October 17, 2012

DVD Review: The Sorcerers

The Sorcerers is a fascinating film starring the late great Boris Karloff as a disgraced doctor of medical hypnosis. I had never heard of this movie before, but I have to say it was quite the pleasant surprise. What made it even better was learning it was the penultimate film from a fascinating young genre director who died way too young. Michael Reeves legacy was secured with the fantastic Vincent Price film Witchfinder General, however The Sorcerers is another fine example of genre filmmaking that is not to sold short.

Karloffstashs as Dr. Monserrat, a once famous medical hypnotist whose career was destroyed by a scathing article many years ago. As we meet him and his wife, Estelle (Catherine Lacey), he has just finished work on a new machine. This creation will allow them to take control of someone else's body and experience all the sensations experienced by the host person. Now, all they need is someone to test their creation on.

The good doctor goes out on the town looking for lonely looking characters. Enter Mike Roscoe (Ian Ogilvy). After a short time, Monserrat cajoles the twenty-something young man to return to his apartment. He agrees to step into the machine and the experiment proceeds.

It is a success, the elderly couple are able to send and receive thoughts and feelings to and from Mike. It is a fascinating sensation for the elderly couple, it is a sense of freedom, the ability to feel things they have not been able to in decades.

This all sounds well and good, but we all know there has to be something about this experiment that goes terribly wrong. What makes this so intriguing is that it is not the experiment that fails, it is the application of the experiment by some of those who make use of it.

Things get out of hand rather quickly. What was originally conceived as a tool to use with the sick and elderly to experience things never have or are no longer able to becomes a way to indulge in baser instincts without fear of consequences. It becomes a vehicle used to skirt personal responsibility and morality.

The Sorcerers is a movie that is more concerned with the concepts than with the reality. What I mean, is that director Michael Reeves, who co-wrote the screenplay with Tom Baker, is more interested in showing the corruptibility of the human spirit than he is explaining why young Mike would agree to follow Monserrat home. So, rather than focus on believability above all, he instead takes us on a journey that finds our mad scientist is actually the moral center of the tale as he is forced to watch the woman he loved use his creation for something perverse.

Michael Reeves was a very talented director who died at the young age of 25 after making only three films. Witchfinder General may be widely considered his masterpiece, this one is definitely worthy of praise. He, as a writer and a director, shows a keen eye for the screen, able to draw out strong and thoughtful performances while engaging the mind with some frightening ideas. The Sorcerers may not be a movie many people know about, but it is one worth seeking out.

Audio/Video. The film is presented in a ratio of 1.78:1 and looks decent enough. There does not appear to have been much done in the way of restoration, evidenced by spots and other print damage. Detail is not the best, but it is still quite watchable. Colors are good and generally well separated.

Audio is a mono track that sounds rather hollow. It is certainly listenable with clear dialogue, but it is far from an involving track.

Extras. None. This is a Warner Archive release, a disk made to order, and not one that will be available at brick and mortar stores. I do like that Warner is making movies like this available knowing they are not going to be big sellers.

Bottomline. The Sorcerers is a fascinating film that takes aim at voyeuristic tendencies and how filters break down when fear of consequences is taken away. It features a couple of wonderful performances from an aging Karloff and Catherine Lacey.

Highly Recommended.

Article first published as DVD Review: The Sorcerers on Blogcritics.

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