The New DVD Transfer by Criterion

A Review by Joe Vento

If you were born in 1961, then I'm sure you all remember staying up late during the early to mid 1970s to watch the strange and frightening "Equinox", which would sometimes air on channel 9 in New York City. Equinox was, and still is, one of my favorite creepy classics from those long bygone days. Now Criterion Video has put out an amazing two-disc set of this film, which was kind of like the "Blair Witch Project" of it's day.

Actually the disc gives you two versions of the movie, because you see - Equinox was started in 1967 as a college film, then picked up and reworked by producer Jack H. Harris (The Blob, Dinosaurus) and then finally released in 1970. My old friend and fellow collector Eddie Shea saw the original 1970 release in the theatre with his brother and they remember being "scared as hell!" This is one of Eddie's favorite movies as well, and I believe he has the original poster in his collection. Ed has a wonderful memory for these things and his poster collection is one of the best in New York! Anyway, back to Equinox - Originally conceived as a student film, shot in 16mm and costing about a thousand 1967 dollars, Equinox was the brain child of animator and current Industrial Light & Magic chief Dennis Muren.

He was just a teenager at the time, but had been so inspired by the Ray Harryhausen films that he and some other special effects crazed friends decided to make a movie to show off their love of the genre. The film concerns the adventures of a group of young people who set out to find a missing college professor. They discover along the way, an ancient book of demonic verses that materializes terrifying creatures from the "Equinox" (or other dimensional world). While being very low budget, the movie is nonetheless quick-paced and maintains an atmosphere of dread and fear.

The animated monsters range from a huge blue ape-like giant called Taurus, to an octopus-like creature who is seen destroying a country cabin. For real nightmares, a flying devil monster is an animated terror not to be missed. The acting of course is a bit dismal, but it sort of lends a bit of reality to the goings on. The cast are unknowns and actually friends of Muren. The guy playing Jim for example is Frank Bonner, who later went on to play "Herb Tarlek" in "WKRP In Cincinnati." One of the cameramen is Ed Begley Jr. who of course became an actor on "St. Elsewhere" and other films.

What keeps this film going though is the special visual effects by people like Muren, and including animator David Allen - who animated most of the monsters, Jim Danforth - who did some wonderful matte paintings and the use of forced perspective photography, which gave certain scenes a strange look and feeling. Equinox is one great film and I recommend it to any of those kids who remember staying up way past their bedtime and tuning in to the nightmares always waiting for us on television.

Stay scared!