Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Equinox (1970)

          An awful movie that’s probably only of interest to special-effects junkies, Equinox took a peculiar path to the screen. In 1967, college student Dennis Muren spent a reported $6,500 to make a short film titled The Equinox . . . A Journey Into the Supernatural, featuring imaginative stop-motion monsters in the style of Ray Harryhausen. Impressive for an amateur production, the picture caught the eye of distributors, who acquired the film and hired editor-turned-director Jack Woods to shoot additional scenes. The resulting hodgepodge was released in 1970 under the shortened title Equinox, and the movie might have disappeared into obscurity had Muren not achieved fame for his subsequent, Oscar-winning work on Star Wars (1977) and other pictures.
          The narrative of Equinox is a trite contrivance about a quartet of college students heading into the mountains to visit their professor. The kids stumble onto a weird book containing satanic incantations, and an evil policeman named Asmodeus (played by additional-footage director Woods) pursues them because he wants the book. Creature attacks and demonic possessions ensue. Although the effects in Equinox are quite crude—key visuals include a giant blue ape and a flying demon, plus an invisibility-shrouded gateway to another dimension—achieving so much with so little was a noteworthy accomplishment.
          Unfortunately, the acting is atrocious, the continuity is terrible, the camerawork is shaky, and the writing is ghastly, particularly the numbingly obvious dialogue. Equinox isn’t unwatchable, partly because it’s so short (80 minutes) and partly because monsters pop up every so often to keep things lively, but its origins as a student film are painfully evident in every frame. That said, the picture’s in-your-face flaws probably explain why Equinox's 197o release included a trip through the midnight-movie circuit, where viewers often watch bad films ironically. FYI, costar Frank Bonner, billed here as Frank Boers Jr., later found notoriety as oily salesman Herb Tarlek on the cult-favorite 1978-1982 sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. Inexplicably, Equinox is available on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection, which includes many classics of high-art world cinema.

Equinox: LAME


Kevin Mac said...

I vividly remember the moment, at around 8 years old, seeing the commercial for this and going apeshit. I yelled to my mom in the hallway outside that I MUST see this. I think I was a teen when I finally did. It's cheapness lent it a strange spooky quality. The thought that such monsters and magic could be just out in the woods beyond the city really inspired the burgeoning fantasy fan in me.

I remember the rapey ranger (really.. director?) really creeping me out, with a close up of his face with drool dripping out of this mouth as he tried to mount the young lady. Ew.

F. Ben Martin said...

If you watch the original version without the added footage its more enjoyable. Somewhat.

Necco said...

Um, I have a Criterion Collection double DVD of this. Hmmmmm.