Beyond the Door (1974 film)
|Beyond the Door|
Italian theatrical release poster
|Music by||Franco Micalizzi|
A Erre Cinematografica
Montoro Productions Ltd.
|Distributed by||Produzioni Atlas Consorziate (Italy)|
Film Ventures International (US)
|21 November 1974 (Italy) |
|Box office||$15 million|
Beyond the Door (Italian: Chi sei?, lit. "Who are you?") is a 1974 supernatural horror film directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis and Roberto Piazzoli, and starring Juliet Mills, Gabriele Lavia, and Richard Johnson. The plot follows a San Francisco housewife who becomes demonically possessed in the midst of a pregnancy. The film was a co-production between the United States and Italy. It was released in the United Kingdom in an extended cut under the title Devil Within Her.
Beyond the Door opened in the United States in May 1975, and became a major commercial success, grossing approximately $15 million. Critical reaction to the film was largely unfavorable, with numerous critics deeming it an imitation of The Exorcist (1973). That film's distributor, Warner Bros., filed a lawsuit against the production company behind Beyond the Door, claiming copyright infringement. A settlement was ultimately reached years later in 1979.
In the United States, Mario Bava's Shock (1977) was re-titled Beyond the Door II and branded as a sequel, though it has no relation to the 1974 film. A second sequel, Beyond the Door III, was also released in 1989, though it too bears no relation to the previous two films.
Jessica Barrett, a young English mother living in San Francisco, reveals to her music executive husband, Robert, that she is pregnant. The couple already have two young children: a son, Ken, and daughter, Gail. Several days later, during Ken's birthday party, Robert finds Jessica violently ill and vomiting in the bathroom. After visiting Dr. George Staton, her obstetrician and personal friend, Jessica is informed that she is in fact three months pregnant, not the mere weeks she believed.
Over the course of her pregnancy, Jessica finds herself subject to violent mood swings, apparent hallucinations of voices, and poltergeist phenomenon. On one occasion, Jessica is awoken by disembodied wheezing noises, and levitates into the air and through her house. George confides in a worried Robert that Jessica's pregnancy is progressing at an unbelievably rapid rate. Fearing for her wellbeing, George arranges for Jessica to spend time with his wife, Barbara, hoping she will confide in her.
Jessica tells George she wants an abortion, but swiftly vacillates, accusing him of being a murderer when he agrees to an abortion should he find the pregnancy a hazard to her health. The Barrett household soon becomes a hotbed of supernatural activity that terrorizes both Gail and Ken when their father is away. Meanwhile, Jessica exhibits increasingly horrifying behavior akin to demonic possession, such as inhumanly twisting her head and projectile vomiting.
Robert is contacted by a mysterious man named Dimitri who instructs him to sequester Jessica in their house and keep visitors away, assuring that the child is born. Jessica grows progressively ill, exhibiting a fever and other bizarre symptoms, and becomes bedridden. Under Dimitri's instructions, George has Jessica placed in a straitjacket to prevent her from violently lashing out. When George visits her, Jessica alternately pleads for his help before cursing at him in a deep, demonic voice. George has Jessica undergo a series of tests, including scans of her brain, but none of them show any neurological anomalies.
After Robert is subject to a torrent of violent supernatural behavior from Jessica, it is revealed that Dimitri is a lover from Jessica's past, and that he is a Satanist who has arranged for her to give birth to the Antichrist, in exchange for the demonic spirit having saved him from dying in a car accident years prior. In a violent confrontation between Jessica and Dimitri, the demonic entity turns on him, and implies that all of the events that have taken place were arranged for its own amusement. The entity murders Dimitri before departing Jessica's body, after which she has a stillbirth.
- Juliet Mills as Jessica Barrett
- Gabriele Lavia as Robert Barrett
- Richard Johnson as Dimitri
- Nino Segurini as Dr. George Staton
- Elizabeth Turner as Barbara Staton (as Elisabeth Turner)
- Barbara Fiorini as Gail Barrett
- Carla Mancini as Mrs. Francis
- David Colin Jr. as Ken Barrett
- Jonathan T. Tran. as Dr. Tran
- Edward L. Montoro as The Devil (voice)
The screenplay for Beyond the Door was written by Ovidio G. Assonitis (billed as O. Hellman), Antonio Troiso, and Robert Barrett. A number of collaborating writers also assisted, including Alex Rebar, Giorgio Marini, Aldo Crudo, and Christopher Cruise.
Detailing a woman possessed by a demon, Beyond The Door was labeled a rip-off of The Exorcist (1973). Warner Bros. promptly filed a lawsuit, claiming copyright infringement. The lawsuit was ultimately settled in the favor of Warner Bros. with the studio receiving a cash settlement from A-Erre Cinematografica s.r.l. and a portion of the film's future revenue.
Beyond the Door first opened in Italy under the title Chi Sei?. American International Pictures initially expressed interest in distributing the film. However, Film Ventures International ultimately acquired the film for distribution in the United States for $100,000. The cut released theatrically in the United States runs 97 minutes, It was shown as early as May 2, 1975 in Houston, Texas.
Beyond the Door was a commercial success in the United States, where it earned $15 million at the box office.
Bill DeIsle of The Times-Record also compared the film unfavorably to The Exorcist, panning the script and also noting the special effects as "so juvenile that they are laughable." Linda Gross of the Los Angeles Times drew similar comparisons, also noting the film's score as "obtrusive," but conceded that Mills plays her role "with credibility." The San Francisco Examiner's Jeanne Miller also noted the film as being highly derivative, adding that "even with all the so-called "action," the film is incredibly boring, especially in long philosophical rantings by Johnson about Satanic power. Director Oliver Hellman and screenwriter Richard Barrett display no trace of skill, imagination or originality. The performances are on the same level."
In 2007, Code Red DVD announced they had acquired the rights to Beyond The Door. The 2-disc DVD set was released on 16 September 2008 and featured both the international cut (running 109 minutes) and the abridged U.S. theatrical cut (running 97 minutes); it also features interviews with Assonitis, Johnson, writer Alex Rebar, and Mills, as well as commentaries with Assonitis and Mills. Code Red reissued a new transfer of the film on Blu-ray in 2017.
On 20 December 2019, Arrow Video announced they would be releasing a limited edition Blu-ray edition in the United States and United Kingdom in March 2020. The 2-disc release, limited to 3,000 units, features both the unabridged international cut, as well as an exclusive U.S. theatrical cut on two separate discs. The second disc also includes Italy Possessed, a newly-commissioned feature-length documentary on Italian exorcism films. The Blu-ray street date was pushed back, and it was ultimately released on 7 April 2020.
The score was composed by Franco Micalizzi. The score is unusual for a horror film and at times seems to be referencing funk and disco music that may have been popular at the time. The full soundtrack has been released on vinyl, CD, and more recently on iTunes. The track list is as follows:
- "Bargain With The Devil"
- "Jessica's Theme"
- "Dimitry's Theme"
- "Robert's Theme"
- "Jessica's Theme"
- "Family's Theme"
- "Bargain With The Devil" (orchestra)
- "Flute Sequence"
- "Dimitry's Theme" (slow version)
- "Family's Theme" (slow version)
The film was never followed by an official sequel. To cash in on the success of Beyond The Door in the U.S., Mario Bava's Italian horror film Shock was marketed under the title Beyond The Door II in the U.S in 1979. Truthfully the film had no ties or connections to Beyond The Door aside from sharing one actor, David Colin Jr., who plays a completely different character in each film.
Beyond the Door III was released in 1989. Directed by Jeff Kwitny and shot in Serbia, the film, again, had no ties to either of the previous two, though it does have Ovidio G. Assonitis credited as a producer. It is also known as Death Train and Amok Train although the original working title was simply The Train.
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- Muir 2012, p. 339.
- Shipka 2011, p. 146.
- "Exorcist Infringement Case Reaches Settlement". Box Office. Box Office. 12 February 1979.
- Ebert, Roger (1 January 1975). "Beyond the Door". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago, Illinois. Archived from the original on December 30, 2019.
- DeIsle, Bill (29 August 1975). "'Beyond the Door' Done in Bad Taste". The Times-Record. Troy, New York. p. 15 – via Newspapers.com.
- Gross, Linda (22 August 1975). "'Beyond the Door' Echoes 'Exorcist'". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. p. 20 – via Newspapers.com.
- Miller, Jeanne (27 June 1975). "Film of possession borrows ideas like the Devil". San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. p. 24 – via Newspapers.com.
- Galbraith, Stuart (23 July 2009). "Beyond The Door (as The Devil Within Her)". DVD Talk. Archived from the original on 8 April 2020.
- "Beyond the Door Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Archived from the original on 8 April 2020.
- Squires, John (20 December 2019). "Arrow Video Bringing 1974's 'Beyond the Door' to Blu-ray With Restoration and New Italian Horror Documentary". Bloody Disgusting. Archived from the original on 21 December 2019.
- "Beyond the Door Limited Edition Blu-ray". Arrow Films. Archived from the original on 8 April 2020.
- Kaufman, Jeffrey (30 March 2020). "Beyond the Door Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Archived from the original on 8 April 2020.
- Muir, John Kenneth (2012). Horror Films of the 1970s. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-49156-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Shipka, Danny (2011). Perverse Titillation: The Exploitation Cinema of Italy, Spain and France, 1960-1980. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-48609-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)