Four teens hit the wilderness, looking for a Professor Waterman (celebrated SF/fantasy/horror writer Fritz Leiber in a non-speaking role). The professor is missing, but they find an ancient time that turns out to provide the secrets of life, death, and the demons beyond. Said demons want the book back, and our heroes are attacked by one monster after another.
There are two versions of the film on offer here: the original, titled The Equinox … A Journey into the Supernatural made by a group of monster-loving amateurs (including FX legends-to-be Jim Danforth, Dennis Muren and David Allen) in 1967, and the 1970 theatrical release picked up by producer Jack H. Harris with additional footage shot by Jack Woods (using the same cast). Both versions tell approximately the same story, though there are some significant differences, notably Woods appearing as a demonic park ranger. Either way, though there are plenty of rough edges, the talent of these young filmmakers is pretty evident too, and the special effects are uniformly delightful. And just as this was the effort of young creators influenced by the monster movies of the 50s and Forrest J. Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland, it in turn has had its own legacy. See, for instance, the exposition scene concerning the evil book, replicated almost exactly in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films. Unmissable.
Criterion is not one to mess about creating dubious stereo remixes, and they have not done so here. The mono is clean and as crisp as one could expect in a film made for $6500.00. The music is surprisingly warm, and though the post-synching is obvious, any such flaws are entirely those of the original film, and not the disc itself.
The original film is much the rougher of the two, for good reason, given that some of the original material has been lost, and the film was hardly in a preservation vault. The theatrical release looks pretty amazing, all things considered, however. There is still some dirt, and visible grain (but this IS a 16 mm effort), but the restoration work is very impressive, and it is hard to imagine that the movie ever looked better than it does now. The colorus are strong, the blacks are great, and there is no edge enhancement.
A truly spectacular set of offerings here. Disc 1 had a commentary track for each version of the film. Creators Dennis Muren, Mark McGee and Jim Danforth talk about their version, while the two Jacks Harris and Woods discuss the re-edited version, pointing out where and how and why they made changes. Very informative all around. This disc also has an introduction by the legendary Forrest J. Ackerman.
Disc 2 has interviews with Muren and some of the cast. The rest of the disc is an archival treasure trove. “Monstrous Origins” has outtakes from the film and test footage of the Taurus animation model. “Zorgon: The H-Bomb Beast from Hell” is a 1972 student film shot in Bronson Canyon with some of the Equinox crew. “Equiphemer” is a HUGE collection of production stills, promotional art and articles (some of which include the creators’ very first appearances as letter writers in the pages of FM). The original trailer and two radio spots are also present and correct. I’ve saved what might be the best for last. Two shorts by David Allen are here (accompanied by essays). “The Magic Treasure” is a charming little fairy tale. But the jewel in the crown here is Allen’s Volkswagen commercial that recreates the climax of the original King Kong. This rarity alone would be worth a disc in itself. Its presence here seals the deal. To top everything off, the accompanying booklet is itself filled with essays. Any self-respecting “monster kid” MUST own this package, as this is, essentially, the ultimate home-movie effort. The one that made good.
Never before released on DVD, only spottily available on VHS, this film has, for many monster fans, been too long known only as stills in FM and horror film history books. That it should now appear in such a remarkable edition is a major event.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- Two Versions of Film
- Outtakes and Tests
- Cast and Director Interviews
- “Zorgon: The H-Bomb Beast from Hell” Short Feature
- “The Magic Treasure” Short Feature
- King Kong Volkswagen Commercial
- Trailer and Radio Spots
- Production Stills
- Promotional Stills
- Introduction by Forrest J. Ackerman