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  Awakening of the Beast This Ain't A Scene It's A God Damn Arse Face
Year: 1970
Director: José Mojica Marins
Stars: José Mojica Marins, Ronaldo Beibe, Andreia Bryan, Ozualdo Ribeiro Candias, Maurice Capovila, José Carlos, Maria Cristina, Emilia Duarte, Jaciara Ducena, Jairo Ferreira, Jandira Gabriel, Sérgio Hingst, Mario Lima, Annik Malvil, Márcio Marcel, Stela Maris
Genre: Horror, Drama, Trash, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: Here is Coffin Joe (José Mojica Marins) once again, and he has something to say to us, observing that his world may be strange, but the strangest thing around is you the viewer. Ending this statement with a flourish, we get down to the main concern of the cult icon, and that is the problem of illegal drug abuse as we are shown the images of a woman injecting her foot with heroin and turning to a group of men in the room. The stare at her expectantly, and are rewarded with the sight of her whipping off her clothes so they offer her a gift which she unwraps: it is a chamber pot, and she lowers herself down upon it...

What she does after that is left to your imagination, as the first two-thirds of Awakening of the Beast, or O Ritual dos Sádicos if you were Brazilian, consist of a series of anecdotal vignettes all designed to illustrate the wrongheadedness of abusing drugs. This was co-writer and director Marins shot at the message movie, as despite his reputation as a Satanic maniac, he did have a moral code that led him to look after little children (this aspect of his personality is absent here, at least it never arises) and rail against the trade in illegal narcotics that he felt was overtaking his country.

He might well have been right about that, but the manner in which he gets his points across are idiosyncratic, to put it mildly. Marins appears as himself on a panel show, and later on a television trial format where he justifies his art against his critics (they all seem to agree he fights his corner very well and let him off with a "not guilty"). If you're wondering what this has to do with the drugs trade, then the answer would seem to be to set Marins up as a voice of reason in the face of all this depravity, depravity which he gleefully recreates in reconstructions of supposed incidents as explanation as to what depths you can sink to if you allow yourself to succumb to getting high.

In practice, this means something like a sexploitation compilation as various young women are seduced and abandoned by leering men who are either under the influence themselves or have put the girls under the influence. For example, a woman will go to a casting call and find the producer is out of his mind and forces her to lose her virginty to a man in the next room all under the pretence of securing a role in a movie that may or may not exist. Or a teenage girl will try marijuana with a group of hippies and find herself violated and killed with a staff (in silhouette - well, Marins didn't want to be accused of bad taste, did he?) when things get out of hand. All kind of hard to take seriously, but with a sincere tone nevertheless.

So what are we to make of the culmination of all this scaremongering, the final third that rounds off the dramas? Up to this point the film has been in black and white, but when a group of four wavering souls decide to take Marins up on his challenge to take LSD, the screen explodes into psychedelic colour, for the trip these subjects are sent on is nothing less than a journey into hell courtesy of Coffin Joe. In practice, this is a lot of writhing bodies, a lot of Joe laughing and yelling, and a lot of the kind of weirdness his fans have been anticipating for the past hour. Nothing beats the sight of the laughing arses with faces on them, all in a row and advancing on the camera; whether this was intended to be frightening or not is hard to say, but it's by far the strangest part of the whole film. There's a neat twist at the end that puts a different slant on the experiment, but mostly it transforms what might have been an anti-drugs rant into a wholehearted endorsement of the self-centred oeuvre of José Mojica Marins.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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