of the Beast
Review by Rod
= Highest Rating
truly sad that José Mojica Marins was never able to get a third
full-blooded Coffin Joe film off the ground. Instead we have
The Bloody Exorcism of Coffin Joe
and this strange little piece, originally titled Ritual Of
The Sadist. I guess the best way to look at Awakening
of the Beast is to consider it an anthology film of several
small, depraved tales bracketed by a contrived wraparound story.
Although I find some parts of the film to be very interesting,
I don't like the movie as a whole. It's disjointed, silly, slow
and at times boring. And when you can say a movie involving
Coffin Joe is boring, you know something went wrong! I'm not
really sure that the short tales presented in the film were
originally made to be a part of a Coffin Joe film. I think it's
more likely that the pieces were fit into a framework Marins
came up with to craft a feature inexpensively. Although Marins
claims to love this movie and thinks of it as one of his best
I very much disagree. He seems to be proud of it because of
the 'social commentary' elements in the various stories but
it's those very bits that drag the movie down and provoke yawns
from me. There're few things more boring than being preached
at when all you're looking for is an entertaining movie. This
is easily the least of Fantoma's Coffin Joe DVDs and it's the
one I'd advise skipping if funds are short.
The set-up for the wraparound story is a discussion between
several intellectuals and academics about the horrible state
of the world because of the lack of morality in people. The
men relate various absurd, sinister stories to prove their points.
The men are obviously just trying to top each other in a kind
of 'Who has the more bizarre tale?' contest but they all take
it seriously... so maybe we should too. Naaaah! Each
story has illegal drugs as its catalyst, with the point being
that they "stimulate depravity and promote corruption".
That's all well and good but the stories are so damned silly
that there's no way I can take them seriously. You'd expect
stories that relate awful circumstances of rape, adultery, murder,
violence and humiliation to be depressing or at least interesting,
but as presented here they're really just dull. And Marins'
attempts at symbolism are so obvious and ham-handed (a fat,
lecherous businessman turning into a pig; a shot of bull horns
when a cheating wife speaks of her husband, etc.) that they
cause laughter instead of reflection. As the stories are told
we are gradually shown that one of the men in the discussion
is Marins, going under the name of Mr. Mojica. But it's not
until the final story that things really get interesting. In
this tale a professor relates the details of a highly unethical
experiment in which he dosed four drug addicts with LSD and
had them focus on images of Zé do Caixao. As the hallucinogen
takes hold the film suddenly jumps to color and Marins parades
every bizarre idea of psychedelic insanity he possibly can in
front of the camera. Set loose from the constricting need to
be coherent he splashes bright colors and shock imagery on screen
and if you look carefully I'm sure you'll even see a kitchen
sink! Of course, this sequence is more often than not ridiculous
and silly but there are several moments that are genuinely creepy.
Some of the hellish pictures presented during this segment strike
an unnerving chord — even though there is no way the sight of
a bunch of men's asses painted with faces is ever going to be
anything other than unintentionally funny. This section of the
film is like watching the unholy merger of a David Lynch film
that's been put through Cronenberg's telepod from The
Fly with a copy of an Ed Wood masterpiece. Demented?
Yeah, but definitely interesting... which is more than I can
say for the first hour of the film.
I consider this the least of the Fantoma Coffin Joe releases to
DVD I can happily report that the presentation of the film is
surprisingly good for such a rare, low budget movie. Awakening
of the Beast looks very
sharp throughout with a small amount of scratching and print damage
showing. The black & white photography is good but the jump to
color near the end is gorgeous. Maybe it's just the contrast from
monochrome to color but these segments are beautiful to look at
and I found myself pausing the image a few times to study the
details. The picture is letterboxed at 1.66:1 and is once again
taken from the 35mm negative. The Mono soundtrack is solid but
unexceptional with the post-synch dubbing often leaving a lot
to be desired. But the English subtitles are quite good, even
begins his often incoherent ramblings about the mysteries of life.
The extras on the disc are the three trailers for Fantoma's Coffin
Joe DVDs (At Midnight I'll Take Your
Soul, This Night I'll Possess Your
Corpse, and this one) and an 8-minute interview with Marins
about the making of the film. In it, Marins is quite charming
and relates his disappointment with the censorship problems Awakening
of the Beast encountered.
The film was banned in Brazil and has apparently never had a theatrical
release anywhere in the world. It's amusing to learn that Brazilian
police helped Marins make the film but couldn't stop the censors'
scissors from chopping it up. Also included in the DVD case is
another English translation of a Coffin Joe horror comic from
the 1960s. This one is much in the spirit of the first two and
makes me hope for the eventual release of a translated collection
of these comics some day here in the States. Altogether, a nice
package for devoted Coffin Joe fans but definitely not
for those not already enamored of Marins or his films.