There’s a recent documentary about Coffin Joe with a very similar name, but The Strange World of Coffin Joe is an actual Coffin Joe movie from 1968.
Brazilian camp horror movies featuring the legendary Coffin Joe (José Mojica Marins) are horribly amateurish; full of gratuitous sex and violence, often of a bizarre nature; with hard-to-follow, convoluted, or flat out incoherent storylines. They’re also wonderful fun if you approach them with a fitting attitude, and appreciate movies that are “so bad they’re good.”
The Strange World of Coffin Joe is a Night Gallery-style triptych of three short horror tales. Coffin Joe is in only the third of the three stories.
The movie opens with Coffin Joe bombastically pontificating about nothing (this is the end but is the end not truly the beginning? there is only nothing but nothing then must be everything, etc., etc.)-the kind of laugh out loud nonsense you might come across in an insane asylum or in a popular spiritual self-help book in the Metaphysics section of a mainstream bookstore.
Then we’re into the action, and it’s as delightfully awful as anticipated-black and white, terrible sound, “actors” they apparently picked up off the street, etc.
I especially enjoyed the fact that they got a non-English speaking person to write the English subtitles: “The professor are expecting us,” “Servants, take our honored guests to its respective rooms,” “The supper, master. It was cooked the way you told to,” “And the instinct has win!”
The first story is about a dollmaker and his ominously realistic looking dolls. I have to give them credit for somehow avoiding the obvious with this one. I mean, any horror story with that set up invariably develops in the direction of the dolls having formerly been people now trapped in these doll bodies, or the dolls coming to life, or some similar variant. But the secret of this story turns out not to be that usual cliché, or at least only loosely related to it.
Not that this story of rapists getting their comeuppance is remotely believable, even accepting its basic premise as a given, but it’s not as bad as it could be. It’s like a very low budget Night Gallery segment.
The second story is the hardest to follow. It has no dialogue. As best I can make out, a scruffy balloon vendor becomes obsessed with a pretty girl and follows her around. He sees her get stabbed and killed at her wedding by apparently a jealous rival girl. He breaks into the funeral home and caresses and fondles the corpse, to the tune of something that sounds vaguely like Auld Lang Syne.
The third story is by far the longest. This is the one with Coffin Joe, though he’s not in full Coffin Joe getup, just the monstrously long fingernails.
He’s a “professor” on a talk show, asserting his controversial theory that love does not exist. After the show, he promises proof to one of the skeptical interviewers, if he’ll come to his house with his wife for dinner.
At Coffin Joe’s house, the man and his wife are taken captive. They are tied up and forced to watch little skits on a makeshift stage, involving such things as cannibalism, flagellation, and a midget throwing acid in a girl’s face (the bottle of liquid is helpfully labeled “ACID” in big letters so we’ll know). This is intended to prove what people will do when reduced to their essential nature.
Then they are locked up in separate cages, given no food or water, and occasionally tortured to get them to betray each other (thus proving love doesn’t exist). Basically like the torture scenes in 1984, in other words.
The Strange World of Coffin Joe is not for everyone.