Director: Joe D'Amato
Severin Films

Joe D'Amato's BEYOND THE DARKNESS, the film that the American distributor tried to "bury alive" comes back to Blu-ray in a restored version from Severin Films.

Orphaned as a teenager, twenty-two year old orally-fixated Frank Wyler (Kieran Canter, THE LONELY LADY) wiles away his days in his family's remote villa with a taxidermy hobby. His only source of happiness other than the memory of his mother is his fiancée Anna (Cinzia Monreale, THE BEYOND); however, jealous housekeeper Iris (Franca Stoppi, THE OTHER HELL) – tire of indulging him with therapeutic breastfeeding – wants to be more than a mother figure to him and hires a local witch to place a voodoo curse on Anna which manifests itself as a heart ailment. When Anna dies, Frank cannot bear to be away from her so he digs her up and turns her into a love doll by way of a little disemboweling and stuffing. On the way home with the corpse, he is forced to pick up a hitchhiker – "Jan from London" with a painfully cockney accent – and kills her when she discovers him at work. Iris is only too ready to help him dispose of her and any other women he invites back to the villa since he has moved on from breast-sucking to neck-biting and takes bloody chunks out of his victims when he becomes aroused. Frank agrees to marry Iris and make her lady of the house if she will help him, but Anna comes in between them in more ways than one.

A remake of Mino Guerrini's monochrome 1966 film THE THIRD EYE with added gore, guts, and more fleshy depictions of necrophilia, Joe D'Amato's BEYOND THE DARKNESS benefits from its atypical Italian location of the alpine Bressanone – which stood in for Germany in NATIONAL LAMPOON'S EUROPEAN VACATION – and the part-Italian villa/German schloss Castello Ratzotz and an actual soundtrack by Goblin for a film of this low budget (like the group's DAWN OF THE DEAD score, this one would end up recycled in another Bruno Mattei/Claudio Fragasso film THE OTHER HELL). Stoppi makes up for the inexpressive performances (for different reasons) of Canter and Monreale with another over-the-top performance of female madness, and the gore is as stomach-churning as anything in D'Amato's other genre titles. On the other hand, D'Amato's 16mm cinematography (credited as usual under his own name Aristide Massaccesi) is artfully framed but otherwise unattractive, and the script is padded with the "investigations" of mortician Dr. Kale (Sam Modesto) for purposes of blackmail while Anna's twin sister arrives at the last moment for a limp climax (how can her resemblance to Anna be a shock to Frank when she was at Anna's funeral even if D'Amato's camera does not underline this earlier on?). The film still manages to be a more grueling experience than D'Amato's subsequent gorefests ANTROPHAGUS and ABSURD.

Released theatrically in 1986 by Terry Levene's Aquarius Releasing as BURIED ALIVE and released on cassette with that title on International Video Entertainment's Thriller Video line – as one of the handful of release on that line that Elvira refused to host – in a fullscreen transfer that retained its violence and nudity while snipping a few incidental scenes of the mortician's spying and Frank picking up a girl at the disco. The film's first fully uncut stateside release came from Shriek Show in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer on DVD in 2002. When they revisited the title for Blu-ray in 2011, however, it came from a 1080i HD master that was missing a brief bit of footage after the opening credits, was framed at 1.78:1 from the original 1.66:1, and the color correction was weak with black levels looking somewhat grayish and skintones looking overly warm. 88 Films' UK Blu-ray from earlier this year was derived from a new scan but their color correction was rather half-hearted with a somewhat greenish tinge to the highlights. Utilizing the same scan, Severin Films' 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen encode boasts truer whites and slightly more vibrant greens and reds (what seemed like video noise on Frank's red van turned out to be the incredibly glossy paint job catching reflections. Severin's framing sometimes reveals a sliver more information on the right side of the frame while 88 reveals a sliver more on the left. 88 has uncompressed 2.0 English and Italian audio with optional English subtitles while Severin has DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English audio and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Italian with optional English subtitles. The dubbed dialogue sounds a bit harsh on both tracks while the music track sounds better than it did on the DVD edition, with the instrumentation of Goblin's score sounding less muffled.

Extras start off with Roger Fratter's 2000 documentary "Joe D'Amato: The Horror Experience" (68:20) – a follow-up to the documentary "Joe D'Amato: Totally Uncut" which focused on his erotica (included on the US releases of IMAGES IN A CONVENT and EMANUELLE IN AMERICA) – although the director's fewer horror efforts lead to some overlap in order to reach a near feature-length runtime. Discussion starts with DEATH SMILES ON MURDER with D'Amato revealing that he took director's credit under his real name because he was most proud of the film and its performers (including Klaus Kinski and Luciano Rossi who apparently went crazy), is also proud of THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT which he shot for Paolo Solvay and producer Mark Damon (although he describes Rosalba Neri as a "poor man's Barbara Steele" without seeming to demean her), recalls the controversy and court case related to the "snuff" footage in EMANUELLE IN AMERICA and concedes that he copies himself when discussing EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS (a future Severin release). Luigi Montefiori contributes to discussions of EMANUELLE'S REVENGE, PORNO HOLOCAUST, and EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD while Donald O'Brien discusses his work on IMAGES IN A CONVENT (although not FRANKENSTEIN 2000 which is discussed towards the end of the program). Of BEYOND THE DARKNESS, he reveals that the film's uncredited producer was Ermanno Donati who produced THE THIRD EYE as well as Riccardo Freda's THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK which also explored necrophilia, and that the film was reissued in 1986 in Italy with different censor cuts than the earlier release. He recalls more about ANTROPOPHAGUS than ABSURD but devotes much of the discussion of his eighties work to action films like ATOR and ENDGAME before touching upon WITCHERY, BEYOND DARKNESS, DOOR TO SILENCE (his favorite), DEEP BLOOD, and KILLING BIRDS (which he admits to directing even though Claudio Lattanzi was credited), but not GHOSTHOUSE. The 4:3 video interview footage is intercut with new 16:9 clips with some PAL-conversion stuttering on pans in some of them.

"The Omega Woman" (15:41) is an archival interview with the late Stoppi who recalls needing a job in between spring and fall seasons on the stage, shooting in Bressanone, and dating Canter (an American of Irish and Turkish extraction) whose performance she praises while conceding that he only has one expression. She also discusses her characterization and the staging of some of the gore setpieces, noting that D'Amato set out to make audiences puke and told them that was his aim on the set. In "Sick Love" (8:47), actress Monreale gives general impressions of working with Canter, Stoppi, and D'Amato, although she reveals that it was a hectic time for her as a single mother (her own mother traveled up to Bressanone with her to take care of her child). Of the gore sequences involving her character's disembowelment, she notes the difference between watching a horror movie and making one. "Locations Revisited" (20:05) contrasts new footage of the Bressanone locations with footage from the film, including recreating some angles. Sadly, we only get exterior views of the Castello as it looks now. Interestingly, the source for the film used in this featurette is an Italian master with the reissue title IN QUELLA CASA… BUIO OMEGA which reveals that the English credits erroneously cited Donatella Donati as "art director" when she was actually "aiuto regista" (assistant director). The extras conclude with Goblin Rebirth (original members Fabio Pignatelli and Agostino Marangolo with Aidan Zammit, Giacomo Anselmi, and Danilo Cherni) – erroneously credited as "Goblin Reborn" – performing the BUIO OMEGA theme live (4:17). The disc also includes the English export theatrical trailer (2:58). Limited to the first 2,500 copies sold through Severin and retailers is the film's CD soundtrack (43:03) with twenty-four tracks, replicating the 2008 Cinevox expanded edition (the 1997 CD reproduced the LP version which was split between tracks for BUIO OMEGA and CONTAMINATION). (Eric Cotenas)