Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

O Estranho Mundo de Zé do Caixão (1968)

... aka: Strange World of Coffin Joe, The
... aka: Strange World of Zé do Caixão, The

Directed by:
José Mojica Marins

For 1968, this trio of gritty black-and-white terror tales is startlingly sick and, to its credit, age hasn't lessened its ability to shock and surprise one bit. Things begin with a close shot of Marins' eyes superimposed over grainy shots of an overcast sky as he narrates. In the first tale, "O Fabricante de Bonecas" ("The Dollmaker" in the subs) an elderly, bearded dollmaker shows up at a bar to drop off one of his hand-crafted creations. Four men overhear a conversation about how much money the old guy makes and how he has four sexy daughters back at home. The punks then decide to rob him and have a little fun while they're at it. While the daughters are getting ready for bed, the men crash in, knock the old guy old when he refuses money, bust into the girls' shared bedroom and plot to rape each of them. But then each girl makes comments about how beautiful the men's eyes are... just like customers are always commenting on how life-like the eyes are in the dolls they make. Hmmm... There's nudity and gore, but it's predictable and much shorter than the other two tales. Just filler, really.

Next up is "Tara" (aka "Obsession") a twisted, completely dialogue-free story that seems to be partially influenced by the filmography of Lon Chaney. A hunchbacked balloon vendor (played by producer George Michel Serkeis) silently stalks attractive young Tara (Íris Bruzzi) over a long period of time. He watches her strip from a window down below before she gets into the bath and follows her shopping. She drops a box containing a pair of shoes but he's unable to catch her to give them back. He watches from afar as she meets a new man, and later is viewing her wedding from across the street when suddenly a scorned woman stabs Tara to death right as she's leaving the church! He's not permitted into the funeral, but sneaks into the mausoleum after hours, opens her coffin and begins getting frisky with the corpse. The lack of dialogue, the grainy b/w photography and odd sound effects (church bells, wind) turn this a disturbing little short. The necro scenes are much more damaged that the rest of the film, which indicates that they were removed from the theatrical release print and had to be restored at a later junction; possibly just for this DVD release. I couldn't imagine this stuff being allowed in most countries back in the 60s!

The extremely depraved "Ideologia" ("Ideology") - which makes today's "torture porn" look like a Hallmark Channel presentation by comparison - is our last tale. Prof. Oãxic Odéz (played by the director, dressed in all black and a weird wig) debates his controversial "love doesn't actually exist" philosophy on a TV talk show. One of the hosts, Alfredo (Oswaldo De Souza), gives him a hard time about it, so the professor asks him to come to his home so he can prove his theory. HE also asks that Alfredo bring along his wife Wilma (Nidi Reis). The two show up, are held against their will by their host, his Lurch-like butler (Nivaldo de Lima) and some others who subscribe to the professor's philosophy and are forced to view a warped burlesque show featuring all kind of depraved, sexually violent acts. These include a couple making love while being scrubbed bloody with a steel brush, a man actually having pins driven through his flesh and people crawl around like dogs while being whipped. And that's only the beginning! We also get a man being stretched out on a rack who is cannibalized, a woman who's stripped and has her face melted off with acid before being dragged offstage by her hair and more!

Eventually, Alfredo is chained up in a glass room and Wilma is chained up and placed in a cage to put their relationship to the test. Will love win out, or will instinct to survive? The two are refused food and water for days and start to go a little mad while their host comes in and gives them a bible sermon every day! At the end, the professor and his cohorts enjoy a cannibal feast of heads, hands and feet as "Hallelujah" plays on the soundtrack. Unreal!


1 comment:

CavedogRob said...

It's pretty weird stuff even by Coffin Joe standards. I have an edited VHS version of it. I seem to remember (haven't watched it in a while)that in the 3rd story, at the end while they are munching on the hands and feet it seems as though there is a an explosion that kills the evil doc and his co-horts! Maybe I'm hallucinating having watched too many horror movies!

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