Stuart Gordon‘s 1985 film, Re-Animator, remains one of the absolute best horror/comedies of the last three decades thanks to its spectacular mix of over the top, extremely bloody shenanigans and blackly comic sense of humor. The creative forces on that film (including Gordon, writer Dennis Paoli, producer Brian Yuzna, stars Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs, and many members of the sfx team) joined together on another film a year later that once again adapted the work of H.P. Lovecraft into an eyeful of a movie.
From Beyond never achieved the same levels of popularity or infamy as its predecessor, but it remains a fun, sexy and practical effects-filled romp into the unknown. Scream Factory continues their bid to become the Criterion Collection for genre fans by bringing the uncut From Beyond to Blu-ray for the very first time complete with a beautifully restored picture and loads of special features.
Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for From Beyond.
From Beyond (1986)
Commentators: Stuart Gordon (director), Brian Yuzna (producer), Barbara Crampton (femme fatale), Jeffrey Combs (ultimate victim)
1. The plan was to do Dagon immediately after Re-Animator, but Charles Band (head of Empire Pictures) was no fan of a story that saw people turning into fish so they went with From Beyond instead.
2. There’s a scene missing early on involving what Dr. Pretorius (Ted Sorel) was doing in his room when Tillinghast (Combs) comes knocking, and it involved the Dr. putting a nail through a girl’s tongue. Gordon cut the scene manually and has since lost the footage. He’s quite sad about it.
3. After the MPAA issues experienced on Re-Animator Gordon and Yuzna decided to ignore blood in favor of slime. It ended up causing them more troubles though as they were told it was even more disgusting.
4. The soundstages were so cold during the filming that the actors were given ice chips to prevent their breath from being visible. They had apparently belonged to Dino De Laurentiis, but as he went bankrupt the studio was stripped of its heating hardware.
5. “All of the pineal stuff here is based on real science,” says Yuzna. Everyone laughs.
6. They were concerned that Crampton wouldn’t be believable as renowned psychiatrist Dr. McMichaels because of her age, so they tightened her hair and added big glasses.
7. An Italian workman was hammering during the filming of one scene so Gordon asked him to please stop. The man replied “Fellini always lets me hammer.” “I said, well I’m not Fellini,” recalls Gordon, “and the guy says ‘That’s for sure.'”
8. Gordon has since spoken with a scientist who informed him that the pineal gland would be more receptive to light stimulation than to giant tuning forks.
9. Combs and Crampton realize that they’ve almost swapped rolls with their Re-Animator characters here with her in the Herbert West role and him in the Dan Cain one.
10. The arrival of Dr. Pretorius in half monster mode triggers a recollection from Gordon and Yuzna about Sorel’s medical issue that occurred after a full day in the make-up. Apparently there wasn’t enough room in there for proper breathing or circulation, and Sorel’s arm swelled up and he grew disoriented. They had to rip the Mark Shostrom-created suit away from his body.
11. The same scene was also one targeted by the MPAA as they required it be cut before we see Sorel’s hand leave the frame toward Crampton’s naughty bits below.
12. The beginning of Crampton’s famed S&M scene sees her share the events of a recent dinner party she held where the guests specifically requested they all watch From Beyond. “This is the scene everybody wanted to see of course,” she says. “I loved it. After five glasses of wine anything goes.”
13. The “bugs” attacking Crampton and Combs were actually tiny styrofoam balls painted grey. “They stuck to everything!” says Combs.
14. Combs recalls an ad lib from Ken Foree during the scene where he’s laying on the floor in his football jersey half eaten by the flying bugs. “Put me in coach!” he said, as he lay there dying.
15. The creature that Pretorius becomes was another Shostrum creation, but unlike the earlier it was entirely puppet based. Gordon told him he needed close-ups featuring Sorel’s actual face, and the makeup artist refused to do so stating that the puppet could be used for those close-ups too. Gordon eventually got someone else to do the makeup.
16. When the pineal glands erupt from Pretorius’ and Tillinghast’s heads no one could agree what it looked like. Asparagus and dog dick seemed to be the most agreed upon though both of which caused Crampton some concern when it came time to put it in her mouth.
17. The scene with the doctor trying to grab the pineal gland from Tillinghast’s forehead was “torn apart by the MPAA” to achieve an R-rating.
18. Combs shares an anecdote about leaving his dressing room in full makeup with the hole in his forehead, no hair and dressing gown, and passing a group of children in mushroom costumes there to film a commercial. “I destroyed them. I destroyed their psyches,” he says. “I knew what it was to be a grotesque.”
19. Gordon points out another sequence of shots here in the uncut version that were butchered by the MPAA originally. Most of the brain-eating scenes were cut to achieve an R-rating.
20. Combs points out that he originally pantomimed the brain-eating, but Gordon called cut and insisted that he should actually be chewing something. The only pink and “edible” substance on hand? Fixodent for dentures. “It sucked all the moisture out of my head.”
21. All four commenters *love* the restored scene where Tillinghast sucks out a woman’s eyeball and brains. In their defense it is a bloody fantastic scene.
Best in Commentary
- Gordon: “How many phallic images can we put in this movie?”
- Crampton: “I met my first husband on this movie.”
- Gordon: “We should probably say some good things about working in Italy.” (said after the tenth criticism of their Italian experience)
- Gordon: “One of the best days of my life was going shopping with you for this gear.” (said during the scene where Crampton puts on the leather S&M outfit)
- Gordon: “I’ve gotten more shit about this bomb.” (referring to Dr. McMichaels showing up at the house with a bomb)
- Crampton: “I don’t know why, but after this movie came out I didn’t have a date for about a year.”
The secret to a great commentary track is simple. The participants need to be informative and willing to have fun, and these four friends accomplish both throughout the recording. It’s clear they enjoy each other’s company, and they have fantastic memories of both the factual and anecdotal kinds. Combs and Crampton are extremely playful and the highlights of the commentary as they recall their experiences in front of the camera providing some of the best on-set stories. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray is an automatic buy anyway, and this very entertaining extra feature just seals the deal. Highly recommended.