A guy running from a giant black ghostly presence gets run over by a car in the opening action-scene of The Equinox: A Journey into the Supernatural (1967).
We're pulled right into a film written, directed, filmed, & mostly acted by very precocious teenagers. Mark Thomas McGee was seventeen. Dennis Muren was eighteen. Muren would go on to do FX for Star Wars & Jurassic Park, & has won many Oscars for such work.
These kids were inspired by Willis O'Brien best known for his stop-motion FX of Willis O'Brien for King Kong (1933), & by Ray Harryhausen , the last great master of stop-motion animation, responsible for such extraordinary films as Jason & the Argonauts (1963). So the hulking monster that attacks Fritz Leiber looks a hell of a lot like a Harryhausen figure.
Oh, oh, & to see Fritz is a joy too. He was one of America's great fantasy, horror, & science fiction novelists & short story writers.
That Fritz was happy to appear in a film by veritable children shows what an openhearted guy he was. I used to sit with him in science fiction conventions talking about short stories as the great art form. He is greatly missed by his many friends.
A giant land-octopus rips up a mountain cabin, not far from a medieval castle. The teenagers go check out the impossible castle.
A laughing old man in a haunted cave gives them a grimoire while they're on their way to the mystic castle. Dr. Waterman (Fritz!) soons steals the book & the castle vanishes.
Next to step through the invisible wall is a black giant cave man sort of dude, who wants the book. To reclaim it requires the young men to leap through the barrier & straight into Lens-Filter World where the castle's to be found.
When they come back out, Jim discovers he has a fake duplicate of himself who'll try for the book. He turns into a red winged devil in trousers, a wonderfully stupid creature that flies about threatening two girls for the grimoire.
Producer Jack Harris, who was responsible for the moronic classic The Blob (1958), bought the kids' stop-motion FX-ridden film to re-edit into something a mite more commercial.
He got Jack Woods to add about fifteen minutes of sexploitation footage & a few other shots. Wood ended up getting the director credit for a film repackaged for drive-ins & grindhouses as Equinox (1970), through very little of the film is his.
A typical improvement runs thus: In the original it was hard to tell the car that ran over the guy in the opening scene had no driver. Woods edited in a shot of the car's interior, underscoring the idea that the car was acting on its own volition without driver.
Also here & there some off-camera dialogue is added to explain other bits which the original version left vague.
Woods additionally gussied up the long cavern sequence, added a "possessed girl cat-fight," improved the sound mix, & even added a bit of footage featuring himself as the demonic park ranger.
Both versions have been issued on one disc, plus a second disc of miscellaneous extras. The charms of this obscure gem, or pair of gems, won't be evident to everyone, & Criterion needs extra praise for having such foresight & "fannish" acumen to realize it deserved a full-on-classic-release treatment.
Both films are beyond amateurville, but both are also loads & loads of fun. I like the original edit best merely because it's done by nerdy kids & how heroic is that.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl