Director: Ovidio G. Assonitis
Script: Ovidio G. Assonitis & Antonio Troiso
Cast: Juliet Mills, Richard Johnson, Gabriele Lavia, Nino Segurini, Elizabeth Turner
Running time: 98.5 minutes
Beyond the Door was quite a big success on its initial release back in 1974, not long after the film, The Exorcist, that it was obviously trying to cash-in on, had been released. However, for me, the film has more of a ‘Rosemary’s Baby vibe’ to it, after one discounts the head-twisting and demonic puking scenes! The director, Ovidio G. Assonitis, says that he’d tried to buy the rights to William Blatty’s novel before it got turned into a film by Warner Bros, after having read the novel on a rather turbulent and scary plane flight.
The plot is quite thin on the ground and can be summed up thus: Jessica (Juliet Mills) becomes pregnant with her third child. Things start to get weird when an ex-flame, Dimitri (Johnson) returns, following her every move and tells her husband, Robert (Gabriele Lavia), that “the child must be born, no matter what”. Jessica begins to act strangely and soon graduates to smashing up Robert’s prized aquarium, spinning her head round 360 degrees and vomiting up green sick. I knew that pregnancy can cause frequent mood-swings, but that’s just ridiculous!
Is this all something to do with a pact with the Devil that her ex made years ago or is her new beau also involved and if so, to what end?
Beyond the Door is a frustrating watch since one would think that a film with some interesting characters, some devilish mayhem going on, and great locations (in San Francisco) would be more consistently entertaining than this. However, the film is an exasperating viewing experience as the story’s numerous plot threads only finally coalesce together properly if you really pay careful attention throughout.
Despite some cringe-inducing dialogue and some strange sound-track choices (there are still some great tracks though) Beyond the Door still has the power to captivate its audience with some decent performances from its cast, particularly Juliet Mills, and with some striking visuals. Plus, it does have enough off-the-wall sequences that keep it memorable, including a creepy section set in a kid’s bedroom where all the toys are moving about, but not in a nice ‘Toy Story’ kind of way.
And my favourite bit of weird dialogue from the film? Well, it’s got to be when the possessed Jessica screams: “Lick divine whore’s vomit” at Demitri before proceeding to vomit all over him! And who says who can’t buy class?!
Remember to check out my interview with director Ovidio Assonitis elsewhere on this site. (Coming soon)
Beyond the Door is being distributed by Arrow Video on Blu-ray. As per usual with Arrow there are a plethora of extras in the boxed set including:
Both the theatrical version of the film and the extended uncut English export version, which has been restored to 2K;
Italy Possessed: A brief history of Exorcist rip-offs (88 mins) – A feature-length documentary that takes us through the history, sequentially, of all the copy-cat films that were made in Italy following the release of the original The Exorcist. Featuring interviews with the likes of Ovidio Assonitis, Marcello Avallone, Pupi Avati, Sergio Martino, Alberto De Martino and Luigi Cozzi, all chatting about the history of the sub-genre and their own contributions, (and each other’s), this is a must-watch for Exorcist fans. My main criticism of it is it could have done with having some more film clips and posters to move away from all the piece-to-camera interviews that make up most of the film’s run-time. However, it covers a nice array of films including The Antichrist (1974), Enter the Devil (1974), Obscene Desire (1978) and The Exorcists by Ricardo Freda, which never got made in the end.
Gabriele Lavia: Bargain with the Devil (10.44 mins) – An archival interview with the actor who was offered the role by phone and flew out to Rome the next day. He recalls that Mills was a very shy actress, but a very good one.
Extended interview with Juliet Mills (14 mins) – Here we find out that she was trained as a dancer until she was 16, when she moved over to theatre work. Sadly Beyond the Door isn’t mentioned.
Introduction to the film by Juliet Mills and Loe Christian (2 mins)
The Devil and Me (24.5 mins) – An interview with the director, who talks candidly about the production, including sharing his admiration for both his ‘key’ actors. He also says that he doesn’t believe a horror film can be set in Italy, hence why he wanted to shoot it in America.
Barrett’s Hell (32.5 mins) – Interview with the cinematographer/co-writer Roberto D’Ettorre Piazoli where he discusses how he got involved with this his first horror film and admits that they changed the script as they went along.
Beyond the music (19.41 mins) – Interview with composer Franco Micalizzi who explains how he loved cinema as a kid and shares some of his positive experiences as a musician working in the industry.