Check out Lee Weber's review of Criterion Collection's release of 1962's Carnival Of Souls, the classic horror film about a woman, whom after a traumatic accident becomes drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: Criterion - 1962
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature Running Time: 78 minutes
Genre: Horror, Drama, Mystery

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.37:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English Monaural LPCM
Subtitles: English SDH
Starring: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger
Directed by: Herk Harvey
Music by: Gene Moore
Written by: John Clifford
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: July 12, 2016

"She Was A Stranger Among The Living"
From Criterion:
"A young woman in a small Kansas town survives a drag race accident, then agrees to take a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City. En route, she is haunted by a bizarre apparition that compels her toward an abandoned lakeside pavilion. Made by industrial filmmakers on a small budget, the eerily effective B-movie classic Carnival of Souls was intended to have “the look of a Bergman and the feel of a Cocteau”—and, with its strikingly used locations and spooky organ score, it succeeds. Herk Harvey’s macabre masterpiece gained a cult following on late-night television and continues to inspire filmmakers today."

Carnival Of Souls is an interesting film, especially after watching the included supplements. Come to find out that the writer didn't really know where the story was going or what it was ultimately about. He was presented an idea from the films director and just ran with it; this helped greatly as my intrigue and attraction to it was wondering what was really happening and where it was going. Was it a Ghost story or was it an examination of someone slowly going insane? Were supernatural forces at work or was it all in her head??

Filmed in Black and White, the film has a feel unto itself. The low budget works in its favor making its southern shore of the great Salt Lake in Utah feel lonely and isolated. Coupled with a pipe organ score that is nothing short of haunting, you can see how Carnival Of Souls inspired and created troupes used in Night Of The Living Dead, Twin Peaks, Eraserhead and many more classic films.

Ahead of it's time, yes, but there is still a level of silliness looking at if from modern eyes. Some of the acting is questionable, line delivery can feel stale and forced and the ghost/zombie effects look of sweaty white stage make-up. A testament to the magic they struck here is how even with these deficiencies the film manages to creep into your head and grab you start to finish transporting you to its strange and unique world.

Parental Guide: NR

Alcohol, smoking and frightening scenes.




AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:REFERENCE= 92-100/EXCELLENT= 83-91/GOOD= 74-82/AVERAGE= 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE= under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 86
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialogue Reproduction:
  • Low frequency extension * (non-rated element): NA


Video: 82
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:




Carnival Of Souls comes to Blu-ray Disc from Criterion featuring 1.37:1 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 25.2 Mbps and uncompressed monaural sound.

From the included booklet-
"This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI Film's DRS, while Digital Vision's Phoenix was used for small dirt, jitter, and flicker. The original monaural soundtrack was remastered from the 35mm original soundtrack negative. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX 4.

Transfer supervisor and colorist: Lee Kline.
Scan: Prasad Corporation/Burbank, CA."

Criterion's transfer sourced from a restored 4K digital transfer arrives with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on this Blu-ray edition and it is wholly satisfying and a perfect example of what a restored film can and should look like. Details are outstanding on actors faces and even the wall paper behind them. Sometimes too good, we can easily see the clumpy make-up on the films apparitions. The B&W imagery has an almost three dimensional on-screen depth to it with great black levels that manage to show shadow details when needed. The lossless audio track handles the films pipe organ very well. It is missing some bottom end, however, I was listening on speakers that are not full-range and there is no LFE track. Well mixed, the mono track does have a bigger scene to it then one might imagine. Never at a loss for dialogue, this track is as good as it's going to get.

Bonus Features:
  • Selected-scene audio commentary featuring director Herk Harvey and screenwriter John Clifford
  • (HD) New interview with comedian and writer Dana Gould
  • (HD) New video essay by film critic David Cairns
  • (HD) The Movie That Wouldn’t Die!, a documentary on the 1989 reunion of the film’s cast and crew
  • (HD) The Carnival Tour, a 2000 update on the film’s locations
  • (HD) Excerpts from movies made by the Centron Corporation, an industrial film company based in Lawrence, Kansas, that once employed Harvey and Clifford
  • (HD) Deleted scenes
  • (HD) Outtakes, accompanied by Gene Moore’s organ score
  • (HD) History of the Saltair Resort in Salt Lake City, where key scenes in the film were shot
  • (HD) Trailer
  • An essay by writer and programmer Kier-La Janisse



Final Thoughts:

Criterion's 2016 release of the Horror cult classic Carnival Of Souls is a must have for fans of the film. A superlative transfer highlights this brooding moody masterpiece. Coupled with the care and plethora of supplemental features from Criterion, this comes highly recommended.
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Lee Weber
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

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