Saturday, May 16, 2009

Movie Review: At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964)

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul

AT MIDNIGHT I'LL TAKE YOUR SOUL - Coffin Joe - Cover Image
(À Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma)

Directed by José Mojica Marins
Written by Waldomiro França, Rubens Francisco Luchetti, José Mojica Marins & Magda Mei José

Mojica Marins .... Zé do Caixão (Coffin Joe)
Magda Mei .... Terezinha de Oliveira Nivaldo
Lima .... Antônio de Andrade
Valéria Vasquez .... Lenita Ilídio
Martins Simões .... Dr.Rodolfo

"What is life? It is the beginning of death. What is death? It is the end of life. What is existence? It is the continuity of blood. What is blood? It is the reason to exist." 

Zé is a morbid and twisted funeral director with an unnatural disregard for life and a venomous hatred for religion. When he is angered, he loses his temper and the camera zooms into an eye-morphing effect that is strikingly similar to The Incredible Hulk. His wrathful actions combined with the fact that he looks like a TV spookshow host make him the most feared and revered man in town. So much so that when he severs a man's finger with a broken wine bottle, all the witnesses agree that it was an accident. He is a walking contradiction, though, and when the doctor arrives to care for his victim, Zé insists that he pays the bill.


To further contradict himself, despite his disregard for life his greatest desire is to bring a son into this world. His wife Lenita is unable to bear children and so he sets his sights on Ternzinha, unmindful of the fact that she is engaged to his best friend Antonio. Thinking that Ternzinha rejected him because of his wife, he returns home and promptly kills her, making it seem like an accident.

Weeks after Lenita's death, Zé goes along with his friends to visit a gypsy. He scoffs at her supposed powers as she warns him that he will pay for his sins by an eternity in hell, and that when his final day comes his soul will be taken at midnight.


Next in line is Antonio, who Zé bludgeons while engaging in a theological discussion. With him out of the way, Ternzinha should be his. She's outraged and disgusted by him, however, and so he beats her until she submits. Not wanting to bear his child, she takes matters into her own hands. Having lost everyone that mattered to him (as much as anyone can matter to such a madman), Zé is alone in the world.

After a series of strange events, Zé goes through a crisis of faith--or unfaith as the case may be--and wouldn't you know it? Sooner or later, midnight rolls around.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I rented this film. Foreign, black-&-white, low budget. Seemed like a shot in the dark, but I was completely blown away. It's not often that I feel like giving a standing ovation in the privacy of my own home. At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul surpassed its budgetary limitations and turned out to be an artfully done masterpiece. Look at the effects used to transition from one scene to another. They're astoundingly well done considering the time period.

Even the special effects work well for the most part, only disappointing or "hokey" on two occasions: one, the tinsel-like aura that surrounds a spirit making him look like the ghost of Christmas past (it was actually achieved by gluing glitter to the original negative); and two, the rather ridiculous looking owl-puppet that flies from a cemetery tree. These images are fleeting and relatively unimportant, however, and do little to take away from the worth of the film.

Extras on the DVD include theatrical trailers for At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse, and Awakening Of The Beast, as well as a 10-minute interview with José Mojica Marins (complete with subtitles.)

92 minutes
Black & White
Portuguese (with English subtitles)




  1. THANK YOU for this review, I couldnt agree more, I asked for the Coffin Joe trilogy on a blind buy because it was cheap at the time and it was in a coffin case. I had no idea of the awesomeness that was to come! Very happy to see it making its rounds, Im sure it will find a whole new cult following in the coming years thanks to reviews like this one!

  2. Coffin Joe is one of my personal heroes, I even dressed up as the fucker a few years ago at Halloween. Defo check out the sequels if you dug this.

  3. "It's not often that I feel like giving a standing ovation in the privacy of my own home."

    Ha ha! I can totally relate... and you're right, At Midnight totally deserved it! I love it when a movie you're not expecting anything from turns out to be fantastic.


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