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Fantoma Films presents
Coffin Joe: At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1963)

"What do I care if it's Holy or Devil's Friday? I'll get what I want and no bible thumper will stop me! I'll eat meat today even if it's human flesh!"
- Coffin Joe (Jos» Mojica-Marins)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: November 02, 2001

Stars: Jos» Mojica-Marins, Nivaldo Lima, Magda Mei
Other Stars: Genesiso de Carvalho
Director: Jos» Mojica-Marins

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, some gore)
Run Time: 01h:21m:00s
Release Date: April 03, 2001
UPC: 014381060225
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B BB-B- B

DVD Review

In America, we have quite a few horror icons; characters that can instantly conjure up a specific image of evil. Examples would be Hannibal Lector, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and the list goes on. In Brazil, however, there is but one: Z» De Caixao, better known as Coffin Joe, and he could probably whip all of the above mentioned characters. To understand Coffin Joe, one must first understand South American cinema of the 1960s; a time when military police and iron-fist dictators terrorized most countries and states there. As history has proven, artists will rebel in their own, interesting way, and most low budget cinema was filled with strange creativity and surreal ideas that government censors could barely comprehend. Among those revolutionaries was the gleefully eccentric Jos» Mojica-Marins who decided to create a dark, nasty horror film for the masses entitled, At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul.

Mojica-Marins produces, directs, and stars in the film, playing the role of Z» De Caixao (Coffin Joe), an undertaker in a small, religious, and conservative Brazilian village. The thing about Joe is that he's a total and complete bastard; a hateful and bitter man who dresses in a black suit, black cloak, and black top hat. Together with his long fingernails and well-trimmed black beard, he looks like some kind of twisted Snidely Whiplash. Although he puts on a kind, caring face for most of the community, those that live around him know him as a cruel, vile man who believes himself above any earthly, moral law. In one of the best scenes, barely 5 minutes into the movie, Joe eats a leg of cooked lamb in front of a procession of church-goers, all celebrating Catholic Holy Friday (during which you're not supposed to eat meat). Joe gleefully devours his meal while taunting priests and simple peasants, instantly setting up the kind of man he is. Soon afterwards, he's manhandling the townswomen, and cutting someone's fingers off. Remember, when the people in this community die, he's the one they'll have to go to for final rest.

The basic plot has to do with Joe seeking to win the affection of Terezhina (Magda Mei), the girlfriend of his best friend. Joe's own wife cannot bear children, and to him there is no point in living if you can't continue your bloodline. He hatches an elaborate plan by which he will murder his wife, off his best friend, and be free to seduce Terezhina. He terrorizes the community while he goes about doing his deeds, rubbing their faces in what he's getting away with. He spouts blasphemies while getting into barroom brawls. If the opportunity presented itself he'd probably beat up his own grandmother. This wonderfully outlandish character provided what, at the time, was the most blasphemous, ugly, sinful motion picture the people of Brazil had ever experienced. Even in the 21st Century, At Midnight... is still a shockingly violent and brutal piece of work. Of course, no one could take their eyes off it.

Despite the low budget and moments of slight laughability, the film succeeds on style. Mojica-Marins treats the material in a very cinematic way, with his over-the-top performance and creative visual work. It brings to mind the atmosphere and craft of an old Hammer film or something similarly 'Gothic' in nature. It's gleefully silly while being repulsive at the same time, a combination few filmmakers can pull off properly. Comparisons to the work of directors like Russ Meyer and Mario Bava are surprisingly accurate given the cross between shocking exploitation and supernatural horror. Obviously, something of this sort would not go unchecked in Brazil, so the controversy over the film pretty much ensured it's success and it's place in cinematic history. Like other slightly eccentric directors with underfunded visions, his passion for the relentlessly grim world of Coffin Joe really needs to be seen to be appreciated.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The last time I saw a Coffin Joe film, it was in virtually unwatchable condition. The Fantoma Films restoration here is simply amazing. While age and damage has taken a toll on the print, it has been minimized to a point where only the reel changes and portions with on-the-negative effects are the worst of it. Extraordinary. Fine grain details and black/light level detail has been brought up to normal black & white standards you expect from the average film. These movies have never looked this good, period, and it would seem that Jos» Mojica-Marin's supervision on the negative was well worth it, working from an original print prior to massive cuts and editing by censorship boards. Compression artifacts and other digital problems are kept well at bay, and other than the minor scratches and burns, it's a virtually pristine version of the film. Newly translated English subtitles (white with black bordering) are well written and non-intrusive.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoPortugueseyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio is in extremely good condition for the age, and all of the subtle details come across very clearly. Though there are the usual pops and moments of hiss you get from a basic mono, 1960s' era mix nothing ever sounds flat or badly transferred. Sound effects, score, and dialogue are balanced as well as can be expected.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Awakening Of The Beast, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Interview with José Mojica-Marins
  2. Reproduction of an original Coffin Joe comic book.
Extras Review: The disc features a 10-minute, brand new interview with Jos» Mojica-Marins, who has long since become a well respected director and film personality, with about 30 films under his belt. He discusses how the project came about and what he had to work with. He reveals some trivia about how certain scenes were created, and it basically works like a little mini-commentary. An original trailer, along with trailers for other Coffin Joe films Awakening Of The Beast and This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse finish things off, with some stylish menu designs. The DVD includes a physical reproduction of an original, Brazilian Coffin Joe comic book that runs about 37 pages and is translated into English. It has little to do with Coffin Joe, and is more like a Twilight Zone story where Joe simply introduces some tale of horror. It's a cool collectable, though, and a good inclusion for fans. A separate keepcase booklet contains a short essay on At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul written by Andre Barcinski, Mojica-Marins' biographer.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Although it has it's cult fanbase, this first of the Coffin Joe films has often been ignored in the annals of classic horror and revolutionary film history. While it may be hard to understand the immense size of the Coffin Joe phenomena for someone not native to Brazil, you can at least see some of the reasons it succeeded in such dark times. Inventive, funny, disturbing, and clever, At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul is supremely entertaining.

 


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