Saturday, January 21, 2017

AT MIDNIGHT I'LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (1964) (DVD review)

AT MIDNIGHT I'LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (1964)

Label: Synapse Films

Region Code: 1
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 82 Minutes
Video: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: Dolby Digital Portuguese 2.0 Mono with English Subtitles 
Director: Jose Mojica Marins 
Cast: Jose Mojica Marins, Magda Mei, Nivaldo de Lima, Valeria Vasquez

This is the film that introduced the world to the very first Brazilian horror icon - Ze do Caixao aka Coffin Joe, a fiendish undertaker in a small Brazilian village. He is single mindedly obsessed with the continuation of his bloodline through procreation and stands alone as an outspoken atheist in his village. Marins cuts an imposing bearded figure in a black cape, top hat, eerily long fingernails and a diabolical laugh and he is feared by the villagers.  The film begins with a spook-a-delic montage of macabre imagery and a creepy gypsy who warns theatre goers to leave before it's too late, it's freaky stuff till manages to raise a few hairs on my neck. Ze is married to Lenita, a kind woman who is infertile and unable to bare children which means she is less than nothing to Ze, who murders her with the assistance of a poisonous tarantula, making it look like an accident. He then turns his attentions towards his best friend's wife Terezinha (Magda Mei). Antonio, Terezinha's fiance, invites Ze to visit a gypsy fortune teller who predicts that Antonio is doomed and will never marry Terezinha. Furthermore she tells Ze that he'll suffer the all torments of Hell. Outraged by their so-called fortunes they call the gypsy a fraud but that same night Antonio is murdered by none other than Ze who wants Terezinha for himself.  

With no evidence against him Coffin Joe is free to pursue to Terezinha whom he beats into submission before raping her, whatta guy, right? The woman curses Ze for "ruining" her and swears the she will kill herself and return to take Ze's soul to Hell herself. The next day she is found hanging in her home. It's about this time that the local coroner Dr. Rudolpho begins to suspect Joe is the perpetrator in the recent spate of violent deaths but the doc is dispatched by Joe who gouges out the physician's eyes with his oddly long fingernails, it's pretty gruesome stuff and must have been outrageous at the time it made, this was several years before George A. Romero shocked audiences with Night of the Living Dead (1968). 


Not long after Joe meets a young woman named Marta and while escorting her home runs into the gypsy who foretold of Antonio's demise. She warns him that at midnight the souls of those he murdered will come for him. Ze is shaken by the gypsy, and sure enough encounters an apparition and a trippy funeral procession of souls who are carrying his body to Hell. While trying to escape the ghastly spirits Ze winds up at the mausoleum where both Terezinha and Antonio are buried. Out of his mind and on the edge of insanity Ze opens the coffin lids revealing the eyes of his victims staring at him,  their faces riddled with maggots and decomposition. Moments later the villagers discover Ze's corpse in the mausoleum after hearing his chilling scream. The film ends as the local church bells announce the stroke of midnight while Ze's corpse lies on the ground staring upwards, his eyes hideously bulging in a macabre death stare. 


Audio/Video: At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio with Dolby Digital Portuguese 2.0 mono audio with optional English subtitles. The print not what I would call pristine with a of of scratches and wear but it is quite watchable. Comparing it to my Australian DVD from Umbrella Entertainment Ican see that the Aussie disc is horizontally stretched, and framed at 1.66:1, losing info on all four sides of the screen, as can be seen in the below screen grabs.  The Synapse disc looks superior on all fronts, but don't expect something crisp and blemish free, there's only so much they can do with the source. According to Synapse's Facebook page these are newly remastered from standard def scans of the original negative, and that the licensors did not provide any HD scans, further implying that perhaps the original materials are not in any shape to be scanned in HD, so it looks like we might never get a Blu-ray of the original two films at least. The audio like the image is a bit problematic with plenty of hiss and noise, which is inherent to the source material, but not awful.   


Looking at the extras on the disc we have The Making of At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul: Interview with Director, a 10-minute interview with Jose Mojica Marins intercut with scenes from the film covering the origins of the films, filming the scenes in his own studio, the extreme low budget nature of the film and it's divisive reception. Brief but very interesting. Conducted in Portuguese with English subtitles, also found on the Aussie disc. 


New stuff which I have not seen before begin with José Mojica Marins discussing his short film, Reino Sangrento (1952). The director speaks over a silent short he shot in 1948, his fourth film, about sultan's in the amazon. He discusses how he cast the film, the costuming, performing his own stunts,and his lack of editing. 


The disc also includes a new scene filmed in 2002 and shot on what looks like consumer grade video, in color, with a handy little video box featuring footage from the original film so you can place the scene in context of the original movie. other extras include a 2-min intro from Mojica, the original theatrical trailer and a rare promotional trailer. The release also features cool new artwork from Ghoulish Gary Pullin! Also look out for a weird little Easter Egg on the disc, black and white surgery footage of some sort, very strange. 


Special Features:  

-35mm negative scan supervised by director José Mojica Marins
- The Making of AT MIDNIGHT I’LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (10 mins.)
- José Mojica Marins discusses his short film, REINO SANGRENTO (1952) (9 min)
- Interview with José Mojica Marins (7 min)
- New scene filmed in 2002 (7 min) 
- Introduction to the film by Coffin Joe (2 min) 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 
- Rare Promotional Trailer (3 min) 
- Optional English subtitles and Chapter Selections


SCREEN GRABS
SYNAPSE - TOP
UMBRELLA - BOTTOM 




At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964) is a very creepy and dark story filled with strange violence that might seem a bit tame by today's standards but it works for me. Mojica as Ze is over-the-top and quite theatrical, almost Shakespearean in his intensity and it totally works for the movie, he's a scary guy. The new disc from Synapse looks great, we get some new extras, and the new artwork looks very cool. 3/5

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