From Beyond (1986) BLU RAY Review (Second Sight)
From Beyond is a 1986 adaptation of a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, directed by Stuart Gordon, produced by Brian Yuzna, and made in association with Charles Band of Full Moon. It stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, both of whom Gordon had previously cast in his hugely successful Re-Animator the previous year.
Gordon originated in the theatre, and Re-Animator (his first Lovecraft adaptation) was destined to be a stage performance, however, when the theatre got wind of his intentions they made their feelings very clear from the offset, insomuch that they wanted nothing to do with any form of horror production. This was clearly so as not to cheapen the respectable name of the company. Gordon, undeterred, took his family to LA, sold his idea as a movie and began principal photography on what would become one of the most iconic films of the ‘80s.
The success of Re-Animator opened many doors for the director, one of which was the possibility of a 3 picture deal, which he promptly accepted. Working with Brian Yuzna (Society) at the time, the pair decided that they wanted to create a series of movies, based on the work of Lovecraft, in the style of the classic Roger Corman adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe. In true Corman fashion, this would even involve reusing the same sets, and shooting on a hectic schedule.
There was one caveat which Gordon hadn’t taken into account; his 3 pictures would be shooting in Rome. Only a few short months after relocating his family to LA, it was now time to pack everything up and relocate once more. Arriving in the winter of ’85, Gordon, his family, cast and crew soon got to work.
The first feature to emerge was Dolls, which wrapped in November, and then in the New Year, after repainting the sets and shimmying a few things round in the studio, they got to work on From Beyond.
Dennis Paoli went to work on adapting the short story, which is only about 7 pages long and makes for the pre-title sequence. Gordon also made a very important decision at this juncture, which was to reverse the previous roles of Combs and Crampton. Whilst in Re-Animator, Crampton had been the ditzy blonde co-ed, and Combs the insane scientific genius, in From Beyond these would be directly switched. Combs’ Dr. Crawford Tillinghast is the victim of the piece, whilst Crampton’s Dr. Katherine McMichaels is the one who sinks deeper into madness. Ken Foree was drafted in as an intermediary character, one who would ask the questions which the audience would be simultaneously asking throughout the feature. Impressed with his work on George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Gordon was eager to have him on board.
The primary story of From Beyond is that of Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel), an experimental genius and sexual deviant, one who was determined to unlock the secrets of the pineal gland (third eye) for the purposes of both pleasure, and genetic advancement. After seemingly being killed in the initial experiments (‘It ate him! Bit off his head like a gingerbread man’) it transpires that he has merely changed form, now ethereal, shape shifting and deadly.
For the monster which Dr. Pretorius becomes, Gordon took inspiration from At The Mountains of Madness, another Lovecraft tale. He combined the creature from this with certain influences taken from John Carpenter’s The Thing to create one of the most grotesque and visceral onscreen beasts of the era.
Combs’ character takes on many different forms throughout the movie, as does Crampton’s. He transforms physically several times, whereas it is an altogether more psychological and sexual transformation which takes place with Dr. McMichaels.
The quintessential comedic elements are present, but never overplayed, Gordon is a master at walking the line of horror and comedy, combining the gory and the gleeful in equal measure. The visual aesthetics of the film are astounding, with an enriched colour palate accentuated beautifully by a hugely talented DOP. Tension is wonderfully built, with notable assistance from Richard Band’s award winning score.
The MPAA were less than enthused upon the release of From Beyond, something which Gordon believes is accredited to how much they got away with in Re-Animator. It was also the only film in which the director imposed any form of self-censorship, removing an introductory scene in which Dr. Pretorius has a girl chained in bondage gear, with a nail driven through her tongue. The decision to remove this scene plagues him somewhat because, as he has stated in interviews ‘Now, almost everybody has some kind of piercing’.
From Beyond is one of 5 superb Lovecraft adaptations which Gordon has made, and certainly holds up well, almost 30 years later. It also marked the first film in which he cast (and killed) his wife, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, a trait that would become a signature of his subsequent films. She attests the visual eccentricity of From Beyond to their hippie lifestyles in the ‘60s, and claims that From Beyond is; ‘A movie for people who like to look in their handkerchiefs after they blow their nose’
With a budget 5 times that of Re-Animator, From Beyond is a lavish affair, made all the more affecting by the recent BLU RAY upgrade. The Second Sight edition of the BLU / DVD contains hours of extras, including commentaries from Gordon, Yuzna and Combs. Extensive interviews with the aforementioned artists, as well as Crampton and screenwriter Paoli. There are storyboard to film comparisons, mini documentaries on the SFX and much more.
You can find out more about the release, which is available from Feb 25th at the Second Sight Website, or at their Facebook page. They have previously released such classics as Basket Case on BLU and have confirmed the following releases for 2013: Scanners, Scanners 2, Scanners 3, Re-Animator, Bride of Re-Animator, Society, and The Brood. Now THAT’S an impressive line-up.
We shall keep you fully updated with any news on those titles.
The artwork for this release of From Beyond is by the legendary poster artist Graham Humphreys,