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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

This Isn't A Dream...It's Really Happening!








.....EQUINOX on a Criterion Collection double disc DVD! "Holy Shit!" is right! This unique film has an official release from the hoity-toity Criterion Collection! Most people would have seen "Equinox" on WOR Channel 9 (here in the tri-state area) all through the late 1970's and early 1980's. It was a big influence on Sam Raimi and his "Evil Dead" co-creators (who first saw this on a Drive-In screen). I could go on for pages and pages about what's inside, but instead I will just get to the points. Disc 1; The "Raw" version of Equinox. The working title "The Equinox...A Journey Into The Supernatural" was made by Dennis Muren, Mark McGee, David Allen and Jim Danforth--(all ranging in the ages of 17 to 24!). An ad in Famous Monsters of Filmland (!) brought them together, at first, then they all became friends. The initial first filming of Equinox began in the summer of 1965 (which is why all the characters look like they are on their way to a The Beach Boys concert). The film was not finished till 1967, and not released till 1970 (!) (which is when I was first made aware of this movie during recess, on an elementary school playground, by a classmate who had seen this in the theatre! ) . It was a long haul that payed off as the makers of this were merely hoping that this would turn up on late night TV someday (which it did). This initial "raw" version is what Equinox was BEFORE producer Jack Harris bought and released it. Here are some differences between what you have already seen, and what actually was:

1) The character of Mr. Asmodeus ("The Devil!") , the creepy park ranger with the magic ring and too much black make-up under his eyes, was added later. He is not in the original version.

2) There is more footage of the four lead actors, sitting around , talking, and trying to make sense of what's going on in the film. Pretty mundane actually, but it was still facinating to watch in an archival way.

3) There is more footage/shots of the classic Devil-Bat-Winged-Demon! You see his face close-up and more footage of him flying.

4) There is a animated Devil Skeleton w/ Pitchfork in the red tinted scene of the druids jumping into the bottomless pit/vortex ( a scene that was copied in "Phantasm" ). I think the skeleton was left out of the theatrical version for looking too silly. I'm pretty sure Tim Butron is an "Equinox" fan.

5) The entire film is shorter--about 70 minutes long.

6) The scene with the demented scary laughing old man in the cave is longer (but not better ) in the "raw" version. More dialog about nothing. His voice was improved in the theatrical version to sound like The Joker from Batman.


That's pretty much it. The theatrical version is here too (it did pretty well at the box office dispite how dated it must have looked when released in Dec. 1970). There is very interesting audio commentary on both versions. The "raw" version has comments by Dennis Muren & Co. The longer version has Jack Harris & Co. comments.

EQUINOX TRIVIA!

1) The actress who played Vicki (the blonde with the bob hairdo that kept changing lengths) , Robin Snider had died of cancer in the late 1970's and was best friends with Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac) since high school. The songs "Gypsy" and "Rhiannon" are either dedicated to, or about Robin!

2) The scene inside the cave was a set built out of burlap, plaster and chicken wire in Dennis Muren's backyard of his parents house. The "old creepy laughing man" was played by his grandfather (!) who also funded this movie (Total cost $6,500. !!).

The night the cave scenes were filmed, director Dennis Muren had tickets to see The Beatles (!) at the Hollywood Bowl--and didn't go in order to finish the sequence. That's dedication!

3) The leads were all called back to film the additional "Mr. Asmodeus" scenes in 1970. That's why hair lengths, sideburns and clothing colors are inconsistant throughout the film. Yes, the additional scenes do make the story more coherent. One of the few optical add-ons are the swirly "psychedelic" patterns during one of the cave scenes, and the title credits with the firey "EQUINOX" at the beginning.

4) The entire film was shot MOS. (Silent with dubbing later) Some of the lead voices are actually improved upon in the theatrical version.

5) The animators that worked on this--also at one point, worked with Art Clokey!

(Davy & Goliath, Gumby)

6) The original trailer (on here too) says "Equinox begins where Rosemary's Baby left off!". I was speechless!

7) The original version soundtrack is different, more of that diddley-generic 1960's jazz--not very horror movie sounding, it gives the film a lighter quality. The new score in the theatrical version does a better job with weird distorted tones in key scenes.

DISC 2: **************************

TONS of additional material here.

1) Behind the scene footage and outtakes of the actors laughing/relaxing on the set. Stop-motion test footage as well (lots of crude rear-screen projection footage of Taurus the Blue Ape Creature--attacking people at a zoo and lumbering over a house in a sunny suburban Los Angeles neighborhood). One scene that never made it--a poolside party with square looking teenagers standing around and a girl on a diving board does a go-go dance in a bikini.

2) (recent) Interviews with the stars, Frank Boers,Jr ("Herb Tarlic" on the W.K.R.P. in Cinncinatti series), Barbara Hewitt (pretty lead girl) and James Duron (the "Blue Neanderthal Giant" !). The rare stills photo gallery shows the "Blue Giant" washing off his make-up in a water fountain in the state park where this was filmed!

Of course they all speak nicely about Equinox. Also director Dennis Muren talks about the film, and his friends who were all obsessed with the original King Kong, Willis O'Brian, and Ray Harryhusen, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Curse of the Demon, Bert I. Gordon and Famous Monsters magazine.

Out of all the special features here, I think my favorite is the one single still photograph of a Hollywood theatre marquee with "Equinox" spelled out in plastic letters, a Rolling Stone magazine blurb--and a gigantic cut-out of Taurus the blue ape creature next to it! (Pictured above).

(If you are familiar with Criterion Collection DVD's, you know that they are produced in low/limited numbers, so BUY THIS TODAY--it will probably be gone by this time next year and going for $100.00 and up on E-Bay)

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