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page added: 10/24/01



Good ol' Coffin Joe...

Rather than focus on all of my various crippling issues this week, I've decided I'm going to hand the focus off to a filmmaker I think is pretty frickin' cool. I've been holding onto these reviews for a while so we could put them up for your enjoyment around Halloween. So here they are - three films on DVD by Mr. Jose Mojica Marins, otherwise known as Coffin Joe.

As a filmmaker, Coffin Joe is a Brazilian Hitchcock, Bava and Buñel all wrapped into one blood-soaked package. But he's not just a filmmaker... oh no. He's also the first true horror film star of Brazil and a big enough cult icon here in the States. His character is a bit of Freddy, some Cryptkeeper thrown in for good measure, with the undying nature of Jason Voorhees. And he's got an exclusive cardkey into Hell. Actor, writer, producer and director Jose Mojica Marins has been horrifying audiences since the 1960s. Clad in a top hat, black cape and his signature long curled fingernails here's Coffin Joe in all of his glory.


At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul
1963 (2001) - Fantoma

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B-/A

Specs and Features:

81 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, The Making of At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul: An Interview with Director Jose Mojica Marins, theatrical trailers (for At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse and Awakening of the Beast, comic book reproduction: O Estranho Mundo de Ze do Caixao: Noite Negra, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scenes access (12 chapters), languages: Portuguese (DD mono), subtitles: English


"What is life? It is the beginning of death. What is death? It is the end of life."

It all started with a dream Marins had one night. He was about to begin a doomed-from-the-start production about juvenile delinquency, when he fell asleep and woke remembering being dragged against his will through a cemetery by a man dressed in black. Like some modern day Ebenezzer Scrooge, Marins found himself face to face with a tombstone bearing his name. But instead of changing his life for the better, and funding Christmas parties across Brazil, Marins chose to actually become the man in black of his nightmare. He embraced his fear and became one with it. And from that fevered dream came Coffin Joe.

In At Midnight Joe is a tyrannical assmunch, really. He's a guy with a stick shoved so far up in him, that he could chalk it with his tongue. He's in a marriage with a woman who can't bear him a son, and he hates the people in his town so much that he laughs at the pain they feel over death. He's in a position to view this pain up close and personal, seeing as he's the town's mortician. Having had enough of it all, he arrives home one evening, sets himself up in front of a window on Good Friday and eats a meal of forbidden meat.

Deciding that he wants a son more than anything, he sets about killing his barren wife and stealing the ripe and lovely girlfriend of his best friend. Death begets death and Joe goes head-long into Hell willingly. But in the world of Coffin Joe, the dead are just as dangerous as the living and, when wronged, they will come back and take their revenge.

This film is nothing but a haunted house carnival ride. And that's not a bad thing. Coffin Joe introduces us to the film in a little monologue meant to set the audience up with Joe's own personal theory on life. Then we jump to a series of cast introductions from moments before they die in the film (just so we know our place). After a series of Halloween-style credits with screams punctuating them in the background, our "hero" (a scary gypsy witch) lets us know how brave we are for taking this film on head first.

Now... at first glance you'd think this film is all about pure shock value - that Marins intends only to sicken us and therefore make a name for himself. His Coffin Joe persona is nothing but a no account, with no respect for human life. And that's true. But there's more. This film and its sequel are both little life lessons, religious propaganda and affirmations rolled into two nice packages. Coffin Joe IS evil and he has no respect for God, life or love. But with that, we see that he's wrong. Love is powerful, life has value and somewhere God is making things right. But Joe is a spunky guy. The evidence is all around him and yet he chooses not to see it. Coffin Joe is the Brazilian Homer Simpson, except he's way evil.

Source-wise, At Midnight is pretty beat up, and this is in no way a reference DVD. But it looks great for what it is. Our buddies at Fantoma really helped this film out a lot. The video suffers from all the same things it suffered from when it was made: badly superimposed images, blurred shots, poor dissolves, oversaturation and loss of detail. But we have to keep in mind that the film stock Marins used was either borrowed or bought real cheap, so there's no faulting the transfer for imperfections the film stock has. This is how this film has looked since it was born. There are some signs of age, dust, white density and scratches, but I'd be willing to bet that most of that was there from the beginning as well. The picture is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio, with deep blacks, muted grays and thick whites. The sound is a mono track that is as flawed as the film stock, but suits the film fine.

The extras are pretty stellar with a little something called The Making of At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul: An Interview with Director Jose Mojica Marins which is exactly that and is pretty neat in that it shows us Joe today. There are also theatrical trailers for all of the films released by Fantoma on DVD: At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse and Awakening of the Beast. And, best of all, there's a comic book reproduction insert, entitled O Estranho Mundo de Ze do Caixao: Noite Negra. It's an exact reproduction of a comic book series created by Joe back at the top of his popularity, and it's done up as an EC Comic gone straight to Hell.

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!


This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse

This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse
1966 (2001) - Fantoma

Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B-/A

Specs and Features:

107 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.66:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, The Making of This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse: An Interview with Director Jose Mojica Marins, theatrical trailers (for At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse and Awakening of the Beast, comic book reproduction: O Estranho Mundo de Ze do Caixao: Magia Negra, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scenes access (12 chapters), languages: Portuguese (DD mono), subtitles: English


"Is life everything, and death nothing? Or is death everything and life nothing?"

This Night is a direct sequel to At Midnight. I can't really sum up the opening, since it kinda sorta ruins the previous film's ending, but Coffin Joe finds himself in a hospital and, after his recovery, is cleared of any charges that might stand against him. So he heads back to town to start up his quest for the perfect son all over again, with the help of his ever-faithful hunchback.

Joe gets to work, kidnapping all of the town's women and putting them through tests to see if they can carry his waiting brood. Snakes, bugs and spiders are unleashed on his potential brides and the screaming starts for them and for us. Eventually, he widdles the choices down to one super chick... that is until an even more perfect bride enters the picture in the guise of the mayor's young virginal daughter (with quite the dark side). She's a real "Coffin Josephine" and Joe is head over heals in love. But an unruly mob, a strongman with a chip on his shoulder and a disturbingly worm-filled decent into the lower depths of Hell (filmed in a beautifully surreal full color palette) show him that his evil ways may not work out for him in the long run.

This Night is a better flick than At Midnight - it's just not as, well, classic. Still, there's no doubt about it, this is Coffin Joe in his full-on unibrowed glory. The film is creepy, crawly and pretty disturbing for a low budget foreign film staring a guy in a top hat and cape. But like its predecessor, there are a lot of lessons here about morals, religion and the right way to treat people. That Marins has to take it so far in the opposite direction to make his point is interesting. If you're looking for propaganda, it's in here. But if you're looking for an entertaining spookfest, it fulfills that just as well.

This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse looks great on DVD. There are some original print issues all over the place, and it's obvious that an Nth generation dupe was used for the opening footage. But so what? It just adds to the look of the film, which is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen in beautiful black and white. The blacks are solid and the grays and whites are very clean. The 10-minute color sequence towards the end of the film could have been on better stock, but it still looks incredibly cool. Once again, the sound is a plain old mono track that suits the film fine.

Once again, the extras are great and include The Making of This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse: An Interview with Director Jose Mojica Marins, which is a current interview with the master, all three theatrical trailers and another comic book reproduction, this one entitled O Estranho Mundo de Ze do Caixao: Magia Negra. Be afraid.

This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!


Awakening of the Beast

Awakening of the Beast
1969 (2001) - Fantoma

Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B-/A

Specs and Features:

91 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.66:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, The Making of At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul: An Interview with Director Jose Mojica Marins, theatrical trailers (for At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse and Awakening of the Beast, comic book reproduction: O Estranho Mundo de Ze do Caixao: A Praga, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scenes access (12 chapters), languages: Portuguese (DD mono), subtitles: English


There's only one thing more evil than Coffin Joe, and that, my friends, is drugs. Icky despicable drugs. And this film is all about the horrors of LSD. Here, Coffin Joe is part of a counsel studying the effects of the drug on the human mind. Joe's brought in to play demon from Hell because a popular psychologist figures that if anyone saw Coffin Joe in their dreams, it would scare them straight. So what we get in the film is a bunch of vignettes strung together featuring the various types of degenerates who do the drugs, from hippie gangs, sex slave traders, pimps and cheating spouses - it's just a parade of sick people. After the vignettes, the psychologist brings the people from the stories together to show them a Coffin Joe film, gives them a shot of LSD and watches their bad trips unfold (in beautiful color once again).

Awakening is little more than a more surreal and cooler Reefer Madness-style propaganda film - except it's got Coffin Joe in it. The film is well done, but less scary than the previous two films. I like it, but in terms of Coffin Joe fixes, this one just satisfies the craving and does no more.

The film is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen in black and white with a color reel thrown in towards the end. It's a little better source-wise than the other two films, and features the same glorious transfer. The sound is also mono and does a good job creeping us out.

The extras include an interview with Marins about the film shot recently, the three trailers and another comic book reproduction, entitled O Estranho Mundo de Ze do Caixao: A Praga

Awakening of the Beast
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!


Out of the three DVDs, the first two are absolute must-see Halloween treats - so pick 'em up for this season. The other one isn't too Halloween friendly, but it's still pretty cool and should be seen at some point. So what are you waiting for?

And while you're busy picking those up, I'll be checking out some more discs. We'll see you in a week. Until then, keep spinning those discs!

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


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