Want to know what it's like to go mano a mano with death, to depart this vale of tears, but then be given a raincheck on life? If so, you're just the kind of person Sunn Classics is counting on to see its "Beyond and Back," now playing at too many area theaters.
Sunn Classics is a company that turns out "Grizzly Adams," "The Lincoln Conspiracy" and similar films, each one slickly constructed, with the aid of blitzkreig of TV commercials, to make as much money as possible. They are not so much films as snake-oil pitches, promising everything and delivering little or nothing at all.
"Beyond and Back" was specifically made to capitalize on the recent interest in life after life, on the phenomenon of people declared legally dead suddenly regaining consciousness and telling what they remember about the other world.
Unfortunately the only way Sunn can deal with this is by a series of hopeless, hoked-up dramatized case histories, introduced by lines like "Byron Temple didn't expect to die the day after Christmas, 1964, but he did" or "What does it feel like to die? LawyerDan Wilson is about to find out."
As if this wasn't pseudodramatic enough, the narration, spoken in wondrous tones more appropriate to the old days of TV's Science Fiction Theater, consists almost completely of veritable thesaurus of words like "mysterious," "dramatic," "astounding," "incredible" and (yes) "startling."
The acting, mainly wooden, doesn't help things either, consisting as it does of once dead now alive people looking kindly but baffledwhile audiences are looking for the exit.
Not content with recreating what they allege are real episodes - for all the verification the filmakers provide this could all be purest fiction - "Beyond and Back" drags in every historical personage from Plato to Houdini who ever had anything to do with death. Unfortunately, the narrator solemnly, intones, "All these people died, so they can tell us little."
And those people who didn't die, what can they tell us about life after life? Apparently after floating over your bed for an appropriate period, you are pulled along a long passage way with a blinding light at the end, when suddenly, to the accompaniment of tinkly music and a heavenly choir, you feel a "divine presence." Sounds like a revival meeting in the Holland Tunnel.