Released the same year as the Crawford/Davis classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hammer’s psychodrama Paranoiac, Carnival of Souls was the original ‘I see dead people’ film.

After mysteriously surviving a car accident, organist Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) moves to Salt Lake City, Utah where she starts a new job playing the organ at a local church. But strange things begin to happen as she starts to loose her grip on reality and finds herself being followed by a ghostly spectre to a derelict amusement park where the dead can dance.

Made on a minuscule budget, Carnival of Souls has a weird flair, despite the amateurish actors, insufferable dialogue (out of synch in most parts), and ponderous plot. The director, Herk Harvey (actually a producer of educational films), makes effective use of the locations – in particular the abandoned Saltair Pavilion, where the vast ballroom is hung with age-old streamers – while composer Gene Moore’s organ music gives the film a suitably creepy air.

This Network DVD release is not a patch on Criterion’s Extended Director’s Cut version, but it does come with a little booklet written by Kim Newman, who also supplies an audio commentary.

One to watch at your next Halloween party, with suitably apt background music turned up very high.


Released 23 February