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What I Watched Last Night

If you're going to get a hankering for a good black-and-white horror flick, just after midnight in that time that bridges Friday and Saturday is as good a time to get it. The folks running the Independent Film Channel certainly get it, because they had the presence of mind to present This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse, the subtitled 1967 sequel to At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul by Brazilian macabre master Jose Mojica Marins.

This one's even better than At Midnight because Marins demonstrates growth as a filmmaker - which basically means it's even more Felliniesque, there's considerably more screaming and cheesecake, the women are hotter, and Zé now has a hunchbacked assistant named Bruno.

Marins starred in and directed both films, which revolve around creepy town undertaker Zé do Caixo (also known as Coffin Joe). Interestingly, Marins is still an active director; over the past year, he's been working on the final installment of the Coffin Joe trilogy, Tomorrow At Midnight I'll Repossess Your Car.

The credit sequence of This Night opens with Zé looking quite dead from his previous encounter with soul-stealing. But soon enough, Zé comes strolling back into town, his trademark black top hat, cape, unibrow and curly-long fingernails shined up and looking unsettlingly like a whacked-out 1970s Burt Reynolds. For a corpse, Zé cleans up remarkably well, and he's still got one mission on his mind: to find the perfect woman who will immortalize him by giving him a son. His legend among the townsfolk is certain to outlive Adolf Hitler's because of all the sadism and murder Zé dished out in At Midnight, but still. "Immortality is in the blood," he proclaims.

Zé gets to it by setting up six village beauties in his undertaker house so he can decide which will be the perfect woman to bear him a son. The women aren't entirely happy with their current lot in life as daughters, wives and fiances, so it's pretty easy for the village's biggest dick in history to pull off something like this. If you've ever had your wife run off with the asshole building an addition onto your house, you can see how shit like this happens. His choice becomes clear when only love-hostage Marcia (Nadia Freitas) shows no fear during Zé's "test of courage" where the women are covered in their sleep by scores of crawling tarantulas. Zé's love hostages are the heaviest sleepers in history, so it takes them a good 10 minutes to feel their naked skin oozing with huge spiders (giving Marins plenty of cheesecake devotion time), but when they wake up, boy can these women ever scream and complain.

"Enough! I hate dramas," Zé yells. Zé apparently isn't too bright, because drama is pretty much what you ask for when you stick six women in the same room, with or without a giant box of tarantulas. His hunchback assistant Bruno is even dimmer; he takes Zé's gift of one of the love hostages, carries her off to another room, and promptly strangles her before he's actually able to do anything with her. "She was screaming," he says, just before pulling out his shopping to-do list and penciling in "duct tape."

Since Zé was in a giving mood, he could have gifted Bruno with the remaining four love hostage castoffs, since even bigger morons and Bret Michaels could work with with those sort of odds. But Zé's a sadistic cocksucker, so he promises them "peace fortune, and supreme happiness" by leading them into a room that ends up being filled with snakes in a very bad mood. If the snakes weren't bad enough, he makes them watch his seduction of Marcia through a sliding window next to the bed.

"You will never have a son!" screams one the love hostages - looking a lot like a Stone Ponys-era Linda Ronstadt - who manages to place a curse on Zé while being strangled by a boa constrictor." And before you can imagine, I will retun and avenge my death . . . Be afraid, for at midnight I will possess your corpse."

Zé heard nonsense like that in his last go-around, and he came out none the worse for wear. So he finds this whole curse business tremendously amusing. Marcia gets annoyed at watching women die before her eyes, so she breaks it off with Zé, who with the help of Bruno dumps the bodies of the dead love hostages in a swamp. Later, village beauty Laura returns from a long stint at community college and is immediately impressed by Zé's manhandling of village strongman Truncador, a bald fellow with a crazy eye who appears to have fallen off a circus wagon. Laura's an even bigger love connection than Marcia because she shares Zé's atheistic tendencies and belief in "the union between two perfect people," so she agrees to meet him in a dark alley at midnight. Dead Linda Ronstadt fails to show up at the promised hour for Zé's soul or corpse or even a new singing career. "I don't mind being the mistress of the devil," Laura tells Zé. She doesn't even mind having a razor put to her neck and drawing blood either, so off they go to his love nest.

School girls like this in the world and people actually need to wonder why the Girls Gone Wild series is so damn popular.

Meanwhile, Zé deals with his biggest neighborhood detractor in typical sadistic fashion by crushing his head between two huge blocks of granite after trying it out first on a white mouse. "If you end up in heaven say hello to the angels. And if you end up in hell, give the devil my address." The hapless fellow, lacking a utility belt to get out of the same exact jam Batman and Robin found themselves in so many times, gets his head squished in fine, bloody fashion.

However, the highlight of the film is Zé's vision/dream - filmed in color - of Hell, where everyone who isn't chained to a wall crawls around naked getting flogged and stuck by demons with pitchforks or getting whapped in the forehead with a hammer and a chrome spike. I'm not sure which of the nine circles of Hell Zé landed in, but it snows there, the walls are lit up in groovy-colored lights and have moving limbs growing out of them, and there's plenty of uninterrupted, anguished screaming. So lock up any acid and peyote that might be lying about.

If there's a Hell there must certainly be a Heaven, so now Zé's a seriously torn man. The rest of the movie features a mob scene complete with burning torches, Zé's decision whether to save Laura or their love child, and Zé meeting up in a swamp with the remains of either his love hostages or some townspeople who had been chasing him earlier - I'm not quite sure which. Either way, Zé would have been better off pleading for the village priest to toss him a rope or a life preserver instead of a crucifix.

For good measure, Marins closes the film with "fim" instead of "fin" so there's no mistake in anyone's mind that you didn't just spend all this time watching a French film.

*

The Discovery Channel's always-popular Shark Week kicked off on Sunday. In a brilliantly creative promo spot, Richard Dreyfuss voices over an underwater scene of men crowded around the outside of a life raft.

"When the USS Indianapolis sank in open waters, her surviving crew prayed they would be found. Unfortunately . . . (dramatic pause while a shark swims past) . . . they were."

Jose Mojica Marins would give it a thumbs up.

*

See what else Scott Buckner and the Beachwood TV Desk has been watching.



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Posted on July 30, 2007


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