The Strange Oeuvre of Coffin Joe, Part 2

...Continued from Part 1.

Update 2/12/24: As covered in Part 4, Arrow has just released a boxed set of HD restorations of many of Marins' films called Inside the Mind of Coffin Joe, so I'm updating these comparisons with their new blu-ray versions.

The Strange World of Coffin Joe
(1968) was actually made and released before Awakening Of the Beast, and in some ways feels at least a bit more like a proper Coffin Joe film, so it's a little odd they chose Awakenings over this for the Fantoma set. At least it's another horror film. But I suppose the strongest argument against its inclusion was that, despite the film's title, Coffin Joe the character doesn't really appear in this film at all. Marins is in it, though, as a diabolical villain who does some pretty similar things to his victims; but he's without the signature top hat, and no longer on the same mission to sire an heir.
The Strange World is an anthology film, no doubt inspired by the Amicus anthologies which had already started in the 60s. We have three stories presented here. The first is about a doll maker who's robbed a gang of hooligans, but has a sinister secret that makes them regret their act. Next is a weird story with no dialogue about a balloon dealer who falls for a girl and isn't deterred in making love to her even after seeing her get murdered. And the third and final entry is the one to finally bring Marins on screen, as a professor who kidnaps a fellow professor and his wife, performing experiments on them to prove a twisted theory. All together, it's really not as compelling as the original Coffin Joe films, but horror anthologies are always fun, and it is satisfying to have Marins back delivering his mad monologues for the final act.
1) 2009 Anchor Bay DVD; 2) 2012 Cinemagia DVD; 3) 2024 Arrow BD.
We're down to comparing three discs: Cinemagia, Anchor Bay and Arrow. And in this case, they're all framed as fullscreen, with the BD just shifting to the usual 1.37 from 1.30, revealing more on the right-hand side in particular.  The two DVDs seem to be a dead even match in terms of clarity and detail. Like Awakening, Anchor Bay has a slight yellowish tint, but it's not downright yellow as the first two films were.  But if you're looking at the screenshots, you don't even need me to tell you that Arrow's new 4k scan (taken from the 35mm interpositive and a print) blow the old transfers away.  It's like night and day, the way shading and detail are restored.

Of course, Arrow's audio is lossless and Anchor Bay's subtitles are still burnt in. The latter's a slight drag, although I doubt many of us are going to watch this with the subtitles off anyway.
If you've been reading along since Part 1 of my Coffin Joe coverage, you probably already know what to expect in terms of extras. Absolutely nothing from Anchor Bay, and a whole heap of terrific-sounding but untranslated extras from Cinemagia. And you'd be right. Specially, the list of Cimemagia's extras are: another intro, another commentary, a second commentary this time, four more audio recordings, an extracted fourth segment made for this anthology that runs 31 minutes(!), audio commentary for that fourth segment, 7 interviews, an on-camera radio interview with Marins, a making of doc and outtakes about the Coffin Joe claymation piece, another interview with Marins, another episode of Who's Afraid, five more galleries, the website piece and a bunch of trailers.

Arrow brings over just one of the commentaries for us, but that's still one more than we've ever had before.  Another really interesting extra on this disc is an alternate ending.  Censors pressured Marins to create a happy ending where the villain is punished, which played in theaters in Brazil.  Well, now we get that as an extra, with or without commentary by Marins.  Besides that, there's the trailer and two more expert visual essays, which I discuss in Part 4.
We really leave horror behind now for 1971's End of Man.  We also leave black and white behind as Marins enters the (mostly) full color world as a mysterious, nameless and naked man who walks out of the ocean and might just be the second coming. He basically walks around being completely passive, and everybody's reactions to him wind up drastically changing their lives. And he winds up attracting followers. It's kind of a religious allegory played for broad laughs, with a soundtrack that plays muzack versions of "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head." It's playful, Marins is in a lighter mood walking around in a red robe and turban, and people looking for sex and nudity will find some; but I still found it to be a heavy-handed slog to sit through.
1) 2009 Anchor Bay DVD; 2) 2012 Cinemagia DVD; 3) 2024 Arrow BD.
I originally wrote that my opinion of this film probably wasn't helped by the fact that the transfers look muddy, soft and desaturated. It looks better now in HD, but I'm not sure I like the movie much better. Both DVDs have certain (but different) interlaced/ ghosting frames, and they're both fullframe at 1.30:1.  Judging by the head room in many shots, I'd guess this was at least supposed to be matted to 1.66:1, but Arrow is sticking with 1.37:1. Anchor Bay again has that slight yellow tint to it, and the subtitles are burnt in as always. Otherwise I can't see either DVD being any better than the other; detail and sharpness seem to be equal. But Arrow's 4k from original 35mm negative is so much more attractive, with strong contrast and bold colors.  It's way sharper and clearer, and of course the audio is lossless.  Grain is a little soft, but I wouldn't hold my breath for a UHD.  Then again, I never would've believed there would be an End Of Man blu-ray either, yet here we are.
How does Cinemagia top Anchor Bay's barren feature collection of nothing this time? Let's look at what hasn't been translated this time. An original Coffin Joe intro, an audio commentary, four more audio recordings, a 50 minute "autobiography" film by Marins, clips from two films Marins didn't make that he appears in, 6 interviews, an interview with his webmaster (I think), a behind-the-scenes look at the recording of their audio commentaries, a music video by Liz Vamp, another Marins interview, another episode of Who's Afraid, their website thing (oh, and I'm certain they're all different now), and a bunch of trailers and stills galleries. Oh, how I wish I could understand what they were saying... Arrow's collection we can understand: another commentary (yay!) and the trailer.
Thank goodness, Coffin Joe returns in Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind (1978). This is kind of a fun "meta" horror, along the lines of Wes Craven's New Nightmare but obviously decades earlier. A doctor is haunted by nightmarish visions of Coffin Joe. His colleagues can't cure him, so they enlist Marins, playing himself, the director of the Coffin Joe movies, to help. This is the first full-length Coffin Joe film since This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse, ten years earlier. But it loses a little of its punch by not having Joe as the protagonist this time around. And, like Cat In the Brain, Marins cheats by using clips from his past films as the nightmares the doctor is having. It's definitely a bit of a clip show episode, but at least Joe's back.
1) 2009 Anchor Bay DVD; 2) 2012 Cinemagia DVD; 3) 2024 Arrow BD.
More soft, muddy transfers with the same 1.28:1 framing. Anchor Bay looks yellowish again, and this time noticeably brighter as well. Blacks might be getting a bit crushed, but I still prefer Cinemagia. And again, AB's subtitles are burnt in. But none of that matters now.  Arrow's new 4k scan comes from the original 35mm negative and looks beautiful, worlds away from what we had before.  The colors are strong and corrected to look much more realistic, the framing has been tweaked to 1.37:1 revealing more around the edges, the audio's lossless and we have a clear, genuinely HD image that's just a whole different viewing experience from the fuzzy old DVDs.
Say it with me, gang: Anchor Bay has nothing; Cinemagia has a wealth of un-dubbed or subtitled extras. Specifically, Cinemagia has: a new intro, an audio commentary, 4 more recordings, a 40 minute documentary about Marins from 1978 called Horror Palace Hotel, 3 clips of films Marins presumably worked on, 7 interviews, a clip of Marins appearing at a rock performance, another interview with Marins, another episode of Who's Afraid, another website clip, more trailers and more galleries.  And Arrow has another commentary, the trailer and two more visual essays by experts, including one who puts in the extra effort to dress up as Coffin Joe and dramatically light his room, which I do appreciate.  But they're not film specific, and Arrow puts two films on each disc, so it's hard to even say which films to credit the experts' pieces to.  So really, just refer to Part 4 for a proper break down of those.
The year before Hallucinations, Marins made 1977's Hellish Flesh. This wasn't included in the other set because it was an Anchor Bay exclusive, at least before Arrow came into the picture. I knew I bought AB's box for a reason... Well, Hellish Flesh is not a Coffin Joe movie, but it is a horror film with Marins as the bad guy. He's a scientist who spends to much time at the lab, so his wife cheats on him. She and her lover plot to kill him by burning down the lab (and throwing acid in his face for good measure), but the scientist survives, as a disfigured madman now out for revenge. This is a real, classical-style horror tale; a throwback. That works in its favor compared to some of his weaker, less entertaining films like End of Man, but the fact that its more conventional means it doesn't rise to the heights of his greatest works either.
1) 2009 Anchor Bay DVD; 2) 2024 Arrow BD.
We finally have something to compare this full-frame transfer to.  The DVD already looked a little better than the last couple films we saw (though the subtitles are as burnt in as ever).  Perhaps they had the negatives for this one.  Arrow certainly did.  We go from 1.29:1 to 1.37:1, revealing more picture horizontally and vertically.  Damage is cleaned up, washed colors and shadows are boldened, the audio is clearer and fine detail is a heap crisper.  Grain is strong and filmic... you really feel the 4k master on this one. 

As ever, Anchor Bay had no extras, and since Cinemagia didn't feature this film, there's nothing for Arrow to port over or not port over.  So no commentary, unfortunately.  We just get the trailer and the visual essays if we're counting those.
Hellish Flesh wasn't the only Anchor Bay set exclusive. Even before that film, Marins directed 1976's Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures. Despite what you might gather from the title, this is actually a Coffin Joe film, although his character isn't quite as prominent as in the main trilogy. We get a hell of a colorful, wacked out introduction of exotic characters bringing Coffin Joe back from the dead. After the credits, the film is a bit more grounded as a variety of strangers arrive to stay the night at a hostel run by Marins, not quite in Coffin Joe form. Things get weird, time stops, and they each have their own little narrative a la Tales From the Crypt. There are some goofy "naked pleasures" on hand - it does live up to that promise - but it's definitely more of a horror film than anything else.
1) 2009 Anchor Bay DVD; 2) 2024 Arrow BD.
More fullscreen interlacing frames and burnt in subtitles on the DVD.  And another huge 4k fix from the original 35mm negative on the BD.  We go from 1.29 to 1.37 and the colors are corrected, though they weren't as bad on this DVD as many of their others.  Still, Arrow gives us another strong improvement, from the fundamentals like fixing the interlacing and displaying more picture on the sides, to giving us another sharp, naturally filmic image with actual grain and LPCM audio.

Anchor Bay gave it no extras but Arrow unearthed the trailer and added a bunch of odds and ends I'll save for Part 4.
The Strange World of Jose Mojica Marins (2001) is a new (at the time - now it's twenty-three years old. Where does the time go?) documentary about our hero. Not to be confused with The Universe of Mojica Marins, this is a more substantial, 65 minute doc that had been exclusive to the Anchor Bay set. But now it's also available on the Arrow set.  So while you have to hang onto your Fantoma, Cinemagia, Mondo Macabro and Synapse DVDs for their exclusive extras, you can at least safely chuck your Anchor Bay box.  Strange World is a cool overview of his life and career. We see Marins at home, talking about his childhood and his life as a filmmaker. For such an interesting person, this kind of documentary is essential. It's full-frame in both sets (Arrow tweaks it just slightly from 1.31 to 1.34), and doesn't look much improved visually, since a lot of it is pretty rough vintage clips and early digital footage; but the subtitles are only burnt in on the AB, and Arrow did also fix the interlacing, so it is an actual step up.
Finally, we have Embodiment of Evil (2009), Marins' comeback film where he finally completes the Coffin Joe trilogy. He has a surprisingly big budget and great technical look here, and the story is everything you would want it to be. Marins hasn't lost his touch, and Joe hasn't missed a step in his quest for a woman to give him a son. The fact Joe looks older and Brazil looks modern is easily explained by the fact that Joe has been sitting in prison for the last 40 years (which makes sense, given what he did in those past movies). I don't know how young horror fans would feel stumbling upon this film if they'd never seen the original Coffin Joe films; but for longtime fans, it's a real crowd pleaser. If you've seen his past films but avoided this one because you anticipated a big let down, I'd say it's safe, you should check it out.

This was originally released by Anchor Bay in 2009, on DVD and BD. At the time, I was just buying DVDs, so that's the first one I have here.  Then, Synapse released it as a BD/ DVD combo pack in 2011, which they also reissued on DVD as part of their 2017 Coffin Joe Trilogy set.  It's the exact same DVD from 2011. But Arrow's new 2024 has a noticeably different appearance.
1) 2009 Anchor Bay DVD; 2) 2011 Synapse DVD;
3) 2011 Synapse BD; 4) 2024 Arrow BD.
Anchor Bay's DVD is interlaced (I understand their BD is, too, though I haven't seen it to confirm), likely from a hasty NTSC to PAL conversion. It's also worth noting that Synapse's blu-ray is a dual-layer disc, while AB's is single. Synapse went back to the camera negative (it says so right on the back of the box) to strike a new transfer of Embodiment, and it's certainly quite noticeable. The framing's the same, but the colors are more natural on the Synapse disc, and the Anchor Bay is decidedly darker and smudgier. To be fair, though, I think the Syanpse disc could stand to be a shade darker.

And we got maybe two or three shades darker on Arrow's new blu.  Arrow has just sourced the original 2k digital intermediate, not taken a new 4k scan of the neg, but when you get in close, it definitely displays stronger grain.  It's certainly got more contrast.  So some of this boils down to personal taste as to which look is better, but I'd say Arrow's given it a tiny boost at least.  Oh, and every disc preserves the dual 2.0 and 5.1 audio options, both lossless on the blus, with optional English subtitles.
Coffin Joe, as seen in one of his many exclusive Cinemagia intros.
AB and Synapse mostly share the same extras (an enjoyable 30+ minute 'making of' and the trailer), except Synapse one-ups AB with an additional 14 minute featurette on the film's premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival, where Coffin Joe speaks to a very large, enthusiastic crowd. The sound quality makes it a little hard to make out some of the words, but you certainly don't miss the showmanship as Marins is carried out in a large coffin by two burly men surrounded by... creatively dressed women.

Arrow has all of the above, plus plenty more, including another audio commentary by the producer and screenwriter, several deleted scenes with commentary, which include some interesting and graphic excised bits, and an "experimental" making of, which is actually kind of tough to watch... sort of taking the making of stuff and turning it into a music video.  There are also two very brief (as in, like, two minutes each) featurettes on the special effects and storyboards, and two lengthy interviews with the co-writer, one is a long zoom chat with a festival host that runs for almost 90 minutes.  And the other is split into two parts, in much better picture quality, where he talks about how he met Marins and his experiences working with him.  All together, I'd say Embodiment finally has a full-on special edition disc.
There are plenty more Marins films out in the world, even with Coffin Joe in them, but these are most of the biggest.  There's tons of TV work, and apparently porn... but there's more quality stuff, too.  And there's even a bit more on disc.  That's right; the story doesn't end here.  Read on for Part 3.

For more info on Arrow's blu-ray box set specifically, you can jump ahead to Part 4.  And if anybody sees fit to restore and release more of the man's work, best believe I'll be waiting to create a Part 5.


  1. Another great write-up. However, EMBODIMENT OF EVIL was actually shot on 35mm film, not digital. Based on what I've read about Anchor Bay UK's less-than-stellar DVD, I can understand the mistake! I seem to recall Don May telling me they were unhappy with the HD master supplied by the licensor (the one used for the UK releases), so they actually had a new scan made from the original camera negative for their Blu-Ray -- I had both the ABUK and Synapse Blus, and I'm pretty sure you can guess which one comes out on top.

    1. Oh really? That's interesting. Sounds like one more reason for me to bite the bullet and upgrade.

    2. You were right! I just updated this post with a full-on comparison with the Synapse release. :)

  2. I think you have the Embodiment of Evil comparisons mixed up. I can tell from the quality you have Arrow transfer where the AB transfer's suppose to be and the Synapse Blu where its DVD counterpart's suppose to be (and all vice versa).

    1. Oh yes, well spotted! I had them in reverse order. Fixed it, thanks! =)