CC: Equinox

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

CC: Equinox

Are we all in agreement that the Evil Dead series is a direct descendent of the Lovecraft Mythos?  Yes?  Good, tonight’s movie is kind of the Great Uncle of the Evil Dead movies.

Equinox is a 1970 American horror film.  It was originally made in 1967 under the title The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural, directed by Dennis Muren and starring Edward Connell as Dave, Barbara Hewitt as Susan Turner, Frank Bonner as Jim Hudson and award-winning science fiction/horror writer Fritz Leiber as geologist Dr Arthur Waterman.  The special effects were provided by Dave Allen and Jim Danforth; the latter later worked on Flesh Gordon, in which he animated a giant monster similar to the ones in Equinox.

Due to the similarities in their plots, Equinox is believed to have inspired Evil Dead, yet this has not been confirmed.  It was seen by members of the crew of Evil Dead before production:

"I had seen Equinox at least twice in drive-ins before making Evil Dead.  I don't recall having discussed it with [Evil Dead director] Sam Raimi, but the similarities are remarkable.  I think they come from the low-budget nature of both films.  That is, a few characters, an isolated, inexpensive location, and ambitious special effects.  All in all, Equinox did inspire me to continue my goal of making movies. 'If they can do it...'" —Tom Sullivan, special effects and makeup artist for the Evil Dead movies, as quoted from the booklet included with the Criterion DVD set, "Backyard Monsters: Equinox and the Triumph of Love" by Brock Deshane.


Equinox (1970)

  • Genre: Horror – Adventure – Mystery
  • Directed:
    • Dennis Muren 
    • Jack Woods 
    • Mark Thomas McGee
  • Produced:
    • Jack H. Harris 
    • Dennis Muren
  • Written:
    • Mark Thomas McGee 
    • Jack Woods
  • Starring: Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner, Robin Christopher
  • Music:
    • John Caper, Jr. 
    • Jaime Mendoza-Nava
  • Cinematography: Mike Hoover
  • Editing: John Joyce
  • Studio: Tonylyn Productions Inc.
  • Distributed:
    • Jack H. Harris Enterprises  
    • Wizard Video  
    • The Criterion Collection  
    • Cinépix Film Properties  
    • VIP Distributors  
    • Vogue Video
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: October 1970
  • Running Time: 80 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Four young adults – Dave, Susan, Jim and Jim's girlfriend – head into the woods to look for a lost scientist, Dr. Arthur Waterman.  The friends have a picnic and glimpse a mysterious castle in the woods.  They find that Dr. Waterman's cabin seems to have been destroyed.  A forest ranger, who is Asmodeus in human form, watches over the teenagers.  When the group stumbles into a cave, a strange old man presents them with an ancient book filled with magical lore and symbols.  Asmodeus sends monsters – a giant ape-like creature and a green-skinned, fur-clad giant – to retrieve the book from them at all costs.  The ape-like creature kills the old man.  The castle seems to have disappeared, however the friends discover that it has been rendered invisible by magic.

After killing Jim, Asmodeus reveals his true form, that of a winged red demon.  Asmodeus kills Jim's girlfriend and then attacks Dave and Susan.  Dave and Susan flee to a cemetery and destroy the demon with a cross.  As it dies, the cemetery explodes, killing Susan.  Dave sees a shadowy giant who prophecies that Dave will be dead in one year and one day.  Dave loses his sanity, and is confined to a mental hospital.  One year and one day later, an evil-faced Susan arrives at the hospital to visit him.

With the end credits the film ends with "The End?" leaving the audience to wonder if the story will ever continue and if Susan is still possessed by Asmodeus.

While studying business at Pasadena City College, Dennis Muren spent $6500 to make Equinox (at that time, a short science fiction film) with friends Dave Allen and Jim Danforth.  Tonylyn Productions, a small film company, liked the film enough to distribute it.  Tonylyn hired film editor Jack Woods to direct additional footage in order to make Equinox into a feature-length movie.  When the feature-length Equinox was released in October 1970, Muren was credited as a producer in spite of having directed much of the film and creating the special effects himself.  The movie made enough money for Muren to recoup his $6500 investment.

The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural was picked up for distribution by producer Jack H. Harris, who shot new footage for the film with Jack Woods and released it in 1970 as Equinox.

The film includes a cameo from Fritz Leiber as Dr. Waterman, who was signed via the auspices of Forrest J. Ackerman; Ackerman's voice is heard on a tape recorder during the hospital scenes in the movie.  Leiber has no spoken lines in the film, only four scenes: one in which he is seen driving; a scene in which he grabs the book from the young people and runs away with it through the woods, a death scene in which his body mysteriously disappears; and a flashback in which we see him reading through the book and descending the stairs of his forest hideaway while a tentacled creature tears it apart.

Equinox was released on DVD in June 2006 as release 338 in The Criterion Collection.  It includes both the theatrical version and Muren's original production, the first time the latter has been released.

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