"Director Jose Mojica Marins took Brazil by storm with the 1963 release of "At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul," the first entry in what would soon become known as the Coffin Joe franchise. It may be quite surprising that such a low budget black and white film made in Brazil forty years ago would merit a DVD release, but when you watch the movie, you will readily agree that there is something special about Marins's project. After the release of this movie, the Brazilian director churned out numerous sequels that ultimately led to his becoming a pop culture icon in his native land. Marins often turned up in public dressed in the trademark Coffin Joe attire: a black cape, a black top hat, and hook-like fingernails about three inches long (the fingernails are real, by the way, as an interview with Marins confirms). Genre fans in the United States picked up on the Coffin Joe craze and sought out hard to find copies of his films until an American video company released them here few years ago. Now we can watch the horror that is Coffin Joe on DVD. I love it! I cannot wait to see the other two sequels also out on DVD.Coffin Joe's works as an undertaker for a small Brazilian town. He is not a popular figure with the locals, who cannot stand his sadistic bullying or his mocking attitudes towards God and Satan. Joe laughs at the silly superstitions of the townspeople as he chows down on meat on Fridays and heckles people in a religious procession. When Joe isn't preparing bodies for burial, he spends time taunting his wife at home, hitting on his friend's girlfriend, and hanging out at the local pub. Coffin Joe's biggest concern in life is his ability to produce an heir to carry on his "bloodline." Since his wife suffers from infertility, Joe cannot stand to be around her and must always be on the lookout for a gal who can have children. Perhaps it isn't all that surprising that his desire for offspring attains a murderous mania: after all, a man who doesn't believe in God or an afterlife would have only his physical presence to fall back upon. Reproduction would be the only way to achieve a sort of immortality.Joe's hotheaded antics eventually result in several grisly murders. In the course of his crime spree, he visits a fortuneteller who senses his evil and predicts a series of events that will culminate in Coffin Joe's demise. The undertaker scoffs at such supernatural nonsense and continues on his merry way. In various scenes, Joe murders and brutalizes his way through town. He disposes of his wife with a nasty looking spider, gouges out eyes, cuts off a man's fingers, drowns someone, and flogs a local at the pub. You just know that this guy is eventually going to get what's coming to him, especially after seeing his blasphemous jaunts through the local cemetery where he roars in derision at the dead and questions the very existence of a supreme being. Coffin Joe does finally learn that fooling with the primal forces of creation brings about events of a decidedly unpleasant nature.Marins brilliantly realizes his creation in this film. His performance as Coffin Joe only delves into the melodramatic on a few occasions, for most of the time he exudes an aura of palpable danger. The scenes where the undertaker questions the supreme deity reek of dark atmosphere, made even more intense by the black and white picture. To top the whole thing off, the movie employs some of the eeriest background music I have heard in awhile. The music and pitch black atmosphere help to conceal the low budget production values used in the film. You would swear Coffin Joe is wondering around in a big forest for most of the movie, when in actuality Marins used a very small indoor set for nearly all of his scenes. The best effect in the film occurs during a sequence where Coffin Joe encounters the ghost of one of his victims. In order to create a creepy aura surrounding this walking spirit, Marins glued glitter (yes, glitter!) directly onto the negative. It is simply incredible how well this works on the screen; I have never seen anything like it in any movie I have ever watched. Also, listen for the use of echo boxes during Coffin Joe's blasphemous diatribes, which give the scenes an added dimension of unearthliness. Little tricks like these make "At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul" an immensely entertaining experience.The DVD contains several surprising extras. You get three trailers for three Coffin Joe films and a lengthy interview with Marins about the creation of this project. The most interesting part of this discussion involves Marins's problems with Brazilian film censors at the time of the movie's release. Marins lied to the officials, telling them that he lost the negative of the film because he feared that the censors would confiscate the movie and permanently ruin it. At one time, at least ten different versions of the movie played throughout a Brazilian city. Fortunately, the DVD version is an uncut version of Marins's magical film. The movie's dialogue is in Portuguese, of course, but the subtitles are easy to see and, unlike many Asian films, actually match up with who is speaking. If you are in the mood for something well beyond the ordinary, look no further than "At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul.""
This movie is a must have for any serious horror fan
Robert Cossaboon | The happy land of Walworth, NY | 07/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, and Mummy aside, Coffin Joe was one of the first real modern horror archetypes to grace our movie screens. Actually he didn't grace any screen in America, because he was a Brazillian creation, and that was where he remained for the most part, until Something Weird Video introduced him stateside in the eighties. The quality of video was attrocious, but there was no denying the feeling of that suspenseful hook as it went into you.
At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul is not a movie that moves at necksnapping pace. Like all good movies about the darker sides of small towns, it conveys the effect of looking into a terrarium or some kind of cage. The star attraction of this tiny town cage, is Coffin Joe, the gravedigger, who holds all the citizenry in a spell of bullyish terror. Without giving too much away, Joe's dilema is that he has no son and his wife is barren. I'd say this is one man's quest to realize his dream, but you'll laugh at the irony of that statement when you see the movie.
This movie could not have been done in anything other than black and white. It's scratchy, unfocused tone only adds to the dreamlike, hallucinatory quality that the story of this movie is supposed to be made of. This film also is a triumph of imagination over severe financial constraints. Shot over a period of scant days, Marins even had the bad luck of having some of the film stock stolen before he even set to shooting.
Finally there is the matter of Coffin Joe himself. Like Freddy, Jason, or Michael Meyers, Joe has threaded himself through many sequels and vignettes. He is an utterly fascinating example of the complexities of the human psyche. Malicious, sadistic, there is even a touch of the heroic as he defies god and satan alike in the graveyard. There is more than one level to his character, and one viewing of this movie alone cannot pigeonhole him. Marins's (who also directed) portrayal of Coffin Joe is nothing short of electric. His performace shows that real terror sometimes is not above and beyond in the supernatural, but in what we are capable of doing to each other and to ourselves."
Incredible Films from and incredible and Wicked Soul...
Matthew Jaworski | Detroit, MI | 10/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Brazilian producer/director/actor José Mojica Marins (Coffin Joe) is one of the most enigmatic and fascinating figures lurking on the fringes of the underground film Universe. Subversive, controversial and always entertaining; Marins, known in Brazil as Zé do Caixão began his filmic career in 1963 with the atmospheric and wonderful, `At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul'.
For a first effort, and with virtually no budget, this is quite an impressive film. It was written, directed, and produced by Zé do Caixão (literally translated from Portuguese as `Joe of the Grave'). Marins also had to take over the lead actor role when his chosen actor dropped out due to the disturbing nature of the script and sadistic actions he was to undertake during the course of the movie.
When one takes into account the circumstances surrounding the filming of this classic, the finished product is even more impressive. It was shot with scraps of film and likely spliced together with scotch tape. The atmosphere and aura this film casts upon the screen is quite magickal. I will not go into plot details, as other reviews have covered this amicably. The transfer to DVD is excellent on this film (as well as the other two). Fantoma always seems to do a wonderful job with this facet of DVD production.
Following `At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul' (1963), Coffin Joe unleashed `This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse' on the unsuspecting populous. `This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse' is the proper sequel to `At Midnight...', and even more effective film. Coffin Joe had a bigger budget, which meant more money for special effects, which meant even more live tarantulas and spiders to victimize his poor actresses with.
`This Night...' is even more terrifying and outrageous than it's predecessor and is best know for it's vivid Technicolor depiction of hell. Dante has nothing on Marins, and this 8+ minute rendering of hell is indelibly etched into my psyche for perpetuity. This is the only part of Marin's wicked film that was shot in color and the contrast betwixt this vivid, lively, lysergically kissed scene and the rest of the carefully captured black and white motif is quite striking, rendering it all the more effective.
The third film in this amazing `trilogy' is inimitable `Awakening of the Beast' (1969). This delirious tale was banned by the Brazilian government until 1986. Upon its official release, `Awakening of the Beast' was regarded by many as Marin's Masterpiece. This film serves as a portrait of drugs and moral decay in modern-day Brazil. In this incredible work, four subjects are chosen for an experiment. The experiment involves giving the subject LSD and exposing them to Coffin Joe posters and films. I will leave it up to the viewer to draw their own conclusions about this perplexing and alluring film.
I realize I have not given very many details regarding the plots of these films. Previous reviewers have done a fine job with this. I am writing this review to let the interested amongst you know that I find these films to be absolutely essential. I have made it something of a mission to uncover hidden gems in the filmic Universe. I had read a few scattered bits here and there regarding a fascinating and sadistic entity named Coffin Joe. The more I read, the more intrigued I became.
The other day whilst bumbling around Amazon I stumbled across this Trilogy. When I saw that this set was produced by Fantoma I knew I needed it. When I realized that it came in a coffin with reproduction of original Coffin Joe comic books I began to convulse with anticipation. I ordered it, expecting to be let down as I usual am when reading too many reviews and essays before viewing a film. Needless to say I was not let down at all.
These are amazing films. The have an aura, ambience, and allure like none other. They are utterly perfect for Halloween and are essential for any self-professed horror fan or cinephile. If you are a fan of obscure horror films, exploitation, or atmospheric `horror-noir' please buy this set immediately. Of all my recent Amazon purchases, this has been by far the most satisfactory... "
Creepy and genuinely disturbing
Joe Sixpack -- Slipcue.com | ...in Middle America | 08/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although cheaply produced and cinematically clumsy, this campy, grotesque Brazilian horror film has several moments of genuine visceral revulsion. The film's centerpiece outrage -- of the sadistic, amoral Ze Do Caixa (aka: Coffin Joe) eating red meat on Good Friday -- may hold less punch for modern, non-Catholic viewers than it did for Brazilian audiences in the early 'Sixties, but the graphic depiction of a violent, bloody rape and the goring out of one man's eyes will still make many viewers recoil. Director Jose Mojica Marins played the role of Coffin Joe himself, leering madly and cursing God as he toppled over the flimsy set and knocked over the props. A Mr. Hyde story with no Dr. Jeckyl to balance things out, the film was apparently a sensation in Brazil and spawned two sequels of an equally lurid nature. Unless you're a student of low-budget camp, I'm not sure you really need to spend the time on any of these films, but if you do check them out, prepare to be shocked."
TEREZINHA; COFFIN JOE
razorkeen | Harahan, La United States | 04/01/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Being a fan of foreign horror films, I was intrigued to find out that this was the first to be filmed in Brazil. Upon viewing the strange, but captivating movie, I knew that I had not been let down. True, the film is an oldie (released in 1964), but still delivers better than most from that time period, as well as some that are released today. The story is fairly simple: Coffin Joe, resembling Jack The Ripper with claws, wants a child born of his ideal woman. The religious aspects of the film, from the holy to the blasphemous, prove that the censors had a hard time releasing it, especially in that time period. The special effects are comical by today's standards, but are still effective in being creepy. The DVD hosts some interesting extras, including a comic book and the original trailer. Most entertaining is the up-to-date interview with writer-director-actor Jose Mojica Marins, in which he reveals that the ghost effect was done by gluing glitter to the actual film around the actor's image to create a glowing essence. This film proves that you don't need a mega-budget to make a good film."