To the untrained eye,tonight's review might resemble a mostly forgettable amateurish and dated exercise in fantasy,but to anybody who cut their teeth on horror in the seventies,Equinox is a brisk joyride of wild stop-motion animation,mythical beasts and demons, a collaborative launch pad for gifted artists involved and a definite inspiration for later and greater things to come(see:Sam Raimi).Anyway,let's see you borrow sixty five hundred bucks from your grandfather and come away with anything as remotely in the bitchin' ballpark as this historic film.Long before culture staples like Star Wars came along,Equinox was one of the more effective examples of couch glue I could possibly recall,because when it showed on television,a late night regular for years,I wasn't moving off of our gaudy couch in the parlour until it was over.There's genre goodness in nearly every frame,blown up to 35mm from 16mm with ten plus minutes added for theatrical release in 1970,though the original seventy minute 1967 cut is also included on the definitive dvd release from Criterion.You've got stop-motion work from animation icon Dave Allen,you've got mattes and cel animation from the legendary Jim Danforth,and Dennis Muren,who would later work with George Lucas on Star Wars,handling much of the effects photography,production,writing,and directing,with Jack Woods writing and shooting new sequences with the principal cast years after the fact,and even turning in an unforgettable appearance as the rape-minded park ranger with caterpillars for eyebrows within.If that wasn't enough,the coup de grace for any young horror nut in attendance was a voice cameo from Forrest J. Ackerman,of Famous Monsters of Filmland fame.So let's step through the dimensional gate and get it on,shall we? Forwards! This drape(Edward Connell) is about to get an other dimensional yabba-dabba doo. A reporter visits the lone survivor of a strange series of events that occurred a year and a day earlier,in the asylum he's called home ever since.By listening to a taped recording of David(Edward Connell)relating the story to a doctor,we learn that he and his equally square pal Jim(Frank Boers,Jr.),accompanied by dates Susan(Barbara Hewitt) and Vicki(Robin Christopher),had set out to make a day of it,fried chicken picnic in the woods and all,before visiting Dr. Waterman(Fritz Lieber...yes,that Fritz Lieber),a college prof doing some secretive research work from a secluded cabin in the forest.A forest ranger named Asmodeus(Who's the town mayor,Beelzebub?)keeps a watchful eye(from under a huge spirit-gummed pile of crepe wool the average movie goer couldn't mistake for an eyebrow on their worst day)on the picnickers who are shocked to find Waterman's cabin pulverized worse than Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder reading British-accented dialogue,explained on a reel-to-reel recording by the doctor himself to have been committed by a tentacled errr,ummm quadropus? after Waterman started performing spells and incantations from an ancient bible of occultism he had discovered.You know,that's a lot like the ancient bible of occultism our heroes score themselves from a maniacal old man while exploring a nearby cave,which is in turn snatched up by Waterman himself,as he is chased by a colossal tusked simian that tosses his ass(or an unreasonable clay facsimile) around like an Irish newlywed. Taurus,your horoscope for January,1970:Avoid makeshift spears wielded by squares. The human v. nether region ape square off ends with Taurus getting skewered by a drape-driven spear, but its corpse,along with Waterman's,dissipates into the everywhere right before square eyes.Asmodeus breaks himself off an eyebrow-heavy,camera lens slurping,hypno-grope on Susan, but is driven away by the girl's crucifix before he can put the Satanic blocks to her.After examining the hellish tome,David fashions some protective symbols from the book out of twigs for the gang,who get separated again.The ranger confronts Jim and reveals his true identity,demanding the book in exchange for riches beyond his wildest dreams,but is thwarted by the young man's makeshift symbol necklace.The gents are then chased through an invisible dimensional door by what looks to be Fred Flintstone's giant blue cousin,and while on the other side,Jim is mesmerized and trapped by Ol' Scratch,while the horned one takes his identity in an attempt to snag the book,after which the gals flee from Asmodeus in his alternate form,a flapping bat winged,red skeletal demon who abruptly kills the chicks with his oversized claws.Realizing David might feel left out,the hellspawn blocks out the skyline as a reaper-esque harbinger of doom,announcing that the last square standing will die in exactly a year and a day from then.Flash forward to the asylum,where neither the reporter nor the doctors believe a lick of David's wild tale,and even jack him for his crucifix he's been clutching for the past year and a day.As the reporter leaves the hospital building,he's passed by someone or something posing as the now-dead Susan walking in,to fulfill the prophecy issued by the beast.My CROSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!! A twist of Asmodeus' ring and the forecast quickly turns to rape.Yeaaassh. Woods,who picked up his only directorial credit here,went on to edit sound and foley effects on films like The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear,Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,and Critters 2,as well as television shows like The A-Team(boy,that show's coming up a lot lately here at the Wop,eh).Muren has gone on to do effects work on everything from the Star Wars series and Close Encounters of the Third Kind,through to Flesh Gordon and War of the Worlds.Allen has handled visual effects in genre classics like The Howling,Twilight Zone:The Movie,and Caveman.The laughing old man in the cave was played by Muren's grandfather who put up most of the money for the budget,as well.Boers,Jr would later be known as Frank Bonner,who made his name in the late seventies sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati as Herb.Sci-fi writer Lieber wrote episodes for television genre fare like Night Gallery and Moment of Fear.I remember being more than a little pissed off when Wizard Video released the chopped,big box VHS of this as "The Beast" in the eighties,and feeling redemption when Criterion finally did the film justice in the past few years.If you don't have it already,snag a copy,ferchrissakes.They don't make 'em like this anymore.On the ratings scale,Equinox clutches its cross as three Big Wops materialize out of nowhere.See it. In the eys of a five or six year old monster-crazy kid,the buck stops here.