Beyond Bedlam – tape 2228

Remember when Craig Fairbrass was a leading man? One of those puzzling moments in the movie zeitgeist. About the only thing I can really remember him in is Cliffhanger, where he was one of John Lithgow’s henchmen. That’s good casting, Fairbrass is a henchman type.

But go low budget enough, and suddenly Craig Fairbrass is the kind of name you might pick as your leading man, as in today’s offering, Beyond Bedlam. It’s directed by Vadim Jean, who got good notices for Leon the Pig Farmer and decided to choose as the subject of his follow-up, a little known horror novel by ‘Harry Adam Knight’ – who was actually a pseudonym for writer and critic John Brosnan. Brosnan wrote a regular column for Starburst magazine, famous for some contrary opinions, but always worth reading, and he wrote a couple of excellent books about movies, in particular The Primal Screen and Movie Magic.

It’s not such a bad idea, though, to make a low budget horror film – it worked for Sam Raimi and Clive Barker. So how did it turn out?

It’s not starting well. After a prologue that seems to involve people sleeping, and a man on fire jumping out of a window, we meet our star, Craig Fairbrass, staring at a man in silence. He then walks out of the room, walks all the way down a long corridor (long enough for the rest of the credits to play out) then stops, look moody, and then walks back down the corridor, and returns to the interrogation room.

It’s the least dynamic titles sequence I’ve seen.

He then talks to a man from a Just For Men commercial (or something similar – I can’t place him but I recognise his face).

“Cracked the weasel?” he asks him, and I’m hoping this isn’t a euphemism.

Fairbrass is called to a case – the burning man from the opening of the movie, which turns out not to have been a dream.

The victim’s downstairs neighbour is Elizabeth Hurley, so she’s interviewed by Fairbrass.

She didn’t like her neighbour’s music, but that’s not really motive for murder. But Fairbrass gets really interested when he discovers that Hurley is doing psychological experiments on Keith Allen, a murderer with whom Fairbrass has a (so far undisclosed) past.

There’s a fair number of familiar faces in the supporting cast. Samantha Spiro plays Fairbrass’s partner.

Annette Badland plays a nurse at the institute where Hurley works.

Hurley isn’t a particularly good scientist. In order to determine that the treatment she’s giving Keith Allen has no side effects, she takes it herself. Although she seems to be missing the main side effect, in that it seems to give her strange sex dreams that also involve all the other people in her block of flats. And one of them, an old lady, hangs herself. There’s definitely some kind of Freddy Krueger style stuff happening here.

Fairbrass doesn’t like that she’s experimenting on Allen. He randomly grabs a lit bunsen burner at her. “What are you doing?” she asks. “Playing with fire. And so are you.” This is heady stuff.

It starts getting very confused when Hurley and Fairbrass join forces to kill Allen, in what I’m assuming is a shared dream of some kind.

It was at this point that Anita Dobson turns up, as Fairbrass’s dead wife.

Fairbrass’ reporter friend uses the latest 1994 search engine. It even makes the modem sound as the characters appear one by one.

The burned guy from the opening reappears, as I suspected he might, since he’s played by Jesse Birdsall. Not that you can tell under the makeup.

Fairbrass’ guilty secret is that it was him who shot his wife, while she was being held hostage by Allen.

It wouldn’t be a dreamscape without a scary nun, played by Georgina Hale.

Inevitably, Fairbrass ends up shirtless, wrestling with Allen, until Allen gets impaled on something sharp. Although I have to admit I did zone out for some of the ending.

Quite poor.

After this, recording continues, and the rest of the tape contains much of a John Cassavetes film, Minnie and Moskowitz. I imagine it’s better than Beyond Bedlam, but it’s not all here, so I don’t want to watch it.

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3 comments

  1. I saw this in the cinema! What an idiot. At least I can say I’ve seen Anita Dobson on the big screen. Strangely, this movie seems to have disappeared, briefly released on DVD about 15 years ago, but not surprisingly nobody’s clamouring for a re-release. More than Dream Demon got, I suppose.

    I remember an interview with the director where he said he’d read people don’t like needles, so he put in scenes where Keith Allen abused his arm with a needle. That was about the extent of the thinking.

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