Last Year at Carnival of Marienbad Souls

DATELINE:  Great Films Cross Paths

Last Year at Marienbad & Carnival of Souls on a Double Bill

Comparing two films released in mid-1962 may not be unusual.

The films come from different ends of the spectrum: one was made as a low-budget psychological horror film about death and ghosts—and the other was a high-end art film made in Europe by intellectuals.

Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls used the backdrop of an abandoned amusement park in the salt flats of Utah—and Alan Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad featured the elegant milieu of a notable spa and hotel grounds. Each found the setting to be most unsettling.

Delphine Seyrig and Candace Hilligoss are beautiful, detached women caught up in a maddening free-fall into the world of spirit and nightmare. Each faces a dance of death: Hilligoss seeing the zombies waltzing in slow motion in a pavilion of yesteryear, and Seyrig’s waltz is in a slow motion ballroom of high society.

As both films were released nearly simultaneously in the spring of 1962, it is doubtful they knew of the other using a similar means to portray a traumatic event.

One film, artfully if not coyly, refuses to settle the score and claim it is about ghosts—and the other uses supernatural to convey the frightful experience. Neither film resorts to cheap theatrics and special effects. You are cast into a nightmare by following the journey to its end.

Each film has run its parallel course to cult status, admired and praised by all too few viewers. It has been fifty years since the movies came to the attention of audiences—one at drive-ins on double bills, and the other in lost art houses of foreign motion pictures.

Each deserves your attention repeatedly.