• Video Essay - Coffin Joe's Bloody Exorcism



    Rock! Shock! Pop! is proud to host Paul A.J. Lewis' latest video essay, a deep dive into one of the strangest films from one of fandom's most iconic filmmakers, Coffin Joe.

    Without further ado, take it away Paul!

    Exorcismo Negro (Bloody Exorcism, Jose Mojica Marins, 1974)

    By Paul A.J. Lewis

    In 1964, with his first horror picture À Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma (At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul), Brazilian polymath Jose Mojica Marins – or Mojica, as he preferred to be known – created one of the most definitive, yet perversely little-known, screen monsters of the 20th Century. Released at the fag end of the same year in which Brazilian President João Goulart was overthrown in a coup d’état that led to a repressive military dictatorship which lasted for 21 years, At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul introduced Coffin Joe (Zé do Caixão). Appearing to Mojica in a fever dream, Coffin Joe was an undertaker dressed entirely in black – black suit, top hat, cape – and played by Mojica himself. Over a series of films, Mojica’s Coffin Joe (Zé do Caixão), would evolve from a blasphemer, to a rapist, to a murderer, and finally to the Devil himself. The early Coffin Joe films frequently culminate in sequences in which Joe is dragged down into hell to witness the tortures of the damned. In the later films, including Bloody Exorcism, he presides over these tortures, orchestrating them like the director of a motion picture (or like Mojica himself, directing the films in which Coffin Joe appears).

    Mojica himself experienced the brunt of Brazil’s repressive dictatorship when his 1970 picture O Ritual dos Sádicos (Awakening of the Beast) was banned for foregrounding the issue of drug abuse amongst Brazilian youth. The banning of this film had a knock-on effect for Mojica, a notoriously bad businessman, who would pour the proceeds from his previous film into financing his next picture. As the decade progressed, Mojica became associated with the Cinema de Boca do Lixo/Cinema do Lixo (‘trash cinema’)movement – a loose group of filmmakers whose work focused on the working class Boca do Lixo (‘Mouth of Rubbish’) region of Sao Paulo. Their output largely consisted of semi-pornographic pornochandada (sexploitation films) – or hyrids of pornochandada and noir, such as Rogério Sganzerla’s O Bandido da Luz Vermelha(The Red Light Bandit, 1968) – that emphasised a milieu of exploitation, sexuality and criminality. These filmmakers didn’t have a manifesto, as such, but their work offered a reaction – at least, initially – against the rarefied approach of the Brazilian Cinema Nôvo movement. That said, legend has it that when Glauber Rocha, a key figure in the Cinema Nôvo, saw Mojica’s first At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul he was astounded by it, praising Mojica’s self-taught skills and considering Mojica to be an intuitive filmmaker.

    An utter cad… nay, bounder… nay, shit, Coffin Joe was a despicable character. Yet his vein of anti-authoritarianism, consolidated across a series of films, no doubt spoke to Brazilian audiences under the thumb of military rule. The popularity of Coffin Joe led to the character being confused in the mind of the public with Mojica, the filmmaker and actor. In a number of the films, Mojica appears as himself, engaging in dialogue with characters who confuse Mojica with his cruel creation – and trying to exorcise himself of his association with Coffin Joe. Hence… a ‘Bloody Exorcism’.

    Comments 8 Comments
    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      Great stuff, Paul! It's evident you put a lot of work into this.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Monroe View Post
      Great stuff, Paul! It's evident you put a lot of work into this.
      Thanks, Andrew. It was indeed time-consuming but very rewarding.
    1. Jack J's Avatar
      Jack J -
      Good video essay, Paul.

      Where's the English subbed print from? Fan subs? The only release outside of Brazil that I'm aware of is Something Weird Video's old VHS, and I don't think they bothered to sub it (but I don't own it so I could be wrong). I wish a video label would release his films on English friendly bluray.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jack J View Post
      Good video essay, Paul.

      Where's the English subbed print from? Fan subs? The only release outside of Brazil that I'm aware of is Something Weird Video's old VHS, and I don't think they bothered to sub it (but I don't own it so I could be wrong). I wish a video label would release his films on English friendly bluray.
      It's a fan-subbed rip of a Brazilian HD TV broadcast, Jack. From what I understand, the film elements of many of his films (this and a few others to one side) are in such a dreadful state that they may be unusable even if a company wanted to prepare a Blu-ray release. It would be good to be proven wrong, however.
    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      Excellent essay, Paul!
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Quote Originally Posted by Scott View Post
      Excellent essay, Paul!
      Thanks, Scott
    1. Jack J's Avatar
      Jack J -
      Quote Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
      It's a fan-subbed rip of a Brazilian HD TV broadcast, Jack. From what I understand, the film elements of many of his films (this and a few others to one side) are in such a dreadful state that they may be unusable even if a company wanted to prepare a Blu-ray release. It would be good to be proven wrong, however.
      Thanks, Paul. And that's a bummer! I have the old UK box and a couple of US dvd's, and the last one on bluray, but would love the rest of the films as well.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jack J View Post
      Thanks, Paul. And that's a bummer! I have the old UK box and a couple of US dvd's, and the last one on bluray, but would love the rest of the films as well.
      Me too. I've got the Fantomas releases, the UK box and some shaggy boots of various other odds and ends throughout his career (including 24 HOURS and 48 HOURS and a number of others). His work deserves much better, imo.