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Zé do Caixão


Zé do Caixão

José Mojica Marins
Born (1936-03-13) March 13, 1936 (age 78)
São Paulo, Brazil
Nationality Brazil
Other names Zé do Caixão
Coffin Joe
J. Avelar
Occupation Filmmaker
Film actor
Television actor
Media personality

José Mojica Marins (born March 13, 1936) is a Brazilian filmmaker, actor, screenwriter and television and media personality. Marins is also known by his alter ego Coffin Joe (loosely translated from Zé do Caixão). Although Marins is known primarily as a horror film director, his earlier works were Westerns, dramas and adventure films. In the 1980s he became a prominent exploitation film director, specializing in the pornochanchada genre, which were softcore sex comedies popular in Brazil at that time.[1]


Marins was born in São Paulo, Brazil at a farm in the Vila Mariana, to Antônio and Carmem Marins. His interest in filmmaking began at an early age. When Marins was three, his father ran a local cinema, and the family lived in a flat above the theater.[2][3]

Zé do Caixão: The Coffin Joe character

Coffin Joe is the English equivalent of Zé do Caixão. Marins created the character in 1963 for the film At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul.[3] The character went on to appear in many more films and as it gained popularity, the Coffin Joe persona appeared in television programs, songs, music videos and comic books.

Although rarely mentioned in the films, Coffin Joe's true name is Josefel Zanatas. Marins gives an explanation for the name in an interview for Portal Brasileiro de Cinema:[4]

"I was thinking a name: Josefel: "fel" ("gall") for being bitter — and also Zanatas as a last name, because backward reads Satanas".
—José Mojica Marins, Portal Brasileiro de Cinema

Coffin Joe wears a black suit, a cape and a top hat. His most notable features are his grotesquely long, curled fingernails. Marins grew his fingernails several inches long for the role, always wearing them in public in the style of the character.

Coffin Joe is an evil, amoral character who considers himself superior to others and exploits them to suit his purposes. He hates morality and superstition (which he includes religion as) to the point of obsession. His central belief is that (self) imposed superstitious beliefs tend to prevent individual development, inhibit positive social change. Those who do not accept his central belief are considered to be weak, lack power, and limited in their ability to rationalize objectively. Those who share with him similar beliefs are considered to have power and intelligence above the 'normal' person.

The primary theme of the character is his single-minded obsession with the "continuity of the blood"; he wants to sire the "superior" child from the "perfect woman." His idea of a "perfect woman" is not exactly physical but someone he regards intellectually superior to the Brazilian average, and in this quest he is willing to kill anyone who crosses his path.

Coffin Joe's weakness is his overconfidence in his primary belief. The overconfidence inhibits his ability to cope with forces that reveal themselves to exist, contrary to his beliefs.

Marins states that the idea for the character came in a dream:[4]

"In a dream saw a figure dragging me to a cemetery. Soon he left me in front of a headstone, there were two dates of my birth and my death. People at home were very frightened, called a priest because they thought I was possessed. I woke up screaming, and at that time decided to do a movie unlike anything I had done. He was born at that moment the character would become a legend: Coffin Joe. The character began to take shape in my mind and in my life. The cemetery gave me the name, completed the costume of Joe the cover of voodoo and black hat, which was the symbol of a classic brand of cigarettes. He would be a mortician."
—José Mojica Marins, Portal Brasileiro de Cinema


Although most known for films in the horror genre, Marins also created exploitation, drugsploitation, sexploitation (often in the form of pseudo-documentaries), and Westerns. Marins is noted for his low-budget film style, often using friends and amateur actors as cast and crew. His films are usually set in São Paulo, Brazil.

Early years

Marins became interested in cinema at a young age. He recounts that the 8mm O Juízo Final (Judgement Day, 1948) was the first film which he made as a teenager. He followed with Encruzilhada da Perdição (Crossroads to Perdition, 1952).[5][6]

The Coffin Joe trilogy

The theme of the films in the Coffin Joe trilogy focuses on Coffin Joe's bloody and determined quest to find his perfect bride. His plans are undone at the end of each film when, while haunted and pursued by authorities and those he wronged, he is seemingly killed.

The first film, At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (À Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma) (1963), is Brazil's first horror film. This is the first appearance of Coffin Joe.[3]

In the second installment, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse (Esta Noite Encarnarei no Teu Cadáver) (1967), it is revealed that Joe survived his ordeal at the end of the first film and returns to São Paulo to continue his quest.

Marins released Embodiment of Evil (Encarnação do Demônio) in 2008, in which Coffin Joe returns after 40 years in a prison mental ward and immediately proceeds to exploit, terrorize, and kill in order to find the perfect woman to bear his child.

Other films with Coffin Joe

Marins played the character of Coffin Joe in his other films that mixed horror with elements of exploitation and surrealism, such as Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind, Awakening of the Beast and The Bloody Exorcism of Coffin Joe. In these films, Coffin Joe is not the central character and generally inhabits an abstract realm such as nightmares, hallucinations and hell. Despite its title, The Strange World of Coffin Joe does not contain the Coffin Joe character.

The Profane Exhibit

Mojica will direct the The Profane Exhibit Segment Viral, with an score composed by Chris Vrenna.[7]


Marins currently hosts a monthly interview program O Estranho Mundo de José Mojica Marins (The Strange World of José Mojica Marins) on the Brazilian television station Canal Brasil, in which he discusses Brazilian media and culture with other contemporary figures, such as actors and musicians. His guests have included Zé Ramalho, Rogério Skylab, and Supla.[8][9]

From 1967 to 1988, Marins hosted the program Além, Muito Além do Além (Beyond, Much Beyond the Beyond) Fridays on TV Bandeirantes, in character as Coffin Joe, presenting short horror tales written by author and screenwriter Rubens Luchetti. Some scripts were later adapted as Coffin Joe comic books. The show's tapes were reused and currently there are no known intact recordings of this program.[10]

Marins directed and hosted The Show from the Other World (Um Show do Outro Mundo) on Rede Record de Televisão, again appearing as Coffin Joe. The half-hour program featured short horror films, with many of the stories sent in by the viewers themselves and adapted by members of Marins' production team. As with his earlier show, the original tapes were reused and there is no known record of this material.[11]

In 1996 Marins hosted the daily television program Cine Trash on TV Bandeirantes, which featured full-length horror films.[12][13]


The Universe of Mojica Marins (1978) (O Universo de Jose Mojica Marins) is a 26-minute documentary film by Ivan Cardoso. Marins portrays himself in the film, which also features interviews with Marins' mother Carmem Marins, film editor Nilcemar Leyart, and Satã (Marins' assistant and bodyguard).[14][15]

A 2001 documentary film, Damned - The Strange World of José Mojica Marins (Maldito - O Estranho Mundo de José Mojica Marins), by biographers André Barcinski and Ivan Finotti examines Marins' life and works. It won the Special Jury Prize at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.[16]

In 1987 Marins released the semi-autobiographical documentary film Demons and Wonders (Demônios e Maravilhas), in which he appears as himself re-enacting moments from his life, both good and bad. Marins' family and associates play themselves, including his mother Carmem Marins, former wife and film editor Nilcemar Leyart, and Satã, Marins' long-time assistant and bodyguard.[17][18]

Selected filmography

In popular culture

  • The Brazilian band Os Mutantes mentions Zé do Caixão in the lyrics to their song "Trem Fantasma" on their 1968 self-titled debut album.
  • The death metal band Necrophagia dedicates a song to the character on their album The Divine Act of Torture. The song retells At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul and contains samples of Coffin Joe's voice.
  • Zé do Caixão is mentioned with two other Brazilian legends, Zumbi and Lampião, in the song "Ratamahatta", from Sepultura's 1996 album Roots. He also performed an onstage 'blessing' for the band during their Barulho Contra Fome (Noise Against Hunger) concert.
  • The opening from Awakening of the Beast was sampled and used as the intro to White Zombie's song "I, Zombie."
  • The short film, "The Blind Date of Coffin Joe" parodies the character.

See also


External links

  • Official José Mojica Marins website (Portuguese)
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Portal Heco de Cinema (Portuguese)
  • In-depth interview on
  • Interview with Filmmaker
  • Television program (Official website) (Portuguese)
  • film site (English) (Portuguese)
  • Official film site (Portuguese)

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