At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1963)

AT MIDNIGHT I'LL TAKE YOUR SOUL finds Coffin Joe, a black-clad phantom of a gravedigger, terrorizing the denizens of a small town before being cursed by a gypsy woman whom he disrespects. Joe continues his evil ways, undaunted, until he ends up murdering his best friend and raping the woman he lusts after in the pursuit of an heir -- the continuation of blood being the only true meaning in life that the godless Joe believes in. As the midnight hour falls quickly upon him, the spirits of the dead return to collect the soul of their twisted tormentor.

Coffin Joe is synonymous with The Boogeyman in Brazil. He is the single most egomaniacal, womanizing, and anti-religious character the screen has ever known, and Marins' performance as the character is absolutely shocking. With his thick beard, clawed fingernails, top hat and cape, he is an unmistakable Horror icon and a force to be reckoned with. The horror in this tale centers around the theme of man completely devoid of the morals and self-restraint instilled by a civilized society, and the destructive nature of that man when he is free of social consequence.

It poses the question of whether complete lawlessness, free will with no chance of punishment, and material gains are truly more fulfilling than a pious and subserviant lifestyle devoted to an intangible god that offers the prospect of eternal happiness. Although Joe clearly favors a godless existence free of restraint, the climax of the film would suggest that such a life only leads to the ruination of one's self and the destruction of those around them.

Having only limited prior experience in film, actor/director Jose Mojica Marins literally had to invent many of the special and optical effects himself, using such crude (yet effective) methods as gluing glitter to each individual frame of the negative in order to achieve many of the bizarre visuals. MIDNIGHT lacks all of the refinement of the European and Hollywood productions of the time, but this only adds to the unique charm and intimate feel of the film. It also offers excellent performances and some of the most incredible Gothic sets outside of the Hammer House of Horror. The fluid camera movements, film composites, and tracking all display the same skill and directorial control of that would have been expected in a much larger picture.

There is nothing like MIDNIGHT or Coffin Joe that I have seen anywhere else in the genre. The fact that it was made in the virtually non-existent Brazilian film market only solidifies Marin's unique talent as a filmmaker. Unfortunately, none of his later efforts would recapture the raw power and originality of his first Horror venture, but this film deserves a place in Horror's hallowed halls as one of the strongest Gothic efforts outside of the mainstream circuit.

Rating: 10/10.

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8 comments:

  1. Huh. Quite interesting. Thanks for highlighting this one, gonna go look up and see if Netflix has it!

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  2. Its a little harder to get a hold of but well worth the effort!

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  3. It is on Netflix, I added it to my queue!

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  4. Glad you finally got around to seeint Coffin Joe! Its an awesome movie, very old school. Like you said, the film asks the question, should one live a godless, and amoral lifestyle?

    According to the film, you better not! Or spirits of the undead will come back to haunt you! Still, I love how the film addresses these still controversial themes so blatantly!

    Awesome movie, havent seen the rest of the Coffin Joe films.

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  5. Woops I put that at 1 didnt I, this was actually my second viewing, I have seen the others and will have reviews for the next two up shortly but this one is easily my favorite in the series

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  6. :D Off to Netflix to add it to my que, might have to wait for Wings to watch and return it :D

    Cheers!

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  7. Hah! Frog Queen, you will get it way before I do! Our queue is shared by FOUR people and we have a butt-load of films in line.

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