If you’re even just a casual horror fan, then no doubt you’re familiar with the work of Lucio Fulci. And while everyone has their favorite of his filmography, no one can deny the power of THE BEYOND, which thanks to Grindhouse Releasing has just been given a beautiful, immaculate Blu-Ray release. A few days back, we spoke with Bob Murawski about CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and CANNIBAL FEROX, and eventually our chat turned to Fulci and their release of THE BEYOND. As appreciators of soundtrack music, we kicked off this interview mid-conversation geeking out about the great Fabio Frizzi’s Los Angeles concert debut, which is happening this Sunday, October 4th as part of Beyond Fest, followed immediately by a big screen presentation of THE BEYOND!
Blumhouse.com: Fabio Frizzi is coming to town to play for the first time in America for Beyondfest this Sunday, October 4th. Can you believe it?
Bob Murawski: I know, that’s incredible! I can’t wait. Fabio was very helpful with the soundtrack for THE BEYOND as well, which we included in the Blu-Ray. He helped us find the elements to the music and gave me transcripts for the lyrics, the Latin chanting stuff. He told me what it all meant. (Laughs) He was really cool. I’m thrilled to be able to see him perform because I’ve been a longtime fan of his music, of course through the Fulci movies.
BH: Anyone that’s a fan of Lucio Fulci’s films obviously has their favorites, but to me, I feel like THE BEYOND was the Blu-Ray release all horror fans were waiting for. First and foremost, what are your memories of Fulci?
BM: Unfortunately I never got to meet him in person. My partner in Grindhouse Releasing, Sage (Stallone) had gone to Rome to do the movie DAYLIGHT with his dad. Ended up becoming pretty good friends with Fulci. I got to speak with him briefly on the phone a few times, which was incredible. And then it was frustrating, because we were supposed to go out there (to Rome) to remaster THE BEYOND, and remastering the movie was going to be basically us hanging out with Fulci and have him work with us and supervise it, along with Sergio Salvati, the director of photography. Fulci was going to do an interview with us. He was incredibly thrilled that anyone was interested in the movie. In Italy, a lot of those movies weren’t that highly regarded. There was popularity because of stuff in the US and in places like the UK because he had done a few conventions there, but THE BEYOND was one of those movies that had never seen a good release here in the States. It had always been a crappy VHS release. While we were putting together ours, another company put it out on Laserdisc and beat us to the punch, but again it was just from an old one inch master that was poor quality. The American release, SEVEN DOORS OF DEATH, was just cut to ribbons and re-scored. Having seen those crummy versions, I just remember the first time we were in Rome seeing a check print from the original negative. They had printed the beginning of reel 2 just so we could start checking the color and the quality of the negative, and just seeing it on the big screen in widescreen on 35mm anamorphic from the original negative was breathtaking! And I realized in that moment that for a lot of these movies, people don’t even realize how well they were shot and crafted. From looking at old VHS tapes with bad transfers, you’d have no idea! Seeing it from the original negative, I thought it was unbelievable. I’d stack that movie up against anything by Fellini or any of the other Italian directors. Visually and in terms of the cinematography and the lighting and the camera work! The blocking and composition. It’s so great. That’s why we were doing it. The whole reason was to give these movies the life that they never got the chance to have.
BH: I remember right before he passed, he had come to New York and made a rare appearance at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, which unfortunately I missed.
BM: He did the Weekend Of Horrors, and I didn’t go. I was working on this movie called UNCLE SAM directed by Bill Lustig. We were editing the movie and getting ready to do reshoots and we had a really important production meeting for the reshoots that weekend. If I’d had gone to New York, I would’ve had to have missed the meeting and missed work on Friday. I thought, you know what? I’d love to go, but I’m going to get to spend a lot of time with Fulci after we finish UNCLE SAM anyways. Sage has just gotten back into town and I felt like there was no rush. I thought we were going to work with him and he passed away. Sage got a call from Antonella, his daughter with the news and we were heartbroken. When we did go to Rome, the whole trip was depressing as a result. We were basically doing all the work with a heavy heart because he had just passed and we were such fans. To go one step further, I had been speaking to Fulci about editing his movie THE WAX MASK. So I spoke to him a couple of times on the phone. I had a few big credits at that point and he was excited to work with me. I was so excited to have an opportunity to work with him on a new movie! So when he passed it was a double blow for me, because I was planning on editing his new movie that Dario Argento was producing.
BH: I know you can only speculate, but I feel like he didn’t realize how appreciated he really was, especially from American horror fans, until he did that Fangoria Weekend of Horrors.
BM: Everything I heard from that Fangoria show sounds incredible. And I’ve got the video from it that we put on a couple of our releases. His stage appearance. I had some friends that were there. And it sounded great. He had gotten a taste of it from the UK fans because he had done a few conventions over there. But I don’t think they were anywhere to the level of the New York show. And at that point, the Fulci thing was finally starting to catch on. A lot of his movies had not been seen in a good version at that point, but there were still rabid fans that loved the VHS releases of GATES OF HELL and ZOMBI, which was a perennial favorite. People were going back and rediscovering the early ones as bootlegs. Things like DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING and LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN. The stuff that hadn’t come out in the US. It’s disappointing. I wish he was around to see all this. And I wish he got the chance to make that movie THE WAX MASK, because I think it would’ve been a really significant thing. Because finally he would’ve had a good budget, and a good producer in Argento that would have protected and helped him.
BH: When you were on the Killer POV podcast, you briefly mentioned BEYOND THE BEYOND, a proposed sequel to Fulci’s THE BEYOND! What was the story behind that?
BM: BEYOND THE BEYOND! I was at David Warbeck’s castle! Which may have been a church at one point, but yeah. It was like living in a castle. David Warbeck who played Dr. John McCabe in THE BEYOND. He spent about 20 or 30 minutes telling us the story of this sequel he was writing to THE BEYOND called BEYOND THE BEYOND and it picked up right where THE BEYOND left off and went from there for another hour and a half. If he had a treatment or started to write a screenplay, I wish someone would find it, because it would be great to discover that. It would be great! But then again… how could it be great without Fulci or David Warbeck? (*Warbeck passed in 1997) I don’t know if any other director could capture that magic. A lot of people do tributes or make updated versions of things, but ultimately there’s only the purity of the original movie and the director’s vision. Maybe it’s something best left as a fantasy.
*All photos courtesy of Bob Murawski and Grindhouse Releasing.