Sunday, August 28, 2016

Nineteen Seventy Five OD&D Campaign Movie Memories - 'The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural' 1970 For Supernatural Sunday

So last night I got together with my OSR systems guy ( you know that guy at the table who knows rpg & OSR systems back to front) and we started talking about the Evil Dead. Joe was surprised to learn that Evil Dead isn't as original as many folks think. The film was inspired by The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural'  Where the hell do I begin with The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural', I'm trying to think what year I had it plastered into my brain in a New York State ' Drive In' by baby sitter and her friends?  It might have been '74 or '75. First of all the this is schlock film with wooden acting, fantastic weird stop motion, and lots of action to keep the whole affair moving.  Is there a OD&D connection? Well for us back in 1975 yeah there was!

The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural' has a plot straight out of pulp magazines of the 1930's;"Equinox (also known as The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural, and released on home video as The Beast[1]) is a 1970 American independent horror film directed by Dennis Muren and Jack Woods, and starring Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner and award-winning science fiction/horror writer Fritz Leiber. The plot focuses on four teenagers having a picnic in the canyons of California who stumble upon an ancient book containing secrets of a strange world that exists alongside humans, and consequently unleash a plethora of evil creatures and monsters." Yes this sounds very familiar but the real stars of the film are the monsters, the special effects and the stop motion;"Made on a budget of a mere $6,500[2][3] in 1967, Equinox initially gained a reputation as a midnight movie during its theatrical run, but has in later years been noted for its economical yet sophisticated use of stop-motion special effects and cel animation, which were provided by Dave Allen and Jim Danforth; the latter later worked on Flesh Gordon, in which he animated a giant monster similar to the ones in Equinox." 

For my dungeon master Jason way back in '77 this was an instrumental film as our party was called from beyond the gate to seal the unholy creatures and a crazy mix of Metamorphosis Alpha 1st edition & D&D was the result. It wasn't until years later that the first Evil Dead film hit the Drive In circuit that I recognized plot elements. But that's a post for another time, the film inspired the crew of Evil Dead in many ways;
Due to the similarities in their plots, Equinox is believed to have inspired Evil Dead, yet this has not been confirmed. It was seen by members of the crew of Evil Dead before production:
"I had seen Equinox at least twice in drive-ins before making Evil Dead. I don't recall having discussed it with [Evil Dead director] Sam Raimi, but the similarities are remarkable. I think they come from the low-budget nature of both films. That is, a few characters, an isolated, inexpensive location, and ambitious special effects. All in all, Equinox did inspire me to continue my goal of making movies. 'If they can do it...'" —Tom Sullivan, special effects and makeup artist for the Evil Dead movies, as quoted in the booklet included with the Criterion DVD set, "Backyard Monsters: Equinox and the Triumph of Love" by Brock Deshane.
For us we spent years in that campaign tracking Asmodeus and that damn book across the planes and wastelands. Characters were rolled up, ascended levels, only to die at the hands of that fiend. Yes it was a glorious campaign. It ended for me when my family moved back to Connecticut.

Years later I got to talk with Forrest Ackerman at a science fiction convention in '88 about The Equinox… A Journey into the Supernatural or as I knew it many years later as The Beast on VHS. He was happy that it had such an impact on a group of  young kids. 
Make no mistake this is a low budget cult film with lots of praise; "The film has been influential to the horror and sci-fi monster genres, receiving praise from filmmaker George Lucas and effects artist Ray Harryhausen;[2] it was also noted as a main inspiration for Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead (1983).[4] It was released on DVD by The Criterion Collection in 2006."
If you ever want to see this film grab the Criterion Collection which has both cuts of the film the original '67 student version and the recut theatrical version. "The audience to wonder if the story will ever continue and if Susan is still possessed by Asmodeus." yeah we didn't wonder we chased that aspect of that archdevil across the planes to get that book and we lost many characters along the way. As far as I know he's still out there & the Equinox might be breached at any time.

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