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  • Writer's pictureGabe Powers

Inside the Mind of Coffin Joe Blu-ray Review



Arrow Video

Blu-ray Release: January 16, 2024 (limited edition collection)

Video: 1.37:1/1080p/Black & White and Color; 1.78:1/1080p/Color (Embodiment of Evil only)

Audio: Portuguese LPCM 1.0 Mono; DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 (Embodiment of Evil only)

Subtitles: English, English SDH

Run Time: 82:16, 109:13, 81:09, 93:06, 79:57, 77:25, 79:25, 82:43, 83:37, 93:16

Director: José Mojica Marins, Marcelo Motta (The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures only)


Cultural icon, anti-establishment statement, sadistic lord of carnival horror! With his iconic long fingernails, top hat, and cape, Zé do Caixão (Coffin Joe) was the creation of Brazilian filmmaker José Mojica Marins, who wrote, directed, and starred in a series of outrageous movies from 1964 to 2008. Newly restored from the best available elements and packed with new and archival extras, Inside the Mind of Coffin Joe is a love letter to one of the great iconoclasts of horror, who forged his films in the face of military dictatorship and religious censorship to become Brazil’s national Boogeyman. (From Arrow’s official product overview)


Disc 1:


At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1964)





Disc 2:

This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse (1967)


Zé do Caixão (José Mojica Marins) returns to embark on another brutal campaign of terror, aided and abetted by his hunchbacked assistant. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)


If At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is the proof of concept, This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse (Portuguese: Esta Noite Encarnarei no Teu Cadáver) represents Marins truly unleashing his imagination, limited only by the fact that it was physically impossible to tear the ideas from his brain to burn directly onto the celluloid. The bulk of the second Coffin Joe film begins with more of the same, though, in the tradition of bigger and better sequels, everything is amplified and increasingly confident (more violence, more spiders, more nudity, and so on). Zé/Joe’s übermensch breeding ambitions are streamlined into a sort of macabre consolidation of The Bachelor and Fear Factor. But then, just when it’s all starting to make a sort of insane sense, This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse breaks out of the confines of its black & white world into a full-color nightmare as Zé/Joe is dragged screaming underground, where he witnesses the arcane tortures of Hell and sees himself reflected in the Devil’s facade.


Shooting only the nightmare sequence in color was a budgetary consideration, but I suspect that Marins had been inspired by Roger Corman’s Poe Cycle films, which each had hallucinogenic Technicolor interludes (Zé/Joe’s torture machines might also be in reference to The Pit and the Pendulum [1961] in particular), as well as Nobuo Nakagawa’s Jigoku (1960), which had its own show-stopping, graphically violent journey into hell. 










The Strange World of Coffin Joe (1968)


Zé do Caixão (José Mojica Marins) presents three short stories of horror: a strange dollmaker, a necrophiliac balloon seller with a foot fetish, and a psychotic professor involved in sadistic rituals. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)


The Strange World of Coffin Joe (Portuguese: O Estranho Mundo de Zé do Caixão) sees Marins fully embracing the concept of a live-action EC Comic by making a three story horror anthology only a few years after British company Amicus started making their legendary, EC-themed portmanteau films (the first of which, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, was released in 1965). Again, he was following an established trend, but he approached it from such a unique point-of-view that the final film is barely recognizable as a part of that trend. It’s also here, outside the confines of the Coffin Joe series, he is free to explore the expanding counterculture and juxtapose free sex and rock ‘n’ roll alongside the horrors of nihilism and Catholic Guilt.


The first part, The Dollmaker, is an ironic supernatural revenge story straight out of Tales from the Crypt, but with a skin-crawling Freudian slant that, even at their most controversial, EC wouldn’t have dared touch. The second part, Obsession, plays like a demented parody of a silent-era romantic comedy darkened by shades of a late ‘50s burlesque short for good measure. The final part, Ideology, stars Marins and features the actor/director at his grossest and most sadistic, as he blurs the lines between the reality of performative sado-masochism and the fiction of surprisingly convincing gore effects. Connections to Japanese cult cinema continue as, the same year as The Strange World of Coffin Joe, Teruo Ishii released the torture-centric anthology known as The Shogun’s Joy of Torture. Looking back on Horrors of Malformed Men (1969) and his own Jigoku remake (1999), Ishii and Marins were definitely kindred spirits.








Video/Audio

This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse was previously released on DVD alongside At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul by Fantoma and Synapse, and Arrow’s new Blu-ray has an advantage over most of the other discs in this collection, because it was partially made using a 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative, not only positive and print sources. The black & white scenes have a little extra detail, slightly more complicated gradations, and deeper shadows, while the color interlude is vivid and highly detailed. The Strange World of Coffin Joe was also made using interpositive/print sources, so the gradations and details are coarse, but the starker black & white fits the material. Grain and other textures are also livelier than the somewhat soft At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul transfer. 


This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse also benefits from a cleaner audio track than At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul. The largely post-dubbed dialogue has less buzz and the minimal effects work isn’t lost beneath a hissy soundfloor. For whatever reason, The Strange World of Coffin Joe is one of the more obviously dubbed movies in the collection, though its overly-packed, crudely balanced levels aren’t the fault of the LPCM track. Herminio Giménez scored both films on this disc (his last for Marins until The End of Man) and embraces some relatively avant-garde soundscapes, alongside traditional classical cues. 


Extras

  • Commentaries with José Mojica Marins, Paulo Duarte, and Carlos Primati (in Portuguese with English subtitles) – Both films feature archival tracks from the same recording sessions as heard on the At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul disc (I believe as part of the Cinemagia DVD releases in Brazil). Once again, Marins comes full of vim, vigor, and behind-the-scenes tales, while Duarte and Primati act as interviewers to help him fill in some of the technical facts.

  • Eccentric of Cinema (87:28, HD) – Critic and author of Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents (FAB Press, 2007) Stephen Thrower examines Marins’ early life, career, wider influences, his most grueling/shocking sequences, the supposed/probable meaning of his films, and his legendary persona. As he explores the connections between the director and his creations, as well as the ethics of psychoanalyzing artists based on their work, Thrower acknowledges that, thanks in large part to the meta-textual autobiographical elements seen throughout his films, reluctance to list influences, and his kayfabe approach to interviews, we don’t really know much about Marins’ actual personal beliefs.

  • On Tonight’s Horror Show! (17:14, HD) – Film scholar and author of Witchcraft and Adolescence in American Popular Culture (University of Wales Press, 2022) Dr. Miranda Corcoran compares Coffin Joe to EC Comic host characters, like the Cryptkeeper and Old Witch, and their TV hosts counterparts, like Vampira and Zacherley.

  • Alternative ending for The Strange World of Coffin Joe with optional commentary from José Mojica Marins (00:54, HD) – Brazilian censors forced Marins to change his ending, so that evil would be punished, leading him to invent a version where the wrath of God strikes down the psychotic professor and his acolytes.

  • This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse and The Strange World of Coffin Joe trailers





Disc 3:

The Awakening of the Beast (1970)


Set against the backdrop of rampant crime, sexual perversions, and counterculture misbehavior, a psychiatrist experiments on volunteers using LSD and catalogs the results. 


After making The Strange World of Coffin Joe and co-directing another anthology, Trilogy of Terror (Portuguese: Trilogia de Terror, 1968) with Luís Sérgio Person & Ozualdo Candeias (not included with this set), Marins used his horror host persona to introduce the acrid headtrip of sardonic religious iconography, Sadean hippie shenanigans, drug abuse, and oddball, borderline pornographic performance art known as The Awakening of the Beast (Portuguese: O Despertar da Besta). It is arguably his trademark work and poses the unanswerable question: what if Alejandro Jodorowsky remade Reefer Madness? Kaleidoscopically edited and impossibly surrealistic, The Awakening of the Beast is such a thoroughly strange and uniquely unsettling experience that meta-textual cameos from Marins (playing a version of himself) and a This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse-style Technicolor climatic nightmare – in this case an incredible, Coffin Joe-themed LSD drop, rather than a literal trip into Hell – almost comes as a relief.


What really struck me upon rewatching the film for the first time in many years is Marins’ uncanny ability to shoot sex scenes that are, somehow, not particularly graphic, even for the era, yet squirm-inducingly transgressive. He seemingly celebrates strange, carnal pleasures while still being ideologically critical of the acts and the people that enjoy them. Perhaps left over from his obsession with EC-style crime and punishment, the whole film is tied up in the inexplicable and fascinating duality between free-wheeling exploitation and moralistic judgment. 











The End of Man (1971)


A nude man (José Mojica Marins) emerges from the sea to perform miracles in a nearby town and become a modern messiah whose deeds will affect the entire world. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)


Marins moved even further from horror (in part because Brazilian censors forced him to) and deeper into surrealistic satire with The End of Man (Portuguese: Finis Hominis). Episodic, short (about 80 minutes), practically dialogue-free for long, long swaths of time, The End of Man is still steeped in lascivious sex acts, political transgression, and scorn for Catholic moralism. It is comfortable with the counterculture in ways that The Awakening of the Beast never is and is a far gentler experience than any of his nihilistic horror films, but might actually be even more sanctimonious in its messaging (assuming that it’s possible to understand its full meaning). To continue the Jodorowsky comparisons, this is sort of like his bargain basement Holy Mountain (Spanish: La montaña sagrada, 1973), only made a full two years earlier and with a good punchline in mind.


Marins somehow resists the urge to play hippie Christ figure ‘Finis Hominis’ like a Charles Manson type. Maybe the Manson Family’s murders didn’t impact Brazil the way they did other countries or maybe he thought that the media’s version of Manson was already too similar to his signature character – either way, this particular guru is a mostly benevolent contrast to the evils of Coffin Joe, who took on the persona of a violent cult leader in Embodiment of Evil several decades later (see below). 







Video/Audio

Awakening the Beast was previously available from Fantoma on DVD as part of their Coffin Joe collection and is another black & white/color hybrid, and this 1.37:1, 1080p transfer is another mixed interpositive/print source remaster. The materials must have been in better shape or Marins was working with better film stock, because this is an improvement over At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul and The Strange World of Coffin Joe in terms of clarity and texture, though the gradient range is still flatter than This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse. The End of Man (previously only available on subtitled VHS from Something Weird Video) is the first fully color film in the set and the first to be mastered from a 35mm camera negative. It’s not as big of an upgrade as you might expect, but mostly because cinematographer Giorgio Attili’s photography is so dark compared to the eye-popping color sequences seen in the previous films. It’s a little on the coarse side, but is consistent in hue intensity, detail, and overall filmic quality.


Both films are presented in LPCM mono Portuguese. Awakening of the Beast’s collage approach makes for a very busy, ever-changing track that’s difficult to review from an objective point-of-view. Dialogue hiss and occasional flattening of the library musical cues are signs of damage, but who's to say if they weren’t intended artifacts, like the echoes and reverb effects? The End of Man’s mix is just as chaotic, especially what passes for its musical score, which sometimes changes from shot to shot, like someone is constantly turning a radio dial. It sounds slightly cleaner than Awakening of the Beast, though the dialogue tracks have some muffled inconsistencies. 


‘90s industrial metal fans take note: samples from Awakening of the Beast appear throughout White Zombie’s “I, Zombie,” from the band’s fourth and final studio album, Astro-Creep: 2000 (1995).


Also: My screener copy of Awakening of the Beast (which is not a final retail copy) has an error where the subtitles stop functioning about halfway through the film. Arrow is setting up a replacement program that should be in effect by the time I complete this very long review. Edit: I received my replacement disc and the subtitle issue has been fixed.


Extras

  • Commentaries with José Mojica Marins, Paulo Duarte, and Carlos Primati (in Portuguese with English subtitles) – Two additional tracks with more fun factoids and behind-the-scenes tales.

  • The Strange Mind of Coffin Joe (18:25, HD) – Guy Adams, the author behind various British TV tie-ins and audio plays, does his best to put the esoteric aspects of Marins’ persona and work into words.

  • A Woman for Joe (17:40, HD) – Critic, scholar, and author of 1000 Women In Horror, 1895-2018 (BearManor Media, 2020) Alexandra Heller-Nicholas takes on the challenge of explaining the gender politics of Marins’ filmography (mainly the Coffin Joe series), arguing that they’re more complex than his critics give him credit for.

  • Alternate O Ritual dos Sádico opening titles for The Awakening of the Beast (4:04, HD)

  • Awakening of the Beast and The End of Man trailers





Disc 4:

When the Gods Fall Asleep (1972)


Finis Hominis (José Mojica Marins) returns and sets out to right wrongs, expose corruption, and end social unrest. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)


Marins followed The End of Man up with the violent Amazon adventure Sex and Blood in the Trail of the Treasure (Portuguese: Sexo E Sangue na Trilha do Tesouro, 1972) and a western, D'Gajão Mata para Vingar (aka: Revenge of D'Gajão, 1972) – both of which are basically impossible to find with English subtitles – then made a Finis Hominis sequel, When the Gods Fall Asleep (Portuguese: Quando os Deuses Adormecem). It begins directly where part one left off with the mysterious messianic figure walking into the local insane asylum and is followed by a mix of sexually-charged and pseudo-documentary tableaus that, at their most extreme, evoke Italian Mondo films (in an unexpected bit of hullabaloo, Marins actually pauses a blood-drinking religious ritual to institute a trigger warning).


Watching both of the Finis Hominis movies in a row proves exhausting (though, combined, they total less than three hours runtime), but, taken in parts, When the Gods Fall Asleep is slightly superior. It’s more eclectic from a genre standpoint, clearer in its messaging, and even rousing in a couple of places, despite bouts of dated culturalism and misogyny. Marins’ visual ideas are as playful as ever, such as the universe/Earth set, which looks like it was designed by children for a school play, but he also grounds the film with a sort of travelog-esque approach to the drama. You get the genuine sense that the whole town, professionals and amateurs alike, are having fun putting on a show. 










The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures (1976)


On a dark and stormy night, the mysterious proprietor of an isolated guest house (José Mojica Marins) offers an eclectic group of strangers shelter and employment. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)


The next film Marins shot was Exorcismo Negro (aka: The Bloody Exorcism of Coffin Joe, 1974), which is the one vital piece of Coffin Joe ephemera missing from this otherwise exhaustive collection. We skip, instead, to The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures (Portuguese: A Estranha Hospedaria dos Prazeres), which was written and ‘hosted’ by Marins and co-directed by Marcelo Motta. It opens with a long, psychedelic dance sequence and introduction from Joe/Zé (about 15 minutes of the 80-minute feature), before settling into another morality tale. What’s interesting is that The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures is almost a vestige of the Amicus brand horror anthology. It isn’t really a horror movie, but the EC/Amicus influence is all over the concept of a group of sinners unknowingly entering an afterlife disguised as a mundane situation (a hotel, instead of a train car or tourist trap).


Sadly, either due Marins’ fatigue with his own formula, a lack of budget and planning, or perhaps Motta’s lack of experience, The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures scores a cool intro and gross-out climax, but these bookend a lot of repetitive scenes of people misbehaving in an underwhelming fashion for a José Mojica Marins film. 







Video/Audio

Previously, both When the Gods Fall Asleep and The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures were (along with a lot of Marins’ rarer films) only available on English-friendly home video via way OOP Something Weird VHS tapes. Despite being remastered from a print source, When the Gods Fall Asleep is surprisingly vivid and detailed. The trade off is that there’s more print damage artifacts, usually vertical streaks, neutral tones skew a bit red, and some scenes are a bit blotchy. The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures was remastered from the original 35mm negative and is one of the most impressive transfers in the collection (actually, all of the remaining titles look great). The colors are eclectic, ranging from subtle to eye-searing, details are tight, textures and grain are natural, and the dynamic range is fantastic.


When the Gods Fall Asleep’s LPCM mono track features a less chaotic audio collage mix than End of Man that helps it maintain clarity and consistency, though dialogue still suffers a bit of compression/muffling. The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures is a good example of the most we can expect from these particular films – its mono channel sounds a bit cramped at times and the various sources Marins sampled from are of widely varying quality, but there’s no notable distortion at high volume levels and dialogue tracks aren’t too muffled or hissy.


Extras

  • The Demonic Surrealism of Coffin Joe (25:42, HD) – The scholar, filmmaker, and author of Witchfinders and Sorcerers: Sorcery and Counterculture in the Work of Michael Reeves (published in Sixties British Cinema Reconsidered; Edinburgh University Press, 2021) Virginie Sélavy explores the parallels between Marins’ nightmare visions and philosophies, and the European and South/Central American surrealist movements, including the work of Luis Buñuel, Georges Franju, Jean Vigo, Jodorowsky, and Juan López Moctezuma. A great featurette overall, though I was hoping for a longer look at Jodorowsky and Moctezuma, as I, too, had noticed similarities while watching this collection.

  • Delirium, Surrealism, and Vision (13:33, HD) – Critic and author of Deathtripping: The Cinema of Transgression (Creation Books, 1999) Jack Sargeant takes a look at Coffin Joe’s penchant for breaking the fourth wall, the importance of eyes throughout Marins’ work, and his unique approach to transgressive imagery and budgetary constraints.

  • Apostle of Evil (10:46, HD) – Co-writer of Embodiment of Evil (see below) Dennison Ramalho discusses growing up with Marins as a television personality, discovering his films while in college in America, meeting Marins in San Paolo during the ‘90s, maintaining a connection to his idol as he became a filmmaker himself, and eventually becoming involved with the Coffin Joe trilogy revival.

  • Mojica in the Snow: Tonight I Incarnate at Sundance! (15:11, HD) – Footage from Marins’s trip to the 2001 Sundance Film Festival from Andre Barcinzki and Ivan & Andre Fnotti.

  • A Blind Date for Coffin Joe (9:42, HD) – A short film by Raymond “Coffin Ray” Castile, who played the younger Zé do Caixão in Embodiment of Evil.

  • The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures trailer





Disc 5:

Hellish Flesh (1977)


Dr George Medeiros (José Mojica Marins) is a brilliant scientist, but a neglectful husband, whose wife takes a lover and plans to murder George for his fortune. But the doctor is only disfigured and returns with a plan for revenge. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)


Marins continued producing sexploitation movies to remain relevant into the late ‘70s and still found time and money for forays into the macabre, like Hellish Flesh (Portuguese: Inferno Carnal), which exchanges some of the director’s increasing outré appetites for marginally conventional thriller motifs. Once again, it isn’t quite a horror film, but its influences, oddball morality, and grimy tone definitely match the timbre of Marins’ other EC-inspired films. Think of it as a Brazilian Crime SuspenStories with a mad scientist twist, instead of a Brazilian Tales From the Crypt. Given the melodrama, sleaze, convoluted machinations, scenes of characters skulking around in the dark, black gloves, and gloriously hideous ‘70s fashions, Hellish Flesh also teeters on the edge of giallo territory, which certainly kept me engaged, despite the fact that it would’ve worked better as a 30-minute section of larger anthology.


Everything else aside, Hellish Flesh is most notorious for the fact that Marins included footage from his own ocular surgery (hilariously intercut with footage of his wife and her lover living high on the hog), which he claimed was a means of one-upping Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou’s (1929) famous eye-bisection. Lucio Fulci would never.










Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind (1978)


The colleagues of a psychiatric doctor driven to insanity by nightmare visions of Zé do Caixão enlist the character’s creator, José Mojica Marins, to convince the patient that Zé does not exist. …but all is not as it seems. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)


Marins had already delved into autobiographical material and meta-text for Awakening of the Beast, where he and his films were tied to the narrative and themes, but Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind (Portuguese: Delírios de um Anormal) – along with Exorcismo Negro, which, again, isn’t part of this collection – takes it to another level, creating an unrecognized forerunner to remix media and other meta-horror films starring their creators, namely Lucio Fulci’s A Cat in the Brain (Italian: Un gatto nel cervello; aka: Nightmare Concert, 1990) and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994). Quite often a pure abstraction of already esoteric films, it also has its share of original nightmare imagery, including a predecessor of the famed shunting sequence from Brian Yuzna’s Society (1989).


The similarities to Cat in the Brain are likely a coincidence, but too specific to ignore. In his film, Fulci plays a version of himself plagued by visions of violence from his own movies and seeks the help of a psychiatrist, who secretly hypnotizes the director and frames him for a series of murders. In Marins’ film, the psychiatrist is the victim of movie-based hallucinations and the real Marins is an altruist brought in to cure his Coffin Joe obsessions with the help of hypnotism. In one case, the psychiatrist is the villain and, in the other, a team of psychiatric doctors are so incapable that they require the assistance of a film director to solve the problem. Both films also double as clip shows, filling space with footage from each director’s back catalog, though Marins had access to his entire filmography, while Fulci had to borrow extra clips from other Italian horror movies. Fulci’s ideology ends up muddled and dulled, while Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind’s chaotic collage enforces Marins’ love of the dark and irrational.







Video/Audio

Hellish Flesh is another feature that was previously only available on OOP SWV VHS, but Hallucinations in a Deranged Mind was put out on DVD via Cinemagia in Brazil, so, if you spoke Portuguese, you could import a decent version of the film. Both films are a substantial upgrade on Blu-ray, however, and have been remastered from 4K restorations of the original camera negatives. Given the out of control length of this review, I’ll be brief, because these two 1.37:1, 1080p transfers more or less match Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures. Fantastic color quality, rich black levels, and just about as much texture and detail as you could ever expect from the material.


Hellish Flesh’s LPCM mono soundtrack is, once again, a bit on the muffled side, but springs to life whenever Marins and credited composer Solon Curvelo indulge in sci-fi texture effects and sultry sax music. As a remix movie, Hallucinations in a Deranged Mind has one of the most dissonant collections of sounds and archival music heard in any Marins film, but Clayber de Souza’s droning electronic additions still manage to be an aural highlight.


Extras

  • Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind commentary with José Mojica Marins, editor Nilcemar Leyart, Paulo Duarte and Carlos Primati (Portuguese with English subtitles) – One last track from Marins, Duarte, and Primati, this time with extra help from Leyart, who adds a bit of his own perspective, which is important, since the film is made up of about 75% old footage.

  • Aesthetics of Garbage: José Mojica Marins, a Complicated Icon (30:56, HD) – Andrew Leavold, the director of The Search for Weng Weng (2013), explores as much of Marins’ filmography as possible, compares him to trash auteurs (mainly Jess Franco), tries to define his style, and place him in the context of the Mouth of Garbage (Portuguese: Boca do Lixo) and Marginal Cinema movements of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

  • Beyond Good and Evil (15:31, HD) – Critic, writer, co-director of Orchestrator of Storms: The Fantastique World of Jean Rollin (2022) with Dima Ballin, and producer of several of this collection’s other extras, Kat Ellinger, further explores Marins’ artistic transgressions, his version of Gothic, and his connections to Nietzscheism. 

  • Hellish Flesh and Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind trailers





Disc 6:

Embodiment of Evil (2008)


Zé do Caixão (José Mojica Marins) emerges from a prison mental ward and onto the streets of São Paulo in 2008, haunted by ghostly visions and the spirits of past victims, and still in pursuit of the woman who can give him the perfect child. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)


Post-Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind, Marins’ already shaky career took a nosedive. To make ends, meet he turned to sexploitation, hardcore porn, and even did uncredited co-direction on other filmmakers’ projects. Along the way, he made an autobiographical docudrama called Demons and Wonders (Portuguese: Demônios e Maravilhas, 1987), hosted The Show from the Other World (Portuguese: Um Show do Outro Mundo, 1990) as Coffin Joe, and finally started gaining worldwide recognition, thanks to home video. Finally, the time had come for Zé do Caixão (we learn that his full name is Josefel Anatas) to reemerge from isolation for one last scare (it had been the longest gap between sequels in which an actor portrays the same character, before 2023 and the release of The Exorcist: Believer). 


I had originally seen Embodiment of Evil (Portuguese: Encarnação do Demônio) with a limited understanding of Marins’ work, having only experienced the three movies in Fantoma’s DVD set. I largely dismissed it as sort of silly vanity project that saw the aging director complaining about “kids these days” and upping his gore game to match the new normal of the post-millennial era (I’m resisting the term ‘torture porn’ here, because I’m not a fan of its meaning, but the American and French films associated with the phrase are what I’m referring to). Armed with a decade-plus of further context and having watched all the films in this collection in a row (meaning that I could actually recognize references and actor cameos), I think I have a better appreciation of Embodiment of Evil as a delayed continuation of the series. It’s a modern, digitally-assisted re-imagining of the types of films the director was hand-crafting with limited means back in the ‘60s. It doesn’t have the same vulgar magic as those classics, but there is still value in its ambition, its commitment to the bit, and Marins’ continued spirit of experimentation. It was also made at a time when Brazil was no longer under the watchful eye of a rightwing military government, so Zé do Caixão is free to say whatever he wants about political corruption and religious hypocrisy.







Video/Audio

The Embodiment of Evil was first released on R0 anamorphic DVD in Brazil via 20th Century Fox, followed by Anchor Bay’s UK DVD and Synapse Films’ North American DVD/Blu-ray debuts. I don’t have the Synapse disc on hand for a direct comparison, but I assume that Arrow is working from the same source for their 1.78:1, 1080p transfer. There’s a little bit of haloing and other oversharpening effects, but a lot of this might be the side effect of a lot of low-budget digital grading. Marins and cinematographer José Roberto Eliezer go wild with the extreme palette (I enjoy the touch that some of Joe’s nightmare visions are literally black & white figures infiltrating a full-color world) and cram the frame full of texture and fine detail.


The disc also comes fitted with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 stereo audio options. It’s a newer movie and digitally mixed/mastered, so there isn’t a lot to say here, outside of verifying that there are no obvious errors or dips in quality. The 5.1 and 2.0 tracks are also pretty close in terms of the mixes, though the extra channels and discrete LFE gives André Abujamra and Márcio Nigro’s music a fun, sometimes excessive boost, so I’d go with that one.


Extras

  • Commentary with José Mojica Marins, producer Paulo Sacramento, and co-screenwriter Dennison Ramalho (Portuguese with English subtitles) – Like many of this disc’s extras, this commentary was produced for the film’s Brazilian DVD debut. It was not part of Synapse’s release, so it’s nice to finally have full access to Marins’ thoughts on his big return to the character and world of Coffin Joe.

  • Apprenticeship of Evil (84:36, HD) – Ramalho pays tribute to Marins and looks back on their friendship and work together. This feature-length interview/featurette was recorded shortly after the director’s death, during the pandemic, with Fantasia Fest’s Mitch Davis acting as interviewer. It includes footage from a funeral service for Marins and is sort of an expansion of Ramalho’s interview on disc 4.

  • Learning from the Master (37:40, HD) – Ramalho returns again for an Arrow exclusive interview about his friend Mojica and the making of Embodiment of Evil.

  • Fantasia Film Festival premiere footage (13:53, SD) –  Footage of Marins at the film's premiere.

  • 2008 official making-of featurette (31:45, HD) – A fun, mostly raw look behind-the-scenes of the film.

  • 2008 experimental making-of featurette (13:25, SD) – I guess ‘experimental’ means that this EPK’s footage has lots of filters layered over it and the audio is made up of random, mostly unrelated clips.

  • Deleted/extended scenes (12:11, SD) – Marins sort of hosts this reel of excised footage and offers commentary between clips. This was not included with Synapse’s Blu-ray, making it another vital addition to this collection.

  • Visual Effects: Purgatory (2:16, SD) – Side-by-side comparisons with commentary from Marins

  • Storyboards (2:07, SD) – This short look at storyboard sketches also features Marins commentary.

  • Trailer


Bibliography:

  • Mondo Macabro: Weird & Wonderful Cinema Around the World by Pete Tombs (St. Martin's, 1998)

  • The Nightmares of Coffin Joe (2002), directed by Andrew Starke & Pete Tombs (part of of the Mondo Macabro television series)

  • Coffin Joe and José Mojica Marins: Strange Men for Strange Times by André Barcinski (from Fear Without Frontiers: Horror Cinema Across the Globe; FAB Press, 2003)

  • Damned: The Strange World of José Mojica Marins (2001), directed by André Barcinski and Ivan Finotti (reissued as part of this Blu-ray collection)


The images on this page are taken from the BDs and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.

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