Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Less Industrial Light, More Magic!

Equinox  (Tonylyn Productions, 1970)

Before the Camera:

Edward Connell  (Dave)
Barbara Hewitt  (Susan)
Frank Bonner  (Jim)  -  as Frank Boers, Jr.
Robin Christopher  (Vicki)
Jack Woods  (Asmodeus)
Forrest Ackerman  (Voice on the Tape)
Fritz Leiber  (Dr. Waterman)

Behind the Camera:

Directed by Jack Woods, Dennis Muren (uncredited), and Mark Thomas McGee (uncredited)

Produced by Jack H. Harris and Dennis Muren

Written by Jack Woods

Story by Mark Thomas McGee

Four young people - Dave, Susan, Jim and Vicki - head into the woods to look for Dr. Arthur Watermann, a scientist and one of their professors. Despite the seriousness of trying to find the older man, the group treats the trip like an outing, bringing along a picnic. Things start to get weird when they hear creepy laughter emanating from a dark and forboding cave they pass. Exploring the cave, they are frightened by a strange old man who yells at them and then gives them an ancient book.

Leaving the cave, they glimpse a mysterious castle in the woods, then they find that Dr. Waterman's cabin has been destroyed - first looking like some kind of explosion from within, until Jim notices the wreckage looks more like something shoving in on the structure, imploding it. A forest ranger who calls himself Asmodeus watches over the teenagers, proving more sinister with each appearance. Then monsters begin to show up, trying to steal the book back from the kids. As they try to find their way back to their car, the quartet realizes they have to keep the book from falling into the hands of the monsters at all costs. Who will survive, and what will be left of them?
All right, I'll show one monster. But only the one from the poster up there.

This was a movie I got to see once way back in the day on the Chiller Theater show one Saturday night - I think it got yanked out of the vault for showing because Dennis Muren was becoming sorta famous for his special effects work on the Star Wars movies - and I seem to remember KPLR Channel 11 touting the movie that way. "From the special effects men who brought you Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back!" I thought the movie was cool, because it has so much stop motion effects work in it - which I've been a fan since first seeing King Kong (1933) and later reading about how it was made.
    Later I read about how this movie came about - and found that story pretty interesting too. Dennis Muren and his pals - among them stop motion animators Jim Danforth and Dave Allen - made a short film called The Equinox...A Journey into the Supernatural for $6500. It ran about 70 minutes. It came out well enough that producer Jack H. Harris bought the movie and then had film editor Jack Woods shoot additional footage with the original stars a few years later to strengthen the story and bring the running time up to 80 minutes. Harris was no stranger to this kind of thing - having done the same with John Carpenter's student film Dark Star - adding footage to make it a feature film.

    But the real reason Equinox works so well in my opinion - it is one of the rare movies that effectively make use of Lovecraftian horror - and that makes this somewhat slow moving flick well worth a watch. The acting is just fair - with a soundtrack that makes the actors sound dubbed by others at times - but it's very neat to see Frank Bonner some years before he played Herb on WKRP in Cincinatti. The special effects are incredibly well done for the budget involved - and it's amazing to see what a real budget allowed them to do in a galaxy far, far away a few years later. However, it must be said that comparing the stop-motion to Ray Harryhausen's best work shows this animation to be of a lower quality - but that is putting these students up against the best of the best - not really a fair comparison. In addition to the stop-motion animated creatures - there is one costumed guy who is put into the scenes looking like he's ten or twelve feet tall - and the effect is seamless - I couldn't tell there was a special effect going on - except that the guy is bigger than any human ever, so it had to be a special effect! It's also neat to note that Ed Begley Jr. was on the crew!
    If you enjoy the writings of H.P. Lovecraft - I highly recommend this movie. I give a qualified recommendation to any horror fan - just be willing to go with the movie - which does have a stately pace in the middle sections; and does occasionally have the characters acting a little dense in order to keep things moving. A lot of internet articles make note that The Evil Dead seems to have been inspired by this movie - small cast, remote woods location, Book of Evil, - but they point it out almost as if Raimi and co. were ripping this movie off or plagiarizing it. WTH? Yes, I definitely think the Evil Dead creators had seen this movie when they started work on theirs - but other than those three details - and a general Lovecraft feel - the movies are completely unlike each other. I think they'd make a corker double feature, actually. In any case - if you like horror on a budget I definitely say check this one out!

Let's Get Out of Here ?

At around 48:00 Robin Christopher has had enough Lovecraftian horror for one day.

She gives it ten minutes, then repeats her wish to leg it for the nearest horizon with her friends at approximately the 58:00 mark.

Then Edward Connell gets in on the act at about 1:09:00.

Eye Candy ?

Both ladies are cute (but interestingly both blonde and both wearing blue - making them a bit indistinguishable from each other) and neither get the showcase to bring the Va-Va-Va-Voom.

Sorry ladies!

Buddha Man's Capsule Review

Buddha Man says "When Equinox - open the door -
to a good movie!"

Buddha Man really has a way with words, doesn't he? Until next post - roughly 24 hours from now - you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. omg what is this?? NEVER heard of this before. Looks silly but fun :)

    1. You pegged it - silly, but an entertaining watch. I actually just bought the Criterion Collection DVD! A Criterion edition - of a beefed up home movie! Amazing!

  2. I have not heard of this. I will have to see it if just for Frank Bonner. Herb was one of my faves on WKRP. Lord, I miss that show. I can still sing the theme song. LOL

    1. I not only can - I HAVE in the last three weeks. At work. Which really annoyed my co-workers. Think I might sing it again this week...Baby, if you've ever wondered...wondered what ever became of me...I'm living on the air in Cincinatti...Cincinatti WKRP....