Inside the Mind of Coffin Joe: Limited Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Arrow Films
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (10th March 2024).
The Film

"Cultural icon, anti-establishment statement, sadistic lord of carnival horror! With his iconic long fingernails, top hat and cape, Z do Caixo (Coffin Joe) was the creation of Brazilian filmmaker Jos Mojica Marins, who wrote, directed and starred in a series of outrageous movies from 1964 to 2008."

In At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, dapper Z do Caixo is his village's man about town as well as its resident gravedigger. Mentally superior to his superstitious neighbors, Z fears neither God nor Satan (mocking the village's faith by demanding meat on Good Friday). He believes only in the "continuity of blood" but is thwarted in his goals by barren but loving wife Lenita (Valria Vasquez). Lighting upon Terezinha (Magda Mei), the innocent fiance of his best friend Antnio (Nivaldo Lima), Z believes he has found the perfect mate. Z decides to murder his wife by setting a spider loose in her bed.

Although there are suspicions about Z, local Dr. Rodolfo (Ildio Martins Simes) can only rule his wife's death as accidental, leaving an emboldened Z to bully the locals (stabbing a fellow poker player in the hand when he accuses Z of cheating and whipping a man who takes exception to Z flirting with his niece). When Z accompanies Antnio and Terezinha to visit a local gypsy, she warns the couple that they will not get married and Antnio will die soon. Z murders Antonio and forces himself on Terezinha who threatens to kill herself so that she can come back and take his soul. When Terezinha hangs herself, Z is shaken because she had the courage to kill herself and did not blame him in her suicide note. Z is assailed by increasingly nightmarish hallucinations or ghostly recriminations from Terezinha, Antnio, and Lenita as the Day of the Dead nears.

A direct sequel to At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse finds Z recovering from his ordeal and finding himself a free man as the court rules that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute him for murder. Returning to his home village, Z renews his quest to have a child with the help of his hunchbacked assistant Bruno (Jose Lobo). Abducting six "Godless" women, he tests their courage by unleashing live tarantulas on them while they are sleeping. The only woman who does not show fear is socialite Marcia (Nadia Freitas) while the others are consigned to the snake pit, with dying Jahira curses Z and with the titular boast and swears that he will never attain his goal.

When Marcia refuses him, he sets her free knowing that her love for him is a weakness that will prevent her from turning him in. Z sets his sights on the Colonel's daughter Laura (Tina Wohlers) who is "a different kind of woman." When the Colonel, his son (Antonio Fracari), and local tough Truncador (Augusto de Cervantes) attempt to thwart their union, Z turns the tables on them diabolically with the help of Bruno and Marcia. When Z learns that Jahira was pregnant and that he has thus murdered a child, he has a nightmare in which he is dragged down to hell. When he wakes up, he learns that Laura is pregnant with his child.
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While American audiences were long tantalized by images of Brazilian star/genre auteur Jos Mojica Marins striking poses in a top hat and cape with long fingernails, the garish posters for his films, and their outrageous titles in various horror film texts, the Z do Caixo films were all but impossible to see until Something Weird Video made contact with Marins in the nineties and released a series of subtitled VHS cassettes of his works whereupon he was rechristened "Coffin Joe." Combining Sadean philosophy, fervent Christian faith, and a Carnival-esque approach to damnation, the first two entries of the Coffin Joe "trilogy" not completed until 2008's Embodiment of Evil (covered below) is crude and makeshift yet undeniably disturbing. The weaknesses in the writing and acting are offset by Marins' scenery-chewing, some makeshift gore, and the hit-and-miss photography of Giorgio Attili almost evokes Val Lewton's RKO horrors at their best and looks like an unrestored silent film the rest of the time. Animated titles and visual effects are crudely etched and glued to the celluloid (which may be partially why the materials for the films have not held up well over the years), and the library tracks include such bizarre choices as the Hallelujah chorus when Z learns that Laura is with child.

While At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul is rather simplistic with Z basically a boastful skeptic who gets his comeuppance, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse iterates Z philosophy of "the continuity of blood" and that children are pure beings who become "lost in a labyrinth of egotism" when they grow up, and his belief that he is the savior of mankind by preventing his inferior victims (male and female) from producing more like them. The Hell sequence is not just full color, but a garish, candy-colored landscape of snow, heads and limbs sticking out of the ground and walls to be tormented by pitchforks, and immobilized victims who have spikes hammered into their foreheads. Although Marins presents Z as an individualist, the first film seems to affirm the director's (or the censors') Catholic faith while the second paints him as an irredeemable madman who would rather martyr himself at the hands of a torch-wielding mob than embrace religion but for the intervention of the censors at the very last moment.
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Z de Caxiao would weave himself in and out of Marin's subsequent genre filmography, sometimes as a mere pop culture figure referenced by characters and other times as a fictional creation come to life to bedevil rational men; as such, The Strange World of Coffin Joe is not a Z do Caixo film but an anthology of stories informed by his philosophy, particularly the final part. In "Doll", four thugs learn that an old dollmaker who sells his wares to a local toy store is quite renowned and well-compensated for his skill. When they decide to invade his house and rob him, they also avail themselves of his four beautiful and strangely compliant daughters who are his apprentices in making dolls with extremely life-like eyes. "Fetish" follows a mute outcast along the periphery of life in the city when he becomes infatuated with a beautiful woman who takes no notice of him. He treasures one of her lost shoes as a keepsake after failing to return it when he stumbles upon her in a sexual encounter. When she dies unexpectedly, he enters her tomb to return her shoe and finds her suddenly very attainable.

"Ideology" is the final and longest story in which Marins himself plays professor Oxiac Odz who participates in a television panel in which he challenges common moral conventions, attributing love to physical attraction and complimentary affinities, and that the "the supreme power of our being, is the Instinct" which attracts and repulses through magnetic emanations. While the other panelists make allowances for Odz's eccentricities, Alfredo (Oswaldo De Souza) challenges his anti-humanist views, prompting Odz to invite Alfredo and his wife (Nidi Reis) to his house for dinner during which he offers to prove his theories. Odz traps the couple in his mansion's corridors of acolytes who have been broken down psychologically into commiting acts of cannibalism and self-mutilation and then pits the two against each other to see what will utlimately triumph: love or "hunger." Before At Midnight, I'll Take Your Soul, Marins had worked primarily in short films a few projects intended as features going unfinished and The Strange World of Coffin Joe as a direct follow-up to his first two horror features allows him to spread his wings in the genre with three diverse shorts under the Z do Caixo banner as an audience draw.
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Awakening of the Beast is an even further but not total departure from the world of Z do Caixo with Marins appearing as himself, a filmmaker of popular and contreversial entertainment asked to take part in a psychological panel as Dr. Sergio sets out to prove that drugs "stimulate perversity and promote corruption". His colleagues are bewildered by the various case examples of criminals and perverts he offers including a schoolgirl initiated into sex by hippies in an orgy that escalates into tragedy, an older woman who satisifes her sexual frustration with a donkey, a filmmaker who takes enjoyment not on the casting couch but in watching the defloration of young actresses by a sex fiend, along with more benign anecdotes like a young man with a fetish for cleaning women's undergarments or a woman who takes pleasure in defecating in front of an audience of men. Having just appeared in front of a pop culture panel that "condemned" him and his work, Marins does not know what he can contribute to Dr. Sergio's work but sees the possibility of artistic inspiration when the doctor reveals that the next step of his experiment is to recruit subjects to take LSD and stare at a poster of Z do Caixo and recount their trips.

Originally titled "Ritual of the Sadists", Marins' Awakening of the Beast was an anti-drug film that came out at a time when the country did not want to acknowledge that it had a drug problem; and, indeed, the film was banned from exhibition for two decades due not to its violent or sexual imagery but to its depiction of drug use. The "catalogue of perversity" that makes up the first two thirds of the film is shot in occasionally-moody black and white and was probably quite daringly explicit for 1970 in Brazil than in America where roughies had already left their mark on the grindhouse; however, most of these vignettes are actually quite boring and Dr. Sergio's hysterical tone raises expectations that are never met. The film becomes more interesting and visually-inventive when it switches to full color with the individual drug trips of the four experiment participants with Marins, cinematographer Attili, and his crew finding interesting ways to turn a factory setting into another visualization of Z do Caixo's strange world of phantoms, spider women, puppet demons, and sex slaves with Coffin Joe himself descending a staircase of human bodies. With the final twist, the doctor does not so much contradict his thesis as trivialize its importance; however, he does inspire Marins who gives the viewer a knowing nod in the final shot.
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When a naked man (Marins) steps out of the sea and starts performing miracles, a priest dubs him "Finis Hominis", or The End of Man, since God has apparently finally come back to set things right or so a growing number of followers believe. While a director casting his protagonist as a messianic figure is nothing new, the good-doing Finis Hominis is not actually the polar opposite of Z do Caixo. He too is an aetheist, stressing the freedom of the human will and actually telling his followers during his televisied Sermon on the Mount in a quarry to stop waiting for someone to tell them to do good and simply be better people. When he confronts wrongdoers, he challenges them with logic rather and points out their hypocrisy rather than laying down "God's law." Each of the events construed as miracles by the witnesses has a logical explanation. A supposedly paralyzed woman is startled into walking by the sight of the naked man. A badly-injured and dying child is saved by a medical crew usually too distracted with sports betting and various kinky daliances to see to the ailing emergency room visitors because when Finis Hominis who carries the child past the receptionist into the ward, the staff scramble to their stations believing him to be an inspector. When he saves an adultress woman from the wrath of her husband and his family by pointing out that they too are guilty of the same infidelities, he may just be conjecturing based on how ready they all are to throw stones. The only possible supernatural intervention may be in appearing at the funeral of wealthy man apparently driven to an early grave by his scheming younger wife and greedy relatives and announcing that he will come back to life, seemingly no more aware than his family about his cataleptic fit. The sermon falls on mostly deaf ears leaving only two genuine followers to which Finis Hominis them that they can find fulfillment in one another while Finis Hominis returns to only place someone can live on this planet when everyone thinks they are the messiah.
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After a lengthy pre-credits sequence in which Marins ponticates about the state of the world When the Gods Fall Asleep, the film is then revealed to mark the return of Finis Hominis. Last seen taking refuge in an asylum, Finish Hominis cannot shut out the cries of those in existential turmoil and leaves once again. We learn from the staff that he has periodically escapes and always returns, but they are too concerned to go out and look for him because they are anxiously awaiting a check from their mysterious patron to keep operating without having to appeal to the government for funding. Unlike the previous film in which the world at large just alighting to his existence, Finis Hominis is fondly-regarded by members of the public in various cutaways and only seems unknown to those in whose life situations he intervenes including two rival gangs in slum turf war who realize what is really important when the son of one of the leaders is snatched, exposing the scam operation of the leaders of a Satanic cult when they intend to commit a human sacrifice, a gypsy love triangle that nearly results in a two duels to the death and the unjust punishment of the woman torn between two men (and a rapist), and convincing prostitutes to turn the tables on their pimps. Just as episodic as Finis Hominis, When the Gods Fall Asleep moves at a faster clip but seems less impassioned about its message and more like a cash-in to the presumably successful predecessor.
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The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures is actually "The Hotel of Pleasures" which has suddenly popped up in the middle of nowhere, is booked solid with reservations, and is now hiriing. Its unnamed but bowler-hatted proprietor (Marins) picks four workers seemingly at random from the crowd, claiming that they have been recommended. The chosen initially refuse the positions in solidarity with the other workers who been turned away without an interview but are mysteriously compelled back to the inn. As night falls and a storm rages outside, the proprietor also takes in and turns away guests seemingly at random, telling one group they are booked solid and welcoming the next (sometimes in presence of one another). Adulterer Leo and Miriam consummate their relationship in one room while a married man tells his mistress to get rid of their unwanted pregnancy in another room and his gun-toting wife lurks in the corridors. Three gamblers are planning to cheat a desperate man in one room while a trio of businessman are planning to torch their business and skip the country with the profits in another. While a band of robbers divide up their loot in one room, a group of thirty bikers and their chicks indulge in a raucous orgy in another, and a man contemplates suicide in yet another. Throughout the night, the staff and various guests note that their watches have stopped, that the clocks in the hotel tick away but do not actually tell the time, and experience gaps in their memory of how they got there; but what happens when they try to leave?

With its title like and the synopsis of a group of travelers taking shelter from a storm in a mysterious inn, The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures has always seemed on paper like an entertaining vehicle for sleaze especially given Brazil's turn towards increasingly graphic softcore and hardcore works towards the end of the decade but the film itself is a pretty baffling disappointment. The film proper does not actually get going until after an eleven minute introduction featuring carnivalesque dancers and paper mache demonic figures, some Marins philosophizing, and credits. After the subsequent introduction of Marins' character and the setting, the film then drags throughout the long middle cutting between the different rooms without any real sense of momenum and the biker orgy consists entirely of half-naked characters drinking and chanting "get naked" without actually taking off anything else. Even after it becomes painfully obvious what is actually going on, the film still drags as if the viewers are still in suspense. While Marins' DIY effects are usually interesting, here they consist of intercutting lighting strikes scratched into the negative and clocks with shots of poor mice, insects, and reptiles being electrocuted. Marins does his usual sinister Z do Caixo-esque characterization but varies it a little as sort of a weary Death who accepts without when his master changes his mind and draws a guest to follow "the light" out of his clutches. The ending reveal will be familiar to viewers of the Amicus anthology films' bookending segments but none of the people making this transition really qualify as characters, having spent the bulk of the film doing little and how they got their not always clearly explained in the climactic flashbacks. With direction credited to Marcelo Motta but Marins' touch unmistakable, The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures feels less like a glimpse "Inside the Mind of Coffin Joe" and more like a cash-in on his celebrity goosing up a story about vice and morality of which Z do Caixo himself would have cared little.
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In Hellish Flesh, Marins plays Dr. Jorge Medeiros, a scientist so engrossed in his creation of a powerful acidic compound that he does not mind his best friend Oliver (The Strange World of Coffin Joe's Oswaldo De Souza) escorting his wife Raquel (Luely Figueir) for nights on the town while he putters away in his basement lab. Although Raquel claims to be jealous of Jorge's devotion to his work, she is actually covetous of his money and convinces Oliver to help her get rid of her husband. Raquel douses Jorge with his own acid and Oliver sets the lab on fire. Unfortunately, Jorge survives the fire and emerges from the hospital hideously-disfigured. Jorge claims that he has forgiven Raquel and enlists former police officer friend Alfredo (Lirio Bertelli) to keep an eye on her and see to her monetary needs as Oliver wastes every dollar she gives him on gambling and other women. Raquel I stoo ashamed to face Jorge until she is in a car accident and is left vulnerable to his revenge.

Having nothing to do thematically with Z do Caixo, Hellish Flesh is a traditional melodramatic potboiler enlivened by some gore, plenty of nudity, and some striking Mario Bava-esque lighting and photography by Marins regular Giorgio Atilli, although it is less Gothic or giallo-ish and has more in common with the murder schemes gone terribly wrong Peter Carpenter duo Point of Terror and Blood Mania. The acid disfigurement effects are crude but effective especially compared to footage of Marins' real-life eye surgery used to stand-in for Jorge's operations as such, it seems at first strange that Marins and Atilli then shoot coverage of Jorge's rubbery disfigured aftermath from indistinct angles, usually with some foreground occlusion. The visual sleight-of-hand extends to sequences involving Helena Ramos (Violence and Flesh) as a young, possibly blind, woman seen in cutaways stripping and craving the pleasure of an off-camera lover, the shadows of his long fingernails raking over her body seeming to evoke both Z do Caixo and Nosferatu and creative framing suggesting the corporeal interaction between her body and only his shadow. The ironic ending is wonderfully cruel, and it is interesting to see one of the better works from Marins' later period before his turn to pornography and subsequent fallow period.
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In Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind, psychologist Hamilton (Jorge Peres) starts suffering vivid nightmares in which Z do Caixo (Marins) threatens to claim his wife Tnia (Magna Miller) as his perfect woman. The nightmares become so vivid that Hamilton starts to belive that Z do Caixo is no longer a fictional character. Tnia appeals to Hamilton's colleagues to help and they all have different ideas as to his treatment, including bringing in filmmaker Jos Mojica Marins himself. They all agree that the appearance of Marins himself to Hamilton will likely just make things worse, but Marins has an idea about the root of Hamilton's neurosis. Hamilton is placed under hypnosis and Marins begins interrogating him, but will Hamilton plunge further into delusion or possibly call Z do Caixo into the flesh.

Seemingly building upon the third act of the otherwise dull Awakening of the Beast in which addicts participate in an experiment in which they stare at a poster of Z do Caixo under the influence of LSD along with possibly being as much or more of an unacknowledged influence on Wes Craven's New Nightmare than Lucio Fulci's A Cat in the Brain given the new availability of the Coffin Joe films on U.S. video in the early nineties when the Fulci film was harder to see stateside Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind is another title and scenario that sounded irresistible from the days when the Marins films were less accessible. Unfortunately, the film winds up being a clip show composed of extended bouts of footage from Exorcismo Negro This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse, The Strange World of Coffin Joe, and the aformentioned Awakening of the Beast including footage at the time that was unseeable otherwise since that picture had been banned from exhibition until the eighties for its depiction of drug use rather than its sex or gore intercut with shots of dumbfounded Hamilton staring on and new bits involving Z do Caixo menacing him and his wife. This goes on and on and goes on even longer during the climactic hypnosis segment in between underdeveloped and flatly-acted sequences (the original footage may only consist of about twenty minutes or even less giving the likes of Boogeyman II a run for its money). The climactic hypnosis sequence is actually incredibly dull, shuffling more recycled footage around; however, the final twist is actually well-executed and even a little disturbing (although it may be too little too late for all but the most ardent fans). However disappointing, Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind is a bit of a Z do Caixo essential given Marins' pop culture popularity at the time; however, as the penultimate title in this set it makes the omission of other Marins works like the anthology Trilogy of Terror (not to be confused with the Dan Curtis television anthology), Perverso, the aforementioned Exorcismo Negro, and his slasher effort The Hour of Fear regrettable.
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After spending the earlier half of the eighties directing porn, Marins would spend the rest of the decade and the early nineties working in video and television but would not return to film until 2007 with the official conclsuion of the "Coffin Joe Trilogy" and his final feature effort Embodiment of Evil in which the long thought dead mass murderer Z do Caixo aka Josefel Zanatas is released from prison after a forty year prison term during which he killed thirty fellow prisoners through the efforts of lawyer Lucy Pontes (Cristina Ach) who may share his philosophy. He returns to the slums of So Paulo where his faithful servant Bruno (Rui Resende) has not only maintained a lair for him but has also recruited a quartet of liberated souls to assist him as he resumes his grisly quest to continue his bloodline with the perfect woman and gruesomely destroy any woman who fails and any man who tries to stop him. Hindering his quest are survivors and family of the victims of his previous exploits including a cop (Jece Valado) blinded in one eye by Z's talons in a sequence that undoes the censor-imposed ending of This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse by seamlessly mixing footage from that film with new black-and-white material featuring American underground filmmaker and Coffin Joe fan Raymond Castile as convincing stand-in for a younger Marins and his equally corrupt brother (Adriano Stuart) humiliated by Z, as well as an extremely (even masochistically) penitent monk Padre Eugenio (A Wolf at the Door's Milhem Cortaz) who may be even more corrupt and repellent than Ze as well as terrifying visions of his dead wife and other past victims whose appearances sometimes prompt clips from the previous films or the Heavenly Creatures-esque digital integration of old footage into the live action.

Late in Embodiment of Evil in a carnival's house of horrors, Z tells one of his disoriented persecutors surrounded by mannequins of Dracula and Frankenstein that "Images don't die," and the popularity of Z do Caixo in Brazil and his growing popularity to English-speaking audiences as Coffin Joe suggest that Marins had indeed achieved immortality with his alter ego even though other characters and even he himself on film have repeatedly vanquished the character or dispelled his evil influence. Not only does the film look and sound slicker than earlier Coffin Joe entries and pretty much the rest of his filmography the story also flows more smoothly and Marins direction seems as assured as his onscreen performance. The gore is also far more accomplished but does lose some of the DIY charm of the earlier efforts. As with This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse, there is another tour through purgatory (although since the film is color, there is no striking transition from monochrome to color that there was in the prior film). While not a great film on its own terms, Embodiment of Evil was an enthusiastic return to form for Marins even if he did not get to direct another feature before his death in 2020.
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Video

The first English-friendly releases of the films of Jos Mojica Marins on VHS in the early nineties courtesy of Something Weird Video whose proprietor, the late Mike Vraney coined the English moniker "Coffin Joe" revealed the poor archival state of the materials available to Marins to provide for transfers (their quality further compromised by generational loss from electronic subtitling and tape duplication). Newer digital transfers were struck during the DVD era and six of Marins' major titles appeared in an English-friendly boxed set looking improved over the VHS masters but still softish with gray blacks, some blooming whites, and colors that were either faded or too hot for NTSC video. Stateside, Fantoma Films would utilize the same masters for their editions of At Midnight, I'll Take Your Soul, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse, and Awakening of the Beast available separately or in a coffin-shapped box set and while in the U.K. NTSC-to-PAL conversions of these three titles along with The Strange World of Coffin Joe, Finis Hominis, Hellish Flesh, and Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind along with the documentary "The Strange World of Jos Mojica Marins" appeared in a boxed set from Anchor Bay alongside their
Blu-ray of Embodiment of Evil. The reuse of these masters for Synapse Films' 2017 DVDs of At Midnight, I'll Take Your Soul and This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse available seperately or in The Coffin Joe Trilogy with a DVD of Embodiment of Evil (which Synapse released as a Blu-ray/DVD combo back in 2011) rather than Blu-ray upgrades lead to rumors that the materials had degraded beyond restoration.

The new high definition transfers utilized for Arrow Video's US/UK dual-territory Blu-ray set come from new 2023 4K restorations materials possessed by the Cinemateca Brasileira under the supervision of Marins' last producer Paulo Sacramento. At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul and The Strange World of Coffin Joe are composites of archival 35mm prints and 35mm preservation interpositives created in 1996 while This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse is a composite of original 35mm negatives and a 35mm interpositive printed in 1985-86. Having vague memories of the Something Weird tapes and the masters used for the Fantoma and Synapse DVDs, it is very easy to say that these 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 pillarboxed fullscreen presentations are the best the films have looked even if they are not and can never be "perfect."

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul's DIY opticals, hand-drawn animation, misaligned focus evident in some close-ups and insufficient depth of field/actors off their marks in wider shots the softness of some close-ups does distract since they are meant to be moments of intensity but blacks are deep sometimes to the detriment of assessing features during the ending in the crypt while the well-exposed and focused shots have almost a clean, flat TV movie aspect. With a longer production schedule and more studio sequences, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 pillarboxed fullscreen presentation looks worlds better than the first film and a definite upgrade over the SD master as well. I once thought of the film's look as looking rather Italian neorealist, but the sleeker image in HD now more resembles sixties Antonioni while the full color Carnival-esque Hell sequence seems more considered in its color choices than the noisy, "bleeding" NTSC versions. The Strange World of Coffin Joe's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 pillarboxed fullscreen also looks slicker, although it has a more varied, uneven image seemingly due less to the materials and more to the mix of location and studio shooting. The studio-lensed "Dollmaker" and "Ideology" segments look best in close-ups and rock-steady wider shots with a few inserts in which the focus is slightly off. "Tara" has some noir-ishly lit night exteriors and the daylight sequences actually have detail in the sky not so evident on DVD but it still feels as though some shots were grabbed on the run.

Awakening of the Beast is a composite of a censored 1969 print with the "O Ritual dos Sdicos" title card and a 35mm preservation interpositive printed in 2008 featuring the "O despertar da besta" title card included in the feature presentation. The 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 pillarboxed fullscreen image is a generation away from the negative and some of the monochrome sequences have been graded to emphasize higher contrast than others, and the blacks are so deep as to make the faces in the panel cutaways indistinct although that may be intentional given the backlighting and the fact that only Dr. Sergio and Marins figure prominently elsewhere while some shots of the color sequence look a bit more faded than others.
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The End of Man comes straight from the original 35mm camera negative while the lesser-seen sequel When the Gods Fall Asleep comes from the only existing 35mm print. The End of Man's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 pillarboxed fullscreen image generally looks great, with crisp monochrome and color, and generally better lighting of both the location and set-bound sequences. It is evident more so here than before that the use of long lenses and the resulting shallow depth-of-field does rob some of the compositions during Finis Hominis' climactic sermon of their power, with Marins rather indistinct and the quarry rock formations on which he is standing not better defined. When the Gods Fall Asleep's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 pillarboxed fullscreen image may be a few generations away from the negative, but the presentation at its best sports vivid colors and crisp focus while at its worst it reveals that this was even more of a grab-and-go shoot with poor focus in some location shots and vertical scratches that probably happened during the shoot or processing rather than projection.

The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures, Hellish Flesh, and Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind each come straight from the original 35mm camera negatives and are the most gorgeous-looking presentations in the set. The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures' 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 image reveals here more so than before that Marins and Attili have got the hang of using and exposing color gels, varying their use to create more contrast between shots and retaining a sense of sculpted lighting where once under red gels faces would fail to stand out from the backgrounds lit in the same hues. The film looks best in the studio interiors and a few daytime exteriors while the flashbacks to fates of the characters shot on location often seem to be lit quick and dirty and grabbed in one take regardless of exposure or focus issues.

Whereas The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures used gels mainly to goose the compositions, Hellish Flesh's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 pillarboxed fullscreen image reveals a generally more considered color scheme that extends to the wardrobe and dcor with a more deft use of light and shadow (particularly the latter given the games the film plays with Nosferatu-like silhouettes). Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 pillarboxed fullscreen transfer looks best during the new footage while the outtake footage varies slightly since it consists of unused footage, including monochrome footage that has been newly tinted.

Embodiment of Evil is the only title in the set not to receive a new transfer, having already possessed a suitable 1080p master. The slicker cinematography and meticulous digital grading result in a film that is both less "filmic" than Marins' rougher earlier films but far more so than some of his cheaper eighties horror and sexploitation works. While we know noting about the state of the original materials, but a newer 4K master and an additional UHD in the set would have been a nice touch.

Audio

All of the earlier Marins films feature Portuguese LPCM 1.0 mono tracks that are derived from the telecines of the earlier transfers but have undergone additional digital cleanup here. Dialogue is usually clean and crisp having been post-dubbed; however, sometimes dialogue of single characters within a scene sound rougher and almost like it is coming through a telephone receiver which may either be some poor and rushed post-production recording or the audio from the telecine might have been patched with some VHS bits during the DVD era. Foley effects and music fare better, with binge viewing of the set calling attention to the recurring use of the Hallelujah chorus, "Auld Lang Syne" and the unauthorized use of instrumental covers of B.J. Thomas' "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" which becomes synonymous with the character of Finis Hominis.

Embodiment of Evil was mixed in 5.1, and the inclusion of a mono track for this film on the checkdisc screeners sent out for review in late 2023 were the reason the street date was moved to this year. The corrected retail disc features Portuguese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 stereo tracks that are quite adventurous not only in creating the bustling Sao Paolo into which Z now finds himself but also in enhancing the mood during his nighttime prowling and goosing the soundscape during his nightmare visions.

All films have optional English subtitles, and Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind appears to be the only older film in the set in which the subtitles refer to Marins' character as "Coffin Joe" whereas he is referred to as "Z de Caixao" in the subtitle translations of the other films. Embodiment of Evil of course addresses him in the subtitles as "Coffin Joe" which is appropriate given that the film was made in light of his subsequent rediscovery as an international pop culture boogeyman.

Extras

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul is accompanied by an audio commentary by writer, director and star Jos Mojica Marins, filmmaker Paulo Duarte and film scholar Carlos Primati ported from the Brazilian DVD set in which Marins recalls that a nightmare inspired the film but that he was not intending to play the character originally he was also dubbed by actor Larcio Laurelli who dubbed him in the next two films before Marins started dubbing his own performances the reuse of the same small sets redressed including the same background for a stretch of exterior forest, the technical constraints like limited film stock and he lack of a zoom lens that lead him to compose shots in plan-squence (which are actually quite accomplished in what seemed like a rather technically-rough shoot), as well as the deal he struck with Spanish-born actress/singer Sara Monteil (Vera Cruz) to borrow better equipment from her company for the film. He also discusses his character's war veteran background and how it shaped his worldview and his apparent sadism, the physical injuries he incurred during the sequence in which he was antagonizing God, as well as discussing his cast (including his father as the bartender) and crew including actress Magda Mei as his assistant and camera assistant Oswaldo de Oliveira better known to stateside cult film viewers as the director/cinematographer of the grungy women-in-prison films Amazon Jail and Bare Behind Bars.

In "Coffin Joe's Sadean Underworld" (12:10), film scholar Lindsay Hallam discusses Z as an iconoclast above conventional morality and parallels between France's "reign of terror," Italian fascism with reference to 's d and Brazil's military coupe in the context of situations that allowed the powerful to impose their wills on the weak, describing Z as a "neo-fascist".

In the 2001 documentary "Damned: The Strange World of Jos Mojica Marins" (65:18) by Andr Barcinski and Ivan Finotti, Marins discusses his childhood fascination with movies as the child of cinema operators and the formative effect of seeing a documentary on venereal diseases at a young age and the incident that alienated him from the Catholic church. His overview of his early shorts and films, his better-known works, and his emergence as a pop culture figure also includes commentary from frequent screenwriter Rubens Francisco Luchetti, actor/production manager Mrio Lima who has some outrageous anecdotes about Marins' porn period including the unfortunate canine star of the country's first bestiality film and Marins' son Crounel Marins who discusses the military censorship of his father's sixties films. Produced before Embodiment of Evil, the documentary has Marins addressing his discovery by Americans in the nineties with the Something Weird Video releases but frustrated by the difficulties of finding more work in film.

The disc also includes the 1950 short film "Bloody Kingdom" which was shot silent with the actors voicing themselves at screenings; as such the director's commentary (8:55) is not optional, and the disc also features excerpts from Marins' early films "The Adventurer's Fate" (12:49) and "My Destiny in Your Hands" (15:55) as well as two theatrical trailers for the feature (1:50 and 3:18).
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This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse is accompanied by the theatrical trailer (2:30) and an audio commentary by writer, director and star Jos Mojica Marins, filmmaker Paulo Duarte and film scholar Carlos Primati in which he reveals that the film's shoot was three months rather than the thirteen days of the first film and that he auditioned the women by seeing if they were scared or put off by the tarantulas that would crawl on them and that some of the cast needed liquid courage to do the scene. He also discusses how the former synagogue he used as a studio had a haunted history but also became an attraction, and the behind the scene conflict between actors/producers Augusto de Cervantes who was also apparently upset that he had to shave his head for the role and got sunburn and Antonio Fracari who was the son a seasoned television make-up artist and contributed to the film's make-up effects himself (the actor was also not particularly gallant in pretending to get engaged to an actress to keep her on the production).

The Strange World of Coffin Joe is accompanied by an audio commentary by writer, director and star Jos Mojica Marins, filmmaker Paulo Duarte and film scholar Carlos Primati in which he points out the presence of filmmaker Luiz Srgio Person and the debut Mrio Lima among the robbers in the first story, and that the actor who played the doll maker worked regularly as a store Santa and scared the production by being all too convincing in his collapse while getting roughed up by the robbers. He also discusses meeting future scripter Luchetti who penned a series of Z do Caixo comics as well as Egyptian George Michel Serkeis who would become his next producer. Of the "Ideology" segment, he points out various performers including fellow filmmakers and the fakir who was punctured by needles, as well as the playing Oxiac Odz rather than Z do Caixo.

The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer (1:49) as well as the censor-imposed alternate ending (0:54) in which the professor's house is struck by divine lightning. In the optional audio commentary by writer, director and star Jos Mojica Marins, he seems less upset by the change and thought they achieved something "cool" with the DIY optical effects.
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In "Eccentric of Cinema" (87:28), "Nightmare U.S.A." author and Stephen Thrower describes Marins and his creation as an amalgamation of Sade, Nietzsche, and P.T. Barnum, incorporating elements of their philosophies while describing himself as an "illiterate" and his literal "cult figure" hold over his followers and fans who he submitted to "tests of strength." The discussion covers his early life and works including more details of his early challenges and disappointments than heard from the director himself elsewhere a 1962 precursor work titled "Hell's Nightmare", parallels with Herschell Gordon Lewis whose concurrent Blood Feast was not released in Brazil, as well as more complex ruminations on both Marins and Z's rejection of religion in the context of Z's seemingly divine punishments as residual Catholic guilt.

In "On Tonights Horror Show!" (17:14), film scholar Miranda Corcoran discusses Z do Caixo, and more importantly "Coffin Joe" in the context of TV American horror hosts like Vampira whose image was also a subversion of middle class morality and aspirations and Freddy Krueger who like Coffin Joe transcended cinema and became "real world boogeymen."
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Awakening of the Beast is accompanied by an audio commentary by writer, director and star Jos Mojica Marins, filmmaker Paulo Duarte and film scholar Carlos Primati in which he recalls initially visiting a police station to research a crime drama where he saw a pregnant prostitute who had been arrested. He reveals that the film did not have a script so much as a guide as he gathered material, and that the two story house he used as a studio was raided by the police Death Squad who ended up working and appearing in the film (an actor/investor whose arm was broken during his arrest would rethink his career choice). He also discusses the casting and the degree of enthusiasm from some of them that had him putting his foot down, and working with fellow directors in the cast including Ozualdo Ribeiro Candeias who plays the man who channels his drug-induced impotence into violence against women and is later recruited for the experiment. Marins also reveals that the "People's Court of Truth" television program in which he appears in the film was the actual broadcast of the episode in which one of the panelists ripped up one of his comics while one of the others who defended him Walter Stuart would subsequently appear in his film Exorcismo Negro. He is proud of the film and discusses his views on open dialogues about forbidden subjects between parents and children as well as the real effects of drugs and his opinion that a lot of the acts the characters indulge in would not be bad if done in moderation.

Also included is the original pre-censorship alternate O Ritual dos Sdicos opening titles (4:04) and the theatrical trailer (3:16).
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The End of Man is accompanied by its theatrical trailer (4:02) and an audio commentary by writer, director and star Jos Mojica Marins, filmmaker Paulo Duarte and film scholar Carlos Primati in which he reveals that he intended it to be a "super production" thanks to producer Serkeis putting him in touch with a wealthy Indian who paid rent on a house/studio two years in advance and sent him double the amount of film cans he quoted. Unfortunately, Serkeis and the investor had a falling out and Marins chose Serkeis so they had to make do with what they had at that point, necessitating the judicious use of color stock rather than the stylistic choice of switching between color and monochrome in the earlier film. He admits to using a body double for the early scenes, but for the reason that he had to coordinate the shoot since they were constantly evading police called by people startled by a naked man walking the streets. He also discusses the differences between Z do Caixo and Finis Hominis, noting that the latter does not have a "beast inside" an "unconscious madman" in contrast to Z's subconscious madman (as well a script that would have pitted them against one another).

The disc also includes "The Strange Mind of Coffin Joe" (18:25) in which author Guy Adams discusses c from a neuro-divergent perspective, not so much making the case that Coffin Joe is neuro-divergent so much as likening him to a "strange in his own species." He also discusses the increasingly autobiographical bent of his appearances as Z and as himself in subsequent films like Exorcismo Negro and the autobiographic Demons and Wonders which will likely never be released on video due to its music choices.

In "A Woman for Joe: The Gender Politics of Coffin Joe" (17:40), film scholar Alexandra Heller-Nicholas provides an overview of Marins' films which reveals a more complex picture of the use of women in his films beyond objects of violence and as a "means to an end" noting that even in his first two films the titular curses are those uttered by female characters not threats by Z, and that they follow through on curses and triumph over Z (at least in the context of the individual films) while the character of Finis Hominis becomes a protector of women from men's violence even the hotel proprietor is a moral character while Marins appearing in films as himself is also a moral counterpart to Z without representing religion or authoritarian oppression.
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The only film-specific extra on the disc featuring When the Gods Fall Asleep and Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures is a theatrical trailer (4:03) for the latter. The disc does, however, include a handful of additional features starting with "The Demonic Surrealism of Coffin Joe" (25:42) in which scholar and filmmaker Virginie Slavy expands on the popular label of Marins as the "Brazilian Buuel" discussing the ways in which the filmmakers' works reveal some of the same concerns and interests of the surrealists including dreams with Marins inspired initially by a dream that was depicted on film in This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse, psychoanalysis, "the liberating force of individual desires" and the rejection of social and moral conventions. Slavy also notes seeming nods to Cocteau and Franju in Marins' nightmare visualizations of hell and the hallucinations of the characters on supposed LSD trips in Awakening of the Beast, as well as his use of professors and doctors from the one who liberates his subjects to act on instinct in "Ideology" to the doctors whose rationalization of their colleague's condition along with Marins' own logical conclusion in Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind is turned on its head when Z do Caixo liberates himself from Marins for the final twist.

In "Delirium, Surrealism, and Vision" (13:33), author Jack Sargeant is among the disc contributors to question just whether Marins is merely a horror filmmaker, a mainstream one, an underground one, or an arthouse one; however, he also addresses the instances of cannibalism in the film and notes that it was a Brazilian writer who wrote a treatise on cannibalism in response to the colonial consuming of cultures that make-up the nation of Brazil.
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In "Apostle of Evil" (10:46), Embodiment of Evil co-writer Dennison Ramalho recalls being haunted by the image of Z de Caixao as a child when he was not allowed to watch anything horror-oriented at this time, Marins was in his TV horror host phase and then seeking out Marins' films in the nineties as a journalism student when the filmmaker had been "discovered" in the United Stateside. He recalls deciding to seek out Marins when he was in Sao Paolo for a metal festival and visited the studio, subsequently moving to the city where Marins became his mentor as he pursued his own work as a filmmaker and assistant director; and it was Ramalho's introduction of editor/producer Paulo Sacramento to Marins that lead to the production of Embodiment of Evil (Ramalho also appears in the disc for that film).

"Mojica in the Snow: Tonight I Incarnate at Sundance!" (15:11) is footage from Marins' 2001 visit to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah for a midnight screening of At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul and an award. We see Marins enjoying the snow, walking around the Sundance events observing people and providing commentary, as well as referencing found Robert Redford's appearance in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the famous song that has woven its way through Marins' filmography.

The disc closes with "A Blind Date for Coffin Joe" (9:42), a short film by Raymond "Coffin Ray" Castile who played the young Coffin Joe in Embodiment of Evil.
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Hellish Flesh is only accompanied by the film's theatrical trailer (3:53) while Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind features an audio commentary by writer, director and star Jos Mojica Marins, editor Nilcemar Leyart, filmmaker Paulo Duarte and film scholar Carlos Primati. The film always sounded more interesting conceptually than in its execution, and this commentary actually proves to be quite interesting as Marins and Leyart discuss its construction. Marins reveals that the idea for the film came from a real psychiatrist who wanted Marins to appear before a panel to prove whether he was clinically insane or not because the man's wife had become infatuated with Coffin Joe; instead, Marins invited himself to dinner at their home and managed to put her off describing what it is really like to be Coffin Joe (essentially satirizing himself and his creation). He cast the leads from his acting students and spent only a three days filming and then roughly four months with Leyart in editing consisting of nearly 4,700 cuts and utilizing unused outtake and censored material, as well as an original score which they felt was unusable until they started manipulating it on the Moviola (Marins would advertise the film as an "audiovisual experience"). The film played at the Festival de Braslia and earned him an award. The theatrical trailer (3:49) is also included.
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In "Aesthetics of Garbage: Jos Mojica Marins, a Complicated Icon" (30:56), filmmaker Andrew Leavold also interrogates Marins identity as a "horror filmmaker" discussing the breadth of his work in the context of filmmakers like Herschel Gordon Lewis, Ed Wood, and Paul Naschy, and Jess Franco noting that like Franco, Marins worked in several genres until a horror project changed the direction of his career (At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul in the case of Marins and The Awful Dr. Orlof in Franco's case along with Buuel but also the members of Brazil's "Cinema Novo" and "Marginal" film movements (the latter of which Marins was a frequent collaborator with colleagues like Ozualdo Candeias but never a true member as he was an auto-didact without a formal education).

In "Beyond Good and Evil" (15:31), film critic Kat Ellinger compares Marins to a punk musician in his playing with Gothic conventions specifically for the purpose of breaking their rules unconcerned with the seductiveness of evil and embracing rather than resisting bestial and primal instincts, as well as discussing the parallels between Marins' and Z's separate philosophies and that of Nietzsche's bermensch overshadowed by its subsequent association with Nazism, with both the atheist filmmaker encouraging people to look beyond the religiously-defined clear-cut dichotomy of good and evil and his creation scorning those who do not.
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Like At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, Embodiment of Evil gets a disc to itself and features more supplementary material than some of other works First up is an audio commentary by producer Paulo Sacramento and co-screenwriter Dennison Ramalho in which they not that Z's offscreen narrated introduction and the computer animated artwork by Guilherme Marcondes was a clever means of getting the many institutional logos that interminably precede most state-sponsored Brazilian cinema out of the way, and that shooting the long take Steadicam introduction to Z and his intended nemesis on the first day proved beneficial to getting Marins accustomed to working with a large crew of seventy and that he had adapted to it by the second day. Ramalho discusses some of the concepts of Marins' 1967 script and their rewrites, including undoing the censorship ending of the second film and deciding to keep the four acolytes on after the Russian roulette sequence that was supposed to kill all four of them likening them to Coffin Joe's fan base as well as having to do rewrites to create the character played by Adriano Stuart after the sudden death of Valado who temporarily left the shoot to receive an award at a film festival and returned with pneumonia. They point out material shot an entire year after the original shoot as well as identifying the ghost of the inmate who haunted Z as underground filmmaker Nilson Primitivo as well as Marins scholars Andr Barcinski, Paulo Duarte, and Carlos Primati among the bit parts.

Ramalho is back onscreen in "Learning from the Master" (37:40) in which he goes into more detail about developing the new script from Marins' delirious and unfilmable 1967 script, the difficulties of obtaining funding due to snobbery about Marins' work and his own responses to it in press one almost wonders how they would have fared had Marins survived into the online crowdfunding era of filmmaking and the "freak show" ambiance of the shoot with the opportunity to work with Marins attracting as many respected professionals as circus performers, punks, and walk-ins off the street.

The disc also includes "Fantasia Film Festival Premiere Footage" (13:53) from 2009 that sees Marins enthusiastically addressing viewers with Ramalho translating before the screening, as well as "Apprenticeship of Evil" (84:36), a Zoom interview with Ramalho during the "dition virtual" of the Fantasia Film Festival streamed online due to Covid in 2020 a few months after Marins' death in February of that year.

Ported from the original DVD releases is the official making of documentary (31:45) that provides a conventional look behind the scenes on location and in studio along with underground filmmaker Primitivo's experimental making of (13:25) piece which seems more akin to the "hallucinations of a deranged mind" of Marins and Z.

A selection of deleted scenes (12:11) with Marins commentary including the deletion of all references to the music box Z listened to in the second film which was preserved by servant Bruno as well as some other extensions like Z's speech at the funeral of the witch he has murdered. The disc also includes "Visual Effects: Purgatory" (2:16) and "Storyboards" (2:07) in which Marins provides commentary over split-screen before and after looks at sequences from the film, as well as the theatrical trailer (1:41).
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Packaging

Not provided for review were the slipcase packaging, the illustrated collector's book "Coffin Joe: Against the World!" featuring new writing by Tim Lucas, Carlos Primati, Jerome Reuter, Amy Voorhees Searles, Kyle Anderson, and Paulo Sacramento, reversible sleeves featuring newly commissioned artwork by Butcher Billy, the double-sided foldout poster featuring newly commissioned artwork by Butcher Billy, or the twelve postcard-sized double-sided art cards.

Overall

Although the set features ten major works of Jos Mojica Marins and a wealth of new and archival supplements, the curious omission of certain titles - presumably due to archival issues - means that this is more of a "peek" Inside the Mind of Coffin Joe than a "probe" but it is nonetheless a rewarding one.

 


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