Plot: What’s it about?
A group of four teenagers plan an excursion into the woods, where they will meet with a professor Dr. Waterman (Fritz Leiber) at his cabin. The trek through the woods is a little unusual, but when they reach the cabin, things really take a turn for the worse. The cabin has been ransacked and demolished, with no sign of the good professor. The friends then bump into a Park Ranger, who hasn’t seen Waterman himself, but doesn’t seem concerned about his absence. As they explore the area, noises from a cave draw them in closer, only to come across a madman of sorts. The old man inside laughs and laughs like a maniac, then hands them a book covered in all manner of symbols. The book has a lock, but the teens force it open and discover that the notes inside belong to Waterman himself. The book is filled with writings about demons and other dimensions, scary stuff that spooks the teens to no end. But they also find ways to protect themselves from the evils, though only one has a cross on hand, so the others must forge their own protection. But when the evil appears and chaos unfolds, will any of the group manage to survive?
I love old school monster movies, I have an entire room in my basement devoted to creature features from the 50s and 60s. Equinox was shot with a budget of $6500 by a group of friends in 1967, a group that included more than a few who would find success in the movies. Dennis Muren, who would find fame in the special effects of Star Wars and beyond, stop motion animator Jim Danforth, and special effects creator Dan Allen all worked on the production, as well as others. The film was a love letter of sorts to the monster movies they all adored, to the point they wanted to create their own cinema magic. Their project would be bought by producer Jack. H. Harris, who would retain the special effects, but shoot a new movie around those sequences. The concept is quite cool, with the occult elements and of course, the fun special effects. Equinox is not a good movie, but it does have a certain charm, a charm steeped in camp qualities. For this release, Criterion has included both Harris’ 1970 version, as well as the original 1967 version, known as The Equinox…A Journey into the Supernatural. This is a wonderful decision, as we’re able to see both versions and fans should be thrilled. A lot of cool supplements to top it off and this is a must have release for fans of 50s & 60s sci/fi or monster movies. I give this release of Equinox a high recommendation, a very fun and well crafted collection.
Video: How does it look?
Equinox is presented in full frame, as intended. The 1970 version has been restored here and it looks good, much better than I expected. But keep in mind, this was a low budget production and the limitations of the source are evident. The image is quite clean, with minor grain and debris, but nothing like what I’ve seen on other releases of this film. The visuals have passable colors, with bright hues and contrast is stable, if a little on the light side at times. The 1967 version hasn’t been cleaned up and as a result, is rougher on the whole, but is still more than watchable.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is where the materials show their age in serious ways, as the audio is not too sharp, to say the least. I think some of the film sounds fine, but most of it has some elements of age signs, from harshness to distortion. A few scenes have a lot of harshness in fact, to the extent that you can’t understand some of the dialogue. This is by no means a total loss, but the material is very dated and as such, doesn’t stack up well against the usual DVD standards. This is to be expected to an extent however, given the film’s low budget and age, I think. This release also includes optional English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
You’ll find an audio commentary for each version, as director Jack Woods and producer Jack H. Harris talk about the 1970 version, while director Dennis Muren, writer Mark McGee, and special effect technician Jim Danforth discuss the 1967 version. I found both to be honest, candid discussions, but I had more fun with the 1967 crew, who have a clear passion for the movies. A lot of fun stories come out of both tracks however, so don’t miss either of these sessions. You can also check out some deleted scenes from the 1967 shoot, watch two short films from those involved, and even view the acclaimed Volkswagon commercial from David Allen. This release also includes an introduction with Forrest J. Ackerman, archival test footage, promotional materials, interviews, and the film’s theatrical trailer.