Beyond and Back (1978)

This Sunn Classics Pictures release isn’t just a movie Roger Ebert hated. He said, “Gives turkeys a bad name. It exists on about the same cinematic level as an Army training film or one of those junior high chemistry movies in which the experiments never quite worked.” He had it on his list of most hated movies on his site and it’s one of the entries in his book I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie.

Sunn didn’t care. They four-walled — bought their own theaters and sold their own tickets — this movie or played it in drive-ins. It mostly played in smaller towns and non-urban areas, away from critics for the most part.

Just like In Search of Noah’s Ark and In Search of Historic Jesus, this is one of the Sunn films that tries to present the science behind Christian belief. Producer Charles E. Sellier Jr., the man who also made Grizzly Adams and Silent Night Deadly Night, said of the juxtaposition between revival house and grindhouse that he “believes God wants me to do the films I do, otherwise He wouldn’t have made me a success.”

Directed by James L. Conway, who also did Sunn’s The Lincoln Conspiracy and shot by Henning Schellerup, who did adult under his other name Hans Christian, Beyond and Back is a Utah shot blast of hyperbole that goes right to your brain.

As with most films from these guys, Brad Crandall provides the narration that will either comfort you or make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. There’s nowhere in between.

This is a movie filled with near death experiences and mentions of how much the soul weighs, which is for some all the explanation they need that it exists. You may scoff at the material presented as fact, you may see it as gospel or you may be like me, someone that loves the carny nature of it all.

But just remember: “The events you have just seen have been taken from actual accounts, but the names of the persons involved have been changed to preserve their anonymity. All such persons have been portrayed by professional actors and actresses.”

You can watch this on YouTube. You can also download it from the Internet Archive.

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