Thursday, January 26, 2017

CINEMA PARADISO (1988) (Blu-ray Review)

CINEMA PARADISO (1988)

Label: Arrow Video

Region: A/B
Duration: 124 Minutes / 174 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: Italian LPCM 1.0, 2.0, Italian DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Cast: Philippe Noiret, Enzo Cannavale, Antonella Attili

Synopsis: Giuseppe Tornatore’s loving homage to the cinema tells the story of Salvatore, a successful film director, returning home for the funeral of Alfredo, his old friend who was the projectionist at the local cinema throughout his childhood. Soon memories of his first love affair with the beautiful Elena and all the high and lows that shaped his life come flooding back, as Salvatore reconnects with the community he left 30 years earlier.


Giuseppe Tornatore's 1988 Italian film Nuovo Cinema Paradiso was originally released in an 155 min theatrical cut but was trimmed to a more manageable and better received 124 minute version for it's international release under the title Cinema Paradiso. It was this cut that I caught a 35mm screening of in the early 90's while living in Ithaca, NY at the local arthouse cinema, a place called Cinemapolis. Not yet then in my twenties, and coming off a decade of 80's horror devotion, looking back this is the screening that gave birth to my love of arthouse and foreign cinema. My new found interest in arthouse and foreign films was fed all that year by the aforementioned Cinemapolis and another fine indie theater, Fall Creek Pictures, who had some super comfy chairs. These purveyors of arthouse brought to me the cinema of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's apocalyptic cannibal-comedy Delicatessen (1991), Jaco Van Dormael's Toto Le Heros (1991), Gabriele Salvatores' Mediterraneo and Krzysztof Kieslokowski's The Double Life of Veronique(1991) plus an American indie film, that remarkably still has no stateside release 20 years later, Steven Soderbergh's Kafka (1991). 

The film opens in Rome, Italy sometime in the 1980's as film director Salvatore De Vita (Jacques Perrin, Brotherhood of the Wolf) returns home and is informed by hi wife that his mother has telephoned from sicily with news that someone named Alfredo has passed away. Salvatore, who has not returned to the sicilian village of his birth for 30 years, is crushed by the news, immediately he flashes back to his childhood during WWII, recalling the formative years of his life and a friendship with an crusty, though kind-hearted, theatre projectionist named Alfredo (Philippe Noiret, Fellini's Three Brotherswho imparted to him a deep love of cinema.

We are then transported to 1940's Sicily via flashbacks as only the magic of cinema can. We meet Salvatore at the age of six, he's a precocious little scamp who keeps his mother on her toes, he definitely a handful of mischievous energy. Consumed by an interest in film he spends most of his time at the Cinema Paradiso, a small theatre in the heart of the town square. It is here that he befriends the projectionist Alfredo who begrudgingly lets the boy hang out in the projection booth with him. Through a series of montages we are introduced to the townsfolk who gather nightly to watch the moving images and they are a colorful cast of small town characters. Father Adelfio (Salvatore Cascio, The white Sheik) dutifully approves each film before public viewing at weekly screenings in which he censors scenes of intimacy that he deems immoral, he does so by sounding a bell which cues Alfredo to mark the scenes and cut them from the reel, the decades of naughty nitrate litter the projection booth, and figure prominently into the end of the film. During viewings of the film the townsfolk can be heard to register complaints, one man objecting, "I've been going to the movies for twenty years and I never saw a kiss!", it's fun stuff. The entire village is enraptured by the moving images, it's an idealized cinephile vision of small town life and while the film could be critiqued for being overly sentimental and emotionally manipulative I thinks it's rather quite wonderful, with the lyrical Ennio Morricone score hitting all the right notes.

At first Alfredo's disposition towards the Salvatore is one of annoyance but the old man recognizes his love of cinema and takes him under his wing teaching him to operate the projector, edit and splice film and change reels. The two form a father-son relationship, it's a wonderful portrayal. In a tragic turn of events the highly flammable nitrate film catches fire and a blast of flame from the projector cruelly takes Alfredo's sight. The theatre is a complete loss but it is given a new lease on life when a man named Ciccio, who recently won the lottery, resurrects the theatre as Nuovo Cinema Paradiso. In an admittedly unlikely turn of events Ciccio hires the adolescent Salvatore as the theatre's new projectionist, but that's the magic of movies folks. A few years later with the introduction of non-combustible film stock the elder Alfredo ponders "progress, always comes late."



Alfredo and Toto's friendship continues through the years and as Salvatore matures into a young man, now played by Marco Leonardi (Like Water For Chocolate), he finds himself coming to Alfredo for advice when he loses his heart to a young beauty by the name of Elena (Agnese Nano), the daughter of a wealthy banker who frowns upon a peasant boy courting his daughter of privilege. At the height of their romance Salvatore is required to serve his compulsory military service and the two lose touch when Elena's family settles elsewhere. Returning to the Sicily following his service Alfredo urges the young man to leave the village, to return to Rome where he can pursue his cinematic dreams. Salvatore is hesitant to do so but Alfredo make him swear to never return, to not look back and not give in to sentimentality. Alfredo tells Salvatore "Whatever you end up doing, love it. The way you loved the projection booth when you were a little squirt". It's a promise he keeps but upon returning to the village 30 years later Salvatore is overcome with regret at the decision.

During the funeral procession for Alfredo Salvatore sees the aged but familiar faces from his youth, he's overcome with feelings of nostalgia and regret. Alfredo's widow tells Salvatore how proud her late husband was of him, that following his career as a film director was a source of great pride for the elderly man. She gives him a box, inside it a film reel. Upon returning to Rome Salvatore screens the reel to discover that Alfredo has spliced together a compendium of what amounts to the greatest romance scenes of cinema cut, all the stolen kisses censored from films over the years at the behest of Father Adelfio. He watches as tears of bittersweet joy stream from his face, basking in the glory of cinema and overwhelmed by emotion.

As a teen I found this film incredibly moving, it was actually overwhelming. Never had I seen a film that carried with it so much love for the cinema or such passion for filmmaking. Revisiting it again and again years later it still carries that same weight and then some, it gets better with each watch. Now, with a few more years under my belt, a family of my own and my love for cinema having only grown, the film resonates deeper and stronger than ever. Much like director Giuseppe Tornatore's nostalgia for the cinema of his youth I find it difficult not to similarly gush over Cinema Paradiso - it is simply a thing of beauty.


In the longer theatrical version of the film the relationship between the younger Salvatore and Elena is fleshed out a bit more. When he returns to Sicily thirty years later he encounters a young girl who bares an uncanny resemblance to his lost love. Through her he is reunited with Elena and attempts to rekindle their romance. The reunion scenes add some extra depth and poignancy to the proceedings plus there's a revelation involving Alfredo's involvement in their break-up which adds yet another level of bitter sweetness to the film's finale. In years past I have always been more affectionate for the theatrical version, but this time around I had a strong warming-up to the longer director's cut, both are wonderful, and with this new 2-disc set you can have both. 

Audio/Video: I am very pleased to see Arrow's 25th Anniversary Edition of Cinema Paradiso (1988) get a Region A release, finally! Here we have both the 124-minute theatrical version and the loner 174 minute version of the film, presented on two separate Blu-ray discs, both restored from original negative materials, both framed in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The results of the 2K restoration are wonderful,coming straight from the original 25mm negative this version looks significantly richer than the Lionsgate Blu-ray from a few years back, warmer with more depth, and also benefitting from a new color correction. 

Audio on the theatrical version include both Italian LPCM 1.0 Mono and Italian DTS-HD MA surround 5.1 with Optional English subtitles. The Director's cut features Italian LPCM Mono 1.0 with Italian DTS-HD MA surround 5.1 with Optional English subtitles. Ennio Morricone's transportative score still comes through quite brilliantly, even on the mono option. The Italian DTS-HD 51. track subtly utilizes the surrounds from time to time, immersing viewers in Morricone's gorgeous score. Optional English subtitles are included for both the theatrical and director's versions. 



Onto the extras, this 2-disc set is loaded, beginning with disc one we have the 124-mion theatrical cut, plus the commentary from director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus, which is a nice listen. The commentary is in English. Marcus is very professorial in her approach, though her love for it is never in question. Tornatore's commentary is spliced into the commentary, as they were not in the same room. 

There's a nearly hour long documentary A Dream of Sicily wherein the director speaks about his life and career, including clips of his early films, plus interviews with director Francesco Rosi and painter Peppino Ducato. The 27-min doc A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise is a making of retrospective, featuring interviews with the director plus actors Philippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio who played  Philippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio. There's also a 7-min interview with Tornatore as he discusses the "stolen kisses" film clips in the movie, the inspiration for it, approaching Fellini to play the projectionist in the scene, and the clip also identifies each of the clips. Disc one is finished up with a trailer for the 25th anniversary re-release of the film. The interviews are in Italian with English subtitles.  


Onto disc two we have the 175-min director's cut of the film, newly restored from the original 35mm negative with option of Italian LPCM 1.0 Mono and Italian DTS-HD MA surround 5.1 with Optional English subtitles. The only extra on the disc is the Original Director’s Cut Theatrical Trailer. 


Special Features:
- Newly restored from the original camera negative and presented in two versions – the 124 minute - Cannes Festival theatrical version and the 174 minute Director’s Cut
- Uncompressed original stereo 2.0 Audio and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options
- Optional English subtitles
- Audio commentary with director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus
- A Dream of Sicily – A documentary profile of Giuseppe Tornatore featuring interviews with director and extracts from his early home movies as well as interviews with director Francesco Rosi and painter Peppino Ducato, set to music by the legendary Ennio Morricone (55 min) HD 
- A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise – A documentary on the genesis of Cinema Paradiso, the characters of Toto and Alfredo, featuring interviews with the actors who play them, Philippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio as well as Tornatore (27 min) 
- The Kissing Sequence – Giuseppe Tornatore discusses the origins of the kissing scenes with full clips identifying each scene (7 min) 
- Original Director’s Cut Theatrical Trailer (1 min) HD 
- 25th Anniversary Re-Release Trailer (2 min) HD 

Cinema Paradiso (1988)is a timeless love letter to a bygone era of cinema and to the glory of independent movie houses that's swollen to perfection with just the right amount of nostalgia and sentimentality. A powerful film about the love of ciea that nurtured my own passion for cinema at a particularly influential period in my life. I give this the highest recommendation possible, and the new Arrow Video 2-disc set is hands down the definitive version of the movie with both the versions, a gorgeous 2K restoration, and a wealth of extras. 5/5



THE WAX MASK (1997) (Blu-ray Review)

THE WAX MASK (1997) 

Label: One 7 Movies

Release Date: January 31st 2017 
Region Code: A
Duration: 94 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0, Italian Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Dolby Digital 2.0 (No Subtitles) 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Sergio Stivaletti
Cast: Robert Hossein, Romina Mondello, Riccardo Serventi Longhi

Synopsis: There is a new attraction in town, not for the fainthearted. A wax museum that recreates for the thrills of a paying audience some of the most gruesome murders ever committed by human hands. A young man bets with his friends that he will spend an entire night in the museum but is found dead the morning after. Who is the savage slayer? The police is unable to come up with a reason or a clue to identify the murder. Weirdly enough, the museum starts featuring new murder scenes as the killing spree increases. Maybe that metal-clawed killer that haunted Paris in past years is back, this time prowling on the streets of Rome looking for fresh blood and young flesh.


The Wax Mask (1997) was originally envisioned as a comeback vehicle for Italian gore-maestro Lucio Fulci (City of the Living Dead), working for the first time with longtime rival Dario Argento (Tenebre) as a producer, and co-written by Fulci regular Daniele Stroppa (The House of Clocks, Voices from Beyond). Sadly Fulci's health was already in decline and he died before principal photography began. Argento was already working on his awful adaptation of Phantom of the Opera at this point and handed over directing duties to longtime collaborator Sergio Stivaletti. While it would be the first time directing for the special effects artist he seems to have picked-up some directing skills from his collaborations with not just Argento, but Michele Soavi (The Church), and Lamberto Bava (Demons), and it shows in the visually rich composition of this Gothic horror. The movie is based on Gaston Leroux's short story "The Waxwork Museum", but Stivaletti amps up the Goth with some bloody gore, adding a weird science fiction angle, and in usual Italian exploitation style, also adds the surprise element of a steampunk Terminator-esque villain!


The film proper opens in Paris, the year is 1900, and as fireworks explode in the Parisian sky a young couple are brutally murdered in their apartment by an intruder with a strange metal claw/hand, slicing open the man's throat, ripping off his hand and tearing his heart out. Their young daughter Sonia witnesses the heinous crime and survives by hiding beneath the bed. Twelve years later we catch up with  Sonia (the gorgeous Romina Mondello) who is now living in Rome with her blind aunt. Sonia is hired on as a costume designer for a newly opened wax museum, which is curated  Boris Volkoff (Robert Hossien, Cemetery Without Crosses). The place is spooky, with the wax effigies portraying horrific true crime scenes in exciting and gruesome detail, including what turns out to be a too-keenly detailed portrayal of Sonia's own father's murder. 


Early on a pair of young men at a brothel make a wager with each other, one man dares the other to spend the night in the wax museum, for which he will receive a lucrative reward. The man accepts the challenge and makes his way inside, and we discover that something sinister is afoot, with the man dying of fright in the night. As a variation on The Waxwork Museum it should come as little surprise that the curator Volkoff is up to no good in his basement laboratory.  


The attractive Sonia catches the eye of a local reporter named Andrea (Riccardo Serventi Longhi), who is covering the opening of the macabre museum, sensing that something sinister is happening they team-up to solve the mystery of the murderous wax museum, culminating in an inferno of melted wax and Terminator-esque weirdness.  


The movie is certainly a grand-looking affair with wonderful Gothic atmosphere helped along by longtime Fulci cinematographer Sergio Salvati (The Beyond) with nicely lit sets using rich, saturated colored lighting with fluid camera movement. The period settings are finely detailed with nicely textured decoration, every nook and crannie of Volkoff's basement laboratory is brimming with cool steampunk gadgetry that the diabolical curator uses to create his macabre creations, I love the style of the whole production which does a fantastic job with the period setting and Gothic designs.  


As I recall the Italian horror scene was a bit anemic in the 90s with just a few notable entries that come to mind from Lamberto Bava (Body Puzzle) and Michele Soavi (Cemetery Man), so this is a notable release. I love the attractive Gothic atmosphere, and the sweeping score from Maurizio Abeni (Seed of Chucky) which also enhances the Gothic visuals. It has Hammer Gothic-ness to it but it steps up the horror with some well done practical gore effects, the rich visuals are only marred by some awfully dated 90s digital effects. Also nice to watch are the gorgeous women, the Italian movies never seemed to want for European beauties, and this one does not disappoint. 



Audio/Video:  The Wax Mask (1997) was previously issued oN DVD by Image Entertainment in 2000 as part of the EuroShock Collection, the long out-of-print disc was non-anamorphic and looked awful but it was the best we had at the time. That was then, now One 7 Movie bring it to Blu-ray for the first time! Pretty sure this is the first ever Blu-ray from One 7 Movies, as their debut HD offering this is very nice. The 1080p HD really brings out the color, warmth and  richness of the cinematography, good stuff. Audio options include both English and Italian with a choice of Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0, the surround has some fun use of surrounds with stuff like water dripping and the score bleeding into the rear channels. Sadly no English subtitles are available for the Italian audio options.  Worth noting, the audio on the English dub reverts to Italian for a few seconds, not ruinous, but noteworthy, especially since we have no subtitle options to assist. 

Onto the extras we get about a half hour of behind-the-scenes video footage of Stivaletti directing and more of the special effects team working on gore-gags, applying make-up effects on the actors and preparing special effects shots for filming. If I had to nitpick I would love to have had a commentary on this one from someone along the lines of a Kim Newman, Stephen Thrower, or Alan Jones. Another dig is that the artwork for this release is just awful, too dark and drab, the packaging looks like a cheap public domain release. These One 7 Movies releases are not cheap, I would expect some more work be put into the aesthetics of the packaging to reflect that. 

Special Features: 
- Backstage Scenes (23 min) HD 
- special Effects scenes (13 min) HD 

Glad to see The Wax Mask back in circulation, One 7 Movies have put together a pleasing Blu-ray that has been long-overdue. The movie, it's a fun and entertaining Gothic mystery with some decent gore, a bit over-long and the mystery is a bit on the convoluted side, but it has a lot more going for it than it had negatives. 3/5 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

New "Firestarter" Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Available March 14th, 2017 from Scream Factory

      Will She Have The Power…To Survive? 

 
FIRESTARTER  (1984) 

Turn Up the Heat This Spring with New Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Available March 14th, 2017 from Scream Factory

Based on the unforgettable best-seller by esteemed horror author Stephen King, Firestarter chronicles the extraordinary life of Charlene "Charlie" McGee. Eight-year-old Drew Barrymore stars as the child who has the amazing ability to start fires with just a glance. Can her psychic power and the love of her father save her from "The Shop," the threatening government agency which wants to control her…or destroy her? Available March 14th, 2017 from Scream Factory, the Collector’s Edition of Firestarter comes loaded with bonus features, including a new 2k scan of the inter-positive film element, new interviews with director Mark L. Lester, actors Freddie Jones and Drew Snyder, stuntman/actor Dick Warlock and Johannes Schmoelling of Tangerine Dream, a new exclusive performance of “Charlie’s Theme” by Johannes Schmoelling of Tangerine Dream, radio spots, and more! 

Fans of the film can pre-order their copy now from ShoutFactory.com

Filled with dazzling special effects and featuring an all-star cast including Martin Sheen, Heather Locklear, Art Carney, Louise Fletcher, David Keith and George C. Scott, Firestarter is directed by Mark L. Lester (Class of 1984, Commando) and is driven by a pulsating, thrilling score from Tangerine Dream (Legend, Sorcerer, Risky Business).

Special Features:
- NEW 2K scan of the inter-positive film element
- NEW Audio commentary with director Mark L. Lester
- NEW Playing with Fire: The Making of FIRESTARTER – featuring interviews with director Mark L. Lester, actors Freddie Jones and Drew Snyder, stuntman/actor Dick Warlock and Johannes Schmoelling of Tangerine Dream
- NEW Tangerine Dream: Movie Music Memories – an interview with Johannes Schmoelling
- NEW exclusive performance of “Charlie’s Theme” by Johannes Schmoelling of Tangerine Dream
- Theatrical Trailers
- Radio Spot
- Still Gallery


Severin Films Presents Drive-In Massacre & Return Of Kung Fu Trailers Of Fury Coming March 14th on Blu-ray/DVD

The Sleazy ‘70s Slasher Classic
Restored & Remastered For The First Time Ever!

DRIVE-IN MASSACRE (1976) 

It was one of the few true slasher movies to pre-date HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13th, and remains the closest you’ll ever come to an actual seedy ‘70s drive-in experience: It’s a hot summer night in Southern California and the local passion pit is packed with patrons. But when a sword-wielding psycho begins carving up customers, it’ll unspool a grubby cavalcade of creepy carnies, peeping perverts, graphic decapitations and an ending you have to see/hear to believe. John F. Goff (THE FOG), Bruce Kimball (LOVE CAMP 7) and co-writer George ‘Buck’ Flower (BACK TO THE FUTURE) star in this nasty slab of ‘70s sleaze directed by adult film & episodic television veteran Stu Segall (INSATIABLE), now packed with all-new Special Features and restored from the original camera negative recently discovered in the ruins of the Sky View Drive-In near Oxnard!

REVERSIBLE ARTWORK!

SCREENCAPS






Pre-orders at www.Severin-Films.com will come signed by director Stu Segall!

DRIVE-IN MASSACRE (74 mins)

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary With Director Stu Segall
- Drive-In Days: Interview With Star / Co-Writer John F. Goff
- Norm Sheridan Recalls Drive-In Massacre
- Making the Massacre: Interview With Director Stu Segall
- Theatrical Trailer


RETURN OF KUNG FU TRAILERS OF FURY

Over Two More Hours Of The Greatest
MARTIAL ARTS MADNESS
In Motion Picture History!

From the masters that brought you KUNG FU TRAILERS OF FURY comes another invincible collection of treachery, brutality, swordplay, wirework, darting daggers, flying fists and the most insane fighting styles ever unleashed on celluloid. Experience 35 original trailers from The Golden Age of Martial Arts Cinema, starring such legends as Angela Mao, Bolo Yeung, Don Wong, Chang Yi, Bruce Li, Leanne Liu, Lo Lieh and even Chuck Norris. It’s an indomitable dynasty of Hong Kong classics that includes YELLOW-FACED TIGER, BRUCE AND THE IRON FINGER, REVENGE OF THE SHAOLIN KID, THE AVENGING BOXER, SNUFF-BOTTLE CONNECTION, HELL’S WINDSTAFF, THUNDERING MANTIS, THE LEGENDARY STRIKE, KUNG FU KILLERS, CRAZY HORSE & INTELLIGENT MONKEY, SHAOLIN INVINCIBLE STICKS and more!





Pre-order RETURN OF KUNG FU TRAILERS at www.Severin-Films.com

RETURN OF KUNG FU TRAILERS OF FURY (134 mins)

Special Features:

- Audio Commentary with writer Ric Meyers (FILMS OF FURY), Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival), Martial  Arts Instructor Greg Schiller and Ric Stelow of Drunken Master Video

 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE (1967) (DVD Review)

THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE (1967)

Label: Synapse Films

Release Date: January 31st, 2017
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Duration: 109 Minutes
Video: 1.33:1 Full Frame 
Audio: Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono with English Subtitles
Director: Jose Mojica Marins 
Cast: José Mojica Marins, Nadia Freitas, Tina Wohlers


This direct sequel to At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964)takes place a short  time after the end of that film, complete with a recap. Somehow the diabolical Ze has not only improbably survived the events of that film but has evaded imprisonment for his crime due to a lack of evidence. Note to self; the best time and place to commit a heinous crime would be 1960's Brazil or 1970's Italy. Returning to his village Ze almost immediately continues his quest for the "continuity of the blood", a perfect wife for his perfect son,  only on a larger scale with the assistance of a newly introduced "igor" type character named Bruno.  They kidnap six sexy ladies from the village and proceed to test their worth as suitable mates by subjecting them to a horde of tarantulas while they sleep. Of the six only a woman named Marcia displays the desired courage during the initiation, and she's chosen to give birth to Ze's supreme son. However, when Marcia witnesses the remaining five women being thrown into a deadly snake pit she proves unwilling to submit to Ze's sexual advances, which happen in full sight of the other women's deaths, which is not the most romantic setting Ze, c'mon man, you gotta step your game! 

In a scene that recalls the death of Terezinha and the fateful gypsy from At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul the last surviving victim of the snake pit curses Ze with words that prove to haunt him. Strangely Ze chooses to let Marcia leave and seems to have no fear of her going to the authorities. Afterward, Ze and Bruno dispose of the women's bodies in a nearby swamp, and it's not long before another young beauty catches his attention. This time it's Laura, the attractive daughter of a Colonel, however, the relationship puts him at odds with the Colonel's musclebound thug named Truncador. Later when Ze discovers that one of his victim's had been pregnant with child he is shattered. While he's alright with rape, torture, murder and kidnapping the diabolical Ze has a real soft spot for the kids. 


That night still broken-up over the death the unborn child Ze envisions a supernatural black figure in his room, the creature bleats like a wounded goat. The gaunt figure drags Ze kicking and screaming from his bed to the cemetery where hands of the dead erupt from the graves and pull Ze underground to Hell. At this point the monochromatic movie switches on the vibrant colors, Marins vision of Hell is a technicolor nightmare bathed in green, blue and red lighting. It's a cavernous place where souls are embedded in stone and tormented by Satan's minions with pitchforks. The air is filled with hysterical screaming and what sounds like the shrieking of a monkey. When Ze awakens he is strangely even more sure of his convictions, despite his nightmarish vision. He is ecstatic to discover than Laura is pregnant with his child but the excitement is short lived for Truncador and a trio of henchmen attack and beat the snot out of Ze, who just barely escapes into the swamps where he takes revenge upon the men, including an axe to the skull. 


While Ze escapes more or less unscathed Laura and the baby die from birthing complications shortly after. Ze is devastated and takes her body to a mausoleum where he angrily taunts the Lord and the Devil to show themselves, to prove that they do exist. Almost on on cue a bolt of lightning strikes a tree which falls onto Ze. After pulling himself free he decries the incident an act of nature not of divine intervention. At this time in the village Marcia still grieving the deaths of the other five women, drinks an arsenic cocktail and confesses Ze's crimes to a physician while on her deathbed. A lynch mob is formed whom pursue Ze. A priest discovers the injured Ze in the swamp and offers salvation but Ze refuses and flees only to be shot in the back by the husband of one of his victims. Wounded he tumbles down an embankment into the pond where he again screams to the Lord to prove his existence when suddenly the skeletons of the victims previously dumped in the lake rise to the surface. Relenting Ze begs the Priest for salvation and sinks below the surface while accepting the Lord into his heart in an unforgettable finale. 


Watching this it becomes readily apparent that Marins had honed his craft since the first film, this feels like next level filmmaking for the self-taught auteur of the macabre, It is perhaps slightly longer than needed but it is a powerful film that firmly cemented Marins as an auteur or terror. 

Audio/Video: This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse (1967) is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio and is sourced from a new remaster from standard def scans of the original negative provided to Synapse by the licensor. Comparing it to my Australian DVD from Umbrella Entertainment I can 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 source elements looks much better than what we had with At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964), the black levels are much deeper and the contrast is quite good, plus it is framed properly. The only audio option is Dolby Digital Portuguese 2.0 Mono, no English subs, with optional English subtitles.



Extras begin with The Making of This Night I'll Possess Your Soul, a brief but informative interview with Marins intercut with footage from the film. He discusses the trilogy of films which at that point had yet to be fully realized, this was prior to the filming of Embodiment of Evil (2008). He also discussed converting an old synagogue into his studio for the film, working with amateurs, spiders and snakes and his concept of Hell as seen in the film.

Next up, a 4-minute visit to the Coffin Joe Museum looking, Marins leads the tour, pointing out at a cool coffin made for the original film in '63, various releases, props, his cloak and clothing, pics of Mojica with celebrities through the years, and various awards, received over the years.


Synapse have also included Ivan Cardoso's short-documentary The Universe of Mojica Marins (1978), plus an 8-minute interview with director. 

The disc is finished up with the original theatrical trailer and a gallery of images. again we have some very cool Ghoulish Gary Pullin artwork, making for one Hell of a nice looking release. All the extras are in Portuguese with English subtitles.       

Special Features: 

- 35mm negative scan supervised by director José Mojica Marins
- The Making of This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse (8 min)
- A visit to the Coffin Joe Museum (4 min)
- The Universe of Mojica Marins – Vintage Featurette (25 min)
- Interview with José Mojica Marins (8 min)
- Introduction to the film by Coffin Joe (2 min) 
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Photo Gallery
- Optional English subtitles and chapter selections
- Cover artwork by Gary Pullin


SCREEN GRAB COMPARISON
SYNAPSE (Region 1 NTSC)- TOP
UMBRELLA (Region 0 PAL)- BOTTOM 














This is my favorite of the Coffin Joe films, so creepy and macabre, surprisingly violent and well put together by Mojica. The new disc from Synapse looks as good as we are likely to ever get unless someone uncovers some new vault elements worthy of an HD upgrade. For now though buy this with confidence, it's not likely to get a better release anytime soon and the Coffin Joe films are awesome. Synapse are also offering up The Coffin Joe Trilogy 3-disc set with these film along with the DVD of their Embodiment of Evil (2008) release, which has cool artwork from Joel Robinson.  4/5  

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