Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Sorcerers (1967)

"Classic 1960s British science fiction horror from writer
 John Burke and director Michael Reeves"

In between the low budget Italian Barbara Steele-starrer THE SHE BEAST and the magnificent classic of British cinema that is WITCHFINDER GENERAL, director Michael Reeves made THE SORCERERS. It's one of the very few movies that successfully managed to bridge the gap between a kind of cinema that already felt long gone (Universal, Boris Karloff, mad scientist movies) and the new, lively British cinema movement of blood-soaked Hammer horrors and kitchen sink dramas. THE SORCERERS has just had a deserved re-release on Blu-ray and DVD by Odeon in a gorgeously restored print that’s worth a look by long-time aficionados as well as those new to it.

One of my favourite stills from Denis Gifford's Pictorial History of Horror Movies

Professor Marcus Monserrat (Boris Karloff), medical hypnotist fallen on hard times, offers treatments for phobias and anxiety from the tiny threadbare flat he shares with his wife Estelle (Catherine Lacey) . But Monserrat has also been working on an as-yet untested project, one which he intends to use to allow the elderly and the infirm to experience a different kind of life by sharing the sensations of young subjects. Encountering bored Mike (Ian Ogilvy) in a Wimpy bar, Monserrat takes him home and tries out the device, which is a success. Unfortunately, Estelle quickly realises she can control Mike’s actions better than her husband, and uses Mike to experience the thrill of robbery and murder. As she, and therefore Mike, both become more uncontrollable, it is up to the frail and good-natured professor to try and stop her before the situation becomes even worse.

A scene created by the miracle of setting a car on fire and then running away before the police turn up

THE SORCERERS has enough originality in its script, along with sufficient social commentary (the young and inexperienced being exploited by the old and impotent) to make it an unassuming little gem of a British horror picture. Key performances are all excellent, with Karloff giving us a subtle, nuanced and sympathetic character, and award-winning (for this) Lacey going well over the top as the villain of the piece. Composer Paul Ferris went on to do WITCHFINDER GENERAL as well as THE CREEPING FLESH and his music is nicely broken down and seedy to emphasise the surroundings. The car chase at the end is still impressive, and the knowledge that the final shots were performed under far from legal circumstances just adds an extra frisson to the feel of the movie.

Before Sheila Keith there was Catherine Lacey - another good reason to be scared of old ladies

Odeon Entertainment have done THE SORCERERS proud, giving us a transfer that’s a considerable improvement on the old Metrodome DVD. Most of the extras from the disc have been ported over, including the entry on Michael Reeves in the Eurotika TV series entitled ‘Blood Beast’, as well as a trailer and image gallery. There's also an early Michael Reeves short film 'Intrusions' which is black and white, silent, and runs for about ten minutes. There's no feature commentary but the short has one by Benjamin Halligan and Michael Armstrong. Of by far the greatest value in the extras, though, is a talking head piece by Johnny Mains, friend and associate of the late John Burke, whose original idea, and script, THE SORCERERS was. Johnny gives us background on the writing and production of the film that I’ve not come across anywhere else, and his account of the scuppering of Burke’s head screenwriter credit (he only gets ‘original idea’ on the film) is a detailed and heartfelt tribute to a writer he obviously admires greatly. 
        THE SORCERERS is a great British film, now finally given the presentation and the extras it deserves. Another cracker from Odeon. 

Odeon Entertainment have released Michael Reeves' THE SORCERERS on Region B Blu-ray and Region 2 DVD and it's out now

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