Bringing Beyond the Darkness Fully Up To Snuff

Finally we've come to the fourth and final - at least until this summer, when our long-delayed Anthropophagus should drop - entry in 88 Film's Italian restoration series, Joe D'Amato's slightly infamous Beyond the Darkness.  At spine #24, it's officially the last one, too.  And if the previous entry's weakness was that it was maybe a little too conventional and borrowing too much from other movies of its time, well... this movie doesn't have that problem, that's for sure.
The story's a strange one, folks.  A taxidermist's beautiful, young girlfriend dies in the hospital.  But he's not too bothered, because he's happy enough to taxidermy her up and keep her in the house as-is.  Unfortunately, the funeral attendant spotted him injecting her body at the funeral, so gets suspicious and keeps breaking into the guy's house to investigate, as any funeral attendant worth his salt would do.  This taxidermist, meanwhile, keeps killing other people, because, you know, shit happens.  But luckily, his housekeeper is in love with him and all to happy to help him dispose of the bodies.  It's not all good news, though, because she's jealous of the dead girlfriend and insists the taxidermist ditch the stiff and marry her.  Still, our questionable protagonist manages to keep a lid on everything until... his dead girlfriend's twin sister comes to stay!
I... guess this flick qualifies as a horror movie?  Certainly, some of the taxidermist's side kills play like an early slasher film, and the whole thing's dark and demented enough.  But it's really more of a twisted love story, reminding me a lot of Lamberto Bava's equally oddball Macabre.  It may not quite be horror, but it's certainly determined to be a cult film, with scenes of grown men breastfeeding and trying to initiate a threesome with a corpse.  This is a film where its soundtrack, by Goblin, is much better known than the film itself.  And on the one hand I can see why, but on the other hand, it certainly is interesting and not one a viewer would soon forget.  The robust score, beautiful locations and the handsome way its shot lend the story a lot more credence than it deserves, and despite the dubbing, the performances are fairly strong, too.
Beyond the Darkness is a film that's been released multiple times before, most notably by Shriek Show on DVD and blu.  Their releases were cut, though (albeit, just missing a pretty minor scene), so already we're off to a pretty nice start with 88 Film's new, 2017 blu-ray.  Umbrella also released it on blu in Australia, but apparently it's essentially just a port of the Shriek Show disc.  So if you want this film uncut and in HD, 88's your only option.  But hopefully their fresh 2k scan of the original 16mm negative looks pretty sweet, too.  Let's see.
88 Films 2017 blu-ray.
Well, this is a 16mm film, so you can't expect a lot of detail.  But I think this film looks as good as it possibly could here.  Like Aenigma, it's slightly pillar-boxed to 1.67:1, giving us more picture on three of four sides, particularly the top and bottom.  The colors look great and the grain is, well, maybe a pinch soft but still visible.  I wouldn't be surprised if this was lightly smoothed out a touch, because a 16mm film like this should be fairly noisy, but I'd say it's still safely within the Personal Judgement Call zone.

Again, 88 does right by its Italian catalog by giving us both the original Italian and English audio tracks, both in uncompressed LPCM 2.0, and with optional English subtitles.
In terms of special features, 88 came up with some nice stuff.  Shriek Show (and Umbrella) featured some cool interviews with the art director and actress Cinzi Monreale (the dead girl).  Unfortunately, those are not here, so if you have one of those discs, hang onto it.  But 88 actually came up with more of their own stuff, first and foremost of which is a 68-minute retrospective on Joe D'Amato (it says 90 minutes on the case; but that's not accurate).  It features a vintage interview with D'Amato himself, plus on-camera interviews with George Eastman, Claudio Fragasso, Rosella Drudi, Antonio Tentori, Michele Soavi, Carlo Maria Cordio and Mark Thompson Ashworth. Unfortunately, the Eastman and Soavi interviews are the exact same ones as on the Absurd blu.  I don't mean they were recorded at the same time; it's the same footage, which was particularly tedious to sit through so closely after just watching them on Absurd.  And extra frustratingly, they were both clearly asked both about Absurd in particular and D'Amato in general - so why not just put the parts where they talk about Absurd on the one disc and D'Amato on this one?  That was probably the plan initially, but then I guess they just wanted to pad the running times, which is disappointing.  On the other hand, the interview with Ashworth, a name you probably won't recognize as he's just one of the voice artists who dubbed a lot of his porn films into English, was an unexpected delight.  He got to see some treatments for some weird pornos D'Amato planned but never made...
That doc's not all we get.  Also included is a locations then and now featurette, and it's a quite good one.  They really go in-depth finding every nook and cranny this film got a shot of, from the main house to the path the jogger took.  Every inch is covered, going much further than most similar featurettes.  And those two things are the main special features, but we also get alternate Italian opening and closing credits, the theatrical trailer, and a cool booklet by Adrian Smith.  Even if you usually skip booklets, you might want to read this one, because it covers all the British censorship of D'Amato's work, citing all the detailed cuts and quoting the BBFC's reasoning.  And as with the previous three blus, the artwork is reversible and supporters of the campaign got a very cool slipcover.
So I had one or two nitpicks with this release, but if you want to own this film, this is the version to go with.  I mean, bottom line: it's the first uncut version in HD.  Serious fans may want to double-dip for the other extras, too, though.  But then again, what kind of weirdo considers themselves a serious fan of this film.  ::judging gaze::  Ha ha  Just kidding.  It's probably not a film I'd've bought if it wasn't bundled with the others, and you may've guessed by the lack of comparisons that I've never bought any of the previous releases.  But it's a well made film with a lot of strong points and I had fun watching it.  You'd probably just by the soundtrack album by itself, right?  So you might as well get the whole movie and all the other stuff at the same time for roughly the same amount of money.  And you've gotta love Iris the housekeeper.

1 comment:

  1. Severin is releasing it this year. I'm waiting for that one!