Chi sei? / "Who Goes There?"
1974, Code Red, 1.85:1, BD-A, 108m
I had the unforgettable good fortune to see Ovidio Assonitis' BEYOND THE DOOR in its first release, in a multiplex that was also showing (unbelievably) FLESH GORDON, MANDINGO and LINDA LOVELACE FOR PRESIDENT. (As Lou Reed sang, those were different times.) While I had a sneaking suspicion of what was probably coming, the lights went down on an audience whose like I had never seen before in attendance at run-of-the-mill horror pictures; they were clearly anticipating another experience on the level of William Friedkin's THE EXORCIST, not quite realizing that such things come only once in a lifetime. Seven minutes later, and I am probably being generous in my estimation of the time, the walk-outs began.
I couldn't call BEYOND THE DOOR a "guilty pleasure" because I don't really feel any guilt for my film-related pleasures, but it is a film I've come to treasure for how riotously wrong it is, on so many counts - but, as time has gone on, I've also acquired a deeper appreciation for what, against all odds, is good about it. The story, in brief, is about a record producer whose wife, formerly involved with a man named Dmitri, begins acting strangely as a result of a pact that Dmitri has made with the Devil - while poised mid-fall through a suicidal car dive off a coastal cliff. She becomes both pregnant and possessed and Dmitri is offered a chance at escape from his pending ever-lasting torment if he can abort the child. To make matters still more preposterous, the woman - Jessica Barrett (Juliet Mills) - has already given birth to two children, Gail (Barbara Fiorini) and Ken (David Colin, Jr.), who are as much like Hellspawn as you'd care to imagine. They're both potty-mouthed poster children for OCD, with Gail a compulsive reader and collector of LOVE STORY paperbacks (hence her vocabulary) and Ken forever suckling at cans of Campbell's Green Pea soup. The kids are, in some ways, the best reason to see it, and their dialogue - attributed to no less than eight screenwriters on the IMDb - is enough to make you doubt your own sanity. (Like this from Gail, when her little brother wakes up crying: "Ken. What's the matter? You're gonna blow my mind. Man, if you don't quit crying, you're gonna have a real bad trip.") They also pass, in the context of this film, as acceptable - possibly because the family pediatrician and friend, Dr. George Staton (Nino Segurini), looks like Chevy Chase doing a vintage SNL skit.
Diabolik DVD - is not quite the BEYOND THE DOOR we remember from its theatrical playdates. Carrying the title THE DEVIL WITHIN HER (which was already taken by an AIP release starring Joan Collins, the US retitling of a British picture called I DON'T WANT TO BE BORN!), this is the original English export version which contains approximately 10 minutes of footage that was cut from the picture by Edward L. Montoro's company Film Ventures International. Not only does the additional footage include some of Mills' and Johnson's best work in this picture, but there is some additional humor (like the opening recording studio sequence) and an overall more languid pace that makes sense of some of the spaced-out tone of the piece. Best of all, by going back to the original cut, this release avails itself of a razor-sharp, richly colorful picture quality that was never on view in US theaters, where the film looked fuzzy and grainy with watery colors in its multiplex incarnation.
(c) 2017 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.