Movie Reviews 447 – This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse (1967)

I was thrilled to finally get my hands on one of the late Josė Mojica Marin‘s films. Better known by his alter ego “Coffin Joe” or Zé do Caixão, the character he portrays in his films, This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse is the second installment of a trilogy by the legendary Brazilian cult creator who perpetuated the mystique with his signature naturally long fingernails (there was a arcane reason for those), top hat and ghoulish cape.

It took more than forty years to complete the trilogy ending with Embodiment of Evil (2008) his very last feature film, and this one immediately follows the events in At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1964), the first film. I have not seen either of those others but this film has enough context from the first to make that unnecessary. The entire series centers on undertaker Zé’s quest to find the perfect woman to conceive his child that will be immortal and perpetuate his bloodline, one that he considered sacred and superior to all others.

The film begins with Zé returning to his home shantytown after having been found innocent of a string of murders due to a lack of evidence. Shunned by almost everyone except a few women who find his rebellious nature appealing, Zé with the help of his trusted scar-faced, hunchback servant Bruno quickly returns to the task of finding suitable mates. They quickly manage to lure six prospective women to his home and begin subjecting them to tests of obedience, fortitude and courage. One in particular, Marcia appears to be a standout, but when the others are shackled in a pit with poisonous snakes, even she balks hearing their dying cries.

With none of the girls satisfying his prerequisites Zé then turns to Laura the daughter of a Colonel who wields the real power in town and is Zé’s main adversary. Despite knowing about all his crimes, Laura professes and even proves her total devotion to Zé, scurrying to him during the middle of a feast celebrating her imminent engagement no less. But Zé learns that he has inadvertently murdered an unborn child. There is nothing more revered to him than the sanctity of a young life and upon learning of his accidental act, he descends into a state of pain and misery culminating in a nightmarish dream of being brought to hell. Upon waking up his ruse has unravelled and must once again face the justice being meted by an unruly mob.

Don’t let the fact that this was largely a low budget labour of love filmed by Coffin Joe and mostly  friends as actors. The film does suffer from a few long winded existential speeches by Zé that touch upon morality, justice and his “Immortality of blood” theology. But those moments aside this is a captivating film with some brilliantly filmed sequences. Filmed in black and white, Coffin Joe chose to film the hell segment in  gloriously nightmarish vibrant colors that would make Dante proud. The plot is quite complex with Zé being cursed at one point, Marcia manipulating a character that looks like a circus strongman, and an attempt to frame Laura’s brother. On the more salacious side, the abducted women are seductive with just a hint of nudity, while the horror is bolstered by a variety of scenes with spiders, maggots, snakes and mice. But as silly as some of it sounds, the film presents a surprisingly entertaining and solid story.

Rue Morgue issue 85

For most of his career Coffin Joe languished in obscurity because his movies were considered subversive by the conservative military dictatorship that ruled Brazil and kept his films from being exposed both at home and abroad. Thankfully they eventually got foreign DVD releases during the eighties which immediately catapulted him into the limelight and earned him the horror cult icon status he richly deserved and which he was able to relish before his passing.

My DVD by Fantoma Films only contained one short interview with Coffin Joe and a few stills as  extra features on the disc, but that was made up by the inclusion of a really nice “DVD sized” mini-comic inside with a nice Zombie story.  One last shout out I’d like to make here is to Rue Morgue magazine in which they featured Coffin Joe in their December 2008 issue. It was my introduction to him and if you can’t track down any of his films I would urge you to track down that issue for a comprehensive overview of his career.

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