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At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (DVD Review)

At-MidnightI can’t tell you much about any experiences I have with At Midnight I’ll Take Your soul or any of the subsequent sequels.  The name “Coffin Joe” and seeing his look does ring some sort of bell.  I’m pretty well versed on a ton of horror history so I’ve probably come across some art or a photo or something, but I gotta admit to be being a novice here.  That’s all being taken care of now, as Synapse Films is bringing him into our homes (again) on DVD in a special edition (As well as the follow up film and then a trilogy collection).  This will be available on January 31st, but pre-order is up and running already.

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Film 

Coffin Joe is a mysterious undertaker in a small Brazilian town. He frowns upon religion and is bitter because his wife cannot bear him a child. After violently killing his wife with a venomous spider, the murder, mutilation and blasphemy escalates as Joe stops at nothing to find a new woman to continue his evil bloodline. The town’s gypsy has a warning for Coffin Joe… the spirits of those he killed may return to claim his soul! Will Coffin Joe escape the wrath of the dead and finally get the child he’s always wanted, or will unholy terror claim him for his hideous crimes?

At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is the first horror film from Brazil.  That’s its significance.  Its been on DVD before, but having it come through Synapse should make people more aware.  The film introduces us to a character named “Coffin Joe”, a mortician obsessed with immortality and bringing a son into the world to carry on his legacy and be immortal himself.  He’s an instantly iconic character, and a wicked one at that.  Some people may never have heard of this, or his name, but might recognize just the look.

While I’m not a big fan of this film, there is strength in its overall outline, characters and story that I could see that just didn’t seem to execute.  What we have here is a twisted Grimmer than Grimm Fairytale focusing more on the monster learning its lesson than an innocent.  It features the ideas of murder, deceit, betrayal, adultery and weaves it through supernatural ideas posed as being possibly true.  However, the film just feels slow, and its lead actor looks to think a little too much of himself and enjoying being in every frame (He’s also the director) to make it tighter or work.

Well, I’ve seen Coffin Joe now, and will also get to experience the sequel (Review coming soon!).  I enjoy to go back and take an historic look at it, but it really wasn’t my cup of tea.  The film kinda plods.  But, I will admit that this thing has a really strong, dark fairytale narrative that the film just doesn’t execute well or is just too dated.  A remake of this, with a Guillermo del Toro-like visionary behind the camera is something I’d be highly interested in seeing.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-2 NTSC

Resolution: 480i

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Layers: DVD-9

Clarity/Detail:  I’m guessing the elements from this just weren’t in the best shape, and a film like this is so niche that the money to put it through a grand restoration just isn’t there.  But, I think Synapse has done the best job possible in commendably putting it on DVD.  Grain is still intact, as well as print damage.  Details aren’t really abundant, but you do get a good clear image that feels true to the sources used.

Depth:  Eh, its a DVD, but there is some decent levels of smoothness and spacing done.  Movements are cinematic in nature.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and can carry heavy grain.  The usual standard definition kind of issues do occur and much detail is lost in darkness.

Color Reproduction:  N/A

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones keep a consistent white/gray look to them.  Most of the film is a little bleached out, but in some close ups, some solid detail can be made out.

Noise/Artifacts: Lots of hissing and popping in this track keeps the audio a little low at times and distorted in areas.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): Portuguese 2.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  This track is rather genuine and carries a strong crackle and hiss with it.  With a film of this age, condition and history, its expected and probably the best we’ll get.  Nobody is going to spend huge money to try something with this audio that is mostly a lost cause.  Sound effects are pretty good and the music probably as the be clarity and is the most full sounding of any of the aspects in the mix.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are marred down by the hiss and muffled sounded with some peaking and such.  Its just an old movie, that’s all there really is.  You can’t knock it for just being super old and a super early independent film in Brazil.

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Extras 

Play With Intro (SD, 2:10) – Coffin Joe himself gives a little intro to the movie while shouting and getting handsy on these two girls. Its more creepy than the movie is.

The Making Of At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (SD, 10:01) – The director goes through the trials and tribulations of making the film and all the flack he got (Like having a character eat meat on Good Friday.

Jose Mojica Marins Discusses His Short Film Reino Sangrento [1952] (SD, 8:53) – While scenes from the film play, the director goes over making it, things he learned and how it affected his Coffin Joe stuff.

Interview with Jose Mojica Marins (SD, 6:31) – Another interview with the director about his material

New Scene Filmed In 2002 (SD, 6:53) – With no attempt to make it fit, the scene is in color and while the actor playing Coffin Joe has aged, he has an attractive young actress in the part being redone. Its also shot on video or whatnot.  A little box plays the scene(s) from the movie that would go where its at.

Original Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:50) 

Rare Promotional Trailer (SD, 3:16)

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Summary 

At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is a little slice of horror and Brazilian film history, and I’m sure its got a following.  For those who, Synapse Films has put together a very nice DVD of the film.  Its got the best presentation you are likely to find, to go along with some rather meaty bonus features.  Recommended for fans only.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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