Friday, 5 April 2013

Prying Open My Third Eye: From Beyond Invades Your Home

I've written before about the mostly unknown Stuart Gordon film, From Beyond, and found it to be a bit underwhelming, but overall fun film. Well, recently, Second Sight Films released the film in a brand new sparkly Blu-Ray, and I went and spent the full sticker price, because if someone takes a risk of releasing a more obscure gem, they deserve it. How did it go down with me?

Pretty well.

The entire film lives in the shadow of Gordon's debut, Re-animator, which it can be argued he has never topped, and by using the same stable of actors (Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton), it invites comparison. Sticking with schlokmeister producer Charles Band, Gordon shot a load of low budget flicks in Italy (From Beyond was shot almost back to back with Dolls), and there is a definite vibe of diminishing returns as his catalogue was produced, but From Beyond remains one of Stuart Gordon's finest films, not quite living up to its big brother, Re-animator, but certainly earning an A for effort.

Second Sight's Blu-Ray release appropriately also invites comparison to the special edition of Re-animator (which, if you don't have, what the hell do you even have a DVD player for? That shit is gold). This release is packed to the rafters with extras, leaving every penny of the cost worth it. A lot of the features are recycled from the region 1 MGM DVD, but hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. 

If it ain't broke, don't fix it...

The film comes uncut, restoring footage removed to achieve an appropriate rating. The footage was thought destroyed, but ended up being painstakingly restored from a workprint, and using modern grading, was almost seamlessly integrated into the film (the Editing Room - Lost and Found featurette details this process). We have a lively commentary from Gordon, Combs, Crampton and Brian Yuzna, with Combs getting a bit diva every now and again about his Re-animator co-star Bruce Abbott, Crampton being quite a refreshing voice for a female in exploitation (having a laugh about friends putting on THAT scene during dinner parties), and Yuzna doing his best to actually discuss the production, the poor bugger. Very conversational, very honest, and worth a watch. If you have never watched a commentary before, this is a fine example of a good one.

In conjunction with the commentary, several featurettes paint the full picture on the film, these being Stuart Gordon on From Beyond (which seems quite recent and filmed after a special screening), Director's Perspective, and The Doctor Is In - An Interview With Barbara Crampton (where the woman again gives a candid and charming insight into her experience on the film and her career). In contrast, Gothic Adaptation - An Interview With Writer Dennis Paoli shows a slightly bitter taste in the co-writer's mouth, though he doesn't come off in a bad light. There is a documentary on the impressive special effects (which Yuzna and Gordon slight in the commentary, somewhat justly), a nice interview with composer Richard Band, a photo montage and short storyboard to film comparison.

It just seems to be a film filled with many two-sided stories, and the Blu-Ray doesn't shy away from this. Drama behind the scenes always makes for the best home edition releases, regardless of the actual film.

The region A release contains a lot of this content, with some different featurettes and a commentary by writer Paoli, but unfortunately I don't have the release so can't comment much upon it. Sources tell me both releases are strong and have their own pros and cons, so all things considered, we're doing well. I did find the newer featurettes to be a bit rushed feeling, which is an issue I have with a lot of featurettes on certain popular cult retailers releases, but I do try hold my tongue, since the content is great, and much better than none at all. It's just a bit sloppy in it's presentation.

If you were a Re-animator fan, or Return of the Living Dead fan, or want proper B-movies, this is where to look. This film is what most people mean when they say B-movie. Schlocky fun with blood and nudity, never to be taken seriously. My overall impression is the release is a lot like the film, a strong effort well worth your time, but still in the shadow of Gordon's splatter classic.


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