Carnival of Souls [Special Edition] [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1962]

Fans of this legendary cult classic will be more than satisfied with The Criterion Collection's two-disc DVD release of Carnival of Souls. The first disc contains the original (shorter) theatrical release of the chilling B-movie cheapie, close to an hour of eerie outtakes, a charming 1989 public television documentary on the film's history, and much more. The second disc houses the slightly longer director's cut that was seen in theaters in 1989, an hour of additional outtakes, and many other extras that fanatics will happily devour and casual viewers will ignore. While Carnival of Souls remains an exceptionally well-made chiller (think of a feature-length episode of the Twilight Zone shot like a shoestring 8 1/2), this DVD shows that the story behind the film is just as interesting. Carnival of Souls was the only feature that producer/director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford were ever able to squeeze in between their steady flow of industrial films. These two saw little of the films' profits and their fellow Kansans hated their quirky art house horror flick. The movie was very influential for George Romero, a fellow industrial filmmaker who struck gold with the terrifying Night of the Living Dead. Romero was able to leave industrial films for a long career in features, but Harvey and Clifford stayed in Kansas. Even leading lady Candace Hilligoss and the movie's other actors went on to other things. Decades later Carnival of Souls is rediscovered and the talent behind it is feted around the world. Watching these filmmakers and actors finally get the praise and attention they always deserved is gratifying and moving. Another fine DVD package from The Criterion Collection.
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Overview

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Special Features

  • New digital transfer of original theatrical version
  • "The Movie That Wouldn't Die! The Story of Carnival of Souls": documentary on the 1989 reunion of the cast and crew
  • More than 45 minutes of rare outtakes accompanied by Gene Moore's organ score
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Illustrated history of the Saltair resort in Salt Lake City
  • "The Carnival Tour": video update on the film's locations
  • English subtitles
  • Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition
  • Selected audio commentary by screenwriter John Clifford and late director Herk Harvey
  • One hour of excerpts from films made by the Centron Corporation
  • An essay of the history of Centron from Ken Smith's Mental Hygiene
  • Printed interviews with Harvey, Clifford, and star Candace Hilligoss, illustrated with vintage photos and memorabilia

Synopsis

Carnival of Souls
A drag race turns to tragedy when one car, with three young women inside, topples over a bridge and into the muddy river below. The authorities drag the river, but the search is fruitless and the girls are presumed dead until a single survivor stumbles out of the water with no recollection of how she escaped. Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) decides to forget her strange experience and carry on with her plan to move to Utah to accept a job as a church organist. She rejects the notion that because her profession leads her to work in the church, she is obligated to worship as part of the congregation, and this cold approach to her work unnerves many around her. While driving to the new city, she experiences weird visions of a ghoulish man who stares at her through the windshield, and passes an abandonded carnival on a desolate stretch of highway outside of town to which she feels strangely drawn. Mary tries to live her life in private, ignoring invitations to worship by the minister of her church and the leering propositions of a neighbor in her rooming house. Soon the ghostly apparition from the highway is appearing more often, and she experiences eerie spells in which she becomes invisible to people on the street. A doctor tries to help, but he too is rejected, and eventually Mary realizes that the deserted carnival holds the secret to her destiny. ~ Fred Beldin, Rovi

Cast & Crew

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    Candace Hilligoss - Mary Henry
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    Frances Feist - Landlady
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    Sidney Berger - John Linden
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    Art Ellison - Minister
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    Ted Adams

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