Friday, October 12, 2012

Awakening of the Beast (1970)

Awakening Of The Beast

Directed by José Mojica Marins
Written by Rubens F. Lucchetti & José Mojica Marins

José Mojica Marins...Himself/Zé do Caixão
Sérgio Hingst...Dr. Sergio
Andreia Bryan...Girl
Mario Lima...Mario

Drug use. Violence. Sexual perversion. What's wrong with the world today? Well, if you ask the critics, it's the films of Jose Mojica Marins. Apparently over in Brazil his films are so controversial (and thus repeatedly banned) that they were blamed for many of the social and national evils. Upon surviving the hot seat on a network television show, Marin was inspired to produce what many consider his masterpiece.

Awakening of the Beast opens with Coffin Joe rising from his namesake coffin and delivering a rather odd speech: "My world is strange indeed, but it is not worthy to all those that I am willing to accept. And never corrupt as some may want to portray it. It is made up of strange people, though none are stranger than you!" But is it Coffin Joe or is it Marins who is speaking? Or is there no difference between the two?

Marins plays himself surrounded by critics and defending himself and his films on a panel discussion television show. They lead us on a series of bizarre flashbacks that show us the "extremes of human nature." We get stripteases, hallucinations, protest songs, adultery, death and a myriad of illegal substances. We learn that one of the panelists, Dr. Sergio, had conducted an experiment to test the limits of Marins' influence. Rounding up a group of four drug addicts--2 men and 2 women, all from different social classes--he subjected them to a late night viewing of Marins second Coffin Joe feature, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse and then has them mainline with what he claims is LSD. Each subject is "visited" by Coffin Joe himself who takes them on a guided tour of their own personal Heaven & Hell, and all kinds of crazy things happen that make you say "what the…?"

The good (?) doctor shares his findings with the rest of the panel, although I'm not quite sure what they determined. Of course it's ridiculous to blame an artist for the world's troubles, but look at that devilish smile Marins leaves us with. He knows he's not guilty, but sometimes it's fun to pretend.

Although I found this film amusing and it did hold my interest throughout, in my eyes it couldn't live up to the sheer genius of At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul. Maybe I wanted a little more Coffin Joe for my buck and a little less tripped-out go-go girls. This wasn't meant to be a true continuation of the Coffin Joe legacy, however, but more of a big F.U. to his detractors, and at least it succeeds at that. The camera work tended to be shaky and some of the editing was sloppy, but it was all rather beautiful in an art house purple haze kind of way. Switching from black-&-white to color for the LSD scenes was a subtle stroke of inspiration, to say the least.

Give it a shot if you're a fan of drug exploitation films or just want to try something new.

This Fantoma release DVD features a short interview with Marins and trailers for three other Coffin Joe titles.

ALSO KNOWN AS: Despertar da Besta, O; Ritual dos Sadicos; Ritual of the Maniacs;

1970
Unrated
93 minutes
Black & White/Color
Brazil
Portuguese (with English subtitles)

"My body is tainted, but my heart is pure as a flower."
--J/Metro

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you - this really is a giant middle finger to the censors. Reminds me of Fulci's Cat in the Brain in a way... very little point other than to shock, but hey, at least it's entertaining! I remember the color 'LSD' sequence being a blast.

    Also, the scariest part of any Coffin Joe film for me is by far his fingernails... *shudder*

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