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FROM BEYOND

Director Stuart Gordon’s follow-up to his legendary debut RE-ANIMATOR was this wet, wild and wonderful exercise in B-movie delirium.  Based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, but, like Gordon’s other Lovecraft-inspired films, it ultimately has little in common with the maestro’s work. 

The Package 
     H.P. Lovecraft’s “From Beyond” was a short piece that posited the disquieting idea of a parallel universe of worm-like monstrosities existing in conjunction with our own.  The creatures are visible only through the intervention of a machine that stimulates the Pineal gland in our foreheads, which unfortunately allows the worm things to see us as well.
     Stuart Gordon shot his film adaptation of FROM BEYOND in Italy for Charles Band’s Empire Pictures.  It remains among the very small handful of good films made by Empire (Gordon’s RE-ANIMATOR and DOLLS are the others), whose standard output consisted of forgettable fare like GHOULIES, CRAWLSPACE, TERROR VISION and ZONE TROOPERS.  Gordon initially wanted to adapt Lovecraft’s story “Dagon”, but Band nixed that idea; “From Beyond” then was the second choice (Gordon’s film of DAGON, FYI, was eventually made years later, sans Band’s input).
     Beyond that FROM BEYOND is notable for suffering a particularly vicious mauling at the hands of the MPAA, who were upset with Gordon for releasing RE-ANIMATOR without a rating and (Gordon claims) looking for revenge.  Many of FROM BEYOND’S most memorable scenes were excised and presumed lost forever.  It wasn’t until MGM’s 2007 DVD release that the missing footage was tracked down and at last incorporated into the film. 

The Story 
     In the spacious attic of a house located on “Apprehension Street”, two mad scientists, Dr. Edward Pretorius and his young assistant Crawford Tillinghast, are conducting an experiment.  It involves a bulky machine with giant tuning forks capable of buzzing peoples’ pineal glands.  Crawford it seems has at last perfected the device, finding that when he turns it on he’s able to see into an alternate dimension packed with wormy critters swimming in the air--and biting anything that moves!  Crawford runs off to show Pretorius, who ends up with his head devoured by one of the creatures.
     Crawford is subsequently interred in an insane asylum where the attractive but severely repressed Dr. Katherine McMichaels works.  Intrigued by Crawford’s seemingly insane rantings, Katherine arranges a trip to the house where Pretorius breathed his last, together with Crawford and a tough black colleague.  They find the machine still in working order and turn it on, stimulating the pineal glands of all three.  But something else turns up: Pretorius, reconfigured as a slimy creature with an appetite for destruction; it seems the other world illuminated by the machine, represented by the Pretorius-monster, is looking to seep into ours.
     It’s up to Crawford and his cohorts to stop that from happening, but there are other problems.  Katherine has undergone a sexual awakening affected by the machine, and takes to dressing up in provocative outfits and aggressively coming on to every man in sight.  As for Crawford, he’s drawn inexorably into Pretorius’ unearthly orbit: this causes his pineal gland to pop out of his forehead and the development of an insatiable appetite for human brains!  Things, needless to add, don’t exactly look promising. 

The Direction 
     FROM BEYOND exists in the best B-movie tradition: wild, cheesy and fitfully over-the-top.  It’s fast-paced and economic, with a brisk 86-minute running time and extremely minimal setting (mostly the attic space of an old house) that Stuart Gordon, a veteran theatrical director, handles with real skill.  The film looks quite good with its lavish psychedelic lighting, and contains many astonishing sights.  Foremost among them is actress Barbara Crampton--previously seen strapped stark naked to an operating table and violated by an undead man’s severed head in RE-ANIMATOR--parading around in dominatrix gear (which incidentally led to a must-see PLAYBOY pictorial).  The elaborate prosthetic creatures on display are also damned impressive, especially considering the obvious low budget.  
     Those expecting a faithful cinematic rendering of H.P. Lovecraft will be disappointed.  As with Stuart Gordon’s other Lovecraft-inspired movies, FROM BEYOND gleefully departs from the puritanical spirit of the source material, giving us oodles of decidedly unLovecraftian gore, slime and sexuality.  The effect is ultimately like an R-rated updating of an AIP monster mash from the sixties, complete with priceless dialogue like “It bit off his head like a gingerbread man!” (sic) and “Humans are such easy prey.”  Of course this means the wit and intelligence of RE-ANIMATOR are in scant evidence, but FROM BEYOND as it is remains a grade-B blast. 


Vital Statistics 

FROM BEYOND
Empire Pictures 

Director: Stuart Gordon
Producer: Brian Yuzna
Screenplay: Denis Paoli
(Based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft)
Cinematography: Mac Ahlberg
Editing: Lee Percy
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree, Ted Sorel, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Bunny Summers, Bruce McGuire, Del Russel, Dale Wyatt, Karen Christenfeld, Andy Miller, John Leamer, Regina Bleesz
 


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