Horror

At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1964)

Comments Off on At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1964) 21 July 2017

at midnight take soul dvd

Studio: Synapse 

Theatrical Release: November 9, 1964 (Brazil) 

DVD Release: January 31, 2017

Director: Jose Mojica Marins

Not Rated

Review by James Klein

While this is not the first time At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul has been released on DVD, Synapse has released a newly remastered DVD of the film, taken from a 35 mm negative scan supervised by writer/ director / star Jose Mojica Marins, aka Coffin Joe. 

Born in Brazil in 1936, Marins was a huge film buff thanks to his father who ran a movie house. Marins loved horror and the macabre and after making a few, small dramas he was given a chance to write and direct Brazil’s first horror film which he also starred in as his alter-ego Coffin Joe, an undertaker with a violent streak and a deep down hatred towards religion. It is with this film that Marins soon became a cult figure and due to his popularity he soon adapted the nickname of Coffin Joe. So folks, this is the film that started it all. Brazil’s first horror film and some would even say first gore film (although I beg to differ as the film came out the same year as Blood Feast and that was by far much gorier). 

“What is life? It is the beginning of death.” 

From the very opening of At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, Coffin Joe dressed in a black suit and cape with his Abe Lincoln top hat, speaks to the viewer about what he / she will witness. As thunder and lightning strike about, an old gypsy (like a Brazilian Crypt Keeper) warns the viewers of what is to take place. As the opening credits starts with a soundtrack of screaming, creaky doors, insane laughter, and loud moans, the very stylized opening sets the mood up perfectly. While I write this review in the dead of summer, I felt like I was watching the film on Halloween night. 

In a small village, the caretaker Ze (played by Marins) finishes up conducting a funeral despite his cold feelings towards the grieving family and those around him. As he goes home to his barren wife, she tells Ze that there will not be meat that evening for dinner as it is Good Friday. Due to his hatred towards Christianity, Ze berates his woman and proceeds to go into town to eat meat in front of a parade of worshippers, laughing and mocking them. Ze ends up walking to the local pub where he meets up with his best friend Antonio and his fiance Terezinha who Ze offers to take Terezinha home only to force himself on her after Antonio leaves. Biting his lip, she neglects Ze’s advances while Ze tells her that he must have a child to carry on the namesake and that she should be the one. Alone, Ze only makes matters worse for the local patrons at the pub as he makes an advance on a helpless waitress. When one of the local townsmen steps in, Ze flips out (when he gets mad his eyes change, like a Brazilian Hulk) and somehow seems to take on super strength and beats the shit out of anyone in his way. 

Upon arriving home, Ze’s violent streak isn’t over as he kills his wife with a venomous spider, finding her worthless since she cannot give Ze a child. While the towns folk have speculation that Ze killed her, there is no proof that Ze is a suspect and continues to walk free. Searching for a woman to bare his child, Ze’s violent bloodshed continues on as he drowns, beats, and chops anyone who pisses him off. Even a small disagreement and Ze is ready to kill just to prove his point. When there is a chance that Terezinha may listen to Ze after he gives her a puppy, he tries to take advantage of her but beats her to a bloody pulp when she refuses. As he kisses this bloody unconscious woman, Ze has now descended into pure insanity. 

The final climax I found a bit convoluted / confusing but still somewhat creepy as Ze rambles around, screaming about God and Satan when the ghost of Antonio stalks him while in the woods. Ze continues his monologue of anger and rage in a crypt where he eventually meets his demise. While I am unsure how Ze is taken out, it’s bizarre and shocking climax worked in it’s favor. The supernatural aspect would have worked better if used throughout the film and not just in the final act. 

At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is a rather dark and bleak horror film, one without much humor or hope. Ze’s ramblings about religion may even offend some overly sensitive viewers, more so than the rather bloody sequences. While the plot is rather thin, the movie is loaded with atmosphere. Mostly taking place at night in the woods or in graveyards, At Midnight is a creepy little film that is worth a look, just for the fact that it’s a 1960’s black and white horror film from Brazil. 

I am unsure why Synapse didn’t release this on blu ray. They did the same thing with Basket Case 2 and Basket Case 3 a few years ago only to eventually be released on blu ray. I am hoping Synapse eventually gives Coffin Joe a HD release as while this DVD looks pretty good (compared to my old bootleg VHS tape I bought in the mid 1990’s. I never saw the now out of print DVD by Fantoma) the print has some significant damage and sometimes the images don’t look as sharp as it should. The 2.0 mono soundtrack is fine but I can imagine a 5.1 soundtrack would sound great, especially with that horrific opening sequence of sounds. 

Rounding out the special features is a 10 minute making of featurette which is just Marins (now looking pretty old) discussing the film and how he was able to make the movie. There is another interview with Marins who talks about his short film from 1952, Reino Sangrento. The film can be played with or without a new introduction by Coffin Joe as well. Last but not least the trailer and a rare promotional trailer are also included. 

With his long fingernails and piercing eyes, Coffin Joe is a horrific, Satanic monster that may be worth spending 82 minutes with on a Friday or Saturday night. Synapse’s DVD is well worth the purchase too unless you are holding out for the inevitable HD release. 

Movie Rating: ★★★★☆ 

DVD Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

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