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Carnival of Souls (September 26, 1962)

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Carnival of Souls

Released on September 26, 1962: Three girls run their car off of a bridge and die in the water below, but one comes out of the river later, seemingly alive.

Directed by Herk Harvey

The Actors: Candace Hilligoss (Mary Henry), Frances Feist (Mrs. Thomas the landlady), Sidney Berger (John Linden), Art Ellison (the minister), Stan Levitt (Merridew), Tom McGinnis (the organ factory boss), Forbes Caldwell (organ factory worker), Dan Palmquist (gas station attendant), Bill de Jarnette (mechanic), Steve Boozer (Chip, fellow at the juke box), Pamela Ballard (dress sales lady), Larry Sneegas (drag racer), Cari Conboy (lake zombie), Karen Pyles (dress store customer), T.C. Adams (dancing zombie), Sharon Scoville (Mary's girlfriend), Mary Ann Harris (Mary's girlfriend), Peter Schnitzler (walking corpse), Bill Sollner (lake zombie), Reza Badiyi (bus ticket customer), Ed Down (man at the bridge), Herk Harvey ('The Man'), Wayne Shmille (Sheriff at the bridge).

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Carnival of Souls is a cult classic thriller from the 1960's that any lover of old movies must experience. The film begins with three young ladies in a car at a stop light, and a couple of boys pull up next to them and challenge them to a street race. Very typical for kids in the 1960's. So the light turns and they take off down the street, into the country. As tehy are going over a narrow old bridge, the boys bump the car that the girls are in, and the car goes over the edge and sinks into the muddy river below. Several hours later the Sheriff is there, and a couple of skin divers are dragging the lake in search of the car, when Mary crawls out of the river, wet but seemingly unhurt otherwise. No one thinks that this is terribly unusual, and we next see Mary playing a pipe organ at the local pipe organ company. The boss of the factory has found Mary a job as a church organist in a town some ways away. Mary is determined to leave town and never return, and as she is driving to the new town, she sees a man - a zombie looking man - first in her car window, then standing on the road in front of her. She is obviously shaken, but continues to her destination. Just outside the new town that she is headed for, she spots an old abandoned building that used to be a dance hall, and before that an indoor carnival.

Mary starts her job as church organist, and all seems to be going well. Across the hall from her in the boarding house that she rents a room in, there is a fellow that flirts constantly with her, but she rejects his advances, and we later learn that she has never had a boy friend, and has no interest in boys. All the while, she occasionally sees this 'man,' who no one else can see. One morning she is shopping for a dress at the downtown department store, and finds one that she wants to buy. After trying it on, with the sales lady's help, she goes into the dressing room to change back into her own clothes, and when she emerges from the dressing room, discovers that no one can see her or hear her, and she cannot hear any sounds around her. But a few minutes later, after seeing 'the man' again, all of a sudden she can hear the birds tweeting, and everything is back to 'normal.' Her adventure into her strange world continues until a thrilling, chilling end.

Besides the cool look at 1960's cars, lifestyles and people, this is a great thriller. It is obviously an inexpensively made independent film but the plot development is good enough that you won't even notice, as you get goose bumps wondering what is going to happen next to Mary. Pick a dark, full moon evening, and get your hot buttered popcorn ready, and enjoy a thriller from the past that will keep you in chills even today.