EQUINOX (1970) Reviews and overview

  

‘Occult barrier between good and evil’

Equinox is a 1970 American supernatural horror film written and directed by Dennis Muren.

The film was originally conceived as a short — then titled The Equinox: Journey into the Supernatural — who developed and shot it with friends Dave Allen and Jim Danforth in 1967.

Producer Jack H. Harris (The Blob) was impressed enough to agree to finance new footage for the film with writer-director Jack Woods and released it in 1970.

The movie stars Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner and writer Fritz Leiber.

Special effects were provided by Dave Allen and Jim Danforth.

equinox-criterion-collection-dvd

Plot:
Four young adults – Dave, Susan, Jim and Jim’s girlfriend – head into the woods to look for a lost scientist, Doctor Arthur Watermann. The friends have a picnic and glimpse a mysterious castle in the woods. They find that Doctor Watermann’s cabin seems to have been destroyed.

A forest ranger, who is Asmodeus in human form, watches over the teenagers. When the group stumbles into a cave, a strange old man presents them with an ancient book filled with magical lore and symbols.

Asmodeus sends monsters–a giant ape-like creature with cloven hooves, and a giant green-skinned fur-clad creature–to retrieve the book from them at all costs. The ape-like creature kills the old man. The castle seems to have disappeared, however, the friends discover that it has been rendered invisible by magic…

Reviews:
“The movie is well and tastefully shot, despite the sometimes shaky camera work […] But the sad, hard truth is that sometimes talent isn’t enough, and in the end, the weakness of the script and the ineptitude of the cast sink the film in ways that its glaring cheapness alone could not have, leaving that very cheapness Equinox’s principal saving grace.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

” …straightforward, crudely-made in terms of performance and narrative (it’s basically an expensive home movie, after all), but still an affectionate, minor fantasy that “old school” creature feature fans ought to enjoy.” The Aisle Seat

” …the effects sequences—which combine stop-motion animation, rear projection, matte paintings, and monster costumes—still look impressive, even in their crudity. It’s clear these guys had more ingenuity than resources, and watching Equinox is like a lesson in how to make something out of nothing.” AV Club

Equinox is on most worst movie lists, including mine. I enjoy bad films as much as the next guy, but Equinox is pretty dreary. Kind of a precursor to those lame “found footage” horrors prevalent today, with a tape recorder instead of video.” Cracked Rear Viewer

” …Equinox is The Evil Dead with Ray Harryhausen substituting for Sam Raimi. There are so many obvious connections that you have to imagine Sam and his clan came across this version somewhere in the formation of their film […] While it can’t compare with Dead‘s decided darkness, Equinox manages to be an effective entertainment”. DVD Talk

Equinox has one thing going for it that bests millions of dollars worth of CGI: a DIY aesthetic. On weekends, Muren and company made that cool movie you and your neighborhood pals always talked about doing but never had the resources or energy. Its creativity trumps its numerous imperfections, making it impossible to wish the project ill will.” Flick Attack

” …it has a real power to it, despite the obvious cheapness and the long shooting schedule which results in characters aging before your eyes. It has a compelling sense of Lovecraftian evil that I find fascinating.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“One tries to be hopeful about ingénue student efforts but Equinox is not a very good film. The direction is flat and banal. The score tries to pump up drama with frenetic lounge music. The stop-motion animated effects are variable in quality, although the demon’s final winged form is good. The dialogue is often terrible…” Moria

Release:
In 2006, Criterion released Equinox on DVD in a set that contains both the original version and the 1970 version by Jack Woods. An introduction features Forrest J. Ackerman who also discusses his magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. A second disc includes test footage, silent takes, an interview with Dennis Muren, and the short film Zorgon: The H-Bomb Beast fron Hell. The booklet contains a critical essay about Equinox as well as introductions by George Lucas and Ray Harryhausen.

Cast and characters:
Edward Connell … David Fielding
Barbara Hewitt … Susan Turner
Frank Boers Jr … Jim Hudson
Robin Christopher … Vicki
Jack Woods … Asmodeus
Jim Phillips … Reporter Sloan
Fritz Leiber … Doctor Arthur Waterman
Patrick Burke … Branson
Jim Duron … Orderly
Forrest J. Ackerman … Doctor on Tape Recorder (voice)
Norvelle Brooks …
Louis Clayton …
Jim Danforth …
Sharon Gray …
Jack H. Harris … Detective Harrison
Irving L. Lichtenstein …
Chuck Niles … Voice
R.J. Robertson …

Filming locations:
Arroyo Seco, Pasadena, California (Green Giant sequence)
Big Tujunga Canyon Road, Angeles National Forest, California (several bridge scenes)
Bronson Canyon, Griffith Park – 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles, California
La Cañada-Flintridge, California (Muren’s home-special effects/Woods’ reshoots – 1970 version)
Malibu, California (alternate dimension)
St. Luke Medical Center, 2632 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena, California (hospital where David Fielding was being treated)

Notes:
First posted on this website back in July 2012 when posts were part of an image gallery with basic info.

Trailer:

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