Carnival of Souls (1962)

Carnival of Souls
Directed by Herk Harvey
Written by John Clifford
1962/USA
Harcourt Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Mary Henry: [yelling into the void] WHY CAN’T ANYBODY HEAR ME?

An educational and industrial film maker wanted to achieve the “look of a Bergman” and the “feel of a Cocteau” on a budget of $17,000 and shooting time of three weeks.  He didn’t do too badly.

As the film begins, a group of boys is drag racing with a group of girls.  Both cars occupy a bridge at the same time and the girls’ car goes over the side and into the water.  After awhile, Mary Henry surfaces looking completely dazed.

Previously, she had been hired as a church organist and goes off to take her job in Lawrence, Kansas.  On her way, she drives by an abandoned carnival site that haunts her for the rest of the film.  She finds a room in a house.  The only other boarder is a randy young alcoholic who simply will not leave her alone.  She keeps seeing terrifying visions of a man (played by the director) whom no one else can see.

As Mary goes about her daily business, it seems people are ignoring her completely.  I’ll stop here.

This movie looks beautiful but a horror film without a monster was not going to be a blockbuster in 1962.  Amateur acting betrays its small budget and a lot of what was happening does not make complete sense, even in the context of the fantasy.  It’s an interesting film, though, and worth seeing once.  There are several full versions available on YouTube – be sure to find one that has not been colorized.

4 thoughts on “Carnival of Souls (1962)

  1. I hadn’t really noticed what a great year 1962 was for the movies, but your reviews of Lawrence of Arabia, To Kill a Mockingbird, Baby Jane, The Miracle Worker, King King vs. Godzilla and now this are just showing me that a lot of movies I LOVE all came out in 1962. And Harakiri! And I think The Exterminating Angel was on your list.

    It’s looking almost as good as 1933, my favorite year for the movies!

  2. This is such an odd duck of a film, and yet I love it so much. I love that it goes to such a strange place and takes such a strange path to get there.

    Is it great? Not really. But it’s really interesting and so there’s a sort of greatness that surrounds it.

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