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Fantoma Films presents
Coffin Joe: Awakening Of The Beast (1969)

"This very night, I command you to dance and party 'till you drop, exhausted in the ballroom. You'll get back on your feet, to start dancing once again. This is my will. My name is Zé do Caixao!"
- Coffin Joe (José Mojica-Marins)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: November 30, 2001

Stars: José Mojica-Marins
Other Stars: Jose Lobo, many uncredited performances
Director: José Mojica-Marins

Manufacturer: American Zoetrope
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (drug use, violence, nudity, depictions of all sorts of criminal behavior)
Run Time: 01h:32m:20s
Release Date: April 03, 2001
UPC: 014381060423
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B-C- B

DVD Review

So now that you've seen At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul and This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse, you may think you're ready to move on to Awakening Of The Beast. Well, be aware that Beast ranks among one of the most bizarre and eccentric films ever made. Like the previous Coffin Joe outings, though, it has that hint of brilliance that makes it something very original and fascinating. It bears mentioning that, to this day, filmmaker JosČ Mojica-Marins has never actually finished his ideal Coffin Joe trilogy. Instead, after the completion of This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse, the character of Joe became such a giantic icon that he started "introducing" tales of horror rather than being directly involved with them. From comic books to television shows, Coffin Joe was Marins' twisted version of a Rod Serling or Alfred Hitchcock. Awakening of the Beast follows in that tradition and is not a sequel to the previous works, but rather an extension of Joe's evil aura.

Awakening is set up like a roundtable discussion on drugs, with various panel guests (actual, real life "experts" playing themselves), including Mojica-Marins himself. In an attempt to drive home the fact that the underground drug culture in Brazil is sick and demented, we witness a series of short situations and vignettes in which drug addicts commit all sorts of unusual atrocities. In fact, "unusual" is an understatement, as Awakening is so chaotic, surreal, and freakish that mere words are simply not adequate to describe what is contained within. I thought drugsploitation movies like Alice in Acidland and David F. Freidman's The Acid Eaters were pretty high up on the freaky scale, but this one puts virtually all those to shame. Some sequences are fairly straightforward; people use drugs and wind up doing something they never would normally like commit adultery or take their clothes off in public, but most are considerably more radical, often making little sense.

Don't worry, though, there IS a connection to Coffin Joe. Eventually, one of the researchers debating the effect on drugs on society comes up with a rather bizarre theory: that it is not drugs making society go mad, but rather the effect of none other than Coffin Joe. Mojica-Marins argues that this is ridiculous, it's simply a fantasy character, but the final third of the film sees this researcher puts his theories to the test. Taking four addicts (who appeared in previous sequences), this scientist subjects them to an LSD trip while staring at a poster of Coffin Joe (from a shop selling Joe comic books, identical to the replicas being supplied with Fantoma's DVDs). The resulting sequence, filmed in color, is about the most crazed thing I've ever seen on film. The colored Hell sequence from This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse was brilliant and completely mad, but this LSD hallucination sequence, in which drug addicts are menaced by Coffin Joe, is a masterful mini-film in itself, beyond rational explanation. Though I praise the overall film highly in terms of the insanity Marins was aiming for, it's difficult to discuss as it is simply so eccentric and nightmarish, it would almost cheapen it to go into too much detail.

While Coffin Joe managed to squeak through censor boards by either making cuts or simply delaying release, the government never really took the character too seriously, more as an entertaining diversion that kept the peoples' minds off politics and the crumbling, corrupt police system. Awakening Of The Beast, however, (under its original title, Ritual Of The Sadists) was just simply too much. Too bizarre, too outlandish, and so radically fantastic that it was perceived as some kind of pro-counterculture statement, despite Marins' strong opposition to drug usage. As a result, it was banned. All repeated attempts to get the movie into normal circulation failed. Awakening Of The Beast remained, for the most part, unseen as a theatrical release until its showcasing at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. The release of this DVD marks the first time JosČ Mojica-Marins has actually seen commercial profit from it in any meaningful way. Thankfully, we finally have the final product, free of cuts or special interference. Keeping things that way may prove a more difficult fight, however.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: The image restoration (from one of Marins' own personal prints) pays off in a very nice and surprisingly clean transfer for a film once thought to have been lost. While there are defects in the source, they are at a bare minimum and never interfere with the picture for any extended period of time. There is fine detail brought out in the image, despite its age, and a wonderful balance between light and shadow; especially important in such a varied environment. Not even the most difficult of sequences brings out any signs of digital problems, like compression artifacts or shimmering, and the full-color portion of the film looks simply staggering in its quality and vivid representation of Coffin Joe's hellish world.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoPortugueseyes


Audio Transfer Review: The mono audio track does its job, but has noticeable damage to it. Often, throughout the movie, there is audible hissing, crackling, and all sorts of other noises, most likely the result of the age and condition of the source. Most of the movie sounds fine, but it is also extremely tinny and flat and at times difficult to hear due to the buzzing and hiss. Limitations are obvious here, but the track still manages to overcome what were probably even greater flaws by proper mixing and restoration.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, 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: A new 8-and-a-half minute interview with Marins himself delves into some trivia behind the making of the film. He briefly discusses the problems he had with financing, local death squads, and censorship. He speaks about how he was inspired to make Awakening, and shares this thoughts on drugs in general. On a side-note, I has some minor problems with the subtitles on this interview, where the subs simply were not translating everything , often going off for unnatural lengths of time. This was fixed by simply restarting the interview, but it may be another Toshiba/subtitle track issue. There are trailers for all three of Fantoma Film's Coffin Joe presentations so far (Awakening of The Beast, At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul and This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse), and superb all-around menu design and presentation. The case contains a reproduction of an original 1960s' era Coffin Joe comic book (the exact same comic being read by the LSD expert in the film), translated into English (except the back cover). The actual keepcase insert contains a brief essay by Mojica-Marins biographer Andre Barcinski and a great photo of Marins with Roger Corman, presumably at some sort of convention.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

While I consider This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse a better film in terms of story-driven horror, Awakening Of The Beast is an instant classic for those who haven't seen it. An incredibly experimental and, at times, utterly silly exploitation movie that goes far beyond what most directors probably would have dared think at the time. Even in the 21st century, it emerged publicly and still managed to shock and impress people, which is saying a lot. When seen completely from beginning to end, it makes the genius of Mojica-Marins even more easily apparent. Simply, he's such a showman, but yet able to poke fun at himself without hesitation.

 


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