DirectorOvidio G. Assonitis
Release Date(s)1974 (April 7, 2020)
Studio(s)Film Ventures International (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A
Years after Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist scared up box offices the world over with a new brand of Satanic-laden horror, a slew of films based upon the same subject matter (or in some cases, flat-out rip-offs) began to crop up—from the lowest to the highest on the budget spectrum. Although it was eventually sued by Warner Bros for its similarities to The Exorcist, Beyond the Door was a big hit during its original theatrical run. Released in Europe as Chi Sei?, and in the UK as The Devil Within Her, its director Ovidio G. Assonitis (Tentacles, Piranha II: The Spawning) managed to effectively ape the same formula, but with different story dynamics.
Jessica (Juliet Mills) and her husband Robert (Gabriele Lavia) have a happy marriage and live in San Francisco with their two young children, as well as one on the way. A recent visit to the doctor reveals that the unborn child is growing at a much faster rate than normal, which causes Jessica to be violently sick, to hallucinate, and display supernatural tendencies. It soon becomes clear that she is possessed by an unknown force as her behavior becomes increasingly unstable. Fearing for her and his children’s safety, Robert turns to a mysterious man named Dimitri (Richard Johnson), whose intentions toward Jessica and her unholy state are unknown.
Beyond the Door is one of the first films that film geeks run to when searching through the pile of Rosemary Baby and The Exorcist rip-offs that saturated the market after their respective releases. It’s traditionally thought of as one of the most blatant examples (outside of 1974’s Abby, which was prosecuted into obscurity by Warner Bros). All of the trademark Exorcist demonic activities are present, including evil voices, levitation, green bile, and head-spinning. Outside of that, the story is different. Whereas The Exorcist was about a mother’s desperation to find a solution to her daughter’s behavior, eventually leading her to men of the cloth, Beyond the Door is about the division of a family. It’s pure exploitation, severely lacking in subtlety.
That said, many sequences in Beyond the Door, including the aforementioned head-spinning moment, are highly effective. At odds with its own aesthetic is the use of a reggae-influenced disco soundtrack, which gives the film more of an Italian flavor in the vein of an Argento film, but also butting heads with the tone right at the outset. The characters, outside of Jessica and Dimitri, are merely window dressing, and mostly reactionary than participatory. But would Beyond the Door exist if Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist didn’t come first and were highly successful? Of course not, nor would the other imitators. Beyond the Door, ultimately, is a film with wild, off the wall moments, but isn’t as engaging or as entertaining as one might hope.
Beyond the Door comes to Blu-ray from Arrow Video sporting two versions of the film: the uncut English export version with the title The Devil Within Her, and the US theatrical version. They are presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and have been restored in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, with sections of a 35mm print utilized for moments unique to the US version. It’s an excellent transfer that appears organic and film-like, though imperfect as there is minor damage leftover, including obvious scratches during the opening titles. Detail is strong, even in some of the darker scenes, while black levels offer a surprising amount of depth. The color palette is tame, but limited only by the film’s lack of variety in the visuals. That is to say, it’s not an overly colorful film, but the hues that it does contain are well represented. Brightness and contrast levels are ideal and the overall image is stable throughout.
Both versions also feature audio in English mono LPCM with optional subtitles in English SDH. The music is given the largest boost in clarity, coming through with extra muscle, but never overpowering the other elements. The dubbed dialogue is clean and discernable throughout, while sound effects range from effective to minor in nature. Both tracks feature only a mild amount of hiss, but lack overt distortion or crackle.
The following extras are included on each disc:
DISC ONE (UNCUT ENGLISH EXPORT VERSION)
- Audio Commentary with Ovidio G. Assonitis, Nathaniel Thompson, and Lee Christian
- Audio Commentary with Juliet Mills, Scott Spiegel, Darren Gross, and Lee Christian
- Optional Introduction by Juliet Mills and Lee Christian (SD – 0:58)
- The Devil and Me: An Interview with Ovidio G. Assonitis (HD – 24:29)
- Barrett’s Hell: An Interview with Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli (HD – 32:29)
- Beyond the Music: An Interview with Franco Micalizzi (HD – 19:41)
- The Devil’s Face: An Interview with Maurizio Maggi (HD – 10:26)
- Motels and Devils: An Interview with Gabriele Lavia (HD – 12:30)
- Beyond the Door: 35 Years Later (SD – 20:34)
- Richard Johnson: An Englishman in Italy (SD – 6:56)
- US Trailer (HD – 2:13)
- Alternate English Trailer (HD – 3:11)
- Italian Trailer (HD – 3:44)
- Japanese Trailer (HD – 1:06)
- US TV Spot (HD – 0:30)
- US Radio Spot (HD – 0:30)
- Alternate Italian Opening Titles (HD – 4:27)
- Alternate Australian Opening and Closing Titles (SD – 0:27)
- Alternate Japanese Opening and Closing Titles (SD – 2:39)
- Image Gallery (HD – 59 in all – 9:50)
DISC TWO (US THEATRICAL VERSION)
- Italy Possessed: A Brief History of Exorcist Rip-Offs (HD – 1:28:15)
- Gabriele Lavia: Bargain with the Devil (SD – 10:44)
- Juliet Mills: Deleted Interview (SD – 13:55)
All of the film’s extras from previous releases, including Code Red’s DVD and Blu-ray releases, as well as a Japanese release, have been ported over, plus plenty of new material. On Disc One, both audio commentaries are quite lively and offer an abundance of information about the making of the film. In his interview, Ovidio G. Assonitis speaks at length about the genesis, making of, and release of the film with great affection. Cinematographer and co-writer Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli and Franco Micalizzi speak about their careers, and working with Ovidio specifically. Camera operator Maurizio Maggi talks briefly about his experiences making the film. Gabriele Lavia gives an audio interview about his involvement with the film. The archival featurette includes interviews with Ovidio G. Assonitis, actors Juliet Mills and Richard Johnson, and co-writer Alex Rebar. The separate Richard Johnson is interview is short, though he discusses working in horror films in Italy with reverence. The image gallery consists of 59 stills of posters, lobby cards, promotional materials, and soundtrack covers.
On Disc Two, Italy Possessed is a slow but very informative documentary, featuring interviews with Italian filmmakers and film historians Marcello Avallone, Sergio Martino, Marcus Stigletter, Ovidio G. Assonitis, Pupi Avati, Alberto Demartino, Elena Fusco, Eugenio Ercolani, Roberto D’ettorre Piazzoli, Silvia Petroni, Stella Carnacina, Alessio Di Rocco, Luigi Cozzi, Giulio Petroni, and Giuliano Sorgini. The Gabriele Lavia interview is brief, but offers additional information about the actor’s work on the film. The Juliet Mills interview is leftover from the archival featurette from the first disc, and also provides added background.
Also included is a double-sided poster featuring the new artwork on one side and the original theatrical art on the other, as well as a 60-page insert booklet with cast and crew information, stills from the film, the essay Beyond Our Ken... Ovidio Assonitis’s Chi Sei? by John Martin, another essay Beyond the Film by Alessio Di Rocco, and restoration information. All of this material is housed within a sturdy slipcase housing.
Arrow Video’s Limited Edition Blu-ray release of Beyond the Door bests all previous releases of the film, sporting two versions with excellent A/V quality and a multitude of extras. If you’re a fan of the film, this is the release to own.
– Tim Salmons