The Strange World of Coffin Joe (1968)

aka O Estranho Mundo de Ze do Caixao
Article 4450 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-14-2014
Directed by Jose Mojica Marins
Featuring Luis Sergio Person, Vany Miller, Mario Lima
Country: Brazil
What it is: Bizarre horror

Three stories are told. In the first, a gang of ruffians decide to rob a dollmaker and have their way with his daughters. In the second, a balloon seller is obsessed with a beautiful woman, and his passion does not end with her death. In the third, a reporter and his wife visit the home of a professor with strange ideas about the true nature of love… and he won’t allow them to leave until he demonstrates his theories on them.

If there’s one thing you can say about Coffin Joe, it’s that he certainly doesn’t have any sentimental views about the nature of man. Each of these tales is awash in perversity, sickness and cruelty, and you find yourself thankful that the weird and jarring use of sound makes for a strong distancing technique; otherwise, this might have proved unwatchable. The first story is the most conventional, in that it follows a familiar horror theme of evil men having the tables turned on them. The second is a tale of necrophilia, and though I do admire that the whole sequence is told with no dialogue, it’s still the weakest of the lot. The third is obviously the centerpiece of the movie, and it features Marins himself as the professor. Its basic theme is that civilization is a pretty thin veneer which can be stripped away from someone, turning them into little more than a beast that will do anything to survive. I’ve seen this theme trotted out several times, but Marins has a strong sense of the political nature of his message, and that adds some power to his statement. For all of the sickness and perversity, the movie isn’t quite as harrowing as it means to be, but it’s still pretty strong stuff.


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