Tuesday, October 20, 2020

coffin (eyed) joe.

It's day 20 of the 31 days of horror (nearly done! congratulations if you've made it this far) and what better excuse to revisit the wacky world of the mental Mr. Marins...

À Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma (AKA At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul. 1964)
Dir: Jose Mojica-Marins.
Cast: Jose Mojica-Marins, Nivaldo Lima, Valéria Vasquez, Magda Mei and Genesiso de Carvalho.

"What do I care if it's Holy Friday or Devil's Friday?
I'll get what I want and no Bible thumper
will stop me! I'll eat meat today
even if it's human flesh!"

Pube bearded, turnip nosed and dirty nailed Noddy Holder-alike Zé Do Caixão (AKA Coffin Joe, played with ungodly relish by writer/director Marins but if you read this blog you'll already know that) runs the local funeral parlor in what looks - and smells - like a small town just outside Cradley Heath somewhere in the West Midlands.

When not burying the dead Zé spends his time terrorizing the local pensioners, sticking fireworks up tramps arses, eating meat on Holy days, annoying the clergy with his vehemently anti-religious views and shouting "Wankers!" at the local nursery kids.

And if that wasn't enough to keep him busy he also takes time out to abuse and mutilate anyone who disagrees with him.

At home his loving (and permanently shot to fuck) wife Lenita (Vasquez) spends her days cooking, cleaning and ironing Zé's capes in the hope of calming her husbands slightly over the top anti-social habits.

Unfortunately for her, Zé is actively searching for a replacement after discovering that Lenita is incapable of conceiving a child (or as Zé kindly puts it "You're a barren old crone!") and thinks he may have found her in the form of his best mate Antonio's (the horse faced Lima) shapely missis Terezinha (the square headed yet surprisingly ample of arse and pointed of breast Mei).

Being the smooth devil we all know and love, Zé attempts to stick it in her after kindly offering to walk her home one evening only to be hastily rebuffed by Terezinha and told to go home to his wife.

Taking this advice to heart (but obviously not too well) Zé heads back to his house to eat some more meat before gagging Lenita, tying her to the bed and dropping a highly poisonous spider onto her boobs which promptly bites her.

He is, indeed a very bad man.

Coffin Joe, up the casino, 1964...."Yesch!"

The local police, unable to find the spider (or even one that vaguely matches its description) and assuming that poor Lenita must have gagged and bound herself (think David Carradine's death pics but with a spottier arse) let Zé go with a warning to not swear at any more toddlers.

Desperate to cheer his best pal up, Antonio - and begrudgingly Terezinha - invites Zé along to visit a local fortune telling (and no doubt peg selling) gypsy whom the happy couple are going to see to find the best day to get married on. 

Zé jumps at the chance (how else can a mad as a lorry mentalist spend his time now he's murdered his missis?) and accompanies the lovebirds on a scenic walk thru' the woods, laughing and joking as they go.

Arriving at her caravan and after giving her their spare change for the 'baby' (a loaf of bread wrapped in a blanket - can you tell I grew up in the west midlands?) the gypsy reveals that pair will never marry and that death looms on the horizon.

Zé, obviously angered at the thought of someone else saying things to offend folk, calls the gypsy a filthy fraud, telling Antonio and Terezinha that all this supernatural stuff is bollocks.

The gypsy woman is having none of this tho', warning Zé not to mock the strange power of the supernatural, lest he ends up cursed himself.

Like something that crazy could happen.

After saying goodnight to Terezinha, Antonio invites Zé back to his groovy bachelor pad for a nightcap and a quick game of Ludo before bed and whilst slowly supping Baby Cham and eating Pringles Antonio admits that he really didn't believe the old gypsy and that he feels that Terezinha and himself will have a long and happy life together.

Awww, he is such a sweet guy I reckon I'd marry him myself.

Not one to let a prophecy go unfulfilled (add to that the fact that he's not killed anyone for about twenty minutes) and worried that he's not going to be asked to be the best man, Zé decides to bludgeon his best friend to death before dumping his still warm corpse in the local lake.

"At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul...but at quarter
to I'll be shite-ing in your hairy mooth!"

Not too surprisingly the police once again let Zé go without charge, reckoning the blood on his shirt, muddy knees and damp trousers are obviously circumstantial, so our frighteningly finger nailed fiend skips off to Terezinha's house in order to celebrate his freedom.

Knowing a fair bit about 'the women' Zé pops into the local pet shop on the way to purchase a cute little canary for Terezinha as a love offering (tho' by the size of her backside in that ill fitting skirt he'd have been better off buying her a cake or six) and, being all girly she accepts it with a smile and invites Zé in for a glass of weak lemon drink and a biscuit.

Unfortunately, he mistakes this act of kindness as a cue to start touching her in the most inappropriate of ways before administering a particularly violent beating and finally sticking it in her.

As if to prove his patent bastardness Zé crushes the canary to death at the point of orgasm.

Just like your dad does.

Really, just ask your sister.

Your mum and your auntie at my house last night.

Cowering in the corner of her by now trashed and semen stained living room, Terezinha viciously curses Zé, promising to commit suicide that very night and return as a ghost to possess his very soul.

And when will this happen?

At midnight I guess.

True to her word, Terezinha is found by the binmen the next day hanging in her closet, the note at her side saying she just couldn't live without her dear Antonio.

To his (and our) surprise, Zé (or his curse) doesn't get a mention in the note and the crushed canary is nowhere to be found, meaning that once again he gets away scot-free to continue his bird baiting reign of terror.

Or so he thinks.

You see one of the townsfolk (the local doctor to be precise) has noticed that Zé either knows all the victims or has been seen in their houses around the time of the deaths, but before he can voice his concerns Zé brutally murders him too.

Luckily he draws the line at sticking it in the doctor as well tho'.


Time goes by and Zé has all but forgotten about Terezinha's curse, busying himself with his usual mix of abuse and mutilations.

As the world famous Day of the Dead approaches (the festival not the George A. Romero movie) Zé is passing the time wandering thru' the local graveyard admiring his handiwork when he comes across (settle down) a foxy young thing named Marta and decides on the spot that she's his perfect woman.

Zé, in gentlemanly mode for a change, offers to walk Marta home only to have the old gypsy woman jump out of the bushes and start threatening him with talk of evil spirits and Terezinha's curse, warning him that the Devil is near and he's going to take Zé's soul come midnight.

Told you.

Zé gives the gypsy a swift kick and quickly heads off with Marta, leaving her at the front door without even trying to touch her up.

Yup, looks like the gypsy has actually scared the unshakable Zé.

Hurrying back home Zé is confronted by a series of ghostly apparitions intent on making him fill his trousers and learn the true meaning of fear, causing the normally unflappable Zé to scream like a wee girl and runs away in the direction of the mausoleum where Antonio and Terezinha are laid to rest......

Where do you start when describing a movie as famous as At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, the first film from the twisted mind of Brazilian screenwriter, director and genuine cultural icon José Mojica Marins?

Back in the dim and distant 80's (in the UK at least) Marins and his alter ego Coffin Joe were more widely known to horror fans thru' a variety of articles and (if you had a teevee in your room as a teen) late night documentaries on Channel 4 than for the actual movies themselves (don't forget, you still can't purchase Blood Feast uncut over here), a bizarrely comical figure in a top hat always shown sitting next to a bemused Christopher Lee at French horror festivals.

All we knew was that he made very gruesome films (it must be true, the articles said so), dressed like a cross between a member of Slade and British broadcasting god Dave Lee Travis, annoyed the Catholic church a fair bit and enjoyed popping frogs between ladies breasts.

It's obvious to anyone reading that such a combination made a quest to discover more (and see one of his films) the number one priority, especially to this (then) teenager.

After getting a girlfriend who won't dump you during Big Trouble in Little China ("This is shit...it's me or this!" - no contest really) obviously.

Or one that didn't walk out of The Blob remake halfway thru' to have sex in her car with a guy she knew who just happened to be passing.

"Do you require any scissors sharpening?"

Finally however, in deepest darkest 1987, one of my art lecturers overheard a whispered discussion about the great man before joining us at the refectory table and uttering the immortal phrase "I've got some of his stuff on VHS, fancy borrowing it?"

I could have kissed her.

Tho' I decided to wait until the Christmas party to try and do that*.

Rewatching it more than thirty years later (and on shiny disc this time) it's amazing to see how well the film holds up (and in many ways surpasses) most modern lo-fi fayre being surprisingly strong in it's nightmarishly nihilistic atmosphere and with a story to match.

It's stylishly spooky with dozens of stand out sequences and effects that show how much can be done with a little flair and a lot of imagination (and a few bottles of Gin too). This is made all the more impressive when you realize that most (if not all) of the actors were friends of the director and that Marins handled the majority of the films technical and effects jobs himself.

He was like a hairer, slightly kinkier Orson Welles but obviously without something as shite as Fake on his CV.

Marins work was guerrilla film making at it's most extreme, putting modern day art bolloks like Antichrist to shame and showing it to be the souless shockarama that only exists to give snub-nosed middle classes something to chat about at dinner parties that it really is.

And his death earlier this year is just another reason to fucking hate 2020.

*Just in case anyone cares, after a few ales I did approach my - blonde, bequiffed and B-movie loving - art lecturer (no names please but let's just for the sake of argument call her Juliette) to express my love for her but was interrupted when she introduced me to her burly, rugby playing boyfriend.

Yes, you heard that right.

A burly rugby player.

With permed hair.

And an Adidas top.

That is all.






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