Equinox (1967 / 1970)

Equinox is a film that seems to inspire a lot of love and affection in its admirers. Director Dennis Muren and his crew seem to have made the thing mainly for the sheer hell of it, because they were kids (Muren was 18) who wanted to make the sort of movie they would want to see. Made between 1965 and 1967 for $6500, it was bought by Jack Harris (producer of The Blob), who assigned Jack Woods to adapt it for theatrical release (which it achieved in late 1970). Rather rudely, I thought, Woods retained sole director credit on the finished product, but then again, when you compare it with the original (thoughtfully supplied on the Criterion DVD) you realise just how much it actually kind of is his film; the addition of a major character (played by Woods himself) not in the original resulted in something markedly altered from Muren’s version. And yet I’m not sure that the original (which was a finished film in its own right) doesn’t have at least a slight edge over Woods’; for one thing it makes a bit more sense at crucial points, and I’m not sure all of the stuff Woods did to “commercialise” it really works. At any rate, it’s the essentially amateur nature of the production that seems to attract people, and it’s why I’m inclined to be charitable with it myself in spite of certain technical issues. In real terms, the film’s problems aren’t much greater (perhaps even less) than on some professional productions done by people who supposedly knew what they were doing and who thought people should pay for the dubious privilege of watching their handiwork, and considering its amateur origins actually makes the effects work in the film seem more impressive (Muren inventing his own front projection technique, plus all the stop-motion stuff). And if Muren ended up only as “producer” on the finished Equinox, he’s still had a pretty happy career following it. Good on him.

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