Rarely does a horror film become a cultural phenomenon like THE EXORCIST did when first released in 1973, spawning an onslaught of imitations around the globe. Italy was foremost in the trend, with the first of these examples being BEYOND THE DOOR, known in its native country as “Chi sei?” Also looking towards ROSEMARY’S BABY for inspiration, BEYOND THE DOOR was not only a hit in European and Asian countries, but also a significant box office contender when released in the States in 1975 by Film Ventures. Code Red has now upgraded their DVD release of a few years ago with this much-welcomed Blu-ray.
In San Francisco, happy English housewife Jessica Barrett (Juliet Mills, CARRY ON JACK) lives with her successful record producer husband Robert (Gabriele Lavia, DEEP RED, INFERNO) and their two rather obnoxious and foul-mouthed kids (Barbara Fiorini and David Colin Jr.). Jessica soon finds out she’s pregnant and considers not having her child. What follows is a medley of unusual behavior: she vomits up blood, smashes her husband’s prized fish tank, eats a banana peal off the pavement, incestuously kisses her son on the lips and smacks her daughter abruptly. A strange rain-coated bearded man named Dimitri (Richard Johnson, ZOMBIE) is constantly making ambiguous appearances, and warns Robert that his wife’s baby must be born. But Jessica is apparently possessed by the Devil, and she performs the expected hell-bound bedroom stunts to prove it.
To assess whether BEYOND THE DOOR is a good or bad movie is besides the point, and for something which on the surface looks to be an EXORCIST carbon copy, it in fact has no exorcism but plenty of upchucking. The film boasts some excellent cinematography by Roberto D'Ettorre Piazzoli (who is credited as co-director under the name “R. Barrett”) and distinctive visuals, some of them optically enhanced during the possession sequences, all which come off rather creepy as proficiently acted out by Mills. Another standout is a sequence where the two children’s room is overcome by toys which come to life, but the consistent presence of Campbell’s Soup labels of the “Pea Soup” variety often makes you wonder how seriously this was all meant to be taken. Shot on location in San Francisco and at a studio in Italy, the film can become talky in spurts, but again, the number of unique and bizarre visuals makes up for that and the straight-faced performances of seasoned vets Mills and Johnson certainly bring the modest production up more than a few notches. The score by Franco Micalizzi is cemented in the 1970s, but that only attributes to its retro chic status today, capping off what makes BEYOND THE DOOR essential and irresistible Euro horror.
Like with Code Red’s previous DVD release, this Blu-ray presents BEYOND THE DOOR in its longer European version (with the title “The Devil Within Her,” not to be confused with a Joan Collins thriller AIP released here under that name) which includes an extended opening credits sequence with the full version of the bizarre pop song "Bargain With The Devil", and several other restored bits not seen in the U.S. theatrical release. This is a new HD scan from the original elements, presented in 1080p in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and the image looks clean and terrific, with vibrant colors, sharp detail and a tight filmic grain structure. An English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is included, with sound effects, music and dialogue all balanced effectively. The “Beyond the Door” title does actually pop up on screen right before the end credits.
The majority of the abundant extras from the DVD (all but a short introduction and a still gallery) are carried over to this Blu-ray, and you get the feeling that a lot of fun was had by all who participated in them. You would think an actress such as Juliet Mills (who got the part in this film after appearing in AVANTI! for Billy Wilder) would look down on starring in an Italian-made exploitation film, but she doesn’t at all and is a good sport throughout the commentary moderated by Darren Gross, Lee Christian and screenwriter Scott Spiegel. The moderators bring up good questions, and Mills actually remembers quite a lot, even recalling taking her ten-year-old son to the premiere in California. A second commentary features director/producer Ovidio G. Assonitis, excellently moderated by Spiegel and Nathaniel Thompson, editor of the Mondo Digital website. Assonitis (who states he never saw THE EXORCIST before making this, only reading the book!) is full of information about the production, putting several legends about it to rest, and he also touches upon other films in his career, including TENTACLES and THE VISITOR.
Assonitis and Mills are interviewed on-camera for “Beyond the Door: 35 Years Later”, an enjoyable 20-minute featurette which also includes the late Richard Johnson and Alex Rebar (the star of THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN who had a hand in BEYOND THE DOOR’s screenplay). A separate, 7-minute interview with Johnson entitled “An Englishman In Italy” has the jovial (and much missed) actor not only recalling this film, but ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN (SCREAMERS) and Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE as well. New to this Blu-ray is “Bargain With the Devil” (10:43), an interview with actor Gabriele Lavia (conducted by Assonitis himself), who describes getting the role and quickly taking off to San Francisco to make the film. He says he had fun making it and mentions how he and Johnson joked about the line, “The child must be born”, even years later when he ran into him again. He also talks about his co-star Mills and describes the shoot as adventurous and the final film itself as beautiful. A trailer and TV spot are included, and the cover is reversible with the American poster art on the opposite side. (George R. Reis)
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