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Carnival of Souls

Also released as "Corridors of Evil", the 84 minute film, "The Carnival of Souls" is a B-movie Horror classic that depicts the rapid decline of an accident survivor's sanity. Herk Harvey, the director of the 1962 film, appears sporadically throughout the movie as "The Man", a white-faced ghost character that relentlessly stalks the main character, Mary.

Born in Fort Collins, Colorado in 1924, Herk Harvey moved to Lawrence, Kansas in 1945 to attend the University of Kansas, where he studied theatre, directing and acting, and stage productions. Harvey directed over 70 films throughout the course of his career. However, "The Carnival of Souls" was the only feature film that he ever produced. Known to do most of his filming in his hometown, Harvey made the decision to film part of "The Carnival of Souls" in Salt Lake City after driving through Utah and spotting an abandoned amusement park on the salt flats of Saltair. He spent three weeks with the actors making the film, two of which were spent in Lawrence, Kansas, where all of the scenes were filmed with the exception of the shots and scenes that feature the old amusement park.

When filming "The Carnival of Souls", Harvey had to obtain permission from various individuals in Lawrence, Kansas to film certain scenes. The opening scene of the film features two cars drag racing down a bridge. The drag race results in a horrible accident, as the car full of young men bumps into the car containing the ladies, and knocks them off of a bridge. Harvey was granted permission to film the car driving off of the bridge on two conditions: his crew would have to retrieve the car afterward, and he would have to pay to repair the bridge, a fee that totaled $12.50.

Candace Hilligoss plays the lead role of Mary, a young organist who mysteriously survives a car accident that resulted in the deaths of everyone in the car but her. Hilligoss became involved in acting during her elementary school years, and continued to pursue a career in acting through college. After studying for three years at the University of Iowa, Hilligoss moved to New York, where she studied acting at the American Theatre Wing. Hilligoss made her professional debut doing summer stock in Pennsylvania, and her film debut in "The Carnival of Souls". After filming "The Carnival of Souls", Hilligoss only starred in one other movie, another B-movie Horror flick entitled "The Curse of the Living Corpse", released in 1964. After her brief stint with film acting, Hilligoss returned to the stage, acting at the Cape Cod Playhouse, and touring with Nina Foch in "Idiot's Delight". Hilligoss also proved that she had some rhythm by dancing as a world-famous Copa Girl at the Copacabana night spot.

Sidney Berger plays John Linden, an overly-eager man who reveals an immense amount of persistence through his pursuits of Mary. A film student at the time of his casting, Berger was sent to New York by Herk Harvey to search for a woman to play the role of Mary Henry. Though Berger gave a convincing performance as John Linden, he did not return to the screen until 1998, when he made a cameo appearance in the 1998 film, "The Carnival of Souls", an entirely different horror film directed by Wes Craven that shares the same name as the 1962 classic. Having earned a doctorates degree, Berger now serves as the chairperson of the acting/drama department at the University of Houston, and is the director of the Houston Shakespearean Festival where he directs annually.

A Shakespeare enthusiast, Berger is the Past President of the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America, and is a member of the International Shakespeare Globe Center Board. Berger was also the recipient of the Mayor's Arts Award for Outstanding Contribution by a Performing Artist.

"The Carnival of Souls" is interesting in that even if unintentionally, it enables the viewer to form a number of explanations for Mary's behavior until the truth is revealed. When watching the film, it becomes evident that Mary could very well be suffering from a behavioral disorder. The fact that she hears carnival music and sees people throughout the film, suggest that she could in fact be suffering from schizophrenia.

The term "schizophrenia" was introduced in 1911 by a Swiss psychiatrist, Eugene Bieuler. Bieuler wanted to convey the split between what is perceived by the individuals suffering from schizophrenia. In addition, he wanted to convey the split between what is believed and what is objectively real. The word comes from the Greek schizo meaning "split", and phrenia, meaning "mind".

Throughout the course of the film, it is unclear as to what Mary is suffering from or why particular situations occur. During the scenes in the film when Mary sees the strange man and figures dancing on the carnival grounds, she could be experiencing an acute or crisis episode of schizophrenia. These episodes are short and intense, and involve hallucinations, delusions, thought disorder, and an altered sense of self. Many times throughout the film Mary seems to experience an altered sense of self, as she closes herself off to others and becomes confused about where she is and what is going on around her.

As the film progresses, Mary's stability drastically decreases, as she sees the Man more and more and continues to find herself drawn to the carnival grounds. Though the film provides an explanation other than schizophrenia for her behavior, it is still fun to watch and analyze while awaiting the real conclusion.

The Science

James L. Poulton

James L. PoutonClinical psychologist James L. Poulton discusses schizophrenia and the film “Carnival of Souls.”

 

More Science to go with the Show

Related Resources

Intl. Psychotherapy Institute

Psychiatrist

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