Carnival of Souls (1962)

80 mins | Horror, Fantasy | 26 September 1962

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HISTORY

Carnival of Souls was filmed in Lawrence, KS, LeCompton, KS, Salt Lake City, UT, and at the abandoned Saltair Amusement Park at Great Salt Lake, UT.
       The story was inspired by an early 1961 television episode of The Twilight Zone (2 Oct 1959 – 19 Jun 1964) called “The Hitch-Hiker,” starring Inger Stevens.
       Producer-director Herk Harvey told the 19 Apr 1990 LAT that the film cost $30,000. To stay within the budget, he played the lead ghoul, or “The Strange Man,” although he did not include his name in the cast. He also rented the Saltair, an abandoned, turn-of-the-century Great Salt Lake, UT, pavilion, for $50, and for a scene in a department store, paid a saleslady $25 to act as if she did not see the Candace Hilligoss character, “Mary Henry.” Harvey said he shot the film without permits on the streets of Salt Lake City and Lawrence. The bridge where the car accident took place was in LeCompton, KS. The film’s only professional actor was Hilligoss, a veteran of New York City’s famed Actors Studio. Co-star Sidney Berger taught drama at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
       Carnival of Souls was Herk Harvey’s only feature film.
       The 3 Oct 1962 Var reported that the film premiered at the Granada Theatre in Lawrence on 26 Sep 1962. A review in the same issue predicted the low-budget film “will find itself at home on a dual bill, especially for sub-billing drive-ins.” However, after playing on the drive-in circuit with The Devil’s Messenger (1962, see entry), the film, more eerie than scary, gradually found an audience on late-night ... More Less

Carnival of Souls was filmed in Lawrence, KS, LeCompton, KS, Salt Lake City, UT, and at the abandoned Saltair Amusement Park at Great Salt Lake, UT.
       The story was inspired by an early 1961 television episode of The Twilight Zone (2 Oct 1959 – 19 Jun 1964) called “The Hitch-Hiker,” starring Inger Stevens.
       Producer-director Herk Harvey told the 19 Apr 1990 LAT that the film cost $30,000. To stay within the budget, he played the lead ghoul, or “The Strange Man,” although he did not include his name in the cast. He also rented the Saltair, an abandoned, turn-of-the-century Great Salt Lake, UT, pavilion, for $50, and for a scene in a department store, paid a saleslady $25 to act as if she did not see the Candace Hilligoss character, “Mary Henry.” Harvey said he shot the film without permits on the streets of Salt Lake City and Lawrence. The bridge where the car accident took place was in LeCompton, KS. The film’s only professional actor was Hilligoss, a veteran of New York City’s famed Actors Studio. Co-star Sidney Berger taught drama at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
       Carnival of Souls was Herk Harvey’s only feature film.
       The 3 Oct 1962 Var reported that the film premiered at the Granada Theatre in Lawrence on 26 Sep 1962. A review in the same issue predicted the low-budget film “will find itself at home on a dual bill, especially for sub-billing drive-ins.” However, after playing on the drive-in circuit with The Devil’s Messenger (1962, see entry), the film, more eerie than scary, gradually found an audience on late-night television. The 15 Sep 1997 Var noted that director George Romero cited Carnival of Souls as the inspiration for Night of the Living Dead (1968, see entry). After Harvey regained ownership of the film, he introduced it at several film festivals, beginning in Toronto, Canada, and New York City, according to the 23 Feb 1990 St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In a belated review, the 20 Apr 1990 LAT called the film “genuinely creepy.” After Harvey’s death in 1996, Peter Soby and Matthew Irvine of Chicago West Entertainment bought the original negative of the film, along with a handful of surviving prints and outtakes, from scriptwriter and co-creator John Clifford, the 8 Jan 1997 DV noted. As befitting what had become a cult classic, Carnival of Souls was packaged for DVD by Criterion Collection, with both the theatrical version and director’s cut included. The following year, the film was remade as Wes Craven Presents ‘Carnival of Souls,’ but very little of the original story was used, and reviews were negative. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
2 Oct 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
8 Jan 1997
p. 10.
Daily Variety
12 Sep 1997
p. 8.
Films and Filming
Aug 1967.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 1962.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Apr 1990
View, p. 1, 5.
Los Angeles Times
20 Apr 1990
View, p. 6.
New York Times
19 Jul 1989
Section C, p. 14.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
23 Feb 1990
Section F, p. 3.
Variety
3 Oct 1962`
p. 16.
Variety
15 Sep 1997.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Presentation of Herts-Lion International
A Harcourt Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Orig story
Orig story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
FILM EDITORS
MUSIC
SOUND
MAKEUP
Hair styles
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
DETAILS
Release Date:
26 September 1962
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Lawrence, KS: 26 September 1962
Production Date:
1961
Physical Properties:
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
80
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Mary Henry and two other young women are forced off a country bridge during a drag race and plunge into the water below. While searchers look for the car, Mary emerges from the water and, after being treated for injuries, returns to her job as an organist in a church. During practice, Mary has a vision of ghouls dancing in a large, deserted pavilion, and begins playing a minor-key melody that frightens and offends the pastor. Thinking she is possessed, the pastor fires her. As Mary drives to her new position in another town, she continues to have visions of dancing ghouls, and sees one of the phantom figures, a strange, white-faced man, along the road or reflected in her car windows. Although frightened, she believes these apparitions are signs of shock from which she will soon recover. When Mary tries to start a new life in a new town, the strange man periodically reappears, and she finds herself drawn to the deserted pavilion. One day, when Mary is shopping, the white-faced man appears. A passing doctor, seeing that Mary is showing signs of hysteria, takes her to his office and listens to her strange story. One night while she practices on the church organ, the ghostly stranger again overtakes her. The minister hears the strange music Mary feels compelled to play, and dismisses her. John Linden, a fellow boarder whom she had earlier scorned, makes sexual advances in her room; she sees the phantom in the mirror, and her screams frighten Linden away. The next day, Mary is drawn back to the pavilion. There, a dozen dancing souls reach out for her, and she sees herself dancing with ... +


Mary Henry and two other young women are forced off a country bridge during a drag race and plunge into the water below. While searchers look for the car, Mary emerges from the water and, after being treated for injuries, returns to her job as an organist in a church. During practice, Mary has a vision of ghouls dancing in a large, deserted pavilion, and begins playing a minor-key melody that frightens and offends the pastor. Thinking she is possessed, the pastor fires her. As Mary drives to her new position in another town, she continues to have visions of dancing ghouls, and sees one of the phantom figures, a strange, white-faced man, along the road or reflected in her car windows. Although frightened, she believes these apparitions are signs of shock from which she will soon recover. When Mary tries to start a new life in a new town, the strange man periodically reappears, and she finds herself drawn to the deserted pavilion. One day, when Mary is shopping, the white-faced man appears. A passing doctor, seeing that Mary is showing signs of hysteria, takes her to his office and listens to her strange story. One night while she practices on the church organ, the ghostly stranger again overtakes her. The minister hears the strange music Mary feels compelled to play, and dismisses her. John Linden, a fellow boarder whom she had earlier scorned, makes sexual advances in her room; she sees the phantom in the mirror, and her screams frighten Linden away. The next day, Mary is drawn back to the pavilion. There, a dozen dancing souls reach out for her, and she sees herself dancing with the white-faced man. Later, at the site of the bridge accident, the submerged car is pulled out of the river with the bodies of all three women, including Mary's, inside. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.