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Stroke of Midnight

Is it Scary?

Archive for the 'On TV' Category

Beyond the Beyond

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Wow! The Beyond has for ages been one of my favorite horror movies. I mean what’s not to love? Loads of gore, torture, man eating spiders, zombies, evil books, haunted hotels, gateways to hell, and virtually no plot getting in the way of the story. Decades after first seeing it on video, the surreal horror masterpiece still holds it’s power.

There really is no way of describing the story of The Beyond as there scarcely is a plot. The film exists almost entirely in dream logic, and trying to describe it in any meaningful way is like telling your dream to someone and we all know how interesting that is! There are major visual moments that act as plot points including the crucifixion of the painter in the opening scenes of the film. The sudden appearance of the blind psychic Emily, standing with her German Shepard guide dog on the middle of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in New Orleans, is one of the more jarring, non gore moments of the movie. The city of New Orleans with it’s raised tombs and wrought iron architecture of the French Quarter and Garden District lend a great deal of atmosphere to the proceedings.

The Beyond is actually one of the best H.P. Lovecraft adaptations, even though it isn’t actually based on Lovecraft. It does dabble in Lovecraftian mythology (as did Fulci’s earlier Gates of Hell aka City of the Living Dead). The setting is New Orleans replacing New England, but the huge house with it’s hidden secrets, the gateway to hell and the Book of Eibon all point to Lovecraft as does the whole feel of the film.

Lucio Fulci sometimes gets a bad rap for being merely a gore director. True, his horror films certainly push the vomit levels, but you often can sense something stronger than merely bloodletting in his approach, be it with Zombie 2, Gates of Hell or Manhattan Baby. The Beyond is where he finally puts it all together and creates fascinating piece of visual cinema, unencumbered by the necessity for coherent plot. It is easily his best and most important contribution to modern horror cinema.

Like some other Lucio Fulci films, The Beyond has had a spotty record on home video. A heavily censored version called Seven Doors to Death have floated around for years, and pales in comparison to the proper version. Of course this isn’t nearly as bad as the infamous swapped reals in some video versions of Fulci House By the Cemetery. Parts of the film were mastered out of sequence so people who had died earlier in the film suddenly showed back up with no explanation, causing the film to be thought of quite poorly. Of course this new deluxe edition of The Beyond suffers from none of that nonsense. A very sharp widescreen transfer is graced with stereo and mono English audio, Italian audio, and a really rollicking commentary track with stars Catriona MacColl and the late David Warbeck. The disc also has interviews, music videos, alternate scenes, and trailers.

Stay up Late, or set the Tivo

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Apparently taking a break from endless Hepburn & Tracy movies, TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is kicking it cult style Friday night, September 5th,  with a Ray Harryhausen film, an Ed Wood Movie, and a Ray Dennis Steckler double feature.

First up at the stroke of midnight is the under-rated Ray Harryhuasen film Three Worlds of Gulliver.  Once a staple of kiddie matinees the pic doesn’t really get the love it deserves.  Granted the script strips away all of Jonathan Swift’s satire, but it is a visual treat and besides outside of English Lit who cares about 18th Century satire, Gulliver is about shipwrecks and giants and tiny people, and it all looks great.

Around 2 A.M. we get two Ray Dennis Steckler movies with perhaps the greatest titles in film history:  Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? and Rat Pfink a Boo Boo.  The titles alone should tell you if you are interested, but who wouldn’t want to see what warranted these titles?  The films are clunky and amateur hour.  Personally I think they were a big influence on John Waters and even if they weren’t should appeal to fans of his early Baltimore movies.  Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? is a romantic, zombie musical, and Rat Pfink a Boo Boo is a Batman spoof that pre-dates Batman Forever by decades.  Both films need to be seen if for no other reason you can say you’ve seen them.

If you’ve survived all of that, which I doubt, then you can finish off the night with my personal favorite Ed Wood film, Bride of the Monster.  Plot, schmott! It is just a lot of fun watching Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson, and bunch of wannabe actors play monsters with an alcoholic cross dressing director.


Once that is over you can finally go to sleep secure in the knowledge there is nothing worth watching or doing on Saturday!