Director: Bozidar D. Benedikt
Intervision Picture Corp./Severin Films

"In order to reach it one needs seven lives… to find out what's behind it one has to die!" in the obscure eighties Canadian puzzle thriller BEYOND THE SEVENTH DOOR from Intervision Picture Corp.

No sooner is he released from prison after a robbery gone wrong than Boris (Lazar Rockwood, FEARLESS TIGER) is badgering his ex-girlfriend Wendy (Bonnie Beck, CITY IN PANIC) into being the inside man on a heist of the castle of her paralyzed employer Lord Breston (Gary Freedman) whose family has for generations guarded a legendary treasure. Wendy reluctantly agrees to help him, letting him gain access to the secure estate and leading him to where she thinks it may be hidden within the bowels of the castle. Unable to access Breston's private elevator, Boris uses his not-so-finely-honed lock-picking skills to access the basement stairway only to trigger Breston's high-tech security system which locks the pair in. Breston's tape-recorded voice tells them that "in the spirit of sportsmanship" they have the opportunity to recover the treasure but their journey will not be without its challenges as they must make their way through six rooms, solving puzzles to find each exit or face certain death from a series of high-tech traps; whereupon they will have the opportunity to take the money or something even greater behind "the seventh door."

An ambitious but somewhat low-tech variation on puzzle films – anticipating the more accomplished Canadian cousin CUBE – BEYOND THE SEVENTH DOOR seems very much on the surface a low-budget exploitation film but it could very well also be the art film intended by director Bozidar D. Benedikt. A Serbian immigrant who made a number of animated films in his home country before emigrating to Canada where he worked in graphic design, Benedikt was approached by upstart actor Rockwood who he had been working as a painter in the house of one of Benedikt's clients to tailor a script with a lead role for him, rekindling Benedikt's interest in cinema which lead to three features including the follow-up THE GRAVEYARD STORY with John Ireland and more recently the drama VANESSA amidst which Benedikt also turned to writing with a number of religious thrillers. Although it delivers the thrills and a little sex appeal, BEYOND THE SEVENTH DOOR may indeed anticipate the director's literary interests with the omnipotent Breston (or at least his tape-recorded voice anticipating their every move) testing the honesty and nobility of the protagonist when caught between protecting the woman he supposedly loves but might just be using and untold riches, giving him a final choice between freedom and temptation. While the film does not at first seem to demand repeat viewings, one indeed starts to wonder if there are indeed touches that a second viewing might illuminate. Beck is quite good that it is unfortunate that she seems to have left the business after a handful of appearances in the late eighties and nineties. While Rockwood's performance could be described early on as wooden and later on as perhaps hampered by his accent, we eventually accept these aspects of his performance as that of the character rather than those of a trained if not necessarily good actor. The production design is actually impressive given the threadbare look of much of the film, making other shortcuts more forgiving in light of the film's other achievements.

Unreleased on home video in its native Canada or America, BEYOND THE SEVENTH DOOR premiered on Canada's pay cable networks but largely disappeared from availability after (there may have been foreign video releases). Unlike some of Intervision's other shot-on-video rescues, BEYOND THE SEVENTH DOOR's progressive, single-layer, pillarboxed 1.33:1 encode seems to be derived from a tape master rather than a release tape; as such, the image looks cleaner, clearer, and sports overall more stable colors. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is also in good condition with clear dialogue and the emphatic music score coming through nicely. Although there is a closed caption logo on the back of the cover, there are no captions or subtitles.

The film is accompanied by an audio commentary by writer/director Benedikt and actor Rockwood, moderated by's Paul Corupe. Benedikt discusses his work in animation, his books, and the work he was doing when he met Rockwood. The actor in turn discusses his ambitions to be an actor and his dramatic training , as well as approaching Benedikt to write the film for him. With some prompting from Corupe, they provide some information on the locations, including Gothic Revival mansion Casa Loma which served as the exterior and a couple interiors, as well as tension during the shoot between cast and crew, particularly cinematographer Hamid Mojtahedi, an Iranian newsreel photographer who also edited the film and apparently cut out a scene depicting Breston's motivation. "Beyond BEYOND THE 7TH DOOR" (21:44) is a new interview with Benedikt, Rockwood, and Corupe recorded separately. Benedikt now works in the Cinestarz theater to maintain his connection to the cinema, lamenting the loss of the art of projection and writing his thrillers by night on his laptop in the box office. Rockwood repeats some anecdotes about the film but also conveys his acting philosophy to the beleaguered cameraman while Corupe describes how he came to know of the film, seeing THE GRAVEYARD STORY first and stumbling across Benedikt's website. "The King of Cayenne" (8:39) is an "appreciation of legendary Toronto eccentric Ben Karr" who plays the corpse of another robber who failed to make it past a certain trap. Apparently happening upon a cayenne pepper cocktail, Karr spent twenty-to-thirty years promoting it as a street performer through a series of folk songs – not all of which were devoted to the cocktail with titles like "You Don't Have to be Jewish to Be Happy (But It Helps)" – as recalled here through oral testimonies. (Eric Cotenas)