Monday, October 14, 2013

Carnival of Souls (1962)

A car full of young boys challenge a car of girls to a race. It ends with the girl's car falling off a bridge. Several hours later rescuers are still searching for the car when they are surprised to find one of the occupants alive and unhurt. Seemingly unaffected by the incident, she leaves for her first job as a church organist.

Along the way she sees an abandoned carnival and is strangely drawn to it. She is frightened by the ghoulish face of a man that others cannot see. She comes to realize that the traumatic incident appears to have transformed her. She feels disconnected from other people. Strange things happen to her. I will say no more.

This must be the lowest of the low budget movies I've reviewed. And among the best. The acting ranges from serviceable to revolting. The dialog is forgettable. Some of the scenes, the opening car chase in particular, are terrible. Clearly 17k didn't go very far back in the early 60's.

The movie appears to have been done as a lark. Writer/Director/Producer/Principle Ghoul Herk Harvey was a maker of educational shorts (who can forget the classic "Why Study Home Economics?") when he saw the abandoned Saltair grounds and thought it would make a great setting. Three weeks later the movie was in the can. It is Harvey's only feature film. A financial flop, it also may have stunted the career of the lead actress Candace Hilligoss (her agent dropped her after seeing it).

So why do I love it so much? The story line is very original, the scenes (particularly the ones without dialog) are very well done, and it's absolutely creepy. It demands to be remade, and I don't mean that steaming pile of crap from 1998. Take the original story, film it in black and white, set it at the same time period, but rewrite much of the dialog. Get some good actors, do a good opening scene, but leave much of the framework in place (I'd lose the doctor character). Oh, the things I'd do had I money to piss away.

We have a flawed gem that works despite of, and sometimes because of it's flaws. What better way to express feeling disconnected from people than to act like a piece of wood? So I leave you with a question. Zombie movie? Ghost movie? Both? Neither? I have my opinion. See the film. AMRU 4. The TCM copy looked better than the PD version.

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