Sunday, July 20, 2014
Quick Plot Synopsis
At a large mental hospital institution, alarms sound. A nuclear strike is immanent. Staff and patients stream down stairs into a waiting bunker. Dr. White goes back up to fetch more people. He tells Rita (one of his higher-functioning patients) to close the bunker door if things look bad. She knows the combination. The earth shakes from explosions. Rita pushes the buttons and the big round metal door closes. Everyone is sealed in. More explosions buffet the bunker. Pounding and screaming is heard on the other side of the door. Under pressure from the others, Rita cannot remember the combination. Phone lines to the surface are dead. The closed circuit television shows only interference. Dr. Sullivan, Dr. DeGroot and nurse Marion are the only staff, with roughly 20 or so patients. For awhile, the tranquilizers hold out, and a relative (tense) calm is maintained. Richard, one of the patients, makes fixing the television his project. Eventually, the pills run out and tempers flare. Lydia is highly libidinous and prone to taking her shirt off. Marion goes libidinous too, and takes a romantic shine to Richard, who is becoming a somewhat sullen leader type. When Dr. DeGroot goes out to stop a brawl, Richard gets the pistol away from him and shoots him dead. Dr. Sullivan tries to maintain order, but the inmates are running the asylum. They try to tug the door open with a rope, but fail. Richard has the television fixed and says he’s seen the sun. Richard gives a monologue about the new world sweeping away all the unnatural things of the old world (laws, courts, rules) In another brawl, Rita taunts Charles, who then vows to kill her. When he has her trapped against the door, she remembers the combination. The door opens. They all go up to find rubble and ruins. Richard and another man hit Dr. Sullivan with bricks. The others (even Marion) join in stoning the doctor to death. They all then file out of the ruins into a bleak landscape. Fade in ballad. The End.
Why is this movie fun?
BR is another glimpse into how people of the Cold War era viewed the expected nuclear apocalypse. The bunker-view and all the metaphors are amusing food for thought.
Cold War Angle
The same sort of End Of The World As We Know It mindset that pervades many Cold War era stories is also at the core of BR. The premise that there would be a safe underground bunker stocked with a year’s worth of supplies was very much the Cold War way. The destruction when the patients emerge, is the total destruction people imagined.
Double Meaning — The title, “Beyond Reason”, gets mentioned literally when Dr. De Groot talks of the madness of everyone fighting a nuclear WWIII. Such mutually shared destruction was, in his words, “beyond reason.” Then, there is the “new world” in which the survivors are all mental patients following their instincts, not that old-world notion of reason.
Organ Rejection — The score in BR is like that old joke about the man hitting himself in the head with a hammer. Why are you doing that? his friend asks. Because if feels so good when I stop. The best part of the score in BR is when it’s not there. The warbley electronic keyboard (organ) is jarring and loud -- a migraine set to "music".
Natural Law — Even though writer/producer/director Mangiamele was born in the 1920s, so was of the “Greatest Generation”, he has the Richard character utter a rebelious-youth monologue about throwing off the old civilization and starting over with himself as the leader. Marion asks him what he could do for them. “Your world, your society, your imposed organization of all kinds. Laws and courts, and set ways of behavior. Nothing was natural. In the new world, it will be different. They’ll be free. I can give them freedom. They’ll obey their natural instincts.” Such was the common counter-culture philosophy. If it feels good, do it.
Anti-Establishment — Clearly symbolizing authority and structure, Dr. Sullivan tries to maintain order in the bunker. He berates Marion a couple times for having her nurse’s uniform unbuttoned. He breaks up fights. When the patients are lounging around lazily eating, Dr. Sullivan moves among them, taking away their dirty plates. When the door is finally opened, he leads them out. But when he finds a new supply of the tranquilizers he used to maintain order, he is quickly stoned and killed by the mob. Following Richard’s manifesto, the old order was to be swept aside.
Bottom line? BR is a very obscure film, so probably difficult to find any copies. Unless you happen to be a big fan of low-budget Australian indie films, bunker themes, or harsh electronic keyboard, BR might not be worth the effort to locate. But if, for some odd reason, BR were to be playing on television, fits in with films like Chosen Survivors and Twilgiht Zone’s “The Shelter” episode.