BD; 2) Vinegar Syndrome UHD.
Oh, but I should talk about this, too: VS's new release comes with a disclaimer about the composited footage, which comes from a 35mm workprint, and how they went to extra lengths to retain its original qualities as best they could.  But that's obvious just from looking at it.  Grain is reasonably hinted at in these shots on the SF, but it's a stronger scan now, and all that much clearer on the UHD.  You can see that SF cleaned up some film damage, which is back on VS's presentation (notice the black marks around Jeffrey's upper hand), but I'll take that trade any day.  Oh, and VS has also matted theirs to 1.85:1 to match with the rest of their transfer.

The Dragon DVD just offered a standard stereo track (plus a 5.1 mix of the German dub), which MGM upgraded to a Dolby 4.0 mix. Scream gives both a 2.0 and 5.1 mix, in DTS-HD on the blu, both of which VS keeps. MGM, Scream and VS also include optional English subtitles.
There's plenty of extras on hand, too. Dragon started us off with two interviews: Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna. They're pretty good, but clearly recorded at some convention with omnidirectional mics, so the background sound really overcrowds the speakers. It also had a little booklet, but the text is all in German. MGM scrapped those and instead assembled a kick-ass commentary with Gordon, Yuzna, Combs, and Barbara Crampton, plus a short featurette on the restoration of the found footage and brief on-camera interviews with Gordon and Richard Band.  They also had some storyboard comparisons and a photo gallery.

Scream has all the MGM extras, plus a second audio commentary with Dennis Paoli. Writers are usually skipped over for commentaries, so that was a really nice surprise. They also created a 23+ minute featurette on the special effects, and on-camera interviews with Crampton, Combs and Charles Band. Plus they finally added the long conspicuously absent trailer. It adds up to a very satisfying, well-rounded special edition fans should love.
Re-Resonator: Looking Back at From Beyond
But Vinegar Syndrome must really want us to double-dip, because they came loaded for bear.  First of all, they have almost all of the special features from the MGM/ Scream Factory releases.  They're just missing the short featurette where Gordon (plus the telecine artist and a guy from Sony) speaks about how they found the lost footage ("this film had been castrated, and now it's got its balls back") and restored.  This is a shame because it answers a lot of fans' questions about these releases and isn't redundant, unlike many of the other extras we'll talk about.

Because VS also has a whole bunch of new material, most significantly, an all-new, feature length documentary on the history of From Beyond.  That's right, it's a whole new movie in itself, that talks to pretty much all the surviving major players, from the stars to Yuzna and Paoli, plus some people we never got to hear from before, like the editor even the foley artist.  It's enough that many fans might not even feel compelled to put in the third disc and explore the rest of the interviews.  But there's plenty, because VS has also ported over all of the interviews from Second Sight's UK edition.  So there's another interview with Gordon, another interview with Paoli and another interview with Crampton.  So I love how thorough it is, but it's also redundant and overkill.  Unsurprisingly, these guys mostly have the same memories to share about the film no matter which home video company was interviewing them.  I would advise just picking and choosing what you're most intrigued by rather than plowing through it all.  VS's release also includes reversible artwork and the first 7000 copies come in a limited edition slipcover.
We've wound up with a pretty ideal special edition. It's nice to hold out hope for the rest of the cut footage to be found, but realistically, this is surely as good as it's going to get, and better than I ever would've dared to imagine us getting twenty years ago when Dragon's DVD felt like a godsend.


  1. My first DVD of this was actually an HK import from Ocean Shores! It had to have been released around 1999. The less said about its quality, the better!

  2. no thin green line on your scream copy? i Dunno about the feature yet, but it's there on at least 4 of the extras (the only ones I've seen, just popped it in). it's one of those things you can kinda get used to, but let's be honest, it's a mistake that no one on any side could want/enjoy/was necessary.

  3. vertical bright green line running the length of the screen on the right*

    1. WHEW! no green line on the feature (at the start anyway). whew! tho, I'm sure you'd mention it if it was, a part of why i love this site.