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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Adventure > Fantasy > Horror > Supernatural > The Man Who Could Cheat Death & The Skull (1959/65/Legend Films Blu-ray Double Feature)/Coffin Joe Collection (1964/67/69/2001/Umbrella DVD Set)

The Man Who Could Cheat Death & The Skull (1959/65/Legend Films Blu-ray Double Feature)/Coffin Joe Collection (1964/67/69/2001/Umbrella DVD Set)


Picture: B-/B-/C     Sound: C+     Extras: D/D/B-     Films: C+/B+/B-



Horror took on many flavors throughout the 1960s – while the U.S. had the gore of Herschell Gordon Lewis and the Poe-inspired cheese of Roger Corman, the U.K. was offering up Gothic films produced by studios like Hammer, Amicus and Tigon.  Often these would get brought over to the states through various distributors, but too controversial for American audiences of the time were the many films from Brazilian native José Mojica Marins – otherwise known as Coffin Joe.  It was a wild ride, and here we'll be taking a look at a few titles from some of the aforementioned sources.


Paramount previously teamed up with Legend Films to bring out several genre offerings to DVD that they didn't deem worthy of being released through the main company.  Now they're presenting some of them as double features on Blu-ray, with this set including The Man Who Could Cheat Death from Hammer Studios and The Skull, an Amicus film.  While these might not be what everyone expects of titles being given the high definition treatment, I am always appreciative of back catalog that is less than mainstream making its way to the format.


Hammer regular Terence Fisher, who was responsible for many of the studio's best horror films, directed The Man Who Could Cheat Death in 1959.  The movie is similar in concept to The Picture of Dorian Gray, and is actually a remake of a film from 1945 called The Man in Half Moon Street.  The film is well made, but is not among Fisher's best works.  Modern audiences may find that it moves too slowly, and takes to long in building up to the finish.


The Skull stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in yet another film together, although Lee's role is brief.  The pair play fellow skull collectors whose lives are aversely affected by the ownership of the skull of the Marquis de Sade in this supernatural tale of murder and intrigue.  It was directed by sometime cinematographer Freddie Francis, whose most memorable films of the decade include The Evil of Frankenstein, Tales from the Crypt and The Creeping Flesh.  Later on in the '80s he would team with David Lynch to provide cinematography for his films The Elephant Man and Dune.


Fans of older horror should be chomping at the bit to get some older titles like these, as very few have made the transition to Blu-ray yet, and it may still be some time before studios begin to test just how much the market will bear.  The only real downside is that there are no special features included.  Both titles are shown in anamorphic widescreen and are full 1080p.  They look and sound pretty good, though one can't expect perfection at a price point like this.  The Man Who Could Cheat Death is presented in with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, while the aspect ratio of The Skull is 2.35:1. Audio for the titles is sadly only in a standard Dolby 2.0 mix.


Next we'll take a look at The Coffin Joe Collection – an import title from Australia's Umbrella Entertainment.  This set is not to be confused with the Coffin Joe Collection being offered from Anchor Bay UK, which includes 9 films instead of 3.  But, while you'd need a region-free DVD player to watch those titles here in the states, these discs from Umbrella are all without region coding and should work on many machines in the U.S. market plus many more PCs.


It's been several years since Fantoma released their own Coffin Joe Trilogy boxed set, which has since fallen out of print and goes for serious money.  While the Umbrella release is not nearly as flashy as the Fantoma set (which was packaged in a deluxe coffin-shaped case), those who just want to see the films now have an affordable alternative.


The character is an undertaker and atheist who is on a continual search for a woman who will bear him a son.  He is unafraid to commit murder and other sins while on his quest to find the perfect mate, which sets the stage for the sadism and gore that people love this series for.


Though there have been many films to have featured the character of Coffin Joe over the years, when it comes to official canon there are only three titles – two of which are included here.  The third film in the trilogy, The Embodiment of Evil, was not made until 2008, and was recently covered for review on this site.  For quick access to that review, please feel free to use the following link:





In addition to the two original Coffin Joe films (At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul and This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse), this set also includes the strange 1969 title The Awakening of the Beast and a newer documentary from 2001 about the man who is Coffin Joe, entitled The Strange World of José Mojica Marins.  Bonus content includes a theatrical trailer for each of the older films, as well as separate 10-minute interviews with the director concerning the making of them.


Picture quality is acceptable, but has problems such as scratches and the like.  Sadly, none of the films are anamorphically enhanced, though all are presented in widescreen with aspect ratios of 1.66:1, except for At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul, which is in 1.33:1 full screen.  The audio for all of the films in The Coffin Joe Collection is presented in Dolby Portuguese 2.0 Mono with English Subtitles.



-   David Milchick


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