Written by: Carroll Jenkins on August 10th, 2009
Theatrical Release Dates: Brazil, 1968 (Strange World of Coffin Joe), Brazil, 1970 (Awakening Of The Beast)
Director: José Mojica Marins
Writers: José Mojica Marins, Rubens Francisco Luchetti (Strange World of Coffin Joe),José Mojica Marins, Rubens Francisco Luchetti (Awakening Of The Beast)
Cast: Vany Miller, Verônica Krimann, Paula Ramos, Esmeralda Ruchel, Luís Sérgio Person, Mario Lima, Rosalvo Caçador, Tony Cardi, Messias de Melo, Leila de Oliveira, George Michel Serkeis, Íris Bruzzi, Arnaldo Brasil, Ana María, Pontes Santos, Antônia Siqueira, Guilhermina Martins, Wilson Santos, Betty Doffer, Luiz Carlos Viana, José Mojica Marins, Oswaldo De Souza, Nidi Reis, Nivaldo Lima, Salvador Amaral, Kefia Dumotva, Dario Santos, Carla Safisma, Jean Garret, Palito, Anselmo Alves, Marlene Alves, Adílson Antunes, Neide Aparecida, Nelita Aparecida, Enzo Barone, Enzo Baroni, Evandro Lemos Barreto, Valdelírio Batista, Aparecido Calistro, Campos Campos, Carlos Campos, Jaime Cortez, Abigail de Barros, Teresinha de Oliveira, Milene Drummond, Carlos Farah, Geni Franci, Sebastião Grandim, João José, Laércio Laurelli, Christine Lemos, France Lore, Norma Maria, Jorge Michel, Lídia Monteiro, José Oliveira, Rogério Oliveira, Antônio Ravagnoli, Jeff Ribeiro, Romeu Rocha, Tabajara Sales, Ademar Silva, Maria Luiza Splendore, Susan Sulvan (Strange World of Coffin Joe), José Mojica Marins, Ângelo Assunção, Ronaldo Beibe, Andreia Bryan, João Callegaro, Ozualdo Ribeiro Candeias, Maurice Capovila, José Carlos, Maria Cristina, Emília Duarte, Jaciara Ducena, Jairo Ferreira, Jandira Gabriel, Graveto, Sérgio Hingst, Mario Lima, Annik Malvil, Stela Maris, Cláudio Marques, Dante Miná, Paulo Morandy, Ítala Nandi, Helena Nogueira, Palito, Walter Portela, Carlos Reichenbach, Luiz Renato, Lurdes Ribas, Araken Saldanha, Rosemeire Thiago, Roney Wanderley (Awakening Of The Beast)
DVD released: July 27th, 2009
Approximate running times: 82 minutes (Strange World of Coffin Joe), 92 minutes (Awakening Of The Beast)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame (Strange World of Coffin Joe), 1.66:1 Letterboxed Widescreen (Awakening Of The Beast)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Portuguese (Both Films)
Subtitles: English – Burned In (Both Films)
DVD Release: Anchor Bay UK
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £39.99 (Strange World of Coffin Joe and Awakening Of The Beast are only available as part of Anchor Bay UK’s Coffin Joe Collection)
The Doll Maker is probably the best sequence: an EC Comics (Tales From The Crypt) type sardonic horror shocker. Four hoodlums assault the four daughters of a gifted and elderly craftsman who needs to complete four dolls. Though the twist ending is predictable the tale is atmospheric and quite salacious. The sleaziness continues for a bit in Tara while the title character takes a bubble bath. She is stalked by a creepy balloon vendor who later attempts to visit her crypt. This one has no dialogue and is accompanied by an eclectic cacophony of music and electronic sounds.
The final part is an almost Coffin Joe segment. A mad philosopher (Marins) invites a couple to dinner – literally. He and his pack of ‘free’ persons torture them into insanity before eating them. This template was worked into the Coffin Joe mythos to produce the third official Coffin Joe film, Embodiment Of Evil.
Following Strange World, Awakening Of The Beast was an eye-opening experience. The first half contains salacious scenes of perversion and drug abuse loosely tied together and sprinkled with the expected anti-Catholic sentiments. The second half starts with a television interview segment featuring Marin, followed by sequences depicting the effects of a medical experiment where people stare at a Coffin Joe poster while taking LSD.
Ahhh, the way is clear. The Strange World Of Coffin Joe is not a misnomer, and both films build upon each other like the first two (At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse). The first real segment in Awakening is a voluptuous woman who strips nude but the men don’t care for that especially. They want her to defecate in a potty, which they have presented wrapped in a nice tidy package. Wake up! – the audience wants crap and Marins is here to deliver. He says exactly that in the faux television show (shades of To Tell The Truth) where he declares Coffin Joe dead and ridicules his own success.
Back to Strange World, it now makes much more sense. The ‘twist’ ending of the Doll Maker is telegraphed in the first 60 seconds. The point is that the four daughters are going to be simultaneously raped and that we the audience are viewers who want to experience the vicarious thrills of second hand atrocities. The rapes takes place under a Catholic picture, well, Brazil is a predominately Catholic society. They are also inter-cut with images of dolls with no eyes. I guess we can’t see what’s in front of our face.
Marin is a satirist in the tradition of Jonathan Swift. Ever read ‘A Modest Proposal’ where he suggests the Irish eat their own children? Marins’s ‘Tonight I Will Possess Your Soul’ is a denouncement of terrorism, fascism, and the hypocrisy of ‘devout Catholic’s. In Awakening, a soon to be victim of a Christ figure (literally) holds a Beatles notebook. Remember when John Lennon declared the Beatles more popular than God? It wasn’t [intended] sacrilege, but an ironic observation on fame and fandom. His innocent statement precipitated a nationwide scandal similar to that produced in Brazil by the Coffin Joe movies.
So why does Marin call us the audience more subversive than his own imaginings (in the intro to Awakening)? Because nobody got the point of Coffin Joe. Interspersed with the Coffin Joe images at the beginning of Awakening are at least one image depicting piles of bodies from the Nazi death camps. He’s not celebrating terror, he’s abhorring it. And he blames us for having no insight, vision, memory, or courage.
Strange World is presented full screen B&W, while Awakening is non-anamorphic letterboxed B&W with a color segment. Both have burned-in English subtitles. IMPORTANT NOTE: due to the interlaced transfer and the NTSC conversion, set your DVD player to non-progessive if you experience severe motion blur.
Both films make a larger whole. One moment they are arty crap, the next they are shitty crap. But the audience can’t discern the difference. Do they care? Did you think this was more rant than review – perhaps that qualifies me as a member of the Coffin Joe Oratory Society?
Note: The Anchor Bay UK Coffin Joe Collection contains the following films, At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse, The Strange World Of Coffin Joe, Awakening Of The Beast, End Of Man, Strange Hostel Of Naked Pleasures, Hellish Flesh, Hallucinations Of A Deranged Mind and The Strange World Of Mojica Marins.