From Beyond

From Beyond (Unrated Director’s Cut) is based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft in which a “mad scientist” type, Dr. Pretorius, develops a machine, “the Resonator”, a device which looks a whole lot like a giant Van De Graf generator, which allows human beings to see and otherwise have contact with strange and horrible creatures from an alternate dimension by giving off sound waves or vibrations stimulating the pineal gland in the human brain.  Most of these alternate-dimensional creatures as depicted in the movie (special effects in 1986 were not what they are today) seem to be jellyfish and trilobite-type things that swim in the air as their earthly counterparts swim in the water.  The problem is that in this invisible world there are some things larger and more dangerous than ethereal jellyfish, and that one of those “things” killed Dr. Pretorius by literally biting his head off. 

However, when Dr. Pretorius’s assistant, Dr. Tillinghast, tells that story to the legal system, he initially gets charged with the homicide of Dr. Pretorius, but then, as the investigating detective points out, it becomes known that the ax with which Tillinghast supposedly decapitated Pretorius is distinctly lacking in blood evidence.  What to make of Tillinghast’s story about the pineal-gland stimulating technology, the strange creatures, and the interdimensional being that attacked his colleague?  Tillinghast gets sent to the mental health system, where he  gets diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, and waits for the arrival of a second doctor to concur on the issue of whether he is to be considered fit to stand trial (technical sanity for the purposes of the legal system and good mental health in an absolute sense being two different things). The psychiatrist who runs the facility in which Tillinghast is being held considers the new doctor, who is known for doing experiments on patients and embracing unusual theories about schizophrenics, ethically dubious as well as ineffective.  Dr. Bloch, hospital administrator, takes a dim view of experimentation upon patients, and holds to the traditional way of handling schizophrenics, institutionalizing them for life. According to Wikipedia, “As with his earlier film Re-Animator, Gordon made use of medical advisors to be sure that the actions taken by the doctors and nurses of the film followed proper medical procedures”. This story was clearly set in a time before widespread deinstitutionalization (perhaps the Reagan revolution and the idea that releasing people with mental health conditions on antipsychotic medication and leaving them to their own devices hadn’t yet arrived).

Tillinghast’s evaluation sparks a larger investigation after the second psychiatrist, Dr. Katherine McMichaels, orders a CAT scan (technology unknown in Lovecroft’s time, and reletively new in 1986, when this movie was made). As the doctors smoke while looking at the images, the CAT scan reveals that Tillinghast’s pineal gland has enlarged and is influencing other parts of the brain in an unprecedented way, leading to the hypotheses that (1) Tillinghast is not schizophrenic, and the Resonator did work; and (2) if powerful pineal gland = schizophrenia symptoms, schizophrenics are not really “crazy” so much as “differently abled”, being able to percieve supernatural phenomena unseen by others, a view held in Lovecraft’s time by people who actually worked with schizophrenics, most notably C. G. Jung.

Though Tillinghast rightly considers re-activating the resonator and re-running the late Dr. Pretorius’s experiment extremely dangerous, it is the only alternative to a life of institutionalization and worse, so accompanied by Dr. Michaels and a police sergeant, he reluctantly agrees to “return to the scene of the crime”, the creepy Victorian mansion in which the late Dr. Pretorius died. Tillinghast gets the Resonator working again, and they all see the strange creatures. Dr. Michaels gets “hooked” and runs the Resonator herself, putting them all in jeopardy. They re-encounter Dr. Pretorius, who lives again, effectively having been incorporated into the creature that ate him, and seeking to eat others. She also discovers an S&M dungeon in the basement of the creepy old mansion, and dons a leather outfit, which is suprisingly in good condition and just the right size. Then things really go off the rails. I had trouble following the plot at this point, but it seems I’m not the only one.

The repeated stimulation of his pineal gland causes Tillinghast to grow a stalklike appendage in the middle of his forehead, assume a zombie-like demeanor, and develop a taste for human brains. (A “frequent flyer” to the psych ward who sees him at the hospital is initially suspected of suffering the DTs, until an EMT sees him, too.) Tillinghast proceeds to wreak havoc when re-admitted to the mental hospital. When Dr. McMichaels returns to the hospital with the story about what happened and her new bondage look, the psychiatrist in charge, having been given a perfect opportunity to avenge her professional rivalry, orders that Dr. Michaels be given electroshock therapy. Last minute exigencies caused by the rampage of the brain-eating creature that used to be Tillinghast lead to the administration of the ECT being delayed. This gives Dr. Michaels the opportunity to escape, acquire new clothes, and misappropriate an ambulance. She returns to the old house and sets a bomb to blow up the Resonator. Tillinghast and Pretorius end up meeting mano-a-mano, but Michaels is the only survivor.

Jane Eyre

This most recent motion-picture version of Jane Eyre is a somewhat different cinematic re-telling of the novel with a greater emphasis on the idea that it is a gothic novel, and that therefore the set and settings must be dark and dreary as is the greater part of the plot. Many of the indoor scenes take place at night, and are lit by only a candle or a lamp, and there are a number of outdoor scenes which take place at dusk or in overcast weather. Though I can’t say I am entirely comfortable with the sheer amount of darkness thus utilized in the film, I have to take my hat off to the lighting director and staff for actually carrying this off without the obvious blue-filtered fake “night” so often seen on screen.
Unlike many other cinematic adaptations of Jane Eyre, which center on her adult career as a governess/village schoolmarm, and the restraint she practices when the legal and social impediments first to her relationship and then to her marriage are made clear, this one goes into greater detail about Jane’s unhappy experiences in childhood, with Amelia Clarkson, a young girl actress, playing Jane at a young age at the beginning of the movie. Jane Eyre lost her parents in her preteen years, and is adopted by an aunt who had promised her father on his death bed that she’d take Jane in. But Jane’s spirit and willingness to stand up for herself don’t sit well with the aunt, who favors her own older boy. Things come to a head when the boy tries to steal a book from Jane that had belonged to her uncle and they tangle in a physical fight, in which the boy ends up hitting her head so badly that blood comes out of her ear. (Yes, Jane may have ended up with head injuries and/or inner ear injuries as a result of these fisticuffs, and she only ends up the worse for it when the aunt and servants break up the fight). Jane ends up being the one punished for the perceived transgression by being locked in the “red room” (a parlor with red damask wallpaper) concerning which she expresses a belief that it is haunted. It is after this incident that the aunt decides to solve her familial problems and “cast-off’ Jane, sending her to the strict boarding school where dull gray dresses, a Calvinistic guiding philosophy, and corporal punishment are the order of the day.
In one incident at the school, Jane is caught looking elsewhere while the teacher is talking. She is made to stand on a high-legged chair while being caned, and the headmaster, upon witnessing the incident, declares an additional punishment for Jane: she is to stand all day upon “the pedestal of infamy” and is to be denied food and water, as well as the friendship of others at least for the day. One girl, Helen, defies the ban and sneaks Jane some buttered bread after the headmaster and the class have gone and Jane is standing alone in the empty classroom. Helen later sits with Jane in the garden and tells her that there is “an invisible world” of spirits all around her, whose purpose is to protect her. (She knows this because she “can see them”. Helen is thus quite an advanced mystic for a little girl, or a schizophrenic, or perhaps a bit of both.) This being the Regency era, when people frequently died of infectuous diseases, Helen shortly thereafter becomes obviously sick, and worsens to the point of dying. The boobs running the school continue to allow Helen to remain in the common room inhabited by the rest of the girls, a circumstance which allows Jane to be with her on her deathbed. Helen declares she is happy to be going home to Heaven, and expresses an optimism the authority figures in Jane’s life don’t have about Jane joining her there at a later date.
Jane’s adult career begins with her being given a choice between being governess of a little girl who speaks only French living in a grand house where “the master” comes home only infrequently, or teaching “cottagers’ daughters” in a village school.
Though she initially shows a willingness to take the village schoolteacher position, she ends up taking the grand house governess gig (perhaps because finding one who speaks fluent French is so rare in the far-off English countryside?) and building a relationship of rough equality with Rochester which would lead to a proposal, followed by public displays of affection (in their world, that was “action”) and a double-time trip to the altar, which was interrupted by a concerned party who revealed the continued physical existance of Bertha Mason, Rochester’s previous wife. (Unlike in other cinematic portrayals of Jane Eyre, in this one, Jane finds out about the existnce of the other woman after having been successfully led to the marriage ceremony and has even more cause than in the other movies to tell Rochester, “sir, you are deceitful!” and to remove herself from his household, as the “proper” and “moral” thing to do according to the sensibilities of the times, even though she still has feelings for him.)
Rochester justifies his conduct and his withholding of information about the situation of his first wife from her by saying that mortal human laws are a mere guideline and have no bearing upon a situation so obviously unjust, the idea of marriage to a madwoman being effectively rendered null and void by very reason of her insanity, but unrecognized in that time and place as grounds for legal divorce, or, apparently, nullification on the part of the church.
He rationalizes having essentially imprisoned Bertha in a secret room in the house and concealed her existence as a humane alternative to having taken her to one of the existing institutions of the day for the mentally ill, which were often conspicuously inhumane, such as “Bedlam, where they bait the inmates and use them for sport”, and where tours were held for the amusement of the public (from which the tradition of “grand rounds” doubtlessly derived), the mentally ill not having the benefit of the privacy laws of our day.
(It was only in the late 19th century that Dorothea Dix conceived of professionally managed State-run institutions in the USA as a humane -for the 19th century- alternative to the mentally ill being sent to prison or being kept in such dubious circumstances in their family homes).
The fact of the Bertha’s continued existence and the hidden cell for her with a concealed door behind a tapestry cleared up a few suspected-to-be paranormal incidents earlier in the movie: the mystery of how a small fire got started in a room near the hidden chamber, and why Adele, the French girl, believed that there was a woman with long wild hair and “sapphire eyes” who walked the halls of the manor house at night, and was a vampiress.
Bertha is not shown as a fully-developed character in this movie: when the door to her cell is opened in Jane’s presence, Bertha shrinks away like a vampire exposed to garlic. Moaning and whimpering, she comes back to the threshhold to embrace her husband, her long, thick hair obscuring her features.
While the mental illness of Rochester’s wife is unspecified, Jane’s aunt may well be a sociopath. While working for Rochester, Jane receives news that her distant uncle with whom she had lost contact as a child had died, and that the aunt who had sent her away had a stroke upon hearing the news. She goes to the aunt, who makes a quasi-deathbed confession. Finally feeling a touch of remorse for her deception, after having previously accused Jane of deception when she was a child, Jane’s aunt confesses that she “wronged her twice”, first by sending her to the boarding school when she had promised Jane’s father that she would take Jane in, and later on, in an incident which Jane had no knowledge of, while Jane’s uncle was still living, in an effort to do Jane out of her inheritance, she lied to him when he wrote asking for Jane’s contact information, misinforming him that Jane had died of typhus while at the boarding school.
Jane manages to convince her uncle’s executors of the truth, and they eventually track her down, and she is informed that she is to be a wealthy woman, which is good news primarily on the grounds that wealth buys independence.
In order to physically separate from Rochester, she takes the village school job. It is however, while she is working at the village school job, that she is proposed marriage by St. John on pragmatic rather than romantic grounds to join him as a Protestant missionary in India.
Though she had been itching to see the world (she looked wistfully at the globe when she taught her young charge geography and voiced regret at never having seen a city as well as frustration with the fact that women were not permitted to do a lot of things and “have adventures” in her time) she turns him down because she is still carrying the torch for Rochester.
In an ambiguously happy ending, she reunites with Rochester, but only after his legal wife escapes the secret room, successfully burns down the house and commits suicide by jumping off the roof. As Rochester had been blinded in the fire, he recogizes Jane by gently feeling her hands and face.