While I was researching The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald last week, I came across another film directed by Larry Buchanan. Beyond the Doors (also known as Down On Us) sounded like one of those truly odd films that I simply had to see for myself. Fortunately, it turned out that this rare and hard-to-find movie was available (in 13 parts!) on YouTube.
First released in either 1983 or 1984 (sources vary), Beyond the Doors tells the story of a FBI agent who, as the film begins, is out hunting with two friends who proceed to gun him down. Staring down at the agent’s dead body, one of the assassins sneers, “Rock and Roll is dead. Long live Rock and Roll.” The agent’s son then goes through his father’s files and discovers that, during the late 1960s and early 70s, his father was responsible for murdering “the three pied pipers of rock and roll” — Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. The film then enters into flashback mode and we discover both why the U.S. government was determined to kill Hendrix, Joplin, and Morrison and how exactly they attempted to do it.
What can I say about Beyond the Doors? If The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald seemed oddly respectable for a Larry Buchanan film, Beyond the Doors reminds us of why Larry Buchanan remains a cult figure for bad film lovers. Everything that Buchanan is known for is present in this film: unknown actors playing real-life characters, melodramatic dialogue, one set continually redecorated to look like a dozen different rooms, and plenty of conspiracy theories. As is typical of a Larry Buchanan film, it was shot with a lot of ambition but next to no money or actual talent. Hendrix, Morrison, and Joplin are played by lookalikes who give performances that don’t so much resemble their real-life counterparts as much as they seem to literally be Wikipedia entries brought to life. Hendrix worries that he’s sold out to the man, Joplin questions what fame’s all about, and Morrison makes pretentious observations. Buchanan couldn’t actually afford the rights to any songs from Joplin, Hendrix, or the Doors so instead, the soundtrack is full of music that’s designed to sound as if it could have been written by one of the “three pied pipers of rock and roll” even though it wasn’t. (And yes, the end result is just as silly as it sounds.) In short, Beyond the Doors is one of those films (much like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room) that is so amazingly bad and misguided that it becomes perversely fascinating.
In short, it’s a film that, like me, you simply have to see for yourself.