An ultra-cheap B-horror movie, filmed in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1962, with a really creepy Twilight Zone
-style premise and some great shoestring atmosphere. Wandering into a small town after an auto accident, to begin her new job as a church organist, young Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) begins to pick up strange vibes: none of the normal people in town seem to be able to see her, and she keeps being accosted by freakish pasty-faced types who seem to be dead on their feet. The nightmarish finale benefits from its one-of-a-kind "found" setting, an empty amusement park rising like a ghostly castle from the prairie landscape. This is much less aggressive and violent film than George Romero's original Night of the Living Dead
, but for sheer skin- crawling spookiness, it's in the same class. --David Chute --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Herk Harvey's spooky little cult wonder, Carnival of Souls
(1962), was, according to the director, initially inspired by the spooky sight of the abandoned Salt Palace. The lonely, crumbling edifice standing on the beach of the Great Salt Lake became the setting for the film's memorably creepy climax. "We hoped for the look of a Bergman film and the feel of Cocteau," remarks Harvey on the commentary track of Criterion's deluxe DVD, but this low-budget labor of love more resembles the lyricism of Curtis Harrington's eerie fantasy, Night Tide
. In addition to the commentary track--edited together from interviews with Harvey and writer John Clifford and which leaves a few long gaps--Criterion's gorgeous double-disc set is packed with supplements. Two respectful 1989 documentaries produced by a Kansas TV station celebrate the film's rerelease with interviews, a cast and crew reunion, and a "then and now" tour of locations. Clips and short films from Harvey's industrial film company, Centron, are curious artifacts of a bygone era. The generous collection of outtakes (accompanied by the film's organ score) gets a bit tedious, but reveals some interesting experiments with special effects and the then-novel zoom lens. Criterion offers two different cuts of the film--the 85-minute director's cut and the shorter theatrical version trimmed of 7 minutes by the producers. Both prints are clean, clear, and luminescent. Carnival of Souls
probably never looked this good in the theaters. --Sean Axmaker