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Movie Review: 2001 CUFF: Coffin Joe & Inside The Eye Of Scorpio Rising

I had desperately wanted to see Coffin Joe: The Strange World of Jose Mojica Marins back in March at the New York Underground Film Festival, but had not the stamina to stay the night it screened, so I was more than happy to catch up with it again. Apparently, according to my Chicago hostess, who has a film playing in this Chicago Underground Film Festival, several films seem to “follow” each other from fest to fest, particularly these UFF types.

However, Coffin Joe was preceded by the short Inside the Eye of Scorpio Rising, a remix of the classic avant-garde flick by Kenneth Anger. I had never seen Mr. Anger before, giving interviews and such, but he described making his work as if he had filmed it yesterday instead of 1963.

I had seen Anger’s Scorpio Rising many years ago at the Dryden Theater in Rochester, NY, when I was going to film school at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I don’t/didn’t remember it much other than sketchy images from the Halloween Party sequence.

Inside the Eye of Scorpio Rising, by Jon Ausbrooks, solves the interview documentary “talking head” dilemma with a creative use of a split-screen. Most of the screen is filled with selections from Scorpio Rising while Anger discusses the film in a smaller box that bounces from corner to corner. The rest of the screen is fleshed-out with other relevant images, not from the film itself, but cunningly related and selected, I assume, by Jon. This piece, too, according to the CUFF program book is only a selection from a larger piece about Anger. Should be interesting.

I had never heard of Coffin Joe, or his alter ego Jose Mojica Marins, prior to the 2001 NYUFF and it’s the good documentary that makes you want to learn more about its subject after the doc is done. That’s exactly what Coffin Joe did. Not a perfect, or great, doc, Coffin Joe by Andre Barcinski and Ivan Finotti is nevertheless and interesting and respectful portrait of a truly cult legend.

Jose Mojica Marins is a self-taught filmmaker from Brazil who started making peculiarly twisted, disturbing and disgusting horror films in the early ’60s, at the same time that Herschell Gordon Lewis was pioneering American gore flicks with Blood Feast.

The only thing the doc Coffin Joe failed to explain was how/why Marins created the “Brazilian Dracula” character of Coffin Joe, played by Marins and featured in several of his films. Tho’ I haven’t seen any actual Coffin Joe movies, I was struck by the extreme personal tone of the clips shown in the doc.

For example, when Marins became disillusioned by the Catholic Church, he expressed his frustrations through film. Instead of exploiting the horror genre as if it were a simple commodity, he used horrific imagery to explore deeply personal and political issues. One of Marins’ most extreme films, Awakening of the Beast, a cautionary tale of violent youth and repressive authority, was banned by the Brazilian government for almost 20 years.

Marins himself is an intriguing character, able to spin endless fascinating yarns, so it’s easy to see why he would make a great subject for a documentary. However, I did find the film a little too talky and a little lacking in the peripheral characters telling their tales, e.g. Marins’ son, a woman I’m only assuming was his wife, and a screenwriter whom I’m not sure exactly what he wrote for Marins, if anything.

This review sounds like I was pretty confused by this flick, but I was completely charmed by Marins, particularly at the beginning when he proudly showed off his comic book collection: Horror movies & comic books, a man after my own heart!

It was also interesting to find out what happens to old horror directors who have run through the entire gamut of every single solitary form of grotesquerie imaginable. How does one top oneself? By filming bestiality porno flicks! Marins claims he made the first film ever of a woman making love to a dog. In the “plot” of Marins’ porno, the woman’s boyfriend gets revenge on his dog-fucking girlfriend by having sex with a mule. Luckily, neither of these animal-screwing scenes is shown in Coffin Joe, but they’re talked about at length.

Continue on to 2001 CUFF: The Biograph Theater.

Go back to 2001 CUFF: En Route.


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