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Movies From the Black Lagoon: Beyond the Door
Movies From the Black Lagoon
Beyond the Door - 1974,Unrated
If you love special edition DVDs of Hollywood classics then you may be surprised that this Italian "Exorcist" rip off got the deluxe treatment rather than something like "Citizen Kane", then again if you're a fan of artsy flicks with high ideals and pompous actors emoting under way too much make-up you are probably too busy watching some Merchant Ivory snooze-fest to read this column.
The rest of you should read on, as this one is as ridiculous as it gets but totally delivers on all exploitation fronts.
The film begins with a new introduction from star Juliet Mills (TV's 'Nanny and the Professor') who appears a little tipsy as she mistakenly states that "The Omen" inspired the film. She is politely corrected by the disc's producer who politely refrains from noting that the first "Damien" film wasn't made until two years after this cinematic concoction. Once you get by the stilted intro it's all down hill as the actual film begins.
It all starts with a creepy looking guy named Dimitri being accosted by a devilish voice while driving on a Pacific coast highway. Dimitri is informed that he can buy himself ten more years of life if he helps deliver a baby, which this demon will possess. Dimitri takes the deal and immediately panics as the evil entity welshes on the bargain and possesses his car long enough to bash through a guardrail and plunge into the ocean.
Next up we meet the mom to be, Jessica, and she's a bit of a car wreck herself. She thinks nothing of parking her convertible in front of a supermarket and leaving her grammar school aged tykes unsupervised while she strolls the aisles. Her kids are no bargain either and include a curly haired son, who drinks his Campbell's soup straight from the can, and a precocious daughter who curses like a sailor on shore leave. Her husband, Robert, is glimpsed at work and he's no prize himself. He appears to be producing a record but his method of drawing good vocals from his musicians is to harangue them with a steady stream of expletives, which, at least, explains the potty mouth on his daughter. Into every life a little rain must fall and this fractured family gets a tsunami when mom announces she's pregnant and, almost immediately, begins exhibiting a broad spectrum of possessed behaviors.
Here the movie kicks it up a notch as we are treated too all manner of satanic shenanigans which include: destroying a fish tank and giggling as the evicted pets flop about on the carpet; barking at one's gynecologist in the devil's voice; levitating around the apartment in Frederick's of Hollywood lingerie; and eating discarded banana peels off of the sidewalk. These antics are sandwiched between plenty of other bizarre sequences, which include a great one where Robert is harassed on the street by a gang of musicians, which include a flutist who uses his nose to blow out a tune. Just when things couldn't get weirder Dimitri returns (hey isn't he dead?) and Robert accepts that this complete stranger is his only hope to save his wife.
All in all this one's a keeper though its fragmented structure and over use of montages might put off some viewers. The San Francisco locations add spark and the special effects department turns in some good work. That said the narrative is barely enough to justify an hour and forty-nine minutes but you can always hit the fast forward button when you get tired of the endless shots of characters walking around the city. If you like stupid endings then you're in for a bonus treat here as the last shot of the film is supposed to be shocking but will only leave you scratching your head and wondering if you missed something-trust me you didn't.
Best Line: "I'm deeply engrossed in the incredible existences of fish, including their methods of reproduction."
Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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