Carnival Of Souls
Directed by Herk Harvey
Criterion Collection DVD
Carnival Of Souls is the rarest of low budget films: a B-movie that transcends its humble origins and achieves a lofty place as a piece of art. Industrial filmmaker Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford built an eerie tale in order to use the Saltair Pavilion in Salt Lake City as a location. Carnival Of Souls features the Twilight Zone-ish story of Mary Henry, who apparently escapes death in a car wreck. She inexplicably leaves Lawrence, Kansas to take a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City, Utah. Once she leaves Kansas, a mysterious, cadaver-like figure begins to stalk Mary. Upon arriving in Salt Lake, Mary discovers the disused Saltair Pavilion. She is compulsively drawn to the weird, dilapidated structure. As time goes on, Mary seems to become less and less connected to the world. She seems to fade in and out of the real world; there are times when she seems to not even exist. No one can seem to see or hear her, and she continues to be haunted by the mysterious man and drawn to the Saltair. Nearly driven mad, Mary finally makes her way to the Saltair and encounters the mysterious man and a host of other ghosts. She tries to flee, but the ghosts catch up with her and the film shifts back to the film’s beginning, but this time Mary’s dead body is in the car as it’s being pulled from the river. The odd, beautiful film has had a devoted cult following ever since the early 1960s, and is considered a classic film of the macabre. The film is one of the few movies that is able to function in dream logic, along with David Lynch’s Eraserhead and Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm. The film is also boosted by technically sound production; a terrific, evocative organ score, and a strong lead in the Strausberg trained Candace Hilligoss.
The Criterion Company usually features famed classics for its restoration, pristine video transfers, and multiple special features. Carnival Of Souls joins films by Bergman, Kurasowa, and Goddard. The twin disc DVD set features two versions of the film, the original release cut and the 1989 reissue version. Also included on the discs are a commentary track by director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford, information about the Saltair, and two short documentaries, one the history of the film and one on the film’s locations, even some of Herk Harvey’s industrial films. The DVD also includes nearly and hour of outtakes from the movie. This DVD is the ultimate edition of Carnival Of Souls.