biography

Born Harold Harvey in Windsor, Colorado, on June 3, 1924, director Herk Harvey is best known for his 1962 horror flick Carnival of Souls. Harvey spent his formative years in Fort Collins, Colorado, and upon graduating from high school, he served in the Navy during World War II. After the war, Harvey decided to major in theatre arts at the University of Kansas. With a master's degree in hand, he began teaching theatre at Kansas in 1950. Soon, however, he took at position at Centron Productions, which made industrial and educational films, as a producer and director, where he worked until his retirement in 1985. Harvey also taught film classes at the University of Kansas.

Harvey's horror shocker Carnival of Souls was shot largely in Lawrence, Kansas, on a budget of reportedly $30,000 (however, some sources claim the budget was actually $17,000) and during a three-week span. While Harvey would eventually direct and/or produce more than 400 educational and industrial films for Centron Productions, he never completed another film for theatrical release. Carnival of Souls was originally released in April 1962 by Herts-Lion International. Harvey shot this film on 16 mm stock, which was then blown up to 35 mm for theatrical exhibition. Harvey's film went underground after its release, and did not reemerge again until the 1980s.

Herk Harvey in Carnival of SoulsHerk Harvey in Carnival of SoulsHerk Harvey

LEFT and CENTER: Harvey as the main ghoul in Carnival of Souls. RIGHT: Harvey as the host and narrator of a 1963 educational film titled Choosing a Classroom Film


Playing mostly to the drive-in circuit, Carnival of Souls didn't generate a great deal of interest in its initial release. Nevertheless, the film has since proven to be groundbreaking and influential. Note the similarities in the zombies in George Romero's 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead when compared with the ghouls from Carnival of Souls.

Candace HilligossCandace HilligossCarnival of Souls

LEFT and CENTER: As Mary Henry, star Candace Hilligoss emerges from the accident site at the beginning of the film. RIGHT: Early 1960s UK half-sheet poster


Carnival of Souls was released to DVD in March 2000, and the Criterion Collection edition really is the copy to own: Carnival Of Souls (The Criterion Collection) DVD (1962). The Criterion Collection version also features a number of the educational films Harvey directed, including an early 1950s promotional film on Kansas in which Herk Harvey acts.

Herk Harvey was involved with couple of uncompleted film projects, Flanagan's Smoke and The Reluctant Witch. Details are sketchy since the projects were aborted; however, Flanagan's Smoke concerned an escaped gas from a chemist's lab and the effect of the gas on townsfolk. Portions of The Reluctant Witch were shot in the early 1970s, with Herk Harvey appearing in the film, but very little footage survives.

Few of the cast members from Carnival of Souls were professional actors, but the real stars here are Harvey's direction and the film's mood and atmosphere. Screenwriter John Clifford's premise of Carnival of Souls, about a woman caught between life and death, was pretty heady stuff for a low-budget early 1960s movie.

The beautiful star of the film, Candace Hilligoss, made just one other picture, the cult classic The Curse of the Living Corpse (1964), for low-rent horror director Del Tenney.

Curse of the Living CorpseCandace HilligossCandace HilligossCandace Hilligoss

LEFT: Gorgeous Candace Hilligoss in a shot from Del Tenney'sThe Curse of the Living Corpse. CENTER A: Mary Henry (Hilligoss) drives at night and sees the ghoul. CENTER B: Hilligoss fends off the advances of Sidney Berger in Carnival of Souls. Berger passed away on February 15, 2013, at the age of 76. RIGHT: Promotional photo of Candace Hilligoss

Born in Huron, South Dakota, in 1935, Candace Hilligoss was bitten by the acting bug at an early age. After spending several semesters at the University of Iowa, Hilligoss headed for New York to try her hand at acting. Among other things, she was a dancer at the famed Copacabana nightclub. Doing summer stock and off-Broadway plays prepared her for her all-too-short film career. After appearing in Carnival of Souls, she went back to New York and did some television work and married character actor Nicholas Coster. Hilligoss retired after making The Curse of the Living Corpse (1964; with Roy Scheider) to raise her two daughters. But after her retirement, she did a few commercials and bits of television work. Hilligoss and Coster divorced in 1981.

later years

Upon the film's rediscovery, it was re-released theatrically in 1989. Harvey appears in the film as one of the lost souls; he's the very first ghoul that Candace Hilligoss sees as she's driving at night. Harvey lived long enough to see his film become rediscovered by a new generation of horror fans. Harvey passed away at age 71 on April 3, 1996, after a long bout with pancreatic cancer. He was survived by his second wife, Pauline Pappas Harvey, who passed away on June 5, 2010, at the age of 86.

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Carnival Of Souls (Special Edition) [DVD](1962) DVD
A car plunges off a bridge, and a young woman emerges, apparently unscathed. Wandering off, her odyssey takes her to a strange small town and a carnival pavilion whose patrons walk the line between the living and the dead. Director Herk Harvey's atmospheric low-budget chiller has achieved a cult following; Candace Hilligoss, Sidney Berger star. Special two-disc Criterion edition includes the 78-minute theatrical version and a director's cut with five minutes of extra footage. 161 min. total. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English; featurettes; outtakes; theatrical trailer; audio commentary; more.

Carnival Of Souls [DVD](1962) DVD
A car plunges off a bridge, and a young woman emerges, apparently unscathed. Wandering off, her odyssey takes her to a strange small town and a carnival pavilion whose patrons walk the line between the living and the dead. Director Herk Harvey's atmospheric low-budget chiller has achieved a cult following; Candace Hilligoss, Sidney Berger star. 87 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English.

RiffTrax: Carnival Of Souls [DVD](1962) DVD
Standard; Soundtrack: English; audio commentary.

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The Astounding B Monster: Stolen Souls
B-movie guru Tom Weaver conducts an interview with Candace Hilligoss about the 1998 remake of Carnival of Souls.

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Watch Herk Harvey in this 1963 educational film Choosing a Classroom Film

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