Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Beyond and Back (1978)

          The dubious-documentary folks at Sunn Classic Pictures strike again with this sensationalistic study of near-death experiences, which is filled with so many bogus assertions, staged reenactments, and unsupported claims that its relationship to fact is laughably remote. That said, Beyond and Back is entertaining-ish, even though it goes on far too long, and during its best moments, the movie casts a creepy spell. Beardy, bearish host Brad Crandall—a hirsute professor type with a deep, melodic voice—introduces the movie from a mist-filled graveyard, and then retires to a library from which he remarks upon various episodes. Most of the vignettes are reenactments of incidents involving everyday people who “crossed over” while they were clinically dead for brief periods.
          The depiction of this phenomenon is similar in every episode. After the person dies, the camera rises above the person to represent the perspective of an out-of-body spirit, and then bright light shoots toward the camera. Next, the camera hurtles along a tunnel, or shifts to some idyllic setting, and in many instances the subject encounters a vision of Jesus before being told their time on Earth is not yet done. In between these reenactments, Crandall shares the usual Sunn Classics brand of “facts and figures”—serious-sounding pseudoscience that’s really a lurid mix of hearsay and hogwash. In Crandall’s finest deadpan moment, he sums up a series of vignettes illustrating the last words of dying people thusly: “All these people died after having their visions, and so can tell us little.”
          Beyond and Back is more focused than the usual Sunn Classic product, since projects like The Mysterious Monsters (1976) cover multiple believe-it-or-not mysteries at once, but Beyond and Back suffers for this singularity of purpose, because the picture is padded and repetitive. Nonetheless, Beyond and Back has several engaging moments of cheesy melodrama, notably a long sequence about a WWII private’s near-death experience. The voice of the actor playing the private was unmistakably replaced with that of Hollywood leading man Richard Jordan (although Jordan is not credited), and Jordan’s emotional line readings give Beyond and Back a few moments of dramatic credibility. FYI, this movie is not to be confused with the following year’s release Beyond Death’s Door, also from Sunn Classic Pictures.

Beyond and Back: FUNKY


Bonnach said...

I remember seeing this or Beyond Death's Door back in the day and thinking, "this is such b.s." But it was still kind of fun to watch and laugh about later. And now I'm doing it again 30 some-odd years later.

Ivan said...

When you're a 13-year-old nerd obsessed with weirdness, and Sunn Classics has four-walled your neighborhood, you learn to enjoy it.