Just seeing some news that Criterion UK are releasing their Blu-Ray of Carnival of Souls just in time for Halloween, and while I warmly welcome this release, it’s probably best to say nothing about the hideous artwork. With that in mind, I’ve been looking at artwork and designs used for theatrical and home video editions of the film over the years. It’s frustrating that very few of the designs do justice to Herk Harvey and John Clifford’s evocative film, perhaps it was simply too difficult to market. I’ve never been fond of the film’s original poster (which fronted Criterion’s terrific 2001 DVD), the credited artist F. Germain includes all the familiar elements of the film, but unwisely imagines Candace Hilligoss’ character as some sort of 19th century saloon girl. The woman-in-peril theme reoccurs thru most subsequent US video releases, usually the shot of Hilligoss emerging from the car accident looking dazed and distressed, but it’s two British releases that have come up with something different. From 1991, Graham Humphreys’ exquisite b/w design for Palace Video, taps into the film’s nightmarish expressionism, and I love the inclusion of the keyboard of the organ, an integral element of the film.
The other design created for the film’s original theatrical run in the UK is also very striking, quite unlike any other design I’ve seen, looking more akin to one of Hammer’s psychological thrillers made in the wake of Psycho. Interestingly, this was a Tony Tenser release my initial thought was that it was marketed with Repulsion in mind but after consulting with John Hamilton’s Tenser/Tigon book Beasts In The Cellar it seems this was not the case. Information about the film's UK exhibition is rather sketchy. BBFC records list the film's submission for examination as June 1964, but Hamilton's book suggests the film was not publicly unveiled until May 1967 when it supported Tigon's debut film, a sexploitation item called Mini Weekend at the Jacey Cinema in London. And furthermore no evidence suggests the film had any additional playdates, it was not covered in the usually reliable Monthly Film Bulletin, and I have not seen any additional advertising material for the film. All very mysterious !