CARNIVAL OF SOULS
RELEASE DATE: Now Available on Blu-ray
WRITTEN BY: John Clifford
DIRECTED BY: Herk Harvey
STARRING: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger
CARNIVAL OF SOULS. It was absolutely ubiquitous on regional “chiller theater”–style broadcasts in my misspent youth. Bizarre, dream-like, and at times downright “arthaus,” this flick was unlike anything else shown on those types of programs. And as “off” as CARNIVAL seemed when viewed at a decent hour, it was nightmare fuel when viewed half asleep at 2 a.m. Above all else, it worked its way into my brain and stayed there and became a fast favorite. At the dawn of the home-video craze, CARNIVAL was even easier to come by, thanks to its public domain status allowing it to be featured on discount VHS tapes whose picture quality looked like it had been submerged in the briny depths for eternity like the film’s otherworldly denizens. … Speaking of which …
CARNIVAL OF SOULS concerns the adventures of Mary Henry, a survivor of a drag race gone horribly awry who resurfaces three hours after the crash. Mary eventually makes her way to Utah to take a position as a church organist, but along the way she begins to realize something is amiss as her radio will only play strange organ music and a pale-faced apparition begins to haunt her; which continues after she rents a room in town and begins work. What is the secret behind the seemingly supernatural goings-on and how does the strange abandoned pavilion in town factor in to the whole affair? I ain’t tellin’, my creeps!
Tightly paced, gorgeously shot, and every bit the American answer to the work of Bergman (whose films are echoed throughout with cinematography reminiscent of the great director … even the ghouls of the film bring to mind the figure of Death from Bergman’s THE SEVENTH SEAL), CARNIVAL OF SOULS is a full-on expressionistic masterpiece … and by Dagon does Criterion ever give it its due! I can’t recall ever seeing a film of this age presented with such a crystal-clear transfer (hell, many recent films don’t even look as good as CARNIVAL does here).
Along with that gorgeous presentation, the folks at Criterion saw fit to include an impressive array of bonus content. There’s a scene-specific commentary featuring interviews with director Herk Harvey and screenwriter John Clifford, archival documentaries and TV specials about the film and its locations, a video essay, a great interview with comedian Dana Gould (who really knows his horror biz ins and outs), a trailer, deleted scenes, industrial films for the Centron Corporation by director Harvey (his main occupation), and an essay about Centron (narrated by Gould).
To sum it all up, CARNIVAL OF SOULS is a unique, absolutely gorgeous horror flick that belongs on the shelf of each and every lover of the genre, and this release presents the film in a way that is second to none (plus those extras!!!). Highest Possible Recommendation here, my creeps!